By now you've doubtless read this article from Vulture, or had the opportunity to. If you haven't, the short version (of the article - I can't really swear to its veracity) is that the YA Twittersphere has become a particularly feculent swamp of ultra-liberal orthodoxy punctuated by occasional witch hunts. Per this article (again, I'm not really reporting from experience) a certain breed of YA writers and readers have taken to eating their own, attempting to ban books which deal with issues of social justice before even reading them.
I'm not going to weigh in on the particular concerns of this article. Obviously, if true, it's concerning. If you're the type of person who watches "Star Wars" and thinks that George Lucas is an advocate of blowing up planets because one of his characters did so, you're obviously missing the point. But this article also raises a number of specters which I do feel qualified to address.
In the wake of the nightmare of Trump's election a lot of political commentators made hay out of the idea that this was the fault of liberals. In short, that what conservatives call "Social Justice Warriors" had become so demented in their pursuit of insane goals that they had essentially pushed correct-thinking people into the arms of the Trumps of the world by default.
It hardly needs to be said that this is a specious argument, but, all right, I'll say it. If the concern is that there is a left-right political division in this country, and the kooks on the far left have made liberalism a toxic brand, what of the kooks on the right? Am I to judge the average center-right Midwest voter in this country on every statement made by Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, or the nut jobs who threaten to rape every woman on Twitter for speaking her mind? My point is, if Democrats have an SJW infestation that pushed independents into the arms of Trump, it's equally valid to say the right has a Rabid Puppy problem that pushed independents into the arms of Clinton.
All that is nonsense. But it's equally nonsensical to argue that there are not liberal kooks out there. Yes, there were people who didn't understand how economics work and thought Obama was just going to give them free welfare. Yes, there are people who think every white male is a rapist. Yes, every insane-sounding, negative accusation against liberalism that Fox News or the current (ugh) president has made has manifested itself in a few people. In a country of a third of a billion I'd be more surprised if it didn't.
I, personally, have a very complicated relationship with liberalism, progressivism, and the Democratic Party. I consider myself none of those. I am very much a leftist, which is how I usually describe myself in polite conversation, though I have no objections to socialist or even communist if that's what you prefer. I've always thought of myself as militantly leftist, which leaves it hard for me to find common ground with the keyboard jockeys and hippies that make up a great deal of what we call the left in this country, despite our common (to an extent) cause. I'm also a pragmatist, which leads me to my ultimate miserable condition of accepting that anything that turns this country, gradual though it may be, a tick to the left is desirable. And so I find myself voting with the hippies and the SJWs, repulsive though I may occasionally find their behavior. Much in the same way I imagine that every intelligent, conscientious conservative in this country finds him or herself making common cause with redneck mouthbreathers and Klansmen.
The solution a certain segment of people take great pride in is declaring a pox on both our houses, and pretending like one side saying "Murder All Kittens" is exactly as extreme and crazed as the other side saying ,"Don't Murder Any Kittens." I think these extreme moderates (if that's the right word for them) are just as guilty as the evil party for enabling them with their false equivalencies. (In case you missed it, those were the types I was skewering with the White factions in EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED.) And to be clear here, yes, the evil party is the conservatives. Pretending otherwise in the last twenty-odd years is an exercise in self-delusion. It means pretending that Obama is exactly as terrible as Trump, that Clinton is exactly as terrible as George W. Bush, and that Kennedy is exactly as terrible as Richard Nixon. One party has given us decades of misrule and the other has given us decades of flawed, but pragmatic governance. Shrugging and calling the two equal is the same as saying "I guess murdering 50% of all kittens is just how things are now."
During my interview on The Horror Show a few weeks ago, Brian described me as "woke" which is not how I would describe myself, but all things being equal, a fair assessment. I have to say one thing for the extremities of the SJW Twittersphere: I think the introduction of the term "white privilege" will be remembered as one of the most potent teachable moments in the last fifty or a hundred years of race relations. It certainly helped me to understand a worldview I didn't even understand I was missing. (Conversely, I think "microaggressions" will be remembered more as a dead cul-de-sac of learning. But I digress.)
I'm happy to be described as "woke" if it means conscientious, not perfect, but attempting to be a good ally and a good citizen. Brian went on to ask if I was worried about attacks from Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies since my latest novel, THE HEMATOPHAGES, featuring a deliberately all-female cast. I answered that I had considered that, but cared very little. In truth I was more worried about upsetting the SJWs (much as I loathe that term, for all its dismissiveness towards actual conscientiousness) for not being "woke" enough. I was concerned that there would be blowback that I hadn't written my female characters whatever enough for the particular concerns of whoever. There's something scary about being eaten by your own, about becoming the witch at the center of a hunt by your peers.
I'd be happy, you see, to have scorn heaped upon me by Vox Day, Alex Jones, the infantile (ugh) president or any other right-leaning son of a bitch who wants to come at me. Hell, I'd wear it as a badge of honor. I'd probably put it in my blurbs. "Kozeniewski is a leftist piece of shit" - Ted Cruz Right next to the outpourings of support from my favorite authors and filmmakers.
But one of my own attacks me? One says I'm not "woke" enough? Says I'm not a good enough leftist? Says I'm a faker, one who doesn't deserve to make common cause with them? That would hurt. That would cut deep. That would cut at my identity. A lot like I imagine it would for the YA writers who find themselves on the outskirts. Just a thought.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)