Well now, they say love is a gibbon thing, but love of books, ah, now that’s different. I do however want ask just what it is about books we love? The content, the paper, the cover, the bookiness?
I’ve come back from Continuum with two second-hand books that I am absolutely certain never find a publisher if they were written today. Not even Baen, I suspect, and they’ve braved some of the self-censorship in publishing. One was a Jack Vance, part of the Planet of Adventure series, and might have got in with Baen. But Adam Reith was a white Anglo-Saxon Hetro male and he was better at stuff than all these aliens and some of the societies were obvious parodies of ones we are not allowed to take the mickey out of anymore. And the women in them were pretty and wishy-washy, mostly. Generally weak and needing male guidance and support. Women who find a wealthy/powerful man and are a sort of animated (barely) sex toy in exchange for their keep. Not my taste in females (In my opinion inflatable dolls are cheaper and more satisfying than these), but they exist too. They’re not even rare. I meet them often enough, and some of them are very young (so it is not generational)… but you are not allowed to admit they exist. Now here is one of those trick questions: they’re in numeric terms at least as common, or more so, as gay female humans (there are male equivalents, but one can write about these, so long as you’re nasty). Surely, as little as we may like them, they’re real, and human too? Women who get boob jobs for no other reason than to find that rich old man? Beautiful women who find someone with jowls, bad breath, a paunch and the charm and social manner of… a billionaire (ie. none at all) terribly attractive. And the simple truth is that while some of them ARE faking it, not all are. The attraction of power and prestige IS genetic good sense. It’s in – at least some – of the genome of the human race to be this kind person. Now, society at present mores says it is brutal and outright evil to discriminate on the basis of someone’s genetic heritage. We can’t be nasty (or leave out of books) people who self-mutilate or are ‘native’ (ie. their ancestors left Africa a little earlier than later colonists). My gay friends tell me ‘ it’s genetic’ (why should I care, I want to ask. I like them (or dislike them) because of their personality, not sexual orientation). So… why no modern books about (and maybe even for) ‘weak’ women who want to be kept? Or men who do the same, and are actually mostly harmless fashion accessories and walking dildoes who can also carry parcels? After all, if it helps those who self-mutilate or have anorexia or are gay to know they’re not alone, surely it is going to help the power-attracted? And it is not up to us to judge them, is it?
My personal objection to writing them is that they’re pretty boring, but then so are a bunch of other -ists, and authors write about and publish those. Ah well. A book putting their perspective WOULD be daring, revolutionary, different.
Or is there a line, and where do we draw it?
The other book – Zenna Henderson’s Pilgrimage – was a childhood favorite. I was amused by the Wikipedia entry – ” Henderson was one of the first female Science fiction authors, and never used a male pen name. Although her work could not be considered feminist, Henderson was one of the few writers in the 1950s and 1960s writing science fiction from a female perspective” The modern feminists would crucify her today. Yet she broke ground far more effectively than say Tiptree, with getting male editors and readers to accept that they loved the stories and that that had nothing to do with her sex. She was good at writing.
Henderson was a schoolteacher and grew up and lived in Arizona. That is part of her writing – rural communities with both the narrowness and yet generosity and affection of such communities. She was born into the LDS, and Christianity or at least a recognisable faith in a Judeo-Christian God is common in her stories. They’re stories which explore a shared humanity (with aliens ;-)) and ‘conservative’ rural communities. And it’s fairly plain she views these things as natural and good. There are at least as many readers who share her viewpoints as there are say girls who self mutilate or are gay. Her writing is tolerant, generous… but unlike anything in the current mainstream fictional portayal of Christianity (or country folk). Yet I know a lot of people very like her characters. They’re real, read books… and would love to know they weren’t alone. Surely writing that too would be ‘daring’ and fair? (yes. I wrote Howard, the first ‘hero’ who was both male and overtly Christian in the last 20 years. But I slipped him under the radar, I hope. And there was so much satire and skewering of PC holy cow in that that it probably was un-noticed.)
I enjoyed both books – I don’t like Vance’s heroines much, but the story is fun, and Henderson can become a little cloying, but I am glad they did get published. I wonder what other jewels our self-censoring publishers ate in the last few centuries? Anyway, with luck we’ll be seeing the internet allow far more access by readers in future.
So what ‘taboo’ areas which we aren’t allowed to write about can you think of?