You know, sometimes I really miss the days where authors were just names on the front of a book and (maybe) a photo in the back. I’m talking about the days before social media, where we literally judged a book by its cover, not by the person writing it.
Don’t get me wrong, the connected world has done wonderful things for the literary community, allowing us to connect, get deeper into the stories, and be a part of the conversation. I have made some very good friends with authors who I admire, respect, and genuinely enjoy interacting with, and they in turn have introduced me to a wider community and new reads that I might have otherwise overlooked.
Unfortunately, the universe likes to remind us that we exist in a balance, and that for every positive there is a negative . . . for every good there is a bad . . . for every hero there is a villain.
I’m not talking about core beliefs or values or philosophies here. We all have them, they’re often different, and so long as they’re not used to attack, discriminate, or deny others their rights, we should respect that about one another. No harm, no foul.
When those attacks do happen, though, we are left with the challenge of trying to decide if we can or should separate the author from the book – and that’s twice as difficult when it’s a book you’ve enjoyed. Can we still love the book even if we lose all respect for the author? If so, is it okay to keep recommending the book? And if we do, should it be with a caveat about the author? Or do we owe it to ourselves (and perhaps the wider community) to stop promoting anything that extends the author’s voice?
As my Goddess/Wife pointed out, you can work with somebody and not like them, so do you really need to like someone to read their work? It’s a good question, but I think it’s a bit different in that authors are paid to develop ideas and themes, where as my coworkers are more task-oriented. Plus, I don’t take their work home with me.
Personally, if it’s a book I haven’t yet read, the answer becomes a lot simpler. Piss me off, offend me, and show yourself to be a vile human being who mocks, ridicules, harasses, and discriminates against others, and I will excise you from the shelves faster than you can hit the ‘block’ button on your social media feed.
Whether it’s the whole Sad Puppies/SJW mess that dominated the Hugos for so many years, the recent TERF debate that J.K. Rowling sparked, or any number of controversies in between, the reader in me is inclined to ignore the authors and just keep reading the books, but the human in me recognizes that is the coward’s way out. If we sit back and let somebody spew their misinformed hatred, if we continue to promote their books and the voice behind them, then we (indirectly or not) become a party to that hatred.
If there’s one shining light in all of this, it’s that such debates can introduce us to authors we haven’t read (yet) who are standing up that hatred and putting themselves in the line of fire. I’m talking about authors who ask questions, who point out the difference between fact and belief, and who take the time to educate themselves.
I won’t tell you what authors I’ve chosen to block or ignore, and I won’t tell you what books I’ve excised from my shelves because . . . well, fuck them, they’re not worth the words. I am more than happy, however, to tell you about the authors I’ve discovered, who I’m suddenly excited to read. Please welcome to the shelves Delilah Night, Kayla Bashe, Lyra Shanti, Stina Leicht, Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Harrow, and Aria Morgan Howell.