Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by polymath » September 22nd, 2010, 8:46 pm

Margo wrote:
polymath wrote:For instance, a race of bug-eyed, flesh devouring, mind and soul sucking bipedal aliens attacks Phoenix, Arizona as a complication to be addressed.
Soooo.....the new immigration law would probably cover those types of aliens, too, huh? Species profiling all the way.

Completely beside the point you were making, but the only one I have the brain-power to contemplate right now.
Fascinating how narratives tend to reflect what's going on in current events no matter how deeply subtended. I guess some of it comes from the subconscious. I imagine no matter how high-minded Upton Sinclair was when he wrote The Jungle the visceral impact was running hard in his back mind. I'm thinking the ideal would be to realize subconscious contributions and bring them into the foreground so they're pulling in the same direction as conscious creative vision. That to my thinking is a noteworthy task for developmental editors.
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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 23rd, 2010, 1:18 am

I completely missed this thread this week. I'm not sure how I managed that.

Here's the post I made about Speak that was mentioned above: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2215 I'm so crazy about this whole thing. I also posted about it on my blog.

This is such a complicated topic. What I want to say is yes, authors need to have a message, they should write to the greater good and tell a story worth telling. I don't want to see authors writing about weak girls who have nothing in their lives beyond pleasing their boyfriend. I don't want to see girl characters accepting of abusive relationships because the bad boy thing somehow makes him choosing the girl more passionate when all it really does it teach girls abuse is ok so long as the boy is super hot. I don't want to see mean girls winning in the end. I don't want to see the malevolent force of the novel get away without consequence.

But I don't think authors have a responsibility to their readers to do these things. I want to believe that the responsibility of the author is only to tell a well written, honest, compelling story, but that in doing so they will create great characters that don't teach bad behavior and will provide a message we can all understand and relate to. But what we take away from the story is on the shoulders of the reader, not the responsibility of the author.

As readers I think we bring our own agenda to every book we read. When a theme is important to us, we notice when it is lacking. As evidenced by my post about Speak, I'm a big advocate that you cannot push your beliefs on anyone else and that everyone should be allowed to decide what to believe in for themselves. So this is a theme that stands out to me in books and when I see a character bow under the weight of another character's will and the message that this is ok, I get angry.

See? Complicated, and I'm rambling. All the comments I've seen so far are so smart and so thought provoking. I love hearing all these different point of views. I need to think some more and come back with more ideas on the subject when it's not after midnight.
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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by Mira » September 24th, 2010, 12:52 am

polymath - yes, I think alot of writing is from the unconscious - and when it comes from that, it's more powerful and real.

Sommer, I was hoping you'd weigh in. :) And one thing I learned from posting this is that this topic is more complicated than I thought when I posted it - just a few short days ago.

I have to say - I really like you guys who post on Nathan's forum. Smart, intelligent, interesting bunch of people. I really enjoy talking these things over with everyone. :)

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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by arbraun » September 26th, 2010, 8:57 am

I think if people are so disturbed that they'll commit a violent crime, they'll do it anyway, whether they read a horror or bizarro novel or not. I've been a fan of horror since I was five, and I'm not a criminal. It's cathartic to me, actually makes me less hostile.

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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 26th, 2010, 3:40 pm

I knew I had written about this subject before somewhere on my blog, so I searched back and found I posted about it in relation to Twilight and Stephanie Meyer back in November 2009. I'll link to the post here if you're interested, it's a little long and not all of it addresses this subject so I cut a few paragraphs to post here. This wasn't a review of the series (I've read it, but didn't really care for it) it was a discussion about what responsibility an author has to her readers and whether or not bestselling authors have more to answer for than other lesser read authors. This isn't a Twilight dissing post, I just use some popular arguments against the books to discuss our expectations as critical readers.

November 30, 2009: Twilight is making me crazy
I’ve noticed a curious number of blog personalities have started coming forward with their disquiet about Twilight and the very strange state of American consciousness that it has unearthed and shone a giant Hollywood spotlight on. And I believe that most of them were never intended by author Stephanie Meyer, and I really do believe that she sat down to write Twilight and the other books with the simple intention of writing an engrossing, fun, flirty book about the power of love to make us do stupid things and also how stupid we are as high schoolers and, you know, how stupid we continue to be as adults when it comes to love. I believe that she wanted to braid a modern high school crush-mance into the old chivalry romances of Jane Austen and all the crazy people and decisions that go along with it. I strongly believe that she wanted to tap into the female desire to be saved by someone who loves us more than anything, and also to be loved more than anything by someone who, for all intents and purposes shouldn’t be choosing us. But does.

That being said, it has done a lot more, and whether she intended it or not, it happened. I think there’s a discussion there about an author’s responsibility, but at the same time, it is not an author’s responsibly to write anything more than the story they intend to write. It is unfortunate and somewhat complicated that, in this case, Stephanie Meyer has created what equates to the modeling/advertising business of selling too thin, photoshopped bodies of perceived beauty that cannot possibly be achieved to a throng of desperate girls willing to try anyway.

Here’s what I have noticed. (These points of interest are longer on my blog post, I'm cutting them down here because this isn't a discussion about Twilight.)

1. I am not the only person that has a growing “ick” factor over the whole 107 year old man with a 16 year old girl thing. It’s still not ok for any adult man to stalk young girls, even if he’s really pretty. That being said, it is a story about vampires and if this were any other vampire novel currently in print, no one would think twice about this fact. But because it’s become the yard stick by which too many girls, young and old alike, are pinning their quickly changing code of beliefs over what is ok, and what isn’t, it all gets so messy. It IS just a vampire story.

4. ....The fact that Edward can’t read Bella’s mind, and that nothing drives her with any great enthusiasm except Edward himself, makes me wonder if Bella is actually just an empty shell of a girl, with no thoughts to read. I don’t know, Stephanie was probably trying to make her an “Every girl” and not an “Empty girl” but all I can seem to feel is that Bella was a wasted opportunity to give girls a great role model instead of just a role filler even if Stephanie Meyer has no responsibility to give us a role model. This, if nothing else, begs us, as writers, to give our characters substance and stop trying to create cover models with their heads chopped off that all readers can magic themselves into. But this is more an author's responsibility to her characters, not to her readers.

5. Argh. This number gives me a headache every time I try to write about it. The relationship between Edward and Bella is so freaky, dependent, addictive, and obsessive that it scares the crap out of me. I don’t want young girls to think that throwing away friends, family, interests and being completely dependent on one person is ok. It’s not! And the excuses Bella uses for all of her wounds and bruises and trips to the hospital sound frighteningly like the excuses used by victims of domestic violence. It’s confusing, because like I said, I doubt Stephanie Meyer meant to make her characters into role models, but…now that they are, what do we do about it? And is this something only bestselling authors have to answer to? Because I don't see anyone spending as much time worrying about what other authors are writing about as we do on Stephanie Meyer. If she hadn't sold so well, would any of this be a problem?
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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by eight cuts gallery » September 26th, 2010, 4:48 pm

This is a fascinating topic. I sit in two very different camps on it. On the one hand, as coordinator of a writers' collective, I sometimes have to tell people not to post things, because as a group we have a responsibility to our other members not to endanger them by what we write in, as it were, someone else's name.

On the other hand, as an individual writer I have to support the freedom to say anything and not worry, or even necessarily think, about how it's used. This came up in the context of the writing of one of the first writers I'm publishing at eight cuts gallery press, Cody James ( For Cody, like me, writing is confessional. Not cathartic, but about telling the truth (not in an autobiographical sense), about telling our personal truth in as faithful a way as possible. Thsi has brought her criticism on a number of occasions, most notably when she writes about suicide (Cody has attempted suicide four times, thankfully unsuccessfully, and writing about it is the only thing, as she puts it, that keeps her alive at all).

What bothers me when people criticise Cody and others is that it is so easy to back up the "don't say it" argument with statistics. And that makes the case seem so much more compelling, yet although we can measure those who have killed themselves and have had contact with "suspect" material, what is impossible to measure is the lives of those who have been saved by being able to read the truth as Cody sees it, who are able to know they are not alone.

And this for me is the crux of it - the calls for censorship always tend to outweigh those against it because they have something concrete to point to - yet what those who want to be able to speak out have to point to is essentially immeasurable, so those who speak will always end up taking the flak ahead of those who do not speak.

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Re: Social responsiblity (the greater good) and the author

Post by Guardian » October 1st, 2010, 10:33 pm

Personally I also experienced and faced with this "message" dilemma once... this was the conversation.

- Why did you add a message into your story?
- Maybe because I wanted to?
- You can't do that.
- Why not?
- Because it's not your job.

Ahem... then whose job is it? Personally I believe it's mine, because everything what I write is running under my name and everything what I write down and publish via official or non-official channels, is my responsibility.
Mira wrote:I think there is a viewpoint that it's the story that is important: An author shouldn't have a message, other than relaying the story and letting the story tell its tale. I think this is a sort-of moral stance that the Story (and the truth is conveys) trumps all.
Usually those ones are used to say this; don't tell anyone a message, whose are fearing their own power, while they're using their own power to control others. Or second option, those who don't have a single original thought, just following others blindly. If you have a message, add it to your WIP (Of course, try to do not insult anyone. That's not a good thing. But if you have a thought, add it bravely.). The problem in the 21st century that some business people and the people in power wants to control every sector and they want to shape the opinion of the people. Now this influence reached the writer sector too, because some people are saying this. But writing is and always was about freedom.
For me, I think that the author who is putting their work out in public incurs a social responsibility. People will read our words and be influenced by them.
That's what some people don't want you to do. To influence them. Why? Because if you, me, or others, i.e. a single writer can influence others with your writing, like if we would be the one man army, that's a huge defeat for them, while they're spending millions for propaganda to shape the thoughts of the people. If you have a different thought, a different message, it's bad, because it's not mainstream.It's one of the greatest social illness in the 21st century, that you can't have your own thought, because if you have, you're a bad man. If you're telling that opinion to the public, you're evil.
I think that writing should be used to do many things: to enhance the culture; to improve the human condition; to help people grow in a positive way; to help people face challenges; to entertain in a way that refreshes; to inspire.
Exactly. Writing is giving inspirations via words and thoughts. But if you can't give inspiration, what you get? An empty, boring shell.
But to publish them, without any thought to consequences, and without revision, is quite another. I absolutely think there is value in uncovering the hidden and the dark, but I think there are ways to do it that are more socially responsible than other ways. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. But personally I'm gladly taking any responsibility and the consequences of my works. And if it's ever going to happen that the industry is not willing to publish one of my works because I have a unique free thought, or a non-mainstream message, which is not hurting anyone, but it's not good because it's a message, then I'm going to put that work up onto the net and spread that work for free, surrounded by a pretty good advertisement campaign. Then we can see who is going to win the "message" battle. :)

In 2002, a Russian Author, Dmitry Glukhovsky made a nice interactive experiment with his novel, Metro 2033 on this way and it's became a national bestseller in Russia. M2033 is holding some interesting thoughts which was presumably the opposite what the Russian publishing houses wanted to see, or maybe the writing style of the guy was different what they wanted. The essence is, the author solved the publishing on this way to keep his work intact and original. It's became a pretty famous sci-fi novel.
Tiger brought up some good points about political correctness, politeness and current social agendas. That's not my meaning when I say: socially responsible.
Political correctness is one of the worst invention of mankind in the 21st century. It's the correct phrase for... take your head into the sand and don't dare to tell those mistakes what you realized in the system (Be it any sort of system.). Unfortunately in this century taking responsibility for anything is not a leading element in people and most of the people are very sensitive for personal opinions. If you're not taking social responsibility, you're the king, if you're taking social responsibility, you're a bad man.

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