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.
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:
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):
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?