Reading Controversy: Authors vs Books


You know, sometimes I really miss the days where authors were just names on the front of a book and (maybe) a photo in the back. I'm talking about the days before social media, where we literally judged a book by its cover, not by the person writing it.





Don't get me wrong, the connected world has done wonderful things for the literary community, allowing us to connect, get deeper into the stories, and be a part of the conversation. I have made some very good friends with authors who I admire, respect, and genuinely enjoy interacting with, and they in turn have introduced me to a wider community and new reads that I might have otherwise overlooked.





Unfortunately, the universe likes to remind us that we exist in a balance, and that for every positive there is a negative . . . for every good there is a bad . . . for every hero there is a villain.





I'm not talking about core beliefs or values or philosophies here. We all have them, they're often different, and so long as they're not used to attack, discriminate, or deny others their rights, we should respect that about one another. No harm, no foul.





When those attacks do happen, though, we are left with the challenge of trying to decide if we can or should separate the author from the book - and that's twice as difficult when it's a book you've enjoyed. Can we still love the book even if we lose all respect for the author? If so, is it okay to keep recommending the book? And if we do, should it be with a caveat about the author? Or do we owe it to ourselves (and perhaps the wider community) to stop promoting anything that extends the author's voice?





As my Goddess/Wife pointed out, you can work with somebody and not like them, so do you really need to like someone to read their work? It's a good question, but I think it's a bit different in that authors are paid to develop ideas and themes, where as my coworkers are more task-oriented. Plus, I don't take their work home with me.





Personally, if it's a book I haven't yet read, the answer becomes a lot simpler. Piss me off, offend me, and show yourself to be a vile human being who mocks, ridicules, harasses, and discriminates against others, and I will excise you from the shelves faster than you can hit the 'block' button on your social media feed.





Whether it's the whole Sad Puppies/SJW mess that dominated the Hugos for so many years, the recent TERF debate that J.K. Rowling sparked, or any number of controversies in between, the reader in me is inclined to ignore the authors and just keep reading the books, but the human in me recognizes that is the coward's way out. If we sit back and let somebody spew their misinformed hatred, if we continue to promote their books and the voice behind them, then we (indirectly or not) become a party to that hatred.





If there's one shining light in all of this, it's that such debates can introduce us to authors we haven't read (yet) who are standing up that hatred and putting themselves in the line of fire. I'm talking about authors who ask questions, who point out the difference between fact and belief, and who take the time to educate themselves.





I won't tell you what authors I've chosen to block or ignore, and I won't tell you what books I've excised from my shelves because . . . well, fuck them, they're not worth the words. I am more than happy, however, to tell you about the authors I've discovered, who I'm suddenly excited to read. Please welcome to the shelves Delilah Night, Kayla Bashe, Lyra Shanti, Stina Leicht, Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Harrow, and Aria Morgan Howell.


Comments

  1. First of all, like everyone else, authors have the right to their freedom of speech. But just as they have the right to say what they want, I have the right to choose not to read them. At the end of the day, I believe people should read (or not read) what they want, from whom they want, for whatever reason they want - and I think we are in accord on that front. However, I would disagree that it's the "coward's way out" to keep reading books by authors you might not see eye-to-eye with. In fact, I have great admiration for people who can do that, those who can remain more unbiased and open-minded than a great many of us. As you said, ideally the author should only be a name on the front of a book, and my rational mind knows that if I enjoy a book, it shouldn't matter who wrote it. Personally though, I know I am not as good at separating the artist from the art as I would like to be - which is why I typically avoid following authors on social media. Because sometimes, for me it's just better not to know.

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  2. Hallo, Hallo,...

    I took a similar stance during the election year of 2016 - for those of us stateside it became as a heated place to be bookish and geeky as it is now with recent developments in book world; Rowling was one part of the issue, the RWA is the other - (with a lot of roads between them both) however, when I went to publish a review I had written which dealt with a female seeking the presidency, I decided to speak out - to address the then current narrative of do you continue to follow authors/book bloggers/reviewers who have stark differences in beliefs and political leanings as you do or do you start to cut down your lists?

    You might want to give this a read as you'll find we ended our thoughts in a similar way and took the high road as it applied to us both.

    When it comes to individual books vs authors - it will remain a personal choice however one thing to say in that is that if we kept our distance from the author and entered into a fandom and/or had a singular experience wherein we were literally connected to the characters, the world and the joys of living in that world without outside influences - I would think it would be alright to keep that world in your heart and life because in essence that is what you were mentioning - about how the old school approach to reading was not directly connected to knowledge about the authors themselves but stories were simply devoured for what they gave the reader through the experience of their content?

    Well timed discussion! Well said.

    PS: if you visit my post, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below it - I have wondered what others might have thought about what I shared but I didn't get a lot of traction on that review (of course considering things, I understood why...)...

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  3. Thank you for this insightful post, and I’m honored to be mentioned as a new author you’re excited to read. ❤

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  4. Great post. I like what you wrote about reading eclectically with literary adventures through the melting pot of the world.

    And I get what you're saying about not unfollowing people because of a different opinion or party affiliation. I'm all for that. I am great friends with people I'll never see eye-to-eye on when it comes to things like religion or politics. What makes those friendships work is the fact that neither of our beliefs takes away from or belittes the other. It's like the difference between saying you only find people of race X attractive, which is fine, versus saying people of races Y and Z are less than human and should be exterminated, which is very much not fine.

    I'm all for building bridges and creating dialogue, but there need to be two ends to that bridge, and I guess where I draw the line is at deliberate ignorance. To give you 2 examples, on the one side of the JKR tweetstorm, you have Mark Hamill, who originally retweeted in support of her comments. People asked him to read the whole story behind the tweet, to understand the context, and he then came back, recapped what he'd learned, and apologized for his earlier actions. That's building a bridge and shaking hands in the middle. On the other hand, you have an author I won't name who was asked if he'd educated himself on the story behind the issue, and his response was "Don't need to." Then, when other authors called him out on it, and said they expected better of him as a person, he doubled down and called them names. That's blowing up the bridge and not caring who falls.

    BTW, Vote for Remi just went on my TBR list. :)

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  5. Yeah, perhaps 'coward' was the wrong word choice. Maybe 'easy' way out would be better. I wasn't trying to suggest there was anything wrong with that, but it is easier to just read with blinders on than have to struggle with questions of implying approval or support.

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  6. If we sit back and let somebody spew their misinformed hatred, if we continue to promote their books and the voice behind them, then we (indirectly or not) become a party to that hatred.

    Well said!

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  7. I've tried in the past to separate the art from the artist, and that just doesn't work for me. That's the downside of social media, but I can't unknow the things I now know.

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  8. It's hard to unknow something about someone, isn't it? Like you day, it's the downside of having such access to authors.

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  9. My two cents: everyone has something that they've done or said that they aren't proud of, but its unfortunate that only those in the social spotlight get attacked for saying those things. Not that I'm defending them, exactly, but there is always another side to every story. Whatever you read on Twitter isn't the whole truth. We're seeing the worst of what was said or done. Twitter blows everything out of proportion.

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  10. True, but I think how they react or follow up is just as important as what they said originally.

    There's a world of difference between doubling down with the harassment, apologizing for a misunderstanding, or allowing silence to tell its own story of no regrets.

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  11. Interesting post that rang true for me beyond authors and books (for instance, I can’t watch Mel Gibson movies because of his raving anti-semitism), even though I KNOW that’s illogical. Everyone with a certain level of fame has a level of scrutiny that’s bound to unearth something unpleasant, and as someone said in this thread, we’ve all said or done things that don’t stand up to deeper inspection.

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  12. Good point with Mel Gibson. I find actors a bit easier to tolerate, though, because they're playing a role in somebody else's story. There's not as much of a message or theme implied by their delivery as by the script, but it's still hard to watch some people without thinking about their actions.

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  13. I truly appreciate this lovely response and the kind comment you've left on my blog recently. I also enjoyed carrying on the convo a bit after we exchanged notes here. It was a well-time discussion and a post I felt was worth sharing - thanks also for finding "Vote for Remi" as I felt it was an under-loved book at the time I read it! I hope it will be an inspiring read once you get into it. Since my own TBR is quite extensive... I can imagine it might take you a bit to get to it! lol OOh! I'm also following you back now on Litsy... I sort of forgot to update Litsy? I'm hoping to be more active on that social platform in the New Year... now I wonder if you're also on LT?

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