People who hate are often described as “passionate” and that particular word is a positive description. I’m passionate about reading and writing. I’m passionate about doing a good job at whatever I set my hand to.
But passion can turn to obsession, and on the whole, we tend to agree that obsession isn’t a healthy thing. We joke about being obsessed with certain things or people (Wolverine!), but obsessed people have done some heinous things to others.
Kids who’ve become obsessed with other kids that “don’t fit in” or are “different” have relentlessly bullied those kids to the point they take their own lives. They’ve worked their friends up into physically assaulting or murdering them.
Those who’ve become obsessed with another person have stalked and killed because of their obsessions.
Obsessive people are passionate. They’re passionate about possessing others, or ridding the world of those they believe have no place in it.
It’s generally accepted that wanting to do either of those things is wrong. And yet, a lot of people think nothing of saying they hate someone and going even further, describing what they’d like to do to, or expressing wishes of harm upon, the object of their hate.
It seems to me that we’re forgetting that hate is an ugly emotion and are becoming quite flippant about its usage.
I recently read an article about hate reaching an all-time high on the internet, and how now that it’s reached its saturation point or whatever, people will begin to agitate for a return of civility.
The weird thing is, speaking out for civility is often seen by some as an attempt to censor them.
Freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to go around being as ugly as possible to others. It doesn’t mean you can tell people you want to physically injure them by cutting them, or punching them in the throat, or hanging them.
Those are threats, and there are laws against threatening physical harm or death on your fellow citizens in the US and other countries.
Or you can say such things, but if you do, you really shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t find it amusing and call you out for it, or if the person you issue threats to turns around and kicks your ass or reports it to the authorities.
Threats are scary to most people, especially when they come from faceless strangers, and even more so when the cause of the threat being issued appears to be something relatively unimportant.
Books are one of those things that are “relatively” unimportant. A book can teach, it can change outlooks, widen your horizons, and it can provide an escape. People get wrapped up in books, and readers can be extremely passionate people.
However, balance is a necessity of life. Becoming so passionate about something that it causes you to issue threats against others because they don’t like the same books you do, or because they didn’t write a book the way you wanted them to isn’t exactly balanced behavior.
There are plenty of books that I love or like and others can’t stand. There are many books or series that I love or like, and end up feeling dissatisfied with by the end, because they didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. There are books I couldn’t finish reading or have chosen never to read that others love the hell out of.
You know what I decided to do about that?
I decided to write my own books. To tell stories that I want to read and that end the way I want them to.
I did and do, because other writers aren’t my bitches. They aren’t put on this earth to write specifically to my tastes or to yours, for that matter.
Sure, Sookie ending up with Sam is a shock, but it’s not one worth voicing hate and threats against Charlaine Harris over. Not that I’ve read the book series, but I watch True Blood, and in spite of the changes between the two formats, there’s simply not a world I can imagine where she ends up with Sam.
Or Alcide (WTF, True Blood?) for that matter, but I’m not in charge there.
Sure, I think Anita Blake has veered from being an interesting, badass character to one that doesn’t really do anything but fuck every male being that crosses her path, making her a far less enticing character to me—not, let it be noted, because I think she’s a slut, but because it’s boring to read book after book where that’s basically all there is to the plot. I miss the mystery and crime-solving that first attracted me to that series.
Also, I so do not want to read about her and Edward having sex. That would totally ruin his character for me. Totally.
But I’m not in charge there either. All I can do is quit reading that series and remember Edward the way he was.
See what I did there? I expressed my dissatisfaction without resorting to any threats towards the writers, and just to make it clear, there were times I wanted to throw an Anita Blake book at the wall or that I yell at the screen while watching True Blood.
If being a passionate reader includes growing to hate an author so much that one feels the need to express threats towards him or her, I’d rather not be considered a passionate reader.
Nor, as a writer, do I want to have passionate fans if they’re going to issue death threats when I write something they don’t like. If you don’t like it, fine and feel free to say so, but saying “I’d like to slit your throat for __________” isn’t fine.
I did have one reader call me a bitch once for killing a character off, and I giggled like a maniac over that for days. Probably the same way, and for the same reasons as, George R. R. Martin does when he views people’s reactions to the Red Wedding or sees that “Have a favorite character?” meme.
You KNOW you’re doing something right when a reader becomes so invested in your characters that they’re upset when something terrible happens to them, and I have a pretty thick skin, so being called a bitch for putting my characters (and readers invested in them) through the wringer doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.
While it wouldn’t particularly scare me to have a reader post he or she wants to cut me because of something I wrote that they didn’t like, I would wonder how mentally stable they were and whether or not I should take steps to protect myself and my family.
For the most part, people say such things because it’s tough sounding. They don’t actually intend to hunt down and harm anyone. A lot of people say “tough” stuff and would cower in a corner if anyone ever confronts them face-to-face about it.
The alleged anonymity of the internet makes us brave and leads our fingers to typing out checks our bodies can’t cash.
Yet, we live in uncertain times with the media constantly shoving terrible events caused by mental instability in our faces. It would be absolutely stupid not to take note of those who threaten us, because you simply cannot know if they’re just mouthing off or if they’re mentally unstable and serious.
I’m certain there have been people who ended up hurt or dead because they blew off someone else’s threats towards them, thinking they were just mouthing off. I know there have been people killed who tried to convince others someone was threatening them, but were ignored.
You see, it’s not just about YOU and YOUR words.
It’s the whole damn world appearing to be crazier than a shithouse rat being shoved in everyone’s faces constantly thanks to the technology we have now. Before the internet became the free-for-all it has, the world seemed like a far saner place.
Plus, if people don’t speak out and say “This isn’t acceptable behavior” then it makes it acceptable behavior.
People ARE speaking out and saying that it’s not acceptable behavior to wish harm on or to threaten others. Some of those speaking out are writers in the particular instances of it in book reviews, and it’s unfortunately seen as being a self-serving stance.
It’s all about those entitled, thin-skinned authors trying to censor readers so that only good things are ever said about their books.
What a fucking load of hogwash.
Please raise your hand if you really, truly believe a handful of indie authors complaining to Goodreads or Amazon about being bullied caused Goodreads to decide to begin enforcing its policies. If you want to blame someone in the book biz, I think traditional publishers probably spend loads more money on Goodreads advertising than most indie authors can dream of. Or you can blame any blogger, including me, who has ever mentioned any of the issues involved in the Goodreads Bullies/BBAs war. You can blame everyone, but you can’t blame a handful of self-pubbed/indie authors because hey, we don’t have that much pull with anyone.
If we did, none of this crap would’ve gained any traction, and there’d be nothing to talk about.
An author recently said something about wishing she could hang a reviewer. Reader/reviewers were on her like flies on shit, screaming about what an asshole she was, and how wrong it was for her to threaten a reviewer like that–and IT WAS WRONG.
Yet some of those same reader/reviewers say similar things to/about authors in their reviews, or whenever the subject of badly behaving authors comes up, and then scream they’re being censored when people complain about it.
It’s against the damn law to threaten someone’s physical well-being, regardless of who that someone is: author or reader/reviewer. If you do so, there will be repercussions. If you don’t like facing such repercussions, don’t publicly threaten people.
It’s that fucking simple.