The culture of internet book criticism is passionate and intense. Late last month, Amélie Wen Zhao, a debut author, canceled her young adult fantasy novel after early readers accused her of racial insensitivity online. Here are two different perspectives from writers who have had similar experiences.
Two authors talk about surviving the insane critical onslaught from random nobodies on social media. Keira Drake, author of The Continent offered her story, and if you’re a regular reader of my blog (heh, there’s like, one or two people that read my blog regularly), you probably know what happened.
The other author, Jonah Winter, had a very interesting take and I hope more people pay attention to what he has to say. Maybe I’m biased…but people need to stand up for themselves.
So I just want to comment on a couple of things Keira said in her essay.
The fact was, though, that Vaela was a white savior type. One group did closely resemble Native Americans by physical description, and they were engaging in behavior that embraced negative stereotypes of First Nations people. The other group was based on an amalgam of Asian cultures, and most explicitly, the Japanese.
The critics were right.
I disagree. I don’t think the critics were right. Then again, I haven’t read the original manuscript, but based on what I’ve read about it, I don’t think any of that was racist or bad. Vaela, I guess, was originally a white girl. She encounters two “primitive” tribes, and one of them is aggressive and has dark skin. And, of course, the left decided that all of that was racist.
No, it isn’t. Furthermore, I don’t understand why depicting white people as violent savages is okay, but it’s racist to depict brown people as violent savages. If you have a group of villains that have dark skin, that’s not a condemnation of all brown people. And that certainly wasn’t what she intended when she wrote the book.
Unfortunately, she’s a leftist and she’s already internalized all of this nonsense. I expect Amelie Wen Zhao to be the same, if she actually chooses to publish her novel.
Stay with me, because once people hear “sensitivity reader” they often start getting nervous. They talk about “1984” and censorship and how free speech is dead in America.
Allow me to clarify that sensitivity readers are no different from any other editor. If a publisher or author wants to enlist the services of such an editor, they can do so, for a price. It is optional. If an author does not care to do it, a sensitivity read is not done. In any case, none of the suggestions provided by sensitivity readers are forced on an author. Which brings me to an important point: There is a material difference between criticism and censorship.
Yeah, but the pile-on was nowhere near constructive. They hounded you, called you names, said you were racist, called your work racist trash and denounced anyone that defended you as racist scum. No, that’s not constructive criticism. That’s what people like me were so pissed off at.
And as for sensitivity readers…yes, it is largely voluntary. I guess. But the whole thing is so Orwellian anyway. Furthermore, nobody bothers with sensitivity readers who will make sure your work isn’t insulting to Republicans, conservatives, Christians or libertarians. Or Catholics. Oh no, nobody cares if those people are defamed, but if you have a stereotypical black character…ooh, racist!
I can only take her word for it that sensitivity readers aren’t forced on authors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some authors were forced into using sensitivity readers. You know, “use a sensitivity reader or else we won’t publish your book” or “use a sensitivity reader or else we won’t defend you if your book gets heavy criticism.”
Sensitivity readers are redundant anyway. A decent “regular” editor should be able to pick up on these things and point them out. You shouldn’t need five or six editors for a freaking young adult novel. Or even a novel for adults. That’s insane. No wonder hardcovers are so freaking expensive these days. Those fucking sensitivity readers gotta get paid. It’s a damn racket if you ask me.
Sensitivity readers are censorship by intimidation. Now authors have to hire what are essentially additional editors just to make sure that some random leftist isn’t offended by a character, setting or plot point.
It’s disgusting and nothing will convince me otherwise.
Censorship, on the other hand, is the suppression or prohibition of speech by a political or social authority.
Leftists love saying this now. They claim that hounding people like Keira Drake and Amelie Wen Zhao into postponing or outright cancelling their books isn’t censorship. At this point, I disagree. Intimidating someone into doing something is censorship, and the sooner everyone realizes this, the better.
Of course, at the end of the day, you can still choose to heed the screeching of batshit insane SJWs, but having that choice – take what they say to heart and act accordingly or go tell them to fuck themselves and deal with the consequences – is still kind of disturbing. I only say that because these people are so successful at bullying people into censoring themselves.
There’s another author I’m thinking of right now, one that, after being hounded by leftists for getting spicy on Twitter, has completely and utterly disappeared. Her name is Raychel Rose, and she wrote a book called The Rose Master. She also wrote a short story called The Sea of Ghosts and both were on sale at Amazon…but neither are for sale anymore. Her Twitter account is gone, her self-hosted website is gone, and I can’t even find her Gab account.
She was self-published, and her career was destroyed before it even began, and to this day it makes me angry. This bullshit harassment of authors has to fucking stop.
While I chose to embrace the criticisms I received, and to rewrite my book, many authors choose to do otherwise, and that is their prerogative. Either way, a Twitter pile-on of the sort I experienced is not the appropriate way for criticism to be delivered. The hateful messages, the maligning of my character in tweets and articles across the internet, an organized campaign to find, attack and harass online anyone who had ever given my book a good review: None of this is acceptable. Authors, bloggers, readers, editors — these are real people, and this kind of behavior can have devastating consequences not only professionally but psychologically.
I still defend Keira Drake, and she’s absolutely right about this – the Twitter pile-on was wrong. At least she acknowledged that. I didn’t think the criticisms of her original manuscript were valid or right, but I do respect her for at least accepting the criticism. Like, despite all that happened, she was still able to handle it. That’s admirable.
Now, Jonah Winter is pretty cool. He wrote a children’s book that was accused of “erasing” and “misrepresenting” Native Americans.
Uh, “erasing”? Are you fucking serious? How could one lone children’s book “erase” ANYONE? Jesus, the Bible couldn’t even fucking do that! These people are absolutely INSANE. But yeah, if you don’t properly acknowledge one of the many victim classes, you’re “erasing” people.
Unless it’s a Christian or something…it’s okay to “erase” people the left doesn’t like.
However, the illustrator of “A Fine Dessert,” Sophie Blackall, defended the book, writing on her blog: “I cannot ensure my images will be read the way I intended, I can only approach each illustration with as much research, thoughtfulness, empathy and imagination as I can muster.” Evidently, her career as an illustrator (and author) has not suffered. One year after “A Fine Dessert” appeared, she won a Caldecott for a different book. And this year she won another.
Jonah Winter goes on to say that he wishes he had defended his book the way Sophie Blackall defended her illustrations. As you can see, she didn’t suffer for it. You see, it’s okay. You don’t have to buckle under the pressure put on you by these psychotic monsters.
There is bitter irony in the fact that Zhao is a Chinese immigrant who grew up in a country known for its censorship, and now finds herself being told in America that her debut novel is offensive. In China, the government shuts down art it deems offensive. Here in America, we use social media.
I agree. We don’t need the government to censor us. Moralizing busybodies on the left are doing it for them.
Oh, and I loved this paragraph:
That social media critics would expect that she, a Chinese immigrant, frame the depiction of slavery in her book to reflect an American narrative is the height of cultural solipsism and American arrogance.
Normally I roll my eyes at anyone talking about American “arrogance” but here, it’s obvious that leftists can be “ugly Americans” right along with the rest of us. The left’s obsession with slavery being an exclusively “black American” thing is an excellent example of American arrogance, and it’s also an excellent example of how utterly shitty our public schools are. Only a public school kid would be this fucking ignorant of world history. Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of you went to public school – I’ll admit, I went to a public school for most of my education, but I was also lucky to go to a private school for four years. I know I sound like an elitist asshole when I say this, but honestly…our public schools are dominated by the left – the exact people that have no problem harassing anyone they deem right-wing.
Public schools are Democrat indoctrination camps, and it is there that kids learn that slavery began in the US, and that the US was built by slavery, and that only white people owned slaves, and that the Civil War was fought by noble Northerners to free the slaves, and no other reason, and that Robert E. Lee was an evil asshole (even though he abhorred the practice of slavery) and blah blah blah.
So yeah, most of these shitstains think slavery was exclusive to the US, and that it ended here, and that it isn’t happening anywhere else. Any reference to slavery, according to them and their shitty “education” is a reference to slavery in the US.
The point is that books should not be canceled just because some readers find aspects of them offensive. If every book that might offend someone were canceled in advance of its publication date, few books would wind up on store shelves. A few bullying critics pressured Zhao into depriving me and thousands of other people of the opportunity to read her book and come to our own conclusions. That’s not fair. And it’s not right.
I am also pretty angry I can’t read Blood Heir in it’s original form. I’ve been trying to find eARCs of it on pirate sites, but nobody’s shared it. I saw one site selling a paperback ARC for thirty dollars, but I can’t afford that right now. Sigh. I like to make up my own mind about things. Now I fucking can’t, because the original manuscript will, in all likelihood, never see the light of day. THIS IS WHY WE CALL THIS SHIT CENSORSHIP. The people that whined and cried about the “racism” in this book have now effectively prevented me and Jonah Winter and thousands of people from reading this book, but somehow that’s no big deal because the government didn’t hound Ms. Zhao into postponing her book. Bullshit. Some dipshit feminazi on Twitter has no business deciding what gets published or what we get to fucking read. Period.
In her announcement online, Zhao apologized for the “pain” she has caused with her book. The only way her book could cause pain is if it were dropped from a high-story window onto somebody’s head. The notion that a book can cause pain is just one more example of the tyrannical coddling of overly sensitive readers that defines this era. Zhao did not cause any pain with her book. But by making the decision to cancel, she will indeed cause pain — to herself and to other authors. By caving to the social media critics, she sets a chilling template for the future, and reinforces the power of the online mob.
Oh my god, I am so sick and tired of people saying that books “cause pain” or “do harm”. No they fucking don’t. Besides, only a handful of people got to read it – how the hell is this book causing vast swaths of people pain? These leftist are such drama queens.
Contrast this silliness with Laurie Forest and Laura Moriarty. Both of them were pilloried for their less-than-perfect novels, but both soldiered on. Laurie Forest has already published a sequel to The Black Witch, called The Iron Flower and she’s also published a few novellas in the series. She’s doing fine. The Kirkus starred review for Laura Moriarty’s American Heart may have been removed, but she’s published it anyway. I’ve even seen it in bookstores. Anyway, American Heart was recently released in paperback.
These women didn’t back down. They didn’t go, “oh, let me revise the book and we can publish it next year.” They survived and both are doing fairly well.
Intent matters. None of these women intended to be racist or Islamophobic or homophobic or bigoted towards anyone, except for perhaps right-wingers, since it’s okay to treat us like shit. But these women wrote stories about issues they passionately believed in. They didn’t mean to hurt any minorities, and yet the leftist assholes on Twitter and GoodReads viciously attacked them anyway.
Keira Drake acknowledged that her apology and revised book didn’t silence or appease the critics, but doesn’t regret rewriting her book. These people will not be pleased by anything you do. Every victory emboldens them. They won’t stop. Their lust for destruction will never, ever be fulfilled. You should never, ever give in to them. You should never, ever apologize to them. Nothing they say is worth anything. The shit in my septic tank is literally worth far more than anything these blood-belching cunts have to say. Fuck them all. They’re worthless. Their deranged, demented ravings are of no consequence to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.
And as a non-white person, I don’t need these stupid fucking assholes to come to my damn rescue. I don’t get triggered and traumatized by reading about racist or bigoted people or racist situations or whatever. I’m fucking thirty-six years old. I can take care of myself, thankyouveryfuckingmuch.
So, don’t give in to them. Someday they’ll come for you.