What constitutes constructive criticism has been discussed in the fandom ad nauseum, along with the sentiment that by putting one’s work online, an author is opening herself up to the opinions of others. While this is true, it is also important to examine closely where the line is between what an author should reasonably be expected to put up with, and attacks no person should have to endure. Input on how I can improve is something I value, and strangely enough, is something of which I’ve gotten very little. What I have received is an abundance of hate, sent under the guise of “constructive criticism.” I wanted to share a bit of this story in the hopes that it might prompt others to think about the people on the other end of the things they feel they ought to have the freedom to say as well as let others who have dealt with this know they are not alone.
I began writing Art After 5 in April of last year for a forbidden love one-shot contest. When I realized I had more story than I could tell in ten thousand words, I decided to make it a full-length piece. I expected some flack for the subject matter, it never occurred to me it would be as controversial as it was, and certainly not because of a detail I added as an homage to canon—at the beginning of his relationship with Bella, Edward is seventeen years old.
I’ll never understand why otherwise intelligent individuals assume that writing a story is an endorsement of its characters’ behavior or what would possess a person to read two chapters of a story and decide she knows its author well enough to attack her as a human being. I’ve yet to read a realistic portrayal of a serial killer and assume the author was writing from experience; sex and relationships should be no different. Writing a story in which a seventeen-year-old boy enters into a consensual sexual relationship with a twenty-four-year-old woman does not make its author a sexual predator.
Despite this, Art After 5 (and later, Counterpoint) was branded a “self-insert pedowank fantasy,” and I was deemed a “a sad twimom who wants to fuck a younger man but isn’t hot enough to be considered a cougar.” It was only a matter of time before the litany of insults was expanded to include unfit mother, pretentious dick and a cunt who should diaf. The next thing I knew, my health issues were mocked on a fandom podcast (I had surgery in December), and a now-defunct LJ community had a “DIAF Colleen” tag. Even my Fandom Give Back participation became fodder for hate, as if raising money for children with cancer could ever be a bad thing.
The worst part was that try as I may, it was impossible to avoid. My inbox was filled with well-meaning people asking me if was aware such-and-such was being said. Screen caps were tweeted to me via sock accounts, as were links to hateful forum posts. I chose not to respond to them and asked my friends to do the same, hoping that if I didn’t add fuel the fire, the flames would die, and after some time, they more or less have. What was once an inferno has now been reduced to a few glowing embers; unfortunately for me, they are resting upon the charred remains of my reputation.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t upset me—not the insults and lies themselves, but the apparent ease with which people whom I thought knew me well enough to know better believed them. I became a pariah overnight. Individuals with whom I’d thought to have fostered decent relationships no longer interacted with me in public, and some who I believed were my friends dropped me completely without even a word. For a person who has always cared about the feelings of others and gone out of her way to behave fairly and decently, it rocked me to the core—not only that people could be so senselessly cruel, but that individuals whom I’d genuinely liked felt compelled to participate.
Through all of this, I never once questioned why I write, only why I continue to take part in a community capable of such vitriol. It’s a debate I’d had with myself more times than I can count, but it always goes the same way. I decide that I’m done with fandom—that the bad outweighs the good for me and that no sane person would willingly subject herself to this. Then I get a message from one of my readers telling me that because of my writing, she understands her life a little better and values herself a little more, that my story has given her hope. I change my mind and I post my next chapter—not for myself, but for her. She is worth more to me than all of the hate.
The preceding blog entry was originally written for the Edwardville LiveJournal Community.