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Should Fiction Authors Speak Out on Issues?
As a fiction author, you can write whatever social and political themes you like into your work. But should you step beyond your fiction writing and speak out on the internet or in interviews on social and political issues? The decision is yours, but it carries risk. You can post your views on your author blog or website, on someone else’s, via comment in a forum, or in a formal interview. You will have the satisfaction of defending your beliefs and helping what you consider to be a good cause, but the readers may consider you tedious, exploitative, or off-putting.
First, you might seem tedious or irritatingly irrelevant. The internet is full of bloggers preaching about issues and trying to sell us something. When we readers actually go looking for information, we want to find valuable content immediately from the most reputable source available. We don’t want to wade through countless search-engine pages of opinions and misinformation. Even if you have solid facts to offer or your rhetoric is dazzlingly eloquent, frustrated readers may resent you for throwing yet one more distraction into their quest for answers.
Second, you might seem exploitative. Authors are notorious publicity hounds. Unless you really are a subject matter expert – say, you are a nature writer with a Ph.D. in biology who lives in a certain region and you want to draw attention to the plight of a local endangered species – you might give the impression of exploiting the issue just to draw attention to your online profile, which conveniently features all your titles with purchase links. This especially holds true if you pop up often on the internet to flog a variety of issues. Even if you comment in forums and your signature line features a purchase link to your latest book, others may see you as having an agenda.
And the flip side of that is that authors, especially fiction authors are seen as entertainers who should stick to their primary purpose because they are no more qualified than anybody else to educate people on issues. This is the same reaction that many of us feel when watching the Academy Awards ceremony stall out as a gorgeous twenty-year-old actor in a tuxedo blurts his opinions about the current presidential administration. We want to say, “You’re very cute, but you need to pipe down now, sonny, and let’s get on with the show.”
Third, you risk of losing whichever part of your readership opposes you on controversial issues. If you’re raising awareness for universally accepted causes such as providing help to needy children or hurricane victims, you might get points for being a caring individual. But what if you are ranting against either the left-wing or right-wing political party in your country? Or maybe you publish some questionable personal views such as actor Sean Connery on domestic violence when he said in a 1965 Playboy interview, “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman.” You could end up alienating half the population of the planet (the women), and while it wouldn’t affect Sean Connery, your average author can’t afford to do this.
Carefully weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks to publically preaching about a cause. Can you really do that much good as yet another voice clamoring on the internet, or would it be more effective to quietly donate your time and money to your cause? At least that way, you wouldn’t be suspected of exploiting the situation for your own publicity.
Content copyright © 2013 by Val Kovalin. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Val Kovalin. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Val Kovalin for details.
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