I’ve gotten some comments, DMs, and emails about my last post wherein people have expressed concern over my reasoning behind quitting the After recaps. Coupled with STGRB’s most recent post, which alleges that I quit recapping because I finally understand the link between criticism of a work and bullying of an author, I thought I would jump on here and try again. This has been an extremely stressful weekend for me (I don’t remember signing up to tech a production of Les Liaisons Ridicule, but it seems to be happening whether I want it to or not), so I’m thinking I didn’t quite get my point across as effectively as I meant to.
I am not discontinuing the recaps because I feel criticism of a work is a personal attack on an author.
I am not discontinuing the recaps because I’ve changed my stance on reader reviews.
When I recapped 50 Shades of Grey, it was about more than just recapping a poorly written book. It was about the way she treated the Twilight fans, about the blatant plagiarism and the way nobody gave a fuck about Stephenie Meyer and how all of the hoopla over her stolen work may have made her feel. It was about the author demanding that survivors of abuse stop talking about the obvious themes of abuse in her novels because it was harshing her fans’ collective buzz. It was about the normalization and romanticization of abuse, rape culture, and misogyny, all denied by the media and readers.
I’ve heard that After has problematic content. I haven’t read far enough to get to it, but I believe you that it’s there because you guys haven’t lied to me yet. Someone said there were lines lifted from You’ve Got Mail. That’s not cool. But when it comes down to the wire, the situation isn’t the same. I don’t feel publishing RPF is as murky an ethical line as publishing AU fanfic with the names changed. I don’t feel that the target audience for both books is the same. After appears to have a mostly teen to twenty-something readership. 50 Shades of Grey was marketed primarily to twenty-something to forty-something women, i.e., an age demographic who should fucking well know better than to think a guy flying into a rage over a pregnancy he helped cause is romantic. And the author is twenty-five. I sold my first book at twenty-four, and believe me, it’s got problematic content in it. Why? Because I hadn’t had life experiences to tell me that what I was writing upheld dangerous, deeply entrenched cultural beliefs.
Does that mean I think people should be able to get away with problematic content without comment, just because they’re young and inexperienced? Just because they’re nice? No. But I know exactly what it’s like to be thrown into the deep end of the pool when you’re in your early twenties, albeit on a much smaller scale.
When my first book came out, I was sent on a bus tour, with two authors who had years more experience than I did. One of them even gently corrected me because I was mispronouncing my agency’s name. That was my level of naiveté. My first book signing was on a tuesday. On thursday, while we were signing books in a Golden Eagle store in Columbus, Ohio, my agent called to tell me I had made the USA Today Bestseller list. Meanwhile, I was twenty-six years old, crying myself to sleep in my hotel room because I was homesick for my boyfriend and my baby. That was in June of 2006. By September of that same year, I had a six-figure, four book contract. It was overwhelming.
But I had gone out and pursued that. That was my dream, to be a published author. Anna Todd didn’t go out and write a book. She wrote a fanfic, and she shared it as a fanfic, and then it blew up. While we can sit here and be like, “Oh yeah, sucks to be her,” all sarcastically, she is going to experience a level of success that people who write books on purpose have a difficult time dealing with. So, I sympathize with her.
Does this mean I think you’re a big old meany head if you write negative reviews? Of course not. It means that my personal feelings about this particular author make it impossible for me to separate her from her work, and therefore it would be pointless for me to continue my recaps, because I will always be holding back. That doesn’t mean I think all reviewers should hold back. That doesn’t mean I’ll never snark anything again. And it doesn’t mean I support problematic themes in books, or that I think After in its current form is an unimpeachable work of literary perfection. It just means that I, personally, am having a difficult time tearing apart something I can’t separate from the person who wrote it.
And let me reiterate, it feels yucky to me to focus on this particular book because of the editor who bought it. This person was my last editor at my old publisher. I received my last rejection from that company from him. At the time, I was in a very bad place in my life, and losing my foothold in traditional publishing was devastating. If I continued with these recaps, I would be constantly doubting myself, going, “Okay, are you mad at the state of publishing, or are you mad that your old editor is handing out P2P deals left and right?” When I started the recaps, I had no way of knowing that this development was going to pop up, but when it did, I had to reconsider whether or not I could trust myself to be objective.
I know that as a professional, I’m supposed to keep business business and personal personal. But I’m not perfect at that. And if I keep going forward pretending I am, I’m doing myself a disservice, because I’m never going to grow as a person if I’m not honest with myself.
I hope this makes my position a little more clear. I’m not joining the Be Nice brigade. I never will. But in this one case, I cannot keep my personal feelings separate from the project.