19 April 2008

Trash-talking authors

As an admitted stranger in the world of fiction, I rely on Booksquare to keep me up to date with what's going on. A recent Booksquare post led me to Dear Author, a reader blog about genre (mainly romance) fiction, where unbeknownst to me, "most of the blogosphere has been mouth agape" because an author named Deborah Anne MacGillivray wrote hostile replies to a reader who had posted an unflattering review on Amazon.com of MacGillivray's book In Her Bed.
The reader, who calls herself Reba Belle, says "Looks like I will be the 'voice of dissent' here. . . . [In Her Bed] was kinda neat, actually; except that there was repeat scenes . . . when you already know the final outcome(s) kinda puts a 'blah' on the suspense/drama. . . . This happens throught [sic] the book. And dreams that we read, then experience--almost verbatum [sic]. Come on . . ."
MacGillivray's reply includes these remarks: "I am think [sic] you skimmed the book. . . and didn’t bother to see why the characters did things, just took surface reactions. . . . [your review] shows how totally you are missing the true emotions of these characters."
This outburst of trash talk shouldn't be enough to get these two sent to the principal's office, let alone set "most of the blogosphere" atwitter. Trash talk belongs in the schoolyard, not in in the big leagues. Maybe that's why there's such a fuss: we used to expect big-league conduct from book authors.
When Manny Ramirez misses a fly ball we can yell "Hey Manny, you suck," confident that Manny won't jump up in the stands and kick our butt. The social contract that keeps ballplayers from kicking the butts of hostile fans is the same one that used to keep authors from mixing it up with readers. When publishing was a one-way conversation, authors were on a pedestal, like pro athletes. It was undignified and unfair for them to rough up a fan, no matter how belligerent.
In the Web 2.0 world, even the fans get a chance to step up to the plate. Most of the blogosphere agrees that's a change for the better. But apparently, some of the blogosphere hasn't figured out that once you step out onto the field, the pros don't have to cut you any slack.

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