On Tuesday, a Goodreads thread was shared over and over on my Facebook timeline. If you haven’t seen it, it’s here and it’s hilarious.
For all the LOLZ, it also illustrates a major and worrying trope online nowadays. Everyone now has the ability to be a critic, yet many can’t cope with criticism. In this instance, the author of a self-published book responded in the worst way possible to a bit of negativity, with the hysterical statement that a one star review amounts to defamation.
The writer Dylan Saccoccio, responsible for the e-book The Boy and the Peddler of Death, went hatstand batshit because a member of the Goodreads community gave his self-published fantasy novel a one-star review.
The reviewer, Cait, did so with a takedown that was fair. Most importantly, it was just her opinion – nothing personal.
Here you are: “This was just… so unnecessarily wordy and pretentious. I just did not enjoy it at all. Which makes me sad because the summary says it’s for fans of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and World of Warcraft. Aka three of my favorite things. So how did I loathe this so entirely from page one? I don’t know.”
Shortly afterwards, the author in question went the full Radio Rental.
If you can bear to read this through your fingers gnawed to the bone with embarrassment, it is a magnificent display of folk thinking that simply because their work is online, it’s a cause for celebration and validation.
The author rails: “Do you have empathy? Do you know what it’s like to make something for a living? Are you human? Or do you just look at other people like they’re automatons that you can slander as though your actions don’t manifest consequences? “
As one commenter counters: “Dude. If you’re going to exist as an author you need to realize there are going to be people that dislike your work. Don’t embarrass yourself by acting like this.”
Another adds: “I think maybe this guy shouldn’t be an author if he can’t handle negative ratings or reviews. All he’s doing is humiliating himself and making people (like me) want to avoid his work in the future.”
Now, I have spent years as a music writer and critic, who hasn’t just reviewed singles, albums and gigs, but theatre shows, TV, films and books. As a qualified, trained journalist, I’d like to think those factors coupled with my years of experience reviewing the arts mean that when I write about something, I have some kind of heft behind me. I am always fair and considered, with the benefit of my years of expertise as a reference for the work in front of me. It’s never personal.
I’d like to think that’s still the case now with professional critics – I certainly still think arts criticism in the mainstream media and elsewhere is vital. But the fact remains, everyone can have their say online now. Which is fantastic. And you have to embrace it – or go home.
Traditionally, artists from whichever medium honed their art over years, taking onboard the critiques of teachers, mentors, experts, betters, before their work appeared in front of the eyeballs of the great unwashed.
Now, it’s instantaneous, in your face, and the online creators often just want love or else a nursery-full of toys are ejected from the planet’s largest pram.
The internet is brilliant in that you can put up whatever you like, when you like. But you have to accept if people don’t rate what you’ve put up, whether it’s your ‘life’s work’ or a needy Facebook update, they are totally within their rights to dislike it and criticise it.
I could spend my entire life writing what I think is the equivalent of Clarissa, but if it turned out shit and people told me so, then I would have to accept it (it would indeed be terrible). Time, care and passion spent does not necessarily make something a genius magnum opus. Art does not grow out of non-critical affirmation.
We have become a world of needy positive feedback vampires, and it needs to stop now. Man up, people, and grow a thicker skin. Your work will be better for it.
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