16 September 2013

Authors welcome. I have coffee. And beer.

Something interesting happened yesterday on Twitter. My Sunday feed is usually filled with semi drunken ramblings from sports fans and happy-place statements from people chilling on the couch. Then someone shared this, an article at Strange Horizons where the author says that he is uncomfortable with authors commenting on reviews of their work and with interactions with said authors. My timeline erupted into a flurry of posts about this. Go read it and be sure to check out the comments.

It seems that Ben Aaronovitch commented on a review over at The Book Smugglers, and some people took major offence. He then commented on the SH article as well and got slapped around a little bit in the comments. Now I do not know Ben and I haven't read any of his books, but he's an adult and can surely take some internet criticism. 

My gripe is with the feeling that authors should not comment on reviews posted by bloggers. 

I started this blog as a place to post what I thought about the books I've read, to post some thoughts on the genre I love and to interact with the fans and the creators of said genre. My twitter timeline is 80% book related and I waste a lot of time on there. If an author comments on a review I did or tweet their thanks for said review, I appreciate it immensely. An author whose work I liked took a little time to read my thoughts and replied on said thoughts? Absolutely brilliant in my book. 

If an author disagrees with a review and decide to flame me on my blog or on social media, I'll be sure to tell the people who follow me that someone just had a brain fart and committed social media suicide. There are limits to interaction of course and it goes both ways. A civil discussion with valid points is helpful. If an author points out a factual mistake in my review or clarifies a part I might have interpreted differently, that generates debate about the intentions and meanings behind his story and helps to understand the book better. I won't change my interpretation, since I am entitled to my opinion, but it must be helpful to the author to see how different people interprets their work and a lively debate is constructive to all parties.

My favorite forum is Fantasy Faction. I like it there because there are loads of authors online talking about their work when asked and they punt books they like. They discuss their writing processes and they are integral members of the site. The inclusive feeling there is great. You can pick their brains whenever you want and all of them are open and friendly. 

Owners of blogs are 100% entitled to decide how they want their blogs used. They can disable comments, post a list of rules on posting on their reviews, interact with fans in their comments section and delete whatever they want. That's fine. Free speech and all that. It's your space, you can do whatever you want.

I do disagree that the industry standard should be that no author must comment. Ever. That the writers must write their books and then go start the next one and leave the blogs and forums alone to dissect their work in private. That it's bad form for the creator to interact with fans outside of conventions and signing events. That authors should please post guest blogs, interviews etc when asked, and then shut up and go away. That if any author dares post a comment on their own work anywhere online, the blogger and others should explode into righteous indignation. That this is normal.

I'm not going to post rules. Be civil and I'm happy. I'm not going to post a badge to say everybody can comment. That's implied. If I'm ever lucky enough to meet some of my favorite authors, I'd like to buy them a drink or twelve and chat a bit about their work. Since the chances aren't that big seeing as most are in Europe and USA, I can at least interact with them on here and on social media. The more the merrier. 


  1. I think someone mentioned that bloggers might want to put a comment on the front page of their blog stating whether or not they allow/welcome author comments. How effective that will be, I dunno, but I guess it's a start.

    I have to work to see myself as an "author", because I don't default see myself that way. It's not the first or sole thing that defines me, so suddenly realising that I am numero uno persona non grata feels weirdly odd. I mean, I get *why* people don't want authors commenting, but yeah. It's a disconnect for me.

    The one line of thinking that has always felt flawed to me is the idea that if an author comments, then the place is no longer a "safe" place to critique the work. Um...your (generic your) blog is on the internet - whether or not the author makes a comment, they can (and do) read. It's not like there's a magic shade drawn over the post that evaporates only when the author comments.

    Like I said on my own blog, I really feel like both "sides" of this square-off need to keep reminding themselves that they are not dealing with a faceless entity, and keep things civil and human.

    1. I feel that if you do not welcome author comments, make a badge to say so. It shouldn't be needed to say that you allow them, since I feel the majority of sites would like author comments. Hopefully people calm down some time soon.