(Are our readers just as fragile?)There are certain things that we, as writers, should probably avoid, especially on our blogs. Delving too far into advocacy on things like politics or religion risks alienating half our audience, especially in today's polarized climate. However, that doesn't mean we should have to walk on eggshells and be afraid of saying something the wrong way and offending people. This blog, for example, addresses controversial topics in a profane way at times, and I make no apologies for it. I can't spend time worrying if every little phrase or subject is going to piss people off, and I certainly can't affect the way people read my work.
The reason I bring this up is that there was recently a controversy involving fellow writer Hugh Howey. For those who don't know him, Hugh is an indie published writer who has had great success with his Wool series. He's had so much success, in fact, that director Ridley Scott has optioned Wool for a feature film. A lot of writers would kill for that kind of success. He also graduated from the college where I went to school, and I had the honor of interviewing him not long ago.
Hugh recently made a very tongue in cheek post about a run in at a book convention. It was a story about elitism and the kind of vengeance all of us have dreamed of sometimes, and its language was coarse. In the post, he called his tormentor a bitch, and he reveled in showing her up. I would link to it, but he has removed all mention of it from his website.
(Everything has been scrubbed clean)Well, you'd have thought Hugh had lit puppies on fire. He got lots of angry emails from folks about the post, the nicest of which was, "I'll never read your work again!"
I was floored. When I saw his apology post, I had to search my brain for which post he was referring to, and my reaction when I figured it out was, "You've got to be fucking kidding me." Anyone with half a brain could've figured out that the screed was conducted with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. What the reaction proved to me was that some hypersensitive folks will find any excuse to be offended.
To be fair, lots of people have rallied to Hugh's defense, citing exactly the same stuff I just did. And that's as it should be - Hugh is a terrific writer, and those who didn't get the post likely won't get his work either.
Is this what we've come to? I refuse to tip-toe through every subject, afraid that some people will read it the wrong way or take offense at the language. We will not be able to satisfy everybody - in fact, it's one of the reasons our work targets certain segments of society - and those who have no sense of humor aren't worth the effort. Yes, it might cost you a sale or two, but being too vanilla will cost you readers as well because they'll see you as boring.
I know Hugh will get past this and rocket into success beyond what he has already achieved. This is but a bump along the way. From my viewpoint, super sensitive bitches need to lighten the hell up. Sheesh...