Fiction and the World—Take A Good, Hard Look at Yourselves!

Deutsch: Zentrale Heterochromie: Grüne Iris, u...

Take a Good Hard Look at Yourselves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia. Deutsch: Zentrale Heterochromie.)

I read a post by Nathan Bransford, about the world losing  its taste for complexity in fiction. It linked to a Rumpus post, by Rob Roberge. The Rumpus post talked about moral dilemmas and men and women and literature. Definitely an interesting post. Besides the moral dilemma, and several others points that also stood out, I want to begin with this point: the age-old “gender fight” that always seems to be brought up, however briefly. About how the world is still largely run by men and women and the world have it so bad. It wasn’t made much of in this article, but I have to comment, because it implies a lot.

Okay, nothing’s perfect, and men seem to largely run the world. But consider for a moment how the world might be if women did run the world.

Right now all this man v. woman talk about who’s running things implies the negative aspects of a male-dominate Weltanschauung. Fine. Now, for just a moment, consider all the negative implications associated with a female-dominated world. Go on, do it. Think about all you hate and despise about the female Weltanschauung, I’m not going to list any; I’m leaving that up to all of you out there. I’m asking this because we’re focusing on the negative aspects of male gender and ignoring the positive aspects, so turnabout is fair play. I’m not about gender bashing, as anyone who knows me can tell you, but come on, let’s face it—no one’s perfect. You know what I’m talking about, so quit dicking around and be honest. Do you really think that kind of a world would be any better?

To me, it’s not so much about the sex of the “entity” running the world, but the mindset (and consider this: most psychologists have recently declared that many who run the world can be labeled as psychopaths; they don’t break this out into genders [at least I haven’t seen it], just one thing: many-to-most leading high-ranking business leaders display psychopathic behavior). Then there’s the increasingly nascent operation of bean counters running everything. Instead of all this dickering about crappy men running around screwing up the world and how much better women would be at it, saving all our souls and morals and intellect and emotion, I suggest that maybe it’s a mindset, not a gender thing, and the incumbent entity is just an easy target. It just so happens that one set of gonads has the so-called “upper hand.” In my experience working with and for both men and women, I find each just as capable and culpable as the other. There is no Saving Gender. No Second Coming of a Gender Savior. Woman have plenty of their own inherent goods and bads, just like men do, and with the infusion of more women into the workplace—or buying books—there is already more influence of women into everyday everything. And, to be honest, I don’t see any saving grace. I see women becoming just as stressed, just as angry, just as overwhelmed as their male counterparts in every area of life: on the road, in the office, at home, and on Facebook. Sure, arguments can definitely be made that while they are in the workplace they also have to come home and run the household like they used to. Fair argument…but they’re still stressed and overwhelmed and every other descriptor that men have, whether or not you add “more” to it, because of extra home responsibilities. But, I’ve also read and heard more and more men are becoming the stay-at-home dads, these days.

But, there is more to the Rumpus post. Why is there such a decline to the reading of fiction, or to the male readership of fiction? Is there really, or is it more that there is such an incline to the female readership, that the male readership simply pales by comparison? There is much talk (at least in the writing and reading circles) about the decline of something, sometime, and this was the current target. It would be great to see some actual studied numbers on the topics, but how useful would that really be? After all, how many times have you lent or received a book from another? There’s no money exchanged, no databased stat at no point-of-sale on those books. How good are these numbers, really?

And let’s talk about quality. Formula.

I know just from own personal experience, that I have been extremely disappointed in the fiction out there. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but nearly every new book of fiction I’ve recently purchased at bookstores/Amazon has disappointed me to the point of early reading termination. Now, yes, I’ve discovered about myself that I have become a pretty picky reader, but I’m an open reader. Open to new ideas and stories. I don’t get to do much of it, for various reasons, but most of the time when I’ve branched out, I’ve not been happy with the purchase. There are many out there lamenting about the state of publishing (including myself), like Joe Ponepinto, and they present legitimate positions. Pedantic, uninspired, unimaginative, overly formulaic, et cetera.

Perhaps what’s being published now is actually more sub par than in the past? I’ve realized that at some point in the past, we’d lost the eloquence that seemed to be better expressed on a daily basis than is today. Sure, there has always been the unschooled…but once you got to “the schooled,” it seemed (to my limited way of thinking) that people just plain talked gooder in the 1700 and 1880s. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Perhaps, because of the Bean Counter Revolution (BCR), what BCRs think is salable and think is “good” really isn’t. Perhaps, in the vein of A Few Good Men, they simply can’t handle the truth, because they’re not editors and readers. I still regard most editors highly; the good ones are extremely knowledgeable and well read. I don’t fault them for the most part; they’re doing what they’re mandated in order to continue eating and reading. But you hear it time and time again…it’s all the same plot, just different clothes and names.

I do not like to unnecessarily constrain things. Like writing. Literary or genre fiction. To me, both should be telling a story, with “literary’s” form perhaps more of importance than in genre fiction. To me, in literary fiction, form is part of the story. There is a difference, and in the literary I’ve read (admittedly, not very recently), I’m not lettered enough to describe that difference, at least now, to give that discussion due diligence.  But, maybe, those who are publishing today’s literature, as stated above, just aren’t “getting” the literature they’re rejecting and end up publishing the more understandable—to them. But to the literati effete, it’s tripe.

And if we revisit the whole “male v. female” argument from above, yes, there certainly can be made an argument that the male-dominated world is so overwhelmed with facts and figures, and well, yes, a war or two. That definitely can influence one’s POV. But, again, women are also included in this. Women are out fighting this war, too. So, make of that what you will. Fact is, we seem to be in a period of heavy turmoil, where there isn’t too much time for majority of those involved in the war, the economic whatever…to have any free time to adequately devote to made-up shit. People need to live and fight and survive, and fiction just doesn’t cut that mustard; fiction—good fiction—is reflective and subtle. Imaginative, and while it can lend to helping some or much of today’s ills, it’s not an immediate player in the current Weltanschauung. When you have to feed yourself, or fight off others trying to kill your ass, your priorities kinda change. I’d noted that in the years after WWII that there seemed to be a period of comedies and musicals. People tried to reset their mindsets. I don’t see that we’re there yet, and with this thing in Syria brewing, good God, when the hell will it ever end? Do we need to blow ourselves up to reboot the Human Genome?

So, don’t be so hasty to assign the low-hanging fruit to the cause of declining readership—or anything else. There are so many factors involved. But all of these factors—all of them—are dependent on each and every one of us. We make our lives on the decisions we make. By allowing the BCRs to run the world. By choosing to watch and read what we watch and read. By picking and choosing our beliefs. Our thoughts. If we want to effect change, it all begins in our minds. There really isn’t any other way to do it. You conceive of something, then you either chose to carry it out or not.

It’s your choice.

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About fpdorchak

Paranormal fiction author.
This entry was posted in Art, Metaphysical, To Be Human, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Fiction and the World—Take A Good, Hard Look at Yourselves!

  1. jpon says:

    Wonderful post, Frank, and not just because you mentioned my blog 🙂 There’s volumes and volumes out there about what’s wrong with fiction, society, the economy, etc., but sometimes it’s helpful to go back to the basics. Here’s how I look at it, in a very simplified, single-statement way: The intentions of the founders of our democracy and economic model have been warped in the last century or so. The idea of democracy has been subverted from representative government to “everyone’s opinion counts, no matter how uninformed” (which of course is chaos). Capitalism has changed from creating opportunity for affluence for the many to uncontrolled greed for the few. Put all that together and you get what we got in literature, TV, movies, commerce: almost everything is designed for the mass market and there is little attention paid to quality. It works because accompanying every piece of schlock, every sentimental book, is the idea that the mass market’s opinions about art, science, philosophy, etc are correct because there’s simply more of those people. Bullshit.

    Me? I would rather see a meritocracy. Some people just have more education, talent and integrity. We should listen to them. Not always fair, but sure better than turning our culture and economy over to the stupid and greedy. Read the late Tony Judt.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thanks, Joe. It’s very weird out there, and, more and more I’m missing the old indie bookstores we used to have in this town. Today, I stopped in B&N, and, pardon the slamming of B&N, but you’re just not like the indie stores! I’d asked a gent at the Info Counter how the Nook version of my book could make it’s way into their main store, and he started off by saying, it’s all based on sales. When he said that, I seemed to remember something about that, as in perhaps if your Nook sold well, you could find access to your book in their brick-and-mortar stores. Anyway, he then asked me for the ISBN, so I handed him a copy of the book, flipped to the back for the dual ISBNs. My paperback trade edition. This is where things got interesting. He simply grabbed the book, back side up with the ISBNs on it, and input one into his system. Two things came out of this: 1), he never bothered to look at the book, not flip it over or anything—just handed it back to me, as in you see one book, you’ve seen them all, and 2) his system couldn’t even find my book!

      {Insert expletives here}

      {do so, again}

      Really, a BOOKSTORE employee not the LEAST bit interested in a book handed to them?! WTF, B&N? Dude? When I went to an indie-that-exists-no-more with my Sleepwalkers novel, they actually took it on consignment. Asked me about it, looked at the damned thing. This B&N employee couldn’t be frigging bothered.

      And whatdoyamean you can’t find it in your frigging BARNESANDNOBLE COMPUTER SYSTEM?

      I loaded the damned book into the Nook store myself. You mean to tell me your two systems don’t talk to each other? Share data? This IS Barnes & Noble, right? Okay, I know they split off the Nook biz, but for crying out loud, if it’s in the NOOK system, why the heck wouldn’t it be in their other system? Oh, I get it, it’s because it’s not SELLING MILLIONS. Or something else (“based on sales”), but the point is there shouldn’t BE “something else” preventing access to this book at this company. It shouldn’t be “based on sales,” it should be, wow, interesting book—local author?—in a techie heavy city, military all around this place (ERO can be described as military fiction, but it’s so much more than that, a love story, conspiracy story, a story abut Humanity); wow, NEAT COVER, wow, tell me some more about the story—what, you’ve included aspects of your own life in and out of the military into the story? How cool, sure, let me pull a couple copies and see what we can do….

      Oh, the humanity.

      And, yeah, it IS your presence in this post that makes it “good”! ;-] Thanks for stopping by!

      • fpdorchak says:

        Apparently…I was a little wound up, above. It was more being sarcastic than angry. I’m fine. Really. :-]

      • jpon says:

        Quite a story. Not surprising but certainly infuriating. Maybe there was an explanation for why the guy didn’t take an interest in ERO. I mean just because he worked in a bookstore doesn’t mean he could read. Situations like that though, I usually go for the droid’s manager and make him/her explain the logic of their policies. It may not get me anywhere, but I do enjoy seeing their faces screw up as they realize the bullshit they’re babbling.

        • fpdorchak says:

          I thought of the same thing, after leaving. Job insecurity, layoffs, overworked and underpaid, anything. I do tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. It was just weird….

  2. Karen Duvall says:

    Hey, Frank. I agree with you about the quality of fiction available isn’t what it used to be. I’m frequently deleting books off my Kindle after reading only the first few chapters. They don’t hold my interest and the craft isn’t there. Thank goodness for writers organizations like Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Pikes Peak Writers because they focus on education to help lessen the instance of poorly crafted novels.

    • fpdorchak says:

      I’m still “walking off” my above comment…. ;-]

      Yes, it is a good thing (I feel like Anthony, from the Twilight Zone’s [TZ] “It’s a Good Life”…) for PPW and RMFW, helping fight poor writing! A good thing, indeed (sorry, couldn’t help myself; keeping the TZ M.O.), Karen! All we can do is what we’re doing. Write good material, get it out there, promote it as we can, and write some more. Word-of-mouth each others’ work, then start it over again!

  3. I like Nathan Bransford. Spoke with him at PPWC a few years back. I think he is right about the sophistication of our reading habits. Technology is getting ahead of our brains’ adjustment to it. We have unhealthy expectations that we do everything quicker and quicker and that we should multi-task (both switch-task and simul-task). Our resulting issues with concentration/focus creat a demand for fun, light novels that require little thought and little buy in. Sadly.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Yup, I met and talked with Nathan as well, when he was an agent. I remember him being so impressed that I’d pitched him from memory and never looked down to and notes or anything. I thought that so weird! But, I felt he was a nice, neat, guy, and that seems to continue to be the case. And I do agree with that…but it seems to me that that’s only partly the answer. If there’s nothing better being PUT OUT THERE, then that’s the ONLY selection! We need better material to be selected from! But it’s a vicious cycle, from all that’s been discussed, above. I firmly believe “you” (and by “you” I mean “them”) can sell ANYTHING. People are not stupid…they’re just being DUMBED DOWN. Who doesn’t like eye candy and sex, but there’s more to life than that. I believe the average person CAN think deep thoughts and (key point here…) UNDERSTAND same! If you write well enough, you should be able to make your points, however complex, understandable. Heck, I’m also a tech writer, I KNOW this to be true! And there’s nothing wrong with fun, light novels! I’m just saying there’s room for more! They CAN sell! Give people some credit, for Pete’s sake!

      I’m gonna go grab a coffee. I’m not spun up enough….

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