On slagging off other writers' books

Science fiction writer Michael Swanwick is a class act. His latest post, "On My Refusal To Mock My Brothers And Sisters," explains why he didn't give the name of the author when he remarked on social media that he'd had to put a book down and quit reading it. He eloquently makes the case that casually slagging other writers' work is bad form. I don't think he's saying that literary criticism and review are ugly, but rather why he doesn't go around warning people off of the books he didn't like.

I have a pretty similar approach to my reviews here on Boing Boing; the space of books that I don't think is worth reading is so large that there's no point trying to map it — especially since such a list is a lot less useful than a list of books that I do rate as the good stuff.

So why won't I mock them out and publicly humiliate them?

Because they fall into two camps.

The first consists of those who hopefully put their work before the public eye and got no or little response. If they have done anything wrong (and I am unconvinced they did), they have been punished well beyond their desert. Some of them deserve far better.

The second consists of those who published and profited richly. (You know — or think you do — who I'm talking about.). But what is their crime? They wrote novels that tens of thousands of people loved so much that they were willing to spend their hard earned money on them.

There are people within one block of me who have done worse.

Meanwhile, there are many writers whose first allegiance is to the word, who never gave a thought to popularity, and who know their chances of ever earning a decent living wage are small. Should I be outraged on their behalf?


On My Refusal To Mock My Brothers And Sisters

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