>Our Own Worlds<

A Speculative Fiction Community for Independent Writers & Readers

When Loved Authors Screw Up: Readers’ Responsibility

3 min read

by Sarah Buhrman

Sometimes we love authors; and sometimes authors screw up. Sometimes they screw up more than we can forgive and forget about.

In this time of social media, we learn more than ever about the authors of our favorite books. We can follow those (still living) authors on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. We learn about their lives, their beliefs, their politics.

Every once in a while, we find out that those loved authors are just plain bad people. More often, we find that they do things that are morally questionable to us.

So Many Problems

Whether it’s systemic suppression of women in literature, systemic oppression of authors due to bigotry towards people of color and LGBTQ+, male authors and artists accused of abuse and harassment, or authors and artists across the gender spectrum bullying by way of trademarks, We have seen a huge number of artists and authors screw up and prove themselves to be hostile, selfish, or abusive, sometimes to the point of this-must-be-a-joke villainy.

An interesting side effect of this is the moral quandary that lands squarely in the lap of the fans and consumers of the products made by these people.

When you find out that the author of a beloved book or series is doing things that only someone overly defensive or completely heartless would do, how do you address the issues surrounding their work?

The Big Question

When authors screw up, probably the least gray of these questions is:
Do I continue to buy their books?

Obviously, this is a decision each consumer must make on their own, but let me give you my take. There are around ONE MILLION books published in the US each year. Many authors are just waiting to be discovered by the market/consumers. Many of them are not morally gray people. As sad as it is to abandon a beloved series or writing style – forgive me the cliche, but there are plenty of writing fish in the literary sea.

Take this opportunity to expand your reading horizons or find lesser-known authors who write in similar styles to the author who showed themselves to be unworthy of supporting any longer.

Not all consumers will feel that certain actions are worth abandoning a brand, even an author, over. That’s fine.

Warning: Staying with someone who does these things says something about you, too. There may be consequences in your personal life if you support an author who actively discriminates against or abuses people who you love. Just saying.

More Shades of Gray

Less clear issues to consider include:

  • Supporting authors who write things that negatively impact others. This includes things like writing abusive relationships and calling them love or BDSM or “alpha male” stories. The question is, is it the author that holds the belief, or the characters?
  • Reading books by a problematic author that you’ve already purchased. The money is spent, but the book is on your shelf. Do you keep it there and passively promote the author? Do you throw away a perfectly good book?
  • Promoting or recommending a book by an author who’s views are morally gray rather than villainous. If you recommend a book, especially with full disclosure of the issues with the author, it becomes the other person’s dilemma… right?
Money Talks
Graphic designer Daniel Quasar added a five-coloured chevron to the LGBT Rainbow Flag to place a greater emphasis on inclusion and progression
Graphic designer Daniel Quasar added a five-coloured chevron to the LGBT Rainbow Flag to place a greater emphasis on inclusion and progression

While it is true that, sometimes, authors just get carried away with the idea of trademarking, or they “grow” out of certain problematic beliefs, we still, as consumers, need to make hard decisions about any authors who are shown to be problematic.

Our money helps them become a potential political voice, as seen with a certain TERF with a large audience on social media. Their success and platforms can greatly influence the social climate, and thus the political climate. Our purchases create that for them. Our continued support after the problematic behavior only tells them that, at best, we don’t care or, at worst, we agree with their position.

The only question you really need to ask yourself is, are you okay with supporting that position?

Please check out Diane Morrison’s excellent counterpoint article. Knowing both sides boosts everyone’s understanding.

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