…and you should, too.
Reader, reader. What have we here? A blog post? This must really be something special. Regina rarely posts actual blog entries, and even more rarely starts a post on her site with ‘i hate’ instead of ‘i love.’ Yet, this where we find ourselves. I just need to vent a little: moreover, I need to implore you, reader, to think about what I am writing here, because I mean it sincerely.
I woke up this morning to find another horror author, whose pen name and work shall not be named, had a year-old book blocked an Amazon–an action that most likely occurred because somebody complained about it. A horror book. In the horror category. By a known author of extreme horror.
This is really sticking in my craw because I had a similar situation earlier in the month concerning a book published on the website Godless.com, which is meant specifically for horrific, shocking, boundary-pushing horror fiction that can (or should) not be published anywhere else. Unbeknownst to me, somebody I know–and at that point respected–went behind my back to the site creator to complain the piece, a 4500 word piece of shock horror comparable to many other pieces on the site. Is it the best piece I’ve ever written in my life? Of course not, I wrote it in an afternoon to be shocking and depraved, and to make readers question why they read this sort of fiction. But I stand by the piece, and the emotional reaction it evidently triggered in this person indicates to me that the piece is successful.
That being said, I have been affected for almost a month by this ridiculous scenario. I feel censorious eyes peering over my keyboard and into my mind as I try to think of something to write, and for the past weeks just a bit of my joy has been sapped from me whenever I do make it to the keyboard. This is the real goal the person had by first going to the Godless.com creator, then by sending me a personal message that amounted to a drive-by when they refused to reply. The person was offended and upset by the work, and when someone is upset, they want to upset the person who upset them. The motive for demanding another person remove a piece of art from circulation, whatever the quality, can only be a malicious one.
There are people out there who want writers to suck. I don’t mean just vindictive book bloggers, either. There are writers who want other writers to suck. There are people who have nothing to do with the world of publishing, who haven’t read a book since high school (or maybe haven’t graduated it) who want writers to suck. This latter group is made of people who pile-on to a situation on Twitter or Facebook so they can enjoy criticizing a content creator for a work they know nothing about. As for the rest, the frustrated writers who take pleasure in trashing the works of other writers, this is a truly lowly sort upon whom I’ll waste little time other than to say they are doomed to evolve into vindictive book bloggers, their works unread by the community that has long-since seen them for what they are.
But why would anyone want another person’s work to suck, Regina? Surely you’re looking at this the wrong way. These good, wholesome, neighborly souls are only concerned. They want to keep readers from reading “bad” books, so they leave informative 1-star reviews everywhere they possibly can. They want to keep writers from publishing (or preferably from writing at all) “bad” books, so they complain to Amazon and other platforms in the name of having the books taken down–thus, also, protecting these poor, helpless readers from the bad, bad fiction that offended the tattle-tale.
These are their stated goals, I will give you that. But, reader, this sort of person who can’t leave well enough alone actually has another goal seated in their heart of hearts. No matter what they tell themselves, the type of person who complains about a book is doing so for self-motivated reasons. If outside of the publishing/reading industry, they tend to be jealous of success in general and simply enjoy the schadenfreude that comes from latching onto a good public witch hunt. If they are a reader, then it is because they were so offended by the book that they want to hurt the author in their turn. And if they proclaim to be a fellow writer, then they can have one goal and one goal only: to rein in their competition until one of them sings a swansong and quits publishing altogether…or at least publishing in their genre.
Some writers believe that, rather than writing to the market, the market should conform to their tastes–and that other writers, for not doing the same, are wrong or in some way lacking in quality. For these authors, the only possibility they have of success, so far as they can see, is proving to readers that their taste is “wrong.” They write long reviews of other authors’ works that belittle the piece as much as possible before ending in snide urgings like, “But hey, if writing is your passion, keep doing it!” They critique in-progress works shared in confidence in such a way as to hamper their final form, rather than helping hone them to success. Most vilely, they report books to the platforms on which they’re published so that even extreme horror fiction properly categorized has no chance to remain for sale. To play it safe, deplatformed writers may end up writing milder things.
And that is exactly what these petty agitators want. They do not want to see boundaries pushed and authors inspired by one another. They do not want to look evil in the face or think that someone may disagree with them. They do not want to see others successful when their own books can’t seem to get past a handful of reviews and a couple of sales a month. They want only their own immediate success, and they just cannot understand why shitting on others won’t make it come any faster.
I am writing this entry today to urge you, reader, to never be like these people. Love fellow writers. Support them. Encourage them even if you don’t personally enjoy their work. Celebrate their successes, because one day they’re going to celebrate yours. Don’t be mediocre, and don’t let anyone tell you that you should be. When people are upset about your art, upset them more.
And if you’re a reader only? As Shirley Jackson once said to a rude critic, “If you don’t like my peaches, don’t shake my tree.” Let extreme horror grow in its profane groves of eyeball bushes and vaginal trees. It’s not doing anyone any real harm, and if you think that you’re worried it is, well…stop and ask yourself if that’s really the problem you have with it.