Request to fellow fiction writers: please stay away from the crazy glue.

21Oct14

Well, then!

For the past several days, the internet has been buzzing with the astonishing exploits of one Kathleen Hale, a Harvard-educated YA author who wrote openly and in detail (if not completely honestly, I suspect) about tracking down a book reviewer, calling her at home and work, and knocking on her door. As the social media storm grew, we’ve been treated to some of her previous exploits, wherein she doused a girl with bleach and stabbed a feral hog in the heart. Whoosh, there’s one adventurer!

Ms. Hale’s narrative managed to take Ellora’s Cave’s ridiculous lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte off page one. That lawsuit had pushed aside the grotesque display of plagiarism and social media harassment by Tiffinie Ruston (note: twitter trolls still attacking the “bullies” who’ve been mean to Ms. Rushton) against Rachel Anne Nunes.

And now we hear from the other side of the pond that some fellow who received an unflattering critique drove from London to Glasgow to bonk a review over the head with a glass bottle. Charges are pending and the author is out on bail.

All of it makes Just Desserts all too prescient.

I am mildly reassured that a huge number of fiction authors are singing from the same hymnal, deploring the actions of Hale, Rushton, Jade Black, and assorted others, yet there are enclaves where other authors have ardently supported Hale and her methods, most infamously, Ms. Anne Rice, who had this to say on her Facebook page:

I was impressed with the writer’s honesty, and I felt she did what she had to do to stay functional. She is candid about it. And she did no harm to this Blythe person. She simply felt she had to confront a person who had set out to make her life miserable. I do understand where the author is coming from here. I would not myself do what she did. But I know why she did it. These people, the harassers, the bullies, the tormentors, they have no real “standing” in the world of books and writers and they misuse every tool available to them; they lie, they cheat, they manipulate and they seek to harm. I think this article is very revealing. (emphasis mine.)

Yes, yes it is revealing, Ms. Rice. But I don’t think it reveals what you think it does.

(Note to stalkers-in-training, Ms. Rice’s fan page is teeming with aspiring Anne Rices who’re too eager to agree with her.)

Anyhoo, I figured these displays of impulse control issues were just a side show from the usual debates in this field – chief among them the comparatively dull dispute between Amazon and Hachette, where you’re either a sufferer of Amazon Derangement Syndrome or a sycophant of Jeff Bezos. (Now that Simon & Schuster has announced that they reached a deal with Amazon in the space of about three weeks, I’m waiting for all those Authors United to call S&S “traitor!”)

Now it seems that there is considerable support for the notion that hunting down a book reviewer at her home is perfectly okay, since the reviewer was involved in what more than one commenter has referred to as “online assault.”

I don’t know what “online assault” is, but it reminds me of this Jerky Boys bit, where Saul Rosenberg calls a lawyer because his boss “hurt me with his woids.” There is no tort called Insult in the First Degree.

Clearly, the vast majority of us understand that a scathing book review is not an “assault;” and whatever one calls it, it is not an invitation (or excuse) to retaliate by means of personal contact of any sort.

Before most of this conduct seeped into the social media consciousness, there was an incident in which a person affiliated with a notorious website obtained the personal information of a pseudonymous Amazon forum regular, and wrote a letter to her employer (a school superintendent), suggesting that it was reckless to leave this person in charge of young children. A small community of readers and reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads was justifiably outraged, but the rest of the online book community barely took notice. And this person doesn’t even write reviews!

There exists no explicit, articulable Code of Conduct for authors or reviewers, and although it might be a good idea, it ought not be necessary. What is necessary to prevent the further escalation of these incidents of aberrant behavior is to call them what they are.

Aberrant, extreme and outrageous displays of anti-social behavior that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.

Now please excuse me while I go lock my doors.

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11 Responses to “  Request to fellow fiction writers: please stay away from the crazy glue.”

  1. 1 Mayor Biggie

    I always hoped for an honest review, chips fall where they may. Never cared to discuss someone else’s take on my drivel. Hope all is well, Pete, keep writing.

  2. Interesting, Pete.

    One thing authors have to remember is that by putting themselves out there, they are exposed to public scrutiny. Kind or cruel, right or wrong, judgements will be made. If we can’t handle the heat, we need to keep our words locked away.

  3. 6 JD Mader

    I have been sick and am generally out of the loop, so I knew nothing of this until reading your post. W.T.F! I understand bad reviews are a bummer, but, never in a million years, would I want to MEET the person who left it, let alone track them down. What would I do? Cry? Probably.

    I would argue that this is less about reviews and more about sociopathic behavior. People who behave like this are just as likely to slash a waiter’s tires or throw a brick through the window of a coffee shop because there weren’t enough sugar packets.

    Great post. Scary stuff!

    • Howdy JD – hope you’re feeling better.

      Actually,the one guy who wrote a scathing review of Small Fish, I’d love to have a beer with. I wouldn’t share his politics, but he’s a smart guy and a talented artist.

      • 8 JD Mader

        I’m working on feeling better. Thanks, brother. And you make a good point. I’d love to meet the woman who thought “too much profanity” was a book review. 😉

  4. Oh dude! She was a different person. She was attacked by someone we both knew – and I had to defend her. I carried on a lovely convo with her for weeks.

  5. I am not an “aspiring Anne Rice” but I do respect her though I don’t agree with her on her defense of Ms Hale or her petition to do away with anonymous reviews. As for Ms Hale, while her actions were deplorable, I can’t help but wonder if a lot of the traction this has received comes from her being the Gwyneth Paltrow of the literary world — young, beautiful, blonde and extremely well-connected. (My understanding is her fiance’s mother is an editor at Harper Teen and his father is uh Frank Rich). She’s pretty easy to hate. Had she been a self-published nobody, she wouldn’t have had the privilege telling her story in The Guardian, though I could imagine her explaining it to the police.

  6. If she’d just blogged about it, I still think it would have gone viral, perhaps just not as quickly. The blog would have been tweeted like crazy with all kinds of trash talking, and the first story would have been about the controversy, not the original stalking.

    What I wonder is, with parents like that, did they know about her actions, and her writing about them, before the publication? Did they enable this? Did they approve of it as a publicity stunt?


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