Thursday, October 24, 2013
Do Authors Owe Readers Anything?
In my opinion? Short answer: no, except to not attack readers for their opinions on how they read. Do readers owe authors anything? No, except to not attack authors for the things they write.
I think all of this should be pretty simple, but apparently it isn't.
This morning, the drama llama ran rampant through the Twittersphere over a certain tiny, never-heard-of book called Allegiant by Veronica Roth that made no ripple whatsoever in the reading universe. I will be discussing the reactions to this book's ending, but I will NOT post spoilers, and please DO NOT post them in the comments, or the drama llama will eat your face. And you like your face, yes? Yes. Anyway, it's no secret that the ending is controversial. Though the book's only been out two days, already sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Twitter are blowing up with opinions both negative and positive, though mostly negative. Some feel ripped off by the ending. Some are just devastated. Some, of course, are taking things entirely too far and threatening the author with physical violence.
But we all know that that is entirely inappropriate, right? Right??? We all went to Kindergarten and leaned to use our words and that violence isn't the answer and kumbaya, my lord? Oh. Apparently not. Well done, humanity.
Threatening authors? BAD. BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD. But you know what I don't think is bad at all? Readerly anger. You totally have to right to feel whatever you like about a book. You are allowed to have whatever expectations you have, because you can't really help those. And an author has the right to write their own books however they damn well please. Both spheres should respect each other, and big time authors should be careful about saying things implying that a lot of people read books wrong. Seriously, big time authors.
Related: The Absolute Terror of the Final Book in the Series
There's no wrong way to read a book, and there's no wrong way to write a book. The only wrong thing to do is to be a douchenugget about it. Readers have NO obligation to a book or author to read the book the way the author intended. If I want to read a book as escapist, or literary, or entirely because the romantic lead is attractive, I have that right. I do NOT have the right to yell at the author or threaten them when the book doesn't go my way. I have the right to get mineself to the ficmobile and write the ending I want ("and after Harry turned Voldemort into a fluffy bunny, he and Ginny and Draco linked arms and stepped through the wardrobe to Narnia, where they started a free love commune in which all the Houses were abolished").
Related: BookRiot's article on reading and series superfans. WARNING: HEAVY ALLEGIANT SPOILERS
I have the right to review a book through whichever lens I please with whatever emotional bias I have--so long as I don't author bash and I don't thrust the negative review under an author's nose. Honestly, it's impossible to remove personal expectations from a reading experience, because they're in you. You have expectations, and when they're thwarted, it's hard to deal. But just because the author is successful does not mean she owes her superfans anything, and the superfans don't owe the author unconditional love, either.
Related: Brutal Endings to Series and Why They Are the Best
Now let's all hold hands and sing some kumbaya and kick that drama llama in the teeth. BEGONE, DRAMA LLAMA!
Dag nabbit, drama llama.