I’ve been stewing on this for a while.
It’s been brewing for quite a while.
I could probably write a song about it (how about a rap?), but I don’t think I will.
This is more of a blog post topic, and it might even deserve a series.
And that’s the title and topic of today’s post: Write Whatever the @#$% You Want.
My reasons for stewing on this topic are both objective and personal at the same time. Let me explain.
In the 1990s, I started and completed drafts of two novels, Brothers’ Hand and Jana. The first novel features a couple of scenes of horrific violence: one is a bloody accident, the other, a rape. The second book is written from the POV of a lesbian who gets fired from her job because of her sexual orientation. (Not cool!)
I released these novels through my own imprint, Sahno Publishing, in 2015. Though bought by a few and reviewed by even fewer, I’ve gotten almost universally positive responses.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Over the last few years, as social media has become a breeding ground for regular people to “sound off” on anything and everything that comes into their heads, it’s also become a cesspool of insults and arguments. I made the mistake of engaging with a real nutcase on Twitter about the topic of trigger warnings, which I am firmly against. This person then went directly to my Amazon page and gave the offending Brothers’ Hand a 1-star review…without ever having read the novel (which is extremely sympathetic to the victim and, I might add, punishes the offender about as soundly as anyone could want. But then, the nutcase wouldn’t have known that, would she?).
My next lesson in “Why One Should Never Engage With Strangers Online” came in the form of an argument that someone started with me over Jana, A.K.A., my lesbian novel. As a reminder, I wrote these in the 1990s during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, as a true ally. My, how times have changed.
This person took it upon herself to chastise me on Twitter, letting me know in no uncertain terms that the LGBTQ community didn’t “need me” to tell their stories, and expressing anger that I had “co-opted” one. I should mention that the law preventing discrimination against gay and lesbian workers had just passed in Connecticut when I wrote the book. Yes, in 1990, it was illegal to discriminate based on gender or race, but sexual orientation was fair game.
Believe me when I tell you, even in 2015 that novel didn’t exactly rocket me to stardom. I wrote it and rewrote it and published it because I believed in the story, the characters, and the experience it gave readers.
“The publisher wouldn’t touch it”
I’m far from the only one with this problem. Publishers in general have grown increasingly timid in the face of criticism from anyone who might be offended by anything. Sensitivity readers are the new enablers of censorship-happy editors and publishers, turning a once-innovative and mature business into a nanny state for people who won’t even watch a Netflix documentary if the Trigger Warning offends their delicate sensibilities.
When I had a little verbal tête-à-tête with another Twitterer regarding my anti-trigger warning stance, a third person chimed into the conversation: “So I’m fragile if I’m not doing everything I can to protect my mental health?”
I didn’t respond there, but I will here. If your mental health can be seriously affected by material in a book that you voluntarily read, then yes, I would describe the state of your mental health as “fragile.” And I’d further recommend that, rather than seek out trigger warnings (and avoid books that don’t provide them for you), perhaps you should simply restrict your reading and viewing activities to those geared toward children under the age of three.
That’s not sarcasm. I mean it: protect your mental health at all costs!
As I say, there are public figures much better known than me who have to deal with our new namby-pamby cultural timidity. One is a screenwriter and author whose publisher “wouldn’t touch” a new release, which he ultimately decided to give away free on Amazon. At least one objection was that a character in this (need I remind the reader, fictional) book referred to herself as “fat.”
I wish I could say I was making these things up. I’m not.
So this is one blog post—and maybe it will be one of several more—that assures my fellow writers, “You don’t have to kowtow to this nonsense. Write whatever the @#$% you want—but be ready for the consequences.”