Having little else to do last night (besides the obvious weekend reading splurge), I indulged in reading about authors who freak the hell out over getting bad reviews, and freak the hell out in public, all over the internet.
Some of them are harmless, or only really harm the reputation of the offended author. Examples include Ayelet Waldman’s Twitter meltdown because the NYT failed to put her book on their 100 Notable Books of 2014 List. They reviewed it positively, but that wasn’t good enough for Waldman. Then there was the time Anne Rice ranted all over Amazon about how people who didn’t like her Blood Canticle (including a lot of her faithful fans) were just too stupid to understand it. Then we have MR Matthias, a minor self-published Fantasy author who blatantly announced that his work was better than that of Tolkien, and the title of “self-published” demeans the enormity of his literary achievements.
But others aren’t so trivial nor so funny. When writer Alice Hoffman read a review by Roberta Silman that she didn’t like (it was lukewarm, not a trash party), she blew up Twitter calling her a “moron” and an “idiot” – then tried to dox her. Luckily for Silman, Hoffman got her number wrong, but it’s still concerning (to say the least) that there are authors who think that siccing their fanbase onto critics they don’t like is an acceptable way of expressing hurt feelings over a review.
But Hoffman isn’t the only one who needs a bit of perspective. Kathleen Hale, on receiving a less-than-favourable review from one “Blythe Harris”, stalked her at her workplace, paid money for a background check on her, and eventually ended up in front of a house she’d tentatively identified as that of Harris. She wrote a Guardian article about it, apparently not understanding when there was a backlash to the effect of “you do not stalk people over a shitty review, ever. No, I don’t care if she was using a pseudonym/fake identity, you never do that!”
It gets worse. When Richard Brittain got a book review he didn’t like, he allegedly went to the reviewer’s Facebook page, found out where she worked, stalked her there, and assaulted her by hitting her over the head with a bottle of wine.
I blog and tweet under my real name. My pictures of me really are pictures of me. If a person wanted to find me, they probably could. I’m loath to go anonymous because of cases like Richard Brittain, but neither do I want someone unhinged to assault me in public over a review.
Has anyone else felt threatened in real life over a review given online?