In April of this year, I posted a list of five reasons I won’t read someone’s work. Whether it’s because you don’t write what I read or you’re a giant turd nozzle on the Internet, there are a variety of reasons for why I skip on someone’s work. By implication, that means I keep a constantly changing list of authors I won’t read — a list I have begun calling my Do Not Read list.
My DNR list isn’t particularly long, and it does change from time to time. For the most part, the only people who show up on the DNR list are folks whose online (or in person) behavior is particularly nasty. This usually comes in two forms: an author whose politics I find repugnant (and who often openly talks about those politics in a way that suggests they would like it pushed on the rest of us as “normal”) or an author whose behavior towards readers and/or reviewers suggests they will respond to negative criticism (or anything, really) in a way that will make me uncomfortable. Most authors don’t fit into either of these categories. In fact, most authors know not to respond to negative reviews and most authors don’t hold (or discuss) political views that are, to put it lightly, bigoted.
To be clear, I don’t stick someone on my DNR list for having different political views than myself. I DNR authors because of how they express those views. There are a lot of authors who don’t share my worldview. Most of those authors aren’t on my DNR list because they have never given me a good reason to put them there. We disagree. That’s it. Big woop. They’re not actively trying to have my mother’s rights stripped away, nor are they arguing that women should be assaulted for their own good or defending acid attacks or claiming that people of color are half-savages. They just disagree with me (or other people) about things. If we ever discuss those differences, it’s most often a discussion. No rants and figurative rock throwing.
I DNR authors who fit into that 1% who aren’t civil (a made up percentage). The authors who make people uncomfortable and relish in it. The authors who attack people. The authors who cyber-stalk reviewers for months (even years) or send their fans after that reviewer. I’m taulking about the real assholes.
The DNR list is a personal thing — for the most part — and it is likely informed by my experiences as an academic. For me, reading is not so much a solitary “adventure” as it is an experience to be shared. When I read a book, I do so knowing I’d like to talk about it with someone at some point; it may be that I never dotalk about that book, but discussion is my intent. In academia, that discussion takes a particular form; in fandom, it takes another. Both are equally valid and intersecting (a topic I may have to explore later), and both are part of the joy of reading for me. I don’t find reading as a solitary experience particularly pleasurable, and it’s perhaps for that reason that I often consume film at a higher rate than I do books — it’s one of the most discussed mediums, and it is also one of the few mediums whose history is, in part, about shared experience. (Don’t worry; I still read a lot of stuff, too.)
So when I come upon an author whose work I don’t feel comfortable discussing, either because I don’t want to give them attention or because I know I might be “attacked” for explaining why I didn’t like something in their novel (or some other reason entirely), then I have to ask myself: is it worth the effort to read a book if I’m not interested in having a conversation about it? Invariably, the answer is, “No.” The way I see it, there are at minimum hundreds of science fiction and fantasy books published every year just by the major publishers alone. There are probably hundreds released by small press publishers, too, and countless more by self-published authors. Am I really missing out on anything? Probably not.1
For the most part, I don’t talk about my DNR list. People who know me or follow my various online doings can probably figure out some of the people who grace the list, but for the most part, I just strike someone off and move on.2 Occasionally, I’ll discuss what an author has said about one topic or another and then quietly DNR them. It is even more rare for my to publicly declare that I won’t read an author’s work, especially compared to a handful of other more notable bloggers who seem far more willing to step into uncomfortable territory. Myself? I quietly DNR more often than not because I often don’t want to deal with that author at all.
None of this makes me feel particularly guilty. You have to do something pretty awful to get me to DNR you, and by that point, you’ve probably crossed a major ethical line for me anyway, putting you in that category of people whose handshake would force me to disinfect my entire body. Once you hit that point, I don’t think I could read your work without feeling ill anyway.
Now to turn the tables on you, dear reader. Do you keep a DNR list? Is it public or private? What criteria to use you to determine who ends up on your list? Feel free to comment anonymously if you feel inclined to do so.
- A lot of people probably keep their own silent DNR lists, by the way. Their reasons are too varied to discuss here.
- There’s an argument to be made that simply DNRing “bad authors” isn’t particularly helpful for those who might stumble upon that author later. It’s a valid point, but I would also be concerned about how one can go about keeping people informed without stumbling into subjective interpretations of behavior. At what point does an author deserve to be listed on a Wiki? Does it matter? Do we just list everyone and all their infractions and let people decide on their own? How do you do that without coming across as vindictive? I don’t know. That’s part of the reason I haven’t published my DNR list, since the selections on it are based on my subjective values, which are unlikely to be shared by everyone.