Librarians have always been my heroes, long before Sir Terry Pratchett gave me my personal ideal librarian.
It was a bit of a shock, the other day, to meet up online with someone who told me she was lucky enough to have a job she loved (a librarian) matching books to readers… and that she was vehemently opposed to Sad Puppies. Because she was adamant Social Justice OUGHT to police what published. And books should have social justice themes. And of course readers would enjoy books by authors with [left wing] political viewpoints other than their own, and such books would ‘expand’ their views. She chose books for them to ‘help’ with this.
She also didn’t believe Traditional Publishing was in trouble. Her ‘remedies’ to re-invigorate what to any other eye is a seriously un-well sector consisted of more books for left out minorities (suitable minorities of course) and teen girls – the two most over-served areas in fiction, in terms of their demographics.
And no, she had no answer to my question about the possibility of readers also enjoying (and being ‘expanded’) books by authors of other political viewpoints than her own. No, she plainly hadn’t read such trash wasn’t going to. Interestingly enough, I raised Chris Nuttall (not knowing he was going to post on MGC at the time) as an example of someone she should read, to see how non-traditional authors were packing the readers in, while her darlings were all rushing off to get Masters or Doctorates (using their own work a subject, yes, really) so that teaching ‘Creative Writing’ could supplement their fast drying-up income. I shudder to think of the outcome of that, but, there it is.
It raised the question in my head: She loved her job… but did her job love her? And no, I don’t mean her employer. I mean the very heart of librarianship: which amounts to addicting generations of readers to books. That’s why, after all, librarians are my heroes. They gave me a lifetime of enjoyment, an escape, a chance for R&R, and incidentally taught me lot. I wondered: does she want that teen girl to grow up and have a husband and raise more teen girls (and boys) who want to read (readers are much more likely to be the children of readers, and if both parents read, the chances are definitely higher still. Besides, I might be biased here, but being a reader married to a non-reader strikes me outright miserable)? I think we can be fairly sure she did get some young girls to enjoy reading, maybe some who wouldn’t have without her. I think we can be very certain she put off far more young men and women who really could have used less of her idea of expansion, and more of their idea of great entertainment.
But she loves her job so that’s just fine from her point of view. She came across as completely incapable of being able to see any other viewpoint but her own, and incredibly self-important and arrogant with it. She disliked the tone and the smart-arse sniping of Sad Puppies, somehow managing to ignore her own condescending attitude (She knew how to find facts. My kind, I was informed, didn’t. When, disappointing to her rapid triumph over a revolting red-neck I showed her the figures in one of her own pet sources, I, the great unwashed, was just looking at those facts wrong, and drawing the wrong conclusion. She couldn’t of course prove this. But she knew it. Maths was for us lesser people, I suppose.) and the vicious nastiness of her side of the debate.
It made me think. I love my job. I hope my job loves me. Part of trying to see it does that is constantly trying to do it better. Part of that is listening to people so I can express other viewpoints, credibly. YMMV but if you can’t get into another character’s head enough to get a point of view which is not your own, your job does not love you.
Readers – and their dollars (the only honest appraisal out there) will hopefully tell me if I am right.
I just wanted to bob back to Chris Nuttall’s post yesterday, which I found inspiring and well written, (again proving yet another pigeonhole stereotype so beloved of our SJW friends completely wrong. Popular Indies, especially ones who don’t follow the prescribed collect-the-PC-token formula are supposed to be near incoherent, spittle covered and ranting. You’re a great disappointment to them, you know, Chris. I do much better.).
I’d like believe in his future, where individuals matter, and people are judged on their merits, and not on superficial characteristics. I try to support this idea in my usual subversive (superversive?) way by writing plausible characters, people that readers feel they’ve met and know, who behave in a plausible manner in the story… who just don’t fit the stereotype, and to whom the PC token characteristic is not the defining feature of their lives, (it may shape them, but doesn’t define them or the story) but is just an aspect of the character’s life. There are times when being black and being discriminated against may be central to your life, but possibly not when you’re facing Scylla and Charybdis (Pyramid Scheme) with a group of other humans. Then not being dinner is central.
To quote Chris Nuttall: “I think, in the future, society will evolve to become more conservative and, at the same time, more liberal.”
It would, I suspect, be a fairly natural path for society to evolve in – current research (by left wing researchers) seems to indicate, (for logical economic reasons I suspect), that the younger generation <25 are more conservative in behavior than their peers of twenty years ago (yes, there are outliers – but the middle of the curve), and indeed that the percentage in that age group supporting traditional left leaning parties has dropped over the last 10 years. Yet the same cohort is more liberal in their outlook on issues of race or gay marriage than older right wing supporters – which would support his contention.
Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to work like that – not because of the elderly right, but because of the Left’s SJWs. You see, victim status has been established as more valuable – in terms of perks, social status and influence – than mere equality. I do not think they will willingly accept an end to that. As the SJW culture has its own power-base (many of the leading lights in our field could not, considered as individuals, qualify for victim status, some because they're generations from any substantive discrimination, and some because, well, they're white, male, heterosexual, well-off — but ardent champions of the victimhood of those who aren't, and reaping considerable benefit from it) in keeping those wounds open, the demands for more special treatment flowing… they're not going to stop. Take a look at the Hugo slates being put up various ‘leaders’ in our field. If they wanted ‘equality’ they’d all be saying ‘not another left-wing message. At least not unless there are some right-wing messages.’ But no. It is about power, short term gains, the ability to enhance their own sales or those of their friends. The long-term future is un-important to them. If you ask them they’ll tell you they’re on the right side of history, and therefore don’t have to worry. They plainly don’t know history.
The idea that the cup of sympathy is a finite one, even smaller in hard economic times, is simply beyond their grasp, despite the fact that we see this in practice all the time. Joe calls in to work to say his kid is sick, and he has to take the child to the ER, gets sympathy. People pick up his slack, and the boss cuts him some extra. But even if the kid IS really very sickly, and it’s not just Joe’s excuse for a hangover, it gets used up after a few repetitions. People think Joe is taking unfair advantage, even if he isn’t. They also just get tired of giving. If you’re on the receiving end and all you give back is more demands, more ‘guilting’ your audience into more giving, the faster that'll happen. Life is much better now than it ever was for all sorts of ‘designated victims’. When did you last hear of anything else but more demands back from them?
The SJW — largely middle-aged, middle class and also largely out of touch with the younger generation (when wasn't this true?) and the working class or the poor, will, in my opinion gradually generate the very discrimination and outright hatred of various minorities they claim to be fighting. I see it already with migrants (where SJW's have vast sympathy, no matter how undesirable the migrant). The young, (in my experience – and I make a point of listening to fair number of my children’s peers, and these have a range of political views) actually have less sympathy than the general populace, and in the general populace it is dropping by the hour, let alone day. I'm a migrant. I am aware of it for obvious reasons, which is why I work hard to fit in. I'm very grateful to be here, to be Australian, and I ask nothing more of Australia than the chance to make a new life as an Australian… but that isn't typical. I don't think it'll stop with migrants, because all the 'causes' sympathize and identify with each other. I think suddenly when the penny drops, we’ll see the larger groups suddenly trying to distance themselves, and they’ll do that more harshly than those supposedly nasty old white heterosexual men did.
So how does this tie in to librarians, writing and reading? I suppose it comes down to: Who will select the custodians? Whether that is a writer or, far more responsible, a librarian? And if you are the lucky custodian enjoying your job, you have be aware that you’re only passing the flame wider, not choosing who gets it, or restricting it. That’s up to the individual. And if you’re writing, well, if your character is gay or female, or sort of golden and changes sex – Slow Train to Arcturus – showing them as an individual we care about is more important than those features. If all the reader has to bind to is that superficiality, you’re doing a job you love, but it doesn’t love you.