Some of you may or may not be aware of a movement in the science fiction/fantasy writing world called, The Sad Puppies. Now in its 4th year, the puppies is an attempt to shine a light on the politicization of the Hugo Awards process. It has been very successful, particularly in stirring up a good old fashioned hornets nest of controversy. For the record, I stand firmly with the puppies, sad, rabid, or otherwise.
One of the contentions of the puppies is that fiction writing over the past 20 years or so has turned away from an emphasis on story-telling and character development to one of technique and correct political messaging. Style over substance if you will. It is no surprise that when you stop telling great stories in preference to lecturing your readership with the politically correct tropes of the day, that the readers tend to move on to other things.
I discovered a post titled Empathy and Responsibility in writing by one Alexander Freed. It is a startling article. I had to read it several times to really understand its meaning, (an indictment both of the message and the writer’s lack of ability). The article places the context of writing in that of the video game milieu, but in the worldview of the politically correct I am sure that this is applicable across all mediums.
The core message of the piece is this in my own words:
You may only write about a certain demographic if you are sure they will not be offended by your words or you are already part of that demographic.
An example quoted from the piece:
If you’re a man, are you prepared to justify to a woman the casting and portrayal of women in your story?
Try reading that a few times. What I take from this is the new-found awareness that I can only write a female character if I am sure that it won’t give offense to women anywhere. The giving or taking of offense is based on emotional reactions, better known as feelings. I have no control over the feelings of other people. Writing as a man it would be impossible to justify any portrayal of a woman based on this criteria. It seems that I am now forbidden to portray females in the written form without permission of the authorities.
If you’re not Hispanic, are you prepared to justify to a Hispanic person how you cast (or didn’t) Hispanic characters?
If you write about Hispanics you lose. If you don’t write about Hispanics you lose as well. Heads I win, tails you lose?
If you’ve never been in a gang, are you prepared to justify your crime story to a gang member?
Well, I tend not to hang around criminal elements and I doubt they spend much time reading.
If you’ve never been disabled, are you prepared to justify your handling of a paraplegic character?
I stubbed my toe once, does that count?
Based on these parameters I doubt whether Tolkien would have ever been allowed to write The Hobbit. I have no doubt that Freed is perfectly serious with his intentions. No matter how ridiculous the demands, the world of political correctness is a race to the bottom as its followers attempt to show their true virtue to the cause by constantly trying to outdo one another.
Freed has of course completely misrepresented why art is created in the first place. If you work from the basis of telling a story then what he has written seems mad. But if your basis is instead to use the medium to deliver the message of political correctness and social justice then what he writes makes perfect sense. In his world, the writer’s responsibility is to write correctly. The trap of course is that in a race to the bottom what was correct under their ever-changing guidelines will be bad-think mere months after its publication. Nobody is safe in a totalitarian world.
This is why the GamerGate movement began, as gamers were not prepared to put up with this level of insanity. It is telling that many other mediums did not stand up for their art in the face of this totalitarian movement.
Thus the Sad Puppies campaign is not just an attempt to make the Hugo awards more representative. It is an attempt to wrest control back from frauds and charlatans like Alexander Freed. And the more that the Sad Puppies make headway, the more that the gatekeepers will scream to high heaven.