Halegate, on top of other instances of incredibly immature overreactions to book blogging, review blogs, and book reviews, has created (or perhaps revealed) fragments in the online book reading & writing community. Better scribes than I have gone through Halegate with a fine-toothed comb, so I don’t feel the need to add my voice to the fray.
I’ve been online since 1998, when my mom brought a computer home from work and we gathered around the screen to watch it boot up America Online. From day one I discovered the internet could bring me closer to people who shared my interests. Back in the late 90s, all of the stuff that is now considered mainstream/pop culture/”cool” (e.g. how proudly many are to latch onto the Nerd label) was not. I was the weird one amongst my circle–the band geek and cheerleader/track runner, the girl who was equally nuts over Buffy the Vampire Slayer and mainstream family sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Sister, Sister, who eagerly taped the latest hip-hop songs and bubblegum pop from the radio, who was equally comfortable sitting alone with a stack of books and, well, pulling pranks and other teenage exploits. But on the internet, I could be all of these things at one time.
As a result, I’ve always viewed reviews as an extension of fandom (so to speak). You don’t rant or rave about things you don’t give a crap about. You don’t engage with the text–or TV show or musician or movie–and are eager to initiate conversation about it unless you care deeply about the product.
From the standpoint of a creator, I won’t lie and say I don’t think 1 and 2-star reviews suck. I don’t go out to read my reviews because I don’t need that in my headspace, but when I do see a 2 star review, I’m that monster going “Grr Argh” over the Mutant Enemy logo. Oddly enough, I was more floored by a 1 star review of my non-fiction than a 1-star review of my fiction. I guess it’s because non-fiction feels like it comes directly from my intelligence, whereas fiction is an emotional/creative outpouring that I leave behind once I’ve completed the book.
So to wrap this up: Reviews are for readers, not because they want the freedom to tell you how much you suck and you need to stop writing, but because this is how they engage with their reading and their corner of the book-reading community. Rampage against reviews and reviewers and you kill the community. That definitely makes me Grr Argh.