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Thursday, 4 October 2012

Shit storm in a tea cup

Earlier this week I let a contributor to the Rack know that her post was up, and hoped she liked it. Just as I was going to bed, I got an email back saying she most definitely didn’t. It offended her. Could we take it down? This puzzled, and I confess, agitated me.

The following day I asked what in particular had offended her, thinking perhaps we could excise the offending line. I then received a second email analyzing what offended her. I explained why I didn’t agree but that her feelings were more important and that we would take the interview down forthwith – which we did.

Matter closed, or so I thought.

Some kind soul pointed me to her website. Before I continue, let me state for the record that when I began The Rack the idea of approaching total strangers for an interview made me want to cringe inside. It still does, even though since then I’ve consistently been knocked out by the generosity of those writers, publishers and agents who’ve contributed.

The early introductions to the interviews that followed were respectful, perhaps a bit worthy, but more significantly looked as though we were marketing a product ie a book or a profile. OFW does neither, nor do we take the advertisers’ shilling.  If OFW has a mission statement it is simply to encourage aspiring writers by making the established and famous more accessible. Yes there is a quid pro quo. Out of courtesy we advertise the author’s new book in the interview and - famous or not - the writer/agent/publisher in turn raises our profile. It seems a fair arrangement, the question is, when there are so many outlets for interviews how to make our interviews stand out.

The Rack is a good headline in itself, but we needed inquisitors. I played with the idea of a Frankenstein and Igor composite, a Black Adder and Baldric duo, but that seemed stale and derivative. In the end I settled on two 1950’s pulp stereotypes Clay Cross and Sheri Lamour. It had the advantage that they could bring their unreconstructed 1950’s attitudes in to the blazing light of the C21st. These are two anachronistic stereotypes impossible to take seriously, or so I thought. So what we have is a comic top and tailing of the interview in question. It’s a verbal cartoon (apparently now as bad as the Danish ones) to be taken as seriously as Tom and Jerry, the Muppets, Popeye, or Sooty and Sweep.

With every invitation to contribute we provide a link so the putative Rack victim can see what’s in store. There is no ambush, malicious or otherwise. Some quietly decline or fail to reply. Most writers however have thick enough skins; they’re able to laugh at themselves, shrug off the absurd. No writer until now has felt violated or been under the delusion that the Rack was anything but a metaphor. We are not talking Fifty Shades of Grey here, more a literary conceit to top and tail a professional interview.

But as I said, someone pointed me to her website:

Do I want to start a shitstorm? She begins before concluding she doesn’t and providing several sensible reasons why having a life is infinitely more preferable. Unfortunately the rest of the post is reminiscent of the ambiguous question ‘Who will rid me of this troublesome priest’ and a fully formed shit storm is heading our way. The comments (not hers) are quite intemperate some revealing an urge to commit violence, all deeply personal, others wanting to expunge OFW from the net. I suppose we should be grateful we’re not an embassy.
In the words of Stephen Fry:

Or in the words of Renee Miller: “Soo...anyone else find the Rack creepy, disgusting and offensive? Because I was going for funny, original, and offensive.”

I would qualify that. Offence is in the eye of the beholder. The Rack is not malicious and things should have been sorted out in a more mature manner.


Renee Miller said...

Mike, I'm so sorry that this all was targeted at you of all people, because you don't deserve (or need) any of this bullshit. It was malicious and immature and just plain mental of her to post what she did. The Rack is not at all offensive, and just so you know, I've had several authors and readers tell me it's their favorite part of the site, because of Clay and Sherie. PS: Love that Stephen Frey quote.

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Renee. It's an interesting experience, not all together pleasant but the world turns. Thanks for the heads-up about those authors and readers. Sheri is polishing her nails with added gusto.

Renee Miller said...

Good. I'd hate to see her go into hiding...not that that's her style anyway.

Mike Keyton said...

Clay would be bereft!

Angela Brown said...

Um...if I did not fully comprehend the title of this blog as "Record of a baffled spirit", then I do now.

Perhaps it is because I've enjoyed, loved and adored Clay and Sheri doing their thing before that I am utterly baffled by what has transpired. This person, bless her soul, must be on some uber-sensitive stuff that I do not want to get my hands on.

Mike, at no point have I been offended by Clay and Sheri and I personally apologize that you've been seized into this hubbub.

Mike Keyton said...

Angela, thanks. That's really nice of you, and why should you apologise? You have excellent taste. Youl like Clay and Sheri lamour : ) Anyway, lets hope it's all over.

Maria Zannini said...

This whole thing is typical of the barracudas and trolls looking for a straw man to burn just to prove they are more enlightened. And then to have the temerity to recommend violence? That crosses the line no matter who you are.

I am truly sorry this has descended to juvenile mud slinging. Sadder still that the vigilantes react rather than examine. If anything it proves you are far nobler than the mob for not getting involved.

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Maria. I suppose I am involved in terms of writing this post but I just wanted to balance things with my point of view. To do otherwise would have been not so much cowardly as silly. But there it stands. Lid down and toilet flushed. Thanks again, Maria

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Regarding your comment...

It is all taste.


Kerri Cuev said...

Sorry this happened to you, Mike. Hang in there.

Veronica Sicoe said...

You have nothing to blame yourself for, Mike.

It's a shock to find out you've hurt someone, especially if your intent was to entertain. But that hurt is not your responsibility.

When you say something in a context that is already established by precedent, it must be interpreted in that context, and all other interpretations and hurt feelings that happen outside of that context are not within your sphere of influence and are always caused by the internal context of the interpreter. And you can't possibly be held responsible for the inner landscapes of other people.

Or, in other words, you did the right thing. Don't blame yourself of anything for even a second. You'd be wronging yourself if you did. :)

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks Kerri, I think it's over now

Mike Keyton said...

And it takes all sorts

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Vero. Reading that second paragraph made me feel right intelligent. I feel quite invigorated : )