SPOILER WARNING!! This isn’t a spoiler, but.. There is no such thing as an "almost-spoiler"

So, with Game of Thrones chugging through season after season on HBO, the BBC scheduling more and more Doctor Who after their anniversary special, and so many new books flying in from all directions… I want to talk about spoilers.

Specifically, I want to talk about the fact that there is no such thing a “little” spoiler, and anyone who tries to use them is courting danger and offense.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the urge. You’ve seen or read something someone else hasn’t, and you want to talk about it. You’re desperate to discuss it but don’t want to ruin it, and you think you’ve found a way to discuss that show, film or book without actually spoiling it.

not quite what I mean..

You’re wrong. There really is nothing you can say which doesn’t contain or imply relevant information.

Here are a few examples that I loathe.

Keep your eye on that one! or Don’t worry, he gets better!
You may not have revealed anything specific about the character you’re talking about, but simply implying they are of interest means that they have a story arc, that they develop as characters and narrative pieces rather than dying suddenly or being sidelined. Letting on that certain characters are more worthy of notice than others, or that they will be, still counts as revealing the narrative structure. Spoiler’d.

Do you remember the bit in the first book when…? and That’ll all make sense in the second book!
Readers don’t as a rule know which characters and events will have the most significance in the following volumes. Telling them totally changes how they will interpret those events, and doesn’t allow each book to be presented as the author intended.

Don’t read the last page first!
Apparently it’s a common thing, reading the last page first. Maybe it provides a sense of continuity, a reassurance that the book will not spiral on forever and that all things including life will eventually end. Still, the suggestion that the last page is important can totally preoccupy the reader with what the final shocker is, and turn the whole experience into unnecessary mystery solving, regardless of genre.

Why do they always kill off the fit ones?
More relevant to TV than Books, this question-spoiler reveals a lot about who is going to die, narrowing it down to the more attractive cast, and if  whoever you’re spoiling things for knows you well enough, your personal tastes. It’s really no better than “the black dude always dies first” or “the butler did it”.

The Duke is in the next book loads!
Whoever you’re spoiling Book Nine for will now know that the Duke (or whoever it might be) not only survives Book Four but lives through the events of Books Five-to-Eight as well. Now we know that Avery Cates, Harry Potter, and Colonel Hammer will usually live on to feature heavily in their subsequent books because each series is based around their adventures, but with an ensemble cast or a universe-spanning community all bets should be off since anyone could die, disappear or be sent away at any time, and letting on in any way robs the reader of any surprise.

You’ll love the end of issue 12!
Someone actually said this to me, as if I don’t know what I love and therefore couldn’t predict what would happen. I haven’t read issue 12 of the relevant graphic novel yet, and may never do, but I know now that somebody dies well, and that there’s a poignant act of self-sacrifice or some other close look at the human spirit… because that’s what I love.

You’ll love it!
In fact, simply being told that you’re going to love something is a spoiler. It has much more weight than “you should watch it” and gears the prospective viewer up for all the things they usually like, leaving them disappointed if they don’t happen, and unappreciative if they do.

Oh, Gerrard! :'(
Someone posted this as a Facebook status last year and I instantly knew that Gerrard had died. You are never as cryptic as you think you are.

spoiler2

There really is no way of talking about something without actually talking about it, all you can ever hope to do is hold your tongue, and wait for your friends and peers to catch up to you, even if that means halting your own reading and viewing, and giving them frequent persistent pushes to get on with their own.

Nick
xx