Once upon a time, the publishing industry was largely about fun. Books, movies, comic books, games – they not only passed the time but helped inspire us and expand our imaginations. Yet all these kinds of media (with the possible exception of video games) seem to be in decline. Why is that? It’s because entertainment is no longer their primary purpose.
Consider the decline in reading, especially by young men. No, I don’t have the statistics, but if you look at book-related blogs and channels, they are overwhelmingly done by females. I also encounter a lot of men who say they’re not into reading. It might be due to the Internet, or movies, or video games, but I think it’s also about the quality of modern fiction. Many of the books being published now are girl-centric YA. That’s understandable, in that it serves the market, but it’s also a self-reinforcing cycle. Boys have a hankering for adventure stories with heroes they can look up to. You don’t get that from the “Diversity über Alles” crowd who currently dominate publishing.
Consider the current kerfuffle in comic book publishing. Marvel Comics is making lots of moolah from its movies but its comic book sales have plummeted. Could this be because its editorial staff being dominated by social justice warriors? I don’t have a problem with creating diverse heroes in an effort to get more folks interested. Marvel did this in the 1980’s with the X-Men when they introduced many great black, female, and gay heroes to the mix.
But that’s not enough for the perpetually aggrieved Left. They don’t just want new heroes of their own, they want to destroy the old ones. Many male heroes have given way to female equivalents (a female Thor for crying out loud) and LGBT characters seem to outnumber straights. In doing this, Marvel has betrayed its primary market; it’s still young men and boys who enjoy comics more than anyone. So when sales decline (as any fool could have predicted) the responsible parties double down and attack the fans for being racist, sexist, and homophobic. The hard-core feminist agenda of Marvel’s staff has largely ruined the fun.
I’m not saying fiction can’t have a political message or that it needs to conform to my own right-of-center views. Many of my favorite authors are lefties. Of course, I would like to see more diversity of opinion. I’d also like to be able to escape from politics entirely from time to time. But to be palatable, a book (or a movie) needs to be a good story with relatable characters. The current trend of writing cardboard cutouts who hector the reader on politically correct hot-button issues is NOT fun. The less the fun, the fewer readers, especially males who prefer a more adventurous story line. That hurts our nation’s already sad literacy rate. To quote the old public service motto, Reading is FUNdamental. Note the emphasis on FUN.
Another trend in publishing is to seek out authors who meet some kind of diversity quota. That’s fine as long as they’re good writers, but I’ve seen many incompetents who fail in the marketplace use the “fans hate me because I’m X” excuse. That’s not good for the readers or the industry. As a straight white male, I have no victim points to call upon. My books have to stand on their own merit and above all to be fun. One of the reasons I self-publish because the Big Five publishes aren’t eager to sign writers in my demographic. That’s their loss.
Too much of popular fiction has been captured by a humorless, angry ideology. As a consequence, it’s no longer fun. That defeats the entire purpose of writing and reading fiction. No matter what their political agenda is, authors must entertain, or we’ll lose an entire generation to illiteracy. Let’s hear it for fun!