Do You Like This Author, Check Yes Or No

sarahreesbrennan:

‘Anonymous asked - Do you dislike John Green? I’m just curious. You don’t seem to take a positive stance toward him, and I can’t tell if its because you don’t like him as an author/person or whatever or if I’m misreading everything entirely lol’

I got this a while ago, and kind of stared at it in terror.

Authors do get a lot of these kinds of questions, ‘do you like so-and-so’ and even ‘do you like so-and-so’s books,’ and they are hard to answer, and I thought I would talk about why they’re hard to answer, and why people ask them, and writerly fears.

Well, this got long, but let’s get the salient point across: no, insofar as I know him (not very well at all), I like John Green. He’s a talented dude (my super hipster favourite John Green book is An Abundance of Katherines), he supports a huge amount of good causes, he’s smart and funny, he’s good friends with some of my good friends so I presume he’s good people. I don’t know him personally, but what I know of him, I like.

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Sarah always tackles the tough questions. This stuff can be hard.

One big takeaway from this is how people sometimes get judged online.  I’ve seen people say, with complete authority, that they know what some author is “really like” because they interacted with them once for ten seconds, or exchanged a single comment, or even just saw them across a room at an appearance. 

That is some serious “You know nothing, Jon Snow” stuff right there. And it’s hardly exclusive to authors. It’s so easy to fall into the snap judgement trap, just because someone did something we didn’t quite like, or didn’t understand … and we may have just caught them for ten seconds in their lifetime—a lifetime that can go for for MILLIONS OF SECONDS. So the sample size we draw from is so small. And what about context? What it someone looks grumpy because they had a sore tooth? (I say this as someone who did an entire book festival with what turned out to be an erupting molar and shooting nerve pain through my face. I didn’t want to talk to ANYONE. I wanted to be sedated and fired into space, so that the MOON PEOPLE could take my tooth pain away.) Sometimes I have to run past people at LeakyCon because I have to get to a panel, or find a lost speaker, or because something is simply ON FIRE. And I was tired a lot. I often worried what people would think of me if they encountered me around ten at night, when I’d been going since six in the morning and my brain was on shutdown mode. They would not be impressed.

So I try to remember this when I meet people. And when I see stuff about people online—unless it is some DIRECT EVIDENCE (like the hundreds of posts written by someone like Orson Scott Card, plus his open involvement in many things I take serious exception to, etc.)—I tend to ignore it. Because saying you know what someone is like because you saw them for one second is like saying, “I saw a flower once. It was blue. All flowers must be blue.”

Unless they are doing something nice, like John was. It’s okay to assume people are good. I think that’s pretty safe. (Don’t assume TOO MUCH good and start accepting rides in unmarked vans, though. Keep safe. Stay in school. You know what I mean.)

Anyway, I know Sarah to be a good egg. She is a close friend. I know John to be a good egg. He is a close friend. I know many good eggs.

And I’ve met some people who have been less impressive on first sight, and sometimes on second and third, but, you know … eh. I don’t dwell on it. Maybe they always have sore teeth. I don’t have to hang out with them.

BUT THE POINT SARAH IS MAKING is that it can be hard for us to talk about other authors because there is a difference between the person and the work and also the statements a person makes from day to day. I SAY A LOT OF THINGS ON TWITTER. I am sure people have disagreed with a lot of them, but then maybe they come right back on board when I start talking about watermelon. WE DON’T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME, and to not agree on one point does not mean TOTAL WAR. And like Sarah says, to point out that dudes get treated differently DOES NOT MEAN LACK OF LOVE FOR DUDES.

Again, this applies to more than authors. It’s true of everything and everyone. It is, as the musical Hair points out, easy to be hard. Sometimes we have to cut each other some slack. A point of disagreement does not equal hate. And a brief encounter or reading about someone online does not mean that you know them.

In the end, we’re all just trying to figure it out, one moment at a time. I generally find patience and the constant consumption of watermelon eases the way.