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.



    Seriously though, everyone can feel however they want, just don't be a dick about it. It's that simple. Also, I will send cookies filled with chocolate and gratitude to whoever writes me a Harry Potter/Narnia crossover.

  2. Thanks for this. That's why God invented fanfiction :)

  3. Great post!

    I'll admit I was plenty heartbroken and yes even a bit angry at JKR after the last HP book came out but I would never threaten physical violence. People who do that lack a whole lot of class.I am still ticked off that people are running their mouths about Allegiant spoilers all over Twitter and not everyone has even been able to read it yet.

  4. I am very sad because I stumbled upon the Allegiant spoiler. I will still read the book (of course) but I wonder if it'll change the experience knowing what happens. I guess I will never know. I agree with this post 100%.

    My Friends Are Fiction

  5. I complete agree with all of this. I don't understand why this is so hard for people to get! UGH. Thank you.

  6. Love this piece for the word 'douchenugget', let alone anything else. I'll be shamelessly pilfering that one.

  7. I'm glad you called attention to Big Time Author #1's tweets, as I did not like them at all. I think I understand where said author was coming from, but you get in trouble when you post things like that on the interwebz. Like, who is said author to say the right way to read a book?

  8. Of course. It was so quiet and nice for a while, there had to come a new drama. I completely agree with everything you said.

  9. There's a right way to read a book? Where do people come up with this stuff? I also don't understand why some readers get so upset about endings and whatnot. Yes, there will always be disappointments but people have to remember that BOOKS AREN'T TAILORED SPECIFICALLY TO THEIR LIKINGS. *Sigh* Yes, you are right; we need to kick that drama llama HARD.

  10. I completely agree with this. Your short answers are basically my own short answers to these questions.

    I myself have read plenty of endings that I did not like at all, but threatening an author is something that would never even enter my mind. I actually do not understand what those persons are trying to achieve. Make Roth rewrite the book? We all know that's never going to happen, as the book's already out and there would be confusion and gah. Otherwise, what do they expect? An apology? "Sorry I wrote a book"? "Sorry I wrote the book the wrong way"? There's no wrong way to write a book, just as there is no wrong way to read a book. It's Roth's book, those were her characters, and she has the right to end her book any way she wanted to. And of course, the readers and fans can review the book, hate it as much as they want. That's their right, so long as they - as you said- don't bash the author. But threats? That's fifty steps too far. If a book gives you feelings, great! If it makes you cry, great! If it makes you murderous, that's fine as well, but for God's sake, don't do anything with it. Just be ragey and maybe write a ragey review. That's it. Stop there. I honestly cannot understand what kind of person would even want to end the life of an author.

    Like you said, if you're not happy with the ending, write a fanfiction! Pretend that plot twist never happened at all! Just... Please, don't do anything like threaten an author.

    *exhales* Whoops, I think that was a bit ranty. I just meant to say that I completely agree with you!

  11. OMG.

    I did not check Twitter this entire week because I was lil caught up in work so I did not see any spoilers. But now I'm TOTALLY freaking out-Someone dies right? Shit. O.o

    I can understand a lil' rage but threatening authors? -_-

    P.S.-I'm gonna stay the heck away from my Twitter feed!

  12. No threatening of anyone unless they took your food. Okay? Like, if they didn't steal your shit, leave them alone. Maybe, if you get so angry about books not ending the way you want that you feel like going to kill the author, you should not read books. I'm usually a proponent of reading, but that's too much. Or maybe you should get books from the library, so you're not angry about the money you wasted.

    "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" <- SO THIS IS WHAT YOUR NANO IS ABOUT.

    Everyone has emotional bias, particularly authors I find. There's a reason that most readers don't trust author blurbs: they're biased. So don't blame us for having our own set of biases when we read.


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