If You Can’t Beat Them, Ask Them to Quit; A Response to Lynn Shepherd

lynn_shepherdI don’t know Lynn Shepherd. I’ve never read any of her novels and only became aware of her via her piece published on The Huffington Post UK entitled, “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It” which I will be citing throughout. Let’s start with her opening sentence:

When I told a friend the title of this piece she looked at me in horror and said, “You can’t say that, everyone will just put it down to sour grapes!”

No Lynn, I don’t think you’re sour grapes. I think it makes you come off like a pussy, because your entire thesis here is when someone gets too good at something, they should quit. And yeah, maybe I’m hyper-elaborating here, but I don’t think I’d like to live in a world where Michael Jordan only played until he won his first championship or Steve Jobs resigned after he came out with the initial iteration of the iPhone. You’re operating under the pretense that when someone gets too good at something it fucks everyone else over, and that’s simply not true. Then there’s this little gem:

I didn’t much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent.

Really, Lynn? Really?! So lemme get this straight, you self-appoint yourself the authority to tell someone to resign without having read a lick of their work? That’s golden. Hey, you know what…I’ve never seen Jimmie Johnson drive a NASCAR race but from what I hear he’s really fucking good and filthy rich. I think he should quit. That’s the logic we’re using here, right? Because when the competition is too stiff it’s only natural that we make the game easier for the other kids to play.

Here’s you talking about The Casual Vacancy:

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?

I bought The Casual Vacancy, and you know what…you’re right. It was no masterpiece (I can express my opinion because I took the time to read it), and the hype surrounding that thing couldn’t be matched. But you seem to be under the impression that people only read one book per year or Rowling’s sales somehow detract from the sales of another author. I’m sure there’s a degree of truth to that, but you’re speaking in absolutes like we, the authors, are standing around with torches and pitchforks screaming, “She took our jerbs!!” If you honestly think JK is taking food out of your kid’s mouth, maybe you should man the fuck up and sell more books.

And here’s what you have to say about Cuckoo’s Calling:

The book dominated crime lists, and crime reviews in newspapers, and crime sections in bookshops, making it even more difficult than it already was for other books – just as well-written, and just as well-received – to get a look in. Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do. And now there’s going to be a sequel, and you can bet the same thing is going to happen all over again.

Oh no!! You mean her book is going to come out and then Barnes & Noble will segregate the authors? Why does JK want to perform literary apartheid?! She’s not even from South Africa!!

And now for the big finish:

So this is my plea to JK Rowling. Remember what it was like when The Cuckoo’s Calling had only sold a few boxes and think about those of us who are stuck there, because we can’t wave a wand and turn our books into overnight bestsellers merely by saying the magic word. By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn. Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.

You. Are. A. Pussy.

And fuck you for saying that. You don’t speak for me, and you sure as shit don’t speak for all the other countless authors that are under her level. Quit acting like you’re doing us a favor by campaigning for her resignation. You’re not. I don’t know what disconcerts me more: an author that tells another author to quit or the fact HuffPo UK provided the platform for this turd. This must be what Bret Easton Ellis is talking about when he says we’re becoming “Generation Wuss.” You’re giving that theory plenty of ammo.

Lynn, I’m not going to tell you to stop writing. That’s not my place. But you need to have some self-awareness as to when your opinion is shit and learn to keep it to yourself. Thankfully, the Internet is more intolerant of your stupidity than JK’s literary success. As you’re now seeing via Amazon, it can have negative repercussions. Enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame; you’ve earned them.

Lynn reviews