First of all, my apologies for being late this morning. Life at Casa Verde is undergoing changes. Nothing major, just things that will require some changes to my normal schedule, at least in the short term. The good part of this is I had half an hour in the car already this morning, time to consider what I wanted to blog about.
As most everyone who follows MGC knows, the Dragon Awards were handed out this weekend. After years of being told by a certain part of fandom (or should I say Fandom?) to get our own award, they decided it was time to invade the Dragons because–duh–we finally had our own award. I’m not going to go into the gnashing of teeth and the walis of outrage that have been sounding since the awards were announced because the usual suspects didn’t win. Instead, our own Brad Torgersen, David Weber and Tim Zahn (among many other worthy recipients) won. So kudos to them and to all who voted for books because the books were good reads and not because of who they were written by or what their “message” was.
This is something a certain part of publishing and fandom has forgotten. Science fiction and fantasy grew because those genres allowed us to escape into flights of imagination that intrigued and entertained. Sure, sometimes it scared the crap out of us but, even then, we had heroes to cheer for.
Those of us who read the genre today and who enjoy the past masters understand that they wrote in a different time when things were, well, different. A book written in the 1930s will reflect the mores and society of that time. The same is true for a book written a century ago. This is something so many of those screeching about how evil Heinlein, et al, are. They forget these men and women wrote based on their lives and the time in which they lived.
But it is so much easier for the screechers to denounce these giants of the industry because they aren’t “in step” with society today. Sorry, but life doesn’t work that way. They need to remember that there will be a time in the not too distant future where their work will be looked at–or their social media posts, Tweets, etc.–and someone will decide they weren’t as “woke” as they thought. Then they will become the pariahs of the next screeching generation. How will they fill then?
I, for now, look forward to them seeing what it feels like to no longer be the cool kid on the publishing block. Petty? Not really. I just dislike bullies and that is what so many of them on the other side are.
They want the message to be first and foremost in fiction. Of course, it has to be the approved message. Heaven forbid that you come out as pro-capitalism, pro-religion, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, etc. Those are bad things and will bring their ire down on your head. But here’s the thing. Is message fiction really what readers want?
In an article in the Guardian, a look is taken at political novels and “message”. I know, I know. It’s the Guardian. But, in this case, there is some wisdom to be had.
After discussing critical response to books like 1984 and Atlas Shrugged, this was noted: “Resistance to a message has only grown stronger since then. . . This critical focus on form and language rewards a book as unusual as Milkman but creates a frosty climate for any author with a blatant reformist agenda.”
Now, it seems clear the speaker would prefer going back to political novels that are overt in their message. However, the market doesn’t want that. So why has this knowledge, this recognition of market demand, not penetrated the SF/F market?
The truth is it has. For decades, Baen gave readers what they wanted. With limited publishing slots each month, it couldn’t compete with the Big Six (now Big Five) publishers. Yet it built a devoted following of readers who respect the military, understand the importance of the Second Amendment, applauded the fact there were strong female leads in some series, etc. Even in the darkest of the books published by Baen, there was always a spark of hope. Yes, there was a message but it was interwoven into the story by authors who knew their primary job was to entertain and not preach.
Every reader has a decision to make when they walk into a bookstore or browse the virtual shelves of Amazon. What sort of book do you want to read? I can’t speak for the rest of you but for me, if I want to read fiction, I want to be entertained. I don’t mind a message as long as it is secondary to the ENTERTAINMENT. Reading in this instance is an escape.
If I want to learn something, if I want to consider differing points of view from my own, I read non-fiction. That is where I expect to find editorializing. But I also expect well-reasoned arguments and facts to back them up.
How about you? Do you mind overt messaging in your fiction or do you prefer having it interwoven into the plot so it becomes not so much hidden as subtle?