Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On Spoiler Alerts and Trigger Warnings

by Mord Fiddle

After thoughtful consideration, the policy of The Infinite Reach with regard to the use of spoiler alerts and trigger warnings is as follows:

We don’t do spoiler alerts and trigger warnings.

With regard to spoiler alerts:

When writing reviews we’ll avoid (to the degree reasonable) giving away plot twists and reveals the revelation of which would degrade the reading/watching/listening experience for the reader.  After all, a review is intended to provide media consumers with an evaluation of a work prior to the reading/watching/listening-to of said media and assumes that many of the readers/watchers/listeners will not have already read/watched/listened to the work being reviewed.  This being the case, it can be assumed that reviews at The Reach will (for the most part) avoid giving away key elements of the reviewed story in advance.  Obviously where there are no intended spoilers there is no need for a spoiler alert.

Having said that, when the odd spoiler does happen to slip in we still won’t issue a spoiler alert.  That’s right.  You won’t know.  You’ll just have to take a chance.  You’ll have to hang it out on the edge and dance on the rim of the abyss.  The Infinite Reach isn’t about playing it safe.

Even within the context of reviews, the avoidance of spoilers applies only to the work being reviewed.   Prior entries in a fiction series get no such consideration.  For example, let’s say The Infinite Reach reviews the sixth book in the Brak the Barbarian series. Our review of that august tome will avoid spoilers for book six, but may contain spoilers for prior books in the series without issuing a spoiler alert.   So if you plan on reading the fifth Brak the Barbarian book and would be upset to find out that Princess Iruda is revealed therein to be Brak’s daughter by way of his tryst with the Dread Spider Queen of Yizod back in book number three (oops!), you might want to hold off on our review of Brak number six.

Outside of reviews, we reserve the right to spoil with abandon and without prior notification.

For example, let’s say I write about the importance of Thomas Piketty’s observations on wealth and capital to understanding Star Wars’ Imperial economy.  I’m not going to issue spoiler alerts prior to revealing that Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea are the twin offspring of Darth Vader.   And, before you ask, I have no idea how the Skywalker lineage could possibly be in any way relevant to the discussion of the behavior of imaginary economic actors in a fictional imperial economy.  But hey, it’s economics.  It could come up.  After all, no one spins a good science fiction yarn like Alan Greenspan.

With regard to trigger warnings:

Trigger warnings are for intellectual sissies.

There was a story in the NY Times last summer about English Literature majors in American universities demanding trigger warnings for each book that had content a student reading it might find disturbing.  To my mind any Lit majors making such demands should immediately and forthwith be drummed out of the Literature program and have their library privileges revoked. Literature is no place for the faint of heart.

The job of literature in general and science fiction in particular is to disturb; to move readers outside the comforts of their closeted day to day, to give them a peek over the walls of conventional wisdom and cause them readers to question what they had previously thought to be unshakable truths.  Shelly's Frankenstein, Orwell's 1984, Leguin's The Left Hand of Darkness and Delaney's Dhalgren all rattled the crockery of convention when they were published, and the tremors they set in motion still reverberate today.

If I’m doing my job right you’re going to read something that discomforts you now and again.  The Reach isn’t here to pad the corners of the universe or to make readers feel safe.  Reading is not a safe activity. Books are dangerous things.

 Literacy, real literacy, requires courage.

No comments:

Post a Comment