I tell you, these days, I’m on an emotional roller coaster every day. I have lots to be happy about in my own life. This month’s sales are my highest ever. People are buying Peter’s books and not asking for refunds. (Wish I could say the same thing about Sandy. *Sigh) I’ve been able to get some decent reviews and ratings, and I’ve used some of my profits to make donations to people in need of food or medical help. And all of that feels good.
But my mood crashes because I go online and watch people make up complex rules about when it’s okay to bully someone. For instance, it’s not okay to bully Anita Sarkeesian, as now evidenced by the number of blog posts criticizing male gamers for their reaction to her Kickstarter campaign exposing the sexism inherent in their hobby. I wrote a post about that not too long ago, and here’s another viewpoint of the topic, and yet another.
BUT, it is okay to criticize E.L. James ad nauseum, and people are really starting to get “creative” in all the ways they hate the series she wrote. Detailed analyses of the writing, fake twitter accounts, or parody versions that are written worse, but funnier. And the more success she has, the louder the attacks become. I can in fact only recall meeting one person who liked the book, and everyone else can’t wait to tell me how much they hate E.L. James.
There is, I think, a direct correlation between her success and the amount of “humor” directed her way about her books. Writers who are all writing beneath this level of success cannot wait to retweet yet another bad review of the book. They call these attacks “entertaining.” These same people would be devastated if it was their book targeted for this level of hate, but of course that can’t happen because they aren’t hacks like E.L. James.
You know, if I wanted to hate on a writer for their success, I’ve got no end of targets among the books I’ve read recently. I don’t know these writers personally, so there’s no reason for me to feel any empathy toward them. But shit, aside from writing up a review one time, I’m done with that author. I’m not going to RT every single lousy review that author ever got in a continuing feeding of my sense of schadenfreude.
And that’s what this is, and way too many people don’t want to admit what bitter little shits they’ve become lately. People are bitter about someone they feel is inferior having great success. They’re so bitter about not having the same success that they have to keep attacking that person, whether the target is aware of the abuse or not. It’s one thing to write a bad review, but to keep passing along every joke you see just because it feeds that bitterness inside you, it’s the exact same mindset that’s incited the gamers to attack Anita.
Gamers can’t stand that Anita is making all this money and having success at the expense of their hobby. They feel persecuted already for their hobby, and yet, they’ve gone and put their foot in it by invalidating one of their own arguments. Yes, video games have conditioned them to be more violent, and to be less tolerant of others. One only needs to look at their rape and death threats to see that. So they’re going to have a harder time screaming “Don’t judge me” when they’ve proved a lot of people right.
But the authors perpetuating the attacks on E.L. James see themselves as being different form the gamer bullies. After all, they aren’t writing to the object of their hate. They’re writing about her. That’s totally different, you see. And hey, they’re not even doing the attacks personally. They’re just passing along the attacks of other readers, perhaps with an added “ho-ho-ho” because it seems like everyone hates this book. And man, doesn’t it feel good to be validated in your belief that some other author’s success is perhaps unfairly earned? Doesn’t it feel good to remind your audience over and over, “I’m so much better than this”?
I’m going to go back to a comment I’ve made before about a running gag in horror, that if you’re an indie author looking to make a name for yourself, you attack Brian Keene and/or Nick Mamatas. This gag came about because there was a lot of little fish saying they wrote better than these guys. And usually, these little fish were less talented. But they wanted a hook to reel in an audience, and they felt that being better than Brian or Nick was that hook. Maybe it is a hook, but it’s one cast out without bait. There’s nothing enticing offered to the readers to convince them to swallow the hook. So the few people they can get are the fans of these authors who are looking to disprove the claims (Not really a hard task in most cases.)
So most people know it’s not okay to attack Brian and Nick, and they don’t do it. And really, I have to admire Brian, a guy who seems to write a new novel or comic book script every week. I seem to recall seeing he recently wrote 40K in one day, which is roughly two and have times higher than my best day. I digress, most authors find other ways to talk up their stuff, and some are more successful than others.
But a lot of writers who speak out against internet bullying have no trouble accepting that certain writers are okay to bash. It’s not really a gender thing, because Dan Brown is in that list of authors who it’s okay to hack at. Ho-ho-ho, Dan can’t really write, so it’s just pure dumb luck that his books have sold millions and been turned into movies that grossed millions worldwide. Yes, not any prudent planning or anything like a good marketing plan. It was all just dumb luck, and ANY OF US could get that kind of success if we only had a lucky break.
And that’s just it; this isn’t about the skill of the author or the lack thereof. It’s a vain salve meant to sooth the burn of our own continuing lack of success. It’s that nagging question, “How did that lousy fucker sell a million copies a week when I’m just barely clearing 50 a month?” And it can’t be that people likes them a good stupid story now and then. NO. It must have been some lucky break that makes people temporarily dumb, and one day, ONE DAY, they’ll turn around and recognize real writing talent. Then we’ll be the one at the top of the sales pile, laughing at Dan and E.L. and they tumble into artistic obscurity.
I’ll say it again: what-EVER.
And I’ll let you know something about me. Yes, I would love to have more success. Yes, I would love to one day have the mainstream look at Peter’s series and say “Hallo, what’s this then?” I feel confident that one day it could happen. Not because the story is pure brilliance. It’s because the masses love crappy pop art, and bitches, I EXCEL at making crappy pop art. It’s this mindset that keeps me from biting at the Casts for their slut shaming vampyre books, or from spending my weeks scouring the internet for bad reviews of The Hunger Games to share on my twitter feed. I’d much rather spend my time promoting other authors who I think you should read. I’d rather find better ways to promote me and my work than cast hooks into successful writers and feed myself more bitter schadenfreude.
So if you read 50 Shades of Grey and thought it was awful, sure, go ahead and take a swing at it with a bad review. But after that, get over yourself, and don’t retweet every single bad review just because it validates your sense of superiority. All it does is show how very bitter you are that E.L. James is selling a million copies a week. And bitterness does not look good on anyone.