Exasperation: Some thoughts on readers, writers and trolls

There’s been a lot of controversial stuff on the internet recently. I am no expert, but the whole thing has made me want to ditch the online world and go back to a time when people had to work a bit harder to spread nastiness like a virulent plague.

First, there was Lynn Shepherd suggesting that JK Rowling give up writing for adults because she’s already successful and she is taking all the space for other less well known authors to be seen and heard. I don’t agree with her comments. I don’t believe that you should give something up because you happen to have made some money out of it. This applies to books, to music, to films… to everything really. I don’t agree, but that doesn’t mean I think that Lynn Shepherd should have been lambasted like she was. She’s entitled to her opinion. The major fallout from this was that Shepherd was abused by JK fans and fans of other authors, such as Anne Rice, who made their own views heard on the subject. Did Shepherd deserve the abuse she received? No.

Next there was Jonathan Ross and the Hugo Awards fiasco. A massive fan (and comic book author) himself, and with a wife also successful in the genre of sci-fi/fantasy, he was asked by his friend, Neil Gaiman, to host the awards Β – which he agreed to do for free – and the upshot was that he was abused by genre fans who lambasted him for his humour, his profile and the concept that he ‘might’ offend them. So he stepped down. Anyone following this on twitter etc would have seen comments from his wife and daughter, devastated by the abuse he had received. Bad press for the Hugos and bad press for the sci-fi community as a whole. Well done, people.

Then we had Robert McCrum’s article about struggling writers and the lack of money in writing. Cue more vitriolic comments from the reading and writing community, and anyone else who felt like weighing in on it all.

And finally, we have Hanif Kureishi telling us that creative writing course are a waste of time… leading to comments from Matt Haig… and resulting backlash about HIS views. And of course there’s the ongoing battle about Amazon reviews, Goodreads spats, and good old sockpuppets.

So here are my thoughts. Write if you want to write. Write if you enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you are unpublished, self-published or mega-published like Stephen King. Do a creative writing course if you want. Maybe it will lead somewhere, maybe it won’t. It’s your time, it’s your money. It’s your desire to learn from people who have been there before. READ. Read if you want to. Read what you want. Enjoy sci-fi, crime, horror, romance and erotica. Enjoy literary fiction, read short stories, read kids books – even if you’re not a kid. Read articles about reading and writing. Read comments from horrible trolls who enjoy nothing more than getting a reaction from you. Get incensed. Make yourself miserable thinking about it. if that’s what you really want from it all.

Somehow I think we’re all missing the point here.

Writers write, and readers read. There is a place for all of us. It’s the thing that we have in common. Do we really have to fall out about it?

* * *

P.S. I have purposely not linked to any of the authors/articles in question. You can easily find them with a bit of googling if you want to share in the outrage. Or you can just look at this instead…

16 thoughts on “Exasperation: Some thoughts on readers, writers and trolls

  1. Love it! Brilliant! I didn’t know about about all the things you mentioned, but had my own spat with trolls on twitter this last week! The problem is that everyone has a voice these days, everyone can make themselves heard, unfortunately it’s rarely for a positive reason.

    • Exactly. People make a hobby out of it and after a while it becomes very depressing stuff. I’m all for reasoned debate and differing opinions, but not inflammatory bile.

  2. Well said, I know about some of the stuff mentioned but didn’t really get sucked in. Too many folk are happy to wade in with opinions and via the internet it’s easy to feel safe as you don’t actually have to face anyone in person.

    • I know. It is far too easy for people to remain faceless. They would never say any of these things in the ‘real world’. I try not to get sucked in to these things, but my whole twitter timeline for the last week has been about these things and people’s reactions and it all got a bit STFU!! πŸ™‚

  3. Susi, I haven’t spoken to you a lot lately on Facebook (just haven’t crossed paths), but I am so glad I read this post. You are a real gem. I am amazed at the arguing going on. Dare I say even all the arguments about the Author’s Earning site, too. If you stick your head up for one second with any opinion that differs from anyone else’s you get it sliced off. The other day I gave a workshop talk at the Perth Writer’s Festival and I shared that in promoting yourself as an author you should always be gracious on social media, in person, where ever you go. One of the attendees, an elderly university lecturer, commented, “I haven’t heard someone say the word ‘gracious’ in such a long time. Its so refreshing to hear someone say it.’ Could we just all be a little more gracious. I love this post. You are a fabulous person as well as a gifted short story writer.

    • Spot on, Susan. People need to start being gracious again and get over themselves with all the righteous indignation. Debate, by all means, but mud slinging is never a pretty sight for anyone concerned. Kind of makes the whole business of enjoying reading and writing rather tawdry. And yes – I missed out the whole Hugh Howey argument from this (probably just as well!)… it’s madness, all madness! πŸ™‚

  4. First off, the kittens made me truly “laugh out loud”. The internet breads a special kind of individual, the kind who love nothing more than to get a rise out of anyone and everyone and will say anything to accomplish their goals with no shred of civility. I write because I love it. When I get an email or comment about my novel in the negative, I thank the person for their comment and move on as people, as you have stated, are entitled to their opinion. Did I mention, love the kittens?

    • Thanks Tony πŸ™‚ You, like many (thankfully) are one of the sane bunch! No matter how much someone might hurt you with their comments, the only way to win is to ignore and move on. In Ross’s case, he has done just that – but isn’t it time people stopped vilifying without a proper basis?

    • Thank you! Often the self-pubbed community are the worst of all. Many have chips on their shoulders, some are in denial about why they self-pub. Like anything, you make your choices, and you’re right, there really is no need for it. We need to support eachother in all of these things, as surely its what sets us apart from the ‘rest of the world’ who don’t even like books?! We’re already a minority. The in-fighting is tiresome.

      • Chip on shoulder for sure! Sometimes I see authors competing with, rather than encouraging each other. To be honest I find it embarrassing. Authors should always be professional, otherwise who will take you seriously as an author? If I read nasty things by an author I simply refuse to buy anything they have written. As you say, we should support each other.

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