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Monday, January 08, 2007

James Nicoll: "Readers are not owed anything by the writer"

When you're blogging, the comments to a post are what make it interesting.

Such as this blogpost by author James Nicoll: "What Readers Are Not Owed By Writers".

Now, Nicoll is expressing frustration with how the writer-reader relationship can go sour, when a reader becomes increasingly demanding.

Do I expect readers to treat me with awe, to scrape and bow before me and offer nothing but praise? Nah. It'd get boring. All I ask for is the Golden Rule: Treat me as you would like me to treat you.

But it seems people get confused about the author-reader relationship. It is not as simplistic as this:

Author=Producer
Reader=Customer

But then again, it's not really like this either:

Author=The Waiter
Reader=The Customer (Is Always Right)

Or like this:

Author=Soul Mate
Reader=Soul Mate

Some (deluded) persons see it like this:

Author=Evil Overlord Oppressor Who Claims "Copyright" Of Characters & Story
Reader=Loving Fan Who Writes Erotic Fanfiction With Author's Characters, And What's Wrong With That?

Or like this:

Author=God-Like Creator Of Immortal Art
Reader=Author's Slave

Not to sound overly cynical, but apparently nothing sours the author-reader relation like success. The more books a writer sells, the more readers start to think the author "owes" them something or other.

Alix Amnamáre puts it this way:

"I think all this can be boiled down to one thing: readers are not owed the fulfillment of their expectations. That is, readers can expect whatever they want, but if those expectations are not fulfilled, they cannot place the blame on the writer."

Author S.L. Viehl weighs in; much commentry ensues.

(See also my post on how critics expect things and get disappointed when expectations are not met.)



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