Comments online are occasionally contentious.
You won’t believe I have experience of this, because this is is not a blog on politics, religion, or rare Pez dispensers. How can comments on a book blog be vitriolic? What is there to irritate, except that I might like a book you don’t like, or dislike a book you like?
Sometimes that is enough to cause furor.
Most of my commenters are polite. I enjoy their smart, interesting, sometimes funny ruminations.
If a comment by a stranger is truly malevolent, I delete it. This is a book diary, and doesn’t invite malice (I hope).
Newspaper columnists, however, deal with barbarity in comments. Although commenters on most newspapers are now required to sign in on Facebook, many are pugnacious and quarrelsome.
Robert McCrum recently wrote a thoughtful piece in The Guardian, “Why have authors written the IT revolution out of the story?” He writes that he does not see much evidence of the technology revolution in literature. He says: “Yet, although the literary community – in the broadest sense – is part of this paradigm shift, it is odd, and slightly baffling, how little reference is made to it in poetry, drama or fiction.”
And then he invites readers to add IT-lit to his very short list: Jeanette Winterson’s Powerbook, Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ the Call Center, and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.
I immediately thought of Gary Shtenygart’s novel, Super Sad True Love Story, a brilliant dystopian satire of a future where everyone is tuned constantly into apparati (computer-phones, and they are arrested if they don’t carry them). Then I remembered Pamela Sargent’s Venus of Dreams, a science fiction novel in which the heroine, the daughter of a farming collective in the future, receives her education via computer in the wilds of Nebraska, against the wishes of her mother, and eventually makes it to Venus to fulfill her dream of terraforming it.
I wondered if the preoccupation with technology is American rather than British.
The comments on McCrum’s article, however, were not meditative but annoyed. SF fans can be confrontational.
One commenter said:
…predictably, Mr McCrum entirely overlooks the field of science fiction, which has been grappling with the implications of computer technology and the internet – albeit in sometimes outlandish ways – since at least the 1980s (from, say, William Gibson to Charlie Stross.)
And another said:
I’m far from an SF fanboy…but McCrum’s apparent ignorance of this tradition makes his article seem curiously out of touch with the breadth of contemporary literature (of which, as we could both agree, ‘Booker fiction’ represents only a narrow sliver).
SF fans feel that SF writers don’t get their dues and want these books to be accepted in the mainstream.
These comments aren’t particularly malicious, but I wouldn’t care for the “predictably” and “ignorance.”
No, I’d go home and go to bed with a Martini and a box of Kleenex.