In the House of Goodreads

So while I was in the edit cave on Stormdancer 2 last week, there was a great deal of sound and fury over on Goodreads. If you didn’t get caught up in the spectacle, you’re probably better off for it. Short version: a negative review was posted (which happens all the time and should be no big deal), an agent-mate of the author in question (not the author herself, who handled it all with aplomb) stepped up to defend the work, the whole thing turned ugly, literary agents deleted their GR accounts and folks who enjoy drama (and honestly, we all love it a bit) got their quota for the day.
Veronica Roth wrote a very thoughtful and well-considered post about the feelings/circumstances behind this incident (and the many like it) over at YA Highway. I’ve no doubt that the author in question probably went into that reviewer’s space with good intentions (to defend his friend) and had no idea what a shitstorm he’d create. The real pity is some lovely people who I have all the time in the world for inadvertently got caught in the blastwave, although thankfully, they seem to have avoided the fallout.
Essentially, I think it comes down to this: We create spaces in the online universes. They exist in the public realm, but they’re ours. Everyone is better off when that property line is respected.
This blog is mine, to do with as I see fit: a little online house which I’ve built. I tend the garden, I paint the walls. It’s my place, but you can see through the windows, should you choose to look. And therein lies the rub: no-one is forcing you to look at all. You can ignore everything I do and say with relative ease, whether it be on Goodreads or Facebook or the other, far-more-hideously nerdy online places I hang out.
If I choose to wander around inside my house with no pants on, necking green ginger wine from a brown paper bag, so be it. You don’t have to like it. But again, you don’t have to watch it, either. Regardless, it’s probably not the best policy to come into my house (or Goodreads page, or Facebook or whatever) and tell me I’m doing it wrong. If you don’t like what I’m doing – that’s totally cool. Not everyone wants to see me with no pants on, I understand that. But the solution to this problem (as opposed to the hellish flame-war that would result from criticizing my conduct in my own pad) is really, really simple: Don’t look into my house. Walk the fuck away.
Even if you don’t like it. Even if you think what I’m doing is stupid. The best possible case scenario is that yes, what I’m doing IS stupid. But you still look like a bit of a jerk telling me off about it, since I’m doing it in my own frackin’ house. Worse case scenario? Witnesses to our inevitable flaming collision think I’m perfectly entitled to be wandering around my house with no pants on, and you come off like some kind of radiation-spawned, Tokyo-devouring Douchezilla for chastising me about it. Leave me to my pantslessness. Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, it really means nothing at all. If I’m out of line, people can and will judge that for themselves. Put the keyboard down and walk the fuck away.
There are no victories in the excrement-fouled halls of internet ‘debate’. Everyone winds up wearing shit – it’s simply a matter of degrees . Or, to put it in pictorial form:

29 Responses to “In the House of Goodreads”

  1. Zoraida (@zlikeinzorro) says:

    “Not everyone wants to see me with no pants on, I understand that.” :X 😉

  2. Tygenco says:

    I can honestly say that while I do have a tendency to vent about things in my LJ, I make it very clear that it’s my opinion, and no one has to agree with me–but I would like for them to at least respect the fact that my opinion is mine, as I do for others.
    People who solely indulge in flexing keyboard muscles remind me of a six year old pushing pretty coloured buttons.

    • It pretty much comes down to that imo – respect. And like I say, I’m SURE the author in question started in with the best of intentions. It honestly (initially) just seemed like a gent stepping in to defend his friend’s work. But, as with most internet conflicts, it quickly devolved and became something far messier.
      Something with tentacles.

  3. Debra D. says:

    Douchezilla is my new favorite word….

  4. Serena says:

    Oh my GOD this is one of my favourite blog posts ever. You’re so right. I didn’t see all of the drama, but I heard about it through the drama waves. I think people forget sometimes that there are really people on the other sides of their screens, and they behave in ways that they never would in public.
    Bitches be crazy?

    • Thing is, Goodreads is most definitely a public space. Worse, that shit is permanent. You fuck up down at the pub, people might talk about it the next day, but there no lingering evidence of your douchery. That GR thread will remain until GR stops. Some of the grudges spawned as a result of it will also linger, as will the black mark against that author’s name.
      Hard lesson to learn. These waters, they be filled to the brim with sharks.

  5. OMG! The word’s OUT, LOOP, OF and THE apply here. Also the word’s….I, AM and SOOOOO.
    The person in charge of checking Goodread’s analytics are going to find a string with the phrase, Goodread’s drama negative review knickers in a twist.
    Gah!! That makes me the poster child for Nosey Neighbour’s, I suspect.

  6. Raye says:

    okay.. it’s official… YOU ROCK! Seriously… well said and I love the cartoon… I have a message board for a group and the number of times that level 5 has been wallowed in by people that 1) had no stake in the issue or 2) didn’t READ the whole post and actually try to comprehend it… well, if I had a penny… Donald Trump would be picking up my dirty clothes i’d be so rich 😀 Love the humor… can’t wait to read your book…:D

    • When things go bad, they tend get worse very quickly. I guess that’s the price we pay for this wonderful internet thing – we can have these great, instant conversations, but tone and subtext and all the real nuance of actually talking tend to get lost. Plus, the ability to reply RIGHT NOW, when you’re upset/angry/vomiting bile leads to kneejerk reactionary posts that tend to make things worse.
      Thanks so much! I can’t wait for you to read it either 😀

  7. abigailcash says:

    It seems to me like the more people create their own spaces online, the more the verbal filter seems to disappear. The Internet gives us free reign to behave badly without any (seeming) consequences. The end result is much more complicated, and ends up hurting feelings and delivering permanent black marks to online and “real life” reputations, as in the case of the authors involved in the Goodreads hubbub. While I totally agree with your “you don’t have to look” philosophy, I also think we need to get back to some basic civility on the web. I tend to ask myself if I would say what I am about to post to someone’s face before I hit the post button. Great post!

    • Yeah, I totally agree with you – the decline in general civility on the web is pretty startling. Thing is, GR is an absolute utopia compared to some other online hives of scum and villainy. Try spending 10 minutes on Xbox Live in general chat and you’ll know true, soul destroying despair.
      However, when people behave badly online, there does seem to be a semi-self-correcting mechanism in place, at least when that behavior isn’t anonymous. In a place like Goodreads, reviews are tagged by the person who write them. If, for whatever reason, you feel a reviewer is out of line (and for the record, in this particular instance, the reviewer imho did absolutely nothing wrong – she didn’t like a book, that’s not a stoning offense), you simply unfollow/block/ignore them. If they get enough people offside, their words carry zero weight.
      I question the wisdom of EVER engaging a negative reviewer on their own GR review. Like, literally, I can see NO GOOD COMING of it. Ever. But maybe that’s just me.
      Thanks so much for visiting 😀

  8. Loved reading this! And this: “We create spaces in the online universes. They exist in the public realm, but they’re ours. Everyone is better off when that property line is respected.”
    That is so true! If only more people realized this. If you don’t like the opinion of someone else, I say move on to someones opinion you DO like! And that cartoon was hilarious! So happy I found your blog… I shall be back to visit thee 🙂

  9. Julia S. says:

    YESSSSSS!!!!!!! I never, ever respond or give time to internet drama – though I see a lot of it. But I had to leave a comment here. This is the best post ever addressing it and this is my sentiment exactly.
    Thank you for putting it so elegantly. Perfectly executed! 🙂 I’m going to be creeping all over your blog house from now on. haha.

  10. Petra says:

    Situations like these seem to be occurring more and more. I don’t always agree with everybody’s opinion, but unless I can articulate it in a way that it comes across as just my views and not me bullying them, I just close the tab and move on. People attack people for attacking somebody else, not realizes that by doing so they stoop to the same level.
    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
    – Friedrich Nietzsche

    • I think it’s occurring more often because the channels of communication are becoming more numerous, and people somehow seem to forget that, no matter what the arena/medium/venue, the same basic rules apply. But the relationship between critics and creators has always been fiery, it’s just that now we have an immediate response mechanism. If you write an angry letter to an editor or whatever, you have the time it takes to walk to the post office, buy a stamp, out in the fresh air, birds singing, etc, to chill the frack out. Now, all you need to do is hit ‘send’ and the damage is done.
      The Nietzsche quote sums it up perfectly, although if I tried to write something like that, I’d probably have used more profanity. Guess that’s why he’s him and I’m… me 😛

      • Petra says:

        An “intensifier” or two (what I call profanity because it’s a way of using exclamation points without the need to raise your voice) would give the quote an extra kick 🙂

  11. Firstly, I do agree with the “walk the fuck away” line. But you know me I can’t resist….
    I won’t talk about how people can be downright rude on the internet because I think that Serena, AbigailCash and yourself have covered that base quite well.
    But I do want to talk about you and your obsession with pants (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, your online house IS a public space in the eyes of the law. What you say on your blog/goodreads/facebook/etc. can be used against you in court. Just the other day a guy in Victoria lost their job over a facebook post. Marieke Hardy had to pay out $13,000 for incorrectly naming an individual on her blog she thought was responsible for some poisonous blog posts about her. Ironically real individual is able to hide behind their anonimity. Check out the link below, the backend of the article contains some interesting reading on legal issues.
    So you may like walking around with no pants but just remember not to take off you underwear or the cops may just arrest you in Fed Square!

  12. Gina Rosati says:

    Considering I’m only 5’1″ and probably no taller than your belly button, I’d appreciate that. 🙂 Great post!!

  13. […] – Jay Kristoff responds to the Goodreads debacle […]

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