I don’t regularly research the history behind the authors or the books that I read, it is difficult enough to maintain the routine of reading and reviewing without adding more steps to the process. However, because I follow a variety of people from the autistic and autism community on Twitter and keep semi-informed about goings-on elsewhere, I do sometimes come across information about the authors or the book that I wasn’t previously aware of.
This isn’t always negative of course, for example, it was only when I first read ‘What We Love Most About Life’ that I realised that I had followed Chris Bonnello on social media and visited his blog long before buying the book. Similarly, I had lots of Donna Williams books long before I learnt just what an important role she played in the history of autistic advocacy.
However, negativity often isn’t that far off when I do learn new information. With the increased use of social media, we seem to know more about authors because they make more regular and less filtered contact with their readers. This can have a wide range of outcomes from authors making meaningful engagements with readers, through clumsy and poorly worded comments that get discussed far more than they would have done before social media, to people learning that an author whose book they liked is an utter arsehole and not knowing how to reconcile those two things. Plus everything in between.
On the one hand, perhaps it’s a good thing that we learn about the author, as it helps people make an informed decision about who and where they want to spend their money. On the other, sometimes we might wish that we didn’t have to know this extra information because it has now tainted and marred something we enjoyed. Especially when something unpleasant is adjacent or tangential to the medium that we enjoyed, and other people make us feel guilty for enjoying it still. If like me, you struggle with all those emotion-related things at the best of times, this can become confusing fast.
In another medium, this happened for me years ago when I bought the video game ‘Shadow Complex’. Shortly after buying it, I read the first whispers of controversy about Orson Scott Card having something to do with the game. On a video game forum I frequented, some people wrote about how if other gamers from the LGBT community who had bought the game didn’t return it and demand a refund through Xbox Live, they were actively harming the LGBT community. This was because, in their early stages, the rumours were that Card was earning money from each sale of ‘Shadow Complex’. This turned out not to be the case and that he had instead licensed the rights from Chair Entertainment to write novels based on their intellectual property. Then the discussion moved to “Well, Chair Entertainment must have known about his homophobic views, so by buying ‘Shadow Complex’ you are supporting a company that agrees with a homophobe”.
I didn’t return the game, and I personally don’t feel guilty about enjoying it, but others on that forum did return their copies and did feel as though they had somehow betrayed the LGBT community. It was all very messy, and I was never really sure what to make of it all.
This messiness has cropped up time and again the more books I’ve read for my blog and the more time I’ve spent in the autistic and autism communities. I’m probably not any closer to working out what to make of it all, so these posts will follow my internal wanderings on the topic. Feel free to add yours too