Thursday, December 17, 2020

PC Encroachments On A Free Field

     I decided many years ago that Pub World – my collective term for the agents and publishers who make up the world of “traditional publishing” – would never be interested in my sort of pro-Christian, pro-freedom fiction. I had to rack up a few disappointments first, but as of 2000 I was firmly convinced that that avenue toward a readership was not for me. So in the late Naughties, when electronic publication matured and well organized channels for eBook retailing and distribution opened their digital doors, I decided to “go indie” and try that method. Despite very modest success, I’ve never looked back.

     Today, indie writers dominate the world of fiction. Support systems have emerged to help us with the various things at which we’re inept: editing and critiquing, formatting, cover design, marketing, and promotion. There is no barrier – apart from the struggles involved in getting noticed, that is – between the indie fiction writer and his readership. There’s no one who can prevent readers from finding him, and no one to tell him what he can and cannot do.

     Freedom! It’s wonderful. I wallow in it. But wait...what’s this? A new “support system” that tells the writer what he must and must not do? That provides censors for hire? What writer with a shred of self-regard would use such a “service?”

     As I happens, I encountered a few yesterday. Perfectly nice people, and no doubt perfectly competent at producing good fiction, several of whom have engaged “sensitivity readers:” persons who tell them what they must, may, and must not write about characters of certain varieties.

     Yep, you guessed it: they counsel their clients about how to depict characters who are “members of oppressed groups.” Negroes. Homosexuals and bisexuals. Amerinds. (I refuse to call them “native Americans.”) Transgenders. Single mothers. And so on. There’s probably one for any variation from the human norm you might care to name, though I doubt there’s one for white men and Christians.

     When the talk in the writers’ group I Zoom-attended turned to such things, it took all my self-control not to burst out with “You give someone else a veto over your characterization decisions? Are you BLEEP!ing serious?” But as I said, they were perfectly nice people, and I had no desire to start a huge row.

     If you were to make an effort, you’d notice all the following patterns in mass-media entertainment:

  1. Interracial romances are commonplace;
  2. Every series features at least one homosexual couple;
  3. The villain is never a Negro, homosexual, or bisexual;
  4. The high-tech star of the series is a Negro, a woman, or both;
  5. When a man and a woman disagree, the woman is always right;
  6. The favored villain-category is white men, especially Christians or Catholic priests.

     Uh, yeah. Right. Just like real life.

     That’s what comes of “sensitivity readers:” an industry that strives to impose the prejudices of noisy, supposedly oppressed identity groups on the creators, publishers, and retailers of fiction. It’s part of what going indie is supposed to make unnecessary.

     These days, the set of persons who prefer video entertainment is almost perfectly disjoint from the set of persons who’d rather read. Members of the former group, having been inundated with the “politically correct” notions enumerated above, have probably internalized the message; that is, they believe they’re seeing relatively authentic depictions of reality. Do readers have the same distorted view of American demographics as TV viewers? And must indies cater to such notions?

     The answer to that last question is rather obviously “No and hell no!” So why hang a “sensitivity reader” around your own neck, Mr. Indie Fiction Writer?

     Some indies probably retain hopes of being picked up by a Pub World publisher. It’s happened to a small number of writers who started out independent. Perhaps they’re all happy about it; I wouldn’t know. As I have no interest in Pub World publication, the fantasies and bigotries being promulgated and enforced by such publishers are of no concern to me. But as the saying goes, that’s just me.

     A personal vignette to close: I once had a critique partner upbraid me for naming a villain “Aaron Loesser.” She was furious about it: “Thou shalt not have a Jewish villain!” Yet nowhere in the tale was the character’s religion mentioned. In fact, he was a practitioner of black magic, which – if my admittedly tenuous grasp of Judaism is correct – is condemned quite as much by Jews as by Christians. But my critique partner was unconcerned with such trivia.

     That incident occurred many years ago. From it, I’d imagine my Gentle Readers can deduce my attitude toward the self-nominated censors who call themselves “sensitivity readers.” Of course, your decisions about such things are your own affair.


SiGraybeard said...

With all due respect, you missed one.

A terrorist can never be Muslim.

I watched a couple of years of the old series 24 with Kiefer Sutherland. No matter what the terrorist attack was, it was always carried out or masterminded by middle-aged white men. Usually middle managers or businessmen.

Eventually, my willing suspension of disbelief broke.

Unknown said...

NCIS was one of the last shows I watched, but when they doubled down on replacing the oddball female tech with a "brilliant black female" tech it was too much for me. The NO spinoff was worse with terrible 'science' and an implied romantic tie that failed a reality check (along with a basically illiterate character being the only one who could transcribe Morse code) I gave the whole thing up. Haven't been back to TV since.

I did, however read most if not all of your ?Oneora? county books more than once, willingly suspending disbelief! Thanks.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Francis;

We were watching a new show on TV I think it was called station 19 or something..Well it showed the police, fire dept, EMT, and so forth, usual mix and the only white guy there was a cop and he was being a dick to everyone else. I commented to my wife" You notice the optics?" She looked and commented..."So the police officer is being an ass..." I replied "Look again...the sole WHITE police officer was being an ass, everyone else was other than...and they were getting along great....It is in every TV show, now if someone is being an ass...its going to be a white guy....they can't do it any other way, might offend some group".

Francis W. Porretto said...

That's another part of the pattern, MrG. There are several elements I didn't mention because I didn't want to risk overstating the case or being boring, but I hadn't thought of that one.

Col. B. Bunny said...

The movie "Congo" is still a classic in this regard. One of the first that I can remember that drank deeply from the cup of PC stupidity. The kick-ass main character, the expedition leader, was a young woman. The next in line was a manly man. A black. And the sole white male character of any prominence was an sniveling beta.

A friend of mine is acquainted with a gent who was a member of the Dutch resistance. He came here and served in the Army infantry during Korea. He remarked to my friend that the propaganda in the US of late is worse than what it was in occupied Holland.

I still take heart from the witticism, "Don't piss up my back and tell me it's rain." I am not taken with the idea that the schools "indoctrinate" kids. Maybe it's just me but it never occurred to me in schools to accept particular facts or assertions as the last word on anything. A high school teacher presented a sympathetic picture of the Indians and I accepted that. Later information about certain realities of Indian-white interaction came in without any kind of a "conditioned" resistance. It was just new information.

Still, why do I not see more of the skepticism exemplified by the quoted sentence? I have a dear friend who's very smart and an accomplished lawyer yet he's absolutely wedded to the danger we face from "climate change." He has real energy on that score and the idea that the whole concept has a certain shaky provenance is something he would reject out of hand. No Irish need apply. I have another great friend who's in absolute denial on the issue of vote fraud now. The NYT said there is none and case closed. As Igor said in "Young Frankenstein," "What hump?"

Linda Fox said...

Culture, and the creative fields, are where the money is. Look at these numbers.
Given the vast amounts of money that is on the line, worldwide, the craven submission is understandable.