Writing great literature is about writing things that last. Stories that transcend current trends and attitudes. Stories that can inspire a broad group of people regardless their happenstance of birth. Writing like that needs to be recognized.
To try and recognize writers who can pull this off, we have a dizzying array of literary awards: Stokers, Hugos, Nebulas, to name a few. All have their own complicated pasts and presents. All have been mired at one time or another in scandal. This year is no exception.
This year the Hugos have seen a coalition of writers calling themselves “Sad Puppies” step forward to champion their own slate of candidates. Presumably this is in reaction to a so-called agenda of “Social Justice Warriors”. Both claim to want literary work judged on its merit and not by the race, class, or orientation of the author.
To me, diversity is a good thing and we should all seek it. I’m stoked about any group that brings attention to underrepresented viewpoints. For a writer, it is manna from heaven because your writing is the sum total of your experiences. The more of a chance you have to be exposed to new perspectives and new situations, the more depth you can bring to the characters and places you put on the page.
I also understand why the majority feels unfairly targeted. As a “white” dude, I can tell you my life is very different from a person in America with a darker skin shade, but as a writer, I can say my whiteness and penis-havingness hasn’t done a damn bit of good for my acceptance rates. This is a tough game for anyone involved all the broad-brush painting of any pigmentation (white black or otherwise) is off-putting.
What this really boils down to is that the literary scene needs a shake up. I’m on board with that. Historically, we haven’t had diversity in our fiction. If you want someone to answer for that though, don’t target writers, turn to the damn publishers. Even then, I think it often comes down to economics for the too-big-to-fail publishers. Will they make more money pitching stories to the majority or a minority? (If you really want to explore unbridled viewpoints, check out some self pub.)
But below the surface I sense a partisan clash of egos which I’m not down with. As an American, I can tell you that shit doesn’t work. I’ve watched our government be crippled by the same crap for years now.
Hopefully these groups can rise above the dysfunction and get back to looking for amazing literature. Regardless, I’ll always cheer for whoever wins. I know full well that every author, no matter their circumstance of birth or ideology, has to fight hard for recognition in this insanity we aren’t sure whether to call a job or a lifestyle or an obsession.
By all means, if you are a writer and either of these camps appeals to your sense of justice or activism, or whatever, jump on in and get involved. If you do, try to do so with a modicum of diplomacy. Otherwise, just keep writing and ignore the noise.
For fans – find writers you love. Search for them in every conceivable place. Leave no page unturned. We’re notoriously difficult to locate but once you find us, we’ll do our best to feed your imaginations in our own unique, individual way.