My book review for the anthology, Like Water for Quarks, went live on SF Signal yesterday, and with it came a pretty upset commenter. This person thinks I should leave my personal convictions out of my reviews, to put it lightly. I’d like to clear the air as far as my philosophy on religion and politics being included or excluded in my social media presence, including book reviews.
Twitter and Facebook:
To be blunt, I don’t include religion or politics in my Twitter or Facebook feeds, nor do I really comment on others’ posts that do (save for a “I’m praying for you” or something non-antagonistic like that). I know how easily people will unfollow or unfriend because of someone who disagrees with their personal convictions. I’ve hidden people from my feed for being outspoken, so I get it. I don’t go to social media to argue or have my beliefs stomped on. My social media is more of a peaceful, friendly presence and a business presence, so any conversations that could lead otherwise are held in private, and I never do that without someone asking me of my opinion.
My role on Adventures in SciFi Publishing:
I think it’s important to state this because of my new position as Executive Producer at Adventures in SciFi Publishing. If my beliefs are asked for, I’ll share, but in a respectful, let bygones be bygones type of way. I’m trying to fit in to a community where my beliefs are in the minority, and I don’t see any benefit in trying to provoke anyone. That’s not who I am, anyway. The core of my belief system centers on love and humility. I have a firm foundation to my beliefs, but I hate arguing, so my stance is just to chat about mutual areas of interest in an effort to be friends with people. As an interviewer, my job is to ask questions that shed positive light on the interviewee, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario where any arguments on politics or religion would take place.
I rarely read fiction that tries to make a point about religion or politics, no matter what side of the aisle. The commenter I mentioned says I should keep my beliefs out of reviews or simply not review books where I can’t. I usually don’t finish books that offend me, but it takes a good deal to go that far. In the case of LIKE WATER FOR QUARKS, there was really only one story that seemed bent on making a theological stance, and because it went against my grain so strongly, I could not help but include my reaction. I said that it was well written, but because of such and such message in the end, I did not like it. Fair and simple. You decide what you think. There are some amazing stories in that book, and with as many as are in it, my reaction-rating to one matters little on my overall ranking. Adding it up, I think the book had a 73.5% rating, so even if I had given that one story a five star, (which would have been dishonest), it would not have changed the overall rating.
I appreciate the wider audience for reviews that SF Signal gives me, but, at the same time, there are people who follow my reviews and for them I feel a little obligation to include personal context to my reviews. These people know what I believe, and for those who agree it makes sense to share if the story will be offensive. If the content is so extreme that I feel the need to comment, I always do so in a way that implies personal opinion, and not that the story should not be read by anyone.
Most of the stories I read have more language or sexual whatever than I would like, and that sort of thing rarely is mentioned in my reviews. In the case of my book review of NO RETURN, by Zachary Jernigan, I mentioned the sex aspect because it was prominent, but also because he used it in an interesting way for plot and magic systems. I also mentioned what I thought was a theme against religion, but I feel I did so in a respectful way, and think my audience deserves to know what themes are present. In spite of disagreeing with his side of the aisle, that aspect didn’t affect my rating, probably because he didn’t present his beliefs in an offensive way.
I may have gone on too long, but hopefully this sheds light to those who don’t know me very well on how I approach monitoring my personal convictions within my social media presence. I’m open minded and respectful of other peoples’ beliefs, but if your story sets up and then pummels a straw man, that’s going to affect my reaction, and if it is done in a prominent aspect of the story, probably my rating, too. My four star rating for NO RETURN had nothing to do with disagreements, because it wasn’t presented in a way that said those of my beliefs are stupid and should die. If it makes any difference, my rating on Goodreads and Amazon will be a four star, (rounding up).