You know, when I finished my two-year service mission, I thought I would have plenty of time to myself. Well, then I helped a friend move, went to Boston, attended an all-day board meeting for the non-profit where I work, went to FanX on a press pass, and went to the first of our concerts as Utah Symphony season ticket holders. I also worked a LOT. But as of Labor Day, I now get off two hours earlier and work on Fridays.
There, you have my lame excuse for a month passing since I said I’d be back in two weeks. But here is the promised second feature on storytelling.
Years ago, I did my first professional edit for someone. It was a superhero religious opinion novel on the apocalypse and since it’s not published, I won’t give much detail on it. But one of the things that stood out to me was what inspired me to write the following: “Your readers shouldn’t know from your book who you voted for in the last three presidential elections.” I’ve also read a book that has been self-published where if you aren’t convinced by the end that the Democrats are bringing on the anti-Chrsit by conspiring against wholesome family business owners, you havent’ read the book right.
I have nothing against any party in particular and respect people’s right to invest their personal philosophies into books, but there are good and extremely bad ways to do so. Those two things are just examples and for me, they are sore spots to rival “all depressed people are fat bullies” and “anyone who likes to dress well is a gold-digger.”
So, with that said, I’d like to pay this week’s homage to Mira Grant. You may have read her things under the name Seanan Maguire, but I first knew her as the author of the Newsflesh series.
No, that’s not a typo. In this series, the zombie apoc alypse happened twenty years ago. Biological terrorists found out that research labs were developing the cure for cancer and the cure for the common cold. Convinced that Big Pharma would sell these things to the highest bidder, they stole the cures and released them into the earth’s atmosphere. Every person on earth contracted a mutated virus that cures death and zombies are the result. It’s the only version of this lore that I support.
So, when that happened and the dead started rising again, there were news reports of flash mobs playing pranks and silliness abounding. Only one man got on his daughter’s blog and told anyone who would listen that the ombies were here and there were plenty of resources on how to kill them if you would just watch movies like Night of the Living Dead.
Twenty years later, the news is done by bloggers. Some report, some do reality shows to see what happens if you mess with the walking dead, some sit around and write poetry and weird fanfic about it. They are licensed in firearms and counted as credible news sources and in this series, they are what amounts to the press corps on a presidential campaign trail.
What impresses me about Mira’s editorials is the depth and breadth of the various opinions. She does not leave a valid perspective unwritten, allows guilt and patriotic fervor to define how the news is spun. None of the bloggers in her series specifically gets bipartisan without major provocation and they take this editorial responsibility very seriously.
Some of the most fascinating entries between those chapters are the unpublished files of these characters. It is in these excerpts that we see what they hold back and the weight of having to separate their stories from the spin for the good of actually having a major impact on society. Even more fun is the fact that she doesn’t just limit it to the “right” or “majority” opinion. She does sometimes demonize the opposition, but some of those characters are actually psychotic, so she has good reason.
I also recommend The West Wing for examples of how to do this right. There are many episodes where the communications staff are trying to craft a message that stirs the soul and refrains from giving the wrong message. Some of the best moments of the series stem from what was and was not said at pivotal moments.
So, my message for this week is to absolutely. include your personal worldview on things, but do not make it one-sided. Do not deal in absolutes or unilaterally make all the bad guys have the exact same beliefs and goals and rationale for what they do. It will make for a very boring book and will make me roll my eyes a lot.