Jan. 17th, 2012

hawkwing_lb: (Aveline is not amused)
My first real internet slapfight. It feels like a coming-of-age. Or perhaps a baptism by fire.

The comments at SH have broken 125. I never expected a response of this magnitude, but since it's occurred, I think it's worth a moment's consideration. (Also, I am procrastinating on my conference paper.) Out of the response a number of interesting questions have arisen, which may be roughly grouped into two opposing views of legitimacy.

The first group raises the following questions:

1. Who may "legitimately" review what sorts of books?

2. Whether passion, hyperbole, and angry rhetoric invalidate legitimate critique.


This latter argument is most often referred to as the tone argument (Why you gotta be so angry, baby?) and followers of various race- and feminism-related internet discussions will recall its frequent use is as a silencing and/or derailing technique - the discussion is often derailed into considerations of tone and politeness alone, rather than addressing the substance of the argument. Too, adherents of the tone argument frequently question the legitimacy of the anger/passion itself, denying that there may be a long-running pattern which gives both rise and reason to it.

The first group's questions are not, I think, critical. But the second group's ones trouble me.

The second group asks this:

1. Whether some books are more inherently "worthy" of critical review than others.

2. What constitutes such a book?

3. (Implied.) And why?


This is a question SFF as a genre and a community should, perhaps, consider asking. Books by men are reviewed more frequently than books by women; reviews and "buzz" affect what's considered for awards, and what's brought onto the horizon of people's attention. Criticism also serves a purpose in pointing out problematic trends in entertainment: the acceptance of social privilege, for example, as a normal and unmarked state troubles me about the books I read - not while I'm reading them, but after, when I cast my mind back. (Too, the marginalisation of female agency is a large part of why I can't wholeheartedly enjoy some of the epic fantasy (and other high fantasy) that I read; and the prevalence - the normalisation - of violence, particularly sexual violence, in the grim/dark mode irritates me excessively.)




I've collected a few links for posterity.

Comments at SH

Fantasy Book Critic

The OF Blog

The Hysterical Hamster

towersofgrey

ETA: Google Alerts has, somewhat tardily, brought me more links:

http://wisb.blogspot.com/2012/01/bad-bully-reviewer-manifesto-or-why.html

http://adrianfaulkner.com/2012/01/14/dear-genre-bullying-reviews-are-very-uncomely/

http://iansales.com/2012/01/16/how-to-write-a-good-review/

http://requireshate.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/calm-the-fuck-down-fanficyasfftie-in-fiction-is-not-serious-business/

http://chamberfour.com/2012/01/17/the-weeks-best-book-reviews-11712/

http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/criticism-in-sff-and-ya/#comments

http://pauljessup.com/2012/01/17/strange-horizons-and-the-tear-down-of-a-terrible-book/

http://corabuhlert.com/2012/01/21/gender-and-review-bias-2012-edition/

http://corabuhlert.com/2012/01/22/more-on-the-reviews-dust-up/

http://garethrees.org/2012/01/28/critics/

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