Book publishers fearing the backlash from social justice activists are hiring special readers to check the books and flag up racist, sexist and other so-called offensive content before they go to print.
… Suddenly self-publishing is looking better and better, isn’t it? Seriously who is actually pushing for this?
On the surface, this may seem like a good thing. There’s certainly nothing wrong with making sure that characters are portrayed in a culturally correct manner. However what happens when that reading goes at odds with the writer’s message or experience?
Look, I’ve said it time and time again and the cardinal sin in writing is writing about something you don’t know anything about. If you want to write about another culture, experience that other culture first. Research it and maybe go spend some time in it.
You want to write about a place? Either visit it or talk to people who have been there and carefully study pictures of it.
Do you want to write about a person? TALK TO THAT PERSON and if they’re not still alive, either talk to people who knew them and/or research everything you can find on them; their personalities, decisions they’ve made, their impacts on history, etc.
“Publishers are encouraged to hire such “experts” out of fear of potential backlash for publishing books that have perceived bias and troublesome portrayals of oppressed groups, especially when the author isn’t part of the group.”
You know… awful though it sounds, I actually do not care about perceived bias and troublesome portrayals. So now we’re getting to the point where we not only have to worry about what we say but also what someone believes we MIGHT be thinking?
If you want to write a reaction or call out someone because they said in a serious light, “Adolf Hitler did nothing wrong.” or “Kamau Kambon was right!” or “Death to all infidels!” Like if there is abject bigotry. Go for it, you’ll get no argument from me, but when you get into the whole thing where ‘you may not have directly said it, but its clear that this is what you were thinking when you wrote this’ or ‘it’s pretty obvious what you’re thinking, despite the fact that you may not actually be thinking it.’ That is extremely dangerous on an Orwellian level, which is very scary.
The only time anyone should be called out on their writing is when their portrayal is way off the mark either intentionally (As is the case with Pewdiepie) where it is clear what was going on, or due to a lack of research… AKA Titanic’s portrayal of Ismay. But no writer should be worried about writing a character a certain way when that’s been his/her experience with people who are ‘like that character’ or from the same area as that character, etc.
Everyone has different experiences and that doesn’t make them bigoted or anything like that. The whole idea of hiring sensitivity readers is just such a foreign notion to me for three reasons;
1.It’s thought censoring. You’re basically paying someone else to tell you, ‘Well you might not have thought this in what you said, but here’s what some people might think you meant and that could cause a backlash.
2. Writing is not supposed to be safe. It’s not always supposed to be comfortable, heck it’s not even supposed to be flattering. Writing is here to make you think, to expose you to other ideas, worlds, thoughts, and opinions. To put a filter like this on said opinions is so offensive to me, this blog piece doesn’t even do it justice.
3. People into identity politics and social justice are always on the lookout for something they can be offended by. If this isn’t plainly obvious by the crap we see spewed by the regressive leftist media… and even certain elements of the left calling themselves out for having ‘cried wolf too many times to be heard,’ then it never will be. These people are not going to be able to stop that.
Unfortunately more and more publishers appear to be going this route, making themselves akin to the mainstream media, and indie publishing more like the alternative media that is on the rise.
In short, don’t give into this. If your publisher tries to push this on you, drop them. Go it alone. You’ll be better off. Thought policing is going way too far.
In short, publish whatever you want. If your readers know you and know your work, they will buy it. If people complain, who cares? Let them complain. People complained and called Pewdiepie a racist, it didn’t cost him any followers. In fact, the whole of the internet rose up in support of him. The same might not happen, but the people who have read your book will know the truth and they will stick by you, leaving the complainers to yell at a brick wall.
If not, if you let them bother you, you’re no better than the people that wanted to censor and/or edit the writings of Mark Twain.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
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Catch you on the flip side!