I find for all that I prefer to follow the rules and color within the lines when it comes to my interaction with other people, I dig in my heels and ask “why?” when I’m told “you must do so-and-so!”
Especially when someone is trying to tell me how to think, how to create. No. My thoughts and dreams are my own. I lived life under someone else’s control for far too long not to know the danger of giving up one’s self and inmost person to the control of another.
My friend the Quilly Mammoth shared a quote, and I picked it up, even though I haven’t read this book (and won’t – I like Sanderson’s work, but will not read the Wheel of Time series again – tried the first book and eeech).
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” ― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
Yes, this. This is the problem I’ve had with what we’ve dubbed message fiction. It’s not that there’s a message, because there is a message in most fiction, even if it is superficial. No, it’s that the message becomes a sermon, and the story a mere vehicle to convey the thoughts you are supposed to think. I want fiction that ignites my imagination, and not fiction that smothers it.
Mostly, I want fiction that conveys hope. We all know we’re not getting out of this alive. Life is a one-way street.
But life doesn’t have to be a dark and rainy street, filled with so much fog you’re lost and wandering aimlessly. Hope lights the way, and joy fills the paths with sunshine even when the going gets rough. This is what a story can bring to us, a firefly glimmer of hope in a dark time. Many good stories become a cloud of fireflies that can light the path all night long.
I’m not saying all books and stories should be relentlessly upbeat – that would be telling others how to think and create – I’m just saying that real storytelling, good storytelling, a Human Wave story: has elements of hope and it doesn’t beat the reader over the head with a clue-by-four insisting that they must think like the author thinks, or else.
Don’t tell me how to think. Don’t give me orders without being prepared to back them up with solid reasons, and that includes all that nasty stuff like facts and data. I’m not about to be swayed by my emotions – that way lies madness, and the rule of the mob. The examples that spring to my mind are the author (blogger? not sure what she/he/it really was) who bade the entire SFF community to ‘put an end to binary gender in fiction.’ Oh, honey, that gag is older than your mother… and no. I’m not going to end the majority of interpersonal human interactions and relationships in my fiction just because you said so. Another slightly less related example is all the go-fund-me drives that pop up on the internet. I support charities on my own time and inclination, and I’m very wary about giving. I’m not going to give to a perfectly healthy adult who just wants money to move to the other side of the country. Work for it, like the rest of us do. Beg for money, and I’m going to take a step back and say ‘why?’ because I’ve learned that too often in six months or a year there will be another begging bowl out from that person to move back to ‘where they were happy.’
This isn’t isolated. There’s the guy who writes for the Guardian who advocates beating people with a club because they won’t agree with him. The guy on twitter who thinks you shouldn’t have to actually, you know, read a work before you review it, or nominate it for an award, or… He’s the same guy who wants everyone to believe that pedophila is a-ok, which makes me more than a little sick to my stomach. The woman who wrote a long article about how authors shouldn’t write too fast, because that can’t possibly be good literature. Take everything with a grain of salt, and step away from it to take time to think. Reacting based on emotions will lead you down the garden path and into the thorns. The cry of the day is ‘we’re all about diversity!’ which is a noble cause, you might think. Surely we want to include anyone who wants to tell a story. Let them in, and who are these nasty people who are keeping the unspecified ‘diverse’ out? But when you take a step back and clear your eyes, you see that the loudest cries for diversity are from the people who want everyone to think like them… and if you don’t think like them, then you are horrible and should die a thousand deaths along with your whole family.
Because some people just can’t be happy. No, not cannot… will not, because it would invalidate their world view. And then these people write their horrible little sermons and preach nihilism and bitterness to us in the form of stories, urging us to drink to the bitter dregs. They might not even see the poison any longer, as lost as they are to the light of happiness and peace. All their being and self-worth is wrapped up in forcing others to be just like them, and hating those who are not like them, and those who are, most horribly, happy.
Be happy even in the midst of struggle and travails. Confusion to the enemy! Don’t let them drag you down, and don’t let anyone tell you how to think and feel.