When the meter clicked past 30,000 I commemorated the event with a blog post that proved bizarrely controversial. And, thus inspired, I thought I would blog again.
Today's subject is tribalism. Particularly in the fantasy genre.
I suppose this bleeds in from the incredibly partisan politics in the US which in turn have created an ongoing culture war where the only thing both sides hate more than each other is the idea that there might be any legitimate middle ground.
In any event, it wasn't something I was prepared for when I stumbled into a book deal back in 2010. I wrote a fantasy story, swords were swung, blood spilled, a young life laid bare. On the day it hit the shelves I found myself accused of being a misogynist because ... there weren't 'enough' female characters in my short book from a single point of view, of being a rape apologist because the book contained three lines indirectly describing rape, and again of being a misogynist because the main character was (incorrectly) perceived to be one.
If you look at my blog post "That book with all the rape." the degree to which what people say is at odds with the reality of the situation is breathtaking. It was my first glimpse at the tribal nature of the genre. These people hadn't read my book. They hadn't so much as glanced at the first page - they had just heard the war drums and come running to boost the signal.
Much of the debate in the fantasy genre is just that partisan politics rolling on blindly, the culture war taking no prisoners. Read two invested parties getting into it on a forum or comments section and you get the distinct impression that neither is reading what the other writes, just skimming for something to pounce on. If they were having an actual conversation you might imagine them hearing only 'blah blah blah' and waiting for the pause in which to repeat themselves.
In my 30,000 blog post I dared to suggest that circumstances existed where it was legitimate (whatever that means) to have a book that contained very few members of one gender. I cited a novel about a week at sea in a submarine in World War II as an example.
A popular partisan blogger site got hold of this, and still burning with holy zeal over the 'rapefest', put me on their wanted list alongside hate-blogger Requires H@te whose rap sheet included victimising women of colour, death threats, relentless hounding of authors, driving someone to a suicide attempt, and 'many more'. The thing was - that Requires H@te was one of theirs, only recently disgraced when it turned out her targets had secretly included authors who were women of colour, up until then it had been assumed they were all white male authors and that was fine. So in the ... somewhat skewed ... perspective of this blog site I deserved to sit along side Requires H@te on the shelf of shame.
The most interesting thing to me about this was that the condemnatory tweet about me was picked up and retweeted over 100 times. Score 1 for the witch hunt - quite a mob gathered! But, the blog post itself, which until that point had had around 12,000 hits, only gathered slightly less than 100 new hits that day.
The most charitable interpretation is that everyone who retweeted that tweet looked to see what they were up in arms about ... and not one of their many thousands of followers did. But the truth must be that very few of those leaping on the bandwagon in an attempt to shame me actually read the blog post they were howling about. They just took as gospel the distortion presented to them in a 140 character tweet (or possibly on the site itself where I was lucky not to have Osama Bin Laden's mugshot to my right). And that's the culture war right there - it doesn't matter what individuals actually say - get caught in the cross hairs and you're thrown to the mob. The mob don't care, they're just pitching in. The people doing the throwing don't care, they think the lie (perhaps a mere gross exaggeration / distortion) is fine because they have their eyes on winning the war and collateral damage in this engagement is an acceptable price to pay.
The irony is that politically I am far far closer to the people spouting ridiculous nonsense about me than I am to the people with whom they want to line up beside me against the wall.
The fact is though, that there is nothing so good at undermining your own thoughtfully held position than seeing it spouted as dogma by a frothing evangelist. I've had the unpleasant experience of having my own beliefs preached at me by myopic idiots who think I'm their mortal enemy on the basis of someone's tweet.
What can be done? Very little really. People are people. It took millions of us quite a few decades to dig the hole we're standing in, and getting out will take a while too. The good news, however, is that we can still see the sun.
As a footnote: I finished Red Sister last week, the first book in the upcoming and eponymous trilogy. I'm waiting to be censured for having too few male characters and to be told that the convent setting is just a misandrist excuse.
The publisher's press release by itself was enough to set my most enthusiastic detractors (one being the author of the rapefest quote) into paroxysms. One wondered if it was a plot to suppress women's writing. Another worried that it was a conspiracy to undermine women writing about women...
This is what happens when you get so far into the tribal mindset that if you see someone who you've labelled 'THEM' running toward a drowning kitten your first thought is that the person is only running because they don't want to miss the show.