Writing for one’s trunk

Few of today’s scribes, says Francis W. Porretto, will be remembered as “great”:

In part that’s because there are so many writers today, if we allow the title to anyone who’s ever emitted a Kindle eBook. But in larger measure, it’s because there’s a whole lot of detritus obscuring good storytelling in our time. It begins with emphasis on “style.” It ends with “message fiction.” In the middle are the emissions of critics, most of whom couldn’t compose a comprehensible note to their mothers, and literary prizes most commonly awarded by prize juries on the basis of personal acquaintances, commonality of style, and “politically correct” sentiments.

Most of the garbage will get caught in the filter of time. The good stuff will be read by generations to come. Their readers will select from those survivors which books and writers are to be called great. We won’t be given a vote, except by what we choose to buy, read, and recommend to one another today.

And the contents of our future shortlist might well surprise our present-day selves.

“Message fiction” ranges from innocuous to inane to insulting. Every subgroup of the species apparently has to have its own subgenre. Amazon sent me a couple of snippets of what passes for “nudist fiction,” because algorithm A happened to collide with algorithm B. From what I’ve seen, these stories exist because otherwise-uninteresting people in their birthday suits want to read about other otherwise-uninteresting people in their birthday suits. (And there’s Stranger in a Strange Land, in which Valentine Michael Smith is perfectly comfortable when skyclad, but that’s about as minor a plot point as exists anywhere in Heinlein.) I did read a perfectly scurrilous novella about the secret love life of Donald J. Trump, but it did have its amusing points, and more important, it wasn’t intended to make any political points at any level anyone would consider serious. Authors who want to Save The World are doing readers no favors.


  1. fillyjonk »

    13 December 2017 · 5:32 am

    So what he’s saying is Sturgeon’s Law, like many other things of late, is experiencing inflation?

    (When I was a young teen, “message fiction” aimed at young teens was called “problem novels” and was seen as somehow therapeutic for young teens to read, because OF COURSE a young fat girl would rather read about another young fat girl than anything else. Bleargh)

  2. McGehee »

    13 December 2017 · 9:59 am

    The apotheosis of “message fiction” was already reached 40 years ago when it was televised as “Afterschool Specials.”

  3. Holly H »

    14 December 2017 · 8:26 am

    McGehee, thanks for reminding me of that lovely word. For anyone else who didn’t know (and the derivation is cool):

    Apotheosis–the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax.

    late 16th century: via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek apotheōsis, from apotheoun ‘make a god of,’ from apo ‘from’ + theos ‘god.’

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