We can forget – or we choose maybe to try to overlook – how competitive writing can be. Given the nature of the craft, that isn’t surprising: some authors will invariably achieve more success than others. Clearly, though, as in other walks of life, chasing success can also bring out the worst in some people.
There used to be a time that when honor was deemed at stake gentlemen took to the dueling field with pistols to settle their scores. Today, we’ve moved on. In our more egalitarian world, we ALL can throw dirt at each other on social media.
In the writing realm, those in the same genre seem the most likely to go head to head. If you ever find yourself in the line of fire between feuding authors, the best thing to do is run. At the very least, try to take whatever cover you can find.
My uncle had his own moments with other authors; but pre-social media most of it happened face to face. In one instance, during the presidential campaign of 2000, at a private dinner that included his agent he got into what turned into a disagreement with a couple of other writers of a differing political persuasion. It kicked off when he scoffed at their praise of candidate George W. Bush: “President? He’s not qualified to be a casino greeter.” (I didn’t use that line in any of the novels. Recalling it now, darn it, I should have!)
No pistols on the dueling field 16 years ago either, of course; but it did get, I learned after, really verbally heated…but ended with that dinner – or, more accurately, the back and forth ended that evening. Nowadays authors’ opinionated social media fisticuffs go on for ages – in public. On Twitter, I’ve witnessed episodes of writers hurling charges and insults and then dismissing each other as irrelevancies. Later, after a calm down and period of quiet, the arguments usually flare up all over again.
In one “confrontation” I’ve noticed, one writer has been charged repeatedly by other authors with running “sock puppet” web sites to attack other writers and their work. It’s also claimed that same author has been “sock puppet” posting “1 Star” Amazon poor reviews of “rival” writers’ books. (And also writing “5 Star” reviews of his own.) There’s lots more – even including accusations of racism and anti-Semitism. I lose track.
Obviously, it’s really ugly stuff. We don’t like to think about how vicious some authors can be. But, wow, can some apparently be really cutthroat.
Given it’s played out in public, what do their readers think of such behavior? True, even though it is public they may not know much, or even anything, about it. If they do, I’m sure some must be put off by it; yet some also probably enjoy it to some extent.
Myself, I know I wouldn’t be too impressed. It just goes on and on and on and ultimately leads nowhere – just a wearying accumulation of angry words, insulting tweets and vicious blog posts. At least in the “old days” the true dueling field concluded matters one way or the other…. definitively. 😉