Righteous Indignation Pants on the Internet: Commenting Online
I have an upcoming review of Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghost series on the cards but I’ve discovered that it’s become something of a beast of a post as I try to explain how I got the book at all. I try to keep my updates (relatively) short and sweet so I’ve decided to separate out some of the story behind my simple review. I also want to voice a few of my opinions and I’m really sorry if I come off as sanctimonious.
Some of you may remember my recent Rice-Gate saga, where I tore up a copy of an Anne Rice novel to make a pot (it now holds all of my jewellery and is well loved). When Anne Rice saw that I’d done this (through Google alerts that she must have set up, as my blog was only seen by 20-30 people a day and the post had been up for two days) she shared it through her Facebook page. Quite understandably, fans of Anne Rice weren’t generally very happy that I’d ripped up her work and repurposed it. I’d also reviewed the novel, which had comparisons with Twilight and a general dislike of the book overall. This is quite a lot for any fan to take and many took to the comments to rage out.
Now, I’m going to go on record as saying there is nothing wrong with the comments on my blog. I offered myself up on a forum and people responded. Because they came from the Anne Rice Facebook page they were very likely to respond in a certain way, thanks to their already existing bias, and many of them were upset. Very much in the same way that I’d want to yell at someone ripping up H G Wells and saying it’s poor stuff. The people who raged out were upset that something they cared about was also pretty vulnerable, the same way all us book lovers have to accept. It’s also a common held problem that humans ‘aint so good at agreeing to disagree over matters they feel passionately about. The commenters who just yelled at me were letting out that distress and I hope it helped. I hope they went back to reading and never thought of me again, I’m glad they took the time to comment at all.
Finding Constructive Criticism in the Mouths of Trolls
What I really loved when I woke up to the hundreds of comments that were waiting for me was that most actually had constructive criticisms. I haven’t been blogging very long and it quickly became apparent that I hadn’t thoroughly proof read my post (two typos were corrected later) and that a lot of it had been somewhat rambling. Lots of people pointed out flaws with my review, including that I’d stated I didn’t like vampire fiction (I meant that in the past but my poor language made that unclear), had started at the tail end of a series rather than the stronger first novels and that I’d written a poor review in general. I ended up speaking to several commenters and most were polite and willing to exchange ideas. My least fave commenter has to be the person who called me a Natzi and then insisted it was entirely appropriate when I pointed out how utterly disrespectful that is to those who lived through WW2. Some people were also somewhat snotty and felt that by insulting me it would dissolve the weight of my critical opinion.
Here’s my point though.
Beware the Righteous Indignation Pants
The absolute worst thing I could have done would have been to rage out in response. If I’d replied with sardonic and sarcastic remarks then I would have been belittling the passion many of the commenters were feeling. I honestly didn’t want to belittle those who were trying to engage with me, despite the fact I strongly disagreed with their stance that Pandora was a great book and Anne Rice an excellent writer. I also wanted to give those that were angry the benefit of the doubt, it took zero effort to ignore the rudeness and reply to any criticism they gave (again, without being snotty if at all possible). I had two people, who were incredibly angry at me, completely deflated by the fact that I was a person who wasn’t angry back. In both cases they apologised for getting caught up in the mob mentality and we parted on good terms. They honestly seemed surprised that I wasn’t out to attack their passion for the book, I just disagreed and was willing to hear them out.
They were anticipating a battle, which I had instigated by bringing up the Twilight vs Another Vampire Story debate. I thought I could do this in a light-hearted way but so many people are attacking all vampire literature (heck some are attacking teen fiction in general) I underestimated how on guard these fans already were. How much they had already been mocked and this made them almost eager to put on their righteous indignation pants purely so they could fight back. We’ve all been mocked for things we’ve enjoyed and I’d never thought before about how lovers of vampire fiction have become such a figure of ridicule. After all, they’re just books.
You Can Mock, But Don’t HOUND the Effort it Takes to Love Something
People always seem to assume I read highbrow stuff from an early age and probably have images of me reading War and Peace during sleepovers. For the record: I LOVED the Baby Sitters Club when I was a kid, I also loved Jilly Cooper and Wilbur Smith as a teen. I have read every single Point Horror out there and a horror writer called Pike who I particularly enjoyed. I still have Steven King attacks, where I suddenly have a craving for his work and I’m not totally against “Chick Lit” when the writing is good. When people learn that I’m a graduate in English Literature it makes me feel weird how many suddenly become apologetic. I’ve been told more than once that a person is embarrassed that I’m a literature student when they “Couldn’t even get through The Lord of the Rings.” You know who else couldn’t get through The Lord of the Rings? ME!
The point isn’t that people should be judged on what they read but instead should be celebrated for reading and being passionate about anything at all. I don’t despair when I hear a young person talking about the latest teen fiction craze. I despair when someone proudly tells me “I don’t read,” like I’m some kind of fool for enjoying words. I also don’t want to tell people how to behave on the internet but if you love literature then don’t waste your time hating on something with vehemence when you can easily make your point and move on. Hating something doesn’t make your love for something else stronger, as much as I wish it were some kind of weird “Highlander” parody. That would be wicked.
So, if you’re an American then don’t put on the righteous indignation pants. Instead, strut about in the underpants of tolerance. And if you’re a Brit like myself then go commando because I’ll bet those righteous indignation pants are uncomfortable as hell anyway!
And how did this all start with Stacia Kane? Kane is a horror writer too, who saw someone ripping into her genre as much as the next person. What did she do? Contacted me and offered me a copy of the first in the Downside Ghosts Series, purely for me to turn into craft if I wanted to. Maybe I’d give it a read too, if I was interested? It was a wonderful email to read when I was confronted with so much distress that I’d accidentally caused.
Not only did this return some of my faith in the ego of most authors but it also started me on my latest favourite series of books. After devouring book one I soon purchased books two through four and five is already starting to haunt me. My first book ever sent to me to review and I’m overjoyed I’ve loved the series so much, as you’ll see in my upcoming review!