An author who dared to recast the relationship between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot as a romantic one has suffered anti-gay abuse, both in Amazon.com reviews and email messages.
Author Sarah Luddington wrote the The Knights of Camelot series to explore what she says is a relationship that is hinted at in source material for the Arthurian legends, such as in works by Mallory and the romantic poetry of Chretien de Troyes, but one that had not been explored much in contemporary literature.
When the first book in the series, Lancelot and the Wolf, was released on Amazon’s Kindle in June of 2011 the book received modest, and even glowing, praise. However, Luddington’s UK publisher Mirador recently became concerned about a growing number of one-star reviews on the ebook retailer site Amazon.com. An investigation was launched by Amazon because many of the one-star reviews had a very similar tone–an anti-gay one.
Despite the book’s description including the fact that the series explores a romantic relationship between Arthur and Lancelot, one reviewer opined, “I had no idea this was some sexually twisted tale about King Arthur. I have read almost all the the early records and literature on King Arthur and I have never come across anything that insinuated that he was GAY, so pardon me if I assumed this was going to be a normal continuation of the story … YUCK, thanks for ruining a beautiful story that I grew up with and turning it into something sordid.”
Another groused, “I didn’t know that this was a perverted story of Arthur and Lancelot. If I had known, I would have skipped it and read something else. [...] Just sad to have ruined one of the greatest legends of all times.”
Other reviews said the book had “tainted” the legend and used similar anti-gay references in their complaints. These reviews, at least half-a-dozen of which are still present on the Amazon.com site, appear to have all been published within a six-week period, and many of them toward the end of July. Luddington has also told the press that both she and her publisher have received similar email messages berating them for apparently ruining the legend.
Luddington is quoted as saying, “Initially I was [only] surprised by the venom directed toward my books. But as it went on I found it became quite distressing. It seems one can write about pretty much anything these days but to infer that King Arthur and Lancelot were lovers is tantamount to flag burning.”
While Amazon has assured Luddington that it will work to ensure that all reviews comply with Amazon’s commenting policies, Luddington seems to have found a way to spin a positive action out of this situation.
A note on the series’ website tells that Luddington is releasing a special edition of Lancelot and the Wolf with proceeds going to the UK gay rights group Stonewall:
For those who are interested, I am an advocate of Gay Rights and this Special Edition of Lancelot and the Wolf, which you can find in all good ebook stores, is being sold to help Stonewall, to whom I am donating all of my royalties from this edition. They are a charity who support the rights of gay people all over the world. Please help by going to your preferred ebook retailer and downloading a copy, it isn’t expensive, but it will make a difference.
Luddington’s website lists a further six titles in the series, so clearly the author has found a welcoming audience for her books.