Friday, April 15, 2016

What? Time for ANOTHER Blog?

I'm writing! I'm writing!

And I'm slightly behind schedule because of the whole down with the flu thing.

Wait. That sounds like I'm "down" with the flu, and in fact NO sane person is down with the flu. But I was indeed laid low by the flu. And that was not pleasant, and I will do my best not to breathe on you. STAND BACK!!!! For your own sake keep your distance.

Which, in a way is a kind of segue into this morning's topic, I topic I find boring almost beyond articulation, and that is the topic of Authors vs Reviewers.

Yes, apparently that is a thing again (HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?) according to the esteemed Heidi Cullinan who posts at great length here.

One thing that caught my attention is this peculiar notion that authors are responsible for the actions of their readers. I mean, if that were true, we'd be responsible for the actions of the people who hate us and post teh crazy as well as the people who love us and post teh crazy, wouldn't we?


Think about that for a second. Why wouldn't it be true?

I'm pretty comfortable with my readers. I attract a slightly older (no, let's say mature) demographic and, almost by definition, they are -- male or female -- a civilized and generally well-educated bunch. I never worry about what they will say or do in public because they are not the type to get into online brawls. Anymore than *I* am the type.

I've been around for a bit and I've now sold (and given away) well over half a million** copies of my stories. That's a conservative estimate because, like I said, I've been around for over a decade and I didn't used to keep track.

It should not come as a shock to anyone that I don't personally know everyone who has bought a copy of my work.

In fact, as I often tell aspiring scribes, if you personally know everyone who buys and reviews your're not selling enough books to make a living. You're not selling enough books, period.

I don't know the vast majority of my readers. I surmise that they aren't online, or if they are, they aren't spending time posting on Goodreads or social media. Certainly the letters I get indicate that these are not people spending time tweeting. :-D  In fact, the idea is kind of funny given the little bit of background they share.

I tend to read my reviews in batches. I think it's a good way of keeping it real. There's nothing like a row of I HATE HER to keep your head properly sized to your hat. And contrariwise, all those LOVE HERs help to balance the paragraph upon paragraph of why someone thinks you shouldn't be allowed near a computer keyboard. EVER. AGAIN. :-D

But I did read something the other day that troubled me. There was a comment following a critical review that hinted at harsh repercussions to be reaped by anyone who dared to criticize me. Which is ridiculous--and that was proved in that both the comment and the original review were met with total lack of interest or response.

As I would expect.

That kind of's insulting. It's insulting to me, sure. The idea that I would be so incensed at a critical review that I would--like the Wicked Witch of the West summon my flying monkeys--is certainly insulting. But it's also insulting to my readers, who just aren't like that.

MOST readers are not like that.

Not even the same species.

I mean, I get it. The people writing ever-so-many paragraphs of I HATE YOU must be very disheartened to think nobody cares--let alone the notion that nobody is even reading. But that's pretty much the case. I certainly don't care. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect your right to your opinion.

That doesn't mean I agree.

And it doesn't mean my readers agree. And if a readers should contest an opinion, it doesn't negate your opinion. Also, it doesn't mean you're being denied free speech or being bullied.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The inherent (and dangerous) fallacious logic of insisting our opinions go unchallenged based on our right to free speech.

 We really do have to stop calling every difference of opinion "bullying," because a big part of freedom of speech is debate. We all focus on the speechifying, but that's only half of the equation. Freedom of speech is, in fact, the ability to intelligently and civilly disagree.

It is about the right to argue your point of view.

This is what worries me most these days. Not critical reviews, not my writing, what really alarms me is our inability as a community and--because it's more widespread than that--a society to intelligently disagree. To debate.

To be able to freely debate someone else's opinion is a fundamental building block of free speech. The inability to successfully defend a dearly held position means one of two things: the position is too weak to defend or you do not have the skill to argue without devolving into name-calling and rhetoric.

We need to hang on to the notion of civil disagreement. We need to retain the ability to rationally defend our opinions--which should be based on more than raw emotion--without becoming enraged that someone is questioning us. I don't care if it's over a book review or your support of equal rights, you need to be able to summon reason as well as emotion if you hope to change anyone's mind--let alone, heart.

**Proof that cold meds are still in my system, I mean one hundred thousand copies, not a million. Ha ha ha ha. I WISH I'd sold half a million. Although with 33,000 audio units, 83,000 units at Carina, Fatal Shadows...maybe. But then a lot of those are repeat customers. ANYWAY, my point is I don't know even a hundred thousand of my readers let alone know them well enough to exert mind control. Although if you can hear my voice, PLEEEEAASE buyyyyyy all my booooooks....


  1. The art of debate is a sadly underutilized talent.

    1. Yes. Also the art of listening -- which is part of the art of debate, so again, yes.

  2. Oh I love this post so much! When did "I disagree" become synonymous with "I hate you". There is only one thing that everyone MUST agree on. David Bradley is pond scum. :-). Isn't it wonderful that we have a community of authors so diverse that we can all find something we love? Just because I don't love everything you love doesn't mean that we can't at the very least be civil to each other. I spent time reading comments on a blog post the other day. I was so discouraged at the way people talked to people they'd never even met. Calling them names. What can you possibly say to yourself to make that okay? I just don't get it. It makes me sad, and it makes me stay in my own little corner of the world. If people would just realize, there is a human on the other side of that keyboard. Anyway...great thinky thoughts, J.

    1. Yes, yes, and yes. Online is worse, of course (there's nothing like wearing a ski mask to bring out the worst in people -- skiers excepted).

      I think there's an element of fear underneath the disproportionate anger, and that's the interesting part. It reminds me of people who get upset when you challenge their religious beliefs. Like their faith isn't strong enough to survive having to answer a few key questions.

      A lot of people find anger comforting. It offers a kind of security.

  3. Hear, hear! It would be so very nice if people considered how what they say and how they say it affects others.

    1. That requires restraint and much of the attraction of online interaction is the lack of restraint. :-D You can vent all you like -- and add funny gifs too! And there's none of that tiresome consideration and courtesy stuff required. IT'S VERY RELAXING. ;-)

  4. I am all for free speech, but please keep it civil. And in a discussion face to face or post to post, if you call someone an asshole and then be astounded that the other don't want to play with you again is always a wonder for me. And please don't confuse facts with opionions, then we can in a friendly way disagree. I will share your post with many people, Josh. Perhaps it helps!

    1. It's one reason why I rarely engage in any debate online anymore, regardless of the topic. Without fail it turns ugly and weird and very, very personal.

      Which would be okay, if I thought if were possible for reason to make headway in the face of that, but I have less and less confidence in the power of reason when confronted with fear and hatred.

  5. I totally believed the half-a-million figure!

    I absolutely agree with all you say about free speech, within the bounds of non-discrimination and non-hatred. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is what I have to remember when I read some of the stuff coming out of parts of America at the moment; if only they reciprocated!

    1. Right? It's hard! It's a difficult thing to practice because I am frequently offended at the things other people preach. Other people's opinions can be genuinely infuriating. But that's why free speech is valued so highly. Because it's difficult and demands a lot from us all.