Why is it that fiction writers feel compelled to push their political opinions into the most unlikely stories?
By which I don’t mean building your world or your characters according to your understanding of the world. That’s just what humans do and I don’t even resent it. Oh, there is no power in the world that would compel me to read one more science fiction novel in which “the world of women” is a peaceful paradise, because, you know, I went to an all-girls high school – aka the pit of hell – and by page five I’m wondering if the author ever met a living woman, even when they claim to be women.
But I’ve read stories where the assumption is that, oh, the euro soft-socialism model worked best for human societies, and even enjoyed them, as long as the characters weren’t preaching their nonsense at me every five lines. I just assumed the characters didn’t know everything about the world.
I do that even with books I agree with. Take 1984. There’s no way that world is real. It wouldn’t survive a Heinlein character with a screwdriver for five minutes.
What I’m talking about, though, are critters like this one.
This is a romance writer who is so upset over Trump’s win that instead of writing what she was writing before – which frankly sounds like a bog-standard regency romance – is going to write to encourage the “resistance” or to educate people against Trump.
And apparently she’s not alone:
Since the election of Donald Trump, even some romance writers have decided it’s time to get political.
The genre’s brooding Heathcliffs are getting makeovers and storylines are being tweaked to better reflect feminist values around sexual equality and inclusiveness, as writers work to recast the heroes into characters they want to celebrate.
A day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, bestselling New York-based author Sarah MacLean said she vowed to use her “very considerable platform” to step up and speak up, as she wants to “make a difference in the world.”
MacLean said she realized the book she was writing “had 275 pages of a character who probably would have voted for Donald Trump,” so she deleted the entire manuscript. “I threw it all out and started over.”
This is me groaning audibly. Look, guys, I’ll read just about anything. Any genre, or lack of genre.
Let me tell you something. You know what traditional publishing isn’t short on? Leftist propaganda.
Run from NYC, publishing is a tiny business in terms of the community. All editors and publishers know each other. Most of them got their liberal arts degrees at the same, impeccably leftist universities. And the way to get ahead and signal you had an excellent education is to regurgitate the “Marxist truths” that editors and publishers learned from their professors, and that they’ve learned to identify as “the right way to think” and “what all smart people think.” (Most editors and publishers, like most people, are in fact average.)
This, in the bad old days of push marketing and traditional publishing as the only game in town, led compulsive readers like me – I’ve memorized the inserts of medicine bottles, when I lacked anything else to read – to abandon field after field.
When science fiction became full of authoritarian Marxist futures, written with every appearance of author approval, I fled to mystery. When mystery – rapidly – became full of amoral, amorphous plots, and took breaks in the middle of mystery solving to take pot shots at how Ronald Reagan was going to kill us all by antagonizing the USSR, I fled to history. I spent years reading history, from dry as bones manuals to popularized “novelized” versions, for fun. And then they started to turn not subtly preachy, so I fled to romance. (Being an unnatural woman, I was in my late thirties before I ever read romance. Also, I still flip past all the sex because most of it isn’t believable, it’s nothing to do with the plot, and it bores me to tears.)
By the mid-oughts, I was considering abandoning romance and not sure what came next. Religious fiction? Or would I just re-read old books and the instructions on my toolsets?
Because by the mid-oughts, the urge to make romance (the best selling genre) relevant had come to NYC. All of a sudden, every woman was a modern-day feminist, even in 18th-century romances. They were all suffragettes. Every one of them worked for abused women’s shelters, and in general none of them were believable products of their environment. It was worse in modern-day romances, which I gave up on very soon because every character was preaching grrrrrrrl power. Including the men.
So, now there’s indie. Nine percent of the time, I don’t even read traditional romance. (And not just because the Kindle Unlimited Lending Library program makes it cheap to read a lot of books.) I seem to weave between romance, science fiction, fantasy and mystery, all of it blissfully politics- and agenda-free.
Nine times out of ten, if I notice preaching, particularly leftist preaching, I return the book and get another. (It’s not that preaching is better from the right, but it’s a rarer thing, since traditional publishing still doesn’t buy it. So it’s not as boring.) You see, I’m not reading to be preached to, or “informed” or to have my ideas “elevated.” I’m reading for entertainment, pure and simple. Sure, sometimes a book can make me re-think something, but this is usually done not by overt preaching, but by building something into the fabric of the story that makes it stay with me, and makes me think.
Turns out most compulsive readers – I’ve talked to a lot of them – are like me. And not a few followed the same path through genres, avoiding being preached to. Turns out most of them now read a lot of indie. (Though some don’t realize it.)
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Sarah MacLean’s sheer hubris. Does she think that people voted for Trump because they’d never come across Leftist “truths”?
Does she think that her “considerable platform” will survive her stopping writing what people want to read and starting instead to preach to her readers?
MacLean was originally writing about “a man who was intractable and impenetrable, and didn’t understand that his actions hurt people and his actions had repercussions.”
Thinking that description sounded a lot like Trump himself, she decided to create a new hero who wouldn’t take the entire novel to become enlightened. The result is her more recent novel, The Day of the Duchess.
“I wanted him to be that alpha feminist from the very start. I wanted him to believe in his heroine, I wanted him to believe in hope, I wanted him to believe in change, I wanted him to believe in passion and partnership and equality.”
Um…. I don’t think she understands Trump, since that doesn’t at all sound like him. (A businessman who doesn’t understand that his actions have repercussions would go broke very quickly.)
But more importantly, I don’t think she understands people. What is this “alpha feminist” thing? What is this believing in hope and change? For the love of heaven, is she going to make him look like President Mom Jeans?
As for passion, partnership, and equality… lady, most men who talk that way are Bill Clinton. They talk about partnership and equality while hoisting the pirate flag. Most women in the modern world have met at least one of those. Their passion is an unremitting devotion to getting their rocks off.
Real men who really believe in “partnership” don’t believe in “equality.” This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe you’re every bit as worthy as they are, but they don’t believe you’re a carbon copy of them. The secret of partnership is to play to your strengths. I’m in the middle of installing wood floor in my living room. But I also cook and do probably 80% of the cleaning. My husband plays the piano but he also does the finances, the taxes and 90% of the driving. If we were both exactly the same, life wouldn’t be nearly as fun. Any guy who comes in mouthing “equality” is trying to sell you something. As for passion – there is more passion in a happy marriage than in all the contrived sex scenes in all the romances in the world.
So guys who come in talking of equality and partnership and passion come across as really bad salesmen trying to get what they want. After which they’ll go talk equality partnership and passion – not to mention hope and change – to someone else.
The world is full of them. What it lacks are enigmatic, maybe a little misguided men, who don’t say anything but really do change for the love of a good woman.
It is that dream that keeps romances selling. Women don’t want reality. And women certainly don’t want their popcorn reads interrupted by the same feminist preaching they’ve been hearing from authority figures and the industrial entertainment complex since they were in diapers.
What Sarah MacLean is in fact doing is rolling left and lighting up the virtue signal. Which will cause her readership to die. She’s wokesplaining her viewpoint to people who just want to be entertained. She’s so sure no one can dispute her opinion. Yes, she thinks that surely they just haven’t been exposed to it, despite it being everywhere.
And she’s on her way to finding out why “Get woke, go broke” is a thing.