Grumblegrumble: Stupid reviews and shipping stupidity

Grumblegrumble: Stupid reviews and shipping stupidity

So, here’s where I give out fair notice that I’m being grumpy and immature, okay? Okay.

So, two things:

  1. I got a stupid, mean review yesterday and it’s had me in a foul mood ever since
  2. JK Rowling seems to have purposefully shoved us back to 2003, and I can only ask WHY?

Visitor-1-cover-whiteThe Review: A listener with the unfortunate initials KD posted a review of the audiobook of The Visitor. Now, I don’t like negative feedback any more than anyone else, but please believe me, I’ve been reviewed LOTS. I was a professional actor for years. My writing has been out getting public feedback for decades. Mind, a lot of that was for fanfiction (see below) but believe me when I say, I’ve gotten lots of positive reviews, and I’ve gotten lots of negative reviews, and I’m pretty thick-skinned. I don’t mind that she (I’m going with the generic she because it’s easier and the odds are good) didn’t like the story. I don’t even mind that she said that she didn’t like the story. I appreciated one or two of the notes — that she felt I needed the men’s use of expletive during their moments of ecstasy more, say. Thanks.

But the whole tone of the review is not merely a statement of dissatisfaction; it’s spiteful, as if I had personally done something personal to her besides write a story that took up an hour of her day and didn’t give her the payoff she was looking for. To headline the review “Boring Story; Over-the-Top Narrator” pissed me off on two levels — not only didn’t she like the writing, but she had to go after the narrator as well? But she then goes on to enumerate her problems with the story — and it’s all in nasty, pejorative language: nothing very special, didn’t seem to rise to the level even of erotica (split infinitive, by the way — she also mis-spells ménage à trois), and  It amounts to little of nothing.

She concludes the review, “I’m done with this author. There’s nothing special at all and not even worth $4.86. Apparently there’s a reason why I never bought this author’s tales before. I should’ve stayed with that option.”

Wow. If that was the last hour of your life, perhaps I could understand your anger, and I would certainly feel badly (though I might wonder why you were listening to one of my smutty stories as you shuffled off this mortal coil). But really? It probably took you twenty minutes to a half an hour to write the review. Clearly your time isn’t that precious! And to choose not to read another of my stories — I can understand that, though I would happily point out that each of them is quite different. But by writing that with such vehemence in a review that won’t ever go away, you are telling everyone who sees it that you think they shouldn’t even check out any of my other stories. How dare you! Making your own mind up based on one sample is hardly scientific, but it’s reasonable in this entertainment-glutted market. But to proselytize that snap decision? That’s mean. It’s nasty. Grr.

JK Rowling: As I said above, and as I’ve mentioned before I was active in the online Harry Potter fandom from around the time that the fifth book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) came out. Now, as anyone knows who was involved in the internet in those days — let alone the fandom — the Harry Potter fandom during the years from about 2002 to about 2005 was — and I say this with full knowledge — batshit crazy. The main source of the insanity? Flaming over who was going to end up with Hermione Granger — the so-called HP Shipping Wars. Not the protagonist so much, no; the fandom was divided out into camps: Harry/Hermione (aka Harmony); Ron/Hermione (aka The Good Ship); even Draco/Hermione (aka Dramione). (Actually, the majority of fandom seemed to be thirteen-year-old girls shipping Harry and Draco because they were so pretty.)

(Not that HP is the only fandom that’s descended into such madness: I have seen the best minds of our time…. Yeah. Hunger Games. Buffy. Avatar. Xena. Hell, my original fandom, Star Trek. All batshit. I won’t even go anywhere near Twilight. In the first place, the whole shipping debate in that fandom was manufactured. In the second place, the whole f@$ing thing was batshit.)

And when we call these wars, don’t think we are being silly. People were out for blood. When I first started writing fic, I made the mistake of writing fics that “shipped” Hermione with Ron, with Harry, even with Ginny, Neville, and Luna. I nearly got my head bitten off — didn’t I know that I had to take a side??? Well, I hadn’t really thought about it much: I mean, these were picaresque fantasy adventure novels. How important was it who ended up with whom? Still, as I said, people cared.

Well, as I thought about it, it was pretty clear to me — and to a lot of other people — that Rowling had invested a lot of energy in building up the romantic tension between Harry’s best friends, Ron and Hermione. Likewise, after the second book’s slay-the-dragon-and-wake-Sleeping-Beauty ending, I’d sort of assumed that Rowling intended Harry to end up with Ginny, which I was happy with. I liked Ginny. (I’d have been happy with him and Luna, too — she’s my favorite character in the series. Or any one of a number of other characters. Just not really Hermione, because Harry was too non-verbal and passive aggressive to have a functional relationship with the talk-it-to-death Hermione. Not that I’ve thought about this or anything.) Still, as I say, I didn’t really care. I was pleased to see things play out the way I’d intuited they would over the last two books, nonetheless.

Mostly, I was happy that the shipping wars went away.

And then, last week, JK Rowling tossed a Molotov Cocktail back into the still-smoldering fandom when a snippet from an interview that she’s apparently done with actress Emma Watson (who played Hermione — not very well, in my opinion — in the movies) was posted on fandom gossip site Hypable that was headlined JK Rowling questions Ron and Hermione’s relationship

And she says, “Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”


WHY, JO? WHY? Why in the name of all that is, you know, magical did you have to say that?

Mind, I totally get looking up ten years after you’ve written something and thinking, Wow. What was I thinking? And anyone who’s posted writing serially knows the feeling of having to play out choices that you’ve made early in the writing process.

But there’s two hard things here: first of all, her questioning those choices doesn’t change what she wrote; and second, ARE YOU INSANE? You just threw a lighted match into a fireworks warehouse and said “Oops!”

Note to all of us: if we’re lucky enough to develop fandoms that spark shipping wars… DO NOT RE-IGNITE THEM.

Shipping Wars, Ahoy!


4 thoughts on “Grumblegrumble: Stupid reviews and shipping stupidity

  1. I agree. What JK should have (in my opinion) have done is to say that she considered setting Hermione up with Harry. Any good writer will ship their own characters before settling on the one that works in the final draft. But after all is said and done, don’t wring your hands and start with should-have-beens. If you really want to revisit it, that’s what writing a book is for. 😉

    I’ve also had reviews that have left me feeling a bit cross, and I’ve come away wondering what I can do to satisfy that reader.

    Well, you can’t satisfy everyone.

    I even find that authors that I really like do not always deliver what I wanted or hoped for, and I must temper my expectations and learn to enjoy what is and maybe leave some thoughtful criticism and suggestions for the future.

    So don’t lose heart because of one bad review. Do pay attention if someone in your target audience echoes some of those criticisms. This may be old hat, but it’s worth saying again.

    I found that I turned out a much better draft after listening to one of my beta readers who had similar concerns but put them across far more diplomatically.

    If you feel that you have been sold short, ask your readers to set the record straight. On Amazon and I think other sites, reviews are also subject to scoring for usefulness, and people do pay attention to that. Well, I do!

    But you know, where your energies are best used is turning out more writing, to satisfy the readers in your audience who actually can adjust if they come across something they don’t like but is justified in how the story unfolds.

    You can’t do much about readers who fly off the handle, except hope that they cool down and retract their hastily-made comments. Which, yay, would be really cool, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t.


  2. Thanks so much. Yeah — as I said at the top, I know I was being adolescent about the review. Thanks for putting up with me. 😉

    And yeah2 — it’s already gotten 4 out of 4 not helpful votes. Woohoo.

    I’ve been working on writing, definitely — but when something pisses you off, sometimes you need to vent a bit or it becomes a creativity black hole. So. There. I’m done!

    As for JK, I totally agree — I have to imagine that she’s thought about all of her characters with all (well, many) of her other characters. As you’re writing, it’s hard not to — especially when you’re writing about teens. My exasperation was that she brought it up — and I’ll be honest — I have a lingering suspicion that Ms. Watson was at least partially at fault for both the revelation and it’s form. Again, as I said, I am not very impressed by Ms. Watson.


  3. i just saw this, and oh no, this utterly sucks! poor you. i feel really terrible for you, and i know how hurt i was by this kind of thing a while back.

    i don’t know if it will help, but weirdly i just saw a thing that made me feel better in general about shitty reviews, so maybe it’ll help? here, anyway…

    i mean, you probably already have thought of all this if you’ve dealt with this with acting, but it was kind of a new way to look at it to me, so yep, maybe?

    and i’d say something about the rest but, um, i dont think i have anything useful to say… 🙂


    • Thanks, Tess. Shitty reviews are part of the scenery, I know — we talked about this back when. It still sucks.

      And it’s still nice to have people to discuss the suckage with. 😉

      And thanks for that link!


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