Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Who's afraid of the YA Mafia?

So, the latest meme going around in book blogs is the "Young Adult Mafia." I am not going to collect every relevant link out there, because there are a lot of them, but if you follow a few of the ones I post below and have some time to kill, you'll be led to other links and basically get the whole picture. So below is my own summary:

It started (I think) with the Sparkle Project, and specifically, with a post in which ceilidh_ann dissected Shiver (a Twilight-clone-but-with-werewolves). The author, Maggie Stiefvater, made the classic author's mistake of commenting on a negative review. Now, Stiefvater was polite enough, but in a very polite and I'm-totally-not-implying-anything-here way, she basically said, "You should really watch what you say because publishing is a small world."

Cue drama.

What's followed has been a lot of posts (like this one, and this one by YA author Becca Fitzpatrick (who wrote Twilight-clone-but-with-angels Hush, Hush), where the message is basically, "If you want to become a writer, you really shouldn't write negative reviews because agents and editors and other writers will see them and this will hurt your chances of being published."

Now, I truly don't believe that any of these writers, including Stiefvater, were really intending to threaten anyone. But in the ensuing backlash, a bunch of the YA writers (many of whom really are associated in this big cliquish thing where they squee over each others' books and exchange blurbs and so on) came up with the tongue-in-cheek label "YA Mafia" by way of dismissing the notion. (Here's a post by Holly Black; here's one by Sarah Rees Brennan.) Their posts can be summarized as: "Come on! We're harmless, and we're also too lazy and disorganized and too busy writing to try and destroy anyone's career or blacklist them!"

And I really do believe them. I doubt that most of these authors would, if they found out that someone who'd written a horrible review of their book and was now submitting a manuscript, actively seek to prevent the reviewer who shredded their book from being published, even if they did have any power to do so. (I say "most" -- there are a few authors who've weighed in on this mess that, while they deny they do have any such power, and they probably don't, probably would take revenge if they actually could. Ugh, was that sentence convoluted enough?)

But I think even John Scalzi misses the point a little bit (even though he is very funny, as usual). I'm pretty sure no one ever thought that the "YA Mafia" was getting together and trying to make their publishers refuse to publish books by reviewers who hurt their feelings, or that they're making secret lists of people whose books they will never endorse. But when a bunch of well-known, popular authors who all know each other tell book bloggers (who include an awful lot of aspiring writers) that writing negative reviews will damage your prospective career as a writer, well, what kind of message do you think that sends? Keep in mind that most of these bloggers/reviewers/writer-wannabes are young and they're interacting with authors whom they look up to. So of course such "warnings" are going to come across as being much more dire and threatening than the authors probably intended.

So yeah, it was cute at first, but I'm getting a little tired of all the "Awww, come one, we're just a bunch of harmless fuzzy balls of fluff who can't even match our socks before we've had a cup of coffee so how could we possibly be a threat to anyone's hopes of being a writer?" posts. They strike me as just a wee bit disingenuous.

Now, I've written a few reviews that probably would not give the author warm fuzzies about me, and if I ever should be published, I would certainly not presume to ask an author whose book I trashed to write a blurb for mine. But I'll stand by anything I wrote, even if I meet that author at a con, because I don't believe I've ever said anything disparaging about an author personally. (Okay, I did say Dan Brown sucks. But if I should ever rise to the level where Dan Brown would even take notice of me, I don't think I'll be worrying about whether I ever hurt someone's feelings with a negative book review on LiveJournal. ;)

And for the record, if you write a bad review of one of my books, I will crush you like the miserable insect you are not hold it against you, as long as your review is about my book and not me, and you're not writing a diatribe about shit I didn't actually write.
Tags: publishing, soapbox, writing, young adult

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