I try very hard not to weigh in on internet drama. Why? Because it’s not what I want my website to be about. That being said, there are occasions when I get so absolutely pissed off I can’t seem to see straight so I decide to go vocal. Plus, us redheads are good about going vocal when we feel the desire.

There was a big to-do about an author had the (*gasp*) audacity to engage in a fan discussion of his work. Evidently that’s beyond insulting (I missed the memo informing me that that sort of thing is supposed to piss me off).

I’m going to make a few things perfectly clear: 

1. I didn’t start Bookworm Blues so I could hear myself talk. I started this website to interact with people who enjoy the genre as much as I do. I don’t draw lines. I don’t kick people out of my special club. I don’t care. If you love the genre, I want to talk to you. Period.

2. I want my website to be fun. I enjoy and embrace discussion. I might disagree with you, but I enjoy that disagreement. What fun is the world if I’m not stretching my boundaries, understandings, and limitations? This is especially true with the interpretation of literature. Art is so reliant on perspective, and everyone’s perspective is different. I realize I am not a perfect being with absolutely flawless understanding, so I welcome discussions and comments that, perhaps, show me how flawed my understanding really is. That, to me, is fun.

3. I think it’s a horrible double standard to welcome authors in interviews, and discussions on Twitter, but kick them off of websites because they have the audacity to be an author. When you take the right to discuss work away from the creator, you’re laying down an impressive double standard. They can write, but they can’t discuss. Ridiculous. This thinking is ridiculous and insulting to me as a reader, genre fan, and website runner. Yes, websites like this are largely geared toward fans of the genre, but authors are fans, too. Probably the most impressive fans of all of us. Furthermore, if you take my previous two points into consideration, you’d probably realize that I think it would be a pretty stupid move to kick someone out as intricately tied to their work as an author from a discussion about their work. If you want to understand and know more about why a book does whatever it does, kicking an author who is brave enough to elaborate on some points you make is one of the dumbest, most closed minded moves I could imagine. It’s censoring, and censoring pisses me off.

The bottom line is, people can run their websites however they want. I, however, don’t run a special club. I don’t think it’s right to kick people out of it, and treat them poorly due to how they spend their daytime hours. It’s never, ever, right to treat someone poorly. I don’t care who they are or what they did. This whole to-do infuriated me. It paints so many people in a bad light. I read the comments and I was disgusted by how this author was treated. I’m appalled, and that’s the simple truth. I don’t weigh in on this stuff often, but it’s time I did, because I don’t want that sort of closed mindedness anywhere near my website.

I think bloggers, myself included, often take themselves (myself) too seriously. We aren’t the end-all-be-all of literature interpretation. What happened to letting go of the rules and having fun with our passion for the genre? Everything has to be psychoanalyzed, discussed, picked apart, and pulled over. Aren’t we losing something by being that analytical of everything (not just books)? When did discussion stop being discussion? When was it decided that there were rules to who could talk and who couldn’t?

Honestly, once people start to lose the “fun” of it all, I start wondering if the person who runs the website needs to really sit down and figure out why they still run a website.

We are vocal about our love of the genre because we love the genre. Period. End of discussion. We analyze, draw parallels, say things in neat ways, discuss the flaws and fantastic improvements of the genre, and whatever else. Bloggers have an important place in the marketing/fandom community. This website is a dream come true for me to run, and it’s allowed me to do what I never dreamed possible: talk to authors. That’s why I do this. I love the genre, and I want to interact with the movers-and-shakers. Bookworm Blues is a small genre website that keeps trucking despite all the issues I’ve had against me (thank you, cancer). I think one huge reason it keeps running is because I try very hard to keep this controversial, childish bullshit off of it. I try hard to not treat people like crap. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at someone for commenting. Authors comment, and I welcome them. I try to do interviews, giveaways, I talk to publishers, editors, etc. I like to be informed, and being informed also allows my genre-love to grow. I’d be a fool to cut out an inside track to various genre issues, understandings, etc.

My only commenting rules: 

1. Be polite. We’re all adults. Put your adult pants on before you comment.
2. Opinions aren’t wrong. IE: You aren’t wrong for feeling the way you feel, and I’m not wrong for feeling the way I feel.

I’ll be Switzerland to other website’s Russia. I declare this neutral territory. I don’t care who you are. If you want to come over here, discuss (whatever) and have fun (I try very hard not to take myself too seriously, and just have fun with my obsession) then please do. I don’t run an exclusive club. Bookworm Blues is open to whoever, be you author, agent, publisher, or fan. I embrace discussion, and I realize that, due to my imperfections, your interpretations and perspectives might broaden my own interpretations, understandings, and enjoyments.

*Bear in mind that your comments are given weight based on their content, not your status.

Image courtesy of Gav Reads.

50 Responses

  • Yes! THIS!

  • And I really hope this whole kerfuffle blows over soon.

    • I’m sure it will. These things always do. It seems like today and tomorrow will probably have it talked about a lot and then it’ll be over and done. You know how it is….

    • I absolutely cannot believe that kerfuffle is a real word, and I’ve never used it in my entire life.

      • Isn’t it incredible what is a real word and what isn’t? I think kerfuffle is hilarious.

  • I wholeheartedly embrace and endorse this statement and sign.

  • Thank you, Sarah!

  • Pity it needed saying, but so glad you said it.

    • I am glad the message is appreciated. It kind of blows me away that something like this needs to be said, too.

  • The article originating this fuss left me flabbergasted. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine such a thing was considered the ‘norm’ and that authors all understood this ‘rule’ about non-involvement in public discussion. For a while, I thought perhaps I was lost on my own little island of crazy. I am glad to see such a passionate rebuttal.

    • Honestly, the whole concept makes me sick. At the end of the day, authors are fans first. Think of how BIG of fans they must be to dedicate so much time to pumping out a novel. To take away their right to join in a discussion just because they are authors is ridiculous.

  • I’ve been silently watching this discussion for days in stunned bemusement. If an author chimes in on one of my reviews and/or the ensuing comments, it tickles me to death. If she/he says my review is the worse piece of junk they have ever read, I’d still be tickled. Especially if they explain why they hated it.

    If there is something I am doing wrong or could do better, I want to know about it. If it is a simple matter of a differing of opinions, I welcome that too. I gave my opinion in a public venue, why shouldn’t he/she be able to express theirs?

    I must be missing something here because I just don’t get it.

    Awesome post, well written and artfully expressed. I could not agree more.

    • The internet is basically an open forum, and if certain websites don’t want certain people to comment on said website, they should make the commenting rules clear. The thing is, if comments are open for ANYONE then expect ANYONE to comment and don’t get all asshurt when they do.

      I get really, really annoyed with the fact that an author participating in a discussion with a reviewer is insulting somehow. Yeah, websites are basically ran for fans, but WHO IS A BIGGER FAN THAN AN AUTHOR WHO WRITES GENRE-SPECIFIC BOOKS? My only rule for this website is, “don’t be a dick.” At the end of the day, I think basically everyone alive is smarter than me, and I love their contributions. If an author want’s to contribute, please do. I don’t like the “You can’t pee in my special bathroom” mentality. It’s wrong. Plain and simple.

  • Steven

    Two things: Ben Aaronocitch was never kicked out of any discussion; he told the book smugglers they were reading his stories wrong, they told him he couldn’t police how people interpreted his work, and he ragequit. On the strange horizons article, he referred to anyone who disagreed with him as “shutting down the discussion.” The issue here is not that the author was invading the discussion, but that he was being a jerk.

    Another thing, Gavreads and Fantasy Book Critic, who have been the main voice behind the accusations of bullying, appear to have a grudge against the Book Smugglers due to another internet scuffle at the fantasy book cafe during their Women in SF &F Month. I wouldn’t call them unbiased sources.

    • I never based any of this off of what they said. I read the entire scuffle from all three locations and gathered my own opinion.

    • Also, I should add that I don’t think the author is perfect. Neither party reacted wonderfully. How he was responded to was disgusting. My referral to an authors getting kicked out of discussions was a vague reference to stuff I’ve seen on other websites. This issue with author-critic interaction is bigger than FBC or Book Smugglers, which is why I get so flamed about it. I think it’s a bad sign of selectivism in a genre which, in my opinion, always has been so open and accepting.

      Authors were fans first.

    • Also, “Ragequit” = I love that word.

      Sorry for the multiple replies to your comment. I was on my phone before and I FAIL at typing on the phone. I always hit the wrong stupid button.

    • Speaking of checking your sources Steven I had no interaction on Fantasy Book Cafe during their Women in SF&F month – you’re thinking of FBC only. The only issue I have with both parties is their deplorable behaviour to a civil ‘right-to-reply’ comment from an author.

  • So refreshing to read this blog piece that authors are welcome! I’m an ‘international author’, but I’ve been warned by my publisher not to get involved in direct discussions of my own work, since it potentially ‘alienates’ too many people. Here are the really sad things about that:
    1. Authors often/sometimes/now-and-then get a ‘negative’ review written by a rival publisher or author – the review is usually completely unfair and inaccurate, since they haven’t had the decency to read the book properly (if at all). However, the author isn’t meant to respond. The only negative reviews my own work’s really had is in the Murdoch press – Murdoch owns HarperCollins, who are the main rival to my publisher when it comes to the UK market. Those reviews killed my sales in Australia and NZ. But I’m not meant to respond. Sheesh. He’s a billionaire and I’m just some bloke living hand-to-mouth in Manchester. Hasn’t he got anything better to do than use his global empire against me? And I’m just meant to take it on the chin.
    2. Since 95% of authors make less than 20 grand a year (ie most don’t make enough to live on), the majority of fantasy authors write fantasy because they LOVE the genre. They want to talk about whether George RR Martin doesn’t put enough magic in his books, etc. They want to talk about whether the ‘heroic fantasy’ sub genre is no longer relevant, etc.
    3. As authors we LIKE to communicate. As human beings we NEED to communicate. Being gagged is one of the most horrendous things that can happen to a person!

    Anyway, thanks Bookworm Blues. This is now my favourite site in the whole world – let’s just hope Murdoch doesn’t spot it, sue me and destroy me forever more! See, I’m already thinking I should edit my comments… maybe I should delete this post… maybe I shouldn’t say anything…

    • I can see how people would get nervous about authors throwing their weight around and thinking their opinion means more because they are an author, however, in the experiences I’ve had with authors commenting, I’ve never run into that problem. Everyone is equal.

      That being said, I can see how people would get pissed off if an author says “your opinion isn’t valid because you didn’t read my book right.” That’s why I added the “my opinion isn’t wrong, and neither is yours” rule to my post. People interpret things differently, and no one has any right to invalidate that, whether they are the President of the United States, or my neighbor, or me.

      Anyway, aside from that, I’ve been SHOCKED by how many authors have written me saying variations of the same theme: Authors were fans first. That’s so true, and to take their right to BE fans away from them purely because now they are authors, too, is wrong. It’s unfair. Plus, websites saying, “you can’t speak here because you’re an author” will give ANYONE a bad taste and a knee-jerk reaction.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  • Bold post to write. I have been flattered when authors left comments too. I do think it is in poor taste for an author to defend their work when it is given a poor review. I have no intention on calling them out though. I read and blog for fun and have nothing to prove.

    • Bold post… yeah, I’m realizing today why I usually stay out of this type of stuff.

      I’m in your shoes. I’m so flattered that authors even know Bookworm Blues exists, that when they stop by and comment I am just thrilled they took the time to do that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • I don’t mind author’s commenting because it is always interesting to see the creative process through their eyes. It is much the same when visiting craft fairs. Speaking with the artist is a good part of the fun.

      I agree that authors to need to exercise caution when responding to negative reviews. Foremost, it is a judgement call on whether the reviewer would even be open to a response. If not, there is very little to gain, and a lot of loose. But, that isn’t even a ‘book review’ rule. That is common sense. Don’t engage until everyone is ready to engage. That holds true for any discussion.

      Above all, be civil.

  • Thanks for your post and for being so welcoming to authors. I see your points, but I also think that it is hard to respond to a negative review without the author coming off poorly in the eyes of many of the people reading the comments.

    It’s hard not to sound like anything other than defensive and emotional (imho) so I think the best approach is silence. I’ve had one really bad review – and it was scathing. I didn’t respond to it, nor did I mention to my readers to respond…but some did anyway and even this was looked upon poorly – because for some reason fans of a work aren’t allowed to disagree with a negative review either.

    My take…books are so subjective…something that one person hates another loves and I prefer to embrace the later and not poke at the former as I don’t see any good coming of that.

    This goes all the way to not correcting obvious mistakes. I read a recent review on my books that said, “The crucifixion was going too far.” But I have no crucifixions in my books. I’m guess that the reviewer was confusing my book a book written by another Michael J. Sullivan (who did write a book about someone going back in time to the days of Christ).

    So I’m glad you, and others welcome authors to the discussion but our is not “just another voice.” We are discussing our children and things we care deeply about, so no mater how tactful we try to be, I’m sure it may not come off the way we wish to be seen.

    • Thank you for writing in.

      Responding to criticism is tricky. I don’t respond to criticism people write about my blog, or the various things I post on it. You’re right, if I did, I’d come across as emotional or whatever else, so I just let people say what they say and move on.

      However, the author insights that I do appreciate is the kind I’ve had before – insight into publishing, writing, processes, viewpoints regarding books I review, etc. Authors are people, too. Why shouldn’t they be welcome to the discussion?

      I should note that there are a few authors who post regularly on my website under assumed names. Authors are ALREADY part of the discussion, though even those who post under other names never post anything negative about other books or theirs. It’s kind of interesting how the universal law is “stay away from negative reviews.”

    • Michael, you make a couple of good points here. At the same time, there’s the famous example of when Scott Lynch annihilated someone who’d written a ‘fake’ review of his work when they were looking drag its average rating down. Scott won nothing but applause for defending himself. Authors do have a right to defend themselves against trolls, assassins, gremlins and orcs (particularly orcs). But then things can go too far the other way. Authors can get waaaaay too defensive. Example, I wrote a couple of reviews of fantasy books and gave a genuine and insightful consideration of the works, along with a rating of three or four stars (rather than the apparently ‘required’ 5 stars). I thought the authors would be happy with the reviews. Not on your nelly. Overnight, my books received a deluge of damning/fake reviews. I had to get Amazon to intercede. I’m now loathe to write reviews at all, or discuss other people’s work – which is a real shame for someone who thinks of themselves as a fantasy fan as much as an author. But it’s the nature of the beast, I guess. I learnt a few hard lessons there. If you’re an author, you can’t say anything unless it’s positive (even if it’s as bland as Mr Bean’s underwear) or written under a pseudonym.

  • I completely agree with you. Censorship lessens us all and is just plain boring. It would make my day or at least my hour (depending on the day :p) to have an author respond to a comment I’ve made. Even if it’s just to tell me what an ass I am. If your big enough to criticize than your shoulders should be broad enough to handle a little in return. #freedom 😮

    • I agree… as Orson Scott Card is learning, you can say whatever you want, but expect results from that.

      I just fundamentally think it’s wrong to put rules on who can say what.

  • Yes, it’s the censorship thing. It’s not gonna help us grow our so-called civilization any. The UK, I would argue, writes the best fantasy around (alright, and you America, except when your various series get overlong and formulaic – no, don’t make me name and names, not even between coughs!), but it it starts compromising its freedom and creativity, then it’s going nowhere faster than everyone else. #freedom

    • Lol I don’t know about best fantasy all around but the great one David Gemmell hailed from the UK so I won’t have a fit about it. And now I’m stuck wondering what names you would have coughed. It’s Salvatore isn’t it, just leave him alone he made Drizzt and we’re all better for it lol. With so many ways for an author to be criticized they just have to develop a thick skin and maybe once in awhile consider what’s said, but only once in awhile. The worlds full of trolls.

      • Ah! Gemmell. Proudest moment of my worthless career as an author was being longlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award this year. We’re not worthy! Darn! I wanted to win that two-headed axe that was the prize. Druss: ‘Mark me, you worm, if you are still here when I return, then you will regret it most sorely!’ See! I can even quote the legend. When I write, I do my damnedest to style my fight scenes like his.
        It’s not Salvatore I’m talking about, no. I don’t mind him actually. Bit of drow elf stuff is a guilty pleasure (tho I prefer Gotrek). Alright, I’ll whisper it… Goodkind. Don’t get me wrong!!! His first six were great. But Phantom and Confessor? Really? Can’t have been the same author. I refuse to believe it. Utterly refuse.

        • Oh wow, I like you. I was just joking with Salvatore and I kid you not Goodkind was who I was thinking. Overall I would say the series was awesome (haven’t read the omen one yet). I don’t want to turn this into Goodkind crucifixion but when he made that huge army just disappear and then alllll those people immune to magic just shrugged and said “ya we’ll go too, sounds fun” I let out a big heart felt WTF??…also he repeats himself to much,I don’t have dementia :p. Lol I’ll stop after I add that if I was on a long list for a Gemmell that’s how I would introduce myself to people and proudly at that.

          • My mate has read the Omen one and says it’s much better. And the very latest is also meant to be a return to form. Relief. Hope he didn’t lose too many fans with the duff couple of titles. Strange. Every major author seems to do a bad couple here and there. Wonder why. We don’t need examples, do we? Don’t make me annoy every fantasy author out there… although a lot of them seem to be dying these days. It wasn’t me!

          • Couldn’t be editors prodding them along with a stick, yelling “deadlines!!”. It’s on my bookshelf waiting for me actually. I’m a couple of chapters into Salvatore’s Companions and I gotta say it’s best of his in years, so far anyway. Lol And you just made me wonder which one’s again. I’m very nosey.

    • Neither here nor there, but I always find it fascinating to see what people think the difference is between US and UK fantasy. I think a lot of epic fantasy struggles with being long and formulaic. They all start out great and then lose their drive somewhere along the way and slip into a rut.


      • Every time I think I can define the difference, something or one proves me wrong. In the broadest sense, the UK audience seems more engaged than the US audience.

  • I just read a response Peter Brett wrote a reviewer ( the guy ripped into him a bit too). Peter very politely explained his thought processes and thanked him for the review. That type of response I think would be a welcome thing. But I would’ve excepted an angry verbal barrage just cuz it would be amusing :p

    • That’s the sort of thing I appreciate too. I like it when readers/authors have a different perspective than I do. Often if the argument is compelling enough I’ll re-read the book and, with their comments in mind, I’ll interpret it a bit differently. I think it’s sad that some authors shut themselves out of discussions. I learn SO MUCH from them. Example: An author wrote in about cover art. I had NO IDEA that authors generally don’t have much say over cover art until he wrote that comment.

      See? What’s so bad about that?

      • Yes, an excellent example of a polite and constructive author interaction.

  • Very well said, Sarah!
    We at FanLit completely agree with you.

  • Peter seems to be a very polite person though, I’m sure others are not so polite. That is the reply I was referring to though. Is warded man considered young adult? Lol I hope not, I was 29 when I read it and thought it was pretty hardcore what with the gore, rape and…incest rape. Even if he didn’t go into great detail about those events I had a pretty good idea of what happened. When my daughter’s old enough I’ll toss her the hobbit. Nice and safe :p

  • Yes, it’s the editors, Shawn. An editor isn’t supposed to let a book go on release until it’s ‘ready’. But once an author becomes a big name, the editors don’t worry so much cos the book will sell anyway. Then there’s the phenomenon that editors get worried about over-editing a big name – my editor at Gollancz (Marcus Gipps) told me that editors can get overawed/star struck by their own authors. All of which can result in a duff book (or series even). Examples (prepare yourself for hate mail, Adam): Robin Hobbs’s Soldier Son stuff, Trudi Canavan’s White Sorceress stuff, Goodkind’s Phantom and Confessor, Donaldson’s Runes of the Earth and even (takes a deep breath) Ray Feist’s A Crown Imperilled. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of these authors and will always excuse them the odd blip. In a way, I even find it reassuring to see they’re human after all. It’s all a learning process, a part of an evolving art form. We have to have freedom to experiment and make mistakes. Otherwise, we’d just write the same book over and over again.

    • Lol you are asking for hate mail, a girl in leather pants passed me on the streets, I thought Goodkind sent a mordsith after me 😮 . I agree the business end of it can definitely hurt the art of it. Its a necessary evil though, you can’t eat creativity and I know my landlord doesn’t except short story’s as payment (he should, I’d make him a wicked cool character :p). The only Hobb I’ve read is the first two soldiers son, I thought it was pretty good, definitely different and that in itself is a rarity at times.

  • Commenting on this late because Feedly decided it didn’t want to show me that this post existed until today…

    I completely agree about the hypocrisy of welcoming interaction in social media or in interviews but denying it on blogs. Especially when most people aren’t making that distinction in their “authors shouldn’t interact” arguments. I can understand wanting to control the content of one’s blog, but really, it’s not that hard to disable comments, and if you want other people to comment, you have to accept the fact that sometimes people are going to disagree, and sometimes those people are going to be the authors you’re talking about in the first place.

    I know a lot of people are saying that the “Authors Welcome” images are ridiculous and shouldn’t be needed. Personally, figure having a clear rule like that could save a lot of problems. It’s not just about solidarity of opinion, but a very basic laying down of rules. Don’t mind authors commenting? Say so. Mind authors commenting? Also say so. Not posting the rules and them punishing people for not knowing or following them seems cruel and unfair.

    So long as both sides are polite and civil, then I’ve got no problems with authors commenting on my reviews of their work, and getting into discussions with me about them. Some of the best discussions I’ve had with authors have been about different interpretations of their books, after all.

    • I missed the social media aspect of this discussion but I totally agree on the hypocrisy.

      My policy is really open ended. I didn’t even bother to ask people to be polite. As far as I am concerned, if they want to put themselves out here as a jerk or jerkette then that is on them, just as how I respond in turn is on me.

      I did ask that they TRY to refrain from vulgar language but honestly, if somebody is on a roll, they won’t hold that back either. I worked in CS for far too many years. I know firsthand how people act when they are angry and frustrated. Strong emotions can sometimes turn the most gentle person in the world into an orge.

      I do draw the line at threats of violence. Even I have limits.

      I also don’t think the pictures are a bad idea. The picture itself is not the important part. It simply serves to grab your attention. Posting a clear policy regarding what you will or will not welcome in your “space” is the important part. It might help lessen misunderstandings later. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I didn’t already have one. :>)

      At the end of the day, this thread and many others like it, prove it is possible to have wildly different opinions and yet still discuss them like rational adults.

      And that, is the coolest part of all.

  • I agree with you completely in 99% of cases. There is however that 1% of cases, I’m understanding the issue correctly, where the author is a pretentious knob who derides anyone who doesn’t think his work is Jesus in paper form. I’ve been around the indie video game scene for a while, and there are a few indie game developers who I have seen kicked from websites, and I’ve agreed with the decision to do such.

    • Well, you can find those kind of assholes anywhere, whether they are authors or bloggers, or my neighbor. That’s why I added the note at the end of the post:

      Bear in mind that your comments are given weight based on their content, not your status.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.