On Positivity and Negativity

There’s a worrying trend that I’ve started to notice online — be it Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, group chats, or whatever — and like most things that annoy me, I’m guilty of it myself.

When we talk about fantasy, or about reading in general, it seems to me that a lot people define their tastes by what they dislike, rather than what they enjoy. What’s worse, this behaviour seems to spill over into the treatment and perceptions of other people.

You see it all the time. People who enjoy fantasy, but feel the need to specify that this doesn’t include Urban Fantasy, or God forbid a Paranormal Romance. People who will scoff at a young adult novel because all YA is “like Twilight”. People who will hate on Epic Fantasy because “it has all been done before”, or on Grimdark because it’s for “edgy teenagers”.

It is a curious phenomenon that, to me, seems only to breed conflict and negativity. Certain subgenres get disregarded out of hand. Certain books, movies, or TV shows get classed as “trash”, and their fans are derided. There’s no discussion to be had in these situations: the hate-train very quickly gets up to full speed, and anyone in its way is run over.

It’s almost rare to see someone that is pro-something these days, as opposed to anti-something. Hell, even when people are talking about things that they like, chances are that these will be compared with something that they disliked.

How often have you heard someone say something like “I really loved X, it makes such a change from Y”?

I mean… I understand that there’s no light without shadow, but that doesn’t mean that we have to throw shade.

Check out this recent tweet from Tor. Have a think about it, and see if you find anything wrong with it.

Screenshot 2018-03-10 16.45.28

Now, Children of Blood and Bone is a wonderful, unique book. It was actually one of the first books that I reviewed for this blog way back when we started. It blends the familiar tropes of western storytelling with an awesome West-African-inspired setting.

But did Tor really need to rag on those books that do feature elves, fairies, vampires, and wizards? Couldn’t those limited characters have been put to better use by celebrating what the book is, rather than condemning what it isn’t?

Now, I’m not claiming that negativity should be curbed. Far from it. For instance, I don’t subscribe to the belief that bloggers shouldn’t write negative reviews. Actually, I believe that negative reviews are just as informative to the reader as positive reviews. But there’s a time and a place to be negative.

When you’re talking about how much you loved a book, you don’t have to shit all over another book in the process. When you see someone talking about a series they enjoyed, you don’t have to tell them how wrong they are, and why their favourite book sucks.

Ready Player One, Mistborn, and The Kingkiller Chronicles are perhaps the books which see this treatment the most. Any time someone mentions that they enjoyed them, some other asshat will inevitably come along to gleefully describe just how shitty the books and the author really are.

You are allowed to dislike things.

But other people are also allowed to like the things that you don’t.

And if they do… so what? Don’t define yourself by the things you dislike. Don’t waste so much effort talking about the books you hate, when you could be talking about the books that you love.

3 comments

  1. It seems to be so in part because ‘it’s cool to hate’, or ‘my club/celebrity/other thing is cooler than yours’. It’s something that branches well outside literature too.
    One of the biggest issues, people are paying attention to others who shit on things for money or attention because it’s almost the new norm.
    It’s not always done just to shit on things but to say “I’m better than…”, “X is terrible and if you listen to me you won’t be X” etc. and is usually followed by a request for money or attention.

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  2. It seems to be a sign of the times for people to define themselves by what they are against, as if focus on what they dislike somehow quantifies what they do like. Using your analogy, if “X and Y ” are on opposite sides of their perceived spectrum, people tend to say that they are “Anti-X” of which defaults their support to Y instead of stating their support for Y.
    This permeates them until they define their whole lives that way including the literature, fantasy and such that they read.

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  3. Actually, I’ve always got the completely opposite impression in that most sites I read at contain people positively gushing about everything in the fantasy sphere. That’s really nice in some respects (and to be honest there’s so much negativity online it’s kind of a relief). As long as people are honest and not just being provocative, I’m generally ok with a bit of negativity.

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