Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Do the Arts Have A Responsibility to Be Contrarian?

I'm plotting the third book in my upcoming UF series and--with seven books planned--each book has to deal with a piece of the Save the World series-plot. When I started writing this series, the real-world was in a different place The USA was doing comparatively well domestically. The popular vision was of an equalist society and was encouraging innovations to fling us out of well-entrenched, decaying ruts. Globally, we'd made a few missteps but we still had the respect of other nations caught in the same struggles we were.

I'd started writing these books when the arts had the luxury of being dark.

A bit of an odd statement, I realize, but one that is on my mind. There is no doubt that the current state of affairs is of unrest. Regression, polarization, subjugation, and application of corporate greed superseding the survival of the community. Every day ignorance is touted as might and as right; it is replacing facts and critical thinking. The USA is lead by a man whom most of the world considers a charlatan and a buffoon, a man who goes to no great lengths to prove his callow nescience on a daily basis. Our leading political parties are so entangled in their Faustian deals that national prosperity doesn't enter the discussion. Sweeping powers of governance are being returned to the States and the States are soon to discover that with more independence comes less Federal support--including funding. The Constitution is without teeth and setting dangerous precedents. In short, we are living in a time of burgeoning crisis, a crisis that will far outlast the politicians and media who enabled it.

In my little microcosm, I wonder if--as an author--I have an obligation to be a contrarian to reality. When I consider the plot of the overarching series, I wonder if, perhaps, the struggle should lead to the idealistic payoff. That the good guys should win. All of them. Frankly, a year ago, they weren't going to. I was gleefully conniving to be the Debbie-downer. The almost-made-it crushing disappointment being the big final twist. The Grand Sacrifice breaking hearts as it reflected the ugly truth that sometimes the good guys lose. But now, as I look around, I wonder if now is really the time to add to the disillusionment? What is the point of escapism if you can't fully escape? Don't I want my readers to feel better--if even for a moment--when they finish the series? Do they really need the reminder that life is a bitch, right now? When times are good, it's sometimes necessary to throw the caution flag into the Universe. But when times are shit, shouldn't it be hope that I contribute?

When the real world is a dystopia, do the arts have a responsibility to be uplifting?

That is what is on my mind this week.


  1. I've had thoughts of a similar nature. I have no answers, only that curiosity that pushes us to explore things -- the fun things and the unpleasant things -- in order to understand them better in order to write about them with clarity and conviction. And yet other stories hold my time obligations, therefore pushing these curiosities farther away. (: I was in the audience of a panel once, years ago, when Gordon Van Gelder who was then editor for Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine, was asked if he had ever studied what trends he could identify in publishing that followed politics. His reply was pretty much that when republicans are in office horror sells better. Our favorite book monster hunters wouldn't survive book 1 if facing the foe of book 10. They build up to that level of fear-facing. So perhaps folks look for something scarier in the pages to make reality look less terrifying. ???

    1. Oooo. Glad to know you're pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky, erm, Linda. I love that Van Gelder posited that horror sells better when Republicans are at the helm. It opens a whole basket of questions about consumers feeling so safe they need a fictional monster for the thrill or do they feel so threatened that need a singular personification of that fear to better cope? Oh so many things to distract me from actually writing this book. :D

    2. Plotting the arc of a five book series and going down the exact same synaptic pathway. How shell shocked are we? Can I sacrifice a few heroes in the name of winning at any cost? Or do I need to bolster morale in some small way? Even if it's just my own. Regardless. I think my bad guys, who are stand ins for the current 'administration', just bought themselves a MUCH messier death.

    3. All hail the messy death of villains!