*Some housekeeping stuff before the post. As most of you know, by now, I’m having internet connectivity problems. I’ve been posting from a remote location where I can access the net, which explains why my answers here come in clumps all at one time. Today (I’m writing this yesterday, so I almost said tomorrow) I might not be able to reach this away-point, since — for those of you not on the net right now — Colorado Springs is getting clobbered with snow, and getting here today meant that we risked life and limb, and we wouldn’t have done it if my husband didn’t need to remote-into-work which is even further away. All this to say if I’m not on today, I’m okay and nothing happened to me, and I’ll read the comments when I get online. In further “housekeeping”, my friend Brad Torgersen has asked me to remind you of some Sad Puppies, who need consolation.*
But there has to be someone like me in the story, otherwise, how can I like it?
Yes, the SJWs ARE the gift that keeps on giving (and giving, and giving, and giving – they’re so generous) as far as this blog is concerned.
You see, the SJW who was sensitivity-bombing Brad Torgersen’s thread the other day was saying that we don’t have LGBT, Women, People of Interesting Nationalities, Little Brownz Peoples People of tan
People who are barely darker than I People who are not extremely pale in science fiction and fantasy because we don’t write for them. It’s sort of a faith in “if we write it, they will come.” It’s a little dopey faith, but very, very sincere.
You see, the reason – supposedly – that we don’t have more people of tannitude and different sexual options, or women (and OMG are they crazy on that one. We have nothing but women. In fact our ranks are the opposite of my son’s advanced engineering classes) is because we don’t write enough of them.
Okay, to begin with shut up. They honestly believe this, and maybe it’s true in their universe. It clearly isn’t true in ours where since the pulp era science fiction has been THE place where “Other” was sexy.
Let’s forget that part, since I’ve tried to point out to them that in terms of writers my age or slightly older women are actually in the majority (the result of the fact that writing became a profession in which it was very hard to support a family. So it became the profession of the secondary earner in a relationship, thereby giving the advantage to women and gay men who often work part time or less demanding jobs so they can be the homemaker and child raiser.)
They just scream no they’re not. The same way they scream that Heinlein only wrote women as homemakers and that no woman ever got an award before 2010 or so.
Let it go. It’s like straw-Larry Correia, a despicable creature that exists only in a parallel universe. (That guy is a d*ck.) Straw-Heinlein in the other universe wrote sort of Gor with more spaceships. And women had their fingers broken when trying to pen winning science fiction before 2010. And worldcons used to feature big bonfires in which any person with a complexion darker than porcelain was burned at the stake.
Let all that go, and let’s go back to the premise: we have to attract readers who are not straight white men by writing about people like them first.
I first ran into this type of belief when I wrote my first short story. I showed it to some friends, and was shot down with “There is no character I can identify with.”
To be fair, it was a very short horror story and all the characters were profoundly unpleasant. To be unfair what our friend really meant was “there is no character I can get in the head of” but he THOUGHT this was because there was no character LIKE HIM.
I think that’s what people originally meant by “there must be a character you can identify with” – it was, there has to be a character into whose head I can get and about whom I give a d*mn. Only some people take it to mean “there must be a character this age, this orientation and this coloration, before I’m interested in reading.”
This makes perfect sense, since at eight, when I fell in love with Have Spacesuit Will Travel, I was a little boy living in middle America with a Math Professor father, right? Oh, wait… Or at eleven when I loved Out of Their Minds and subsequently fell in love with Clifford Simak’s work. I must have been a middle aged man living in Wisconsin.
Other books/works/ writers I enjoyed, in no particular order at that time and leaving out a vast number: Pearl S. Buck, Enid Blyton, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mark Twain, Thomas Mann Jack London…. If all of them had characters who were little girls growing up in Portugal in the early seventies, I must somehow have missed them.
The thing is that it has always puzzled me the idea that to enjoy a book/movie/play you must have a character in it who is just like you.
I read books written long before I was born, about events and characters lost in the midst of time, and I do enjoy them.
First, there is the universal human experience in them. And then, of course, there is the ability to be someone else for a while.
I believe my experience is closer to universal than the idea that a character like me must be in every book, otherwise people like Jane Austen and Shakespeare would have been long forgotten.
More, the funny thing about the “if you write it they will come” argument is that, on its face it’s an argument for more white middle class people in science fiction. And just about every other genre too.
The majority of readers come from that vast American amalgam that is considered white (something more to do with upbringing than coloration) and middle class and lives in suburbs and works nine to five jobs, and…
So if you needed to have a character like the reader in order to attract the reader, our works would feature more and more (and more, and more, till an order of moritude is reached) people like that, so we can be bestsellers with the readers that exist now. We would not put in any Thai, one legged gay men in order to attract Thai, and handicapped and gay men to our books. That would be sort of the equivalent of going to the local lake, which you know to be stocked with carp (duck) with shark bait, in order to attract the odd shark who might swim in through the possible canal linking the lake to the sea.
In the same way that Thai, handicapped gay guy might be burning for books with characters like him, but he’d have to go to the bookstore at the right time, in the right place to find your book on the shelf (I think the window is now two weeks after publication.) He’d have to be in the mood for science fiction right then. And he would have to like your work, above and beyond the Thai, one legged gay guy thing. AND if all the stars align? You found yourself a fanatical reader. One. Unless he’s got the wealth of Croesus, you’re still going to starve.
But fortunately this is not true. Fortunately the readers divide evenly between those who want to read about stuff they’re familiar with, and those want to read new and exciting. Science fiction has an overwhelming preponderance of xenophiles. They like the new and different. (Of course, most of what they’re served is people like no one wo ever existed outside a college class on Marx whining about oppression, but never mind that.)
So I can (and will, later) write a novel about a completely alien human culture and its interaction with humans who have been gene-spliced with aliens. And sell it. And have you guys all excited to read it. Kind of like the story of alternate world where we’re at war with shape-shifting dragons. Not like us, and I almost guarantee there won’t be anyone who checks the boxes – race, creed, etc – for many of you. But I understand ya’ll still want to read it (right?)
Yeah, these characters will touch the human universals, and be understandable and identifiable-with as humans, but that’s not the same as being exactly like you, yes, you, Mr. Smith of Parishfield Kentucky, who is a medium beige, likes dogs and drag racing and plays football on weekends, while maintaining a rich side-life as a crossdressing cat-fur who goes by Fluffy.
I can’t even imagine someone who reads fiction only in order to read someone like himself. It makes me think of those stories for kids where, for a fee, they put your children’s name. My inlaws, with good intentions, sent one of these to #1 son one Christmas.
Granted he was 5, so this might have seemed like a good idea. OTOH they had met him. perhaps the horror of the encounter had refused to process (At three and a half he red-penciled the picture books my poor MIL bought for him, under the principle that no grammatical mistake should go unpunished. I’m not sure which was worse, that he felt the need to mark them or that he was right.) It confused him immensely. It was about – he said – some dopey boy named Robert Hoyt who had adventures with cartoon characters, and he wanted his misapprehension corrected right away. He didn’t know why the author was maligning him but he wouldn’t be stupid enough to step into cartoon land or whatever other action of the imaginary Robert galled him.
Anyway, perhaps some people are so devoid of imagination that they need to put themselves, exactly themselves, in a character’s place. As in, they can’t even dream their own Mary Sue dreams but need someone to write them for them.
But I don’t think so. I think this is one more delusion of mostly white, mostly upper middle class, mostly over-pampered and over-educated women who engage in “social justice” work. They are so totally devoid of comprehension and empathy for anyone not exactly like them, that they think that everyone else, particularly those poor brownz people who tan – like me, say, or Larry Correia – must be like them in that. Obviously the reason the poor dears aren’t reading is because no one is writing people like them!
And if you think that is a terrible place from which to stand in order to support diversity in the field, you’re absolutely right. Like people writing aliens in fur suits, these people write white, female college professors in LGBT or brown skinned suits.
That is why these characters are always miserable, because, well, if the SJWs were them, they would be!
People who are just like me? Oh please. I’ll continue reading and writing people who are different enough from me to be fascinating, whether in an interesting or terrifying way.
Because I write to experience other people’s minds. Not to be locked in my own.
Baffle an SJW. Find a book with a very odd character and read it! Bonus points for enjoying it! I recommend Dave Freer’s Bolg PI stories. I dare you.