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Author Self-Bans Book Because Of Outrage Mob

February 3, 2019

She looks ticked off. I’d be ticked off too if an outrage mob attacked my book.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been interested in this book without the outrage mob.  First of all, I don’t like YA fiction because there are always too many kids in the books.  I don’t usually like reading books from the kid’s point-of-view.  It’s okay occasionally, but I’m in my early 50s, and it would probably be kind of weird if I liked YA fiction too much.

Plus, this book is fantasy.  Man, I have read way too much fantasy in my life.  I’m so bored by fantasy that when I watch Game of Thrones, I enjoy the political intrigue but I yawn when I see dragons and ice zombies.

As much as I don’t like YA fantasy, I truly despise outrage mobs.  They react too quickly and too forcefully to stuff and don’t give people time to process information.  Even if the outrage mob is right about a specific point (they usually aren’t), they act so obnoxious that they ruin any point they had.

Just so you know, I’m referring to an unpublished book called Blood Heir by Amelie Wen-Zhao.   The author has decided not to publish her book after an outrage mob attacked her for a variety of reasons.  I’m not going into those reasons, but you can find them here and here .  These two articles (especially the second one) explain the situation better than I could.  You can also go to Twitter and look up Blood Heir, but I don’t recommend that.  Twitter, ugh.

When I was in my 20s (like the author is now), I probably would have been influenced by outrage mobs too.  Back then, I cared a lot more about what people thought of me.  Now I’m grouchy and would be more likely to tell them to buzz off.  I mean, I’d consider what the outrage was about first, but then I’d tell them to buzz off out of spite, even if the mob had a point.

Outrage mobs attack YA authors for a reason.  YA is different from regular fiction because publishers go out of their way to make sure nothing is racially offensive.  When I was reading YA books a few years ago (because my daughter was reading them, but she’s out of that phase now), I noticed some sexual references that I thought shouldn’t be in books marketed to middle school kids, but I didn’t make a big deal about it.  YA book publishers might not care about sexual references, but they are very sensitive about multiculturalism and diversity.  I guess YA authors are so sensitive, they self-ban their own books for their unintended slights.

I think Stephen King self-banned a short story (it wasn’t YA fiction) that he wrote in the 1970s because he thinks it helped inspire school shootings.  If he feels guilty about that, I can understand why he wants to self-ban the story.  I don’t think he should feel guilty about that, but I understand it.  He can logically (kind of) see the harm that his story might have caused.  If I thought my story was going to cause that kind of violence, I’d probably self-ban it.  But I don’t think it did.  I think  Stephen King has written stuff that’s way worse than the school shooting story.  But that’s what you do when you write horror genre stuff.

A few months ago, The American Library Association celebrated Banned Books Week to fight against the banning of books.  Maybe I’m wrong, but most Americans are against banning books, even if the books have ideas we don’t like.  What would the ALA do with a book that the author has self-banned?  Will the ALA take the sides of authors who are attacked by outrage mobs?  I’m sure a bunch of libraries were going to purchase Blood Heir; will they stand aside and allow outrage mobs to influence what gets published?  Is a self-ban inspired by an outrage mob the same thing as an actual ban?  Will this start a trend of authors banning their own books?

Maybe the self-ban is good.  Maybe the world doesn’t need another YA fantasy series.  Book stores are filled with YA fantasy novels.  Then again, there are too many outrage mobs too.  If I had to choose sides, I’d pick the YA fantasy novel over the outrage mob.  The YA fantasy novel would have to be truly horrible to be worse than an outrage mob.  Outrage mobs are inherently horrible.  Ugh.  Outrage mobs.


What do you think?  Is an outrage mob inherently worse than a (possibly) racially insensitive moment in a book?  Would you self-ban something you wrote if it offended a reader?  Have you ever seen a productive exchange of ideas on Twitter?

  1. If we ban things that might offend someone, we’ll potentially have to ban everything, because there will always be someone who takes offense.

    • When I was a kid, if someone claimed to be offended, they were told to shut up or lighten up. That probably wasn’t cool, but now we might have gone too far in the other direction.

  2. J.C. Henry permalink

    I wouldn’t have been interested in this book if you hadn’t mentioned it here. I feel that “audiences” are taking these issue to far. They are not giving creatives time to work through whatever they have to get to where they need to be. The process of writing is difficult enough without a person censoring themselves because what they wrote might offend another group of people. I read the information you made available and I wonder when authors are allowed to interpret their own work instead of having people “interpret” it for them.

  3. I read that she was doing this and it angers me. It angers me that most of the people that jumped on this appear not to have read the book. There are lots of people that speak from a position of ignorance. If you haven’t read or researched something in order to form your own opinion than I believe folks should keep their mouths shut.

    I hope she ignores the haters and publishes her book.

    From what I’ve seen the majority, if not all, of this outrage mob are adults not the YA sge group, which I think is reprehensible on another level.

    Because they have failed to understand her intentions and failed to give constructive criticism the YA community may have lost a potentially good writer.

    • “I hope she ignores the haters and publishes her book.”-

      Same here. I would like it even more if she defends what she’s written. And if she thinks the outrage mob was right (Aaarrrgh!), then rewrite the offensive part. But I don’t know.

  4. Ah, the joy of the online ‘community’ – going out of their way to hound a young, debut author for (according to one of the articles you linked to) very shaky reasons. It puts authors in a difficult position. We’re all aware of trying to be more inclusive with our characters, showing diversity, so we’d be criticised if the books we write are too white/heterosexual etc, and rightly so. But including a range of characters is a minefield too. I hope she gets to publish her books and then they can be judged how they should be – on whether they’re any good

    • “We’re all aware of trying to be more inclusive with our characters, showing diversity, so we’d be criticised if the books we write are too white/heterosexual etc, and rightly so. But including a range of characters is a minefield too. “-

      Some publishers hire sensitivity readers to make sure authors don’t unintentionally write something offensive when they create characters or settings outside their demographic expertise. I laughed when I first heard about it (“sensitivity readers…pffft”), but I guess it’s like an insurance policy, kind of.

      • In the USSR, publishing houses, journals, newspapers also had “sensitivity readers” making sure that the high-ranked members of the Communist party don’t get offended.

  5. There is too much censorship and political correctness. People don’t always make the effort to get the entire story and are quick to jump on the social media bandwagon without knowing all the facts. I wish she WOULD publish the book and give the reader the right to decide whether or not it’s deemed worth reading. If it does have a racial slant, then there are points to be discussed and debated and lessons for us all to learn. If we put too many constraints on the creativity and imagination on up-and-coming authors, we will be a society of robotic nothingness. As long as we let the loudest easily-offended mouths on social media spin what we think and feel, we are doomed as a race–the HUMAN race.

    • Even after reading several articles about this, I know there’s some missing information, so it’s tough for me to feel comfortable with a set opinion.

      I don’t think companies (or creators) should let themselves be influenced much by outrage mobs, though. The outrage mob doesn’t represent a large part of the population, and the mob is never satisfied (no matter what side it’s on).

  6. Great article! When I was younger, even just a few years ago, I would ask, “could they be right?” Now, not so much.

    Just got kicked on my Twitter account because I ridiculed the #JussieSmollett story. At first I bought it, but then not so much. No record of the “attack” in a part of Chicago with enough cams to record “hundreds of hours” of footage? In a two hour window, that would be at least a hundred cams, maybe two hundred or more. They saw nothing?

    And he DECLINED his appointed security for this particular walk? The alleged perps were out for a stroll on a -40F night on a Chicago street near 4 AM? No footage of ANYTHING except an unusually unclear snapshot of two people walking? Sounds like a HOAX to me!

    All this after we discover that Nathan Phillips did NOT serve in Viet Nam, and he has a LONG history as an “activist.” I doubt the kids were perfect angels, but I believe Phillips was the provacateur. And, the footage ultimately PROVED that!

    The Buzzfeed staff that were fired deserved to be fired. Inciting violence against those high school kids was reprehensible, disgusting. Good riddance!

    Yeah, I admit it : I am still mad about having my voice silenced on Twitter!

    The net result of this crap has been to push me to the Right, rather than the Left. (I was a centrist.) The censorship of Outrage Mobs that you describe is the tip of a huge iceberg that threatens our collective freedoms, particularly Free Speech.

    We had it with witch hunts in Salem. We had it with the Red Scare in the 1950’s. (Now starting to wonder if maybe they were correct.) And now we have it with the Outage Mobs functioning as Thought Police. Ugh!

    I am glad you had the courage to write about it!

    • Thanks, but it’s not really courage. I don’t think the outrage mobs will notice me.

      As much as I don’t like using Twitter, I know it would be frustrating to get banned.

      I don’t know about your situation, but I’m familiar with a few others, and I’m wondering if Twitter and other platforms are about to get sued, not for freedom of speech issues, but for inconsistent (or incorrect or selective) enforcement of their own terms of service.

  7. The greatest thing about art is that it should not be predicated on what the reader presumes. It is not up to the author to predispose how the reader would take what he or she writes. To do so would cause sitter madness! Should a painter not use red because it may May another human feel enraged? That’s a bizzare conclusion as this sensorship of fiction we put out for consumption! It is better to write that which will cause immense emotion and cause the reader to accept that which they cannot change as well as open their eyes to what they were never opened to prior. We can not restrict, pull back, or placate because the list of offenses keep growing! That’s pure madness!

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