Censorship and Book Reviews

23 Sep

With all the wankery that I’ve seen in regards to book bloggers in general, I want to thank you book bloggers for being honest with your thoughts. I know it’s hard – especially if you’re drawing fire for that honesty. I think society could do with more book discussions.  

For me, as an author with a small-publisher, those of you who are willing to review my book and be honest about it, you’re giving me a huge gift. (And those of you who can’t because you’re back-logged, busy, I get it, and I appreciate the guest-posts, author interviews and all that too!) I could run to my friends and ask them to review my book – but what I don’t need is, “L.T. Getty is awesome! She helped me move last weekend! Read her book!”  What I need is for people who don’t know me to talk about the book. What they liked, what they didn’t – and hey, even if they DNF-kill-it-with-fire. I acknowledge not everything is everyone’s cup of tea, and I think when I’m trying to sell my book, it’s a feather in my cap if I have a variety of opinion surrounding the book.

I don’t think this new policy is a good thing.

It is about censorship. I know that it’s under the guise of putting the focus on the books, and while I think there needs to be some policy and censorship has its place (I can’t go onto your blog, post violent images, mock your thoughts as to why you liked a book, and insult your hamster and expect it to stand as a freedom of speech thing). There’s a rather slipperly slope of censorship, especially when individuals think that a bash against a book is a bash against the author.   

I self-censor all the time; but the government/radio/store isn’t telling me I can’t have it because I’m X. I decided for myself,

“Maybe I shouldn’t listen to music that keeps saying ‘die young’.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t watch that movie that RaceBending.com proves Hollywood is racist.”

“Maybe I should look away from the train wreck TLC has become so they stop exploiting the uneducated on tv.”

Now, I’m hardly a shirking violet – it’s not that I can’t discuss the topic or get the vapors when someone says something potentially offensive. I decide to surround myself with certain content, and I decide to mute others. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I just chose not to partake in that aspect of culture.

So what sort of potential issues could there be with censorship? Let’s list some sample trigger topics:

Religion

Pedophilia

Slut-Shaming

Abortion

Now, are those topics that can potentially turn a polite crowd that was getting along into angry, very vocal and dumb nitwits. These are also all topics in books that are discussed, and let’s face it: Unless the book is famous for it, most book blogs don’t have a content sticker on them – and while sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes, books have themes that beg to be discussed. I think individual readers have a right to say to themselves, “This author slut-shames. I don’t want to support this.” This is perfectly legitimate criticism – even if the reader didn’t catch Poe’s Law, or got a factual detail in the book wrong. The product left a bad taste in the reader’s mouth, and even if they, the consumer, is 100% wrong, that person still has the right to say, “Ugh!” I know I have my agenda when I’m writing, but if I’m noticing a trend where nobody’s catching the tone, I’m not doing my job as a writer. (The audience misinterpreting the book is a topic for another day; if you must, go google shipping wars).

Do corporations have a right to set out whatever rules they want? Sure – so long as they’re not breaking any laws based in the territory they’re based on, and I have the right to complain about those rules. We’re not always going to see eye-to-eye. So if Amazon wants to have Goodreads go to a standard, it’s their prerogative, and I’m going to ignore the money aspect here, which I suspect is the actual trigger.  Goodreads, if it has policies in place that stifles discussion, is no longer a place where you can get an unbiased review.  Its function is to help sell books, not tell people why they shouldn’t buy the books. The 1-star review suddenly becomes about “Oh, she just doesn’t like romance!” not, “Oh, she pointed out a running theme of abuse-as-love.”

Furthermore, I think the view of separating the book from the author is naïve. I would have agreed with you ten years ago – I used to think that anyone can write anything and we shouldn’t judge books based on the people that wrote them. I absolutely believe that the quality of writing should be judged on its own merit. However, I can’t remove the author from their body of work. If I were to go and get my masters, I wouldn’t be studying one title, I’d be studying a single author. I judge Octavia E. Butler a lot harder than most writers out there, and it’s not because I’m sexist, racist, or hate certain types of science fiction. Her prose is some of the most wonderful I’ve ever read, and I still find her concept of Earthseed silly. Her bar is higher.

If I want to read a book or see a movie, that’s my choice. If I want to abstain, it’s also my choice. If I find something offensive and I don’t want to support it for numerous of reasons, I have the right. What I don’t have as a right, is to tell people how they felt about the work. If I said something that upsets someone, especially as an author putting out a short story or novel, which is a very one-sided conversation, they have every right to talk about it. Especially on a book-review site.

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