personal agendas disguised as fiction

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Rysto
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Rysto » Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:46 am UTC

The only reason for Red Rabbit's existence was to give Tom Clancy a platform for ranting about how horrible public healthcare systems are. And by "horrible", I mean the doctors are all drunks who's only goal is to extend their patients' pain for as long as possible. 'Cause it's cheaper, or something like that. Clancy then contrasts this with the American system, in which every patient is instantly given the best possible care immediately.

Xanthir wrote:The point is that communism is bad and democracy is good. That's it; that's the whole thing. It's really very unfortunate - I AGREE with him on this issue, and I still find his treatment of it disgustingly obnoxious. Guh.

I like his books anytime he isn't having Richard pontificate about how awesome it is to be free and not a socialist.

Be fair, Goodkind devoted at least one book to a diatribe against pacifism and vegetarianism.

Outchanter
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Outchanter » Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:59 am UTC

I don't think there's anything wrong with an agenda, provided it's woven into the story skillfully enough and it isn't completely offensive*. I still think the Narnia books are great despite the obvious allegories. Frankly I have more of a problem with the implied racism in many fantasy books (e.g: Redwall) which I suspect is more due to authorial incompetence than to malice.

*This is subjective of course. It seems a lot of the same books being criticized here are being recommended in another thread.
Last edited by Outchanter on Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:13 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Poochy
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Poochy » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:11 am UTC

I'm surprised the conversation's reached the third page without anybody mentioning the infamous Jack Chick.

For that matter, TV Tropes appears to have an entire page dedicated to this.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Outchanter » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:47 am UTC

I wouldn't call Chick's work disguised...

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Jorpho
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Jorpho » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:59 am UTC

Poochy wrote:For that matter, TV Tropes appears to have an entire page dedicated to this.
I was thinking of that, but I forgot where it was. (It is too easy to get lost for days in the depths of TVTropes.)

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teamcorndog
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby teamcorndog » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:09 am UTC

Kendo_Bunny wrote:I'm surprised no one's mentioned Jean M. Auel. I couldn't get through 'Clan of the Cave Bear' because the female supremacy was so in-your-face. It was all 'Ha-ha, women invented everything worth having, men are worthless brutes and women designed the perfect society and men destroyed it and men destroy everything that is good and pure and holy and rape everything that moves, while women fart sunshine and rainbows because they are so wonderful and intelligent and perfect.'


I didn't get that feeling at all from that book. Ayla was superior to the clan because she was a different species (or genus or whatever, I don't know), NOT because she was a woman. Her character could have been male, really. Of course the story would have gone in a different direction.
Anyway, I think you should give the book another try. It's worth reading.

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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby btilly » Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:25 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:
Belial wrote:No, seriously, Pratchett is about to become a left-wing Heinlein. He's always had an agenda, but there used to be so much awesome storytelling in the bargain as well. Now it's... not so much. The characters are forced to say so much wise stuff they've hardly got the time to be characters.

When I read "Making Money" it really didn't seem much like that, but apparently Pratchett's opinion on the gold standard is that we should move to a gold standard, and then build all the gold into robots that will guard themselves so nobody needs to guard Fort Knox. That's not exactly a standard political position.

I am quietly amused by this discussion. It is amazed at how much of his plotline is directed by a comedic retelling of the actual historical origins of key institutions in a disjointed way. For instance Making Money reflects the actual transition that was made between coinage having value for the precious metal in it to paper money that had value for the metal you could get for it to pieces of paper that has value because there is metal backing it somewhere, even though you can't get at it. (Actually since the 70s we are on a fiat standard, but after the Great Depression we were theoretically on a gold standard only you weren't allowed to see the gold. In the USA that was literally weren't allowed as in any stockpiles of gold that were found would be forcibly confiscated and replaced by paper money.)

I see no political agenda here, just a comedic summarization of history. It is less recognizable to most than the one in Small Gods, but that is partly because most of us are more aware of The Inquisition than the history of different forms of money.

Incidentally the bit about stamps being used as money is historically accurate.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Thadlerian » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:39 pm UTC

btilly wrote:I am quietly amused by this discussion. It is amazed at how much of his plotline is directed by a comedic retelling of the actual historical origins of key institutions in a disjointed way. For instance Making Money reflects the actual transition that was made between coinage having value for the precious metal in it to paper money that had value for the metal you could get for it to pieces of paper that has value because there is metal backing it somewhere, even though you can't get at it. (Actually since the 70s we are on a fiat standard, but after the Great Depression we were theoretically on a gold standard only you weren't allowed to see the gold. In the USA that was literally weren't allowed as in any stockpiles of gold that were found would be forcibly confiscated and replaced by paper money.)

I see no political agenda here, just a comedic summarization of history. It is less recognizable to most than the one in Small Gods, but that is partly because most of us are more aware of The Inquisition than the history of different forms of money.

Incidentally the bit about stamps being used as money is historically accurate.

I'm not referring to the actual plotline of Making Money, I'm talking about how his characters function. Their socio-political monologues (inner or outer) are becoming longer for each book the man writes. Not so much direct politics, rather his ethical standing. A standing with which I agree, but which lack of subtlety is threatening the quality of his most recent books.

An example can be found in Going Postal. Vetinari is having a meeting with some big-businesscapitalists (who are just so obviously crooks), and goes on for a full-page monologue showing off his insight in their methods. Followed by "The men around the table were staring at him." Basically, Pratchett is setting up other characters to practically applaud (figuratively speaking) the insights expressed. See also the clacks message by the end of the book.

His parallel to modern capitalism of reality is very clear. Again, I agree with it, but the blatancy of its expression hurts the story.

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Mother Nature's Son
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Mother Nature's Son » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:22 am UTC

Huh. I take almost the opposite view of this thread's premise; if a book doesn't at least try tell me something about the world I live in, I just don't feel like I'm gaining anything by reading it. I'm pretty much diametrically opposed to the message Ayn Rand was trying to convey, but it was well presented. Just wrong. Some of the great classics are stellar examples of this: Gulliver's travels, Candide, Cyrano, Tartuffe...Cyrano, in particular, does an excellent job of this, in addition to being immensely entertaining. The interesting thing about fictional stories, in my opinion, is not what they say about space ships or aliens or wizards or architects. What makes them interesting and worthwhile is what they say about us, using those things to support their point. TwilightWatch beats out Twilight, any day.
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Amoeba
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Amoeba » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:40 am UTC

btilly wrote:Incidentally the bit about stamps being used as money is historically accurate.


Didn't remind anyone else of The Office?

Anyway, surprised no-one's mentioned His Dark Materials yet. Like Narnia, I don't really care because the story's so good, but it is pretty blatant. I tend to find that I don't mind personal agendas as long as they're obvious enough for me to take them into account as I read. Really don't like it if I only notice them afterwards.
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btilly
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby btilly » Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:18 pm UTC

Thadlerian wrote:[An example can be found in Going Postal. Vetinari is having a meeting with some big-businesscapitalists (who are just so obviously crooks), and goes on for a full-page monologue showing off his insight in their methods. Followed by "The men around the table were staring at him." Basically, Pratchett is setting up other characters to practically applaud (figuratively speaking) the insights expressed. See also the clacks message by the end of the book.

Ah. This I agree with though said passages are well enough written and are funny enough that I enjoy them.

Incidentally it doesn't seem that anyone has mentioned L.E. Modesitt Jr yet. He writes whole series of books to explore parts of his personal belief system. Often surrounding the nature of ethics and the proper exercise of power. What is interesting to me is that, even though I often disagree with him, I enjoy the books in part because of how his method of expression tries to get people to think about the point he wants to make. (Rather than beating you up with saying how great it is.)
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Belial
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Belial » Thu Dec 25, 2008 10:20 am UTC

btilly wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:
Belial wrote:No, seriously, Pratchett is about to become a left-wing Heinlein. He's always had an agenda, but there used to be so much awesome storytelling in the bargain as well. Now it's... not so much. The characters are forced to say so much wise stuff they've hardly got the time to be characters.

When I read "Making Money" it really didn't seem much like that, but apparently Pratchett's opinion on the gold standard is that we should move to a gold standard, and then build all the gold into robots that will guard themselves so nobody needs to guard Fort Knox. That's not exactly a standard political position.


You may want to fix those quote tags. I didn't say any of that.


Mother Nature's Son wrote:Huh. I take almost the opposite view of this thread's premise; if a book doesn't at least try tell me something about the world I live in, I just don't feel like I'm gaining anything by reading it.


The interesting thing about a good story is that you can generally find numerous lessons about the world you live in implicit in the story, parallels and insights that really speak to you, even if the author had no intention of putting them there. Even if all s/he set out to do was to tell a story with characters that feel true and a situation that seems interesting.

The same doesn't work in reverse, really: it's rare that an author sets out to ram home their personal agenda and a good story worth reading just happens to fall into place around it. And that leaves you with two problems: the story is flat and uninteresting and transparent, and the agenda itself has no real power beyond what it would have if the author had just written an essay. It is failure across the board.

That said, it is possible to write one's personal agendas if one remains aware that the story in which those agendas are couched has to remain true (in a feeling sense, not a factual sense), and that if it doesn't you're just masturbating. One of my favorite authors, Warren Ellis, admits that this is basically what he's doing in most of his work: agenda comes first, story comes second, but it's a really, really close second, and that keeps the work readable.

That said, when you're super-focused on your pet cause, it's really hard to let stories evolve the way they should to keep them believable. You come to a point where, to remain a good and true story, you need to have things occur one way, but to really ram home your agenda that little bit more or to take that one last shot at the opposing philosophy, they have to occur another. And many, many authors jump the wrong way on that one.

Thus leading to them showing up in this thread. Go fig.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Pizzashark » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:37 pm UTC

Malice wrote:Michael Crichton does this constantly--and yet, I still love his books. Partly because, unlike some of the authors mentioned, he actually provides a good, fast-paced plot and at least 2-d characterization along with the sermons.

Partly because I actually enjoy seeing how he manages to interweave the popular novel formula with his message, using different characters to present and refute different arguments and counter-arguments. He's pretty convincing, too (although maybe that's just me). For months after I read "State of Fear" I didn't really believe in global warming. It's fairly nifty in its own way to get "interesting tidbit about chaos theory" in the same book as "the dinosaurs are gonna eat them!"


I just forced myself to finish State of Fear. Pretty sure it's the worst book he ever wrote. I don't care about the science - the plot just plain fucking sucked. There was no suspense, no "thrill", and the characters were all pretty goddamned static. The male protagonist bangs the female protagonist at the end of the book. How fucking predictable, and not extremely fucking common at all.

I don't have problems with people pushing their own agendas in their works, as long as the work itself is enjoyable to read. But if I have to suffer through 500 pages of sub-par plot and character development just because you were so obsessed with making people hear your message... fuck you.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Kesho » Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:47 am UTC

Mother Nature's Son wrote:Huh. I take almost the opposite view of this thread's premise; if a book doesn't at least try tell me something about the world I live in, I just don't feel like I'm gaining anything by reading it. I'm pretty much diametrically opposed to the message Ayn Rand was trying to convey, but it was well presented. Just wrong. Some of the great classics are stellar examples of this: Gulliver's travels, Candide, Cyrano, Tartuffe...Cyrano, in particular, does an excellent job of this, in addition to being immensely entertaining. The interesting thing about fictional stories, in my opinion, is not what they say about space ships or aliens or wizards or architects. What makes them interesting and worthwhile is what they say about us, using those things to support their point. TwilightWatch beats out Twilight, any day.


I think that the goal of this thread is to point out when the author attempts to convey the message, but does so poorly, usually through disrupting the flow of the novel, breaking the novel's own rules, or edging dangerously close to the fourth wall to express the author's opinion. The principle is something like,"If we wanted a lecture from the author, we would have asked for one, but it would be bearable if the author just told it as an entertaining story in the first place."

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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Dec 31, 2008 3:39 am UTC

Well, in Pournelle and Niven's Fallen Angles the science agenda is as obvious as any of the religious agenda in Left Behind. :wink:
In reality there is NO WAY for an author not to have her personal worldview shape her writing. Some authors do paint a bigger target to be shot down than others, and some are more subtle about it.
About LeGuin- she mentioned that she mostly ignored women in her earlier work and wanted to rectify the situation. It is a different view of the world and how men and women move differently through it-but I would wager that most of the people made uncomfortable by this are male.
How about Atwoods The Handmaid's Tale? Women who read it tended to see it as a possible future, men saw it as some kind of feminazi paranoid fantasy.
I couldn't finish John RIngo's The Centurion because it was quite so much of a diatribe. He's pretty steady at pushing his politics every where in is stuff-even in his stories that are military thrillers dressed up with some BDSM.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Antimatter Spork » Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:59 pm UTC

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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Whispering » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:29 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:OH JOHN RINGO NO


Well yes almost all of John Ringo's books are just Republican/NRA propaganda disguised as sci-fi. The only notable exception to that seems to be his Empire of Man series.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Guy_At_A_Keyboard » Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:36 pm UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:OH JOHN RINGO NO

Thank you very much for reminding me of that blog post. It brightened up my day, in a weird, actually-it-outrages-me-but-it's-so-damn-funny way.

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Jorpho
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Jorpho » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:00 am UTC

I haven't read anything quite like that since the infamous FATAL review. This Mr. Ringo sort of sounds like Orson Scott Card on some really serious drugs.

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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby BlueNight » Mon Jan 05, 2009 6:02 am UTC

pollywog wrote:
Belial wrote:Dinotopia (By Arthur Gurney, if I recall) was pretty bad about it, too. It was just "Small scale barely-regulated utopian communism, guys! Isn't it great?! Also, there are dinosaurs or something!"

But I forgave it because the art was just so awesome.


I never picked up on the communism thing, which was strange, because my mother is a socialist, with commie leanings, and she normally would have pointed such things out. Then again, I usually just looked at the pictures.


You know, I came to the edge of that realization the last time I read it. The dung-hauler Lee Crabb made me wonder why he was still doing such things, even grudgingly, if he didn't get paid to do it. I never completed the thought because, at that time, I hadn't yet read either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. I was more interested in the dino footprint substitution cipher, and why they spoke the English of that era; are the English their only castaways?

It took me until the final volume of Cerebus to realize that I had swallowed Dave Sim's schizophrenic passions along with his flawed philosophical views. I'm still recovering, but darn it if I still wish I hadn't figured it out until AFTER I had read the final volume.
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Re: personal agendas disguised as fiction

Postby Brother Maynard » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:32 pm UTC

I'm really depressed I spent a week read Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. (I never bothered with that eighth one that came out seemingly 2 decades after the story was finished). It all boiled down to a rant that goes like this: "CHRISTIANITY IS PURITANICAL AND GOD IS CRIMINALLY NARCISSISTIC AND DOESN'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT YOU".

Blargh.

That and Orson Scott Card's newer stuff seems to be going off the deep end.


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