She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon.
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This blog is not about politics, but unless you’ve been comatose for a year, you’re aware of the recent U.S. presidential election and its outcome. It’s fair to say many are unhappy with the result, although it would be equally fair to say that it would be the case no matter which candidate won. Still, it’s hard to deny that this election represents a significant shift in direction for our nation, leaving many unsure and apprehensive of what’s to come.
Again, this isn’t about politics; it’s about writing. Major events have always influenced our culture, from books to visual and now social media. I wonder what trends and influences the new administration will have on writing in the future.
Biographies of the President-elect and the candidate formerly known as the presumptive President should be forthcoming, as will analyses of the incoming administration. It’s also safe to forecast non-fiction works devoted to the election, the mood of the voters that led to the results, and what the change in leadership portends for the country.
Let’s consider fiction. What sorts of themes will become popular and what will fall out of favor? I’ve asked several writers for their opinions.
Author and blogger Terry Carr predicts there will…“be less futuristic fiction”, instead we’ll have more “fiction that goes back to a simpler time… my kind of escapism.”
Gordon Labuhn, whose books range from mysteries to memoirs, suspects there will be more graphic sex and language than before as barriers to what had been taboo are lowered. He sees a trend toward attacking and weakening the media for any negative coverage of the new White House. However, when I asked him if this would put a chill on writing anything that might be viewed as unfavorable toward the President-elect, Labuhn was noncommittal.
Several writers I spoke with who prefer to remain anonymous agree that some people will turn to nostalgia and the safety of the past for escape from the present, as Carr suggests. And still others will lose themselves in lightweight comedies and mindless action as a distraction from the reality of here and now. I confess I did just that, on an overseas flight home, the day after the election.
One of the most considered responses came from writing instructor and fiction author Wayne Ude, who surmises, “Some may focus on what unites us as human beings; others on what unites us as Americans—not necessarily the same thing…(and) others will surely focus on what divides us.” He thinks one approach would be akin to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or George Orwell’s 1984: “In light of a Supreme Court which has ruled that money is a form of speech instead of property and that corporations are entitled to the same rights as are human beings, a similar work might present a country which has become an oligarchy entirely controlled by the wealthy.” Another would be “the approach John Steinbeck took in The Grapes of Wrath, which was a very realistic exploration of the lives of people left behind by economic change…(and) a third approach might be satirical novels about the wealthy, in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or, earlier, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s The Gilded Age.”
I agree with Ude regarding political and social satire, which has long been part of our culture. I believe it will become more caustic now, and that debate will erupt over whether a liberal bias in the media or the words and actions of the new administration is the cause. This will create a more fluid divide between legitimate news and parody, which itself straddles fiction and reality. And while, like Ude, I expect big institutions that exploit the downtrodden will continue to be vilified, I hope we don’t begin seeing the downtrodden portrayed, not as heroes like in The Grapes of Wrath, but as villains. Casting certain groups as scapegoats during unsure times has occurred for centuries, but what’s different now is that it would effectively kill political correctness. I’ve never been a P.C. fan; I believe it creates a false impression of civility and holds its own biases. However imperfect it has been in balancing freedom of speech and protection from hate speech, why destroy it when you have nothing better to replace it with?
A clue to where we’re headed came in a recent news story. Executives at several television networks have decided to break with tradition and not take questions from critics at their semi-annual press conferences. Many networks have come under fire for their lack of racial and cultural diversity, both on and behind the screen, as well as their depiction of violence, particularly against women. This is not new. Neither is the overrepresentation of well off, educated professionals as primary characters on most scripted programs. However I do think these concerns will go unchallenged by the new administration.
Will any of these scenarios come to pass? Ultimately it depends on how we writers decide to react to the new political reality. We can be cautious, or courageous. We can block out the real world and focus on the worlds we build in our stories, or we can bring some of that reality into our characters’ lives, no matter where they live, or when. As we are about to enter a new era, I’m asking writers: What trends in fiction do you foresee in the future? Will the change in leadership have any effect on what you choose to write about? And if so, how?