Robert A. Heinlein — though he wasn’t the first — says a lion who’s been freed still paces in the confines of the imaginary cage, and that something like it happens with intellectual boundaries set by totalitarian regimes of thought.
As a society that has been bound (and gagged. Mostly gagged) by such a regime, increasingly tighter for the last fifty years, many of us are pacing that cage.
One of the — admittedly many — things that drive me bonkers about the left is their tendency to want people to have exact-match role models.
What I mean by this is that by reasons that evade me — except that Marxist identity politics makes widgets out of human beings and creates a sort of uber-aspergers in how followers see the world. Um… maybe it’s why aspergers has been non-medicalized — the left thinks the only role models one can follow must match all of one’s EXTERNAL characteristics, or one won’t know what’s achievable.
So, for instance, since there is no other female Portuguese first generation immigrant who was ever successful in publishing (or at least not at a level anyone ever heard of) science fiction and mystery, younger me is supposed to have walked in circles, flopping and floundering before the publishing establishment wondering “can I even do this? How do I do this? There is no other person with a vagina and my level of tan doing this. Maybe I can’t do this.”
I did flop and flounder, and occasionally run in circles, screaming and shouting, but the problem was not “no role models that match me exactly. How do I do this?” Because I did have role models, and writers whose bios I read, and whose books I studied and who showed me how it was done. They were male, female, and probably — according to today’s asperger’s classifications all however many — 75? — genders there are, a multitude of colors, and a multitude of backgrounds. But they could write, and they wrote stuff I wanted to read, and stuff I wanted to learn to write. So as far as role models went, I had them.
Because the important thing in the role of writer is the writing, not the external characteristics or even frankly, the upbringing of the one who writes.
I had an argument on this on FB a couple of weeks ago and had to explain to the lefty telling me that people’s external characteristics and background created their writing or gave them a unique voice or something that he was parroting 19th century literary analysis, that this wasn’t true — provably not true, as far as such a thing can be proven — and that no one but crazy people tried to analyze art according to the biography of the artist.
For the love of Bob, I had a degree in the stuff. And you can’t really tell why Shakespeare wrote what he wrote. Or why Jane Austen wrote what she wrote. And that’s with minute studying of their biographies. Sure you can come up with “this incident inspired this” and we might even be right, but in the end? Judging by myself, what inspired a story might be a pun at the dining room table. Or a joke I overheard in a diner. Or even a dream. And while some of my stuff can probably be guessed to have an origin in childhood preoccupations — say my tendency to write gender/benders and gender/ignorers probably traces to the fact that I couldn’t wear earrings and mom insisted on dressing me in my brother’s cast offs (cut down to size. He was six feet by the time I was four) because she thought having my legs bare while wearing a skirt would give me colds, in a society where this made me the boy named Sue. MAYBE. Or it could be because it’s something fascinating to pay with intellectually. Hell, until this year I’d never touched a horse, and my other fairly consistent theme is centaurs — but does it? Does the theme of acculturation that runs through some of my books have to do with my own acculturation to the US? What if I told you I wrote percursors of those books at 12, when I thought I’d live all my life in Portugal?
And if biography is a really bad explanation for the themes and preoccupations of an artist, matching the author’s skin color to a vaguely similar paint chip, or orientation, or even origin.
What the left misses in the “but the skin color, etc. of the author informs their experience is “And each set of experiences is highly individual.” It would require insanity or iron-clad racism to think, say, that the Obama girls would create similar literature to the daughters of a crack-addicted inner city black mother. They might tan alike. Hell, they might even look something like each other. But that has zero to do with what their actual experiences and view of the world is.
The only reason the left can think this, is because they think culture is genetic. So, you know, Mala and Sasha, raised in a fourth generation communist household, shouldn’t have more in common with oh, Occasio Cortez than with some little girl whose mom was selling it on the street before the kid was out of diapers, who has no philosophy beyond knowing something is very wrong with her, and who has never read… anything, and watches soap operas and reality shows only. Seriously? Only dyed in the wool racists would think that skin color was the most important thing in that equation, and that culture comes with skin color.
Oh, sure, they all face the same micro aggressions. Because micro are the only aggressions that could make it past the secret service guys and to the Obama Girls.
Seriously. The entire philosophy of “We’ll hire our authors by color, and all authors of color are either Marxist or race traitors” and also “it’s your level of tan, national origins and sexual attraction that make you unique. Other than that, we’re all exactly the same” doesn’t pass the snort-giggle test.
Take Dumas, for instance (I’m not doing anything with him for another 6 months at least.) How much did the fact that in US contemporary parlance he was technically black (black grandmother) inform his writing? Ah…. nothing? Sure, the stories of his father about his adventures might or might not have leaked in, but do tell me how you can read Dumas and know his father was technically raised a slave, that Dumas’ grandmother and aunts/uncles were sold to finance his grandfather’s and father’s passage to France, or that his father was only freed when hitting French soil?
Other than a certain moral flexibility in his writings — and honestly, that was the spirit of the time — there is no trace of any of this in his writing. (Yeah, I know “but he hired other people and had a writing factory. Maybe. Or maybe he had graphomania. As a fellow sufferer I’m not taking bets. If it weren’t for the months or sometimes years of depression, I suspect people would accuse me of the same. Keep in mind the last twenty years I’ve had near critical hypothyroidism.)
Sure, sure, there are things I can’t write — and I’ll tell you I can’t write them, if you ask — but they have bloody nothing to do with my skin/sex/orientation, and everything to do with the ways in which I’m broken (we’re all broken. Just different ways.) I’d give an arm and a leg to write action like Larry Correia, say. I can’t. And it has zero to do with “he knows guns better.” Sure. He does know that. But he also writes physical action of ALL SORTS better, including had to hand combat and car chases and… I don’t visualize action in enough detail to write it like that. I can sort of wave at it, but I can’t get down to that level of detail. Yes, I’m working on it, but I’ll never be THAT good.
And while I CAN write convoluted word-play novels, I can’t do it one after the other, because it depresses me. It’s not my normal mode.
And hell, it took me ten novels to figure out PLOT (thank you Dave Freer for making me SEE foreshadowing.) I got published on the strength of characters, but I had no idea how to make plots work for readers.
So there are things I can do and things I can’t. What the hell they have to do with Portuguese genetics or being female, evades me.
Sure, I needed to figure out how to write books for an American public, but that’s because I was born and RAISED abroad, and the tastes for what gets published in Portugal are different, and even though I’d read a ton of American books in translation, my tastes had been informed by what Portuguese considered good.
Sure, if you were raised in a tiny, insular community in the US, be it Amish or Ghetto, you’ll have trouble breaking in and your voice will indeed be unique.
Of course, you’ll have trouble breaking in BECAUSE your voice is unique. The Mass Entertainment business is a business of packaging and selling experiences that will apply to the largest possible denominator. So, that’s not to say you can’t write unique stuff, just that you have to tailor it to appeal to a community that’s used to standard stuff.
Seeing what people latched onto as worthwhile in my early books was an education. For instance, apparently Any Man So Daring is about racism. (REALLY?)
Point being, we’re let the entire society be turned into a pretzel to the tune of asperger’s screeching. “But I can’t do that. I don’t see anyone who matches me doing that.”
We’re not a caste society (not even a chaste one. Apropos nothing. I almost spelled it that way, is all. Too much blood in my caffeine stream.) No one is holding you back from doing/saying/being what you want. Sure, it’s good to know when one’s natural abilities stop us. Stuff like, if you’re 5’5″ you’re not going to be a basketball star.
But in the end? Everyone who does what you aspire to do is a role model. You want to do that? Study how they do it. Most intellectual barriers can be broken down with enough stubborn and insane amounts of work (which is why I’m still practicing writing action.)
Be not afraid. BE the role model. And hold that lantern aloft for people of all colors, shapes and backgrounds.
We’re all individual but we’re all human. If we can think it, we can figure out how to do it.
Refuse to be turned into a widget. Free yourself.