Several people sent me this article on Facebook yesterday. I supposed I kept getting tagged because everybody knows I’m Mormon and my writing has such a “sunny outlook”. Then I saw a few other Mormon authors making fun of this on Twitter.
At first I just laughed at the article because it is the usual pretentious New York Times piece written by somebody remarkably clueless about the subject (and as a gun rights activist I’m fairly used to that), but the more I thought about this article, the more it pissed me off. It just hit too many of my pet peeve buttons: “you’re not a *real* writer”, academic self-righteous posturing, and cultural/religious ignorance based on stereotypes masquerading as unbiased reporting.
The original article is here.
As usual the original article is in italics and my additional comments are in bold.
Note. I don’t normally post about my religious beliefs on the internet. I am in no way a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, because I really struggle with all those important love and forgiveness parts of the gospel, so anything religious I say after this is strictly from my point of view, hence the casual swearing and complete lack of patience for idiots.
MORMONS OFFER CAUTIONARY LESSON ON SUNNY OUTLOOK VS. LITERARY GREATNESS
BY MARK OPPENHEIMER
The title offers a great look into Mark’s predetermined world view. Normally “cautionary lessons” are learned when somebody fails so badly that their only purpose in life is to serve as an example to others. So our “sunny outlook” has caused us to fail at achieving “literary greatness”. Like most NYT*** articles, we’re going to learn a lot more about the author than their subject.
In 1888, speaking about the possibility of Mormon literature, the church leader Orson F. Whitney made an audacious promise to his fellow Mormons: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” Yet 125 years later, there is no Mormon Milton. There is no Mormon Milosz, no Mormon Munro.
That’s fantastic. 125 years later and we don’t have 3 copies of three dead guys, two of whom are so famous and widely read still that I had to look them up on Wikipedia. But what makes someone a literary great? That’s the big question. Well, Milosz won a Nobel Prize in 1980. And as everybody knows, if it doesn’t win the Nobel Prize it is crap.
Mormons are, on average, better educated than most Americans,
Yep. And we tend to be disproportionately successful in a bunch of different careers as well, but I’ll get back to that.
and they have written popular fiction.
Understatement of the year, but I’ll get to that too.
But Mormon authors tend to cluster in genre fiction, like fantasy, science fiction, and children’s and young adult literature.
You mean we tend to cluster in the areas of fiction that are the most popular and widely read, rather writing *real literature* where we will only be read by a handful of college English classes and have to supplement our income by being a guest lecturer or barista at Starbucks. Go figure.
Orson Scott Card, who wrote “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi novel on which the country’s current top-grossing movie is based, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So is Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series.
Sure, Card is one of the best selling authors of all time, who wrote one of the most pivotal works in sci-fi ever, and who has entertained millions and millions of people over the last three decades, but where’s his Nobel Prize? Huh? Okay, he was probably collecting about fifty grand in royalties a month before the movie, but who cares about success, money, and popularity if some douchenozzle with a PhD doesn’t like you?
Yep. Stephanie Meyer is Mormon too, and though I personally hate her writing style, she’s entertained millions of people. You can’t deny that she is very successful. She sleeps on a giant pile of money inside her house made of gold bars.
In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare — who has, lately? — have all had literary renaissances.
Well, if it isn’t the soft racism of the left rearing its ugly head. Because you know, Jews, blacks, and South Asians are all the same. They are a perfectly homogenous group with no individuality, just like Mormons!
And the fact that he keeps bringing up Shakespeare (the original popular *genre* author) to mock authors who write popular stuff in order to get paid, is very ironic. If Shakespeare was alive today, is anyone stupid enough to think that the guy who specialized in writing entertaining plays for the masses would be writing stuffy, pretentious dreck for what works out to be $3 an hour in the hopes of winning a prestigious literary award? Hell no! We’d all be watching William Shakespeare presents Star Wars vs. The Avengers III: The Jedi Hulkening this summer, and it would be awesome, and the NYT would hate it.
“Ye olde mission statement readest thus, deadlines loom, find they gonads within thy trousers, place thy ass upon the seat, set quil to parchement, and get paid, bitches.”
And Milton? He’s mostly famous for an epic poem involving a civil war with angels and devils and monsters, interdimensional portals, with the devil as the big bad, and on the side he was a snarky political blogger. Oh, and like all writers you’ve actually heard of, he liked getting paid. Maybe in 300 years I’ll be considered a *real* author too.
Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore.
Niche… In most of the country that means the big part of the store where people actually purchase things. Romance and thrillers are *genre*. They’re not *real* writers either. Guess what sells the most? It sure as hell isn’t lit fic unless it ends up on
Oprah’s Book Club or something like that.
Let’s put it this way. I live in a new 4,500 square foot house on a mountainside across from a ski resort paid for by my *genre* writing. My wife doesn’t have to work to support me like most *real* writers. I don’t have to beg for patrons. I don’t have to kiss ass at my local university for a guest lecturer position to make enough that my car won’t get repossessed.
If you want to actually make a living as a writer, you will focus on writing things that people will actually give you money for. If you want to focus on highbrow writing have fun, and yes, I would like fries with that.
Think of it this way, thinking that *real* writing is the correct way to be a writer, is exactly the same as people thinking it is better to go to college for 6 years and getting $200k in debt so you can have a masters in gender studies and then be unemployed and living in your parent’s basement, but still looking down your nose at the debt free guy who makes $30 an hour welding or fixing diesel engines.
And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing.
They have a range of possible explanations.
And now we will hear from somebody a lot nicer than I am.
“It is a fair thing to point out,” said Shannon Hale, a Mormon who writes young adult fiction, “that there have been very prominent Jewish writers that have received a lot of accolades, and worldwide the number of Mormons are comparable to the number of Jews, so why hasn’t that happened?”
I’ve met Shannon. She’s cool. And she does ask a good question why hasn’t that happened? Why haven’t Mormons gotten a lot of accolades?
Serious answer? There are more liberal Jews than there are liberal Mormons, and awards go to whoever checks the correct boxes. If you are an active Mormon you are going to have some fundamental beliefs that go against the establish group think of the literati elites. Now someday they’ll find a disgruntled ex-Mormon that says all the things that makes them happy, who can also coherently string together words into sentences, and he will be showered with awards.
But more importantly, most real writers understand that accolades are fundamentally crap. Accolades don’t pay the bills. Prestigious literary awards mean absolutely nothing except that your book appealed to a one small awards jury, and since most awards juries are circle jerks of like-minded individuals patting themselves on the back about how brilliant they are, who cares?
I get my accolades every six months when I cash my gigantic royalty checks.
Yet, I’m still going to do another Sad Puppies Campaign to get a Hugo because I’m just filled with spite. 🙂
Ms. Hale’s theory is that literary fiction tends to exalt the tragic, or the gloomy,
Or in other words, lit-fic tends to be dreary navel gazing about dying polar bears where nothing interesting actually happens for hundreds of pages, and boring, unlikable people sit around talking about their problems.
while Mormon culture prefers the sunny and optimistic.
Meaning that Mormons aren’t a bunch of whining pansies.
“When I was an English major, then getting a master’s, most of the literary fiction I read was tragedy,” said Ms. Hale, whose “Princess Academy” was a Newbery Honor book. The books she was assigned treated “decline and the ultimate destruction of the human spirit” as necessary ingredients for an honest portrayal of life.
Gee whiz. That sounds like some fun reading! No wonder lit fic is so wildly successful!
But what if Mormons do not think that way?
You mean we tend to actually go and accomplish stuff, rather than whine about it? (or wait for the government to come fix it for us, but that’s a topic for another day).
“I think Mormons tend to have hope and believe in goodness and triumph, and those portrayals can ring false in a literary world,” Ms. Hale said.
Shannon is being very diplomatic in her response. My response would be a little more direct. “Why the hell would anyone want to read dreary, pretentious, wordy bullshit, and why the hell would I want to sit in front of a computer for hundreds of hours to write that?”
If the NYT reporter actually knew jack about his topic, he’d know that Mormon history has been filled with suffering. For not being around very long, we got run out of one state, then run out of another state, and another, freezing and starving the whole time, then our homes were burned by mobs, and it was actually perfectly legal to shoot us on sight, so then we all suffered and died in the worst exodus of the last few hundred years, in order to settle in the most godforsaken bit of country available. Then we worked our asses off and turned a wretched desert into something decent through the power of our industry and the strength of our backs, and then the army invaded us.
Ask any Mormon about the Haun’s Mill Massacre. Ask us about Johnston’s Army. Or Liberty Jail. Our church was founded in hardship, grew in hardship, but we are the definition of will not quit. We stick to our guns, stick to our principles, and now we’re 15 million badasses worth of can do attitude who won’t quit until we feel like it.
My wife is descended from those pioneers. Mormons are still super proud of our pioneer history and learn about it constantly Me? I’m a convert, but I grew up descended from surly, angry, Portuguese dairy farmers, so strangely enough I fit in great.
The reporter seems to like comparing Mormons to Jews. They’ve had a much longer history of suffering. The thing is he’s probably writing this with liberal New Yorker Jews in mind, while Mormon culture is much more in line with Israeli Jews and their “Come at me, bro” attitude. Mark sees it as sunshiny. We see it as roll up your sleeves and get stuff done.
One of our popular hymns says Put your shoulder to the wheel and push along. Do your duty with a heart full of song. We all have work. Let no one shirk. Put your shoulder to the wheel.
Writing as a career means you have to work your butt off and hustle. Mormon culture still takes pride in having a work ethic. Anybody who takes this to heart will succeed in life. It isn’t a Mormon exclusive, and not even all Mormons get it. Mike Rowe gets it. So there’s another reason Mormons succeed in writing…
When Mark uses the word sunshiny it is code for naïve. “Oh, those quaint and foolish Mormons, out there in red state in flyover country, clinging to their guns and religion, with their absurd outdated moral values. If only they could be enlightened, like the people who think exactly like I do.”
Rachel Ann Nunes writes in the romance, paranormal, fantasy and young people’s genres, and she founded LDS Storymakers, an organization for Mormon writers. She said that Mormon theology makes otherworldly and escapist genres natural fits for church members. “We believe that God created a lot of different worlds,” said Ms. Nunes, who also writes under the name Teyla Branton. Jesus Christ came to Earth, and to America, but “atonement stretched for all the worlds,” she said. “It’s natural for us to think that a lot more might be out there.”
There are a ton of Mormon authors. Of course we can have some philosophical explanation for it, or it could just go back to that first bit about how we’re more educated and we like to read more than average. Readers make writers. And the generation of us that is writing genre now also happens to be the generation that grew up with that stuff as our primary reading material.
Of course, many non-Mormon Christians work in genre fiction, too.
No! Really? The NYT is super good at the maths!
J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and C. S. Lewis a devout Anglican; Christian readers are among their biggest fans. Christianity and genre fiction both depend on Manichaean, good-versus-evil plots, and the savior motif, in which an anointed one saves the kingdom or the world, is important to sci-fi and fantasy and central to the Christian Gospel.
Well huh… All this time writing all these successful novels I thought I was depending on telling a fun and entertaining story! I never realized I needed… Manichaean… whatever. I’m sure Mark didn’t just use that word so he’d sound all sorts of smart.
Yet Mormons gravitate even more powerfully than other Christians toward genre fiction, and for reasons that have nothing to do with theology. For example, if you are a bookish young Mormon, your church role models work in genre fiction: major figures like Mr. Card and Ms. Meyer; young adult writers like Ms. Hale; and many others, like J. Lloyd Morgan and James Dashner, who work in genres within genres, like fantasy fiction for children.
Or me, or Brandon Sanderson, or Dan Wells, or Howard Tayler, or Jessica Day George, or Brandon Mull, or Richard Paul Evans, or Jason Wright, or Dave Wolverton, or John Brown, or Eric James Stone, or Steve Diamond, or Amber Argyle, or Zach Hill, or Brad Torgersen, or Rob Wells, or George Hill, or Julie Wright, or Tracy Hickman… All of those are writers who are Mormon who write for the national market, not “Mormon authors” writing for the LDS market.
Hmmm… Looking back over that list (and I know I’m missing a ton of folks since I’m just doing this off the top of my head) I see a bunch of bestsellers and really successful people. I also see a bunch of award winners. (but those awards like totally don’t count, because the NYT said so and stuff).
Success breeds success, established writers help new writers, and there are only two and a half million people in Utah. So the writing community tends to know each other, and we also tend to be a helpful bunch. It isn’t even a Mormon thing as much as it is a Utah thing (heck, look at my own Writer Nerd Game Night, Paul Genesse and Patrick Tracy are both Utah writers but not Mormons) only Utah is like 70% Mormon, so statistically it is going to work out that way.
Sure, the NYT can look for some weird philosophical underpinning that all Mormons—or blacks, Jews, or Asians—share (because you know all groups are just homogenous little voter blocks to big city liberals) but looking at that partial list above, I think it is more about strong networking in a relatively small community than anything.
But then we couldn’t have this pretentious article!
Unsurprisingly, the heavily Mormon state of Utah has become an incubator.
Brigham Young University, in Provo, hosts an annual Symposium on Books for Young Readers. Many members of LDS Storymakers live in Utah, where they can connect in person as well as online. The Utah-based children’s author Rick Walton runs an email list that further connects people.
“A lot of writers who might have gone another way have gone to children’s or young adult because of the strong communities,” Ms. Hale said.
So that part there hits on the nuts and bolts reality of the matter, but don’t worry…
But there is a specifically Mormon logic to the trend, too.
Because Mark quickly dismisses it in favor of his own pseudointellectual interpretation.
Realist literature for adults often includes aspects of adult life like sex and drinking, and the convention is to describe them without judgment, without moralizing.
Note that he proclaims this convention, but he doesn’t establish who it belongs to. That is a fun trick, like writing “some experts say (insert made up bullshit here)” or “FACT (insert more bullshit)”.
I think Mark is flat out wrong on this one. I’m going to proclaim the opposite. Strong writing is going to have judgment and moralizing based upon the perspective of the Point of View character. But what do I know? I’m not a *real* writer.
Mormons don’t write about drinking? Huh? Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean my characters won’t, and each one will have their own take on the subject. Jake Sullivan drinks, but usually only when somebody else is buying because he’s cheap. Owen Pitt doesn’t drink, but that’s because he worked as a bouncer and has zero patience for drunks. Lorenzo drinks sparingly, but only because he’s a health nut. Earl Harbinger drinks lots and lots of beer. But my record holder PoV is Francis Stuyvesant who is only outdrank by the master Raymond Chandler himself! And come to think of it all of those guys had premarital sex, because their actions are consistent with the make-up of their character.
I’m pretty sure Dan Wells isn’t a serial killer. I don’t think John Brown serves a dark god. Brandon Sanderson, to the best of my knowledge, has never killed anybody by shooting nails with allomancy. And holy crap, some of Orson Scott Card’s short fiction is DARK. I’m talking child molester dark. So why this hackneyed nonsense about not being able to separate authors beliefs from their characters?
Because it simply isn’t true, but something being true will never hold back the New York Times!
By writing for children and young adults — or in genres popular with young people — one can avoid such topics. Mormon authors can thus have their morals and their book sales, too.
I’m a perfect example of why this isn’t true. I very specifically don’t write for kids. I write extreme levels of violence. Depending on the series, I write very realistic violence. Dead Six and Swords of Exodus were co-written with a veteran and proofed by a bunch of combat vets, and in the second book they take on the sunshiny topic of modern slavery. Or I write crazy over the top violence (I am the leading cause of Google searches for the term Snow-Go).
Personally, I don’t write sex scenes. Though I write things where you know damned good and well that sex has happened. I just tend to do the 1950’s movie style of cutting away. Why? Because of the audience I write for. Do you really think the average Correia reader, somebody searching for technically competent, two fisted action, explosion-o-rama adventure yarns wants to read a scene featuring my attempt at writing a steamy, yet totally pointless, sex scene? Hey, Tom Clancy readers, how many of you remember and cherish his few ham fisted forays in writing sex? Remember Bear and the Dragon? Yeah… Exactly. I don’t need more descriptions of the Chinese secret agent’s magnificent wang again, thanks, Tom.
Now, if I was writing for Laurel K. Hamilton’s audience, then I’m going to sex it up. Different audiences, you give them a different product. (Gasp! He called it product! He’s not a *real* writer!) Brad Torgersen, Mormon author, who has been nominated for the Hugo/Campbell/Nebula (totally doesn’t count) is a great writer, and I know for a fact that man will go all sorts of sexy in his writing. I’ve had to make him clean up game fiction before I could put in on my blog. My kids read this page!
But of course, if I was a *real* writer, then my dreary navel gazing about the dying polar bears should be sporadically interrupted by sex scenes where afterwards everybody cries and talks about the cismale gendernormative fascism of the patriarchy and the symbolism of who was on top.
“I’ll tell you why they write young adult,” said Ms. Nunes. “Because they don’t have to write the pages and pages of sex. They don’t want to spend a lot of time in the bedroom.”
The NYT is confusing all genre with YA, which is just one genre, and they’re also assuming that something YA can’t be sexy… Which shows that Mark hasn’t read much, because there is some R rated YA out there. YA doesn’t have straight up porn in it, but I can think of more Mormons who write adult than YA.
In an email, Mr. Morgan added that the absence of sex in a novel can lead booksellers to pick a genre for it: “I believe that most writers who are LDS are by default labeled as ‘young adult’ writers because graphic sex scenes, graphic violence and swearing are omitted from their writing — even if the material is for a more mature audience.”
And here is another problem, one which I’ve talked about before. The entire concept of genre is fake. Genre categories exist for one reason, and one reason only, book stores need to know where to put stuff on the shelf. Period.
Look at my Grimnoir Chronicles trilogy. They are written for an adult audience, they’re well researched alternative history, but they’re fantasy with magic, only the magic is like super heroes, except the whole thing is written hard boiled noir pulp style… Yeah… I didn’t know what genre they were until Amazon assigned them to a category, but apparently they are Paranormal, because I’ve won two Audie Awards so far in that category, and in France they’re fantasy because I was a finalist for Best Fantasy there. So go figure.
But to the literati elite, what category you put a book in is everything. They don’t care about if the book is actually good, or fun, or entertaining, or uplifting, or thought provoking, or even sellable. They just care about checking boxes on a checklist. So why the hell should a bunch of college professors who’ve sold dick be the final arbiters of what is good or not?
Another factor is possible church disapproval.
This next portion is utter crap. I’ve written scenes of murder, torture, mutilation, genocide, and have brought in religious plot elements from Catholicism, Asatru, Wicca, myth, everybody’s folklore, and all of it has been heavily laced with profanity, and I’ve had one… count them one comment from a church leader in all this time, and it was “Wow. You sure do have a potty mouth” from a Bishop who then went on to read the rest of my novels.
The novelist Brian Evenson said he was forced out of Brigham Young University for writing fiction that displeased church leaders, and in 2002 he was excommunicated.
Okay, since the vast majority of my blog readers aren’t Mormon, you probably didn’t catch that this part raises some red flags on the BS meter. Let me give you a doctrinal, nuts and bolts look behind the curtain of how my religion works.
First off, BYU is a school earned by the church, but it isn’t the church. It is our Notre Dame. When you go there you sign an agreement that you’ll follow their honor code. And personally, I think their honor code is ridiculous (and filled with a bunch of extraneous stuff that isn’t against any actual commandment in our religion, like drinking caffeine, which still drives me nuts because that is perfectly fine for the rest of us, but every time I go to a con people think I’m a bad Mormon because I’m drinking coke, thanks BYU) I figure college students are adults with their own free agency, so they shouldn’t need the threat of getting kicked out of school to help them keep the commandments they’ve already committed to uphold. But I went to Utah State. Go Aggies.
So this dude got kicked out of BYU for writing fiction, yet I look at that list of authors above and I know that several of them went to BYU, and they’ve written all sorts of weird crap with no problems… I start to get suspicious. I’ve never heard of Brian Evenson, but 9 times out of 10 when the NYT trots out some disgruntled ex-Mormon (I swear they must keep a list) they usually have a grudge and can be counted on to reliably portray the rest of us as knuckle dragging morons.
Next, he was excommunicated in 2002. You’ve got to understand that Mormons save excommunication for serious stuff. Excommunication means we kick you out of our church entirely because your fundamental beliefs or behavior are no longer compatible. If you commit adultery or are convicted of a felony you usually only get disfellowshipped, which means you can still come to church, but you’re not allowed to hold any callings or do anything special or participate in any ordinances until you repent and get your life back in order.
Getting excommunicated means that you really pissed us off. Normally that means you murdered somebody (I’m assuming even the NYT isn’t that desperate) or you are continually preaching false doctrine which goes against the established teachings of the church. So a cursory Amazon search shows that Brian’s books are about the typical anti-Mormon BS of early church leaders murdering people in blood atonement and some weird crap about temple marriage, and having been married in the temple and knowing our doctrine rather well, from just reading just the back cover description of his book Open Curtain, uh… WTF is this crap?
So for my non-Mormons readers, this would be like some member of your local church loudly proclaiming that he doesn’t believe any of your church’s doctrine, actively subverting what your church believes in, leading your fellow parishioners astray, and testifying that your preacher/pastor/priest has gay sex with farm animals. You don’t believe our doctrine? Fine. We’re not going to change it to suit your weird ass beliefs. Bye bye. Of course, now this person is exactly the unbiased source people should go to in order to learn about your religious beliefs.
When he was a child, he kept a journal, and his parents told him to “only record the happy things, and not the negative things.”
What a strangely useful remark from our disgruntled ex-Mormon that handily validates our reporter’s predetermined narrative!
It is the kind of instruction one cannot imagine coming from Jewish parents, or even from sin-worried evangelical Protestants.
Because remember, you all fit into neat little boxes. My kid’s journals have notes for windage and elevation adjustment clicks based on what load they are using… but I suspect they may be an anomaly.
In the Latter-day Saint culture of uplift and consensus, it somehow makes more sense. But it did not strike Mr. Evenson as being helpful for the budding artist.
Gee whiz… Yet hundreds of us have managed to sell millions of books while not being douchebags tearing down our religion! Poor Mr. Evenson. He’s quite the special snowflake.
“That kind of attitude, which is symptomatic in Mormonism as a whole, makes it very hard for some serious things to come out for Mormons,” Mr. Evenson said.
Yes. It is hard for *serious* things to come out of Mormons… Sure, we excel in science, engineering, math, finance, business, and even the arts, but we have totally failed to meet the NYT’s arbitrary and capricious standards of *real* writing… But don’t worry, the minute an active Mormon (or any other member of a group they don’t like) wins a Nobel Prize for Literature, it won’t count anymore either.
“There’s a weird pride in the limitations of the culture, and that to me is something that kills the possibility of artistic creation.”
Kiss my ass. Yeah, the way my religion says I shouldn’t beat my children while snorting cocaine off of a dead hooker is so limiting to my muse.
This is for all the aspiring authors out there who are hung up about creating art, put your big girl panties on, read this, and get to work: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/ask-correia-14-how-to-be-a-professional-author/
Patrick Madden, who teaches English at Brigham, says that there are Mormons who write excellent poetry — he mentioned his colleague Lance Larsen — and intellectually ambitious fiction. But he agreed that Mormon writers were comfortable with genre conventions.
This is kind of funny, because they are citing BYU as some sort of help. WRONG. They used to be good but over recent years the BYU English department has become as deluded with pretentions of literary greatness as the rest of the country. They’ve done their best to squash genre and focus on *real* writing.
One reason Utah has such a vibrant writing community is because of Dave Wolverton who writes under the penname Dave Farland. He taught BYU’s creative writing program for years, and he focused on the actual business end of writing instead of muses and dead authors nobody ever read to begin with. He had over 200 students go on to become professionals and 40 become bestsellers. That’s amazing. That’s a better success rate than any other creative writing program in the world. Brandon Sanderson, one of Dave’s former students, took over teaching Dave’s class. If an article about Mormon/Utah writers fails to note what Dave accomplished, then you know that zero research was done. And Dave did it despite BYU, not because of them.
Then there is the LTUE writing symposium. It is one of the best creative writing symposiums in the world. It was held at BYU for most of its existence. However, since BYU’s English department was hung up on *real* writing, we moved it first to UVU, and now it is being held off a college campus entirely. Thank goodness. If you want your writing to actually grow up GET OUT OF COLLEGE!
One problem with lit-fic, since it is almost impossible to make a living at it, is that it is mostly written on the side by college professors, published in prestigious literary journals (where you will be read by literally dozens—if you count the editorial staff) and then forced on students who’d rather be reading something actually entertaining. Newspapers then review it as brilliant, and socialites skim enough of it talk about it at parties. Meanwhile lit-fic ignores the rest of the world, and now we’re supposed to feel bad because those of us winning at life don’t satisfy them? Whoop-de-fricking do.
“I think there is a pretty thriving LDS book culture,” Professor Madden said. “But a lot of it is faith-affirming and uncomplicated-type writing. Maybe that’s why there’s a pretty strong thrust of LDS genre writers. Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.”
He sees uncomplicated. I see entertaining.
Realistic fiction… Why? If I have the ability to create whole new worlds from nothing, and populate them with fantastic characters, and then take them and do amazing things, why would I want to write “realistic” fiction? Most people read books to escape their reality. Why do I want to shove an even shittier reality in their face?
And you don’t need to be Mormon get that. You just need to exist outside the echo chamber of the literati elite and academia.
***One quick note while I’m bashing the NYT’s sloppy writing. I’ve had people ask how come I mock the NYT, but I’m proud to say that I’m a NYT bestseller. Fair enough. The NYT bestseller list, despite being terribly inaccurate, is still the most prestigious bestseller list in publishing mostly because everybody has heard of it. I tell somebody who isn’t even much of a reader that I’m a NYT bestselling author and that conveys a level of success. So I use it. As far as accuracy? It is crap. The list is based on a sampling of the sales of around two hundred secret bookstores, most of which are clustered in the north east, specifically New York. Nielsen Bookscan on the other hand, tracks about 75% of the book sales in the country, so it is way more accurate. And I’ve made the Nielsen list more often, ranked higher, and have stayed on it longer than I have on the NYT. Only when I say Nielsen Bookscan, the average person has never heard of it. So that’s why I use the NYTBSA bit.