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Author Topic: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter  (Read 2036 times)

Offline Lady Ty

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The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« on: August 08, 2017, 01:59:41 AM »
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“an intoxicating tale of rebellion and star-crossed romance,” “a massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more,” and “an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”

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“...is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry. “It was ultimately written for white people. It was written for the type of white person who considers themselves to be not-racist and thinks that they deserve recognition and praise for treating POC like they are actually human."

Yeah... nah. Same book

This article The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter is in some ways related to the thread on Talent @tebakutis began and which has kept me entertained for days. Go, you good guys, Nora, Lanko, Peat, Not Liu  and all who have written so well. That thread got rather complicated with off shoots and this is not directly relevant, so am bringing this to your attention separately. It is a recent example of much that was mentioned about Twilight and Shades.

I am a daily user of Twitter as it is my major source of international news, and comment on politics and social issues.  And a few SFF threads.  ;) I Block or Mute followers who are there for ads, social chitchat or trolling.  I do not want this to turn into a condemnation of Twitter itself as it is entirely up to each user how they use and control it. But this is easy for me as I am not interacting with the public directly in any way, unlike a writer.

When an author is deliberately and viciously attacked in this way by a rabid critic and a cruel campaign follows it is bringing home how easily legitimate things can go wrong. I am not surprised by this happening because there are opinion writers in the world who thrive on public hate. UK has a Katie Hopkins, AU has several vicious journos, and teenagers and YA are impressionable and easily drawn into a mob mind, but it doesn't stop with there. This is an example of social media at its worst. In this instance it seems to be a deliberate case of corrupting a genuine concern for diversity into a contrived 'virtue signalling' witch hunt by deliberately misreading a fantasy world. I have not read The Black Witch and cannot comment on it, again not the point of this post.

All SM can be insidious, manipulative and difficult to control. You cannot ignore it because it is not going away.  It is affecting the way many people think and act. It is exacerbated by the attitudes prevalent whereby free speech is allowed to make hate speech acceptable and everyone now has a platform to voice an opinion. Bad news for writers who are easy targets.

« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 02:06:05 AM by Lady_Ty »
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2017, 02:17:31 AM »
Social media... it's a great platform for unlimited, unrestrained hate speech these days. Anyone could use it while remaining anonymouse and safe in the seclusion of their own homes. I'm not certain if this is relevant, but law language is sure complicated:

"In considering the public interest questions set out in paragraph 4.12 of the Code, prosecutors should have particular regard to paragraph 4.12(c) and the question asked about the circumstances of and harm caused to the victim, where the communication is targeted at a particular person. If there is clear evidence of an intention to cause distress or anxiety, prosecutors should carefully weigh the effect on the victim, particularly where:
There is a hate crime element to the communication(s): see the section on Hate crime below.
The victim was at the time a person serving the public.
There are coordinated attacks by different people or there is a campaign of abuse or harassment against the victim, sometimes referred to as "virtual mobbing".
The victim is targeted in response to the victim reporting a separate criminal offence.
A person convicted of a crime subsequently contacts the victim of that crime, or their friends or family.
The offence is repeated."

I sure wish what was done was some sort of law breachment, then the author could ring up the lawyer and at least threaten to sue those haters.  >:(


Whoops. I often got overly heated with these kind of situations, I should excuse myself from this discussion from now on.

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2017, 03:10:26 AM »
Inks, I agree that it seems to need some way to kerb the malice, and Twitter allows reporting of outright hate or violence, but would be useless in this kind of anti-campaign. To bring in more legislation you begin to get dangerously close to the realm of authoritarian control and access to personal internet data, which is a real and present danger, to steal a phrase.

Legislation about issues of free speech is extremely complex, subjective and almost impossible to frame in order not to actually trespass on genuine rights of expression and opinion.

If you read right through the article there are indications that there is resistance to this, although it is sad that some publishers are wary about writers even embracing diversity themes. This also touches on another vexed question of cultural appropriation extremes, whereby some people object to anyone writing about a person of colour or their culture unless they actually are a POC.

Not sure how this can apply in Fantasy. How do you feel about this, all you Werewolves, Elves and Dragon  Lords among us? Are you being grossly misrepresented in our writers' efforts to present you as characters ?

After writing the post I went to check out Goodreads and was quite heartened to see plenty of good opinions and balanced reviews for the book, as well as several biased ones from people who had not read the book, as the article mentioned. Robin Hobb actually gave it a GR 4 star ARC review and got some nasty comments. ::)

Sigh.......... YA and romance is not really my choice of reading, but reckon this will have to go on TBR now. ;D
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Online Peat

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2017, 03:13:24 AM »
At the risk of dragging this thread straight to Politics thread territory, it is actions like these that gives anti-Progressive cultures so much fertile ground to grow in. Both by scaring off potential allies, and in providing perfect propaganda with their ma-hossive anger and blatantly uncivilised tactics.

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2017, 03:30:44 AM »
@Peat, I couldn't agree with you more, but if we pursue that context it definitely needs to be in the Politics thread, but that wasn't how I meant to discuss it.

Did wonder about the Politics thread the moment I mentioned POC, but that was an example of extreme judgment and extrapolates to writing about any kind of diversity. We are not zooming in on any country or their particular attitudes, but when politicised social issues of any kind affects writers it deserves general discussion. This is more a different look at writing about diversity and locks in with the Disabled thread whilst widening the scope.

 I would love to hear what others here think about how various restrictions or concerns are likely to affect their writing* and if we comment respectfully I hope no one will get antsy.

*And choice of reading.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 03:38:56 AM by Lady_Ty »
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline Rostum

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2017, 04:15:36 AM »
OK, not on twitter, not read the book not going to do either. When anyone writes 9000 words in an attack review assume they are at least a little unhinged. When anyone is attacked at length and race is bought into it I am immediately going to dig deeper and look for motives. Do not stand for or support personal attacks on anyone and the world will be a better place.

Sorry not going to be offended by a title,and not going to pander to anyone who feels black is an inappropriate word and not going to support their idiocy. The association of English words with black has nothing to do with skin colour and the words precede the slave trade.

The book may be everything it is accused of but more likely the reviewer is of a mindset that is unstable, and has little basis in reality. Such people can be very clever manipulative and seem to find support from the gullible and provided with enough attention do real damage. If the book offends do not buy it and do not read it.

 My daughter was less than delighted to be told that ba ba black sheep was a bad rhyme and her nursery was now going to sing ba ba rainbow sheep and maintained that there were no rainbow sheep but a fair number of black and grey ones, but what does a 3 year old know compared to adults determined not to cause offence.

Offline tebakutis

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Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2017, 04:42:05 AM »
I read this article earlier today and found it both interesting and disturbing. As Lady_Ty mentioned, it does sort of relate to the "Internet piling on" I mentioned in regards to books hitting it big (and questions about the author's talent). It's another example of an Internet mob forming to attack someone they believe deserves it.

It honestly gives me a bit of pause with my own work, though only a little. The two main POVs in my upcoming serial are a young Chinese man and a black gay detective. Neither is me, obviously (straight white guy) and if my serial does take off, all I can really do is hope I presented the characters well. If, upon reading, someone among either of those groups feels something in how I wrote these characters is off, I figure the best I can do is listen and learn.

Offline cupiscent

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2017, 04:49:29 AM »
The flipside of this is that authors who are diverse (of colour, of non-het/cis identity, etc) and who campaign for more diversity and better treatment of diverse authors and characters, are also targeted by mindless pile-on social media campaigns. Their books are given one-star reviews by people who haven't read them. They are endlessly trolled on social media.

And I remember when that Black Witch review was first written - the author of the review basically got hounded off twitter by a crowd of shouters who also hadn't read the book. There is a big tendency, on both sides of the political fence, to hook in without gathering evidence.

Personally, I enjoy the way social media - and the internet in general - allows me to hear the experiences of people who are not me. So, for instance, I might quite enjoy a book, but the internet allows me to hear about how some aspects of it were offensive to another person who has a different experience of the world. (They didn't register with me, because I don't have that experience. That doesn't mean the aspects aren't there.)

Social media and the internet also provide an unprecedented way for authors writing outside their personal experience to gain perspective, research - and sensitivity readers. There are online services to help link authors with readers of particular backgrounds and identities, so that an author can check before publication on how well they're writing outside their own experience. Perhaps a little bit of that in cases such as the Black Witch (or The Continent before it, or any of the other books that have hit icebergs like this one) might have helped.

Online Peat

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2017, 05:59:15 AM »
Perhaps a little bit of that in cases such as the Black Witch (or The Continent before it, or any of the other books that have hit icebergs like this one) might have helped.

That's assuming the reviewer is correct in her criticisms. It's possible that the author did deal with the subject matter adequately and that the reviewer is being unfair.

Its also possible said books did go through such hands and they thought it was fine and the reviewer doesn't. To state the obvious, its not like social groups have blanket opinions. To use an example closer to home, that bit of writing I sent you a while back for a second opinion on damsels on distress had gone past quite a few female pairs of eyes who saw nothing wrong with it.

Which isn't saying that these things are useless. Just that it's an imperfect tool. I mean, if Confederate get attract widespread criticism for being racially insensitive when 1/3rd of the writing team is actually African American, I think no amount of resorting to beta readers of possibly offended cultural group is gonna ensure that an author doesn't come in for heavy criticism.

And given how heavy that criticism can get, it does increasingly feel like it's a good idea for authors to shy away from the more underrepresented ends of the market.

edit: And in light on this, I think the burden needs to be more on reviewers and critics to be more moderate and supportive in their criticism, and less on authors to be completely and totally correct on issues beyond their ken.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 07:11:28 AM by Peat »
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Offline cupiscent

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2017, 01:02:36 PM »
An author can never be 100% correct on anything. Even writing within my own experience, I cannot possibly write the experience of every white, straight, cis, thirty-something, English-speaking, post-colonial woman. All we can do is try to write something that hopefully isn't a grievous misrepresentation, or unintentionally offensive, or completely cliche. To me, implicit in that try is that when I mess up (and I will mess up) I will listen, and try to do better next time. (As @tebakutis has noted.)

Sometimes people have a lot of anger. Sometimes nothing we could have done would have been good enough. They have that anger for a reason, and we just have to live with that. If we can't handle having hurt people then yes, perhaps we shouldn't write about potentially hurtful things such as systemic oppression. If we're going to write about it, and we don't care if we hurt people, then that's pretty mean and selfish, tbqh.

In this particular instance, the book review was 9000 words long because the reviewer quoted extensively from the book. Now, obviously it's possible to do that selectively and paint a skewed picture. But I also believe that anyone's experience of a piece of media is subjective (not to turn this into the Talent thread v2.0 ;) ). The reviewer presented her experience and view of the book. That's the right of any reader.

It's also the right of any reader to choose to read or not read any book for whatever reasons move them. So yes, probably some people chose not to read the book because of the review. (I know I did. Not because of the issues outlined by the reviewer, but because from the excerpts and the book description, it looked boring and cliche.)

The swarming of opinion and action is a separate issue. Online harassment is always horrible. And I absolutely never condone leaving a rating or a review on an unread book. But these are things, I reiterate, that happen on both sides of the political fence. The reviewer was hounded on social media. YA authors of colour face massed and punitive one-star reviews of unpublished books just for being YA authors of colour. (One YA author of colour had her editor contacted with trashtalking about her in an effort to get her book pulled.) That behaviour is the issue. The sharing of a genuine opinion on a book's handling of sensitive content is not the issue.

Just in passing: I don't believe any part of this was backlash against the book's popularity, because from memory the review was written before the book was even published, from reading an ARC. No one knew how popular it would be. To be honest, I'm still not sure how popular it is: I'd forgotten it existed until this article surfaced.

Offline DrNefario

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2017, 01:15:01 PM »
So toxic it has to spread to here.

Offline Nora

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Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2017, 03:19:56 PM »
Wait. And what if the book is indeed bad and hardly managing at all to tackle the issues it wanted to cover?  :-X

Never heard of it before and sounds like regurgitated Harry Potter with extra side of racism, so not interested. Also not interested in the drama. I think it's mostly sad for the author, but it also sounds like she decided to tackle every single discrimination type and didn't brace for that quite enough.

Honestly don't know what to say. I stay well away from any form of social media besides my own private fb, so really never been in any storm of that sort.
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Offline Rostum

Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2017, 05:00:24 PM »
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is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,”

or what happens when she discovers Enid Blyton?

Offline Lanko

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Re: The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2017, 07:45:03 PM »
I read both the article and the 9k review. The comments were actually the best part on the situation. And for some reason the review author erased everything in her blog and kept only this book's review. Hm, why would she do that...

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If a generation's critical reading skills don't allow them to distinguish between journalism and marketing, expecting them to distinguish between representation and endorsement seems a bit optimistic.

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I think the bigger concern is a generation for whom critical reading doesn't involve actual READING.

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I read thebook, and when characters make those statdments, the reader can tell that tells author isn'the endorsing them. The whole storyshows themain character realizing that the world isn't at all like the religious propaganda she's believed her whole life.

And here's one guy who was horrified by the review and then changed his opinion on the book by actually reading it.

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As a young adult reader myself, I can say that we are facing a big problem in the YA community. I read Shauna Sinyard's review of The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, and was initially horrified by what I read! The quotes pulled from the book did, at least to me, describe scenes of racism and homophobia. I was repulsed by everything Sinyard described about the book.

After reading the review I did not want to read The Black Witch at all. It was only after seeing other people's responses on Twitter, and learning about the hate the author was getting, did I realize that I was judging this book based on what one person had said, without even reading it. That's what many other people did as well, they were throwing hate to a book they didn't read, based on what one person said about it. I couldn't judge this book until I had read it. While I still haven't read The Black Witch, it is now high on my list of things to read.

People will judge things, whether it be a book, movie, TV show, or even a Broadway show based off of what one person thinks. How can you know your true opinions on it when you haven't read it or seen it? You have to make your own opinions on things, don't base them on what other people have said without reading or watching whatever it is people have the problem with.

In the YA community, authors are now afraid to write what they truly want to write because they are so afraid of the back lash they'd get from the readers! That is a major disservice to the authors!

In order to make a realistic villain character, or setting, or just to get a point across, there may be racism, homophobia or any big issue you can think of. It's not there because the author believes in it, it's there to show what life is like for some people, of the way that some people think. Members of the YA community are always saying how we should be more open minded about things, yet we're not! We need to stop basing our opinions on what one person thinks.

We need to be open minded and give the book and author a chance. If you do that, and read the book, then you can say how you feel about it. However, if you are just basing your opinion off of what one person said, you have no place to trash it! Form your own opinions! We as a community, need to be open minded and trust the authors. if there's a problem that you find after reading the book, address it in a civil way.

That is how the YA community should be working, and I'm hoping, that in the future that's the way it will be.

And one curious comment regarding all the discussion on triggering reactions:

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Triggering is real, but you're right in the sense that it is overused, often inappropriately.

I'm in rehab right now with a lot of people who have survived assault, incest, overdoses, suicude attempts, and these people have very real triggers that affect them deeply. The way that "triggering" is tossed around right now trivializes its true meaning. And that pisses me off.
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Lanko's Year in Books 2019