Terry Goodkind Accidentally Started a War With The Art Community. I Support His Right Not to Apologize.
Terry Goodkind, bestselling author of the Sword of Truth series, just published a new book, Shroud of Eternity... And last week, he publicly dissed the cover art, calling it "laughably bad," and launching a free book sweepstakes for reader input.
I've already learned two cool new things from the ensuing controversy:
1. Terry Goodkind has a new book. (Despite my many criticisms of his work, I'd read pretty much anything Goodkind wrote. I recently accidentally discovered his 2016 novel, Nest, and enjoyed reading it, despite its sadism and preachiness. If I'm only discovering his new books by accident, I feel like his publishers aren't doing a good job promoting him.)
2. The art community is super tight-knit and supportive/defensive of its members.
This, I learned from the major backlash following Goodkind's original Facebook post.
SHROUD OF ETERNITY is a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad. So let's have some fun with it. Tell us what you think of the cover in my next post (the poll above) and we'll pick ten random entries to win a signed copy of the hardcover. We'll pick the ten winners on March 1st. Everyone's welcome to play. Just cast your vote and post a comment.
To which the cover artist, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme, replied:
It was nice working with you Terry. What you are doing is totally disrespectful. As if I didn’t create those covers accorded to exactly what I was told to do.
In my entire career I have never seen an author behaving like that.
From there... shit got crazy. Goodkind's Facebook and Twitter pages were flooded with insults from the art community, criticizing his writing, his hair, and his lack of professionalism. The art community was super pissed that Goodkind "dragged an artist's name through the mud," "publicly humiliated him," and "hurt his career."
I might have agreed, had Goodkind called the artist out by name or anything. But to me, it was clear that:
1. Terry hated the art, and therefore
2. He'd told his publishers he hated it, but
3. His publishers refused to change it
Feeling frustrated and out of options, Terry made a public and vindictive Facebook post... because what else could he do?
I couldn't feel too sorry for the man, considering he's had massive success in writing. But I can understand why he took the cover art so personally. As I wrote in An Emerging Problem in Intersectional Feminism: The Scramble for Victimhood:
You do [art] best when you feel you're being true to yourself.
And I'm not even, like, a "real" artist. I just do this for fun. But it's still as personal as my name.
Meanwhile, Terry Goodkind has spent literally decades developing these characters and sharing their stories. How could he not be upset when he felt the cover art didn't accurately represent the world and people he's painstakingly created?
It's like, a man's lifework vs. a piece of commissioned art.
I completely get why he's pissed.
But, since so many people took his post to be a personal attack that "publicly shamed" the artist, Goodkind wrote a second post to clarify his meaning:
Tl;dr: stop taking this personally. The artwork is great, but it doesn't really represent my characters well and I told my publishers that and they didn't care.
See? Told you. Sometimes, it pays to take a deep breath before flying off the handle.
Of course, this clarification did little to quell the rage. See, people mistook this statement for an apology, when it was clearly no such thing.
I love "eat a bee." It's a wonderful little insult. Nevertheless, I think both comments misinterpreted the purpose of the post: to clarify, not to apologize. Because, as one Twitter user wrote, "Clarity is everything."
Worth noting, though: "unpacked" is objectively the worst word of all time. It's 10x worse than moist, which I've never really had a problem with, anyway. (Though if you love etymology, get ready to hate the word "vagina.")
Lots of people seem to think Goodkind "owes" an apology to the artist. Lots of people seem to think that lots of people "owe" lots of people apologies.
But the reality is, just because you were offended, doesn't mean you are owed an apology.
Like, maybe you just shouldn't have been offended.
As I wrote in Next Time Someone Hurts You, Ask Yourself These Two Questions:
Moreover, as I wrote in Telling People Words Only Hurt if You Let Them Isn't Mean. It's Helpful and True:
They think that calling me a name will hurt me, because they can't imagine what it's like to have a positive body image and healthy self-esteem.
(I mean, Unless You're a Psychopath or Sociopath, It's Impossible to COMPLETELY Stop Caring What Others Think of You. But you can certainly use your emotional, self-regulation, and cognitive reframing skills to care less.)
Life is better when every little thing doesn't offend you.
Moreover, we live in a world where public shaming is used as a weapon for social control... and, simultaneously, where every little criticism or unintended slight is described as "shaming." I saw a brilliant little tweet about this recently:
That would be wonderful. Then, university professors wouldn't have to censor their own lessons and assignments to make sure no one gets offended. Well-meaning allies of social justice wouldn't be excommunicated for a bad word choice or asking an "offensive" question they "should" have already known the answer to. And authors wouldn't get crucified for having opinions about how their own characters were portrayed in the cover art.
Terry shouldn't have to apologize for not liking something he doesn't like -- especially when it's about something so personal and important to him. And I'm also not convinced that just because he's a famous artist, he's waived his right to having or expressing an opinion.
Sure, there's a question of "professionalism." It sounds like the publisher handled the cover art fiasco rather unprofessionally, and perhaps publicly airing grievances about that isn't the most professional.
But maybe there's more to life than professionalism? Like artistic integrity? Or self-expression?
Goodkind isn't the only celebrity to struggle with this. Kevin Durant wasn't really "allowed" to talk about why he left the Oklahoma City Thunder... so he made a fake Twitter account. (And eventually got busted.)
Reporters at the New York Times aren't supposed to express certain opinions on Twitter (which, while many call it "oppressive," kind of makes sense -- a reporter's job is to report the news, and if you're bashing certain parties, causes, and politicians online, it undermines your and your organization's credibility), so they leak internal chat transcripts to rival news organizations.
Clearly, hiding our feelings and self-suppressing our own thoughts kills us a little on the inside.
I think some things are more important than professionalism, and I think Terry Goodkind has every right not to apologize.
Want to know more? Check out So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson:
And, if you've never read anything by Terry Goodkind, I totally recommend Wizard's First Rule, the first book of the Sword of Truth series. There's a part you're going to hate, and you'll be tempted to stop reading... but if you persevere, it'll be a fun and enjoyable read. As you progress through the series, you'll start encountering some preachy parts -- but you can just skim those without missing much.
And, of course, if you have read the SOT series, don't miss Goodkind's latest, Shroud of Eternity. It's about Nicci and Nathan's latest quest, and is the second of three volumes in The Nicci Chronicles.
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