A Sort of Warning

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 under Life beyond writing.

Because I’ve seen comments on other venues about some writer’s fans going after a reviewer who didn’t like their favorite writer’s books…please, should you find a negative review or comment on mine, don’t be those fans.   There will always be reviewers who don’t like a given book…there are reviewers and book bloggers who don’t like mine…but let them dislike it in peace.   If it’s a venue where a lot of reviews are posted, and you feel like posting a more favorable one, go ahead, but I don’t want to be the occasion of an attack on a reviewer/book blogger, whatever. Such storms nearly always end up leaving muck all over the writer, who may not have wanted the row in the first place.   We have a pleasant bunch here, and I don’t think it’s likely any of you would start a row, but just in case you’re tempted.

A writer whom I find amusing to read (blogs and Twitter, though I…um…haven’t read her books yet) commented today that people were kicking up a row on GoodReads because of a misreading by one person that’s been taken up by others, and she’s getting furious emails about having ripped off something for her book…which was written before the real-life events  she’s accused of ripping off, and besides…they misread the book, so the parallel isn’t there anyway.   Typical internet row, feeding off itself rather than fact-checking.  Should you ever be tempted to think someone ripped off someone else, do check the copyright dates.  (One of the funnier–but annoying–ones I ran across was someone claiming that Tolkein’s LOTR ripped off Terry Brooks’ Shannara books.)   You may remember the row when the first Hunger Games movie came out because an important character was a person of color (with careless teen readers claiming she was added for political correctness) when in fact the character in the book is clearly a person of color.

Anyway.  Should you come across a  review you think is wrongheaded, the best thing to do, IMO, is to let it alone, and write your own if it’s a review venue.  No attacks, no protracted arguments.  That applies to anyone’s book, not just mine.    People have a right to dislike any book, even if–to you, me, and the gatepost–it seems their dislike is wrongheaded.   Maybe I stepped on their toe in fifth grade and they never forgave me.   Maybe we’ve clashed somewhere about politics (since I’m not shy about saying what I think in several venues.)   Or maybe, to them, the book is pretty much like a pile of reeking  rotten fish.  I get stuff in email, or run across it here and there, that’s very negative, but…that’s the way the world is.   It hasn’t yet stopped me writing fiction (and won’t.)


  • Comment by Naomi — July 2, 2014 @ 5:14 am


    Well said Elizabeth!

  • Comment by LarryP — July 2, 2014 @ 6:51 am


    Besides when I read a bad review I am somewhat tempted to read the book anyway as I find most reviewers taste and mine are not the same at all and afterward wonder if they read the same book, saw the same movie etc.

  • Comment by Ed Bunyan — July 2, 2014 @ 7:07 am


    Larry, I once heard an interview about restaurant reviewers and bad reviews and one owner who had gotten a bad review said his business picked up for a short while because people wanted to see if the food was as bad as the review said.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 2, 2014 @ 7:30 am


    There was a reviewer once whose tastes were so opposite to mine that his reviews were completely useful…I read the books he hated, and didn’t read the books he liked. He was actually quite a good reviewer, with stable tastes, so it worked. A quirkier reviewer, unpredictable, wouldn’t have done nearly so well.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — July 2, 2014 @ 12:07 pm


    De gustibus non est disputandum.

    It says something sad about our culture that a point originally made in Latin in the Middle Ages is still a hot button issue today.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 2, 2014 @ 6:12 pm


    True. Human nature is more constant than we could wish…but so are the good parts of it.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 2, 2014 @ 10:33 pm


    I find the tendency for whole internet controversies without each contributor checking the facts for themselves (that is, read the book, check the newsfeeds, or whatever) more disturbing than the fact that some people hate or find terminally boring books, music, and whatever that I really like.

  • Comment by jjmcgaffey — July 2, 2014 @ 11:08 pm


    Heh. I reviewed a book once, and, among many other points about bad writing, said he’d stolen a battle scene from H. Beam Piper. Many many years later – this year, actually – I found that both he and Piper were reframing a battle from the Wars of the Roses…

    Well, it was a bad book for other reasons, too. But yeah, the question of who’s ripping off what is a tricky one.

  • Comment by Sharidann — July 2, 2014 @ 11:26 pm


    I don’t let myself get upset by Reviews I don’t agree with and I totally agree with you, it is not worth it starting a feud or a flame war.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 3, 2014 @ 7:51 am


    Jim: I confess to having ripped off Julius Caesar for a battle. It’s one I’d always loved, one of the ones I diagrammed in Latin II in high school (I diagrammed several of the battles in our schoolbook version of the Gallic Wars) and recognized it the moment it appeared in a low-grade movie on TV years later (impressing my mother–a rare occurrence.) I could not resist using it, and I believe Caesar’s nonexistent copyright has run out now. Scale was different, though. And if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Many years later, I bought the whole Gallic wars in Latin/English on facing pages, and–my Latin being poor–galloped through it in English. Realized how much our version had been edited, and learned even more about how troops (his and his enemies’) fought in those days. Lessons still useful–among them that the tribal peoples learn your skills of warfare a lot faster than they accept your rule of law. But also–mining and counter-mining before gunpowder.

  • Comment by Genko — July 3, 2014 @ 11:52 am


    Oh, “ripping off” happens all the time in film and presumably books. Sometimes it’s intentional — a tribute of sorts — and sometimes not, more a matter of remembering on an unconscious level. “Stealing” an actual event that happened seems like something different.

    Diagramming a battle — how does that work? Is it like football plays?

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 3, 2014 @ 2:46 pm


    Genko: Take a look at military history books…it’s kindalike diagramming football plays, only more, um, technical. Usually some topographic detail, arrows showing which units moved where…often with a start point and then one or more additional drawings, with a final one. I wish I still had those papers, but they are 50+ years back. I had read some real military history by the time I got to Latin II, though I didn’t understand nearly enough, but I did grasp how battles were diagrammed, at least in the books I’d read.

    Usually each unit is treated as a block, with a key symbol–can’t do individuals at the scale used. But for that battle, you have block R moving along the base of a slope in wooded country (but there was some kind of track already, but with something–I forget it river, gulch, or what on one side) and block V (the attackers) putting up a roadblock or small blocking force and then a flank attack downslope. Romans being Romans, they were capable of turning their route march formation into an outward facing very tight block, and then advancing toward the flank.

  • Comment by Richard — July 4, 2014 @ 5:55 am


    Elizabeth, could it have been a battle with a different result you borrowed from: Lake Trasimene? Romans in hot pursuit of Hannibal, who was trying to get away (they thought) with a convoy of loot. Only the front part of the ambushed column broke out – whether through the roadblock, or by the gap between it and the flanking body – and even they were rounded up the next day by pursuing cavalry. That was when the Roman army was still a part-time citizen militia under amateur generals.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 4, 2014 @ 8:59 am


    No, it wasn’t Hannibal…it was a barbarian commander/king, I think Vercingetorix. But the last time I looked that up was at least 40+ years ago.

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