First, I forgot to mention here (though I have put it on Twitter a few times) that I’m doing a chat at BookSmugglers and it lasts until tomorrow, and when you ask me a question you’re entered to win a complete set of the Demons books. So if you haven’t stopped by already, please do!
Second…well. My last post got considerably more attention that I ever anticipated, so that was quite a surprise. And I have some follow-up questions about it, but those I think will wait until another time. At the moment I just want to address one thing quickly, and another in a bit more detail.
First, as always, when you put things out on the internet and people see it, they’re going to react, just like when you write a book and put it out there people are going to react. And really, part of being a writer is learning to accept that and let the negative stuff roll off your back, or learn from it. It really doesn’t bother me anymore, and the comment I want to discuss didn’t bother me personally, I just find it’s indicative of what the whole point of my post the other day was.
I discovered, quite by accident, that apparently there are some people who feel that Moira and myself, and any other writer who shares our opinions, are simply kissing ass. I find this extremely sad, I have to admit. Is this what the world has come to, that when people see a wrong and speak up about it they’re immediately assumed to have some sort of ulterior motive?
Have we really reached a point where “Writers hate readers” has become the default position, so any writer who claims to actually like readers and want to see them treated well is automatically suspected of just being a big old liar, who probably spends their private, secret hours lurking in bookstores and tripping innocent readers as they pass by, just for fun? Or who runs around various reader blogs and sites leaving anonymous comments along the lines of “You’re all just thieves why don’t you go fuck yourselves you selfish bastards?” Seriously. Am I the only one who finds it really sad that we live in a world where a writer who says “I love readers, and want to please them, and want to see them treated like human beings instead of dogs,” must be an ass kisser, because the person making the accusation apparently can honestly not imagine any other reason why a writer might feel that way and express that feeling?
The thing is, I’ve been writing for about eight years now. I’ve been seriously writing–with an eye toward publication–for about five, and I’ve been publishing for almost five. Now, math is not my strong suit at all, but that’s about 6% of my entire life that I’ve spent as a professional writer. I’ve been a reader since I was four, which means I’ve been a reader for about 95% of my life (I think).
Which brings me to the other topic. As I followed links back to my post and other people having discussions about this topic, I found a sizable minority of readers who seem to honestly believe that writers hate libraries. I even found one who said an author she knows (she actually said “a new author,” which I find very telling) informed her that libraries who loan ebooks are thieves who violate the law, and that if she had her way every library would be made illegal because they all steal profits from writers.
Personally? I think if you show me a writer who doesn’t love libraries, I’ll show you a writer who really doesn’t care about literacy or reading or the craft of writing, but is merely interested in writing-as-get-rich-quick-scheme and in playing Author: The RPG.
Because a writer is supposed to care about reading. And about reading being something for all people. You guys already know my feelings on a future where literacy is only accessible to the wealthy. That’s not just a future where everyone has to pay to publish, it’s a world without libraries.
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, and I was a voracious reader. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. And where did I manage to get my hands on books? At the library. We went every two weeks to return a stack of books and check out a new one. I read so many books the library gave me a special dispensation to go over the limit, because at that time children weren’t permitted to take out more than, I think, five at a time.
My fifth birthday present was a library card. I’d been getting books from the library already, of course, but my mom had to check them out for me because you had to be five to have your own library card. So bright and early on the morning I turned five, my mom took me to the library so I could get my Very Own Library Card. I’m sure I got other gifts that year, but that library card is the one I remember; it was one of the best presents I ever got.
Every year the library had a summer reading program, where you read books, filled out a little report on them, and handed them in to get stickers and prizes. Every year my little sticker row was full by mid-July.
There is no way in hell my parents could have afforded to buy me enough books to feed my habit. The library was all I had.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I wouldn’t be a writer today if not for the library, for all libraries (because when we’d exhausted our local we’d visit some of the other libraries in the system). I would never have had access to all the wonderful books I read as a kid and a preteen and a teenager if not for the library.
And I want other kids to have that. I want them to be able to escape into books the way I did. I want them to grow up knowing that just because you don’t like one book doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of others out there just waiting for you. I want that because I care about people reading. I want people to keep reading. I want kids to grow up reading and to love reading.
Because I love reading. I love words. I love it all. The process of writing is a sensory one, a sensual one, a journey of discovery every time. Finding new ways to play with words, to make them fit together, to use them so that when a sentence is done it says exactly what I mean it to say…that’s exciting. It’s always exciting. It’s always fun. I believe firmly, and I always have, that if you can read, and understand what you read, you can do pretty much anything; reading is the basis of intellect.
So it shocks me to find a writer–or someone who calls him- or herself a writer–who believes that literacy and books should only be accessible to those who can pay for it. There’s no sense there of the beauty and wonder of words and how they can change and touch people’s lives. This is someone who sees words not as tools for expression and the building blocks of our entire society, but as clicks in a cash register. I have a hard time believing that person truly loves writing, which makes it hard for me to believe there’s any real passion in their writing, which makes it hard, frankly, to believe they’re any damn good at it.
Libraries and piracy are totally different things. There is no similarity there. The fact that libraries buy their books–and usually buy them for more than cover price, sometimes considerably more–isn’t the issue. The issue is respect. Pirates hurt me; libraries make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
So there I go, I guess, kissing ass again.