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Author bites back

When I read brendan_moody's review of the recent Big Finish Companion Chrionicle starring Katy Manning as both Jo Grant and Irish Wildthyme, I thought of posting a comment on his livejournal saying that I felt he had shared, in considerable and spoiler-free detail, my own reasons for feeling that this could have been a better story - in particular, his first description of it as "a rambling, intermittently charming story" sums up my reaction to it completely.

Paul Magrs was upset by this review when he read it, and said so on Twitter, describing it as "shitty" and "miserable". brendan_moody, who is probably not used to getting this from authors, has posted a dignified apology for any offence caused and presumably hopes to leave it there. I've never met or indeed interacted with brendan_moody but for what it's worth, while I agree with his review in this case, I also agree with his praise of some of Magrs' other work: I particularly liked his Big Finish audio The Wormery, and also recommend The Stones of Venice, Excelis Dawns, The Boy That Time Forgot, and The Zygon Who Fell To Earth. But as often as not I don't quite click with Magrs' work, and Find and Replace was one of those times; and I suspect that brendan_moody, like me, was actually more disappointed than he let on because Magrs writing Jo and Iris together seemed on the face of it like a sure winner.

Magrs may just have been in a bad mood on Friday night, or he may also feel at some level that Find and Replace is not among his best work and was upset by the review because he fears that it may be right. I think he was unwise to react as he did in what is effectively a public space (though not as unwise as, say, Rob Schneider). I suspect also that he possibly hasn't thought through his own coping strategy for negative reviews, because one of his more embittered comments reads:
Am I alone in thinking we shouldn't pay as much attention to reviewers who've never written anything themselves?
To which none other than Mark Clapham, whose work I frankly have not enjoyed as much as I have Magrs', responded:
@paulmagrs er, yes? Some reviews are shitty, but they should still be from the readers' perspective, not an authorial love-in.
And I think Clapham nails it. One does not need to be a carpenter to judge whether a chair is well made; one does not have to be a TV executive to decide whether or not one likes a television show; one does not need to be a writer to make informed judgements about a book. And if I think something sucks, I will normally say so, even if I risk spoiling the author's weekend.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
fjm
Oct. 10th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC)
Hear hear.

Having made my career on being the Reader.
alexmc
Oct. 10th, 2010 07:27 am (UTC)
Absolutely.

An author who complains a review is shitty can only do so if there are factual errors in the review, not differences of opinion.
lonemagpie
Oct. 10th, 2010 10:48 am (UTC)
And then you'll still get lynched for sour grapes.

There probably should be some kind of allowable response from authors, but, really there isn't - anything you say about a review will get you slammed, end of. It doesn't matter whether you're correcting factual errors, or responding to a review that's a personal attack instead of a review of the work. (lots of people will tell writers, "don't take it personally, they're reviewing the work, not you." This is the ideal, but it's frequently utter bollocks, and more so in the age of the internet ranter.)

Believe me, I know. Long-term feud with TV Zone...
lizbee
Oct. 10th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
Hey, who doesn't have a long-term feud with TV Zone? THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DID.
lonemagpie
Oct. 10th, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
Well, they're gone and we're still here...
alexmc
Oct. 10th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
I would be happy to engage in a dialogue with authors but I know so few who are ready to do so.

And yes, I agree with what you say about the difference between criticising the person and crticising their work. It is difficult to do one without it feeling like the other.
yiskah
Oct. 10th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more.
mizkit
Oct. 10th, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
Oh dear.
hfnuala
Oct. 10th, 2010 09:55 am (UTC)
At least he didn't publish the reviewer's number on twitter and encourage fans to call:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Horizons/2009/0629/novelist-hoffman-apologizes-for-blasting-a-book-reviewer-on-twitter

I can understand the frustration of a defensive writer, but public engagement with a review in rarely a good idea and never if you find yourself attacking the reviewer rather than the review.
nwhyte
Oct. 10th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
Dear god that's bad. Remind me never to buy a book by Alice Hoffman.
hfnuala
Oct. 10th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Indeed. I had never heard of her before this story (though I had actually seen a movie version of one of her books) and now I always associate her with authors being stupid on the internet.
lonemagpie
Oct. 10th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
Calls that a bad review? He doesn't know he's born...
steve_mollmann
Oct. 10th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
I find the old saw that you can't judge something if you haven't done it yourself particularly tiring for two reasons:
1. No one ever trots it out when someone's just written them a good review.
2. It means you're writing for about twelve other people.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 10th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
Writers and reviews
Shockingly arrogant comment from the author. Oh dear.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 11th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
I love getting reviews of all kinds and I have done so for a good fifteen or something years now. I like to think of it as a dialogue between writer, reviewers, other readers, etc. In the end, we're all readers. In my own reviews of books and other texts I try to be generous and constructive and engaged with what I'm writing about. I think it's important to review, to critique and to discuss things. What I don't like are boring, badly-written or unhelpful reviews - or pompous ones, or ones with hidden agendas or overt agendas, or ones that don't really engage very interestingly with the material, or ones where it's obvious the reviewer hasn't taken enough time or effort, or reviews that feel mean-spirited or ungenerous. The review I remarked on seemed a bit dull and sweeping in the dismissive stuff it was saying.

best,

Paul Magrs
freifraufischer
Oct. 12th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
Mr. Magrs, if you as the author don't like the review, rather misses the point of a review. Reviews don't exist for authors. They exist for readers. They are not con-crit. They are consumer advise.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 12th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
What a load of damage limitation bollocks Paul. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, whether that opinion is well informed or not. The review was perfectly legit and you blew your top. The tweet saying that only other writers should review shows your real feelings. You couldn't stand that someone thought you'd written a substandard piece.

The fact is, even if you were Shakespeare, you would still write substandard pieces. At least two of his plays are utter tripe. And you ain't Shakespeare mate. Take the criticism on the chin, be the big man, go away and write something better. And when you do, realise that somewhere, sometime, that will get a bad review as well.

And damn well apologise to the reviewer. Your reputation has taken a complete nosedive today. Man up enough to recognise that and show that you aren't an arrogant fool and you can take a bit of criticism. Cos if you can't do that, your reputation will not recover. Your callous attitude towards the fans (and the reviewer did say he enjoyed your previous work) is already on every message board in fandom. Time for some contrition if you don't want people to stop buying your stuff on the basis of your arrogance, not on the basis of a review.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 14th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Mr. Magrs, I respectfully suggest you don your big boy undies.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 14th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
We are not your editors, Paul, nor are we here to entertain you. We are your readers.
rashaka
Oct. 20th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
What I don't like are boring, badly-written or unhelpful reviews

While I respect your frustration with hearing a negative comment you are apparently unable to adequately defend your work against, I have to point out that the quality of writing in the reader's review isn't relevant here. Not a wit .Their job isn't to be good at words; that's your job.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 18th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Author bites back
Paul Magrs objects to reviewers with "hidden agendas or overt agendas" , does he? Perhaps he ought to cast his mind back to the reviews he got when he first started writing official "Doctor Who" stories, and introduced his pre-existing character Iris Wildthyme into the series. "Overt agenda" was not, it was widely-felt, the least of it.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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