2012 is over, 2013 has begun, and Smugglivus is nearly complete! Which means that we must also undergo another very important ritual…

THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES!

(in which we air out any dirty laundry from 2012. Warning: plenty of swearing, engaged CAPS LOCK OF FURY, and spoilers ahoy, baby!)

In no particular order, these are the things that really pissed us off this year.

Double Facepalm (Star Trek TNG)

1. That Day LITERATURE Died

Toward the second half of the year, two articles appeared online decrying the rise of the Book Blogger as the END OF LITERATURE. First up, was this piece by Man Booker Prize judge Sir Peter Stothard published in The Independent about the death of literature and literary criticism by way of book bloggers – his main argument posits that the rise of book blogging will be to detriment of the literature because of OPINIONS which are NOT GOOD and POOR LITTLE READERS will be swindled into reading books that are Not Good. SCANDAL!!

THEN, later in the year, there was another piece – a piece of sexist excrement published over at theLA Review of Books by William Giraldi that contained such pearls like:

“If you’ve ever attempted to read a review on Amazon or on someone’s personal blog, you know it’s identical to seeking relationship advice on the wall of a public restroom.”

“(…) a community of coddlers who approach literature as if it were a Sunday knitting circle. On Twitter and Facebook, on their own websites and blogs, this feel-good community praises one another in pastel colors.”

“Literature to these online cabals is a social event and not an artistic endeavor; they congregate to swap recipes of cuisine no discerning person would ever care to eat.”

The crux of these two arguments is that only Real Critics (who are often, White, Male, Academics) can be Arbiters of Taste.

Well, allow us to calmly criticise these two pieces by adding our own version of Toilet Reviews:

FUCK OFF.

2. But What About the Boyzzzz

One of the revolving discussions online and more specifically in the YA sphere is how there is an alleged shortage of books for boys and how the WOMENZ (ew cooties) are taking over the publishing WORLD (Mwahaha, we guess?).

Ok, let’s play:

EVEN if that was the case (it isn’t), please PRAYTELL, why can’t boys read books by female authors or with female protagonists? This false dichotomy (that there is such a thing as “books for boys” x “books for girls”) is probably at the root of all of this whinging because newsflash: STORIES ARE GENDERLESS. Also, NEWSFLASH: girls have been reading books by men, for men, since books started being published. Boys can do the same (it’s insulting to everyone to say that they can’t).

Then, we have pieces like the one published in the LA Review of Books by Sarah Mesle in which the author bemoans the lack of proper “male roles” for boys in current YA literature as though “manhood” is an actual THING being threatened by female authors and characters. THEN following that shitshow, YA author A E Rought wrote a pieces called Top 10 Tropes in YA and named “female protagonists” as one of them. Because being female is now a TROPE (dictionary definition: “a common or overused theme or device: cliché”).

AND THEN WE CRIED BITTER TEARS OF DESPAIR.

How about we teach our boys better: let’s teach them that books with girl protagonists are not the devil, ok?

3. Authors Behaving Badly and That Website

This year saw a shitton of authors reacting badly to negative reviews on Goodreads. Authors (and even an agent in one case) were having serious public meltdowns on teh blogs, on Twitter or on Goodreads, responding to negative reviews. This often led to author face-offs with readers and reviewers, who would then have to defend themselves for expressing their own opinions about books.

Enter the batshit Stop the Goodreads Bullies website (check out this awesome explanation of the site here). Ostensibly created to name and shame reviewers expressing their intellectual freedom of expression (who are called “bullies”), Stop the Goodreads Bullies purports to “defend” victimized authors by shamelessly attacking readers and reviewers – ironically, using the very same tactics they wish to stop (this includes revealing private personal information like street addresses, appearances, and family information, in truly terrifying stalker-manner).

Let’s not dwell on how ridiculous and problematic it is to equate reader’s reactions and reviews to bullying (because Foz Meadows expresses this sentiment much better than we ever could) or how these people are incapable of understanding satire, parody or irony (some of their posts breaking down parody reviews and accusing them of bullying are hilarious in their ignorance of how parody actually works). Our main problem with the site is how it often uses lies, misdirection and false information to defend their point of view and to attack reviewers.

Personally speaking, we had been largely ignoring the site apart from retweeting opinion pieces like Dear Author’s, Gossamer Obsessions’ and Foz Meadow’s at the Huffington Post. Then they posted an anonymous letter with accusations against our very own Thea (!!!!) with the most ridiculously outrageous lies about how Thea extorts authors promising reviews in lieu of a job in publishing, swag or something equally laughable. (For the record, Thea has been happily working in the publishing industry at a large house for a while now and really does not need “swag” or career advancement help from authors.) The owners of the site singled us out, adding us to their “fora to avoid” listing purely based on ONE anonymous letter (one anonymous, misspelled, terribly written letter, we might add) sent without a shred of evidence (BECAUSE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO BE HAD). That’s libel, yo.

And this is a perfect example of how that particular website works.

4. Ebooks are Killing Print

In addition to BLOGGERS KILLING LITERATURE, apparently 2012 marked the demise of BOOKS, PERIOD because of the rise of the ebook. In November, Slate (in increasingly prevalent asinine anti-ebook fashion) posted an article titled: Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading. Ironically, this article was posted online for an online-based magazine – which means that we weren’t really reading it, right?

This article extorts the wonders of tactile reading, with such observational gems like: “Books, like hands, hold our attention,” and kicks off on a bizarre tangent about St. Augustine’s conversion to Christianity to the importance of holding books and being taken hold of by books. The article goes on to draw lengthy comparisons to Aristotle, David Katz, and Eugene Delacroix, Epictetus, Dr. Faustus, and Don Quixote, amongst many, many others. We shit you not. Our reaction:

Ultimately, articles like this are just another drop in the bucket, another one of many similar opinions decrying the same general message: ebooks aren’t “real” books, ebooks are killing reading, ebooks are inferior because you cannot SMELL the GLUE and FEEL the PAGES, and so on and so forth.

But guess what? EBOOKS ARE REAL BOOKS. In the words of one of Thea’s former co-workers and professors (Thea makes, distributes, and sells ebooks for a living), a book is merely a container for information. Information can be displayed or presented in many different ways: on printed and bound pages, on scrolls of papyrus, or zipped up HTML/XML files. The container is merely the delivery system to the end user.

Guess what else? EBOOKS ARE HERE TO STAY. According to the latest Pew Internet & American Life Research findings released on 12/27, nearly 25% of Americans read an ebook in 2012 (an increase of 16% from 2011). This coincides with an across the board increase in ownership of ebook reading devices (for both dedicated e-readers and tablets):

This is just one study that shows the same general adoption rates for e-reading – we could cite statistics all day (in the US, the UK, Canada, or elsewhere).

Guess what else? In the same period that e-reading increased 16%, p-book reading decreased 3% (within the same Pew sample data).

Book Riot said it best in their gif response to the Slate article. To the luddites that insist ebooks aren’t real or here to stay?

We just. can’t. even.

5. Hyped Books Without Merit

We’ll try to keep this one short because y’all know exactly what we are talking about: the dreaded hype machine. The BIG OMG THIS IS THE BESTEST BOOK EVER pitches, the HUGE marketing budgets spent on said books, the multi-city tours, the displays and ads and so on and so forth.

We’ve read many of those books this year. And you know what? An ungodly number of them had absolutely ZERO merit. We’re sick of it. We’re ESPECIALLY sick of it because there are so many PHENOMENAL books that get no love from their publishing houses.

6. Scandals! Brouhahas! Oh My!

Remember when a famous blogger was caught plagiarising? And then loads of people were defending her then accusing the VICTIMS of the plagiarism of being attention seekers? Yeah, that happened.

How about when we were swindled by a designer out of our money (she took off with the money with no design to show) then when we posted a PSA about, it came to light that she had done the same thing to shit loads of people? Update: she recently sent us 20 bucks – mind you, there was no accompanying email, no explanation, just random 20 bucks by paypal. Sorry, but that’s too little, too late.

– Remember when SFF Fandom had meltdowns because of Liz Bourke’s (one of our favourite reviewers right now – although we have disagreed on occasion) reviews? First she called out Rape Culture and misogynist crap on Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns over at Tor.com (note in the comments, how the editor of the book “defended” it by accusing Tor.com of posting the review because they are a “rival publisher”. HAHAHA SERIOUSLY). Then she wrote a scathing review of Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan over at Strange Horizons and was promptly accused of writing an attack piece because of her tone and because she wasn’t nice. FANDOM, WAKE THE FUCK UP AND SMELL YOUR SEXISM.

And on that note, our 2012 grievances are aired, and our 2013 slates are clean. Are there any gripes y’all have had for the past year that you want to get off your chest?

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29 Responses to Smugglivus 2012: The Airing of Grievances

  1. I completely agree that ebooks are here to stay and that they are real books, but I’m still sad about the way they are taking over, okay? There’s always something lost when something new comes along (and gained of course, I’m not going to argue there isn’t!) and I think there’s a balance somewhere in acknowledging that, that didn’t exist in the articles you had issues with!

    But thanks for this round up I had already forgotten about so many of these infuriating things!

  2. Lawd. 2012. What a year for drama and controversy and issues. WHAT A YEAR.

  3. Thea says:

    Amy – Oh completely understood! If people prefer physical books to ebooks, that is totally fine (and understandable). It is one thing to say that, but it is quite another to make the assertion that ebooks aren’t real books, that reading electronically isn’t really reading, or that ebooks are somehow killing reading. Because…they aren’t. Clearly, and statistically proven, they aren’t.

    Ana and I *love* books in all of their forms and ebooks and print books can coexist! THIS: http://www.teachingdegree.org/2012/11/26/ebooks-vs-print-books/

  4. Riv says:

    Not to be picky but Liz Bourke’s review of Prince of Thorns happened on the book’s release day, August 2011, So it’s not really a 2012 thang.

  5. Bram says:

    Regarding #4:
    Hey! Longtime lurker, but I felt I had to comment about the Slate article, which I read a couple of months ago and both love and hate :)

    I *completely* agree that ebooks are here to stay. I love my Kindle. It serves a good purpose. I think more people are reading because of the convenience (anecdotally, this has been true for me). But I also loved the Slate article you referenced (which is actually an excerpt of “Book was there: Reading in Electronic Times,” which might be why the argument seemed a bit incomplete.)

    The author does seem to be nostalgic for the sake of being nostalgic. By starting with the reference of St. Augustine and the codex (ie, books like we read now-not a scroll), he’s both implicitly acknowledging the development of the written word (from wax tablets and scrolls to the codex (a major innovation of the early Christians)), but for some reason, he has decided that post-printing press codices are the high-point. This I’m more confused about.

    The technology of the book has been all about convenience and ability to spread to a wider audience. Wax tablets and scrolls worked great for Vergil–not so much for the early monks, hence, codices. (In fact, The Aeneid has only been preserved b/c of the monks and their codices…) Illuminated manuscripts are not so convenient by the Renaissance, thus the printing press.

    I don’t think paper books will disappear with the developing ereader technology. I sincerely hope not. As someone with an LD, it is extremely difficult for me to read dense academic books on an ereader/computer (I had to print every article in grad school)

    Basically, I would argue that ebooks are the next step in a long development of technology of the written word/book.

    Okay, rambling now! I really ought to read the entire book…

    (PS-I went to grad school for medieval history, so the random references to Augustine, etc seemed normal)

  6. KT Grant says:

    So Thea, you have a special room where you’re hiding all your book swag? heh.

  7. I keep watching that gif of Amy Pohler, because what is she doing with her face?! Great round-up. I’m ready for more ridiculousness in 2013.

  8. Sorry, add an e before the h in Pohler. :)

  9. willaful says:

    I read one of my most beloved books the other day, and because I was on vacation, it was in ebook form. And it was definitely a little weird at first, because I knew that book so, so well and it looked different. But then, I get the same effect whenever I change print editions of a beloved book, too. After a time, I was just as lost in it as always but I did see some new things, which my eyes used to glaze over. (Also an effect I see when I change print editions.)

  10. Here’s hoping 2013 is better, eh? And I don’t stop by here enough, but thank you ladies for everything you do!

  11. Aja says:

    I love you guys :DDDDDD NEWS AT ELEVEN

  12. Renay says:

    #4 reminds me of Clare’s post, The Book Will Never Die. I don’t have a lot of answers, but it’s an interesting discussion. I think ebooks are here to stay, but I also think print books are here to stay, too, even if consumption of print books falls away in privileged arenas. Food for thought.

  13. KMont says:

    *WILD F-ING APPLAUSE*

    Great recap of all the shitnannery of 2012! But this:

    *Update: she recently sent us 20 bucks*

    Wow. What balls. Or actually, lack of them!

  14. Cecelia says:

    LOVE THIS POST. Didn’t know about the Liz Bourke brouhaha over at Tor.com, but am unfortunately unsurprised.

    Great job, ladies!

  15. Shel says:

    Had to double check what you originally paid – $260. Random twenty bucks?!! Wow.

  16. I agree with all the grievances and many more. My major grievance for the year is the New Adult bullshit. I tried reading some of the most popular books in the category. I really did. THEY’RE ALL TERRIBLE. Hell, I got a single chapter into one NA book (Crash by Nicole Williams) and refused to read any more.

    Like I keep saying, STGRB and their list of bad bloggers/Goodreaders can kiss my ass. One of the authors they regularly feature (and whose name I can’t type out because he apparently has it on Google Alerts) came to comment on a post of mine recently and lie about things he’s said. He’s blocked now.

    The OH NO, EBOOKS thing is pretty irritating too. Now that I’m in college, I don’t have room for many print books. Unless I’m buying the next installment of a series I started in print, I’m buying ebooks. They’re more practical for certain situations.

    THE HYPE MACHINE. ARGH. I read a book a few months ago where massive hype happened just after its cover was revealed and it was AWFUL. Now if there’s hype springing up immediately after the cover is revealed for a book, I run like hell until people I trust review it. Even then, I might wait for a negative review or two to show up.

  17. Estara says:

    I so hope that blood Goodreads bully site goes the way of the dodo. Or to be precise I would love for some well-known and good lawyer to decide to analyze what they did and sue them. In this case I feel very old testament.

    It would satisfy my need for some real major upset to come to those people, too, AND not fall totally back on an eye for an eye because it would likely not entail spreading all their personal living details.

    I think…

    Oh well…

  18. Thanks for the recap and so agree with the story siren and stealing content. still waiting for the shoe to drop on the next blogger to be run out of town.

    Yes the hype machine can go away :(

    yes hoping the author drama is better 2013.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Actually having a Kobo reader reminded me how much books as objects are actually really nice. Don’t get me wrong, I think that in term of enjoying a novel it’s the same, except you got a stunning book with lovely drawings and all, because after all a story is still a story no matter how you read it (and I really like my kobo, great gift).

    But you can hardly look at a file like you can do it for a book in real life and got fond feelings (or dislike for the physical presence of this book that reminds you you bought a bad book because it was so popular). You can share, give real books, they will still be here after our death (unlike licensed ebooks that are actually more a rental).

  20. Karlynp says:

    Awesome post. The drama of 2012 nearly wiped me out, I sure hope 2013 shows better signs of having intelligent life on our planet. I’ve cut way back on reviewing indie authors quite a bit, something I think many reviewers also did. Sad, but for me it felt necessary.

    I believe that ‘website’ is on its umpteenth DMCA takedown notice, so sooner or later GoDaddy will just shut them down permanently and/or Google will delist them completely. They entire site is based on posting copyrighted content without permission, then twisting those facts into a bad fiction article. I’m glad people are calling them on it.

    And yes, eBooks are here to stay! Love, love, love my Kindle.

  21. Brianna says:

    BOOM. Grievances aired. And all well said, especially the “whining about no books for boys” ridiculousness. But the true highlight of your post: the excellent use of Star Trek and Parks and Rec stills/gifs. Seriously, you picked some of my favorite moments from some of my favorite shows.

  22. You ladies win all the awards. That is all.

  23. Karen says:

    I always love The Airing of Grievances. Thanks.

    I’m especially annoyed (and disturbed) by the Goodreads “bully” site. So many of these authors are handed book deals, big advances and high praise very quickly (or if they are self-pubbed, they start selling books and hearing from “fans” immediately), so they don’t experience years of rejection and frustration and despair the way other authors do. They don’t grow a thick skin because right out of the gate, everyone is kissing their asses. That means they can’t handle bad reviews, or criticism of any kind, and that’s sad. What makes it sadder, though, is that I think many of these “bullied” authors believe readers should just buy the book, shut up and dole out praise – leaving the critical reviews to the “Real Reviewers.”

  24. M.J. Garcia says:

    You forgot the author’s comments on that Liz Bourke’s review, I was going to read that book, because I was looking for something outside my zone of comfort but after I read this http://mark—lawrence.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/if-you-hated-prince-of-thorns-youll.html I thought to myself, not even for free.

  25. Oh dear…I guess I didn’t REALLY read this review then…did I? o.o I’m confused!! :)

  26. OMG, number 2. I’m so happy to see someone else mention this. Lately I feel like I’m surrounded by people saying things like “oh how novel, this book has a MALE main character!” and “This book is by a male author! How different!” and I’m like, you guys, to this day women authors are still using initials so that people won’t know they’re women. That is still a problem. And you are acting like it’s not. Ugh.

    Also, I love the point about how when things are equal people perceive it as women dominating, because we’re so used to men dominating. That is SO TRUE!

  27. [...] The Book Smugglers: The Airing of the Grievances  The Problem is Not the Books Gender Balance in YA awards [...]

  28. [...] The Book Smugglers: The Airing of the Grievances  The Problem is Not the Books Gender Balance in YA awards [...]

  29. [...] Kind of downbeat, but very sensible nonetheless. •Various genre spats and disputes discussed here. •Writer Hugh Howey on “breaking” your story concept. I’m not sure this is [...]

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