Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Plague of 'ist'

by Janis Patterson

I have to stop reading certain writers’ groups. The Politically Correct/hypersensitive/stupidity ratio is shooting off the chart, and as a practical, pragmatic, sensible person I have become a stranger in a strange land. It is unnerving how many modern ‘hot buttons,’ buttons that can be used as weapons against people (whether innocent or guilty), buttons that can destroy lives and careers (whether deserved or not) end in ‘ist.’ Racist. Ageist. Sexist. Speciest. Almost any word you can think of can be turned into a weapon with the addition of the word ‘ist.’ And the most tragic thing is they do not need to be true.

The latest kerfuffle, the one of which I am writing, began when a writer asked if having a main character lose the power of speech through mental trauma and then later recover through medical/therapeutic means would be considered ‘ableist.’ The number of responses saying it would be, as well as it being unbelievable, insulting and ‘miraculous’ was astounding. And terrifying. Remember, this was a mental problem, not a physical one and the character got therapy. It is ableist to have someone recover? It is a miracle to have someone recover? Remember, we’re talking about a mental trauma, not having an amputated limb regrow. I too would call that a miracle, but since when has responding to mental therapy been considered ‘miraculous’ and therefore unacceptable in a genre novel?

Apparently some think so, declaring that to have someone cured before they get their happy ending is unacceptable and ‘ableist’ and never happens, so therefore has no place in a novel. Other quibbles aside, whatever happened to the fact that fiction is made up? Yes, some people have problems and changes to their physical being. Some get well, some don’t. Some people get happy endings, some don’t, but is that dependent on their recovery or not? I don’t think so. 

In a book the solution to this dichotomy should not/should happen according to the story the author is telling, not be constructed to fit some dictated decree or  ‘it’s not like that in real life’ doctrine. Even if such controlling and overweening censorship were feasible it should not exist - people read fiction to escape; if they wanted real ‘real life’ all the time, they should read non-fiction. Or watch the news.

To take the silliness of this ‘ist’ mindset to a logical conclusion, apply it to murderers (fictional ones, of course.) If a person kills another with planning and malice aforethought, it is because it is the way he is and the choices he makes. To ‘change’ him by capture and punishment could be considered by these ‘ist’ slaves to be ‘lawist’ or ‘conformist’ and, as under the ‘ableist’ standard, would be unacceptable. 

Of course, this is an extreme example. What we must remember is genre fiction is not real life. Fiction is escapism. Part of the reason people read genre fiction is because they know that in the end the murderer will be caught, that the hero and heroine will have their happy ending, that the sheriff will save the town from the bad guys, that all will be well and be resolved to our satisfaction. If we are going to write genre fiction, we must remain true to the norms and expectations of our chosen genre.

On the other hand, as writers we must be careful not to perpetuate blatantly offensive stereotypes. A black man who ‘shuffles and jives,’ bowing and repeating ‘yes, massa’ and ‘no, massa’ and ‘you done sure be right, massa’ would be incredibly offensive - unless there is a hard reason necessary to the story, such as an undercover operative whom we know is just putting on an act to get his mission done. Even then we would have to be careful to make sure that the reader knows the ‘shuffle and jive’ routine is just an act to achieve an important result and not a characterization of the real character. 

An equally offensive image would be of an Hispanic, constantly dozing beneath his sombrero and avoiding any kind of work, or a white working girl who thinks of nothing but shoes and dates and has the IQ of a goldfish. Yes, I am sure that somewhere in this great wide world there are a few individuals who actually fit these stereotypes (stereotypes did become in to being because at some time in the past they existed, after all) but in this modern world they are basically inaccurate and offensive and should not be promulgated.

I have a wide circle of friends from all over the globe and I do not know - nor have never even seen - any living example of real people like those above. I respect my characters and stories too much to create any such stereotype. All writers should as well; yes, their stories are their stories and should be written according to their vision, but if they have the right to create as they will, they also have the responsibility to make the result believable, be it a tale of a murder in a small Southern town or the revolt of the three-eyed blue bipeds of the planet Durgam against the tentacled swamp creatures of the Union of the Arctue Galaxy. (I am not a sci-fi fan, and my poor earth-bound mind boggles at what an offensive stereotype of either race might be!)

So what is the take-away from this little diatribe? For me it is that all my characters should be living, breathing and believable instead of cardboard cutouts. That actions and events and reactions should be believable for the world that I have created, be it in a far-away galaxy or in the next town over from me. That a stereotype, be it ‘Politically Correct’ or no, is not only offensive to some or most, but it is lazy writing, and that might be the worst sin of all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Question for Readers

 What makes you buy a book?

Does a catch cover intrigue you? Or what about the title?

Do you look for books written by your favorite author?

Do you subscribe to any of those promos for free or .99 cent e-books?

Messages sent to you by Amazon telling your about the latest mystery or thriller or romance intrigue you enough to make you buy?

Here's how it is with me:

I have some author friends whose new books I will always buy.

I also have some authors who have series that I may usually buy.

Sometimes Amazon sends me a list of free books that I can choose one from--and yes, I usually find a book to try. Because of that, I've read several new to me authors with great books. 

Lately I've been purchasing mostly e-books for my Kindle. And to be honest, I have so many on there and so little time to read, it my be a while before I get to them all. Mainly I don't have a lot of reading time because I'm in the middle of writing another book--well more like the first quarter. 

I have other jobs I need to do, and my husband is at an age where he needs more attention. However, reading is still something I squeeze in whenever I have the opportunity. It's the best way to get away from whatever is going on in the world today.

I'll be interested to hear your answers to my questions.


And this is one of my favorite covers.

Thoughts on Being Indie-Pulbished


The latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series

In case you don't know what that means, it's another way of saying self-publishing. 

I've been published every way possible: New York publisher (my first published book), publishers who turned out to be crooks--and yes, there are still a few of those around, several small publishers (2 who died and others who decided to close their publishing houses; some were good and produced great looking books. 

Good friends talked me into going the indie publishing route and offered to do a lot of the work. Didn't take me long to agree. Every book I'd had published was re-edited and re-published, some with new covers, others I was able to get the rights.

Now, 47 of my books and 2 short stories are now indie-published. 

What are the disadvantages:

Some might say having to do my own promotion. Well, I got little promotion from any of the other publishers--my book on their website was the main promo. A few did other things, but not much.

Yes, from the honest publishers I did receive royalties on the sales, though sometimes many months later.

When I did a big promotion there was no way to tell if it had any effect on sales. Because I can check Amazon to see how sales are doing, it's very easy to see how well a promotion worked.

When I need more paper copies of my book I can do the ordering myself. I don't have to wait for the convenience of the publisher.

Though of course I don't have the backing of a big name publisher, nor do my books make it into bookstores unless I've made the connection some how, I am quite satisfied with being an indie publisher.

I'm one of those persons why has to write, and at least my books are available on Amazon for people to order and read.

Those are my feelings about being and independently published author.

Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

Marilyn Meredith who also writes as F.M. Meredith.