Archive for 'teh nefarious interwebs'
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Last night I got a couple of pingbacks in my email, letting me know some of my posts had been linked to. I think you can guess which ones; the little series I did several weeks back about watching what you say online.
Turns out that little tempest-in-a-teapot has not in fact died, but has grown and changed and turned into something huge and sinister. Turns out there are people out there now–otherwise reasonable people, I assume–who are equating my words with threats that someone will never be published or will never find an agent, that authors can and will “blackball” someone for a negative review, or whatever. Turns out I have somehow inadvertently created a cabal (NOTE: This doesn’t mean I think it’s all down to me or anything, just that my post is being linked to by people who say it was/is a “key exchange” in starting the whole thing. Trust me, there may be things in this world I’d like credit for. Threatening to ruin people’s careers from behind the scenes like some sort of self-important literary Blofeld is not one of them). The YA Mafia. I’m not sure how that happened, given that I’m not published in YA, but my posts are being linked to as the ones that started it all. And hey, my agent has a YA proposal from me as I write this, which I’m extremely excited about because it has all sorts of dark bloody creepiness in it. Including Springheel Jacks (yes, Jacks, as in more than one. Whee!). I digress.
I’m extremely tempted to ignore all of this and just move on. The only reason I’m not doing it is because it apparently started with me, so I feel partly responsible for the discussions, and because people are spreading some pretty wild stories about what I said (no offense to that commenter, who seems a very nice, rational person. Hers was simply the first comment I saw to illustrate my point. It is far from the only comment of that sort out there, and most people don’t apologize when it’s pointed out that they’ve misinterpreted something like that. She did. I appreciate that. This isn’t about her at all. It is about the fact that this is all getting blown way out of proportion, and I don’t appreciate being lied about).
There is no “mafia.” No writer in the world can keep you from getting published if your work is good. Period.
So you might not get a blurb from someone. As I said repeatedly when this all started, so fucking what? That’s not going to ruin your career, or end it before it’s even begun. So when you do a panel with someone they might not invite you for a drink afterward. Again, oh well.
The statement was NEVER made, by me or anyone else I’m aware of, that writing a negative review of a book could mean you never get published or repped.
The statement was NEVER made by me or anyone else I’m aware of that I would ask my agent not to rep someone who gave me a bad review. I said I might be a little hurt. Sorry, I am a human being, with feelings, just like everyone else. My agent and I have a very close relationship. I might be a little hurt. I probably wouldn’t even mention this to him (and for the record, he told me that if the review was really nasty he’d assume the writer isn’t very professional and thus not be interested in them, but a calm “This is why it didn’t work for me” wouldn’t be a big deal if the work was wonderful). I certainly wouldn’t email or call him and say “So-and-so only gave me two stars. I never want to see you go near her/him ever.”
Nor would I do that with my editor, which is another claim being made. Would I care if she signed a writer who didn’t like my work? Not one damn bit, no. An editor-author relationship is different from an agent-author relationship, for one thing. And for another…
Geez, guys, it’s just a review. Who cares about it, really?
Yeah, I might not want to blurb you if you took the time to write a big old post about not liking my book. So what. As I said in my original post, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help you with other things if you needed it. That certainly doesn’t mean I’d start calling people to put your name on the Secret Mafia Blackball List. It certainly doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to damage your career.
The simple truth is–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–I don’t care about you. I don’t know you. You don’t mean anything to me, beyond being another human being with whom I share this planet. If you’re one of my readers you mean a little more to me, sure. I try to do whatever I can for my readers; I love them. I will and have gone out of my way for them, whether they blog or not. But if you’re not one of them, you’re probably not on my radar at all. If I see your negative review I’ll probably shrug. Again as I said in those posts, if I have to choose between blurbing you and blurbing a book by one of my readers, my reader gets the blurb (unless her books sucks, which of course it won’t, because my readers are so awesome it hurts). That’s assuming I even remember your name; I don’t write this shit down, and I have a horrible memory. I might google you, if I’m bored. I might not; I probably won’t.
Somehow it seems book bloggers in general got tied up in all of this, which I find extremely upsetting, and frankly confusing. I’m not really sure how much more outspoken I can be on the subject of book bloggers/readers having the right to say anything they damn well please about a book, short of buying a bullhorn and picketing genre conventions. I have never once failed to back the reader/reader-blogger when it comes to an author vs. situation, and yeah, it is personally upsetting to me to see that completely disregarded, to see no one even bothering to read the posts I linked to on that subject before declaring what my intentions and words were.
That’s too bad for me, though. Because–and here is where we go full circle–anything you say on the internet is public, and people are people and don’t always take things the way you want them to. Because, which was honestly the whole point of the first post in the series, once you become a writer and have work published you are no longer free to speak your mind as clearly and openly as you once were; or rather, you certainly are free to do so, but there are and will be consequences. I can point not only to this little kerfuffle, but to numerous others to illustrate this. The line “She put it out there on the internet, it’s public, she can say whatever she wants but she has to accept that people might not like it and will talk about it” has been repeated so many times by so many people it’s almost funny at this point.
Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s frustrating and difficult sometimes. Tough. It’s part of the job.
What this all boils down to is that somehow, my attempt to pass on a bit of advice–the internet can be scary, it really can, and you never know what might set someone off so it’s best to just be very careful and not burn any bridges–has turned into ALL YOUR PUBLISHING CHANCES ARE BELONG TO ME.
There is no “Mafia.” No one has that much power. Quite frankly, nothing that happens on the internet is that damn important. All of those “Authors Behaving Badly” posts out there? Don’t really matter. Those authors are still publishing, and the vast majority of readers have no idea of the scandal du jour. Although it seems big, the number of readers who actually hang out in the online readerworld is minute.
And something else I learned is that for every person who sees what you say and thinks “Man, fuck that bitch”–whether it’s because of what you said or what they think you said or whatever–there’s someone else who thinks, “Man, that chick is awesome for speaking her mind.”
The lesson there? People are people, and we’re all different. Some of us may feel one way, some another.
But we’re still people. Yes, people can be incredibly scary sometimes. But most of us aren’t. We’re a pretty decent bunch, I think, we writers. We might get annoyed by something or upset when attacked or whatever; we have bad days just like everyone or anyone else. We have to be careful when we have those bad days, more careful than non-writers. We have to be careful especially if we’re women.
But I’m also careful when I go out alone at night. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to do it at all. I’m just careful.
My post was intended as a bit of advice, and something interesting to discuss. I say down on the Sunday night and thought, “Oh, that’ll be a cool topic to discuss. I can do a little series on it, that’ll be fun. I like doing series.” It was not intended as some sort of rule. It was most certainly not a threat; it never occurred to me that anyone would think of it that way, because to assume someone is threatening you is to assume they have some power over you, and I have none. I’ve never claimed to have any.
But sheesh, guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Yes, the internet is forever, but you know what? Nothing is forever. Things are forgotten. People move on. People stop caring, if they ever did. No one is threatening you. No one is calling the Boss of Publishing–Don Paperback, or whatever–to tell him you sleep with the fishes. I’m not sure how exactly that belief came about, but it’s not true, and as Zoe Winters says here, “No one EVER Said That.” (Interestingly enough, that belief, the misunderstanding, was really the main point behind my saying “You can’t be both”–not that writers would ostracize you but that readers would misunderstand you/mistrust you. Sadly, it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.)
What you say online may lose you a few readers. It might gain you a few. It might make Author A not inclined to blurb you. It might make Author B more inclined to do so. I don’t enjoy controversy so I avoid it. I think making enemies is pointless so I avoid it. (Frankly, I think writing negative reviews is generally a waste of my time, because I have no special attachment to reviewing and never have. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d usually rather spend my time talking about books I loved.) What you say online might very well make you some enemies or thrust you into unwanted controversy. It may cross a few names of your list. Like I said, I don’t understand why someone would feel so strongly about being able to review, or why they would be upset at being told they have to be careful with what they say, since A) When you’re published you have to be even more careful, and B) Isn’t that sort of standard in the world? Don’t we always need to be careful what we say? Just like we don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “Wow! Your dress is really ugly!” so we are careful what we put out there publicly online, too.
But what your statements online won’t do is keep you from getting published if your work is good. (Hell, even if it isn’t; I know one specific example of this, who although the houses aren’t particularly well-regarded or established, they’re still putting out books with that writer’s name on them, and there are so many marks against that person it makes my head spin.) Unless you are a complete ranting harpie, if your work is good you will find people who want to work with you.
The writing is everything. The work is everything. Focus on that, and quit worrying about whether or not it’s okay to say you didn’t like a book. There is no “Mafia.” There is no “blacklist.” There are only people, and we’re all different. And most of all there are books, and those are what matter more than anything else.
Seriously. Don’t worry about this. Just write the best book you can.
Other posts on this topic:
An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews
What Stace had to say on Sunday, March 8th, 2009
While spending a few minutes checking my lj friendslist yesterday, I came across Jim Hines’s post about some big race discussion that’s apparently been happening right under my nose and I wasn’t paying attention.
I’ve seen this mentioned in passing elsewhere but given that I was on two deadlines and am trying to make heavy progress on a new project, AND have agreed to participate in a Mentoring program at the Romance Divas forum (yes, I am a mentor now; scary, huh?), my internet time has been even more limited than it usually is. Well, hell, I don’t have to tell you guys that; I’ve been blogging regularly for, what, three years now?, and missed two scheduled posts last month because I simply didn’t have time.
So I don’t know what all this is about. I’ve spent some time following links but am still rather confused about the whole thing. And frankly I’m not sure I want to know; I avoid internet drama whenever possible, so generally when I see posts that seem to be referring to such things, at best I skim them.
There are subjects we don’t approach here on the blog. We don’t generally discuss politics, as you know; and if you’re new to the blog, you might want to check this short post about keeping the blog light and fun, or, especially, this post about why politics are not a part of my blog and never will be. (Interestingly enough, I discovered a link to that post a while ago from a gentleman who referred to me as “that person” and said I was wrong because those of us who are educated and know the facts have a responsibility to educate others. Which amused me highly, it really did; I especially liked his bland and arrogant assumption that people who disagree with him or anyone else do so because they’re stupid and uneducated, and not because they simply have different values or ideals or, you know, their own minds. And thus need to be lectured by someone who views himself as so much more clever and informed and valuable than they are; another one who must be a real hoot at parties. Which illustrated to me the point I made in that post perfectly. Anyway.)
In fact, that political post is pretty helpful as background reading here, I think. Because again, the purpose of this blog is to be fun. To have fun. To entertain. Yes, I do posts about writing and publishing, and those are meant to educate–but hopefully in an entertaining fashion. I don’t see it as my job to tackle big issues or be some sort of guru (even if I actually thought myself capable of being such). I don’t see this as a place to expound my political or religious or moral or whatever views–we do dip into morality on occasion, yes–because I want the blog to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome. Everyone. Because you are. I think and have long thought that my readers are awesome; smart, friendly, fun people, and that we’re always happy to see someone new pop in and comment. There are too many places where that doesn’t happen; where new commentors are ignored, where commenters who disagree with the blog’s admin are ripped into and made fun of, are called names, are followed back to their own blogs and picked on there. Where questions are answered with vitriol and respectful comments with insults. This is not one of those places and it never will be. I hate those places. No matter who runs them I have never liked them, and avoid them.
All this is my way of saying that I genuinely had no idea all this drama was happening everywhere.
And I say that because in following some of the links left in Jim’s posts I noticed several people bemoaning the lack of comments or support by fantasy writers.
I hardly think I’m important enough to count. I am essentially unknown; I’m not a “big voice” in any genre–I’m hardly a voice at all. So I really don’t think anyone is watching me or my blog and being disturbed by my silence, but I’m going to break it anyway simply so there will be no doubt.
And really, my link-following has only skimmed the surface. I don’t know how the discussion started or who did what to whom and why; I have an idea based on the bit of reading I did but how it all snowballed and blew up everywhere I don’t know. And I’m not posting this in order to take sides or join the fray.
And I will say this as well. I love this blog and I love my blog readers. They are wonderful, warm, intelligent people. I’m not going to tolerate people coming here and starting shit with them. I doubt that will happen. But I’m saying it anyway.
So here is my basic statement. It’s based on what I’ve read and it’s based on seeing readers wondering why more fantasy authors haven’t spoken up (and to be fair, I am certain that the vast majority of my pals have no idea this is going on either). I don’t want there to be doubts and questions about why I haven’t said anything. It’s because I didn’t know. And now that I do I am going to say something, but again, this isn’t a topic I wish to have endless discussions about. I’m not joining anything. I’m just saying my piece, because even the small ampount of reading I did showed me that some truly horrible things have been said and done and I don’t want there to be any doubt that I disapprove of such things.
Judging people or stereotyping them based on the color of their skin is wrong. Implying, even if you mean it kindly, that all people of a particular color or ethnicity think or feel the same about any given issue is wrong; there is as much diversity in minorities as there is anywhere else. Because we’re all people.
Treating people like shit is wrong. Treating them as though they are less than human, as if they exist for your personal gratification, as though their feelings don’t matter and you can just do whatever you want to them, is wrong. Ignoring the possible consequences of your actions on another person’s life and/or livelihood is just wrong.
Threatening people is wrong.
Taking petty revenge on people is wrong.
Refusing to listen to other people is wrong. Discounting them and/or their veiwpoints because you don’t agree or don’t like what they have to say is wrong.
Judging people or calling them names simply because they don’t agree with you is wrong.
We’re all human. And being human means we’re kind of scummy. We all have thoughts of which we are not proud. Whether it’s socialization or simply the fact that at heart we all still have a greedy little “Mine! MINE!” baby who is jealous and hateful, we ALL sometimes have thoughts of which we are not proud. The human mind is a bizarre and wonderful and terrifying thing.
When I was three years old I grabbed a metal spoon from a kitchen drawer and bashed my brother over the head with it. For no reason, at least not that I can recall (I actually don’t remember the incident at all). He was just sitting in a chair watching TV.
What was going on in my mind? I don’t know. What I do know is, I had a thought–to bash Ray over the head with the spoon–and I acted on it. Today, I might still have the same thought; one of those crazy things that just pops into your head, like wondering what would happen if you walked up to a stranger in public and said, “You know what? I fucking hate you,” and walked away, or if you pushed someone for no reason, or any number of crazy things that pop into my mind and I am pretty sure pop into everyone’s minds at one time or another. But today I would not act on it. I might be secretly amused or horrified, but I wouldn’t act on it. Because I’m not three anymore.
I believe racism, sexism, discrimation or whatever in any form, among reasonable people, are the same thing. We ALL have unpleasant, embarrassing, or downright hideous thoughts from time to time. Hopefully not many; hopefully not too bad. But you can’t control the crazy, unlike-you thoughts that pop into your head, any more than I can control the fact that once every few years I dream I kill someone and am trying to hide the body, and the sick, horrible sense of shame and despair that dream engenders, and the intense relief on waking and realizing I have not in fact killed anyone (this generally leaves me feeling great for days: I didn’t kill anyone!)
What you CAN and SHOULD control is the expression of those thoughts. And what you can and should control is how you react to having something you said commented on. You offended someone? Just apologize. Why do we all need to be right all the time? What difference does it make, really? Even if that’s not what you meant. Even if you think the people interpreting your words are batshit crazy for thinking that. Just apologize. Try to figure out how or why you offended them. And let it go. Period.
It’s easy. It doesn’t matter. You can still think you’re right, even, if you insist. But just apologize. It’s not being a doormat. It’s not admitting you’re a racist or sexist or you discriminate against unattractive people or mice or Weeble-Wobbles. It’s just apologizing, and everyone gets to move on. And I think if we all consider it we’ll realize that most of the big problems in our lives could be avoided if we’d just quit having to be fucking right all the time and allow other people to think and feel their own thoughts, in their own wacky brains, where they are at any given moment probably contemplating running naked through the office or fucking the elderly receptionist or peeing in the hallway, because those are the kind of loony uncontrollable musings their brains create. (What? I can’t believe I’m the only person in the world who’s ever wondered what people would do if I peed in the hallway. You know, acting as though nothing was wrong and everyone does it; just lean against the wall, lift my skirt and push my panties to my knees, and have a go right there on the floor. I’d never actually do it, of course. But I can’t be responsible for the bizarre fantasies in my head–as long as they remain in my head–and neither can anyone else.)
It’s not pleasant to be called on those thoughts. It’s not pleasant to be called a sexist or a racist or a sizeist or anti-gay or whatever else, when you firmly do not believe you are and do not want to be. But it’s also not pleasant to be the one on the receiving end of a comment or action that hurts or offends you, or makes you feel less than human. So in that situation you have two hurt and confused people, and the best thing to do is for the one who did the hurting, no matter how inadvertent it was–and we’ve all hurt people inadvertently, every one of us–to apologize. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” It’s very easy. Note that there’s no “I’m not a purple-jean hater!!” outrage attached to that. It’s simply “I’m sorry.”
And it goes both ways. The one receiving the apology could also apologize thusly: “I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, and I didn’t mean to hurt or insult you, just to point out that your comment could be construed in a way you didn’t intend.” See? Again, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, or what anyone meant. What matters is both people have been accorded the dignity every human being should be accorded, and both parties have a chance to move on with dignity, and reach a new and deeper understanding.
This is what being an adult is, to be frank.
And that’s basically it. Like I said I’m not aware of the whole discussion. And to bring myself up-to-date would take hours and hours of time which I frankly do not have. In fact, not only is it time I don’t have, but I get the distinct feeling that those hours would be spent growing more and more upset and disillusioned and frustrated and sad, and would leave me unable to focus on work or anything else, and I still have two books to finish and a website to build and an apprentice to mentor. (“Apprentice” is the term the program in which we’re participating uses.)
And really, does it matter if I know the whole story or not? I’ve said my bit. I’m tired of anger and entitlement and the idea that other people don’t matter. I’m sick of seeing it everywhere. I don’t want to see it anymore.
Every person sitting in front of a keyboard and typing out all those words with which you disagree? They are people. Human beings. Maybe we could all remember that? Just try to keep it in mind, is all. There’s no excuse for treating them like they’re something less than that. Less than you. Less than anything. I avoid blogs and forums where people are treated that way. I avoid blogs and forums where being vicious to other people is encouraged. Those are not places I want to spend my time.
I write about pain. I write about isolation and disillusionment and the utter and complete lack of belief that life is worth living. I write about blood and magic and filth and evil and death. I write about abuse and hatred. I write about loneliness and misery and secrets and the uncertainty of life and people who have nothing but honor, people who can’t connect with other people, people who bleed rivers of pain if you cut their skin.
Quite frankly, my worldview is already twisted enough; there’s plenty of misery floating around in my head already. I don’t need to go find more. That’s why I try to keep the blog a positive place and that’s why I avoid getting into arguments etc. online, and avoid visiting websites and blogs where people are regularly turned into cannon fodder.
And I guess that’s it.
What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 27th, 2008
So, first, happy Thanksgiving everyone! We’re celebrating here, of course; turkey (all they had was a fifteen-pound behemoth, so we’ve got plenty of turkey, oh yes), mashed potatoes, cornbread, green bean casserole, rolls, corn, cranberry sauce, and of course, homemade pumpkin pie. Ahhh. With fresh whipped cream. (We can’t get Cool Whip here, and call me a philistine, but I love Cool Whip and don’t care that it’s made of inorganic substances. It’s not like we eat the stuff every day.)
And of course, we’re watching the news and keeping an eye on the terrible tragedy in Mumbai. And we’re horrified, and distressed by it.
But you know what? We’re still having Thanksgiving. I’m still blogging (and doing line edits for Unholy Ghosts, yay!) We’re still going to watch Jaws and L.A. Confidential later–our traditional Thanksgiving movies–along with Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
And I refuse to feel bad about that.
Just like I refuse to feel bad about getting caught up in whatever the internet scandal du jour is when the economy is having problems and there’s a war on or whatever. Just like I refuse to feel bad about doing Christmas shopping when there was a tsunami. Or about taking my girls to the park or the play center when…well, insert-very-serious-issue-here.
I’m sure you’ve seen this, too. A little conversation starts on some blog or something about, say, Michelle Obama’s election-night dress. Or Britney Spears. Or any one of thousands of inane and silly–but fun and diverting–discussions. And there’s always got to be some grumpyass, more-intellectual-than-thou person who comes along and chides everyone for “wasting [our] time” talking about clothing or recipes or whatever, when “the economy is in the toilet/there’s a war going on/people are dying/seals are being clubbed/whatever.”
And oooh, does that ever piss me off.
You know what? I’m perfectly aware that there’s a lot of misery in the world. I’m perfectly aware that thousands of people go to bed hungry, or that right at this moment someone could be dying, or losing everything they own, or someone could be measuring themselves for a pretty white seal-sin jacket. And yes, it bothers me. I hate it. Of course I worry about those things, of course they upset me.
But I cannot spend my entire life focusing only on Serious Issues. And neither can you, or anyone else. We’re human; there’s only so much we can take, you know?
Not to mention, even those topics cannot possibly take up entire days and weeks of conversation. You cannot spend your every waking hour writing, talking, or thinking about those topics because they are simply not complex enough to require it.
And what would be the point, anyway? I don’t make government policy and neither do you (well, maybe you do; I know I have some readers in the DC area. *waves*) So we can spend our every waking moment involved in serious discussions about rainforests and ice caps and indigenous peoples, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference–oh, except, apparently, to make us feel superior to others and prove how intellectual and above-it-all we are.
Because really, that’s what’s behind those comments. I love it when people inform me that my interests are silly and my conversations a waste of time–taking time out from their busy schedule of Judging Others and Improving Their Minds, it seems, to drop in and educate the Little Stupid People on what we should really be concerned about. Um, hey, if you have so many Serious Issues on your mind, why are you dropping by here anyway? Did you think perhaps over at the TalkAboutBooksandClothes blog (which I just made up) conversation has suddenly turned to terrorism and its root causes, and your input is sorely needed? Don’t you have anything better to do, like maybe setting up a soup kitchen in your backyard and learning how to weave fabric so you can sew fresh clothing for everyone who needs it? Or maybe you’d prefer to make yourself some clothing–a t-shirt that says something like “I am superior to you in every way, as I only think of serious issues and am very, very smart. This makes me a total boor, but I don’t care because I’m above all that too.” I mean, that is the message you’re trying to get across to us all, right? That you’re better than we are because you’re smarter and more serious, whereas we’re a bunch of flighty idiots? And how dare we have discussions that don’t meet your criteria, or interests that don’t coincide exactly with yours?
I am a human being, and so–I presume–are all of you reading this. And you know what? I have a very wide range of interests and opinions, and I imagine you do as well. I think we ALL do. And while some topics may be more serious than others, I don’t see any reason at all why we should all force ourselves to sit gloomily around, staring at each other and occasionally talking about unemployment.
We NEED diversions. We NEED things to remind us that life goes on. That the world is more than just a vale of tears and misery. There’s good things, too, like high heels and french fries and great books and silver nail polish and action movies where the good guys always win and comedies where you laugh so hard tears roll down your cheeks and music and beer and fast cars and…any one of thousands of other things. That things might be bad now, but that doesn’t mean they’re never going to get better–and that maybe they’re not as bad as we think. We need to remember that even in the midst of tragedy, one of the amazing things about being human is our ability to feel complex emotions; we can laugh through tears, or wear a bittersweet smile. We are perfectly capable of discussing many things, of feeling and thinking many things, all at once.
We’re not one-note beings. And there is nothing in the world wrong with that, just like there is nothing in the world wrong with visiting Go Fug Yourself for some diversion from the misery we see on the news. Just like there is nothing wrong with trading gossip with friends because it’s fun and we need a little break; something to take our mind off our problems.
Just like there is absolutely nothing wrong with being thankful today, even as we spare a thought for the victims in Mubai and their families. And there is nothing wrong with sitting down to a big feast today. There is nothing wrong with planning to go shopping tomorrow to take advantage of all those sales.
Because we need the break. We need the relaxation. We need the comfort of having our families and friends close to us. We need a laugh. We need to remember that in the midst of the bad, there is good, and that we can still laugh and talk and smile; our hearts can still lift, our heads can still clear, and above all, there is still hope in the world.
Because life goes on. And quite frankly, if you don’t know that…maybe you’re not as clever as you think.