My final word on content warnings #unpopularopinion #publishing #contentpolice @StephenKing @AnneRiceAuthor @LKHamilton

The fiction of Amelia C. Gormley

There’s a disturbing trend in fiction today, particularly genre fiction published by smaller, niche presses.

Is it the prevalence of objectionable content? The normalization of the unacceptable? The crossing of taboo lines?

No. That has pretty much been happening since the dawn of literature. I guarantee you, the first time a cavewoman took a piece of char from the firepit and etched a story on a stone wall, another cavewoman clutched her animal-tooth necklace, gasped in dismay, and grunted something that would have vaguely translated to, “you can’t write that!”

No, this disturbing trend is far more insidious. It’s the infantilization of the reader.

The riff goes something like this: “Oooh, that content is objectionable! It might upset someone! We better warn people away! Quick, tag it! Oh, how dare that author not include warnings! What a terrible, insensitive person! I bet they wrote it because <insert ignorant…

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9 Responses to My final word on content warnings #unpopularopinion #publishing #contentpolice @StephenKing @AnneRiceAuthor @LKHamilton

  1. Patricia says:

    We’re all grappling with this, as readers and writers. Very good posting by Gormley. I’ve never read her but now am intrigued.

    • I don’t think there’s anything to grapple with. I said much the same thing in a previous post: mainstream authors don’t issue content warnings. Why should we? Read the blurb. If it even hints at something that might be upsetting to you, don’t buy it.

      Just don’t make authors responsible for safeguarding your feelings.

  2. Karen H says:

    Yes, everything Ms Gromley said and more. As a reader I don’t want anyone deciding what is or isn’t appropriate for me. I’m nearly 55 years old for fuck sake. You want to piss me off this is a sure fire way to do it. One of my absolute favourite books is ‘Blood Memories’ by Greg Iles it deals with incest. It is an amazing story so well done.
    I’m sorry but if you need a warning for every little thing that might be slightly uncomfortable or controversial in a book read the book description for the most part they will give anyone enough info to figure out if the book is suited to them or not. If you’re still not sure well than might I just say ‘Google is your friend’ use it, but please don’t assume that your problem is everyone else’s and that we either want or need someone else to make these decisions for us.

  3. The only label I do believe should be on a book is “adult content”.

  4. A.M.B. says:

    I’ve never been a proponent of content warnings on books. They are often arbitrary and shield people from new ideas. However, the discussion on my blog yesterday about Jean Craighead George’s “Julie of the Wolves” makes me want to reconsider my position when books aimed at young children (younger than 10) include subjects that might be difficult for them to process (such as the attempted rape scene in “Julie of the Wolves”). I’ll probably still decide that I’m against content warnings, but who knows! I’ll have to think about it more.

  5. Children’s book need extra care, but even then, if it’s listed for kids, I don’t see the need for warnings. Youngsters shouldn’t be protected from things they need to be exposed to in order to get a more rounded exposure to the world. Parents need to guide, of course, but hopefully, they won’t deny their kids that which will help them mature and turn into discerning adults.

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