Matt Cheney on his philosophy of spoiler warnings
The tendency to devote 90% (or more) of a review to describing the plot of the work in question is idiotic. It does a disservice to most writers, particularly the good ones.
So the lack of spoiler warnings here (with occasional exceptions) is a deliberate act, not an oversight, but not intended to cause major angst, either. I am simply trying to show that there is life beyond worrying about the plot all the time, and that plot is neither greater nor less than other important elements of any narrative which get mentioned all the time without warning.
As time goes on, I find myself getting more sympathetic to this viewpoint. I very rarely feel cheated by a good story just because I already know what's going to happen; or to put it another way, knowing what's going to happen in advance doesn't put me off reading something. It wasn't a familarity of plot that gave me problems with Neuromancer
, for instance, it was the fact that I'd already absorbed so many of the ideas and so much of the atmosphere second-hand.
To a certain extent, the same is even true of TV and film--witness my anticipation for Episode III, for instance. In fact, that's almost a counterexample, since if it wasn't for the fact that I have a pretty good idea what's going to go down in this film, the apathy following on from the first two would probably dampen down my excitement somewhat.
That said, never mind reviewers, some stories privilege plot. Mysteries, for example, as Matt points out, in which finding out what happens is a larger part of the point than it is in, say, A Thread of Grace
, where the journey is probably more important. And of course, judging where the spoilerly line lies for an individual reader or viewer is notoriously hard. What doesn't bother one person may infuriate another.
As a general rule, I won't give away twists, or the actual endings of a story here; or if I do, there'll be a definite warning. In fact as a general rule, I'll err on the side of the caution because I think it's reasonable to respect other readers, especially in a forum like lj where the content just appears on your friends page without warning. But I think most of the time, most of the plot is fair game for a review.