Yeah, yeah, I know. Shop Talk is usually on Wednesday but I’m still off-kilter from the travel, plus we had a special guest yesterday :-). As always with Shop Talk, joining the discussion gets you in the running for a $10 gift card to the online book-tailer of your choice (international comments welcome, as always). I’m a couple of weeks behind on contest winner announcements so stay tuned for LOTS of winners on Sunday.
Now, let’s talk political correctness in our fiction. How much is too much? Where does one cross the line from being funny to being offensive? How cautious should authors be? Or are we about over being PC and ready to be simply courteous and tolerant of others?
It’s a fine line. I once wrote Katie Couric a SCATHING letter because she referred to a kid who wore glasses as “a cute little four-eyes.” As someone who’s blind as a bat (no offense to bats), I got irate at a broadcaster essentially making fun of a child on national television. The kid will get it enough from the school bullies (no offense to bullies). Overreaction? Absolutely. We tend to react to things that hit close to home.
Anyway, I always thought I was pretty conservative in the Halls of Politically Correct Verbiage because I’ve spent most of my career in higher-ed publishing. In education, one rarely ventures onto limbs, especially political limbs. Educational administrators are among the world’s most paranoid species (no offense to paranoiacs), so for one to survive, one must know how to be PC.
Because of that, a recent review caught me slack-jawed (no offense to slack-jawed people) by accusing my heroine DJ of being a slut-shaming, judgmental person and, therefore, extremely unlikeable.
To some extent, I see the reviewer’s point (this was a thoughtful, even-handed review, by the way, so I am certainly not bashing the reviewer here, just using it as a jumping-off place to talk about the issue). I mean, DJ says it right up front in Royal Street: wizards tend to be prickly and difficult. And she is a wizard. She’s not all unicorns and sunshine (no offense to unicorns or sunshine, or wizards, or prickly people). She mostly makes fun of herself, and I don’t think she has it in her to be deliberately cruel toward another person.
What did DJ do that was so egregious? She made disparaging remarks about a nymph’s sexual antics. She made a joke that she didn’t want to wear a red dress to meet Alex’s family because his Bible Belt parents might think she was a New Orleans tart. She makes a joke about not wanting to look like the “Happy Hooker.” Therefore, she’s judgmental and a slut-shamer. (I’d never heard that term “slut-shamer” before and it has become a new favorite so don’t be surprised if it shows up in a future book!)
(Thank God my editor made me hack the crap out of the full scene with the Satyrs, but just in case I decide to run it on one of my snippet Sundays, apologies in advance to Satyrs everywhere–no offense intended. It was funny!)
So where I think DJ is funny, and know that she uses her humor to cover up some serious insecurities from having grown up so isolated with Gerry, some folks find her offensive. Fair enough. It’s a Katie Couric moment.
Have you read something in one of your paranormal reads that offended you? Have you, like me, written a scathing letter to a member of the news media? (Katie didn’t acknowledge my email, by the way, nor should she have.)
What responsibilities do authors have to be politically correct? There are lines I’d never cross. DJ would never comment on a person’s ethnicity, religious beliefs, weight, complexion. She apparently can’t resist making comments about nymphs who go after her guys, however, although I’m thinking she probably learned her lesson, and she even admits that by misjudging one of the nymphs, she and her friends paid a heavy, heavy price.
What’s crossed the line with you?