Let’s all play nice and wear our pretty masks


There’s been a trend recently (or maybe I’ve only noticed it recently) for writers to blog about how we should all be nice to each other and never say anything mean about anyone’s books in case we need to get blurbs from them later.

Well, that’s not their exact wording, but the sentiment is pretty easy to spot.

Now, I’m all for the basics of social niceties so we can get along; being vaguely polite is the grease that keeps the machine going, pleases and thank yous go a long way. But. I have an issue with this idea that we must all play nice IN CASE we want something from that person later. It has such a cynical reek to it. And I’m a really bad liar, anyway.

If I don’t like a book, I am not going to give it 4 stars on goodreads (and don’t get me started on the star rating on good reads because oh my god I won’t stop) just in case my editor or agent  likes that book and would feel offended that I didn’t, or something equally ridic. Now, I will probably not go out of my way to rant about why the book is shite, because dear god that involves effort and we already know I am one lazy fuck, and I do have a problem with reviews that are just blatant bashing. But surely we should be allowed to express our tastes without fear of some mysterious blurb-backlash?

Firstly: If I hate one book, I can still like or even love another book by the same author. Not liking a book is not the same thing as hating a person. Maybe I read that book on a bad day and it tripped every negative vibe that will ever trip me. (This happened recently with a book that had been recommended to me by a fair few people – I was expecting to enjoy it. instead I actively loathed it and threw it across the room and didn’t force myself to finish – such is life. I will quite happily give the author another try, but maybe only in a decade or so)

Secondly: One of my fave books has bad reviews that I completely agree with, and yet they’re the very things that I love about it. Everyone has different things that make them love or hate a book. Don’t feel judged. Well, feel judged, but judge back. I dunno, whatever works, really.

Thirdly: If we take away any kind of honesty from reviews, then what are we left with? A circle jerk of authors all trying to wangle blurbs from each other? What the shit is that worth?

Fourthly. or d) And most importantly: OWN YOUR SELF. Own your words, your tastes, your hates, your loves.

I love an extraordinary amount of things that are beyond embarrassing (I mean, hey I spent last weekend watching dancing and singing shinigami in a musical of an anime. And I lOVED it).

Perhaps I was warped when I first read Banks’ The Wasp Factory as a wee young thing. Apart from being an awesome book, it also began with a list of reviews and blurbs. They ranged from saying Banks is a genius who should be lauded as a god, to saying that Banks should basically have his crayons taken away and never be allowed to taint the English language ever again.

And you know what. I loved that. I loved the tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of just what those words are worth.

So, yeah, play nice, but play nice because you like the people you play with. I mean, why else are you playing with them?

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7 Replies to “Let’s all play nice and wear our pretty masks”

  1. Well said.

    I dunno… maybe it’s a form of egoism? — whether in the form of “what I say will crush people who cannot bear to live without MY validation” or the flip side “everyone must validate ME without reservation.” People often seem unwilling to deal with anything remotely complex and nuanced.

    I can take or leave Banks, but that was a ballsy thing to do.

    1. Could well be. I mean, there’s a certain egoism inherent in being a writer (hey, we expect people to read our shit – how much more egotistical can you get? :D)

  2. Yeah, there is a HUGE difference between not liking something and sharing why… and being MEAN for the sake of being MEAN. People in the business (agents, editors, other authors) WILL see what you’ve written — we all use Google, after all — but if you were fair in your assessment, that’s not going to kill a deal. At least in my experience. On the other hand, I know at least one author who posted really obnoxious about another author’s book JUST to be a jerk… and he will never know that that post is why he didn’t get offered a publishing deal by a certain editor. No one wanted to deal with him and his attitude!

    1. Being mean for the sake of being mean seems to involve too much effort. There is a writer who I don’t like on a personal level, and I have not enjoyed the samples of her writing I’ve read.

      My solution: not to bother reading her book. I already know I’m not going to like it, so forcing myself to read it just so I can give her a low review seems pointless.

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