Monday, June 27, 2011

Rant: Summoning the collective ire of Book Bloggers is a poor idea

It’s not often we here at Iceberg Ink draw attention to what I would term “internet goings on”, but a guest post over at the Santa about the most recent Book Expo has raised a lot of hackles and ire. My own included.

You can read the whole post (I refuse to call it an “article” as it is ill-researched and generally elitism of the highest order) over HERE.

Paraphrasing though, Daniela says boneheaded things like:

“This year’s BEA confirmed what most writers and book reviewers already knew: that the publication of serious literature, and particularly of literary fiction, has been abandoned by the big publishers to the small or medium-size independent presses.”

As well as Blogger rage-inducing tripe like:

“Book blogging has become a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.”

Oh, and the writer of the post also makes confounding statements about social media like:

“At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter. As far as I could tell, I was the only person at the convention who doesn’t tweet.”

What’s even funnier is that if you trawl through the 138-odd comments on the post, book bloggers have come out in force to vehemently decry this Daniela persons post as the pinnacle of idiocy simply for being woefully ignorant not only of what she’s talking about, but about the publishing and review industry at large. There’s some random dude trolling every last comment with his own particular brand of snobbery and elitism, but mostly he just comes off as a petty troll with too much time on his hands and a ready library of classics in his arsenal. Basically the entire comments section is one long defensive argument letting Daniela know that not only is she wrong, but that book blogger's have a voice and will gather en masse to use it. In fact it’s probably unfair that since she doesn’t use twitter she doesn’t know the onslaught of mentions she’s likely getting and SantaCruz has probably never been a busier site. Similar to that author who self-destructed her career a few months ago by posting nasty comments on a random book blogger’s site calling him out for his negative review of her book, tweeting it proved her ultimate demise career-wise simply because of how fast wildfire spreads in the age of the interwebz. This story has been making the rounds for a few days, and there are already numerous blogs about it, but I wanted to chime in myself.

Firstly, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that book bloggers come in all shapes, sizes, colours, ages, ethnicities ect. Saying otherwise is just so incredibly silly that I can’t even comment past that. Chris and I are certainly NOT mommy bloggers, nor are we 20-50 year old women.

My main issue here, other than the blatant elitism of the posting, is actually to do with her dismissal of genre fiction as not “serious” and that children’s books shouldn’t be so popular, and that we should all be reading more “serious” literature. In what has become an increasingly pointy thorn in my side as Chris and I have embarked on this Book Blog journey, more and more I hear people (mostly pretentious hipsters) saying things like “Why are you wasting your time with fantasy and sci-fi? Why don’t you read something REAL for once?” This seems to be sadly a prevailing opinion with folk not into “genre” or “speculative” fiction. Now I am narrowing in more within the post in question (which is more broad), but the basic premise seems to be the same. The notion that Daniela puts forth is that what we are reading (as society) is not “serious literature” and therefore is worth less somehow, that as bloggers we are not serious reviewers and shouldn’t be paid attention to by the masses of readers out there, and above and beyond all that she mention's concentration on Children’s books is too heavy these days.

I’m not joking.

This woman is actually implying such things.

In a world where the HARRY POTTER series literally got an entire GENERATION of children reading again, not to mention showed their parents that these books could be enjoyed on many levels. I don’t think this many teenagers have read so voraciously in the last 30 years to be honest. So instead of ALWAYS watching TV, a good percentage of kids are actually CHOOSING to pick up books and read. Not only that, but kids who read stuff like POTTER and grew up on it are now in their mid-late teens and hopefully POTTER sparked in them the need to continue on, check out classics, but also to continue to indulge that part of them that desires entertainment that only books can provide. That’s HUGE to me. Absolutely HUGE.

An example, there is a middle-aged guy at my office who’s mainstay is being a man’s man and talking sports and being generally gruff. Well he watched HBO’s GAME OF THRONES and so enjoyed it, that after the finale he came to me and asked me if he should read the second book. This is a guy I’d never peg as reading a fantasy book in a million years! Yet there we sit, and he wants to read it.

That’s not something we can afford to scoff at. We can’t sit there as readers and say that classics like Chaucer, Shakespeare and Joyce are the only “serious literature” we should all be reading. We can’t sit there and behave as if those titles are the cream of the crop and everything else is crap. That’s absurd. In fact why does it even need to be mentioned? Why can’t one person enjoy classics, but also enjoy an airport thriller or an urban fantasy paranormal romance? Why do the two have to exist in different clubs? I don’t quite understand that notion. We read for entertainment full stop, so why does it matter what story you’re being told as long as you are enjoying it? Why are there people in the world like Daniela who seem to think that writing and books exist in this bubble of aristocracy where only something they deem as “serious literature” (a phrase she fails to define, but I am sure she and I would differ on the definition) makes the grade?

Beyond even all that, Newspaper and Magazine (print media) are NOTORIOUS for completely ignoring genre and spec fiction UNLESS it’s on the NYT Bestseller list or has an HBO show. Seriously, when was the last time you cracked an issue of EW and saw a review of a proper fantasy or sci-fi book? When was the last time you opened the Toronto Star and saw a book review of that type in there? It’s not only rare, it borders on proper exclusion. Look at last years arguably biggest SFF title, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson’s 13th Wheel Of Time book TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT. It reached #1 on the NYT Bestseller list, and NOT ONE newspaper in my area (Toronto Star, The Sun, Globe and Mail, National Post) covered it or made mention of it. Why? Because it’s fantasy and they feel that not enough of their readers would be interested in that. Which is why I think they are all so behind the times. Their readership is now comprised of people weaned on stuff like TRUE BLOOD, BUFFY, GAME OF THRONES, LOST ect. I think the newspapers are totally missing the boat by pointedly ignoring these sub-genre’s of fiction. Then again, I guess their loss is our gain.

As my final thought here I’ll tell you all what I tell those pretentious people who tell me to read something REAL and not bother with fantasy and sci-fi. I read to be ENTERTAINED. That’s the bottom line. I will, quite frankly, read what I want to read. I personally read to escape, not bore myself with contemporary books about everyday life. Actually, if I’m being totally honest I’m usually more abrupt with those pretentious hipsters…and a lot less eloquent, but you get the point.

So the book bloggers have united and become a Voltron of sorts. Daniela will be suitably, and probably epic-ly put in her place. She’ll likely think twice in the future about her comments, and the interwebz will have one more self-destruct to witness and tweet about. If there is one thing that proves it’s that Book Blogger’s are not only here to stay, but we defend our own and are not some fly by night mommy bloggers.


  1. I have generally stuck to a policy of avoiding many long comment-threads/-discussions. People on the internet can often be quite, quite scary. Particularly those who comment on magazine and newspaper articles. I'm happy that, in the main, book bloggers and book blog-readers tend to be rather civil.

    The accusations of not reading "serious literature" are as old as reading. Let's not forget that many of the classic authors wrote in the equivalent of Readers' Digest, and were rarely considered "serious literature": Dickens and Shelley, for example.

    I think you're totally right about newspapers missing the boat on genre fiction: there are a growing number of readers who have been watching sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural/horror shows and movies in their formative years, so it is natural to suppose that, as some of these people enter journalism, then we will see a more mainstream acceptance of genre fiction, etc. The Guardian in the UK is doing a pretty good job of writing about sci-fi (haven't seen much about fantasy, but I admit to not having looked very hard).

  2. Thanks for your comments Stefan, much appreciated!



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