Blacklisting: a list of persons who are disapproved of or are to be punished or boycotted- Merriam-Webster online dictionary
There has been, in the reading community, a big controversy over, what some people consider, blacklisting. This is in regards to the placement of books, by readers, on a Do Not Read shelf – for whatever reason that reader feels justifies the act. I’ve seen both sides of the argument discussed eloquently and oftentimes felt conflicted over whether to keep and maintain my own Do Not Read list.
Then I rolled that confliction up into a little ball, blew some mystical smoke up that ball’s ass and followed it around the internet until it found this for me:
Blacklisting has a lot of negative connotations surrounding it. A simple google search will show the blacklisting of Hollywood scriptwriters and associates for suspected communist ties. The fight to stop the American government from blacklisting internet sites (Australia already does this, unfortunately) is rightfully virulent and vocal. Real Estate appraisers were blacklisted for not giving inflated prices at a bank’s request – these are all bad things!
My goodness?! Does that mean *I’m* doing a bad thing?
Blacklisting has significant effects on those blacklisted. It affects their ability to work, their livelihood – it tries to interfere with what services those people receive (credit or tenancy) or who they can associate with (usually other industry professionals, or being blacklisted from restaurants etc). A perfect example is Redner Games threatening to blacklist reviewers who had given Duke Nukem a bad review!
The blacklisted Hollywood professionals and the internet sites reek of unfairness, prejudice and a deliberate attempt to curtail individualism and freedoms. But is all blacklisting bad? For example, people who can not control their finances are blacklisted from credit to protect themselves and companies from financial ruin.
So is shelving books Do Not Read blacklisting? Are Goodreaders behaving badly, and purposely alienating and trying to harm people?
Some say, yes. There’s no difference between negative shelving and a concerted attempt to attack authors and curb their behaviour.
But I think there’s a couple of crucial differences between blacklisting and I wish to express that difference through the powers of interpretive dance! ROBOT DANCE!
I really don’t know how I can make this any clearer.
The Goodreads shelf is not an evil faceless corporation (represented by the masked, anonymous man dancing in a g-string). It is CONSUMERS. Using the only fucking power consumers have to say, “Hey! If you are a jack ass to me – I won’t want to read your books!” We’re the tiny robot at the throes of someone with a remote control! We don’t have any other power except to express our displeasure in our tiny little corner of the internet. See the hate and shame on that robot’s face? LOOK AT IT!!!
What kind of nefarious schemes are people thinking is behind the Do Not Read (and other derivatives) shelf? Do you think we have monthly meetings? We send out fliers? We coordinate and picket shops selling your books?
Look, and I hate to say this because it seems this was obviously a secret. But for a long time now, if an author behaved like a dick publicly enough – people ALL ON THEIR OWN and without conferring with each other – would decide not to buy their books. This is not a new concept. This is the price of being a dick in public, which is insanely easy to do on the internet and some people need to adjust to the way that medium changes the publishing game. For saying what I say and how I say it, there are people who do not provide ARCs to me. I have my little whines, I do my own “Y u no give me arcs?” and then I move the fuck on with my life! Because that’s how it works! This is not like a game provider not providing future games to people who post negative reviews, by the way – because that’s wrong and an organized effort to stamp out free expression of a product. But if individual publishers think my dickish behaviour is not right for their book, they’re under no contractual obligation to provide me with ARCs as much as I am under no contractual obligation to not fill up my reviews with poor-taste dick jokes and pictures of half naked men.
Conversely, some people like reviews filled with poor-taste dick jokes and half naked men and those people are Karsten Knight and other authors who realize that when Stephanie and I love a book, we promote the hell out of it and we’re actually pretty good at doing that.
I should probably relate the story behind my own Do Not Read list.
I created a Do Not Read list mid last year to remember authors who had been particularly malicious to reviewers. I had originally kept it as a private file on my computer, but this was problematic.
For starters I have a notoriously bad memory. Leaving notes for myself is often not effective at all unless they’re pathetically explicit. I’ve gotten in the habit of ignoring notes from my past self asking me to seek retribution for vague crimes I can’t remember. Mr Kennedy was sick of being inexplicably round-house kicked to the head with no reassurance that the crime was worth that fourth concussion.
Forgetting I even had a database and who was on it, I found myself adding books on Goodreads by authors I didn’t want to read – or mixing those authors up with other authors and plotting my devious revenge on the wrong people. Frankly, I shouldn’t have to refer to a word document every time I want to add a book to my to-read shelf. At least with the list on Goodreads, if I went to add a book to my to-read shelf, I could see that it was already on my do-not-read shelf and decide whether to keep it there or take it off and read it.
The problem was, some people would occasionally comment on a book in my list and ask what the author had done to deserve a place. With so many acting up, I simply didn’t remember them all and if I did remember their name, I didn’t necessarily remember what they did. And if I did remember their type of offense, finding the information for other people asking for an explanation (and links/proof) becomes impossible. You can see the moment here, where I realized the system was still failing and that maybe innocent authors were ending up on my list or bad authors were escaping it.
So this is how my list goes now. If I see an author mistreating reviewers or raging against them or trying to temper reviewer’s confidence in being able to express themselves, then I put them on the list. Then I put the links so that I know what happened and why and so that, one day, I might take them off the list if I change my mind – which has happened, by the way.
Because unlike an organization that has the power to amass resources to pick on the little guy and ruin their life or subvert their ability to make an income – all I can do is add a little book to a little list. In the vast majority of cases, it is successful authors – people who most likely won’t really feel the financial pressure, and who have access to a fanbase most of us couldn’t dream of, who are picking on the little guys. They use intimidation tactics or they get their friends to help or their fans to erode the reviewers confidence. And if that reviewer is new and there’s nobody to stick up for them then this is incredibly, overwhelmingly intimidating.
There is no organization or planned attack, or greater plan via the Goodreads shelf. There is simply consumers shelving their books to keep track of them, as they’ve always done. Is my Absolute Favourites shelf under attack? Or my Beyond Awesome shelf a problem? It’s how I, and many other Goodreaders organize our books. Not an attack. I do not tell people what authors to read or not read. My intention is not to attack authors, but to remember and determine which authors will receive my money and time.
But that’s not for all, and sometimes as Book Riot says, there’s benefit to reading books by authors who are jerks – and I absolutely agree. Mark Twain is by no means my favourite historical person, and yet, I would read his works. Stiefvater’s blogposts diminishing the role of online reviewers certainly raises my ire and despite once personally attacking a good friend of mine, she has never made my Do Not Read list. It’s an entirely personal thing and I believe consumers have the right to publicly state who they will, and will not read.
Whilst it must be uncomfortable for authors to see a mass of consumers place their books on Do Not Read shelf, they are by no means powerless or defenseless and in the end, that shouldn’t stop them from doing what they do – they simply shouldn’t expect everyone to like it. I don’t expect everyone to like my work. I don’t bother people talking about me on their blogs – but when they come to my personal space to attack me, I take issue with that. And when they send fans after reviewers who are basically defenseless and with a limited online friend network – then I want to take a stand against that as an individual.
But really, this is one of those issues that really SHOULDN’T be an issue. Protecting an environment of free speech is an issue. Fair and safe spaces for Goodreaders to express their thoughts is an issue. Finding ways to kidnap David Tennant and force him to return to Doctor Who IS AN ISSUE. If people can’t recognize a marked difference between organizations forming a strategic attack to cripple and force individuals to comply, and consumers shelving a book for personal reference then we stand at vast, opposing sides of this discourse and have absolutely no way of beginning to address some of the bigger problems in the Author/Reviewer community.
But surely, SURELY we can all agree…
That David Tennat was a fantastic Doctor Who