written May 25, 1999
Some people would have us believe that the above statement is a flame.
I don't get this concept. To me, a flame is a personal attack on someone -- their physical appearance, intelligence, religious beliefs, upbringing, sexual mores, whatever.
Yet there's this idea that it isn't "nice" to say, "spellcheck would have made this even better" or "I liked this a lot, especially x, y, and z. But the constantly shifting tenses were a bit unsettling, and kept throwing me out of the story. Have you considered using a beta reader to catch details like that?" And in saying something "not nice" like that, a person has therefore "flamed". Excuse me?
Has everybody just forgotten about the Emperor's New Clothes? (Apologies to fen from cultures where this reference makes no sense, but this childhood tale explains my point best.) Do people actually read that story and think that his courtiers were being kind, were being helpful, were being encouraging, were being nice, when they decided not to tell the emperor that his "new clothes" were no such thing? I always thought the emperor would've been a hell of a lot better off -- would have avoided completely humiliating himself in public -- if that little kid from the crowd had been the first one to see the "new clothes", and had given the emperor a bit of honest feedback about it.
Saying, "Running this through a spell-checker would have made it better" just plain isn't a flame.
It's feedback. It's helpful feedback.
Sort of like, "That's a really pretty dress, but the back hem is stuck in the waistband of your pantyhose." Helpful. My response to people who tell me things like that is a fervent, "Thanks!!!!" This response is accompanied by a quick, deep sense of embarrassment (and often a blush), a fervent wish to be elsewhere, and resentment that no one else bothered to say anything, assuming that I'd passed more than one person before anything was said. Not a comfortable feeling, at all -- but sooooo much better than walking around all day with my dress caught up in my pantyhose (or a big spaghetti-sauce stain on my shirt where my breast got in the way, or a piece of broccoli stuck in my front teeth, or whatever).
If people are so fragile that they honestly cannot handle the thought that someone out there doesn't like their story, or cannot handle being told that they spelled something wrong -- and I'm aware that some people really are that fragile -- why on earth are they posting stories where dozens or hundreds or thousands of strangers can read them? Why are they making that fragility the responsibility of all those strangers? I'm sorry if you can't handle being told you spelled something wrong, but it's not my fault that you can't handle it (or that you spelled it wrong, for that matter).
You know what bothers me most about this little trend that fandom's got going, though? Not even the fact that people are demanding I tell them I liked their story (and may I just say, anyone who demands feedback has lost me as a reader forever) -- it's the fact that because so many people have gotten hysterically upset at being told a spell-checker would help their stories that people who write LOCs are now afraid to say anything helpful. To anyone. Like, to me. So I don't get any criticism other than from my beta readers (bless them all), much though I'd like it, and despite the fact that I ask for it. God knows, it's affecting me on the other end of things, too; I tend not to send helpful feedback to people because I don't particularly want to be accused of flaming. It's a damn shame, because so many people out there do want honest, helpful, critical feedback, so that they know if they're walking around with broccoli stuck in their teeth or not.
I think it really sucks that people who can't stand the heat are not only staying in the kitchen, they're insisting that everyone else turn off the ovens for them.