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What We Say About Readers: An Internal Email Exchange About the GoT Book Reader Backlash

By Dustin Rowles and Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV | May 15, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles and Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV | May 15, 2014 |

A couple of days ago, Steven approached me about the blowback he’s been getting from readers on the Game of Thrones Book Readers’ post. We discussed it over email, and ultimately, couldn’t arrive at a solution to the problem. Trusting that our readership, which has always — no matter the problem — regarded openness and transparency well, we decided to publish our email exchange (anger and all). It may not solve the problem, ultimately, but we’re hoping that it will at least allow for an open, honest conversation (and that it doesn’t completely blow up in our faces).

The following is a transcript from actual emails from the last two days. — DR

SLW: I’m not sure what to do about my GoT book readers posts. It’s feeling like they’re pretty much universally loathed, and it’s getting awfully discouraging.

DR: I read your GoT post yesterday (and liked it, and though I don’t read the books, I agree). I think that GoT, like Buffy or Breaking Bad, is just one of those shows that our audience is very protective of. It’s OK to criticize them, but they want it to come from a place of love. Your book reader recaps often sound like you just don’t like the show at all and sometimes, like you don’t like the books, either (and based on a lot of your other posts in the past, I know that’s not true).

Personally, I’m a little worn out on this season of GoT (I haven’t loved it, save for the Joffrey episode), so while some of us agree with your assessment, the readers really cling to the show.

SLW: The problem is that I find the show mildly entertaining but mostly just boring this season. More or less every episode this season has been forty minutes of filler not even from the books followed by ten minutes from the books in order to make a cliffhanger. They are stretching 150 pages of book into 600 minutes of television.

I wouldn’t mind that, I’d probably still watch it in good humor. It’s still better than most of what’s on television. I’d write some mildly snarky commentary about it. That’s how the season started. And the backlash was immediate because the commenters don’t want anything that’s even slightly critical of the show. And as I tried to explain more seriously and eloquently where I thought the show was going wrong, it just detonated the last few weeks into hundreds of comments demanding that someone else recap the show.

I’m anything but a nitpicky book purist, but if you’re not allowed to be critical comparing the book to the show, then I don’t even know what the purpose of a “book reader’s” thread is other than to toss up a blank post for comments so that no one spoils non-readers that nothing happens in Book 4 and that no one likes Book 5. There are a few people who agree with what I’m saying, but they get shouted down by a horde of angry people.

I don’t think I have ever been more angry at the readership. I have always treasured reading every comment on all my posts, whether positive or negative. But having this post go up is the worst part of my week, and I am so upset at this point that I’m having trouble writing at all. Even though it’s irrational, I’m having trouble forcing myself to write my posts for tomorrow because I’m so pissed at the commenters, I don’t want to write anything for them other than several paragraphs of profanity.

The way I see it there are four options. Either I keep writing what I actually think and be a punching bag. We post a nominal paragraph as a post just so that they have a place to comment. We don’t post anything. Or someone else should write it if we have anyone else on staff who’s read the books.

Personally, I hate all of the options. I hate not writing it because it feels like quitting and letting them win. I hate writing it because then I have to put up with them. I’m most inclined to put up a book reader’s post next week that’s just an upraised middle finger with the comments shut off, but I do appreciate that would be inadvisable.

I’m sorry to lay this on you.

DR: Well, there is another option, and you might not like it, and it has potential to completely blow up in our faces, but for your post tomorrow, you could simply post this entire email exchange. The readers can be maddening at times, but they always seem to value honesty, transparency, and open dialogue. “What We Say About Readers: An Internal Email Exchange About the GoT Book Reader Backlash.” I really do think they’d be receptive. It’s exactly the kind of thing they often say they appreciate about the site.

[p.s. not to be published, if you decide to run with the idea: cut the parts where we talk about nineties rock, what happens in BNL-4-Life Club stays in BNL-4-Life Club]

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.