I’ve been slowly reading my way through an excellent book on psychology. One of the studies the author discusses in detail is what should be done for survivors of some mass disaster or trauma. Oddly, the answer seems to be: don’t force them to relive it. People are surprisingly resilient, it turns out. And forcing them to talk about what happened in an effort to prevent PTSD turns out to actually make the problem worse. If you leave them alone, people will recover, come to terms, and when they need it, seek help. This isn’t always true… some people are not resilient at all. They shatter under pressure. I can give you examples of both, in the writing world, from the past week.
One is the young lady who became a victim of a Twitter witchhunt (who would have thought we would traverse from dunking women in ponds to see if they could breathe underwater, which of course meant they were a witch, or would drown, which meant they were innocent, to forcing strangers to endure mocking, humiliation, and career death? Remind me to dig up that article on Medicolegal Death Investigation and Social Media for case studies of suicides influenced by facebook and twitter storms). The young writer dared write from her own experience, and it was outside the accepted narrative. So they drowned her career.
On the other hand, you have someone who, after 23 books in a long-running and popular series, was unceremoniously dumped by his publisher. Anyone want to bet he’s making more money in a year if he goes Indie than he could have dreamed? From his facebook post about it:
Tor-MacMillan dumps Repairman Jack
It’s true. Jack is back but Tor doesn’t want him.
The publisher of 23 Repairman Jack titles says “No mas.” They’ve made it known to my agent that they’ve decided not to proceed with any new Jack novels.
I see this as the result of a perfect storm arising from a confluence of poor sales of the very noir, pure-crime Early Years Trilogy (for which I take full responsibility), plus the death of the long-time editor of the series, plus the sidelining of my long-time publisher, Tom Doherty. I suppose it doesn’t help that Jack is not what you’d call a “woke” character and has no allies in the Tor editorial department.
That’s resilience. Refusal to allow his career to be dunked. Not that he’d have drowned, anyway, unlike the young lady F. Paul Wilson has a solid fanbase that has his back… which brings me to another interesting post, about literary circles. My dear readers. Would you like to be in the Mad Genius Club literary circle? Because you are! We have cookies, and advice, and warm words of pungency when the idiots try to kick you while you’re down. Rawle Nyanzi writes about what makes ‘right wing’ writers more resilient and durable to the twitter mobs than the ‘left wing’ who fall prey to a form of cannibalism. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s a pertinent snip:
As we’ve seen with the previous authors mentioned above, hate-mobs often target those they are likely to extract concessions from. In the case of tradpub YA, that means people who want to be seen as progressive and woke. Therefore, attacking a right-wing author is a waste of time since that author is simply not going to care about intersectionality or representation — their literary circles don’t care, their audiences don’t care, so they won’t care either, especially if it boosts their Amazon sales rank. By contrast, a tradpubbed YA author’s brand absolutely depends on being woke since that’s how you get huge publicity and big advances, to say nothing of behind-the-scenes support of various kinds.
Thus any author in the early stages of a career would do well to choose a circle carefully. Make sure they do right by you, rather than hate-mob you based on rumors. And when the hate-mobs do come, make sure they have your back.
I’d argue that it’s not really about the political bent of the circle of people you have around you. Good friends who have your back are worth their weight in gold. Groups of people you can go to for help, to check whether you’re on the right track or barking up an empty tree, to pick you up, dust you off, and give you a little push to regain momentum… you can’t get those on purpose. You find out you have them when things go horribly wrong, but you get them by being a resilient person who has compassion and empathy for others. Because before you got pushed in the pond and held down to see if bubbles came up? You were with the group pulling the assailants off some poor unfortunate soul and helping render first aid. Your innate resiliency, your stubborn refusal to give up and go down into the dark deeps where the plankton would nibble your bones… that’s what drew your circle around you. You get to have the choice to face down the mob, or to kowtow and offer up your life’s work to them in hopes it would placate their ravening appetite for blood.
It’s all you. Stand tall. We’re at your back if you need us.
(header image: by Cedar Sanderson)