GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Ethics of Reviewing BY NATALIE LUHRS

“Which is more challenging for both reviewers and authors to deal with. Reviewers must be honest about problems they find in books and while the intent may not have been to offend or upset, authors need to accept that once a book is out in the world you cannot—and you should not—control how they’re going to react. You cannot control the conversation that reviewers and readers are going to have about your book and it’s futile to even try.

So that brings me to another ethical issue: that of authors publicly responding to reviews. This is another place where the power differential must be explored and understood. I feel that in most cases, responding to a review—particularly a negative one—is not a good idea. Stating that the reviewer is interrogating the text from the wrong perspective is a recipe for hilarity, not one where everyone will suddenly bow to your superior authority as Author. The text is, in many ways, a joint creation of both author and reader, and once a book is with the reader, I believe that your job as a creator is complete. I don’t want to say that any and all reactions to a book are right: I do not believe reviewers or readers should threaten bodily harm to authors, not even in grossly hyperbolic terms. But I also believe that there must be space for reviews which are negative and which call out racism, sexism, and other oppressions for what they are.

Negative reviews are critically important to our community, in a very real sense they help us to define the boundaries of what we find acceptable in our entertainments. To uncritically accept rape scenes or persistent racial microaggressions is to be smaller and less inclusive than we are capable of being and it is the marginalized among us who are often most sensitive to these issues and best placed to speak about them. It would be unethical to use one’s greater power to attempt to silence those voices and that is often what it appears that authors are attempting to do when they respond to negative reviews. Once the work is out in the world, you are no longer in control and it is important that authors accept that.

I believe that this is a conversation that we, as a community, must have: for better or for worse, people are going to have opinions about the stories they read or watch or play and some of those people are going to want to share. Power differentials are shifting in ways they haven’t in the past and an off–hand comment can go viral astonishingly quickly—I’ve seen it happen more than once, in all sorts of directions.”

Read the rest.

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