Loosing The Dogs of Social Media

I’ve been a  FB ‘Like’ fan of Anne Rice’s for some time. Though not always in agreement with her take on life, I have, until recently, appreciated her desire to provoke her fans into action on subjects she herself is passionate about. Now if I share Anne’s passion for whatever topic she’s posted that day, I read on. But if I don’t it simply goes the way of all the other posts I’m either tired of hearing about, not interested in, don’t share the same level of passion for or are just plain offended by – ignored or spammed.

Generally Anne’s unread posts fall somewhere within those parameters. Except for a couple of weeks ago when I followed the thread of her comment to Kayleigh Hebertson, aka Ms. Articulate, who had come across one of her vampire books – “Pandora” – at a second-hand store. It seems the blogger in question was looking for a book to use in some art project and purchased it with the intent of ripping out its pages (the sacrilegious desecration  of  any book  sends chills down my spine). I can’t remember why, but prior to tearing it apart she elected to read the book then write a very honest and candid response on what she thought about it.

Sounds pretty innocuous right? Author writes story. Story gets published (albeit fifteen years ago). Book gets found in used bookstore, read by unfamiliar reader, and viola – receives a review (very much like moa). Not a great review, but not an ugly one either. And admittedly the reader, being unfamiliar with Rice’s vamperic characterizations, missed a few key elements that are the hallmark of her work. But really, isn’t that part of the life of any writer? Some like what you write, other’s don’t. Some get it, other’s not so much.  So you learn to savor the good reviews and either use the one bad ones as a catalyst to improve your stories or tear them up for fireplace fuel. Either way they’re both useful.

Now why did this story catch my attention? Why take time out of my own writing schedule to comment on something as trifling as one persons opinion about anther author’s work? Don’t I have enough things to write about  that I don’t need to sit down and pound out a response to something as seemingly insignificant as an famous authors response to a little known blogger?

Well let me ask you, the reader, this. Why, of all the reviews that Anne Rice has received, and will probably continue to receive, did she highlight one obscure blogger honest enough to say she didn’t like “Pandora”? Why single out a gal because her impressions of the vampire genre, which in all likelihood has been shaped more by YA  that it has by Baby Boomer’s, challenges Anne’s humanization of them? Is the author so worried about what kind of impact this one review will have on the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of other reviews? Is her ego that fragile that it can’t take one not so great review? After all these years? And if that’s the case, why subject herself to the bad when I’m sure she is undulated with so many good?

These were some of the questions rattling around my head. And the more I thought about Rice’s response to the bloggers review on her book, the angrier I found myself getting. And the angrier I found myself getting, the more I decided that I couldn’t stay quiet about an author who, in my not so humble opinion, has used her voice and considerable influence in the internet community to unleash the hounds of hell on someone far less known or influential. (Even the blogger was intuitive enough to think her response strange.)

Now you might ask, “How did Anne unleash the hounds of hell?” “Did she actually go to the bloggers page and write a comment?” “Did she post a scathing article on her Timeline linking it with the bloggers post?” She didn’t have to. All she had to do to release the Internet Furies was go on her Timeline, mention the review, add the link, and let the chips fall where they may.

Authors like Anne Rice, who know the power of the pen, also know the power of fan loyalty. And let me assure my readers  no one has a wider, more loyal fan base than she does. It’s why she is as socially engaged on Facebook as she is. It’s why she does her own author PR. It’s why she can drop a pebble in the social media pond then stand back and watch the sharks feed. And it’s why quiet frankly, I find such passive abuse of power far from flattering.

If Rice feels like she must comb the internet for reviews, or entertain the not so subtle CIA like actions of  her followers, then at least have the decency to go and engage the poor creature in a conversation herself, rather than sit back let the social feeding frenzy do it for her.

There are umpteen million things I like about Anne Rice as an author. There are also umpteen million things I don’t. But until now it wasn’t personal. Now?  Now  I’m having a hard time separating the authors  lack of social integrity with the quality of her work. Maybe in my case ignorance would have been bliss – for me. But what about the blogger who got slammed for using her blog to write about her life and the things she does and doesn’t like? It wasn’t like she went over to Anne’s blog and used its very public forum to take an emotional dump. Even her counter response to Rice’s pit-bulls very rude and occasionally insane remarks was restrained and courteous.

Yes I know that I’m always raving about author loyalty and how I believe one bad book doesn’t define the quality of those to follow. And yes I’ve got a real issue with people using social media as their personal soap box to rant about others. But isn’t there a time when even people as socially non-confrontational as myself need to stand up and say “Are you kidding? Was it really necessary to turn the dogs loose on someone just because they don’t like your fictional characters or call into question your portrayal of that particular genre or subject? Shouldn’t an author of Anne Rice’s caliber be leading us wannabe writer’s into greatness by setting an example of benevolent social integrity rather than author pettiness?

I’d like to think so. I’d also like to think that had Ms. Rice really thought about what kind of legacy this sort of public display of bad PR leaves behind, she would not have done it – but rather censored those fans who tried. Anne Rice was a pioneer in the humanization of the vampire genre and a bridge building forerunner between fantasy and regular fiction. I would hate to see  her burn it.

So for the time being I feel compelled to remove Ann from the list of authors I’d most like to immolate.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t change my mind or that this one incident will blacklist her from my bookshelves. But it does mean that the lesson I most learned here is when reader’s give an author the power to influence the world, they need to use it sparingly and use it wisely. It takes a long time to get to the top but only seconds to fall to the bottom.

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