Confederate, Game of Thrones, sensitivity readers and a writer's debt

Wading into the controversy again.

But that's what writers do, no?

If you're wondering, I take Roxane Gay's side on the issue and I think the Game of Thrones showrunners missed her point completely when they responded to the backlash. 

But here's where I stand on these controversial things, as an immigrant writer of color: People can write whatever the hell they want. The huge BUT though, is that they should be conscious of whatever the hell they're doing.

I'll give you an example. I was in a writing group and someone asked a question. "Is [offensive thing] offensive if I write about it? Why?"
Me and several others: um...yeah, it kinda is.
would-be writer: stop telling me how to write! A writer should have freedom to write what they want.
Me and several others: right...we're not telling you what to write.
would-be writer: yes you are, you're telling me it's offensive! I am being victimized!"

When you hire sensitivity readers you're not hiring censors. You're hiring people who will keep the egg off your face and your books on the shelves. It's not telling you what to write, it's telling you "sure, go ahead and write that but don't be surprised if people have a problem with it."

That's how I feel about Confederate. It's a bad idea. I don't think the execution's going to be there. I understand what the writers want to convey. But honestly, there's going to be a lot of people that are going to miss the point entirely and immediately laud whoever the baddies are as heroes. Calling it now, that's 1) going to happen and 2) the showrunners and writers will put out a statement denouncing that particular portion of the fanbase and express surprise that people took it the wrong way.

But I'll stop short from telling them not to write something. I think if you're part of the #NoConfederate crowd, you have every right to be angry and upset that this is happening. But you know what would be even better? Aaron McGruder (creator of The Boondocks) is coming out with his own Amazon series called Black America which talks about an AU where instead of the South winning the war, they instead lost huge chunks of land to provide freed slaves with reparations and this land became its own country. If you're #NoConfederate, promote the shit out of Black America. Host watch parties. Get an Amazon Prime account. Watch it. Talk to people about it. Promote difference. The same applies to what we read. Yeah, definitely call out the lack of diversity in fiction, but why not also support diverse authors?  When I first started to address diversity, I knew I had to begin with me. How could I tell someone, hey, support this, when I wasn't doing it? 

So last year, of 26 books read, 13 were by women or minorities. This year so far--

Read:

1. Junot Diaz - Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2. James SA Corey - Nemesis Games
3. John Steinbeck - The Pearl
4. Brandon Sanderson - Steelheart
5. Barry Goldwater - Conscience of a Conservative
6. Paul Krugman - Conscience of a Liberal
7. David Weber - On Basilisk Station
8. Octavia Butler - Kindred
9. Emma Perez - Gulf Dreams
10. K.B. Wagers - Behind the Throne
11. Junot Diaz - Drown

READING
Lidia Zylowska, MD - The mindfulness prescription for Adult ADHD
Terry Pratchett - The colour of magic
Harriet Washington - Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation
Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice
Steven L. Erikson - Malazan Book of the Fallen 1

I'm probably not going to watch Confederate, but I will watch Black America and tell as many people as I can about it. But I pull back just short of telling the Confederate writers what they should write. They write to their own truth, just like I write to mine.  

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And that leads me to Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin, and A Song of Ice and Fire. The in thing is to give the man shit for not putting out the last books of the series. And this came up in conversation with some of my friends recently. Only one of them read the book and so he's been a fan of the series while another has the advantage of lording over things in the series that haven't happened (or will not happen) in the books. And so the conversation turned to whether or not Martin owed his readers anything.

One argument was, yes, he does, in much the same way that if Tolkien had given up on writing a conclusion after Two Towers.

My argument was no, he is under no obligation to finish. I was extremely frustrated when I finished the books in 2009 and realized the series wasn't over yet. That was almost a decade ago. 

The argument ended as usual on a stalemate but the question was left hanging: Is GRRM a writer or an author? I subscribe to the idea that authors write for themselves while writers write for an audience.  In either case, Martin doesn't owe anyone anything; but depending on what his definition of writer is, there is a perceived disservice to the audience.

But I'm not going to tell him what to write or how fast. For starters, he's forgotten more about writing genre fiction than I'll learn but also because he is a talented writer who's provided with a lot of people multiple hours of enjoyment. I'd say he deserves a bit of a break.