Anne Rice has been vocally supporting non-abuse of authors on the internet for over a decade. This week the author used 'lynching' to describe E.L. James disastrous Twitter chat and some fans find the idea offending.
Anne Rice is no stranger to criticism. Perhaps that's why the author defended E.L. James's bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey after a Twitter chat went horribly wrong. However, replies to critics of her latest updated fan page rule shows the author may be facing another storm again.
Earlier this week, James attempted a Twitter chat under the hashtag #AskELJames. Fifty Shades of Grey and the sequels’ erotic theme has faced a lot of feedback, often negative, even while selling out and being turned into a trilogy of movies. When Twitter users responded with many derailing—and sometimes abusive—questions, many authors defended the British writer.
After all, it's no fun being on the bottom of the pile.
But Anne Rice apparently took another approach entirely. Known for writing The Sleeping Beauty series, a dark erotica trilogy about what happened after the Price woke the Princess, the author created a divisive line among fans and herself on Facebook this week while defending James.
In a now-deleted post, Rice discussed online bullying and called James’s experience a lynching. Contextually, the Interview with a Vampire scribe should know the serious wounds inflicted by such a cavalier use of the word, especially an American who lived in New Orleans and the South for many years.
In the latest Facebook post where Rice demands fans and users to not critique James at all on the page, one fan stated, "As a woman of color this is a reference to a very dark time in our history and what happened to E.L. [i]s in no way the same." A fair point considering social media question and answer sessions often go awry, but "the criticism of her poor writing" is not comparable "to the senseless murder of people of color after slavery." As the user also pointed out, lynching is still happening in the country.
The current era is facing a new civil rights movement through social media and communities. Black Lives Matter moved from a hashtag to a part of the wider movement. Starting with Michael Brown case in Ferguson last summer, the ideology now encompasses incidents like the Charleston Massacre and the recent burning of multiple black churches throughout the U.S. The latter being an under-reported and under-investigated occurrence, according to many members on Twitter.
Not to mention that just this week, lynching was taken out of a 1933 California “penal code that applies the word "lynching" to the crime of attempting to seize someone from police custody,” according to the Associated Press. Additionally, “A Black Lives Matter protester in Los Angeles was charged with felony lynching last week in a separate incident.”
This is not a disagreement over which sofa to buy for the living room.
Anne Rice asks if we are sick of online hatred, endless bullying and abusive posts. Yes we are but she keeps writing them.— Mahala (@38CaliberReview) July 4, 2015
'reexamine your thoughts'
Anne Rice's response seemed to fall towards the "All Lives Matter" countermovement instead. Telling the book enthusiast, "Well, you misunderstood. I think lynch[i]ng is the perfect word for what happened to her. Her chat was derailed and destroyed by people who piled on her with obscenities and vicious ugly questions that were never intended to elicit an answer."
Defending the bestselling author, she continued and rebuked the fan's response. "Her legitimate fans were crowded out. The whole thing was a disaster thanks to a lynch mob. There have been many lynchings in the world involving people of all races. I suggest you reexamine your thoughts on this. I think you're makin[g] a serious mistake."
It should be noted that Anne Rice is a white woman telling a woman of color how to view cultural and social history through the privilege of race. History of lynchings in the South is not fiction, unlike the Vampire Chronicles series or the Mayfair Witches. Words have very specific meanings in this context.
Before sentencing three men to prison after a racial hate crime, a black Mississippi judge explicitly laid out how a lynching becomes an event and the cultural atmosphere. NPR's transcript shows the breathtakingly honesty in how devastating the acts were to the victims.
"Lynchings were prevalent, prominent and participatory. A lynching was a public ritual — even carnival-like — within many states in our great nation, U.S. said District Judge Carlton Reeves. The clear dismissal by The Witching Hour writer shows a muddying of waters for a very real event and bloody history for many people in the United States. "People of all races," indeed.
Anne Rice is on Facebook defending EL James. The problematic white women circle of privilege is complete. Prepare for the apocalypse!— Jeanne (@fangirlJeanne) June 30, 2015
'comments most welcome'
And this isn't the first time Rice has faced criticism with a particularly aagressive approach. In 2013, The Daily Dot reported one reader of Pandora faced an onslaught of fans after reviewing the book. All because a book was used to make art after finding little enjoyment in reading.
Kayleigh Herbertson’s comparison of Pandora to Stephanie Meyer’s Bella Swan is an apt exercise since James started out her series as fan fiction version of Bella. After the reviewer called the characters incomplete outside of their male partners, Rice did not directly communicate with Herbertson. Instead she posted the link and said comments would be “most welcome.” Inciting angry fans at a dissenting viewer is nothing new.
Like Daily Dot noted, in 2004, the author went on an Amazon reviewing spree against critics. Last year, she signed a petition to disallow anonymous reviews on the retailer's site. According to the New York Times, fans were not pleased with Blood Canticle, a long-awaited book in her vampire series. In response, she posted a 1,200 word rant on the site, implying the readers simply didn't understand.
Speaking to the paper, she elaborated. "When a person writes with such care and goes over and over a manuscript and wants every word to be perfect, it's very frustrating." In other words, since she has taken over role of editor, there is little to distinguish the two professions. So reactions may be volatile if feeling vulnerable and bullied by people not finding the work to be above reproach.
However, neither case is similar to the current because this time Anne Rice refused to accept the experiences of many people in an effort to keep a positive, tightly controlled post.
Wait. One more thing, to Anne Rice and everyone else, stop using the word “lynching” for anything but a lynching. Have some fucking respect.— Jill Pantozzi (@JillPantozzi) July 1, 2015
'will not support arguments'
Interestingly, many of the comment threads that remain up involved praise for standing up to “online bullying” and for not letting people critique the very subject brought up by the author.
After fans still posted comments on James’s work and/or the initially now-deleted post, Rice put her foot down.
“I am not inviting anyone to hold forth on the quality of James' writing, or the morality of her fantasies. If you do this here, your comments will be deleted. If I think they cross the line in the extreme you will be banned. I will not support arguments about the "morality" of women's fantasies or fiction. I can't.”
Dissension seems to be disallowed on the page, even though some people have read both authors series and were simply saying James writing wasn’t really what they expected. Anne Rice is a very polarizing figure when it comes to author interaction, but the stripping of history to validate the use of ‘lynching’ for a social media chat seems to be extremely dismissive.
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As for the fan? She is choosing to walk away from a beloved author because the rights and safety of many are outweighed by evocative and fascinating prose.