I was at a Scares That Care convention a couple of years ago, and I approached the table of an indie author. It's always a trepidatious thing to do. No one wants to be caught up in an ugly hard sell situation.

The writer in question has friends in the industry, and they will all attest to the brilliance of the work. I identified myself, and the writer got a pouty look on his face. He said that a bad review was posted at Horror Drive-In. His masterpiece only got a three-star rating.

Another writer here at Horror Drive-In wrote the review. I don't give starred ratings to the things I write about.

I had not read this person's fiction, and I honestly am not much interested in doing so. If someone is that butt sore over a mostly positive review, I don't think he is willing to learn from any sort of criticism.

Just today I saw someone on social media bemoaning a three star review. People gathered 'round to assure her that she deserved the big five star rating. I mean, isn't everyone else getting them?

One supplicant made the snide comment that the individual who gave the dreaded three star death curse didn't properly understand artistic positivity. I guess critical thought and analysis have gone out of style.

It astonishes me. It really does. Are these people so divorced from reality that they genuinely believe they deserve the same high rating Edgar Allen Poe or Shirley Jackson would get? It's absolutely ludicrous.

Guess what? In this new world we have created, anyone can be a writer. Good, bad, whatever. You can be a *published author*. The flip side of the coin is this: Everyone can be a reviewer. They don't need writing skills or real knowledge of the field. Or manners.

So many reviewers wantonly hand out five star reviews that writers no longer seem to expect them. They are appearing to demand them. What a world we've become.

I had a book published a couple of years ago, and I have another on the way. Some people kindly gave it the big five star rating. Of course it made me happy. I'm glad they found so much to enjoy about it, and I hope they didn't do it out of blind support or friendship.

I've gotten lower ratings as well. Yes, it stings a little. That said, I in no way feel that my nonfiction writing deserves the same status as something by Douglas E. Winter or Joe Bob Briggs.

If we want the horror field to attain respect, if we want to encourage writers to do better, we have to be ruthlessly honest. I'm not suggesting being mean about it, though I have made some pretty caustic statements about books. God, how can you not? You pay good money for crap, it's difficult to be gracious.

Written by Mark Sieber

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