This is a post I made on a the group I moderate on Yahoo called Lesfic_Unbound. I'm sharing it here as a thought to put out to the community.
I had contact with an author this weekend that I think needs to be shared
if we truly want to see the literature get better. I suspect many
of us have talked to lesbian friends about reading the books only to
hear, "I tried a couple. They weren't (very good/had too many
mistakes/were poorly produced/nothing but an excuse to write about sex - you pick) so I won't read them anymore."
The author who contacted me has quit every group
she belonged to and is considering not writing anymore because, and I'm
going to quote her, "I don't know who I can trust anymore." I suppose
the fact that she reached out to me means that she thinks I can be trusted. That's nice, but it's not relevant to the point.
She has published more than one book, all of which got rave reviews from the standard people -
friends, group members, some reviewers. She was feeling pretty pumped
up. Then other reviews started coming in and they pointed out the
mistakes and weaknesses in the books. Yes, one of them was a review by
me. I actually thought the story was very good, but it needed some
work. The author said she went back and looked more closely at her
books and realized that there were some problems in them. I've only
read one book, so I can't speak to the others. Anyway,
the author apparently felt that the people on the groups had let her
down. She was led to believe something that wasn't quite true. Now
these books are out there, with her name on them, and people are
pointing out weaknesses. She's embarrassed and didn't know what to do. I think we settled that problem between us.
know there was a time when there weren't many lesbian novels out there
and we lapped them all up like they were honey. We cherished every one
of them and applauded the authors in every way we could so that we could get more. Those were the days when I could read every lesbian novel that was published in a year in that year and did.
days are over. The books are flooding out now, whether from companies
or indies. Some of them are truly outstanding, some are very good, some
are fine for light entertainment and then some of them are just not good. I don't mean the topic doesn't
appeal to you. You're not into romance or mystery or science fiction.
I mean they're not good. They're full of mistakes - words missing,
misspelled words, incomplete sentences, sentences that don't make sense -
and the plots are either mundane or full of holes. I started reading a
book not long ago and began telling myself that I'd already read the
book, but I didn't know how that could be because the book was a new
release and I remembered reading it years ago. Then I realized that it
has a plot so close to another older book that it's difficult to
distinguish them. I know there are only so many plots, but you can put
fresh angles on them. I have stacks and stacks and stacks of lesbian literature that I'll probably never get to read now and still the books are pouring into my mailbox or onto my Kindle.
Don't we owe it to the authors? Don't we owe it to the readers? Don't we owe it to the literature to stop treating EVERY
book like it's a masterpiece? They
aren't all good stories. They aren't all well produced. They aren't
all worth reading and sure not worth spending money on, I don't care how
cheap they are. Or, at least be honest about the kind of book it is.
If it's the lesbian equivalent of a Harlequin romance, just say so. Harlequin romances
are tremendously popular with some people. I have no problem with
that. My mother consumed them like M&Ms and it made her happy. I
don't want to read them though or I at least want to know that's what I'm going to be reading if I buy it.
The emails with this author went on all day. I felt deeply for how she felt and I hope I gave her some suggestions that will help. Let me repeat though that she isn't upset with the critical reviews. She's upset with the community that told her how "wonderful" her books were when there was a lot of room for improvement.
Haven't we reached the point where we need to be more discriminating in what we say? Or do we just put up with the people who say "I tried a couple. They weren't very good/had too many mistakes/were poorly produced/nothing but an excuse to write about sex so I won't read them anymore."