Yesterday on one of the longest megabus rides from NY to Annapolis ever, I stumbled on this really interesting interview with Maggie Stiefvater and Cassandra Clare talking about being “dehumanized” by their fandoms online. Then last night my twitter feed blew up with tweets defending John Green. Defend against what (?) and what happened (?) were two questions running through my brain. Apparently, someone started a vicious and unfounded internet rumor about Green (which elicited a response from him saying he might withdraw from using tumblr in the same way moving forward … but then a post this morning thanking people for so much support). I’m sure no one really needs my defense or thoughts on the situation. Especially, because so many great things have been written by people like Libba Bray, Holly Black, Hank Green, and Maggie Stiefvater. Still, this morning I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I’ve been really attracted to the YA community and problems with Internet hate.
I think that it’s really easy to feel like *well, if you want to be a famous author then you are opening yourself up to these kinds of thing and you should just ignore it*. I mean Stiefvater, Clare, and Green have all been incredibly successful doing the thing so many of us want to do: write books. That’s the dream, right? It’s hard to feel sorry for them, especially when you are someone who wants what they have so badly.
But…. that is a dangerous line of thinking, based more on jealousy than common sense. I would never, never think that a successful lawyer or politician or engineer (any job really) that they should put up with bullying or sexual harassment because they were lucky enough to be successful within their chosen field. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE TREATED THIS WAY. Online or off-line.
Growing up my grandfather told be again and again and again that a rising tide lifts all boats.One book doing well literally pays for the advance of other books (I mean just think of how many books have been financed through profits on TFiOS or even Fifty Shades). Also, as I saw time and time again working with students, kids liking one book means they are way more likely to keep reading and find/buy/talk about lots of different authors. One of the things I’ve been drawn to YA writing is the acceptance of this adage within the community. In fact, I heard Sarah Dessen say the exact same saying at BookCon two weeks ago. Authors seem genuinely happy for each other’s success and supportive of each other – and also supportive of creating movements like We Need Diverse Books to create necessary change within the industry.
It was disheartening yesterday to get a reminder that there is also a dark side to the accessibility of the community.
I know that “keep YA kind” is a kind of controversial statement. It’s a hashtag that arose after attacks on author Andrew Smith appeared online when he gave an interview talking about why he found writing male characters easier than writing female characters.
I didn’t write my feelings about the incident at the time, but I will say now that I think spending your time talking about things you hate is a much lonelier and sadder life than a life spent talking about things you love. Disliking something someone makes doesn’t give you the right to attack them personally. Just like writing a bad review of a book, doesn’t give an author the right to attack you personally (read about that happening recently here … another thing that occupied me during my bus journey yesterday).
I do think there are kind ways to disagree, express dislike, or enact change. That is undeniably a pretty privileged perspective and I’m fully prepared for someone to change my mind. But I think most of us can agree that spewing lies and hate at individuals in ways like this make no sense. But please, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to know what you think and if you think this is a new problem because of social media or if we are just becoming more aware of it now.