One-Starred & Called Out: When the Insult doesn’t Quite Hit the Mark

Recently, my one and only piece was trashed–twice. By the same person. First in the magazine in which it appeared (and I was called out by name) then the anthology was attacked. The editor let me know, bade me hold my tongue, and it took me a day to see the situation clearly. So here are some sober reflections on the experience.

First, am I angry? No. Not now. Nor was I angry to begin with, really. I was concerned more than anything else. Recognizing the name of the reviewer, I realized that the review was merely retaliation for my stance on certain local political issues in my home town and my state. I felt bad for the other writers of the anthology more than anything else, because I know I’m hobbling my career with invectives and polemics–but eccentric gay Southern writers with political agendas are the norm. Still, I felt bad for them and I offer them my apology, though I’m sure they’ve probably dealt with something similar themselves.

Second, if I had to pick an emotion to describe the situation now, I’d say that I’m amused more than anything else. In the review that attacked me by (almost) my proper name, the reviewer said that I was both “vulgar” and “inappropriate.” Honestly, as a horror writer–I’ll take it. I’ll put it on T-shirts. White block font on black cotton:


It’s like the marketing gods handed me lemons–then tequila, salt, and shot glasses.

And that’s the thing of it. It’s clear the reader didn’t read the piece, let alone the magazine, let alone the anthology, because it’s horror. Of course it’ll be vulgar. Of course it will offend. Of course awful things will surface because it’s horror. There’s an element of vulgarity and a definite sense of impropriety to what’s being done. The genre itself is noted for its transgressive narrative elements.

Third, the reviews gave me some insight into the psyche of the reviewer and added a chilling clarity to the arguments involved in a purely local fight that has hidden roots in the state capital. Without explaining the issues, or describing my stance, I’ll note that the reviewer had a long list of purchases on Amazon, but beyond her reviews of the volumes containing my work, she had only reviewed one other piece of literature–a five-star rating given to a book concerning a particular Protestant denomination. That is, other than this one favorably reviewed religious work, this woman bought no other books.

Also, in her critique of the anthology, she ripped another reviewer saying that it seemed suspicious, like the reviewer was one of the contributors. When I checked the miscreant’s Facebook page I found the page for her home business where, interestingly enough, she’d left herself a 5-star review. I chuckled and moved on.

Fourth, it’s pretty clear that you can’t fight a one-star review like this. Amazon doesn’t care (they only really seem to care about fake five-star reviews, for some reason) and neither do careful readers. A one-star review reduced to one-line ad hominem attacks on authors and other reviewers stands for what it is–a pathetic, lone attempt by an uneducated noncreative to damage the work of her betters. Then again, I don’t think I want to fight it, either.

And I found my spirit-animal in the process.  

Shriek into the Void...

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