If you’re not reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch, she had an excellent post up Thursday about book-shaming, and publishing-shaming.

Not only does it have such lovely lines as “Once upon a time, my friends, this snobbery was a self-fulfilling prophecy”, but it also talks about our rapidly changing world, in which the taste-makers have lost their power – not because they lost their positions of power, but because the positions themselves lost power.

But nothing screams “respect ma authoriteh!” like someone who brings nothing to respect to a position that has lost its own power. To quote Kris:

Let me be as blunt as I can here.

People who shame you are trying to control you. They want you to behave in a certain way. Rather than telling you to behave that way, they’re striving to subtly change your behavior by embarrassing you, and making you think less of yourself.

These people are trying to place themselves above you, to make you act the way that they want you to act, even if it is not in your own best interest. Shame is a particularly useful tool, because so many good-hearted people want to behave properly. These good-hearted folk don’t want to offend in any way. Yet shamers try to convince the good-hearted that they are offending or at least, making themselves objects of ridicule.

There’s an entire psychological area of study about this kind of shaming. It’s subtle, it’s nasty, and it often hurts the people it’s aimed at. Usually, shame is used by the powerful to keep the less-powerful under their thumbs.

So the next time someone tells you that you’re “racist sexist homophobic”, without ever trying to get to know you first, makes fun of your religion, expresses disgust at the idea of having children, belittles your choices in what to put in and what to leave out, how you publish, or makes fun of the type of fiction you like to read…

Tell them to take a long walk off a short pier, and keep writing what you makes you happy, and your readers want to read. They’re just trying to control you.

And as my husband said to people who called him all that, neo-nazi, and more, then threatened to boycott him: “You’ve never bought my books, and you were never going to, anyway. Why should I care what you think?”

52 thoughts on “Book-shaming

  1. Believe it or not, I am seeing, right now, today, the exact same thing in the Colored Angora Goat world. Thanks for explaining what’s really going on!

      1. There are people who raise Colored Angora Goats so they can show them. They have nothing but disdain for those of us who raise them because we want their mohair and to have some pretty cool critters.

        I don’t register mine because I don’t care, but this just irks the hell out of those who run the registry. And that is why they are #goatsnobs

        1. So the registrars are upset that they.. DON’T get your goat(s)?
          The folks I know would be more interested in spinning than showing. Crazy (at least quasi-)practical people. }:o)

        2. I’ve seen this in the dog world, too. Mentioning AKC beauty standards (at the expense of temperament, health issues, and working ability) to a breeder who focuses on making the working dogs best bred and raised for their jobs, and… well, “blast radius” is a good term to use for the ensuing spectacle, there.

            1. Ideally, any domesticated animal breeder would be concerned about breeding a healthy, intelligent, good-natured animal that does its job well.

              Kennel club breeding and similar breed registries were supposed to help breeders do it right. Early on, you could have a situation (for many less-popular animals or breeds) where every single breeder in the US was a member of the club and knew all the other members socially (as well as knowing how their animals did).

              In a situation where a breed was barely surviving famines and wars, or where a breed had to resort to related outcrosses in order to have any reasonable amount of breeding stock at all (as with Irish wolfhounds), a detailed international genealogy database is absolutely essential. Again, everybody in the breed club has a mission of keeping the breed going and healthy, so they have a reason to stick close.

              Unfortunately, when less popular breeds or animals become more popular, this often leads directly to puppy farming or other bad breeding practices. Obviously these folks aren’t interested in breed clubs. Then there are people who are well-meaning and try to be kind, but who know bupkis about breeding or animals, and yet are out there breeding and selling whatever is popular; and therefore also produce unhealthy animals.

              On the other hand, you have the common situation where farmers or dog hunters actually do know quite a bit about animals and breeding, have no interest in socializing or ribbons, and just want to go about their business as reputable no-frills breeders of whatever they have. They seldom produce unhealthy animals, but their animals are not seen or known. They are under the radar to breed clubs.

              So when people in breed clubs extrapolate all their bad experiences with non-members to mean, “Anyone who wants to breed but doesn’t join the breed club is actually a cruel puppy farmer,” they may not have any counterexamples whom they know personally. They may also be panicking about what’s going on in genetics that they can’t monitor.

              OTOH, the more that people in breed clubs keep their eyes open, the more they will see counterexamples. Not everybody who isn’t in a breed club is stupid enough to try to breed male Irish wolfhounds to tiny female dogs. Not everybody in a breed club is honest about exposing and reporting genetic problems among his kennel’s dogs, or trustworthy about taking care of dogs properly.

              So if you’re a goat farmer and proud of it, don’t let them get your goat. 🙂

            1. Are you a follower of the old scotch collie movement?

              I’ve read the lad book but I haven’t seen anything by him anywhere else. 🙂

          1. Ugh. Don’t remind me. I was a breeder and competer of working Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds (UKC) for a long time, and I remember the controversies over the American Kennel Club recognizing the Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog/ACD for non dog fanciers). I have been one of those for whom the phrase “blast radius” and “turning the air blue” could be applied to regarding the subject of show dog breeders. 🙂

            This was in the late late 90s, and there were still UKC breeders who were annoyed at the AKC recognition in the 80s, and at what they perceived and were afraid that it’d do to the breed. (I used to work with pointers and setters, and based on the lack of “hunt sense” in AKC Irish Setters, it was and is a real concern.)

            I still have Aussies, but I don’t breed or compete any more. My main Aussie is retired at 11 years old, but he was a trained herding dog and agility/field trail dog in addition to being show quality. The pup is just a pet, even though he’s working quality. (He has the instincts, and the “Eye” for it.)

          2. I know that the people who are big on registering their angora goats push beauty standards so they can win shows and charge more for their animal’s kids.

            They have changed the looks of the animals to the point where my, traditional angora goats really do not look like theirs anymore.

  2. During the 70s-80s when “Law & Order” was big in politics, there was an ad that quoted a certain A. Hitler calling for “Law & Order”.

    Since A. Hitler never said that, it was the start of my cynicism toward so-called Liberals. [Frown]

  3. About 50 years ago, MAD magazine ran a series of commercials advertising their cartoon collections. They said: “Want Shelf-Respect? Buy the Harvard Classics! Want Shelf-Indulgence? Buy The MAD Magazine Classics!” I decided thereafter that Shelf-Indulgence was the way to go.
    I admit to having a hard-back copy of Sun-Tzu’s “Art of War” on my bedside table, but that’s the ONLY Shelf-Respect item I own, unless you want to count textbooks I haven’t discarded yet against me.

    1. Mild Shelf-Respect because the Sun-Tzu is hard-back. Props in that I would bet that it’s well thumbed.
      Simple truth is that the vast majority of Shelf-Respect books have never been cracked, thereby relegating them to a facade which is just a polite term for lie.

      1. My policy was to buy in hardback (if possible) when I was going to reread at least once a year for the next thirty years. Reminds me… I need to take a picture of my RAH paperbacks that have not been replaced yet, from my teenage years – yes, they are literally held together with bandage tape.

        Thank goodness for e-books; I have several backups of every one of them. Also, while the time is not quite yet for me, I know it is coming when I will need the font-size changing ability; and the durability of a hardback won’t mean squat.

        1. LOL. I bought new Heinleins, but my kids stole them. So I have the ones missing covers, the ones held together with five different kinds of tape, including duct tape…

      1. There is such a thing as “aspirational reading.” Some people hope they’ll read X someday, so they buy it now. Whether they do or they don’t, it sits there waiting for them. (Probably not as common now, because you really can pick up the classics more easily online.)

          1. My Kindle List

            My B&N List (not growing now that I’m purchasing more from the Kindle Store).

            Very Small Kobo List.

            Various ebooks from currently out-of-business ebook-stores.

            Oh, plenty of Baen ebooks. [Wink]

    2. I bought a set of Shelf-Respect “Great Books of the Western World” just prior to my first separation from the Navy. Mostly because I was getting out to attend college and I thought they’d be useful. I did use the Shakespeare books and a couple of the political philosophy books (I was a PS major), but the rest of it was mostly for reference material. It’s a really great set if I got sucked into the 1632 universe, though: Starts out with Homer, goes through Aristotle and Galen, includes Faraday and Lavoisier and Niels Bohr and Hobbes and Descartes and Spinoza and Darwin and such. Also “American State Papers” which includes the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. That one I consult a fair bit.

      No, I have no I intention of reading half of them. I like knowing that I have them available to consult if I need to, though.

  4. This bit from Kris’s post was priceless:

    “Once upon a time, the power brokers could label self-publishing “vanity” publishing and get away with it.

    But now, the true vanity publishers are the traditional publishers. Writers make less money going through a traditional publisher than they would doing the work themselves. The writers often lose their copyrights in that book, and they often sign a non-compete clause which effectively prevents them from making a living at their writing by writing other things like a real writer would do.

    The only reason to go with these big publishers now is ego and vanity. “

  5. I lived in northern Thailand when I was a kid, and attended a very small missionary school during middle school. When my parents went down to Bangkok I would send them with a list of books I needed from the DK Bookstore (the most heavenly place on Earth). They returned with the British editions of Heinlein, Burroughs, and others. My best friend and I were extreme power readers, and we both liked everything. She read all of my books and I read all of hers, and her mom had this great lending library in one part of their house where we would go read books we weren’t supposed to.

    Some of the people on the covers of those books were, shall we say delicately, scantily clad. I remember closing Thuvia, Maid of Mars before Electricity Class, my friend looking at me, reaching over and turning it upside down so no one would see the cover. She was planning to read it next.

    I kept my covers face down after that, but if I knew how to upload them here (can’t due to general ineptitude) I would share. They’re amazing, and I still have them. I will never get rid of them because they pass the KonMari test of sparking joy. And snickers.

      1. It’s named after the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (I do read everything), Marie Kondo, a lovely but ruthless woman. You gather all your possessions of a like kind, lay your hands on each of them, and if it sparks joy you get to keep it. Otherwise, out it goes. You start with your clothing, and I am going to do it any weekend now. In the meantime, when I’m filling an AmVets bag, I’ve started applying the test. It’s a good test.

    1. I’m living in northern Thailand now; it’s quite possible we have acquaintances in common. (If you want to email me and find out, put a dot between my first and last names and you’ll have my Gmail address). And I know what you’re talking about regarding covers: I have a copy of A Princess of Mars whose cover is NSFW, which I bought from a library sale. It’s currently sitting in America, waiting for me to find someone who could hand-carry it over to Thailand in their luggage. (That’s far cheaper than paying international shipping costs; enough missionaries fly here that I can usually find someone willing to carry a few books for me). Most books I have no problem with, but that one, well, I might have to wait until I’m in the US myself this coming September, and pick it up myself. I personally have no qualms with the cover, but I don’t want to shock any of my fellow Christians who might think I’m reading something pornographic. And I have plenty of other library-sale books waiting for me to find someone to carry them over, so it’s not like I’ll have a shortage.

      1. Very cool. We were in Chiang Mai. I’ll write you tonight (my night). There’s one fellow in particular I’m thinking you might know.

  6. Reminds me of the snobbery directed towards Baen and it’s covers. Sure, they’ve had a few clunkers (ask Sarah), but those covers move books. I’d sooner have something a bit garish than the tripe other publishers are offering (Ancillary Dullness, I’m looking at you and your blurry spaceships and indistinct backgrounds).

      1. You know, I don’t like ripping on Ann Leckie. But I started in reading that series, and as soon as I found out what an ‘ancillary’ was, I dropped it like a hot rock. Because holy f-ing f, what a ghod awful thing to put at the center of a book.

        And of course, the Hugonians LOVED it. I just can’t even.

    1. And the Ancillary covers are, um, very dull for the (theoretical) topic and plot. I’ve seen worse, but the Ancillary covers signal more literature than sci-fi to me. Which may very well be what the publisher wants them to do, in which case they work.

        1. Your “carnival of leftist virtue-signaling” remark is being much-discussed over at Vile today. They are responding much the way you might expect.

  7. And of course, the denizens of Vile needs to get their two cents in:

    “JJ on February 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm said:

    And nicely done to Fynbospress, for claiming that Rusch’s “Be Proud to be a Self-Publisher, and Don’t Pay Any Attention to Nay-Sayers” actually means “Be Proud to Claim Membership in a Group Fronted by Racists, Misogynists, and Homophobes, and Don’t Pay Any Attention to People Who Have an Issue With What They Support”.

    They are consistent, I’ll give them that.

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