Diversity in Fiction
We hear a lot about the need for diversity in fiction these days, which sort of makes me cock my head to one side, make puppy eyes, and ask ‘baroo?’
You see, I grew up reading diverse fiction. Fiction about all sorts of people, and places, and it made my imagination go wild enough that when I grew up, I became a writer. Now, that was diverse fiction. But evidently that’s nto what they mean, when they demand diversity. No, what they are asking for is the checking-off of ticky boxes to be sure that the right agendas are represented in their fiction, or they will turn up their nose and whiskers and scrape imaginary dirt over it. (I used to have a cat that did that. Funniest thing to watch.) The resulting stories are, of course, dull as ditchwater, and far less diverse. I mean, have you ever really looked at ditchwater? Dang, there are some prolific lifeforms in there, at the microscopic level. So… the ‘diverse’ lauded works are anything but diverse, as they all perforce align with the approved thoughts and agendas of the day.
And it leaves readers cold. If I had a book sale for every reader who I have heard or seen talking about why they stopped reading – science fiction, usually, but sometimes altogether – I’d be a higher-ranked author than I am today. I know that my First Reader often brings it up while attempting to read books I’d put into our mutual Kindle, and failing to enjoy them. He wrote about it in his Curmudgeon’s Corner today:
“So many books get recommended these days that I start and cannot stand by the end of the first chapter, if not before. If your lesbian heroine has made a name for herself without the inheritance stolen by her brother by virtue of his maleness, and now must save her patriarchal family from the mistakes of the males I am done. If your soldier is fighting the evil corporations because all business is evil, I am done. If your station manager must save the station from attacks by the evil white male mercenaries while her ineffectual male co-workers piss themselves, I am done.
I have no problem with white villains. I have no problem with female heroes. What I do have a problem with is that our society has recently decided that the villain must always be a white male, even in black Haarlem, South Africa, or Japan. I have a problem with the fact that someone with an “alternative sexuality” must always be in the story and cannot be anything but a shining example of what a human can be. Oh yeah, the woman must always be right.
Funny, the number of TV shows where the wife is uber competent and beautiful, and the husband is a fat buffoon all seem to be taken by the left as reality TV, just try to show a competent father and a goofy wife, they would nail you to the wall. People say that you could not make Blazing Saddles today. What is sadder is that you could not make I Love Lucy or The Andy Griffith Show today.”
Sarah Hoyt has often addressed the issue, as both a reader and a writer. She touched on it again today, in one of her blog posts (which are always worth the read, for her writing style and content, as she’s fun to read when she wanders off onto rabbit trails of fascinating thoughts).
“They honestly either believe that the mark of quality science fiction is its mock appeal to some “class” or “minority” or they view it as a way to signal how much better than others they are at selecting rarefied “literature”. Actually the second would explain why the appeal they select for keeps getting more exclusive. They have long ago accepted this cr*p doesn’t sell, and are now on a mission to “appeal to minorities by having someone like them in the story.” (As a double — triple? — minority, I object. I can identify with green tentacled aliens as well as the pale skinned mostly Caucasian guy now working the office beneath mine. I can identify with him too at least enough to empathize. Otherwise, why marry him?)
Will this “literature” survive fifty years? Oh, for crying in bed. How can it? It’s not even particularly popular now. Hell, unless a nuking leaves some of these books as the only testimony of what our time and place was like, I doubt anyone even will remember their names any more than we remember the names of “praised” literature from the Victorian period.
Meanwhile Agatha Christie, a favorite “intellectual” punching bag is doing QUITE well fifty years on, despite lacking all those markers college professors think so important.
People like the village idiot of the Guardian are emotionally stunted morons who think “good” must be what his professors held up as such.
The rest of humanity finds it predictable and too boring for words. Except for those who are counting coup “Ah, one eyed, one legged Hatian Lesbian. This book is quality!” and those who want to be seen as reading “intellectual” stuff. Both of which are an ever-decreasing minority in an era of overworked, overstressed people with a lot of other books to read and a lot of other forms of entertainment at their fingertips.”
True diversity is not some pro-forma compliance to whatever flavor of political correctness is prevalent today. No, it’s writing a story that can dig deeper than skin color, orientation, or *insert buzzword here* and entertain it’s readers. Really entertain them – lift them out of their humdrum everyday existence and make them forget what color, shape, or quark spin they were in. Now, that’s real diversity.