A few months ago Queer Sci Fi ran a discussion about whether the turbulent, ugly political clime had changed our reading and writing habits. At the time I thought, ‘no, not really’ and didn’t take part. However, I keep track of my reading for various reading challenges. Hell, if I were as meticulous about the rest of my life as I am about that reading list, my house would be on Better Homes & Gardens and my novels would be plotted to perfection.
When I looked over it, I realized I had subtly changed my reading habits. I’ve always read more mysteries than anything else but this year that’s almost all I’ve read. As of me writing this, I’ve read 102 book (including manga) and less than a dozen have been YA or fantasy. That was a bit shocking but I thought no more about it.
Then I started reading Seraphina for the Popsugar Challenge read a book recommended by a favorite author. It’s an interesting fantasy with a strong female lead and I set it aside half way through (or maybe a bit earlier than that). It was blatantly about racial intolerance (and one would assume defeating the evil of it but there’s no guarantee). In this case human vs dragon but the implications were obvious and I couldn’t escape thinking ‘if I wanted to be immersed in that, I can turn on the news.’ I just couldn’t finish it. There might have been a happy ending or relatively so but I couldn’t make myself read it.
I meant to write this post then but life intervened. I got busy. And more horrible shit has happened in the world. Two weeks ago I started another YA fantasy, Julia Vanishes. Like Seraphina, it’s an interesting world with a strong female lead…and the story is becoming the loss of freedoms and rights, the turning away/attacking of immigrants as the leadership becomes a theocracy and women are bearing the brunt of it. Yeah, no, I just can’t. Maybe at another time I could read this but right now with Trump and his bullshit, I simply can’t heap fictional misery upon real life.
Now, I know some authors need to use their writing as an outlet for this stuff, to work through their own feelings. In theory in far less turbulent times, I did write one novel where the bad guys were trying to erode the rights of women and homosexuals (about 13 years ago now) but it didn’t work well. I had another which was about racial intolerance before I gave it up. I lost the heart to do it. One of my potential nanos would have featured a new but growing intolerant religion but nope, I just cannot do it. That one is for after nano (maybe for camp next spring) when I can replot the villains.
So I was wrong. I have changed, partially subconsciously. I’ve never really liked dystopias so I thought yeah I haven’t really changed my reading but yes I guess I’ve started avoiding fantasies with sweeping political plots. I think I like mysteries because they’re so small picture, if you will. We’re concentrating on a murder and not the state of the world for the most part. How ironic is it that fictionalized murder is less disturbing to me than fictionalized political/racial strife.