Civility, eh?

In last week’s ugly meltdown in the m/m community (it was too mean-spirited to get the kerfuffle tag), there were quite a few unpleasant and inaccurate statements thrown around. There was a lot of pity-party action as well. But one post really stood out for me, because it so thoroughly encapsulated the hypocrisy and vituperation of the discussion.

The issue took off when one of the biggest m/m reviewers posted a defense of her decision to not review romances featuring trans* characters on her blog. This defense, which was described as unsolicited, came from an author who had been reviewed once or twice on the blog, but whom I hadn’t seen online lately in my usual venues. He had popped up a few days earlier to make his first-ever comment on a DA post, posting long, self-promoting comments in an already long comment thread (his first comment* was more than 1600 words).

But that appearance was positively self-effacing compared to the Big Defense: 2200 words on how authors and readers should practice civility and authors should turn their attentions to writing The Great LGBTQ novel, rather than criticizing inconsistent reviewing policies by the most influential blog in the genre.

His civility message was undermined in a couple of ways. First, the post itself was overwrought and incoherent almost to the point of incomprehension. Second, the lecture on civility was a textbook “What Not To Do” example: it began with by comparing the critics to by suggesting the critics were treating the reviewer as if she were equivalent to the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and, unbelievably, went downhill from there. The last sentence of the opening paragraph described the critics as being from “The Greek island of Hyperbole.” Yes, irony is indeed dead.

More choice bits (all describing critics, either of him in other places or of the persecuted reviewer):

the whole hyena pack — snarling safely behind their aliases and silhouette picture boxes

feeding frenzy

They made a discussion into yet another toxic waste dump in the m/m dialogue

the paper bags of burning poop go flying across a book forum

to whine and rage that a novel with m/f scenes or certain trans aspects doesn’t get attention on this site is small beer.

certain fans, who are always few but somehow always shrill, bitching …

some absolutely unnecessary corrosive nastiness and ad hominem attacks go on in the forums.  And now they even want to devour a whole forum.

some folks will spew acid and abuse over how a romance progresses in a narrative

the shrill voices, the nitpickers, the label-makers, those with the bullhorns.

trying to bully review sites

all the small… so very small… bitching sessions

I wasn’t going to link, but since someone will accuse me of taking these words out of context, go see for yourselves.

In a response to a comment, the OP defended his Godwin’s Law moment by saying

I quite deliberately phrased my lead paragraph in an outrageous way for effect.

I thought, hmmm. That’s possible. Why don’t I see how he talks when he’s not writing in a deliberately outrageous way? Google is my friend, and I found this interview pretty quickly. He’s talking about his new publishing venture, which you’d think would be time for optimism and positive discussion. Not quite. He took the opportunity to insult his fellow Canadian writers, in answer to the question, “What do you find is different about being a Canadian writer? Do you ever feel pressure, even writing speculative fiction, to make your works reflect national ideas?”

I have absolutely very little respect for Canadian literature as a whole. Most of Canadian literature is crap. It’s crap because it’s young. Of course it’s going to be crap. We’re a young country. There is an incredible amount of snobbery in this country over genre fiction versus literary fiction. I don’t have a lot of respect for the literary authors who are, frankly, subsidized.

Yes, I’ve always thought the problem with writers is that they get too much money to write their novels. Especially in those countries that are stupid enough to think art is worth government support.

But wait, it gets better. I wondered if maybe the sudden appearance at big blogs was tied to promotion for his newish publishing company. So I checked out the website. There are seven books listed for sale, six of which are by this author. The seventh is by an author with a female name that sounded familiar. Back to my buddy Google, where I found this interview:

A few years ago, I was writing erotic thriller novels under pseudonyms, and fans responded to my character, Teresa Knight, who’s a sexy sleuth, a gal who’s smart and can handle herself.  One reviewer called her a “feminist icon,” which put me over the moon.

He’s referring to this review.

There aren’t two different authors published by his press, there is one author with two names. No other authors are listed as forthcoming. We’re basically looking at a self-publishing effort disguised as a press. But the casual and not-so-casual reader will think he has a second author at his press, because there are different biographies for the two authors (the biographies at the “about” page say they live in different cities).

So, let’s recap. An author writes an “unsolicited” diatribe about civility in which he insults the critics of the reviewer he’s defending. His own interviews make clear his (lack of ) commitment to civility when discussing authors and their work.  On top of that, he misleads potential readers of his work (and authors who might be interested in submitting to his press) by making it look as if he is not the only author publishing at his press. And I’m supposed to take advice from this dude?

I’m sorry, Canada. Let’s just treat him as the exception that proves the rule. You know, the rule that Canadians are basically decent and honorable people.


*[ETA: While adding links, I just noticed that the comment at DA makes some of the same points as the Great Defense.]

11 thoughts on “Civility, eh?

  1. People suck up to obnoxious Big Name Reviewers/Readers in the m/m genre for one reason – they want something. And Pearce obviously wants reviews. I’ve rarely been so disppointed to find that someone I thought was decent, was in fact a nasty little shill, just like the rest of them.
    I feel angry on two points specifically on this – I sent him the link to the DA post and Wave’s article at C&D because as a bisexual male author, he would have a particular interest in the issues arising and an opinion not often seen in this female dominated genre. I feel his behaviour resulting from seeing those posts has betrayed my confidence in his rationality and sense.

    And secondly, he asked me if I was interested in writing for Gallivant, definitely representing it as a multiauthor site and referring to the other author as a separate being. I turned him down because I don’t go with new presses by anyone, even people I like. Now I’m glad because he’s simply dishonest and unethical.

    Hope Wave enjoys his sycophancy. They deserve each other.

    • That explains the timing, at least. But you can hardly be expected to have predicted this behavior. He seems to have seen the opportunity, as a bisexual man, to curry favor rather than to add a useful and underrepresented perspective.

      How appalling that he continued the charade of a second author when he was asking you to submit.

  2. In hindsight I’m a bit embarrassed that I commented on DA that I’d be interested in reading his books. I’m not so interested now. I’ve seen some other posts of his in various places now and there is a lot of self-promotion there. Naive me, I didn’t see that initially with his comments on DA but I’ve recognised it now and I’m staying away.

    • I don’t think you have anything to be embarrassed about. You gave someone the benefit of the doubt (I would have too) and it turned out to be misplaced. How could you know? If anyone should be embarrassed, it’s him. But I doubt he will be.

      • It does make me cringe a little – but playing on the internet – that’s what happens from time to time. It’s not the first time I wish I’d kept my comment to myself and I’m sure it won’t be the last!

  3. I don’t spend much time at that review site any longer, primarily because although I appreciate the volume of reviews as a source of information about new books, I tend not to agree with most of the reviews. When I saw the essay posted, it was tl;dr, and seemed a little off to me, but I circled back to it after being linked to what was apparently the original comment that caused the whole blow-up. Frankly, the writing of the post would not encourage me to try that author’s work, regardless of the situation. Beyond that, I mostly feel exhausted and bored by yet another community meltdown. My tolerance for them has diminished over time, which I suppose just means that I’m getting old in real and internet years.

    • Yeah, I have the same reaction to the site. There are a couple of reviewers I really enjoy reading, but for the most part, not so much.

      It will not surprise you to learn that I have more to say on this. Like other long-time romanceland observers have noted, this looks a lot like the old days of online rom communities, when everyone was new to the game and kerfuffles flared up all the time.

  4. Really tired of the deceptions being practiced by some of the small online “publishers”. :(
    This author should be ashamed of himself.

    And what’s with disparaging Canadian authors? Just taking into account Margaret Atwood, Gabrielle Roy, and L.M. Montgomery, Canada has a magnificent wealth of writerly talent, and that’s merely scraping the surface. Mr. Pearce would have to work damned hard to be *half* as good as any of those writers.

    • Yeah, the comment about Canadian literature and writers really bothered me, not least because it was so unexpected. That’s some serious resentment there. Aside from the fact that Canada might be young as a nation, but its writers are part of a long and rich literary tradition. It was just odd.

  5. I was also sickened by how Wave has taken Pearce’s comments as a fig leaf. Her second (comments off) post referred to Jeff a lot in a way that sort to validate her position. Like Ann, I had sent Jeff the links to the DA thread for the same reasons. So that is two of us who are feeling mortified. The other stuff you report is new to me and very saddening.

    I have stopped reading Jessewave because underlying issues present in m/m and its fan/slash derived history (fetishisation, misogyny, etc) are highlighted by these events and exemplified by the blog. Whatever she says I can’t get over her use of the word ‘pure’ with all its eugenics overtones.

    • To me, this is why it’s dangerous to take one representative of a community and accord him or her spokesperson status. Even a small community will have a variety of opinions. His is valid, but it’s not a priori the most authoritative or legitimate one.

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