The other day, I wrote on here about the 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards through Tor, and how there has been major backlash against independent writers for openly requesting their readers vote for them, to the point of accusations of impropriety. Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that the backlash had spread to another website, where several “professional” writers were openly and viciously denigrating a close friend of mine, insulting everything from his prose style to his professionalism to his ethics. It took a considerable amount of restraint on my part to restrain from joining that thread and defending my friend, but I recognize that no good could come from arguing with elitist fools in their arena.
So I’ll post my thoughts on the subject in mine.
Reading their comments took me back to graduate school and reminded me of why I had such a terrible experience there. In the name of defending the gates of the literary world, these so-called professionals publicly and truculently assaulted not just his writing but his very character, all without knowing anything about his works or him as a human being. That was what I witnessed and experienced throughout graduate school, a level of pettiness and vindictiveness that is truly sickening. Anyone who claims to know “the right way to write” is completely full of shit. In literature, the only right way to write is what appeals to your audience. If enough people enjoy your writing style, you get to keep doing it. If enough don’t, you fade into oblivion.
And here’s my biggest problem with those particular literary snobs. Yes, on a technical sense, they may be talented writers, but most of the writing they produce is geared to impress other writers with their skill and style, not to reach a broad cross-section of society. Then, those writers complain about how dumb the masses are for not “getting” their work. Whenever someone comes along who does appeal to the masses, those same jackasses rip into the populist writers for not being as technically skilled as they are. I’ll admit that to some degree I’ve had that reaction to a work like Twilight because I see it as superficial, but guess what? I’m not the target audience for that series, and Stephanie Meyer has tapped into her audience in a way that engages them on a deeply emotional level. While I may disagree with her themes, I recognize and respect that she knows how to reach them.
The literary snobs would have you believe that they and they alone know what “good” writing really is, and that the masses are just mindless hordes feeding on bubble gum. Well, I say that when a writer such as John Grisham or Stephen King can engage millions of readers and keep them riveted through several hundred pages of a book in a time when TV and movies are a much easier and convenient option, maybe, just maybe, populist writers know something about writing the snobs don’t. And that something is first and foremost, fiction writing always has been and always will be about entertainment, and there is a vast audience out there starved for good literary entertainment. A good story isn’t always about having perfect POV or a perfectly stylized narrative voice. A good story is about touching people’s lives in a real and tangible way that makes them want to read more, about giving them either an escape from the drudgery of their daily lives or hope that maybe one day good will triumph over evil.
And one more point about this contest and the backlash against the independents. It’s called Readers’ Choice not Writers’ Choice for a reason, so to anyone and everyone out there who believes that an independent writer doesn’t deserve consideration, maybe you should take a long, hard look at your own career and ask yourselves why you don’t have an energized and enthusiastic fanbase that will take the time to vote for your literary masterpieces. When the Writers’ Choice Awards are being voted on, then you can have your say, but until then, shut the fuck up and listen to what real readers in the real world are saying. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll learn something.