Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To Be a Good Writer

It occurs to the present author, having spent a prodigious amount of hours over the course of existence consuming literature, that many famous and worldly authors write in ways distinctly frowned upon by teachers, critics, and literary types. And while it's easy and, perhaps, lazy to find people to say something to the effect that 50 Shades of Gray is "trash," it is harder to find someone say that, CS Lewis, for instance, is often very religiously heavy-handed and preachy, something that would not be considered a positive writing trait if one were to contribute such to a story in the pursuit of a creative writing degree. And yet, CS Lewis is rather often considered a landmark fantasy and science-fiction writer. Or take the case of one Robert Heinlein, a man who wrote about women deserving to be raped, a man who wrote positively about the Vietnam War and of nuclear war, and a man who delineated entire political thought into dialogue scenes between two characters, one who was often a foil for Heinlein's beliefs. While Heinlein is criticized much more today than in yesteryear, he enjoyed decades of being both financially rewarded and critically esteemed for his work.

This is not, of course, a phenomenon strictly held by the literary world. What it is, however, is a product of two distinctly uncontrollable things. One of those things is your birth. To say that the "Golden Age" of sci-fi took place in the mid 20th century - which many people do - is to say that a golden age can occur without any contributions from marginalized people; women, people of colour, LGBT, religious minorities, etc. Sci-fi was, at that point in time, strictly a white man's endeavor. And so, your chances of getting published and selling were at times a direct result of how you were born.

It is also a product, entirely, of luck. That an uncountable multitude of works that have been published and sold lavishly go against what is considered "good writing" is something that gets to the heart of whether or not writing can ever be considered good in the first place, or whether or not generally perceived ideas of "good" are true in the first place.

That Heinlein said that women deserve to be raped, and that E.L. James at times ignored ideas of consent or failed to use accurate, modern depictions of sexual slang, likely mattered little to each of them, respectively. Laughing all the way to the bank does not require one to read the critique of a supposed literary critic. The people have already spoken.

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