I’m posting this here for my own benefit. You are free to take, leave, or modify this rule as you see fit, but this is how I want to live.
The proper response to a book or short story* is not a blog post about the injustice of the book or story’s existence or why it is just so WRONG WRONG WRONG, but to write another book or story addressing the very issues bothering you.
If it’s a story that makes you angry then write a story fueled by that anger. If you think the author glossed over important details, then by all means create something that widens the scope or changes the perspective. If the story reduces the argument to simplistic terms, then write a story that forces the work back to address a wider spectrum.
Don’t write an angry blog post. Don’t leave a comment. Don’t rattle a saber because you like the way it sounds. Don’t put a chip on your shoulder just to have one there.
Yes. It may be difficult to place that story. It may run counter to prevailing tastes or whatever clique happens to be dictating what’s in fashion these days. Don’t let this stop you. Write the story anyway. Write it with that passion that your words need to be said. Write it like you would that blog post.
But write the story. Articulate your position in prose. And if you decide to post the story online, then make it your blog post.
The best reaction to a thing you disagree with is not a defensive reaction but to create another, better, thing. Explore the initial position, attack it, subvert it, twist it to your own ends, but make something new.
Let the emotion fuel better work, not add to the online noise.
* I’m keeping it limited to fiction because it takes a lot of time and money to make a movie/TV show, and if it’s a comment online that’s making you angry, well, take a deep breath, take a step back, maybe see if you need to clean out the hair-trap in your shower, walk the dog, do the dishes, go to a different webpage, because it’s an online comment and all you need to shoot one of those into the ether is a lizard brain and a twitchy finger hovering near the return key.
Make something new.
Make something better.
Right now I see readers existing on a continuum. At one end we have the addict…
At the other end we have the fetishist…
“… wraparound gold embossed *gasp* slip cover with *pant* waxen end pages and *sniff* mint-tinged book binding glue *squee*…”
Of course both can and do exist in the same person, which is great as long as the overall environment they exist in is healthy. Trouble is that as the distance between poles increases, books cease to be objects we encounter in our day-to-day lives and reading becomes marginalized until it’s either as effortless as eating a tube of Pringles or so fraught with arcana that one expects rites and initiations, along with a full bank account, are required to do it.
Books as addictive substance, or books as art object, support either, but if one side wins it’s likely to be a loss for everyone.
This whole literature versus genre fight, can we just stop it?
This fight between “poseurs” and “hacks”, it’s like a fight between two paranoid reclusive relatives. Each lives behind barricaded doors, ranting against the evils of the other. Meanwhile the actual reader has to put up with them. “Oh yeah. That hack. Jeez, she’s all hung up on plot over there. Yeah. Better add another lock on your door. See you next week. Thanks for the Borges.”
Attention and energy are limited. Read what you want. Write it, too.