I received a lovely rejection letter the other day for one of my weird parables. The editor hadn’t a clue about what I was doing but wanted to help, perhaps seeing a glimmer of talent. He made suggestions entirely inappropriate to the genre I was inventing but which, I suspect, Kazuo Ishiguro may have already done in Buried Giant. Like the Japanese author, I am hearkening back to an early art form where the story instructs and characters aren’t allowed to get in the way. Time, setting, place are characters as much, if not more than individuals. Proper subjects for what I call a didactic parable might be: the duality of human nature, over-population and climate change- issues mankind may have created but which have grown too large to control.
N. K. Jemisim is a writer of science fiction who deals with similar progressive themes. A 3 time Hugo Award nominee, she draws criticism from traditionalists, largely male, who want to return to the good old days of galactic heroes, monster villains and helpless damsels in distress. Jemisim and a growing number of largely women writers want to examine more pressing matters and so a schism exists in the genre. (Blog 12/17/15)
Jemisim remains unchastened by criticism. “I’ve always written what I want to read and I don’t care if it doesn’t fit into the confines of what a bunch of reactionaries – can I say assholes? – reactionary assholes want of the genre.” (“World Shaker, A Fantasy Writer Breaks Through,” by Jason Kehe, Wired, August 2016 pg. 29.)
To retain her independence, the author, who had to work to pay rent, has turned to the crowdfunding site, Patreon, for support. To her credit, fans responded, pledging monthly stipends that will allow her to create full time. Her goal is to complete the remaining two books of her trilogy that began with Broken Earth.
That readers should love a writer enough to become patrons touches me. That this woman, Jemisin, so much younger than I, should defy gatekeepers of the cannon inspires me. Who are they, these critics, who pretend to judge art, after all? Their role, if they insist upon having one, is to comprehend all the fluttering and permutations of inspiration that have sprung from the human mind since the first bison found immortality on cave walls.