So as I was perusing my posts, I realized a post I never got out the door was sitting there for TWO YEARS now! I feel bad about that, but as I read it over, it was a time capsule of sorts of how I felt in August 2018, you know… before the world went mad?But I realized that was a thought I wanted to express, but apparently just didn’t hit post. So here’s a blast from the past that I think is potentially even more relevant in the age of the Wokestasi’s cancel jihad. So, enjoy.
Gosh… it’s been already 2 weeks since I went to Realm Makers Conference. (If you want pictures… I need likes. Come on, you know you want to see some cosplayers being super cool, yah? Like my last post.)
Since then, a detail started nibbling at my mind in regards to writing in general. Now, this is in no way a criticism to any writer, editor, publisher, agent… but it’s had a bit of an influence on me and my future with writing.
The shelves of the consignment store and merchant tables were full of excellent books. That said, I realized as I flipped through the pages and read the blurbs on the covers something was missing for me as a reader: there were so few books written for me as an audience. The protagonists were almost exclusively female, or minorities of some type, be they actual aliens or a sub-culture dealing with issues I could not even begin to relate to. I felt lost in books that should be speaking to my love of literature. I was at a conference devoted to Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy writers after all, and I did purchase a few that spoke to me. Perhaps this is part of why I have returned to the classics like “The Comte De Monte Christo”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Oliver Twist”.
As I tried to make sense of it all, I kept hearing a statement ringing in my head that several people had told me: “Boys don’t read”. They are too busy or just not interested in sitting still to read. Any number of reasons/excuses have been foisted about. From video games to their active nature just keep them from sitting down and having a good read.
Then it hit me that there may be a second part to this equation as I considered all the books I perused and did not buy:
There are blessedly few books written FOR boys anymore!
Almost all the focus is on serving anyone but boys, and there is good reason for it too in regards to an economic sense. Girls do read more so there is more money in it. They read earlier and spend more on books. Of course, stories traditionally written for boys have been gender swapped because some girls like a bit of adventure and daring-do too.
So now we get stories of Katniss Everdeen instead of Ender Wiggins. Nancy Drew instead of the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift and his Electric Brain is replaced with Bella Swan and her Sparkly Relationship. Yes, I partially mock and those books have every right to exist side by side on the shelf. May the best story win. On the other hand, what if it isn’t an even playing field? What if books for boys are being edged out of the market place for plausibly good reasons… but not really?
What if it’s more the case that boys aren’t reading because nobody’s writing anything they want to read? Or worse, talk down to them in books they want to enjoy. Where is the next Johnny Quest? Today we’d only get that if you made Johnny, Hadji’s sidekick and either made Dr. Quest be in a gay relationship with Race Bannon and Hadji would have to be his adopted daughter. Sure there’s an audience, and any boy who grows/grew up in a traditional or typical American or western household… these are hard to relate. At least that’s what seems to be en vogue for traditional publishers. I didn’t come from a culture of diversity and inclusion with more variety than a Christmas fruitcake. I came from a monoculture that saw other cultures as something to respect as having their place too. I’m a firm believer in the Great American Melting Pot of people united by a chosen common culture.
Even Christian publishers are pushing for “diversity and inclusion” over good story. How diverse were the good old adventure pulps and sci fi? They always pushed at the boundaries of society. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. They were products of their era after all.
But how many men remember nights as boys, hiding under the covers reading an exciting book well past their bedtime. Just one more chapter! Waking up with a dead flashlight or their face stuck to a page they don’t remember reading? I sure do and I wasn’t that big a reader till I was a teen. The thrill of amazing stories and exotic places
But I had stories I wanted to read! Passionately! I loved anthologies of short ghost stories and adventure and sci fi and all the other things that made me dream of bigger horizons than could be found in my life. Stories that spoke to the problems of young boys like Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade from “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Books about girls coming to terms with their issues are now a dime a dozen, but how boys become men is now almost a taboo topic.
I feel there’s a need to speak to boys and men in literature again. Tell the stories they crave of bravery and great feats of daring-do. They are under-served it seems, and I for one plan to start serving that audience. For men who remember the boys they were and for boys who want more than just idle spectacle… and if girls or anyone else wants to join in the ride, come on board, and enjoy the adventure!