Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Diplomatic (?)

Now Playing: Hozier - Arsonist's Lullabye

Panic mode time.

The other day, I got really mad at Red Rising.
This one. With the pretty cover.

The review I wrote actually went down better than I thought--in that I had some friend support, a friend request, a few likes. Basically no one lynched me for giving it a one-star rating, which I found surprising. It had so many high or at least passable ratings that I was wondering if people would just rage at me for not giving it endless praise.

But I was angry from, like, the first page,


all the way towards the end,

(Objectively speaking, I sure am fond of profanity).

So I couldn't have realistically given it any more than a 1.5 star. And I was too angry to give it any more than a 1 star.

In case you couldn't tell by my super subtle updates, I was really angry at how the book handled its female characters. It's basically a reigning example of the Women in Fridges trope, but I also had a few other problems with it. Basically, it seemed weirdly like a book that would ooze toxic masculinity at times. Like the overall arc of it and Darrow's development and even some of the treatment of the side-characters made it feel like a hypermasculine sci-fi/fantasy space opera.

I used to give the Shatter Me and Throne of Glass series shit for being the living embodiment of Girl Power/pandering fiction for the YA crowd. But I've started to shift from that. Like, after watching the amazing-ness of Fury Road and then seeing Game of Thrones fuck over its female characters all in one weekend, I realized I could be more forgiving toward certain narratives.

Reading Red Rising put me back on that road and made me take another step forward. It was, "Hey, Shatter Me? Throne of Glass? I'm glad you exist."

And I do. I'm glad they're books for girls ages 13 to 18. (Not that adults don't read them, but they've definitely got a demographic). I'm glad they're there to tell young girls, guess what, you can be powerful, you can be amazing, and you might suffer and be terrified and be lost for a while, but you can also be kickass, and wear pretty outfits, and kiss as many boys as you want, and trigger revolutions, and crawl and fight your way to a position of power. Because it's your story. Your tragedies and accomplishments belong to you and only you. You're not just here to be raped, kidnapped, and killed to cause men pain.

And even better, in narratives where boys are the lead, we won't have to drag the women through the mud. I am eternally thankful I gave my brother Steelheart and not Red Rising as a Christmas present. Boys deserve their own heroes too, but never at the expense of women.

So I stand by those opinions. I always will.

But.

Uh.

Maybe this kind of talk is going to get me in trouble one day.

See, the other day, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called 25 More Hard Truths About Writing And Publishing. 

A lot of it was worth discussing, but it's #19 that made me go all deer-in-headlights:
Publishing is tiny. The audience is small. Bestsellers hang around the list for a long time because most readers just read one or two books a year and the same books circulate in that audience — it’s a self-replicating machine that way. Most people in publishing know each other. Many writers know one another — especially in their particular genres. It’s all very niche. This is important to know because to many, it’s quite a surprise. It’s also a good reminder not to shit where you eat, because a whole lot of people are watching you pop that squat.

Oh sweet Batman.

Here's the problem. I ranted about John Green books in one of my posts. My formative years of feminist analysis and creative writing education happened on anti-Twilight forums. On casual conversation, I call beloved fantasy dragon writer Christopher Paolini a "total hack." Even authors I like, like Marie Lu, get occasional rant-ish comments from me. (I'm just so freaking fraking conflicted about the entire The Young Elites trilogy).

THIS IS NOT GOOD.

I don't even have to think for long to know of authors that have gotten problems for being outspoken. Jenny Trout eventually came to a point in her career where she stopped giving a fuck. Screw being quiet and polite. She'll call out the misogynistic, terrible writing in Fifty Shades of Grey. She'll speak of the fucked up nature of publishing a historical erotic romance of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his underage slave. She'll call you out--even if she liked your previous books--for defending your convicted-pedophile-audiobook-narrator. 

But she's never done this without consequence. E.L. James's fans haven't exactly taken her criticisms lightly. And a collaborative anthology of hers faced problems after the Thomas-Jefferson-and-Sally-Hemings-book controversy.

Thankfully Jenny Trout has a good supportive audience that she's built over the years. But with that in mind, think about smaller authors who speak up and end up offending people.

With the latest case, Navessa Allen spoke up about Karen Marie Moning victim-blaming/supporting a sex-offender. And then, after she wrote about the issue, she received a ton of one-star reviews on her books from angry Moning fans.

I think Jenny Trout herself has said that these type of responses don't deter her. Just because she's in the industry doesn't mean she's not allowed to have an opinion. We can't just shut up when we see something troubling on the off-chance that it might hurt our careers. We need to be able to speak-up about these things.

But at the same time, I know plenty of authors that might review books and discuss books, but never, ever give anything less than three-star ratings so not to stir up controversy.

Say I don't like a book. I one-star it, rant about it, talk about it with Goodreads buddies. Three years later, I query the author's agent or pitch their editor. However implausible it might seem now, will that review come back to bite me in the ass? Is it really worth getting so riled up about it?

I get stupidly passionate about storytelling--good and bad--rather than just, "eh. It wasn't for me."

That might be a detriment in the future. But should I stop? Granted, this is all a long-shot. I may never write anything worth publishing. I will most likely never, ever receive enough attention because of my writing or reviews. I could be perfectly safe in my own accidental anonymity.

But maybe it's still something to think about.

It's just that part of me really agrees with Jenny Trout. I'm not going to stop having an opinion just because I'll get lucky enough to be part of the industry. My lackluster talent is also not going to mean my opinions regarding more successful, more critically acclaimed writers will be invalid. (After all, just because I can't create something great doesn't mean I don't recognize greatness or. . .the opposite of greatness >_>).

It's just so worrying. Panic panic panic forever.

Then again, maybe I am overthinking this.

After all, Julie aka Swankivy wrote four gigantic essays on The Inheritance Cycle and she didn't have any troubles acquiring an agent for her fantasy trilogy. I doubt most publishing people even know about it--it's just something us fantasy readers might find and discuss.

But if she gets super famous (and she just might), will Paolini fans dig up those essays and then shit'll hit the fan?

I'm hoping not. But in publishing, anything can happen.
~Becky

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