On Prejudice and Bigotry in Fiction

In today’s Journal

* On Prejudice and Bigotry in Fiction
* Please Remember
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

On Prejudice and Bigotry in Fiction

This is another post I wanted to put out before I switch over to The New Daily Journal on June 1. I’m sure we each have our own thoughts on this topic. What follows are mine.

A lot has been said about sensitivity readers. In my opinion, that’s all BS, primarily because they cast a wide, all-encompassing net. They look for words, not context or meaning.

I’m my own sensitivity reader. I allow my characters to say whatever’s on their mind and act however they act. I don’t make them do anything, much less walk on eggshells.

But neither, as a writer, do I allow my personal opinions on anything to intrude on the story.

I mentioned recently that I’m copyediting again. More on that in a moment. That said, this post was not predicated by any recent copyedits, and this is not an advertisment for my services.

The catalyst for this post was a comment in a recent email newsletter from a person I have respected and even admired for several months. As I read the newletter, that respect and admiration came to a screeching full stop.

In the newsletter the writer was talking about the ability to say No. Several paragraphs in, he said that mastering the art of “No” gives you “leverage,” even if you’re “dealing with some snotty Karen.”

I stopped reading and unsubscribed. My time is far too precious and life is far too short to waste any of it reading such small-minded, inconsiderate tripe.

Had he written “some snotty person (or man or woman)” I wouldn’t have stopped reading or unsubcribed. But these days, some small-minded idiots have adopted the name “Karen” to mean something demeaning. The practice is as pathetic and assinine as any other racial or social slur.

As you know, the first amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech. Thing is, it does not guarantee an audience.

Which brings me back to one particular aspect of my copyediting service: I won’t “sensitivity read” for any other writer. As Ben Johnson said with a shake of his head in a western movie one time, “Not my department.”

If you visit my page on Copyediting and read it, you’ll find this statement under “Please Read These Notes”:

5. ” I reserve the right to reject any job or any manuscript at any time for any reason.”

One of the reasons I will reject a job is bigotry or prejudice on the part of the Narrator or Author.

As I alluded to at the beginning, Characters are different. If a character is ignorant, bigoted, or prejudiced enough to refer to someone as a naturally subservient “Aunt Jemima” or a “snotty Karen” or any other equally demeaning racial, ethnic, or social slur that’s fine.

I can work with that, because unlike “real” human beings, characters tend to grow out of their foolishness and learn from their mistakes in judgement. It’s called a character arc. Either that or they’re killed off, which is also fine. Pity we can’t visit the same judgement on their real-life counterparts.

But if the Author or Narrator uses any of those terms, I will reject the manuscript outright. Yes, even if the term is deemed socially acceptable by the vocal minority who believe it is their right to tell the rest of us what we are allowed to think.

If I’ve already started the edit in good faith, I’ll stop, refund the writer’s payment (pro-rated against what I’ve already edited), and return the manuscript without further comment.

I don’t need the money that badly, and frankly, bigots and other hate-mongers don’t deserve my time or attention. Besides, I’d rather go hungry. At least hunger leaves a cleaner taste in my mouth.

I’ve also learned that pretty much any generalization is fatally flawed, and many of them ludicrously so.

Author Rober E. Howard, the pulp writer (1906 -1936), who is regarded as the “father of the sword and sorcery subgenre,” wrote via his character, Conan the Barbarian, “There’s scum and scuts in every folk and nation.”

It should go without saying that the reverse is also true: There are also heros, heroines, and other good people in every folk and nation. They are the ones who sleep peacefully instead of lying awake thinking up ways to shock, annoy, and harrass the hell out of everyone else.

I especially shouldn’t have to tell writers and philosophers that. Hatred and division—racial, social, or otherwise—is never beneficial.

Any intelligent writer who is disciplined enough, skilled enough, and hungry enough for knowlege to continually put new words on the page should have grown beyond such ridiculous issues as prejudice and bigotry.

Barring that, the writer should at least know enough about his potential audience not to sabotage his own work by allowing those prejudices to leak into it. If he does, sometimes readers will unsubscribe from his newsletters and stop looking for his fiction.

Of course, to each his or her own. You can act on this advice or not. But the only way to subdue unreasoning hatred is to not display it yourself.

Please Remember

the Journal will be free for only a couple more days.

To keep receiving the Journal after May 31, I’m asking free subscribers to subscribe now with either a recurring donation of $3 per month or at least $36 per year. In doing so, each subscriber is paying me 5 cents per hour to keep the Journal coming.

If you’re looking to learn more about writing fiction, I recommend remaining subscribed to the Journal. After May 31, free subscribers will receive the Journal only occasionally.

If you aren’t looking to write fiction, you can remain a free subscriber if you want, but also take a look at the Stanbrough Writes substack. In that one, I publish a free short story every week, usually on Friday.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Looks like The Passive Voice is gone permanently. Google says they are not allowed to list a description of the page. A search on Bing provided the same results.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1030

Writing of When the Owl Calls (novel)

Day 1…… 1884 words. To date…… 1884
Day 2…… 3699 words. To date…… 5583
Day 3…… 2086 words. To date…… 7669
Day 4…… 3167 words. To date…… 10836
Day 5…… 4011 words. To date…… 14847
Day 6…… 1724 words. To date…… 16571

Fiction for May…………………….….… 33801
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 337586
Fiction since October 1………………… 640643
Nonfiction for May……………………… 28220
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 182560
2024 consumable words……………… 520146

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

8 thoughts on “On Prejudice and Bigotry in Fiction”

  1. I too miss pv’s web site. The web site domain registration expires in February 2025. I located his wife’s author web site and FB page, but as far as I can see, there is no mention of pv’s site – which doesn’t surprise me. I’m wondering if I should send an email to inquire.

    I still think pv is having problems with the page scrapers (in England, if I recall) and copyright trolls. He did make mention that he had dealt with their claims, but I’m wondering if they returned with a vengeance. If that’s the case, we won’t see his site until he has properly destroyed their claims, I’m sure.

    • If you do contact her (couldn’t hurt) and if you get a response, please let us know what you find out, Peter. Maybe let her know a lot of folks are wondering whether he’s okay.

      • My concern is that perhaps some illness, accident, or worse has befallen pv, and I sincerely hope that is not the case.

          • The web site email box was limited to 180 characters, but my inquiry has been sent. I’m not optimistic, however. The last blog post was November 2021. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

  2. Harvey, there’s been no response to date. I suspect the contact emails go directly into the Feedback folder, which probably never gets checked. If something turns up, I’ll post it.

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