Did I make you cringe just a little bit? Some of you have a Clockwork Orange-style aversion to that word. Then, others see that same word and become giddy with excitement. What is sadly lacking here is a shade of neutral ambiguity. Lately, in the zombie genre at least, that seems to be a problem. Zombie fiction writers seem to be splitting into factions faster than a new cast on Survivor. I say this with a tinge of tough love…we need to get over ourselves.
You can’t drop in to one of the plethora of Facebook pages centering on horror fiction, more specific, the zombie genre, without some poor, picked on, emotionally abused writer moaning about his or her latest review on Amazon or some other site. They start by proclaiming how much the critic “just didn’t get it.” Pretty soon, they have gathered a crowd who express their sympathy. The next thing is usually an online jihad where everybody goes and “votes that the review was not helpful.” Did anybody forget that axiom about opinions being similar to a certain part of the human body that emits a foul odor?
There is a saying, “those who can’t do, teach” we can add, “those who can’t write, critique” and “opinions are like…” well, you get my point. Right? How about adding, “I’m rubber you’re glue…” and “that which does not kill me makes me stronger”.
This column is for writers, wanna-be writers, and soon-to-be published writers in the indie scene. I specify the indies because most BIG names don’t get into this type of pity-party/meltdown. Whatever. If you write, I am talking to you. People, it’s time to toughen up a bit. I think all of this political correctness in society has turned us into a bunch of wussies. We live in a society where everyone gets a trophy just for participating. Everybody makes the team or mommy files a law-suite against the coach. Enough already. We are zombie fiction writers, people. I’ll bet each and every one of us has been an outcast at some point in our lives. We’re made of stronger stuff. (Can I get an “Amen”!?)
That’s right, I’m about to get up on the soapbox. Some of you delicate flowers are gonna get your feelings hurt. Funny thing is I’m not talking to just one person. I am talking to the group. I love our little niche in the literary world. (Notice the looseness in which I employ the term ‘literary’) and want us to grow strong.
So, let me return to my point and “lay down the heavy.”
It seems that I can’t browse a forum these days without watching some new drama unfold. And what is it usually based on? Somebody wrote a negative review (heaven forbid!). Let the school yard mudslinging begin. Hell, half the time the mud slingers aren’t even the offended party, they’re simple fringe members in a forum designed to promote zombie fiction. Enough is enough.
I read everybody. Permuted, Library of the Living Dead Press, Books of the Dead, Pill Hill, Coscom, and a host of others. I got news for you…I have read some absolute swill from each. However…I have read some absolute gems as well. Guess what? Neither of those opinions means a thing. Wanna know why? (Okay! Who said, “Because you’re a know nothing dumbass!” Really, how rude) I’ll tell you why. Because it’s an OPINION! I believe we have already covered the whole thing about what opinions resemble.
I’ve been sitting back for a while. I’ve watched what goes on and have stayed out of it. However, with a few full length pieces out there, over a dozen anthologies that I have edited, I am fully exposed to critiques. There will be those who think I am a total hack. OUCH!! Yet not fatal. To those who review me and slice me up like they are demonstrating Ginsu knives, you are entitled to hate me. You may freely use words like: “sucks” “tripe” “garbage” and “awful”. I won’t sit here and tell you that it doesn’t sting. No matter, there will still be those that love me. And honestly, those are the people that I write for. What’s more, my wife, children, and dogs, will ALWAYS love me. At the end of each day…that is what matters.
Fellow writers of zombies, let’s take a moment and make a pact. Raise your left hand. (We’re zombie writers, we do things different. Besides, raising the right hand is so cliché).
I, state your name, (if you said “state your name”, go stand in the corner for five minutes) promise to write with the understanding that not everybody will think that the sun rises and sets on my butt. I will understand that once a story leaves my hands, it is out of my control. I will not engage in petty word wars with critics. That only takes away time from my writing. Above all, I will remember the saying, “you can’t please everybody”. In the name of Romero, I make this pledge. Amen.
Wait, we ain’t done yet folks. We have talked about the negative. Now, let me speak on the positive. Just like the ones that cut your legs out from underneath you, you shouldn’t let the good ones go too far to your head. Or, to quote Han Solo, “Great, kid, don’t get cocky”.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy the compliments; just don’t let it all go to your head. Take a moment and think this through. How many times have you read a review, heard tons of hype, then finally broke down and saw the movie, read the book, or bought the record? (Kids, records are large round things that your parents used to buy to listen to music from shortly after the dinosaurs died) now, how often did it live up to the hype? That’s my point…too much praise can sour things far more than a negative review.
I read all the reviews out there on my stuff. And I can tell if somebody has actually read it, or if they are simply writing a fluff piece. Honestly, I would prefer nothing, or a bad review, over a fluff piece. At least that way, I know that they have read it.
Again, remember that you are writing for a target audience. Given time (and talent) you will build a fan base (see Rhiannon Frater for example) she’s won over a fan base. Yet, there are those that don’t like her. (I call those people mindless heathens, but I fall into the fan category) Once again, use your melon. How many of you have certain writers that you wait on anxiously for their new release? Oh, so I’m the only one? C’mon people…show of hands. That’s better. I’m not shy; I’ll tell you my list: Scott Sigler, Jasper Fforde, Rhiannon Frater, Kim Paffenroth, BrianKeene, Kim Harrison, and my newest edition, Mark Henry. I am what you call “Brand Loyal”. There is also a list of people that I would never read again if you held me over a pit of hungry zombies consisting of my three ex-wives. Want to know who they are? (The writers I don’t like, not my ex-wives, dummy.) Too bad. It doesn’t serve a purpose, and quite frankly, it is mean-spirited. I’ll admit to petty, but not to mean.