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Change in Policy?

Discussion in 'Ask the Staff' started by Russ, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    So I read Mr. Cecil's editorial on the homepage which is really just a political tract about policing, crime and punishment etc.

    Does this mean there is a change in policy on the discussion of modern politics in this forum?

    I was quite surprised and disappointed by its content.
     
  2. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Hi Russ,

    Mr. Cecil's article isn't an editorial, but a report on a writing panel held at a science fiction and fantasy convention. It does not reflect the views of Mr. Cecil, myself, or Mythic Scribes:

    While the panelists shared some controversial viewpoints, the whole point of the article is to provoke thought as to how real life issues can be addressed in fantasy and science fiction literature. There's a long tradition of tackling these issues within our genres.

    Also, the prohibition of contemporary political discussion is found within the forum guidelines. That's because political arguments have wreaked havoc on our community in the past. The forum rules don't strictly apply to the homepage blog, as it's contents are edited and the comments are heavily moderated. There's little risk of the discussion getting out of control there, as it may have in the forum.

    In any case, the article is not advocating a political position. The views expressed by the writers on the panel are their own, and don't necessarily line up with my own or any other Mythic Scribes staff member.
     
    Reaver likes this.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I would add that it's a guest post, and not an article that was proposed or written by members of the article team. It's not as if one of us was the author, trying to get political around the rules. It was selected from random submissions based on how well it might play on Twitter or Facebook.

    I do agree, though, that it was too much politics and not enough writing discussion for my own tastes. But there are a lot of writers who put political messages in their stories, and the article does put out a nod towards thinking in that direction.
     
    Black Dragon likes this.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    With great respect the article is basically a feminist intersectionality critique of modern American policing and really nothing more.

    I was going to put in my original post that it it was political tract "thinly disguised" as a writing article, but on my second read of the piece I decided that would be an insult to thin disguises.

    While the forum rules may not strictly apply to the homepage I might suggest that the featured article on the front page sends a message about what this site is, and to have a piece that clearly violates the rules of discussion for the members there is a message that there is one rule for the regular members and one rule for those who do administration. It certainly does not lead by example.

    The article does advocate a political position made up of an approach to how modern policing needs to be reformed. I wonder how people would react if it was a report on a panel that was in favour of an anti-abortion position that did not give any shrift to the pro-choice position with a few literary references tacked on at the end?

    Some of the opinions on policing and how it should be modified expressed in the article have been tried and studied and have been failures. Of course that is not mentioned at all.

    There is always a place for the discussion of how contemporary issues can and should inform and be reflected in our writing. This article however has not made any real effort to do that, it is simply the direct repeating of a particular political approach to policing with some writing hand waving tacked on.

    If we can expect more political tracks like this one it makes me wonder if I should be submitting my own for the front page (I did a SRO well received presentation on "Science on Trial" at Ad Astra a couple years back that was very Christian friendly) or if I should be reconsidering my participation on this site.

    Will we be seeing more such pieces or is this likely to be a one time only matter?
     
    TWErvin2 likes this.
  5. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    I have to admit that, after reading, I wanted to reply to some of the "politics" in the article. (I chose not to reply at all.) The intro says that this panel sparked ideas on how to write sci-fi/fantasy based on today's big political issues, but once I was past the intro, that point was overshadowed by the actual politics.
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'll be completely honest, I think I wasn't bothered by it because I couldn't take several of the specific ideas seriously. The reasoning wasn't strong enough to warrant any kind of response on my part.
     
  7. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    I PM'd you what made me want to reply, just so we don't start violating the policy by discussing here.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I just replied. Fair points. I wasn't defending the article so much as Black Dragon's decision to post it.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I can't speak for Black Dragon. But in my opinion, the best way to ensure better and more relevant articles on the home page is to submit your own so we have better articles to choose from. I usually feel that our member submissions are a lot more worthwhile than the guest posts.
     
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Personally I have found the front page articles to be uniformly excellent and I read all of them. That is why this one caught my attention.
     
    Devor likes this.
  11. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I must say that as I read this week's featured article, I could feel one eyebrow steadily creeping towards my hairline. I find myself reluctant to call this piece a writing article; I think "editorial" would be a better description.

    All in all, I believe real-world politics and fantasy to be a little like, say, orange juice and pizza. Each is fine on its own, but mixing them together produces bad results.
     
  12. I disagree to a point and agree to a point on this issue. I don't think that we can tackle specific issues in SFF, meaning things like police shootings, US tax problems, etc. But we can tackle broader issues and more abstract problems. There are, of course, exceptions. Like with urban fantasy I have a story in mind where in the climax a drone strike on US soil takes place, thus instigating a war with magical people across the world and in the US. This is meant to make people question the use of drones. I think it will fit quite well, but still it asks a broader question concerning reasonable use of force during a tense and potentially devastating scenario. It also asks what are we willing to sacrifice in order to keep the rest of us safe (in my book the death of 18 magic school kids).

    However, I also believe that any such approach to a book needs to be balanced, I don't mean the two sides should have equal arguments and traction, I mean that the best arguments for both sides of the debate need to be presented. There can be no straw-men when you write a story dealing with these hot button issues. Only the best actual arguments should presented. I say this because to do otherwise would be to insult your reader's intelligence. Sure, you might appeal to the readers that agree with your opinion, but you will drive away others. For example, after reading the screeds of agnosticism and vegetarianism found in The Inheritance Cycle by Paolini I almost stopped reading. Only by virtue of my obsession to finish whatever I start did I finish the series. I felt like he was putting in his world view and was condescending to all other opposing views. That is what happens when you don't present cognizable arguments from a side opposing your world view. There's my two cents, adjusted for inflation it's more like 2.4¢ but whatever.
     
    Tom likes this.
  13. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    Yes, real-world political issues in fantasy can be done well, if they're approached from the right angle. I agree. I just have a tendency to regard politics in general as I would a fly in my coffee, so I read the article through the lens of my perspective.
     
  14. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Tom, that lens is valid because you're pointing out the danger of getting too political: you break immersion and cause people to throw down the book saying, "Oh, the author's making a point. Yeah. That's why I read fantasy."

    For my Barbarian Schoolgirls comic, I have a few scripted scenarios inspired by some very real problems in the academic world—problems which, likely, you're vaguely aware of or unaware of if you're not a teacher—and I exaggerate the problems to the point of absurdity. Of course, education issues are relevant to a comic with "school" in its name and I don't think these issues are politicalized enough to tick off that many people. It would be like calling Dilbert too political because of the pointy-haired boss.

    Despite some bad experiences I've had as a teacher, there are political issues that I consider more important, and those issues won't go in my comic because the very mention of them is more likely to alienate than entertain.
     
    Tom likes this.
  15. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    And yet, questions of the validity of police-force authority could be seen as one of the essential underpinnings of, say, Robert Bennett's City of Stairs (imo one of the best fantasy novels of the last year or so). I am in favour of the exploring of the elements of and factors behind real-world politics, social issues and other Big Things, in order to inform better fiction. But the framing and context should probably be carefully considered.
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    On one hand, I agree with Russ. If its purpose was really to showcase how SFF authors should deal with real world issues, I'm sorry, but it missed the mark by several country miles.

    On the other hand, the author got me to read it.

    If you're looking for clicks, that's one way to go...
     
  17. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Some clarification is in order here.

    The author of the article is not a stranger, but a long time member of this site. He told me that he was going to be attending this panel on genre writing and real world issues several weeks before the panel even took place, and offered to write a report on it. It sounded interesting, so I encouraged him to do so.

    That's what the author did. He wrote up a detailed report on the event, exactly as it took place, without adding any of his own opinions. This was never intended to be a "writing article", nor a "how to" article. Rather, it was always to be a report on a genre writing panel at a significant SFF convention. Whatever was said at this panel, he would have reported it.

    That how I can attest - as a fact - that this is not a leftist political tract disguised as a writing article. It does not reflect the author's opinion, nor my opinion. If the panelists had sat there quoting Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, that's what the report would have reflected.

    The author recognized that some of the opinions expressed were controversial, and considered not even posting it. However, I decided to run it, as I found it to be thought-provoking - even though I disagree with many of the points made by the panelists. It made me reconsider how I handle policing in my own writing, which frankly, I had never given much thought to before. The fact that I disagreed with the panelists didn't bother me, as sometimes disagreement spurs me on to create better ideas of my own.

    In any case, this article is not a disguised political tract, and is not part of a hidden leftist agenda for Mythic Scribes. Rest assured that there is no political agenda of any kind here.
     
    Feo Takahari, Reaver and Devor like this.
  18. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Black Dragon,

    Often what the writer intends to convey isn't what the audience gets out of it. When that happens to me with a beta reader, I typically find that to be a great indicator that some editing is needed on my part.

    Perhaps, given the way that some, including myself, are interpreting the article, maybe the wording/tone should be reexamined?

    Again, to be totally and completely honest, the article came across to me as total clickbait. Not that there's anything wrong with that; websites live and die by clicks.

    Since that's not the point, though, perhaps, again, it might be good to run it through another edit?

    Thanks.

    Brian
     
  19. Black Dragon,

    I dunno, I took what the author said at face value. I think though the sentiments found herein aren't about the piece itself but the results of the panel, which was really one-sided. Also, the panel failed to consider the culture and history of police work and crime that has led to the current situation we have. So my problem with the piece isn't that the writing itself is a political tract, but that the panelists used the panel as a soapbox instead of looking at a broader range of issues and looking at it from more than their own political paradigm.
     
  20. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    I have a more pragmatic view of the aforementioned article and take it at face value. To me, it's a report on a panel at convention attended by the author.

    If members here are offended, angered or whatever else by this article, they can simply stop reading it. They can vent their frustrations and criticisms here (leaving their personal politics out) or on a host of other sites and I encourage them to do so.

    What I won't abide is anyone attempting to infer that Mythic Scribes has secret political agendas and that Black Dragon is trying to achieve these agendas by using this site as his sounding board.

    I've been a member here pretty much since the beginning and although I don't know Black Dragon outside the confines of Mythic Scribes, I can attest to the fact that he's a man of his word and his integrity is beyond reproach.

    If he tells you something, you can rest assured that it's the absolute truth.
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
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