On Anne Rice, and why we write.
Originally posted Sept. 23, 2004:
I wanted to say this or something like this during the last Anne Rice wank that happened on journalfen. Every time I see something this woman says in public I always come away feeling just--pissed off and sad for her, and sad for all the writers out there who are being taught to think and act like her. This was going to go on fandom wank as a comment, but it was too long, and I felt like it was a little too ranty anyway. Will keep this public for a little bit in case anybody from FW stops by. So. Yeah. Anne Rice.
So, Anne Rice has appeared on Amazon.com flaming people who didn't like her book (you can read it here
--she's the reviewer near the top of the page, Anne OBrien Rice). As all acts of pretention are in due course, this one was wanked
. A bunch of fandom_wank members apparently wrote Anne Rice and linked her to the wank discussion, evidently inviting her to join. And Anne Rice was basically like 'fuck you you worthless bitches,' which is all well and good except that to me she basically looks like a total, burntout embittered hypocrite.
I'm saddened that she honestly can't recognize that there's no
difference between not deigning to engage in conversation with a bunch of us members of fandom_wank, and between launching into a diatribe against her readers
to tell them how they should behave. Sure, one involves lowering yourself to the level of responding to your critics, which is generally a terribly unwise and ungracious thing to do--but in my mind it's far, far
more ungracious to respond to your readers
with hostility. That she is choosing to play the holier-than-thou card at this juncture is laughable. She ripped that card into shreds the moment she told readers they weren't correctly 'interrogating the text.'
I think it's one of the hardest things in the world for a writer to let go of the idea that ownership of their text is theirs. Because the text is
theirs up until the moment they put it on paper and allow it to be read by someone else. From that point on whatever you just wrote becomes your gift
to your reader, and from that point on, I believe it is no more your right to dictate its interpretation than it is your right to forbid someone from plunking down $25 and reading the book to begin with. Sure, you can provide your own
interpretation, but telling readers this is how the book or work or writing or what have you is supposed
to be read? Bullshit. Not only that but it's sour grapes of the worst and most foul kind.
It saddens me that the act of writing and crafting a story isn't enough for some writers, regardless of whether or not they're paid for that writing. It saddens me that they have some sort of need to stifle creative interpretation of their work in the minds of their fans and readers, because to do that flies in the face of whatever inspirations they
had when they
were writing. Or was Anne Rice never influenced by the Brontes she reviewed, Irish blood and madness
It saddens me, too, that this woman has clearly moved so far beyond the spirit of shared creativity and interpretation from which that fount of inspiration springs, that she can no longer profit from it either by writing a good story or by being gracious to her fans. That she has come to believe her own press is obvious. She reminds me very much of the way someone on my friends list talks of working with a very famous actress in years past, a Hollywood legend who lived on some freaky distant planet where the only people who mattered
were other actors like herself, and everyone else was there simply to bow and scrape and give her her dues as a legend. Anne Rice sounds just like this when she's ranting, especially when she seriously and earnestly talks about her 'status' as a writer: I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status.
No, Ms. Rice. Your status as a writer is that of gift-giver. Your status as a writer, regardless of how many millions you make from your books, never changes. You are privileged
to be able to tell your stories, sell your stories, and share them with the rest of us. Some of us are privileged to be able to make money from that endeavor, and privileged to have editors willing to help us along the way. Fine, well and good. Some of us write fanfic. Some of us write original fic. Some of us do both. But the goal, the act, the moment of story-telling, that transfer of creation from writer to reader, never changes. You are writing stories to share with us--you are beyond
privileged even that we, the audience, the reader, allow
you to come in our lives for the space of an hour, a day, maybe even a year or a lifetime, and make you part of our lives and our reading experience. You are giving us a gift and we give you back our respect, give your characters back our love, if they earn it.
You talk of status like it's a plateau that can be reached, like you've ascended some sort of authorial Mount Olympus and are looking down from the position of editor-free goddess. But as long as you are a writer you are beholden
to us, the audience. You are blessed
if we give you our time and your writing our emotional investment. For you to forget that your writing is a gift to each of us is to forget the spirit of writing, of art
, itself. When you speak of writing as a virtuoso performance you're forgetting that no musician can instruct the audience how to hear--all they can do is play sweetly and hope that is enough to please. Your notes, Ms. Rice, soured hours ago, and your audience has been applauding you with golf claps for several numbers now. You, however, have been too wrapped up in listening to yourself play to notice.
That is not what making music is about, or writing. Writing is not about closing yourself off in a vacuum alone with your own praise and those of your sycophantic followers. Writing is about gift-giving. And once you have given us a gift, you cannot tell us how we are to receive it, or how we are to respond. You have had the joy of writing. Let that be enough. To try and tell us how to read your story is to nullify the act of creating the story itself, because no story is complete without someone to hear it. The story can never be truly heard if only the author is there to hear it for us and tell us what it is about.
No love, Ms. Rice. No love.
This is tl;dr without question, but I'm glad I said it
even though Neil Gaiman said it much better
, and I sure as hell hope I never forget it for myself. If I ever do, then wank away, fandom_wank, wank away.