P&M 10: Let It Go, Or Not

Some of my more popular posts last year were the editorials I did under the header Publishing & Marketing. It was a new column that I started last year, with the intent of doing a post every month. And I mostly stuck to that, in the end. Writing editorials, especially for this column, was quite an interesting experiencing. For one, it allowed me to talk about some of the things going on in publishing and address some of the controversies. Second, the conversation that was generated proved to be illuminating. I haven’t done any posts like these in a while, spending the time developing the review side of the blog for the last few months, but now it is back for its 2014 edition, and the first topic is, well, interesting.

About two and a half years back, Mark Lawrence’s debut novel Prince of Thorns arrived to some fanfare on the open market. And a lot of people went wild about it. Roughly a year later followed the sequel, King of Thorns, and then a year after that we had the concluding volume Emperor of Thorns. Mark has proven to be one of the most controversial authors in recent years because his protagonist, Jorg Ancrath, starts off as a pre-teen bandit leader who murders and rapes people in the very first few pages of Prince of Thorns. His actions later on in the novel, and the portrayal of women in general, are also quite sexist and misogynistic. For more, you can read my review. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a novel I enjoyed, and I’ve made it quite plain ever since.

Now, in a few short months we will be having Mark’s second trilogy getting its start, which is also set in the same world as the Broken Empire trilogy as above, and it too features a character who is a gambler and a womanizer, among other things. Yesterday evening, a friend was talking to me about some of the books he is looking forward to and one of the books he mentioned was Mark’s new novel Prince of Fool, the first in this new Red Queen’s War trilogy. And I happened to say something about it that brought Mark out and has now led to an interesting discussion.

Before we go any further, I’ll share an image that better explains the whole thing as it happened yesterday evening/this morning. So here you go:

The below portion there is from Facebook, a very old message that he sent me in response to something I wrote.

There is actually a tweet missing from this, from Mark Lawrence to my friend, in which he mentions that “it is very odd to say ‘ugh’ for a book that has not even been released yet”. Well, now, Mr. Lawrence, can’t say that I’m surprised with such an assertion. Especially since you then proceeded to delete it from your Twitter feed.

Given how Prince of Thorns starts, people’s reactions have been polarised across the board. Among my friends circle, I am one of two people who outright dislike the book, while everyone else loves the entire series. And I get that. What Mark Lawrence wrote worked for them and they were all able to look past Jorg’s shortcomings and that horrendous opening in which the character gangrapes a village girl. A few days ago there was a thread on Reddit to this affect, because Mark Lawrence was frustrated that some people out there had the impression that Prince of Thorns was “that book with all the rape”. Well, that’s not the kind of the book it is, which I can say objectively as I have read it. But, that is exactly how it starts. And the character is twelve or thirteen at that point. Perfectly understandable why people might not appreciate that approach to a character that they are supposed to, well, like.

Of course, the Reddit thread devolved into the usual back and forth that happens on the internet and there were enough arguments for and against the novel, and people coming out either in support of or against Mark Lawrence since a select few people decided to take potshots at him as a person other than just being the author of the novel and the work and the man being separate.

But this is nothing new for the author. I commented about the Reddit thread on Facebook and I asked why Mark Lawrence even bothered with it. This happens every few months, when he attempts to engage people and… change their way of thinking, or present his novels in a much more positive light. It is all in the character you see. You really have to read the book and find out that it is NOT the book with all the rape.

On that particular note, this is all I have to say: Mark Lawrence wrote the book. His work is done. He can (and should) promote the book, and then that is that. Why he engages people and why he keeps bringing up these same points again and again is beyond me. He actively courts controversy and that just doesn’t help the overall image, especially given how volatile the internet is these days and how fast controversies of any kind spread, becoming bigger than what they are. Often too much.

Which brings me to the entire point of the post, because that is what Lawrence did here as well. He knows full well that I don’t like his book, and thus I don’t like his writing. Otherwise I would talk about it in more positive terms and wouldn’t mention it to a friend as one of the five worst books I’ve read to date. In fact, following that Facebook message, I had him on my Twitter block list for quite a long time. Pretty sure that he is still on my Facebook block list as well. I mean, that’s the extent of how turned off I am by his approach to defending his work.

Lawrence clearly has a problem accepting criticism of his work. That is the image I have of him. I get why he would defend his book, I totally understand that, but to selectively target people for it, especially when he knows that he is hardly going to get a welcome wagon is beyond me.

I don’t get it. He isn’t going to find a convert in me, so why he took the time to snark at me last night is beyond me.

And for the record, the reason I said “ugh” for Prince of Fools is because given the novel’s blurb, it appears that Jalan is pretty much a grown up version of Jorg. Or at least not that similar, then close enough. The fact remains that once again he is writing about a character that is, according to my own opinion, going to be as unlikable as before. He is going to have the same qualities and the readers are thus going to have a similar dilemma to face. Love him? Hate him? Like him? Dislike him?

That’s really not the kind of book I want to read anyway, particular since my objections to Prince of Thorns went way beyond that horrendous opening. So that’s really it. The books are out there. Readers have formed their opinions. Instead of harassing people (evidence to be found in a variety of places), he should focus on promoting his books instead of rehashing every now and then about how all the rape and the portrayal of the female characters (so many warning signs in Prince of Fools!!) as he has written is all ok.

If you ask me, Mark Lawrence just needs to learn to let it go. For more on controversies related to Mark Lawrence, check here.

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Posted on April 1, 2014, in Editorial, Publishing & Marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Maybe it’s just me, but just judging from those select Tweets and from what I’ve seen of him, it seemed less like he was badgering you and more than he was poking a bit of mutual fun, trying to engage on a level that was the only one he knew you had in common (ie, opinion, oe way or the other, of his book). But that’s just my take on it, and I didn’t see original interactions or anything else that might have led you to think that way of him.

    Though I do kind of agree with you about the book’s presentation and content. For my part, I’ve only read the first book, and it was uncomfortable in place. And not uncomfortable in the way that some uncomfortable stuff expands your mind and opens it to a larger worldview. Jorg’s actions were brutal and reprehensible, and it was hard to read sometimes. It was sometimes hard to get that disconnect down where I can see Jorg’s actions as in-character but not necessarily as something the author is condoning. It’s a twisted book, and on the whole I liked it, even if some of the content was rather disgusting.

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    • Being the contentious author he is, by way of his work, I’ve read a lot of his… interactions with reviewers and that has led me to have a very low opinion of him. And, like I said, I am not open to his interactions with me, of any kind, so for him to do that just strikes me as completely odd. Which is why I wrote up this whole thing. I don’t get that mindset.

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  2. Mazarkis Williams

    My theory: Mark is a very logical person, and when things don’t make sense, he can’t leave it alone. He honestly thinks if his book is the worst you’ve ever read, you should give it one star – as (the last I saw) you gave mine. 🙂

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  3. Mazarkis Williams

    Typing in tweets isn’t going too far out of one’s way, but I take your point.:) I cannot speak for Mark but I saw the exchange from a different perspective. However I shall bow out now.

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    • My point is that he knows I don’t like his book and that I haven’t gone back and that I have mentioned his debut as being one of the worst books I’ve read. That really should be the end of our interaction. I get your point that a tweet isn’t that far out, but look at it from the perspective of the other person as well.

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