Picture the scene; it’s 1998, your esteemed narrator still has the fresh glow of youth, long hair and the body of a Greek god (one of the above is untrue), and at the time is at a music venue in Wolverhampton with a friend who ran their marketing dept. There’s a band playing on stage, loud, not too heavy, touching lightly on melodic. They were quite good. Afterwards I was at the bar when the singer came up to it. I tried to speak to him. It was approaching 20 years ago and I still have yet to meet another person with the ego and sense of self entitlement which exceeded this knob-end of biblical proportions. All I wanted to do was say I liked his work and have a quick chat about influences, he didn’t even bother to say anything after it became apparent I wasn’t there to sign him and just walked off. “What are they called again?” i asked my friend later. “Coldplay, I think,” she said. I sniffed. “Shit name.”
And I stand by that, but that’s not my point. Since then they’ve achieved some modest success, and douche-singer married some lady with a fruit fixation, and if I’m quite honest I like the sound of some of their songs. Some of them I like quite a lot. Would I ever purposeful listen to them? Hell no, because they’re a bunch of egotistical dicks (backed up by said friend – so’s Craig David in case you were wondering (the venue staff were specifically instructed ‘not to look Craig in the eye’)), and there’s plenty of great music out there that I don’t think I need to make the effort and separate the art of the artist.
This is something which has been popping up again and again recently. If you’re part of the sci fi and fantasy publishing community you would have almost certainly seen it brought up in the 2015 Hugo awards and the whole sad puppy debacle, or more recently with replacing the bust of HP Lovecraft as the statue for the World Fantasy Award. “Love the art, not the artist.” Well, I can’t, and to my ears it sounds like a last ditch attempt at defending a) the artists’ repugnance, and b) the tacit sign the defender harbours some agreement with what makes them repugnant.
I’m thinking more about this now as I move along with my own work. Part of what is selling my work is me (*waves*). In an age where the artist is more than ever responsible for advertising their work, the artist themselves becomes a part of that marketing. Who am I? What do I think? Who do I say would win in a fight between Batman and Superman (answer – whoever sold the tickets). If I strike a chord with the reader they’re more likely to buy into what I’m selling,
But does that mean I need to make myself as a person more likable? Mmh, good question.
I’m sure each person asked would have their own answer, and mine is no, no I do not. For a start I reckon I’m a pretty likable person as is (I even help my elderly neighbour take his rubbish bins out, and I worry that when we move the next people to live here might not), but also having opinions is what makes a person a person, it defines our character. Will I offend some people? Honestly as a writer if I don’t offend someone I think I’m doing something wrong, but most people are emotionally mature enough to know that not sharing an opinion does not mean you write someone off totally. Having opinions gives you something to talk about. Don’t believe me? At the next office party try having a conversation with someone without any.
So, yes, have opinions, pick a side, get off the fence. Do not be afraid. If you take anything from this little rant let it please be that – Do. Not. Be. Afraid.