Kicking the Hornet’s Nest and Standing Up for Myself: PC and Worthwhile Stories

[This post has been saved for a while. For a “rainy day,” you might say. I didn’t exactly expect this topic to come back around again. I would rather keep my head down. I don’t want to pick a fight. But after Damien Walter falsely accused me of some vile things at the end of this talk on Twitter, it’s time to finally stand up for myself. I have taken a fair amount of hurtful and false accusation from unscrupulous people in the last few years, and it’s about time I start holding them accountable. I will only be a doormat for so long.]

If the thing I’m aiming to one day accomplish and make a living with — telling worthwhile stories — is threatened, then I will speak up. And when someone misconstrues my stance, then receive comments like, “Well, I won’t read that guy’s fiction, that’s for sure,” I consider that a threat to my future living.

I took a “creative” writing course at UCCS in 2008 (I put quotes around creative because the teacher stated that she wanted us to write literary fiction, as opposed to “low,” “crass” genre fiction; that’s another rant, though). One of the stories I wrote for that course got a compliment from a classmate which was roughly as follows: “I really appreciate [character’s name] being a strong female, and not a helpless milkmaid needing to be rescued by the hero. Us feminists really need characters like that.”

I appreciated the compliment, but my inner reaction to the last sentence would best be described as Uh, sure. I guess that’s all right. It was nice to hear, but I just wanted the character to be well-rounded and able to take care of herself.

I do love strong female characters…indeed, strong characters of either sex are good to have. They’re vital to a worthwhile story. I just wasn’t trying to serve The Cause, as it were. Just telling a story.

How does it help diversity if we demand that certain types of characters and themes must occupy your story? Telling worthwhile stories gets unnecessarily harder when the definition of “worthwhile” is changed to placate the ranks of the perpetually offended. If a sci-fi or fantasy book doesn’t have a perfect balance between male and female characters and all skin colors (except for white people; they’re “annoying,” “generic,” and more or less dispensable), the story is no longer considered “worthy” of time, honor, celebration, or being taken seriously.

I don’t think that stories are terrible if their characters are more diverse. Far from it. I’m just saying diversity is not the point. An important phrase to keep in mind for what makes a worthwhile story: Quality before message.

The perpetually offended and propagandists seem to be the only people on this Earth who value fiction for its message above everything else, and shame anyone who doesn’t look at stories from their viewpoint. They lack the versatility or the maturity to put aside a cherished cause; even when “escaping” into fiction that takes place in another world, their heart is still firmly planted in whatever they’ve decided is a Big Deal in our world.

They’re choosing to not escape. Fiction is treated like an essay or editorial or biography, which are entirely about the world we live in and primarily relate to issues we can face now.

Fiction by nature is supposed to be about going somewhere else. “Escaping,” if you like. Even if/when it can be used to deal with real-life issues, that’s not the point of writing a fictional story.

Last time I kicked this nest of fire ants, I got a comment whose author unintentionally illustrated my point:

No really. I used to say the same thing. “Who cares what color/gender if the story is good?”

Look, the reason people call it out, make noise about it, and generally say “hey, this isn’t ok.” is because the story should be good regardless of skin color. That the story is good should be a GIVEN. If the story isn’t good, you shouldn’t be writing it (exception:beginning writers). Period.

The rest of the comment is a rant on how the option of learning about other cultures/peoples is now suddenly an obligation for writers, because apparently a human being cannot connect to a character unless they share skin color, cultural background, sexual orientation, etc.

Did you notice that the quality of the story was a “given”? As if a story being “good” is akin to a gear in a pocket watch, a step to the really important work: spreading the Message. That’s the problem I have with modern Political Correctness tracts disguised as “fiction.” The quality of the storytelling is taken for granted. It’s treated like a support for the really important thing: the all-important Message.

As a lover of great stories, I’m calling this out for the destructive foolishness that it is. When the book becomes all about the issues going on in our society right now, what’s the point of writing science fiction or fantasy?

I’d like to keep my head down. I’d like to be popular, approved of, and respected. But if being those things means I have to soapbox about the social justice cause of the week, I’ll break apart the soapbox and use it as firewood, that I may comfortably write and read good books by the hearth.

And I’m not apologizing for it.

Advertisements

“Salt Flats” is Out! (Plus In-Progress Painting)

Hey, everyone! Sorry I have been gone for a while. But I have good news. The third story in my serialized science fiction tales, “Salt Flats,” is now on Kindle! Today through Wednesday, the first two installments, “Escaping” and “Refugee,” are free, and the new one is just $0.99. It took a while to write this one (it’s slightly longer than the first two combined), but I did love writing it, and mean to keep the series going.

The synopsis:

The battlecraft Aphrodite has crash-landed six miles from the city of Elm’s Corner, the one refuge its survivors can take from an Arriver attack. Isolated from the crew, Sergeant Tobias Carter is left with a choice: run or fight. He and Reverend Rousseau have never met an enemy so fierce. And something about the Aphrodite has attracted the attention of more than just the Arrivers….

If this sounds like your cup of sci-fi tea, three stories for the total price of a buck is a good deal. And whatever you think — good, bad, whatever — feel free to write a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews, of course, really help.

On another note, I have gotten more painting done, including my first foray onto a large canvas. It’s just beginning, but here’s what I have so far:

Snow goes on next, then I'm putting a city in the valley.

Snow goes on next, then I’m putting a city in the valley.

I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving, and get plenty of time with your loved ones. Catch you all later, and thanks for dropping by!

A Plea for Reason in Sci-Fi/Fantasy “Discrimination”

Edit: November 2, 2013: Don’t like what’s said on this post? Fine by me. But if you choose to mistake maturity for being “oblivious,” then there’s not much I can do to help you. I could go off on another rant, but I’ll defer to Brad Stine on this one.

—————————————-

Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few accusations of discrimination being flung around the sci-fi/fantasy community. Mainly, it focuses on the fact that many of the writers are white males portraying white male protagonists.

Sorry, what? I must have forgotten to change my race and/or gender before I embarked on writing sci-fi and fantasy. My bad.

Forget about telling me that my “white privilege” is showing or I’m “mansplaining” things to you. I’m addressing you all as human beings, created as equals in the image of God — no more and no less. Look, can everyone quit the mud-slinging for five minutes and just admit this for what it is? If sci-fi and fantasy have somehow been overwhelmed by white, male protagonists/authors (and to a certain extent, that is true), that doesn’t mean it’s racist or sexist. It’s just boring. Well, it’s boring if skin color and gender of the protagonist(s) are a huge deal and determine the quality of a story.

I’m not arguing to keep things the way they are. By all means, let’s start increasing the variety of characters. But it’s nowhere near as important as crafting a good story and fascinating characters to drive it. Aren’t those the basics?

Honestly, I don’t care what the author or character’s race or sex is. I just want the story and the people it’s about to be interesting. In my experience, the only people who have cared a great deal about things the author and character cannot help, like their melanin content or chromosomes, belong to one of two types:

  • Those not-too-common actual racists or sexists — immature people who try to ruin others’ experience with science fiction and fantasy by belittling their race or gender (though I have hardly met any of them)
  • Equally immature people with notes from their classes in race studies or gender studies constantly on the brain, worrying about different types of humans and whether they are “represented” equally among authors or characters, and who think an under-representation of any group is a miscarriage of justice that MUST be addressed (I have met plenty of these, and would rather hope to not run into them again)

Last time I checked, writing classes and books didn’t have much to say on the subject of race or even gender, though that could easily change in the Age of Political Correctness. I don’t care one bit that Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra hardly have any “white” characters. I don’t care that Korra is a girl. I love both series, because the characters are well-developed, and the stories are amazing. And the fight scenes are mind-bogglingly awesome. That too.

But I also don’t care that many of the other stories I love, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Jurassic Park, happen to have a lot of white, male characters driving the story. Because those are exactly the traits of human beings no one should be making a big deal about. What was that Martin Luther King, Jr. said, about people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin (or the arrangement of their chromosomes, for that matter)?

Female protagonists are supposed to have strength of one kind or another and be proactive, not because they’re female, but because they’re the protagonists. That’s why. There’s nothing in the chief character’s sex that robs him/her of the need to be decisive and proactive. No one except for the aforementioned groups is going to care how light or dark an author’s or character’s skin is. Most of us just want a great story, featuring interesting people and created by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Now can we please get back to having fun, writing the best fiction we can and sharing it with the world? Thanks for your time.

I Have Another Story Out!

“Refugee,” the sequel to my sci-fi story “Escaping,” is officially out! 🙂 Hope you enjoy it! It’s 99 cents now, and much longer than the first entry. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D49LERC

Tobias Carter and Reverend Rousseau find a woman stealing medical supplies from their doomed warship. Should they trust her claim that she’s trying to help them, or is she part of a larger threat to them and the rest of the crew?

“Escaping” is still free through Saturday, so I’ll post the link here as well: http://www.amazon.com/Escaping-A-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B00BRRUWMG

I think these tales are swiftly growing into a serialized adventure. With luck I can start offering more tales like this.

Thanks for your time, everyone!

I’m #1 in Kindle’s Space Marine Sci-Fi!

Wow, I have been absent for so long. So busy. But I did want to deliver some terrific news to you.

My short science fiction story “Escaping” is available on Kindle, and FREE through Saturday. Yup. Free.

The sequel “Refugee” will be released tomorrow, at long last. And I’ll keep publishing short stories as much as possible, while also working on The Wolfglen Legacy.

Oh, and even better news: I just watched “Escaping” hit the number one spot on “Space Marine” Science Fiction! The free list, that is. But it’s still a real victory. I believe this calls for an official declaration of “Boo-yah!”

Feel free to check it out, right here on Amazon. Here’s the pitch: “Fleeing invasion on a damaged warship, a soldier and a reverend face the question of whether someone is watching out for them.”

My First Kindle Story!

Well, it’s finally happened. I got a short story published on Kindle! Boo-yah!

“Escaping” — Science Fiction

Fleeing invasion on a damaged warship, a soldier and a reverend face the question of whether someone is watching out for them.

For a measly $0.99, it can be yours! Click the picture to take a look. (And if you read it, feel free to post a review!)

This cover art is temporary. I'll find something better from a willing artist and post it as soon as possible.

This cover art is temporary. I’ll find something better from a willing artist and post it as soon as possible.

It’s a science fiction tale I’ve had in the archives for a while, and decided to finish it and put it out there for the world to see. It’s only about 2,000 words long, but I will add other stories to my Kindle library in short order. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this first entry.

Thanks for your time!

A Bumper Crop of Author Promotions

Putting that Kindle story on hold for a moment, to share something much more important with you, dear reader.

The more I’ve gotten into the writing scene, the more amazing authors I have encountered. They are gifted with stories to stir the emotions — inspiration, humor, terror, tragedy, wonder, love, delight, and a thousand others. Imaginings are their pigments, the mind their canvas, and they work in miracles.

And now it’s time for me to introduce you to some of them. I’ll be glad to introduce more of them later. Most of the ones I’m going to mention here are attending my weekly writing workshop, but I’ll work in a couple of others I’ve had the privilege of meeting.

Please do check them out. We authors need all the help we can get.

First, my good friend and writer of character-driven zombie fiction, Rob Killam. His upcoming Apocalypse Springs novel has survivors who have to slay their own personal demons as well as the ghouls banging down their door. It’s got more heart and brains (heehee) than any other zombie-related work I’ve yet seen. You’d be doing yourself a favor in checking him out.

Next, Jason P. Henry has a funny way with words. A very funny way, and twisted in the best possible sense. Plus he sets up tension like nobody’s business when he decides to get serious.

Ashley Bazer is proof that it’s possible to be a stay-at-home mom and a novelist at the same time. Her science fiction novel Asylum: The Circeae Tales came out just last year, and though I haven’t yet read it, I’m impressed with the quality on display at the writer’s workshop we attend. Did I mention she’s a duchess?

Jackie Hames offers a ton of sound and friendly writing advice, and we’ve had a lot of productive discussions. Plus her defense of speculative fiction is worth some serious thought, and I’m quite enthusiastic to read her upcoming fiction projects.

Genuine rocket scientist and modern renaissance man Grant McKenzie applies extensive knowledge and forethought into each piece he writes. He’s working on historical fiction and a YA fantasy novel, plus he’s one of the few people I know who can create a good rhyming poem in ten minutes or less, and he has a great deal of thought to offer on how the relationships between characters can enrich your work.

A.W. Hartoin is getting quite popular these days, as a writer of mysteries and fairy fantasy who just got her first audiobook! She excels at getting readers invested in a character, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Last but not least, Angel Smits has published five books, most of which are more of the romantic variety, including a couple of Harlequin Romances. She’s got a knack for good characterization and immersing the reader in a protagonist’s thoughts. Highly recommended.

—————————————————-

Quite aside from that, I have gotten an author’s page on Facebook that I confess I’m pretty happy with. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, check it out if you “Like.”

Ooh, and though I have encountered a couple of delays in getting my first Kindle story published, I’m still going to release it, and you’ll all be the first to know. Thanks for your time, everyone!