Let’s Talk About the Free Market

Do you have a minute to talk about the free market?  You know, that thing in which if a book is bad you don’t read it?

I know, I’m insane, right?  After all traditional publishing houses release books that are barely proofread, books that have no objective plot and books with unintentionally repulsive characters all the time.  One could almost say that’s 99% of their production.

But what do they REALLY care about?  Why books that portray a “protected minority” in a way that might offend someone, somewhere.

Never mind that all identifiable and quite a few unidentifiable minorities have a variety of experience, which might or might not be opaque to a non-minority.  Never mind that the way to define worlds with “closed experience” is different for each person.  Never mind any of that.  We need Sensitivity Readers.

Look, guys, if I were writing a book about someone who grew up in the bad parts of East Saint Louis, regardless of the person’s coloration, yeah, I’d ask the person about it.  If I were writing a book about a world war II veteran, I would read biographies of those.  That’s just decent research, right?  In the same way if I were writing a gay man in contemporary America I’d read a lot of bios, and probably ask one of my friends to vet it, at least if it involved the dating scene. (If he just worked at an office, I think I can intuit his experience.)

Yeah, that’s just good writing.  But Sensitivity Reader?  Ah, those are something else.

From the article above:

Critics cling to their associations with the word sensitive and not the actual substance of the job. Many claim that sensitivity readers are diversity police officers telling (white) writers that they cannot write cross-culturally, and that our very existence (or presumed power) is proof that censorship runs rampant, stifling their freedom to write what they want to write. Most of the articles about this topic have focused on white, cisgendered, able-bodied, heterosexual writers’ feelings about this process and the pain they’ve suffered when their books are discussed in online spaces.

One thing that gets left out of the conversation is that, when an author fails to write well-rounded, fleshed-out characters outside of their own realm of experience, it’s, at its core, a craft failure. In simple terms: it’s bad writing. I subscribe to the personal philosophy that writers should write what they want to write, but they should aim to do it well.

Sure, but who are these “sensitivity readers” and who died and made them all-seeing gods, of how to portray, say, minorities?  Would the experience of a black man who grew up as a military dependent in bases abroad be the same as that of one who grew up with a welfare mother in inner city Chicago?

Who decides?  Who knows which one is right.

Why, the sensitivity readers of course.  They were educated in the finest Marxist analysis in our best universities, and it never occurs to them they’re superimposing the perspective of a dead German male on a reality that has long surpassed his rather pitiful ability to predict.

But they KNOW.  And if you don’t hire them, they’re gonna cry in their safe room!


  1. I actually derive a great deal of satisfaction from giving current pieties a good sneaky kick in the nuts in my books; when challenged, I can just open my eyes very wide and say sweetly, “But it’s historically accurate! You do value absolute fidelity to the historic record, don’t you?”
    People smoking. Women wanting to be good wives, and keeping a nice house. Using distinctively un-PC words and expressions. Characters who say un-PC things.

    Let the sensitivity readers cry in their safe rooms. As we used to say in the Air Force – if you wanna f**k with the eagles, you better be able to fly.

    1. ‘but you can’t reproduce the authentic X experience!!!’

      “my story takes place 200 years from now, you can’t accurately reproduce the upbringing of a mixed race child 200 years from now either.”

  2. Writers who confine themselves to stories that don’t offend anyone will…never write stories worth reading.
    Readers who confine themselves to stories that don’t offend them will…never learn anything or hear an item of fact that contradicts their opinions.
    Write what you like.
    Your readers will find you.
    Believe me, they’re looking.

      1. It doesn’t matter what rainbow of colors people are, it is always safe to hate old white men. Except when the old white men are the leaders of the left. I’d explain it to you ut I don’t understand it either.

  3. The grievance industry depends on making demands that can never be satisfied. So it’s best to simply ignore them.

    A few hundred twitter-nags aren’t representative of any worthwhile fiction submarket (most of them will never read a genre book; they just shudder at the thought someone might enjoy what they read).

    1. Heck, Trump has proven that even when several thousand (or tens of thousands) of twitter-nags have a meltdown, it doesn’t mean anything. Well, anything other than him having fun trolling. But the point is most of those people with their knickers in a wad were never going to read what you wrote anyway. Though the outrage may bring to light writers like Nick Cole whom I would otherwise have never heard of.

    2. No, but what they can do is gen up an outrage mob that can get you fired, blacklisted from social media you use for marketing, and in extreme cases, get you a personal visit from Antifa.


      “According to Wired, Squire sent “several high-profile names” from her list to a left-wing activist she knew would take “more radical action—like posting their identities and photos online, for the public to do with what it would.””

      Don’t ignore these people; they are dangerous.

  4. You mention East St. Louis and then talk about sensitivity readers for Gay SF, and my mind is going to go off on a particular kind of tangent…

    “Well, they all said that the sex scene was authentic sounding, uh, except for this one guy, Mr. Burroughs. He says that in the scene between Jim and Dan that, uh,well, it needs more centipedes.”


    “Yeah, he says that Dan should turn into a giant centipede.”

    “After they have sex?”

    “No… while they’re having sex.”

      1. They had sex. Then they realized that life was pointless, so they killed themselves. No one else noticed. To the extent that it made a difference, the world was slightly better of for the fact that they were dead.

      1. I can’t see “giant spider” and not think of a VW Beetle now. Why, yes, I was in Merrill, WI when The Giant Spider Invasion was being filmed. The locals were making fun of it while it was being made. The MST3k folks are very, very late comers to that one.

      2. They turned into vampires. Latching on to each other, they tried to drain each other dry. But as they sucked, they began shrinking, like deflating balloons. Steadily they shrank to 5 feet, then 4, then 3. When they reached 2 feet, it seemed like they were shrinking at an accelerated rate. One and a half, one, 6 inches, 3, 2, 1. And with a flicker, they both vanished.

        With a nod to RAH and his story, “Glory Road.”

    1. I’m trying to align what I saw of the people in East St. Louis when we were there and the Gay SF readers, and I keep envisioning prisoners in pink jumpsuits out on furlough reading Vonnegut while stealing the hubcaps off Chevy Chase’s station wagon.

      1. East St. Louis is one of the great tragic might-have-beens of the American Midwest. For a while it thrived as the basement rec-room for St. Louis proper, it was where you headed after the kids went to bed and the company went back home and you were ready to get a little funky. In the eighties that’s what you did after the bars in Missouri closed, headed over to the East side for poppers and jello shots until the sun caught you over greasy omelets at a truck stop on Route 3, watching the refineries burn off the natural gas in great orange plumes of flame fading into blue smoke.

        Good times.

        But Chicago has sucked the life out of the state of Illinois, and it’s nothing but dry cracked river bottom and vampire weed now. A few strip clubs too low rent for any but the most desperate and some all night liquor store and bail bondsmen, and that’s pretty much it.

  5. I think the point of a sensitivity reader is to point out places where you’ve said something that might convey a message that you did not intend. The sensitivity reader is not supposed to tell you what you ought to be saying. Their function should be like any other beta reader with expertise in some area.

    By the way, I’m clicking “notify me of new comments” but I’m not getting any notifications anymore. Not for about a week now. Anyone else having that problem?

    1. In theory. In theory they’re just another subject matter expert to give it a once over. In practice they’re the way you hope to get a seal of approval so you aren’t eaten alive.

      Unfortunately, what we see is that this doesn’t work. If they want to eat you, you will be eaten.

    2. Re. WordPress, yes, I’ve had that happen recently. I’m not certain if it is the new blog template, or WP itself. I’m having problems at my place with comments getting spam flagged even though the commenter has been approved for quite a while.

  6. And 150 years from now, our descendants will look at everything written now as superstitious, bigoted garbage, no matter how many sensitivity readers employed.

      1. “Did you know those people were TOTALLY unaware of the benefits of hyper-dimensional mime sculpting?” “…wow. How did any of them survive? Welp, I’m off to design more bionically enhanced red pandas!”

          1. They really would. If Saturday Morning Cartoons still existed, I bet one featuring them would be a massive hit!

    1. Well, no. They may also look back at some of this era as radical libertine garbage.Certainly if we look back to Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, in the modern translation, such a criticism would not arise.

  7. I’ve never read an account of sensitivity readers yet that did not leave me with the distinction impression that said readers have no sensitivity at all to the limits of their experience and that other people in their group might have different reactions.

    1. It reminds me of nothing so much as the various churches throughout the ages having adherents run their writings by a committee to make sure they’re not heretical. Once more confirming that the present dispensation WANTS to be a theocracy.

  8. There are vast numbers of SF novels that never get any reviews at all, let alone sensitivity reviews. Bunches of them are listed every month in The National Fantasy Fan. Locus I gather has a non-overlapping, list, though some of those get reviewed.

  9. Why are Blacks usually portrayed as coming from the ghetto? There are middle and even upper class blacks. On the other foot there are poor Whites and Asians.

    1. DUH. I met a young man from upper middle class who happened to be black and was writing the most atrocious faux-ghetto fiction. I told him to OWN who he really was. He did and it was much better. Of course, trad might not buy him.

    2. The SJWs don’t want to recognize middle or upper class POC, because, unless the person in question is also black (or really, any minority), they put the lie to the notion that blacks or other POC need to be coddled and “helped” in order to get ahead in the world. This is why the accusations of “sellout” (meaning, “you only got ahead because whitey knows you’ll do anything he says”), or “house ni&&er”, “Uncle Tom”, “Aunt Jemimah” (see “sellout), or “Oreo”, “white on the inside”, or even “colonized” (“you act like whitey, so you can’t be authentic”) get thrown at such people, especially when they speak out about “black culture”.

      And really, the problem is ghetto culture. If you spend any time there, you find that it doesn’t matter what color someone is, except for racial divides within the low-class areas (which are far worse than those outside them), the attitudes and problems are very close to the same no matter the person’s color.

        1. People can tolerate a whole lot if they grow up there. Or are convinced they have nowhere else to go. It’s actually a small fraction of the population who will become active in making things better.

          1. This is ultimately why they had to destroy Bill Cosby. (That trial ended up as a nothing, by the way) Even if he was proven innocent / not enough evidence; he was already destroyed in the court of public opinion.

            This makes me wonder, honestly, how effective he was for helping change ghetto-ized kids’ minds.

Comments are closed.