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09:00 am: Anti-Catholic?…Oh, that.

I normally don’t read reviews of my books, but last night I glanced at a few. I was delighted with how well Prospero In Hell is being received. By accident, however, I found myself on the Amazon.com site for Prospero Lost and noticed that there was a 1 star review. I clicked on it expecting something like “this book bored me. Not my style.”
 
The reviewer could not finish the book due to the anti-Catholic bias.
 
I blinked. I couldn’t, off-hand, think of any anti-Catholic bias. True, Miranda doesn’t like the Church all that much…but then she was a witch, and I thought Gregor came over pretty well in the scene where he talks to her while she is being held in prison. (A flashback). But Theo is pro-Catholic. So much, he wants to stop being Protestant and go back to being Catholic.
 
Then this morning, I woke up and thought: Oh, wait…
 
In the backstory, the Prospero Family does attack the Vatican, steal all the Church’s magic, and kill guards. Gee…surely someone hadn’t mistaken that for anti-Catholic sentiment?
 
Oh, the poor guy.
 
I felt bad. I realize he’ll never read this, but: really, Sir, the book overall is not anti-Catholic. I apologize if soem scenes came over that way.
 
 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon.

Comments

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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
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I think you can message the reviewer if you really want to.
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From:madkestrel
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Don't, though. Best to let bad reviews go, even if they're completely off-base.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
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I left a brief "I didn't see it that way" comment in my reviewer person, but it didn't even occur to me that the guy who wrote the review might see my comment. I was just hoping that future potential readers would see it and, hopefully, decide for themselves rather than assume the book was bias.

I agree, though, about not arguing with reviewers.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
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It is considered bad form for authors to argue with their reviewers. I left a brief comment from my Amazon reviewing persona, but that was before I recalled the Vatican scene.

Boy, you commented on that fast! I hadn't even finished formatting it yet. (My current posting system with the website requires that I post, go to LJ, get a link, go back and post it again, then fix the LJ entry. Awkward but it goes what I want, which is to have people comment on LJ, where the commenting technology is smoother.
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From:partywhipple
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
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Yeah looking at the whole story I can understand how it's not anti Catholic but just the first book alone (or a part of it) I can imagine would piss some people off. On the other hand, maybe you'll get some catholic church haters thanks to that guy. They'll be disappointed...
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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LOL. There have been Catholics who have read it and liked it, so not everyone took it that way...but if I were a Catholic who felt sensitive to slights against my church, I can see how it would seem offensive.

Wish I'd thought of that earlier. I could have had Logistilla make Gregor's argument slightly clearer. Gregor is very-pro Catholic. I know my editor is trying to get me to shorten the last book, not lengthen it, but I wonder if I could slip in one comment from Gregor about who much better off the Church was once it wasn't being corrupted by magic, maybe when he is complaining about his nemesises, the Borgias.
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From:filialucis
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
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Hi, I found your blog via johncwright's. Just wanted to stand up and be counted as a Catholic who read, and liked, Prospero Lost. It's also on my must-reread list, which is saying something considering that I have hardly any time to read fiction these days. But I suppose that, if only because of the frequency of anti-Catholic sentiment in the general culture, there are a few scenes in the book where I would have wondered whether you were sending a message of sorts if I hadn't known in advance that you were married to a Catholic. So even if I don't agree with your reviewer, I can sort of see where he's coming from. (BTW, is the review in question still up? I went to look and all I could find were 5-star and 4-star ones.)
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
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I did tell John that, now that he was a Catholic, I was so not putting in the scene where Kestrel blows up the Pope. (He kept his skull. It's on his desk in his house and occasionally chatters. I guess he trapped the guy's ghost or something.) I realize Kestrel, persecuted as a kid by Christian Romans for seeing visions, has some right to hate the Church...but I always thought the whole him blowing up the Vatican on TV was tasteless.

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From:cdenmier
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)

Judging from Your Blog...

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Having been a regular reader of your blog, I can say with certainty that you are definitely anti-Catholic. In all your postings, I can't recall any time that you lavishly praised the Catholic Church, and if you aren't with us, well... ;)

Some people--especially in a western culture that can be hostile to the Church (particularly in the arts and Hollywood)--have a hair-trigger when it comes to this stuff. They sniff a single character or two that don't like the Church and wonder "is this the author sending a message?" Probably a genuine mistake on his or her part; they would probably welcome any reassurances.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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If I read a scene where someone attacked the Mother Church in Boston and stole magic items from it, I might think that was anti-Christian Science. I can really see the guy's point.

But, over all, I try rather hard in this book to give each character's point of view, and some of the characters are definitely pro-Catholic. This is clearer in the last volume when the most Catholic member of the family is around and talking.
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From:cdenmier
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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It's funny how you can write characters that you like who do things that you don't agree with.

I've wondered what people might read into characters that I don't want them to: to take unique situations and histories and use them to say "the author believes this-and-that."

Example: I'm the type of Catholic that believes highly in the value of obedience to the teaching office of the Catholic Church. That is, that we are meant to be submissive to God's will and one of the ways we do that is to be submissive to the pope and bishops. Yet I have a character--a good character--who is a monk and who laments at being under the rule of an unjust abbot. He chafes under rightly given commandments and even breaks some of them; he muses on the value of submission when the person you are submitting to is much less than a saint. But in real life I don't have much patience for disobedient monks and nuns, and would hate for someone to use my characters to show the value of disobedience. So why did I write him that way? Why do I show the exception instead of the rule? It's a mystery of the writing process and I think it shows the independence of the character from myself. Still, people could misunderstand it.

Sorry, that's a bit of a departure from your situation, but I find the general concept interesting...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 23rd, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
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Oh good heavens! I'm rather heavily Catholic (not quite in the albino- monk-as-confessor-and-assasin-trainer category as John is) and I never once saw an anti-Catholic thread in your story. I was actually amused that the Prospero family 'stole magic' from the Vatican. They certainly didn't get much of it - I mean - did you see Benedict hold a whole hostile country in his sway just a few weeks back?
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 23rd, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
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LOL.

Exactly. One reason I never thought of it as anti-Catholic is that, in the novel background, Gregor is right...having this kind of magic was bad for the Church. But the other kind of magic, divine magic, the Church has in spades.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 29th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)

Interesting

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I haven't read your book, but I did google that review, it was pretty useless because it didn't give any reasons, meaning people either have to take their word for it, or ignore them.

From what you describe I can only see two ways that someone could believe it was intended to be anti-Catholic - if they believe the 'correct' assessment of the Catholic Church in your world is that it is evil, and they think that this is meant as a comment on the actual Church; or that before they gave up they felt that the preponderance of Catholic characters they'd seen so far were evil because of their religiosity, and that a certain message was intended, much as you might assume about a book full of Atheists with no morals, Jews who cheat and steal and obsess over morals or any other unbalanced portrayal.

From how you describe your book it does not seem like that's a fair assessment, but I'd need to read it myself to see whether they're talking nonsense or not.

p.s. There's a third of course, the one you mentioned, if you presented the attack on the Church as a 'good thing' with no immorality in the actions of the family, some might assume that this was because the Church was 'evil', as many people assume that the only attacks that aren't evil are those on the 'deserving evil'
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 29th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting

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There are Protestant characters in the book who don't think much of the Church. I'm not claiming there isn't some anti-Church sentiment...but it's the characters, not the book. There are also characters who like the Church.

The family attacks the Vatican to steal the magic items kept there (This happened in the 1620s.) I do mention that the family member who was pope at the time favored this, because he thought the unholy magic was hurting the Church. (In the background of the book, this is true. But I don't spend much time on the idea, so it might not seem as important to a reader as it was.)

Now, someone could feel that the portray of Gregor was negative of that the fact that he used magic to become pope was a slight on the Church. But I think anyone who read the later books and saw more of Gregor would see that he was quite sincere.
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