Dear Laurell K Hamilton,
I’m sure that you’re as sick of me as I am of your writing.
I’d been a long-time fan of your work from when I was a teenager (maybe fourteen) and I came across a copy of Incubus Dreams in a Books A Million down here in sunny South Florida.
From the start, I was captivated by all of the things that seemed so cool and relatable about Anita. She was a tiny, mean Latina who took no shit from anyone – even the guys that she loved. She was a necromancer who battled vampires and pushed back against racism and sexism from her fellow law enforcement officers. She slept with a gosh-darned penguin stuffed toy and didn’t care who knew about it.
When I first started reading the Anita Blake series, I loved it.
I loved your writing.
I’d grown up reading Anne Rice’s work and her vampires were incredibly formative for me. But her books have always been incredibly white and the queerness in her books, while present, was supremely unsatisfying to go through and it frequently felt as though it could be unconfirmed in a heartbeat.
So, I started the Anita Blake series because your books were immediately a level above because on the surface, the series was diverse and sexy, on top of super freaking violent.
It did so many things that I wanted it to do when I was a teenager –
But that was surface level stuff.
I don’t know if you’ve actually read any of my work, Laurell, but once I looked underneath the surface of the stories you were telling, I started to realize that the pretty (to me) surface hid a whole lot of rot.
Rot in the form of the way you write race and racism, Anita’s endless internalized misogyny, the on the page worship of law enforcement in your series, and so much of how harmfully you write queer people.
Do you not have anyone around you that could tell you that you needed to redirect your writing and bring Anita into the twenty-first century?
Do you not have any writer friends that can hold your hand through redeveloping meaningful character arcs?
Any Black friends that can let you know that pretty much every single Black character you’ve written has been written poorly?
And on that note –
Laurell, in the twenty plus years that you’ve been writing the Anita Blake series, you made the choice not to have Anita have any significant relationships with any Black people. She has Black acquaintances, enemies, and shifters she’s responsible for, but it’s beyond messed up that she doesn’t have any Black friends despite living in a city that has a population that’s like 20% Black people.
I have to say that that’s one of the larger red flags across the series, but it’s also something that stands out as especially frustrating to me because you literally have to work to be this bad at writing Black characters.
Don’t get me wrong, Laurell, you are flat out bad at writing characters of color.
Regardless of their ethnicity, you are bad at writing people of color in realistic and responsible ways.
You objectify East Asian characters, relying on Orientalism to make your points about how sexy they are.
You write Latino characters as gangbangers and aggressive machismo dripping dudes. Anita is Schrodinger’s Latina with a vanishing Latinidad and all other Latinas – the few who show up in the series – are treated like stereotypes too.
The few Native American characters you do write – like Bernardo Spotted Horse – are written as incredibly racist stereotypes and Bernardo in particular is treated like a semi-sentient sex object and not as a character in his own right.
It is tiring, to be sure.
It’s also racist as hell.
It’s no secret that I find you to be incredibly racist too. Right?
Also, Laurel… I know I’m not the first person to bring this up to you, but uh… you know that Anita really hates other women, right?
Like she’s flat out oozing internalized misogyny and it’s getting so much worse with every single book you write where you double down on her hatred of women by making all other women be enemies to fight or victims for her to take care of.
Serpentine was literally an exercise in major internalized misogyny. There were so few characters that Anita actually got along with –
And the fact that so much of her ire was reserved for women that wanted her man (or one of her men) is like… frustrating.
At twenty-nine, looking back at the Anita verse, I can say that Anita reads like a character I would’ve written when I was a teenager.
She’s irrationally unkind to women who threaten her (by being prettier, by being smarter, by tougher than she is, etc). She’s a “character of color” that is functionally white in terms of how the world sees her, but conveniently gets to rock her POC-ness when she needs to tell someone else – usually another, browner POC – that she’s got experiences with racism that invalidate theirs.
But I don’t write characters like that in 2019 and you shouldn’t be either.
Honestly Laurell, I could go on for ages about how awful your work is in retrospect. I know I could because I’ve been doing this for the better part of the past five years of running my website.
I’ve put up with rereading your books, going through your social media and blog posts, and navigating forums and review sites populated with straight nonsense about you and your life.
I even own a copy of The Diva Ate Her – which I’ve been assured by multiple people in your sphere of influence has some actual factual information about your past behavior across it – and that’s a slog if I’ve ever read one.
I’ve devoted a ton of my time, energy, and emotions into reading your work – work that has triggered me repeatedly due to the careless way you write about sexual violence and gendered violence.
I’m not calling it suffering because obviously, I did this to myself, but this is me doing something else for myself: giving up on your work.
Unless you do something especially heinous across either of your series or you turn the boat around and start creating content with actual substance, I’m tapping out for the time being.
There are other, less painfully problematic books that I can cover for my Urban Fantasy 101 series and other authors who handle criticism more gracefully than you and Anne Rice do.
Because it’s not worth it, Laurell.
My audience has learned all it’s going to from my sporking and your audience doesn’t care that I’m writing about your work. And at the end of the day, if you’re not listening to editors, reviewers, and your dwindling sales and trying to figure out how to be better and do better as a writer, you’re sure as hell not going to be listening to me.
Part of why I’m letting your series go is because I don’t see the point of it anymore.
I just found myself repeating the same critiques about sexuality, race, gender, and disability on end because you literally never learned across almost three decades of this series. You literally are incapable of being a better writer. You are stagnant and you were making me stagnant.
I am so not about that life.
I’m actually going to #TreatMyself and move on to a writer whose work doesn’t leave me feeling a deep and unending rage. I’m sure I can find one or two urban fantasy writers whose genre faux pas don’t hinge primarily on unchecked bigotry, rape culture as a fact of their worldbuilding, and bad writing as heavily as yours.
I hope that one day, you’ll get critique partners and an editing crew that nudges you towards being a better writer and person.
I hope it happens before you uh… fall too far to make a solid comeback as a writer.
Here’s hoping 2020 brings you clarity and better direction.