Fork your own Broncs
(This morning, we welcome a new member to the Mad Genius Club. Not only is Jonathan LaForce one of the best “new” writers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, he is a devoted husband and loving father to two of the most adorable kids ever. Jonathan is a veteran of Afghanistan and a Corporal of Marines, formerly with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. He also wrote one of my favorite pieces, something I shared on my blog last Memorial Day and will again this year. Perhaps if we ask him nicely enough, he will share something from his current WIP. For now, let’s give him a warm welcome — ASG)
This spring semester has been a hellish period of time. Between caring for a pregnant wife, two children, keeping up grades in my upper division classes, and working as a tutor for the Veteran’s Center on my university campus, I’ve been busy. Free time to read has been severely lacking.
A friend however, mentioned that David Drake had a new novel out, at which point the gift card to Barnes & Noble I had burning a hole in my wallet grabbed ahold of my ass, pushed me out the door and said “drive faster Clyde!” I read it all in one evening too. Because it’s just that well-written. Indeed, one could use it as a primer for how to write in the first-person perspective. Because it’s just that well-written.
I’ve read Drake for years, and he’s the last of my favorite authors whom I still haven’t met. LibertyCon 2016, I met John Ringo and shared barbecued spareribs with him. The man likes his barbecue. That was fun, educational and enlightening. Same with Tom Kratman (he is an absolute gentleman). The autographed copy of Watch on the Rhine I own is a genuinely prized possession of mine . I first met Larry Correia Halloween of 2013 at a book signing in Utah, and now I consider him one of my very dearest friends.
When I first picked up a copy of Monster Hunter International, I was looking for something fun to read. I found it in spades. The only book in that series which I haven’t purchased is Siege and that’s because I got it at a Baen Roadshow during Fyrecon. I started reading Ringo’s Posleen series in the days before and immediately after 9/11. It became my escape from the anger I felt at some religious whackjobs attacking my country just because they didn’t like how we lived our lives. Drake’s “Hammer’s Slammers” came around for much the same reason. Kratman’s “A Desert Called Peace” was a joy to obtain because I’m a groundpounder- I prefer Ringo and Weber’s March to the Sea over Weber’s Honor Harrington.
Throughout them all, I have found stories, some harsh, some poignant, some beautiful, some who are all three, and some who are extremely educational in a hard, violent manner. Go read “But Loyal To His Own” and think very hard on what tribalism means in that context.
A story should stand on its own merits. No matter the skin color of the author or their station in life, the story should matter. There shouldn’t be cultural or social pressure to buy a book just because the author checks off so many boxes on the diversity quota checklist. Frankly such quotas are every bit as bigoted as a Klansman’s burning cross. I want nothing to do with them.
“Jon, why don’t you like quotas?” I’m a minority. Feel free to go see how few Polynesians there are in the overall percentage of Americans. I’ll wait.
0.2% of the US population is Polynesian. There’s a greater percentage of blacks where I live in Utah than there are Polynesian in the US overall.
But I don’t write books with the belief that people will read what I put out for my skin color. Far from it. In the words of Louis L’Amour “a man forks his own broncs.” I read that at the age of 11, and it’s stuck in my mind ever since. Especially for those of us who live in these United States, is the ability and means to make our own way in life. There is neither king nor feudal warlord to dictate what we can do with our lives.
Certainly we shall hear others opinions. Such is life. Since Og first told Mog that bows and wheels were a stupid idea, we have heard opinions. Bureaucrats will hedge up every day living in an effort to more fully entrench themselves. One may look to the VA for how well that works. But we still have the freedom to be. Which brings me full circle back to the original question: why doesn’t Jon like quotas?
A quota, especially one regarding skin color or ethnicity, is a backhanded slap in the face from well-intentioned progressives. “Come here Mr. Brown Man, you’re too downtrodden to get ahead so we’re going to force people to buy your books.” Translation: you’re too piss-poor of a writer to succeed on your own. You suck so badly people won’t buy your books unless we hold a (hopefully metaphorical) gun to their heads.
Do we see how this might be a problem? Do we understand how insulting such statements are? I don’t need a John Brown Do-gooder dictating my life. Or anybody else’s for that matter. You see, I’ve read enough history to understand that if a single group of people can be targeted prejudicially, I can be targeted prejudicially as well. Oh sure it might be whites today, tomorrow who will it be? Blacks? Hispanics? FDR already went after the Japanese. You’ll never see me support a ban on Muslims in America for the same reason: as a Christian I have no interest in becoming the target of government pogroms. The states of Illinois and Missouri already proved they would go to that length. Bearing such in mind, it helps if I don’t set precedent ya know?
John Scalzi has loudly, repeatedly proclaimed that his life is spent on the easiest difficulty setting. I’d like to think he’s kidding, but no, Shoeless John isn’t. It’s a shame facts don’t back him up. His newest series through Tor is a train wreck. Given how badly it continues to fail in sales, and how poorly written the book is overall, I have to wonder: when the system is (supposedly) geared for you to win, how do you still manage to lose?
I frequent my local Barnes & Noble rather regularly (Note to B&N corporate, do not get rid of the comfy chairs, they spare me an incredible amount of back pain) and the first time I saw Collapsing Empire on the shelves, it was on the bargain table. Not the “former best-sellers we love” but “here’s something ridiculously cheap and trite, please buy it so we can make room in our inventory for better books.” That was within 3 months of its release.
I did give the book a try. It failed to get my attention, except to highlight how utterly awful that piece of literature was. Likewise, I don’t expect much from an anthology where they don’t select stories on the basis of how good they are, but the skin color of the authors and their sexual preferences. I don’t care if you tell me the whole anthology was written by my brother Marines. I don’t care if it’s written by guys I shared guard duty on post with. If the stories are hot garbage, they’re hot garbage. And no amount of pandering will convince me to buy it. If they ask, I’ll show them how to fix it (that’s what I actually do for a living right now).
Let us cease to pander to a given identity group. Let us cease to exclude on the basis of skin color, creed, or political affiliation. May we all choose to read and purchase literature because it is the very best at telling a damn good story that we personally want to read. So you’re a transgender Pandakin who wants to go read about some dinosaur making love to a gay man? Go on with your bad self, have fun. Same goes for the gun-toting conservative Marine officer that reads Kratman novels religiously- get busy reading and have a great day. Let us cease to make life so damn difficult.