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  1. #21
    The thing is, that unless you have an original take, nobody gives an Edwardian enema about commentary. That's why I typically hate it so much. That's one of the big reasons why so many publishers want minority voices and everybody else bitches. But it's not about anybody actually favoring Polynesian Lesbians or Transgender Muslims or whatever, it's about the fact that there are far too many people ranting about 'society' and most of it comes from the same general crowd. A crowd who, all too often, has a very limited, one-sided view.

    There's such a glut of opinions out there - not just in fiction, but in the media generally - and so few of them are original or interesting or both that the endless procession of writers who Have Something To Say becomes tiresome. There's far more opinion in the world than interest demands. Now, if a writer has something really important to say AND dreams up a method of delivery that is also a good story, there's always a market for that.

    The big problem, though, is when you set out to write a story with some sort of specific message in mind, the result is usually pretty crap. The simple reason for that is no well-written story ever ends up the way it is first imagined. Good characters have their own agency, certain plot points that sound good in an outline turn out not to work or - ooh! - a better one pops into your head. The process of writing is the process of letting characters breathe, and breathing is a volatile thing. When you write with a preformed conclusion ("I want this story to be about the evil influences of Christianity on society") you inevitably will end up manipulating much of the narrative and character development to fit the brief. I don't think that's a good idea.
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  2. #22
    I think it's like with anything: done very well, it overtly fires the reader's brain cells to make the connections, done badly, it assumes the reader has no brain cells only an 'insert author opinion here' sign sticking out the ears. I love subtlety, even if my brain cells are missing a few spark plugs at times.
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  3. #23
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The thing is, that unless you have an original take, nobody gives an Edwardian enema about commentary. That's why I typically hate it so much. That's one of the big reasons why so many publishers want minority voices and everybody else bitches. But it's not about anybody actually favoring Polynesian Lesbians or Transgender Muslims or whatever, it's about the fact that there are far too many people ranting about 'society' and most of it comes from the same general crowd. A crowd who, all too often, has a very limited, one-sided view.

    There's such a glut of opinions out there - not just in fiction, but in the media generally - and so few of them are original or interesting or both that the endless procession of writers who Have Something To Say becomes tiresome. There's far more opinion in the world than interest demands. Now, if a writer has something really important to say AND dreams up a method of delivery that is also a good story, there's always a market for that.

    The big problem, though, is when you set out to write a story with some sort of specific message in mind, the result is usually pretty crap. The simple reason for that is no well-written story ever ends up the way it is first imagined. Good characters have their own agency, certain plot points that sound good in an outline turn out not to work or - ooh! - a better one pops into your head. The process of writing is the process of letting characters breathe, and breathing is a volatile thing. When you write with a preformed conclusion ("I want this story to be about the evil influences of Christianity on society") you inevitably will end up manipulating much of the narrative and character development to fit the brief. I don't think that's a good idea.
    It depends what we mean by "commentary" and how we comment. You have something to say here, so it could be worthwhile to dream up a method of delivery for it that's also a good story, or part of one. Why not pick from the other side and redo that limited, one-sided paradigm? You never know - some people might read it and learn something. I'd be game. Right now I think there is a need for multiple sides of every situation to be out there, calmly but passionately, and novels are a relatively conflict-free way of doing that. At the very least it can give writers some extra off-the-shelf drama and depth. Of course if you don't care for the opinions of the opinion (or its holder) you can give their character a little grim fortune to lighten your load. That's what I do with niche opinions and uncomfortable conclusions I might dredge up from my 2AM subconscious - come daybreak I simply give them to some bastard antihero or antagonist to sink or swim with.

    My thinking is that opinions might not be original but they might be current, and the nuances of them may be familiar to one generation but not another. In other words, worth re-exploring now and again. But I entirely agree that writing with these messages foremost in mind can easily go full overt/preachy mode, which is ... usually a bit shit. I just stick mine to a character to prattle on about from time to time while getting on with the more important business of escaping into super mythic dragonland and battling beasties.


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  4. #24
    Mentor Dluuni's Avatar
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    My existence is viewed as social commentary. I can't not include what will be seen as social commentary. If I write about characters like myself acting normally, it's a social comment.
    So I don't worry about it.

  5. #25
    Music Guru Trollheart's Avatar
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    I guess it's all about how heavy-handed you are with it. In a lot of the original (and later) Star Trek, you didn't need Kirk or Picard or whoever giving a homily at the end, basically explaining, underlining or hammering home the point. Yeah, I get it man: war is bad, complacency is bad, discrimination is bad. I can make those determinations for myself, I don't need someone grabbing me by the arm and saying "Look! See! THIS is what I was saying! See how i said it? How clever I was? Aren't you glad now I showed you that rape is evil (or whatever)?" Gimme a break.

    But if it's subtle, it can work. Maybe Dickens did it best. He never actually SAID sending kids out to thieve or treating the poor like shit was bad, but you definitely got the message through both his scenarios and through the characters.

    The worst I ever saw was in a comic, where a Russian submarine shot at a flying saucer and was destroyed by it. The smug American captain of another sub opined "Typical! If that Commie sub hadn't fired at that flying saucer, it wouldn't have attacked him." I wonder where the message is there? I've been searching for ... oh. Never mind.
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  6. #26
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    I think one of the best social commentaries is the movie Gremlins. Yes, Gremlins. It's a Cold War / East-vs-West allegorical parody, with unsuspecting yet overly gore-happy Americans beset at every turn by both their own fondness for cute fluffies, and by armies of yammering, funny-eyed critters (and their decidedly Far Eastern handlers) who are not to be trusted but feared. Watch this fun, accessible and smart satire-slash-homage with this lens. In an era of reboots, someone should reboot this and, gosh, take some national tension levels down a notch or something.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  7. #27
    Social commentary sells.
    That's what editors and agents mean when they say they are looking for 'timely material.'

  8. #28
    Music Guru Trollheart's Avatar
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    I guess everyone likes to read stuff they can relate to. Probably why Meyer has such a big following, and why Buffy was so popular: kids look and say "oh hey! I go through those very same issues!" and can then identify more easily with the characters. It's also, I believe, one of the major reasons why GoT was so successful on TV. Sure, the books have a massive following, but who would have guessed that a basically high fantasy series would pull in such a diverse audience? And it's not only the violence (though there's plenty of that) or the sex (ditto). I think people relate(d) to it because, take away some of the fantasy elements and you could almost be talking about people you know. One person summed it up very well on TV: "they talk just like us!" When you can relate to something, see something of yourself in it, you're going to engage with and therefore enjoy it more. Or so I believe.

    So a story set in a totally fantasy world, or on a distant planet or in a time far in the future or the past will of course be interesting to some, many in fact, but won't appeal to a wider demographic, to whom it will have no relation. I guess that's why crime dramas do so well; they're based in a world we all inhabit every day, and the underlying theme is "this could happen to you or in your town". That makes it more attractive, even if it makes it slightly scarier.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  9. #29
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
    So a story set in a totally fantasy world, or on a distant planet or in a time far in the future or the past will of course be interesting to some, many in fact, but won't appeal to a wider demographic, to whom it will have no relation.
    It can do - the characters and situations can still be relatable despite happening in some other land.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  10. #30
    I think my favourite theme to comment on in my works is the base, animal nature of human beings along with the fleeting character of the benefits of civilization, and all the things that people these days take for granted and feel entitled to.

    Somebody once said that even in the most advanced society, chaos and anarchy is never more than a few missed meals away. So it's easy to talk about high and noble moral principles and look down upon those who don't have them on a full stomach from the safety of one's warm home far away from conflict and danger. But when the proverbial shit finally hits the fan, all those so-called principles and morals, all that thin veneer of civility, instantly goes out the window and man reverts to his true, animalistic and savage nature to survive. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as those who cling to their preconceived notions of propriety don't usually survive the breakdown of civilized society whose existence is the prerequisite for these notions to be valid.

    Which is why my works at first generally tend to pass for bleak, grimdark and nihilistic. Everyone is cynical and oftentimes corrupt if not downright evil in some form, even the protagonists being barely better than the villains. But what if that really is just the natural state of humanity? If ruthless, amoral self-interest in a never-ending cycle of Darwinian competition is what enables one to survive, why even view it as a bad thing? Why not embrace it? What if the never-ending battle for survival of the fittest is what being alive is really all about?

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