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  – 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 It doesn’t matter if you are unpublished, self-published or mega-published like Stephen King.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?

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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…