We know too much about our cherished authors these days.
Time was, we could read a book, enjoy the works of that author, and never know the first thing about their politics or views on the world. We could enjoy a story for the tale it told, and unless someone pointed out that the author was preaching a point, we could go on in blind ignorance that there might be a hidden agenda to the story being told.
These day we aren’t so lucky. Thanks a lot, information super bypass.
Readers demand more of their authors, more presence, more availability, because the tools are so common and easy to come by. What author doesn’t have at least a blog now? Maybe a twitter, or a Facebook fan page, or a google plus account are too much to maintain and remain productive (though at least in the genres I follow, that’s far from the truth). But a blog page? If the author can’t be bothered but the books are popular enough, I’ve seen publisher’s maintain a generic one on their behalf. For that matter, there are a few author twitter accounts that are the same thing.
But despite rumors, authors are people too. And they have opinions. Opinions and thoughts and perceptions and points of view that might not be in agreement with the reader’s own worldview. Where do you draw the line, though, when they are at odds with your own? When does an author cross a line with their personal beliefs that they are so irreconcilable with your own worldview that you can’t continue to read them?
Now, in my original version of this post, I had some examples, but I’ve removed them. Because for every author I can think of that I disagree with in real life on political, social, or scientific grounds (yes, scientific!) but still enjoy their works, there is always another example waiting in the shadows whose perspective and beliefs are so at odds with mine I can see it in their writing ahead of time. Divorcing the writer from the writing, it turns out, isn’t an all or nothing prospect, but a case by case study. At which point you discover that even authors you agree with can write shit, and authors who as individuals you would distance yourself from can still write moving stories.
Which in its own way brings me back to – we know too much about our authors these days. As Barbara Rogan said in a similar blog entry recently,
Then I grew up and went into publishing, and I discovered that writers were regular people with kids and mortgages and bad hair days. They weren’t as witty or clever or daring as their characters; they were smart but otherwise ordinary folk distinguished only by their invisible mastery of a difficult craft.
I have to admit, the conclusion I find myself at isn’t the one I expected. I started to post this because I read a book recently that had a beautiful, awesome, kick me in the ass science fiction concept – but on execution was a poorly constructed set of paper cut-out characters that very much represented the author’s view on society and culture, frankly in a hateful way. I started this blog entry convinced I could make an argument that you can’t divorce the two. What I discovered as I wrote this is that you can.
Thank goodness – there’s hope for me yet.