I’m hoping this post won’t lose me any readers but it’s about something that has been bothering me lately. It’s about how social media causes some writers to forfeit potential places on my reading list. In the past two days, for example, I’ve discovered two writers, new to me, whose books and stories will almost certainly never have a chance to make it onto my TBR pile. These two are only the latest in what is becoming a fairly long “unlikely to read” list by now. I’m sorry to see it happen. One of my great joys has always been to find new writers whose work I can fall in love with.
The first of the two I’m talking about here posted the details of an interaction he had with a female literary agent at a conference. He didn’t get the contract he was clearly hoping for, and proceeded to trash the agent, by name, and insult her physical appearance in the process. This is in spite of the fact that his own description of the interaction indicated that the woman was just not interested in his project. It happens, you know. Not everyone will be wowed by an idea that you love. And there simply is no place in this kind of interaction for personal attacks, on physical appearance, no less. It makes me wonder, too, what kind of female characters this author creates. Will his women characters be people I can empathize with or nothing but window dressing and plot contrivances?
The second of the two was a female author who described all “Bernie or Bust” people as folks who got awarded trophies for just participating when they were kids, meaning, I took it, that such folks don’t know what it’s like to have it tough. The author, of course, indicated how her life had been different. She went on to suggest that it was white males who were the main issue in the Bernie or Bust crowd. I’m not a Bernie or Buster and this individual’s opinion on the political process itself isn’t my issue. My question is whether or not a writer who throws out such sweeping generalizations understands enough of the nuances of human interaction to be able to create realistic characters in fiction. Without such characters, I’m not likely to find myself emotionally involved in a story.
Some of the previous folks who have made my “unlikely to read” list include a woman who stated publically that all men are supporters of rape culture, a man who offered an ad hominem attack on my political views and then proceeded to tell me what his IQ was and how many books he’d written as evidence of his correctness, and a fellow who made mean-spirited fun of gay people.
Don’t get me wrong, I read plenty of work by people who have said things I disagree with. My “do read” list is much, much longer than my “unlikely to read” one. What bothers me is the “one size fits all” approach to interacting with and categorizing people. All liberals are this way. All Republicans are another way. Gay people are this. White males are that. Women are….
If I’ve been reading a writer’s books for a long time and he or she says something that crosses the line, I’ll generally give that author the benefit of the doubt. I know from their work that they are nuanced. But imagine that I’ve just recently friended a writer on facebook. I think that I might want to try something by them. And then I see a post like the ones I’ve described above. Will I pull the trigger on purchasing one of their books when it goes on sale? Or will I click past that sale to another new writer? For me, it’ll be the latter.
I know that writers are people too. I’m both myself, a writer and people. We have opinions. We get angry. But anyone who has made a study of how people act knows that no one can be absolutely categorized by a single characteristic such as gender, skin color, ethnicity, etc. Humans are walking, talking contradictions. Seems to me that an author, in particular, should be aware of this. And those authors are the most likely to make my “definitely read” list. Since I love reading, that's where I hope every new writer I meet ends up.