This post is aimed at writers. As we in the science fiction community deal with some ugliness that has taken a quasi-political form and had a powerful negative effect on many writers, here are some things you may want to consider.
I will sometimes read reviews of my work. I will go to Amazon and click the 5-star ones, and read others that are full of lavish praise. I do this because sometimes I need cheering up–I need to remind myself, “Yeah, I can do this.” I mean, in my more cynical moments I believe that the way to tell if you’re a “real writer” is that you sometimes think you’re not a real writer. It’s good to have ways of pulling yourself out of that, especially if it has a bad effect on the quantity or quality of your work; if you’re lucky enough to have reviews out there that will help you do that, hey, what the hell.
With a few exceptions, I do not read negative reviews of my work, or even pay attention to the negative comments (“My only complaint is….”) within a positive review. The book is done. Moreover, if there is something someone hates about it, it is a gimme that it is the same thing that someone else likes, so I’m not “learning” anything from it. I have a list of people for whom I have a great deal of respect, and to whom I listen when they speak about what needs improvement, either in a particular work or in my writing in general; nothing good can come of listening to anyone else. The exceptions, with reviewers, are people who, over the years, I have determined are smart, perceptive, know what I’m trying to do, and can articulate where I failed to do it (yes, Jo, I’m looking at you). These reviews can, in fact, give me useful information.
I can see you nodding along with me. Good. We agree. I’m glad to hear it.
Now consider, for a moment, reviews or criticism that call you, for example, a racist, because you didn’t include anyone of some particular race, or you did but someone thinks you were stereotyping, or being insensitive, or whatever. These comments are every bit as legitimate, in my opinion, as any other sort of criticism, and deserve exactly the same consideration. To wit: if you’re getting the comment from someone you know and trust, take it the way you would any other comment, give it due consideration, and decide.
I mention this because one of the things I see going on around me, is that reviews and criticism that focus on these things are treated as if these comments are special–particularly if aspects of the personal identity of the reviewer (race, sex, disability, sexual preference, &c) is a factor in the review.
I beg to submit that these sorts of reviews are no different from others, and deserve no special status. If it is coming from a reviewer or critic you trust, then it should get the same consideration as any other sort of criticism; and if it is not, by making an exception, you are, in my opinion, doing yourself and your writing no good whatsoever, and are granting people you have no reason to trust, far, far too much power over the work you produce.