55327_girl-writing_mdFollowing up on questions of ideology in literary criticism, I notice Ann Rice has also recently attacked lynch mobs in the name of political correctness. You can read an article about it here. The way this goes is that someone writes and publishes a story or book that asks uncomfortable questions, lays out unpopular views or sets up conditions that are unacceptable in some way. Then, what Rice calls “the anti-author gangster bully culture” jumps in to shame the author, attack the publisher and provide ugly reviews on widely read Internet sites like Amazon or Goodreads.

Rice uses Kate Breslin’s romance novel For Such a Time as an example. For a romance novel, this has a lot going on. Before being attacked, it had been shortlisted for prizes in the Romance Writers of America’s annual awards. In the novel, Jewess Hadassah Benjamin is blonde and blue-eyed, so able to hide behind an Aryan identity. She is pressed into secretarial service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit concentration camp Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. She is horrified by what’s going on, but needs to protect herself. To make matters worse, Hadassah finds herself attracted to von Schmidt. She makes an effort to save prisoners and converts to Christianity as the novel progresses. It’s a complex set-up, and, of course, turned out to be offensive in some quarters. It was denounced as anti-Semitic, but does that mean the questions it raises shouldn’t be looked at? We’d like to say at the distance of 70 years that all the choices in Nazi Germany were black and white, but were they really? Should Jews that passed as Aryans be condemned? Were the military guards at the camps people with real concerns about what was going on? In a bad situation, what’s salvageable?

Another example of this is Victoria Hoyt’s book Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden. This caused a scandal back in 2012, as Weird Tales Magazine initially meant to publish an excerpt, but then backed down and apologized after a backlash. The novel is set in a sun-blasted dystopian society and follows Eden, a young white woman, as she tries to find her way in a society where whites are considered weak and useless because of their skin color. The set-up was, again, offensive to some people, and it was denounced as racist. Does offensiveness mean this shouldn’t be written, published or read? Why should the fact that Eden artificially darkens her skin be offensive? Is it racist to investigate a dystopia where whites are an oppressed minority? Shouldn’t we be able to openly discuss what Rice calls “transgressive” questions in fiction?

Rice sums up her views this way: “There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who ‘has a right’ to write about what.”

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