Curmudgeon's Corner, writing

Tickyboxes

written by Sanford Begley

I hate tickyboxes. You all know them, a checklist of things in a book or movie that has to be checked off. In SF, and really most fiction these days, you must fit a set of tickyboxes. You are required to have at least one LGBTWTFBBQ character in a good role, if not the primary it must be very prominent secondary and can have no flaws. At least one black, a few latinos, some indians, and some orientals. If you have a straight white male he must be a villain or really screwed up. If he is screwed up enough he can even be the lead. However, it seems to be more de rigueur that the lead be female. She can be straight, sane and competent, but the guy she loves must be either ineffectual or seriously damaged, and preferably not white. The sole exception to this seems to be if he is a professional and totally uninvolved in anything outside his job.

The sad thing is that even a detective novel, with magic, written in a noir style, seems to be required to hit all those tickyboxes.  I’m reading one like that now, the hero is a straight white male kicked off the Phoenix Police Department because his magic makes him go insane three days a month. Now he could choose medication that keeps him sane, but he couldn’t use the magic that is his birthright if he used the medication, even though the book shows him fighting learning anything but the basics before the book started even though he has had the power for half his life. And he will accept that it will totally destroy his sanity by middle age, as it did his father’s. And the only decent person on the Force was his black lesbian partner. All the senior and white cops hate his guts. All the locals he runs into are screwed up, ethnic, or both. If they are pretty cool people they are definitely ethnic. Oh, and, of course, the big bad guy is Aryan blond.


I got into a major disagreement with a big name author not all that long ago. He is known for fighting for conservative authors and against having to make sure the tickyboxes are checked. I pointed out to him that he hit all the checkboxes and he got a bit miffed. He then proceeded to name characters whom he claimed were straight white males, competent and major. I pointed out that they were not humans at that point in his books. He did mention one, his most beloved, that died a human. Well that was fine, though that character was the archetype master sergeant who trains the new troops and dies gloriously in the big battle. I think John Wayne did it better in Sands of Iwo Jima, but that is taste.

So many books get recommended these days that I start and cannot stand by the end of the first chapter, if not before. If your lesbian heroine has made a name for herself without the inheritance stolen by her brother by virtue of his maleness, and now must save her patriarchal family from the mistakes of the males I am done. If your soldier is fighting the evil corporations because all business is evil, I am done. If your station manager must save the station from attacks by the evil white male mercenaries while her ineffectual male co-workers piss themselves, I am done.

I have no problem with white villains. I have no problem with female heroes. What I do have a problem with is that our society has recently decided that the villain must always be a white male, even in black Haarlem, South Africa, or Japan. I have a problem with the fact that someone with an “alternative sexuality” must always be in the story and cannot be anything but a shining example of what a human can be. Oh yeah, the woman must always be right.

Funny, the number of TV shows where the wife is uber competent and beautiful, and the husband is a fat buffoon all seem to be taken by the left as reality TV, just try to show a competent father and a goofy wife, they would nail you to the wall. People say that you could not make Blazing Saddles today. What is sadder is that you could not make I Love Lucy or The Andy Griffith Show today.

10 thoughts on “Tickyboxes

    1. Actually a couple of those books I don’t remember title or author. At least one of the others I have been repeatedly assured by puppies is not checklist drivel despite having all the earmarks of such in the first chapter, ALL of them. BTW the name author I was in a squabble with? excellent writer with great books, he simply cannot see that he goes for the checkboxes

      1. It may well be subconscious. You read enough PC or message fiction, your subconscious absorbs it as “This is how a story is supposed to be” and it comes out in your own writing. I worry about mine that way.

  1. “You are required to have at least one LGBTWTFBBQ character in a good role, if not the primary it must be very prominent secondary and can have no flaws.”

    But you’re not allowed to have any good, reasonably flawless BRLFQ characters. Or if you do, they must be dead, or have a horrible secret.

    * BRLFQ spells mom and dad. — Bobby Goldsboro

    1. My wife is very emphatic that she’s not Asian, she’s Chinese. 🙂 ( and if the round eyes can’t tell the difference that’s their problem )

  2. as far as the series you are reading, it’s actually a pretty good one. yes, the first book is checkbox complient (something I didn’t notice until you pointed it out), but the series as a whole is not.

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