Standing Up to the YA Fantasy Impuritans

As Christians and as fantasy fiction fans, we have a duty to stand up to bullies, including the “Impuritans.”
on Feb 8, 2019 · 38 comments

You have probably heard by now about Amelie Wen Zhao, the Chinese immigrant who pulled her YA fantasy nove, Blood Heir, after being set upon by Twitter piranha.

Zhao based the invented world in her novel on her own experience growing up on mainland China. In China today, slavery is a concern, especially for young women, who are in danger of being kidnapped and sold to men who cannot otherwise find wives, due to China’s one-child policy. So Zhao included indentured servants and human trafficking as a plot issue in her novel.

Only, in her fantasy world, it was magic powers, rather than skin color, that fueled the discrimination that decided who ended up as a slave.

It was this that—of all things—that upset her attackers.

Nearly every fantasy or science fiction book I read as a child had basically this same theme—that prejudice would be different in an alien culture, and by viewing it from afar, we can learn to overcome it in ourselves. And yet, this very premise is what Zhao’s attackers denied. They condemned her for allowing slavery to be about anything but skin color.

They actually said this.

Other attacks

Zhao is not the only author to be so attacked recently. Laurie Forrest and Keira Drake both suffered similarly before the release of their books. The publicity from the media reaction catapulted Forrest’s book, The Black Witch, to greater success, but Drake was not so lucky. She delayed her book, The Continent, rewriting sections, but she did not benefit from the publicity and her series is struggling.

All three of these authors were attacked for writing the very kind of books that were most praised only a few years ago.

Speculative fiction without speculation?

Speculative fiction is the art of speculating about the world through fiction. How can such an art exist, if no one is allowed to write about anything  except exactly what they know from their every day experience?

Science fiction’s grand master, Gene Wolfe, addressed this subject when he wrote:

Science fiction’s fictional people are hard to make believable because they are likely to be remote from the writer’s experience. Who has known a Martian? A starship captain? A woman who has published scientific articles intended to prove that she is not a human being? If the writer cannot empathize with people who do not yet exist—and may never exist—he must stay out of science fiction.

His comments remain true today. Without empathy for others—the ability to imagine the life and experience of someone unlike ourselves—we cannot enjoy speculative fiction.

Hitting close to home

As an author, who is also the mother of a Chinese girl, this story hit me particularly hard. I immediately ordered Blood Heir on Amazon, hoping that a show of support from the public might convince Zhao to change her mind about canceling the book. Alas, I have since received word from Amazon that the book has been pulled.

Blood Heir, Amelie Wen ZhaoZhao’s story is doubly painful, because I, too, spent decades pursuing my dream before I was finally published by Tor in 2009. So Zhao’s comments on the topic from her blog broke my heart.

On a recent Skype session with my parents, my mother told me in tears that, when I was around 8 years old, I said to her one day: “Mama, I want to be an author!” And she gently sat me down and told me the reality. That so few authors make it — and fewer, still, make it big. That many still struggle on in pursuit of their dream. That I have to decide whether I want a life of comfort — one that my parents have gifted me — or a life of uncertainty, potential financial duress, and, very possibly, never having my books see the day of light.

I chose. For my entire life, I’ve prepared myself for a career in finance, telling myself it was the more realistic choice, that success stories for authors came true once in a blue moon and that dreams were something only Cinderella’s fairy godmother could grant with a wave of her wand.


This young woman’s life dream has been robbed by bullies.

The Impuritans

These modern bullies form mobs that exhibit as much moral outrage as the Victorians or Puritans of old, but they lack the one thing that redeemed the older groups: virtue.

The Victorians and the Puritans may be known for moralizing, but many of their members legitimately tried to live up to the high moral standards they proposed. One might say that they had the virtues of their vices. This new movement has all of their arrogance but none of their morality.

Because of this, some have started referring to these frothing, outrage mobs as Impuritans. Where the Puritans used peer pressure in an attempt to enforce morality, these modern Impuritans attempt to bully people into accepting sinful behaviors.

A Christian’s duty

L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter

As a writer and a mother, this story appalls me, but as a Christian, our duty must go beyond merely being appalled.

As Christians, we have a duty to stand up to bullies, especially if they are urging us to commit sins and accept false, non-Christian moral codes. In the Bible, the penalty for yielding to bullies was surprisingly severe. Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites had been told that they would be led to a Promised Land, running with milk and honey. Moses sent a few ahead to spy out what lay ahead. What they discovered was a land running with milk and honey, but the people living there looked menacing. The spies feared the locals much as we might fear standing up to a bully.

The spies returned and told the Hebrews that the land was full of unbeatable giants. Only one told the truth about what he had seen, a man named Caleb, but the people did not listen to Caleb. They quailed in fear and begged not to have to face these giants.

God’s response? He condemned the entire tribe to wander in the desert for forty years, until the current generation of adults had died. Those who had given into their fear were denied entrance to the Promised Land. When they finally were allowed to enter,  Caleb, the one who told the truth, was still as strong, at 85, as he had been—the gift God gave him for his truthfulness.

Standing firm

If we modern Christians give way to this mob mentality of immorality and outrage, rather than standing up to those who abuse the truth, we could lose our promised land. America has been a promised land in many ways—a place of freedom and human dignity. These benefits have been vanishing in recent years, not because some tyrant has taken them from us with bayonets, but because we are ceding the willingly, due to the insistence of the Impuritans.

Amelie Wen Zhao has had her promised land, the happy future she had envisioned since she was eight years old, snatched from her. If we continue to allow this to happen, we, too, may find that we have lost ours.

We must take a stand against immoral mob mentality if we want to be able to continue to practice Christianity, much less enjoy speculative fiction, in the years to come.

L. Jagi Lamplighter is the author of the YA fantasy series The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. Its third book was nominated for the YA Dragon Award in 2017. The fourth book won the first YA Ribbit Award, and the fifth book won the 2021 Helicon Award for Best Fantasy. She is also the author of the Prospero’s Daughter series: Prospero Lost, Prospero In Hell, andProspero Regained, as well as numerous articles and short stories. She also has an anthology of her own works, In the Lamplight, as well as edits and teaches writing.
  1. Patrick T. says:

    Did the author cave? Or was the decision made by her publisher? This is a tragedy, to be sure. And something of a cautionary tale about ideological mobs and censorship, but I think some things have as much power over us as we grant them. I agree the best ways to ‘resist’ are to support like-minded authors and produce our own best work as examples of quality alternatives, but also to see this kind of intimidation and harassment for what it is: pout-rage and group-think. It isn’t as important, accurate, or correct as it proclaims, and deserves to be ignored and whither in obscurity. An old, white, dead Confederate General once said “Never take counsel of your fears.” Old, white, dead and Confederate he may be, he was right. I feel for Ms. Zhao, but end of the day, I think she caved not so much to the mob, but to the fears they (successfully) stirred up in her.

    • E.F.B. says:

      My understanding is that her publishers were planning to move forward with the release. She contacted them and asked them not to. Bless her heart, I understand how upsetting it must have been to have people internet-screaming at her like that, but in reality, that’s all they can do: scream. I agree that she needed to stand firm. Caving just gives the mob power they don’t deserve and encourages them to keep behaving in this manner in order to get what they want.

      • Actually, they can do a lot more than just scream, and I think that’s probably the reason she had them take the book off the presses. Rather than churn up anger, she probably thought it better for everyone to let the pressure die down.

        • Exactly. Sometimes when people get angry on the internet, they can dox people and/or get violent. Or even simply ruin someone’s reputation. It’s an issue that takes a lot of caution and thought to handle right.

        • Patrick T. says:

          “A lot more than scream- – ”

          Like what? Threaten her life? That’s prosecute-able. Threaten not to buy her books? or books from that publisher? OK… but really? Do these people read anything other than their own propaganda? Do boycotts work or last very long?

          I’m not suggesting it wasn’t uncomfortable, ugly, and shocking, but from what I’ve seen, the mob’s outrage is insanely fickle; their ire will switch to the next target/next offender in the blink of an eye. In the meantime, she had free publicity and a chance to stand up to bullies as an example of reason and creative expression.

          • Sometimes threats turn ugly before law enforcement has a chance to get involved. Sometimes law enforcement can’t do anything right off the bat. Threats of any kind, whether from random internet people or stalkers aren’t exactly a simple issue.

      • Rachel Nichols says:

        Too bad she didn’t know what every successful writer knows. The only bad publicity is no publicity at all. There’s a reason I don’t tweet. 90% of the prominent tweeters are murderously insane bullies.

  2. notleia says:

    “Where the Puritans used peer pressure in an attempt to enforce morality, these modern Impuritans attempt to bully people into accepting sinful behaviors.”

    Sorry, I’m not following. I don’t see how the Impuritans are any different from Puritans. They both use/d bullying to force people to behave the way they wanted to. I can’t really see one group’s goal as being more moral than the other. Not wanting to promote racism is not actually sinful behavior, however badly they went about trying to accomplish that goal. “Color blindness” is a particularly flawed social solution, so Zhao could have been ick without realizing it, but I guess I won’t be able to find out.

    • I think she calls them “Impuritans” because, unlike the Puritans, their ire is triggered not by someone denying traditional morality but by someone denying the tenets modern, contrived morality–in this case, that slavery could be based on something other than race.

    • *Woops* Replied too fast the first time.

      I believe Mrs. Lamplighter is coining the term Impuritans to refer to the moral character of the groups of people who participated in the campaigns to get rid of the book, and not to the specific objection they were raising.

      “Not wanting to promote racism” may have been the stated aim of the people complaining against the book, but that does not actually make sense given the contents and especially the genre of the book in question.

      • L says:


        In this case, the racism issue is not specifically a moral issue, but this same tactic is used in our society today to promote many vices. I was referring to the group as a whole, not just to this particular attack.

      • notleia says:

        It doesn’t seem fair to compare Puritan stated goals with Impuritan shortcomings at their stated goals. If you wanted apples-to-apples, it would be stated goal v. stated goal or shortcomings v. shortcomings, or for the nerds like me, both all in one giant essay.

    • I agree with Notleia, though, that moral bullies and immoral bullies are on the same footing. It’s hardly a compliment to say, “At least they burned that guy at the stake trying to stand for something righteous.” Last I checked, pride is a sin. Hah! But yeah, ridiculous that people were attacking her book because of perceived racism (I looked at some early reviews–and they seemed to be assuming that plot situations and events were planned occurrences of racism), especially when the author’s forward in the book obviously shows that she was attempting to do the opposite. I think if any of those people spent 10 minutes in a room with the author, they’d see the girl is innocent. But people are jerks and feel empowered by social distance to incite anger.

      Sometimes a story is just a story. Sometimes events in a story aren’t meant to hold symbolic meaning. You need to honor an author by trying to understand their intentions. Otherwise, what’s the point? Go make your own art, instead.

    • Richard A says:

      The original Puritans bullied their neighbors, if you will, into following a moral code they themselves were following, which was objectively known and knowable and philosophically defensible – except for the part about hating Catholics. Their neighbors were, in fact, other Puritans who had ostensibly agreed to the same moral code.

      • notleia says:

        Um, not really. They were the reason Roger Williams turned Baptist and noped out to found Rhode Island. They executed Quakers like Mary Dyer. The Salem Witch Trials happened in Puritan country under Puritan watch.

        And that’s just the American Puritans. Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads are are whole nother list of iffy morality in the British civil wars.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Wow, quite a few people have commented here. Let me add my own comment if I may. On a different track.

      Modern morality is inherently self-contradictory in ways Puritan morality was not. I mean the Puritans were not simultaneously saying don’t commit adultery AND saying have sex with anyone you want.

      Yet modern morality IS inherently self-contradictory in a variety of ways. At least 3 that I can think of off the top of my head and two of them apply to this situation.

      The first is the self-contradiction between demanding multiculturalism and the failure to recognize some of the issues that have affected the world are entirely different in different cultures. China in the historic past WAS essentially a color blind nation because everyone who lived there was of the same race. Yet China still had slaves. Reflecting Chinese culture in a story would show that–but that’s not acceptable. Multiculturalism is only welcome if it sees the world in essentially a mono-cultural way.

      The second major way modern morality is self-contradictory is its insistence on the right to self-express (e.g. heaven forbid anyone would question anyone’s expession of sexuality) yet its simultaneous intolerance of any views of the world not in conformity with modern thought. Say what you want on the one hand, but if one should speak incorrectly, that person must be punished!

      I tend to see the self contradictions as representing a much deeper problem than hypocrisy.

      • So spiritual pride isn’t contradictory with Christian morality? I think you’re not seeing some things.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I think you must not be understanding me. My fault probably–so let me try to be clearer.

          It’s hypocrisy to have a standard of morality and then not live up to that standard. Or to have a standard of morality that logically should include other ideas, but you exclude them for whatever reason. For example, Christian morality should be a morality of humility because of its teaching of our dependence on God. But it isn’t in practice that way often enough. Which I’m defining (correctly I think) as hypocrisy.

          Were the Puritans hypocritical in a variety of ways, their actions in effect betraying their stated beliefs? Such as by having spiritual pride? Yes, I would agree that a great deal of hypocrisy was common among Puritans.

          But that’s not the same thing as a straight out contradiction in what you openly state you believe. The Puritans did not say “Be humble before God” and also “Spiritual pride is good.” No, they said “Be humble before God” and practiced spiritual pride in spite of their stated belief–hypocrisy. But not a direct logical contradiction in two different beliefs.

          However, modern, progressive concepts of morality flat out contradict themselves in their thought process. It is not rationally possible to be multicultural, yet see culture in only one way. It is rationally not possible to insist on having the right to full freedom of expression, yet insist it’s right to heap social punishment on those who stray from a particular kind of thinking. These concepts conflict in a way that’s more of a fundamental failure than mere hypocrisy.

          • A hypocrite is by definition contradicting themselves in their thought process, and the puritans had plenty moral concepts that flat out contradicted one another.

            • Travis Perry says:

              I think hypocrites either lie to themselves about their behavior (or are blind to it) and tell themselves they are fine–or create some kind of rationalization for acting in a way that is in conflict with their stated beliefs.

              I really do feel it’s different to start out from square one with expressing ideas that are in conflict from the beginning. That’s not hypocrisy. It’s moral confusion, supported by not really thinking at all about what it is such a person believes.

              We could perhaps say that hypocrisy is even worse than moral confusion–it depends on what you think is “worse.” But I, again, disagree the two things are the same thing. In my thinking anyway, there is a big difference between having a consistent standard and failing to live up to it and having a standard that no one can fully live up to because it’s inherently self-contradictory.

              Hope that makes sense. Very sincerely.

              • Earlier, were you trying to say that Puritan culture wasn’t hypocritical at all? Or were you just trying to say it was less hypocritical, or hypocritical on different subjects than modern morality is?

              • No, both are inherently self-contradictory and impossible to fully live up to, and both start with contradictory beliefs and lead to hypocrisy. I think you’re just focusing on the surface rather than getting to the meat of things.

      • Modern morality is a bit more complex than that. A lot of Liberals would probably actually say ‘have sex with anyone. Just make sure it’s consensual and that all parties know what they’re getting into and that they make sure they practice safe sex’. So they would be against adultery in that case because it would be hurting at least one person and breaking an agreement. It wouldn’t exactly be consensual to everyone in that case.

        You touched on something that bothered me a lot with the whole issue, though, which is the fact that they demand diversity but squashed it when they attacked this author. They would probably actually say that being hyper nationalistic was a bad thing, yet they kind of inadvertently were hyper nationalistic when they attacked someone for not representing social issues exactly as they are in the US.

        Another thing that really bothers me is that people also act like everyone of a certain group needs to think and feel a certain way, or be offended by the same things. One time I watched a Youtube video that ranted against what they viewed as bad stereotypes of Latinos in Oliver and Company. I watched that movie pretty often as a kid, and it was a little weird listening to them denounce it based on all the bad stereotypes they thought Tito, the Chihuahua character, represented. One thing that they talked about was him being the one that always got into little criminal activities and such. My reaction to that was like ‘Well, ok I guess, but he was part of a whole group that was always going around stealing and doing criminal stuff as a way of life, and a lot of those activities weren’t even his idea. Is that really stereotyping him when MOST of the major characters are criminals(and don’t seem to be Latino)?’

        Obviously, if the filmmakers designed Tito based off negative perceptions they have of Latinos, then shame on them. That would upset me. But the movie doesn’t have to be interpreted that way by any means. I personally always perceived Tito as quirky and funny and nice. In some ways, I think he actually breaks stereotypes, because he’d be loyal and fun to be around, rather than a scary criminal. I’m more offended by the video’s implication that being half Latino means that I’m not allowed to enjoy this show. Even if the filmmakers initially had bad intentions, they don’t come through enough to matter in that movie. If other people want to hate that show, fine, but no one else is obligated to feel the same way.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I think I may have used my example poorly. I used sex as an example not because I think modern people hold the contradictory attitude that I said modern people show, but because Puritans had strict rules about sex that were in fact NOT in contradiction. Whereas a number of modern rules I would say are in contradiction.

          But otherwise, you and I are understanding each other quite well and I agree with your comments. Thanks.

      • notleia says:

        Wait, what? China totally has different ethnic groups. China was/still is also colonialist and pretty gross about it (Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur Muslims). China is a pretty bad example for illustrating American liberal ideology. They don’t want to BE China, they want to steal the good parts of Chinese ideas and make something better.


        • notleia says:

          Darnit Travis, just stop distracting me from the discussion at hand by being Wrong on the Internet.

          • Travis Perry says:

            Sorry to distract you from issues you feel are more important–but I am more than a little certain I am actually correct and you simply haven’t realized it yet. You may not wish to admit it once you do–and you may not realize it for several years in fact–but modern liberal thought in the USA fails to be internally self-consistent. That really should bother you–and is not directly related to the paradox of tolerance. You are in fact missing the truth that other societies really have been very different from ours–or at least, what you have openly stated leads me to believe you don’t in fact understand other cultures.

        • Travis Perry says:

          Notleia, I know I write in long paragraphs and you process information fast, but I did say “historic China” as opposed to modern China. China in fact used to be almost entirely one “race” if we call it that. Though they did have different ethnicity in terms of regional variations reflected in different foods and different spoken language (ethnicity is not the same as race) they all had the same written language, the same belief system, and all were of what modern people would call the same race. Taiwan, Tibet, and Uighur Muslims were not part of historic China.

          China never had African slavery. China historically represented a society in which slavery did not fall along racial lines. That can happen. Understanding that requires multicultural understanding. Refusing to tolerate that because being colorblind is “icky” (your word, if I remember right) is failing to understand a BASIC concept of multiculturalism.

          You cannot insist multiculturalism is good but reject it when it provides lessons that do not apply to the society you were born and raised in. That is extremely “icky.”

          • notleia says:

            I don’t think there are enough semantic difference between “race” and “ethnicity” to be relevant to this conversation. It’s only really a matter of degree.

            My point is that underneath that theoretical monoculture of China is a couple centuries of colonialism and minority cultural erasure by the Han Chinese. There’s more than one way colonization destroys native cultures. It can be deliberate and aggressive, or it can be passive, like by only accepting the minorities if they only act in the proper “civilized” manner.

            Hanzi was meant to standardize communication across their empire, but it also thereby erased other forms of communication. There was a written “women’s language” that existed alongside hanzi, but we’ve all but lost it because it was never recognized or legitimized. Who knows what other writing systems we may have lost because they weren’t “civilized” enough?

            Similarly, Japan had/has a separate writing system, hiragana, that was distinct from hanzi/kanji, and even though the modern writing system still uses hiragana, communicating entirely in hiragana is still seen as childish.

            You (general you, in common with fundagelical culture) diss liberal thought as having no unifying logic underneath itself, but that’s largely because “liberal thought” is a bunch of herded cats that you (general you) lump together to distinguish it from your own ingroup.

            If it helps to clarify anything, the most common* method for most* liberals use to parse through multiculturalisms worth keeping and those that are not is whether or not those things cause harm. Judging those things by their fruits, as it were.

            *obvious caveats for herded cats

    • Supposedly, one of the big uproars with the ‘color blindness’ was that the book description said the book took place in a world where ‘oppression is blind to skin color’. If that is the case, it sounds like people were getting mad at the idea of a world where oppression was based off of something different than in our world. So, she probably wasn’t proposing color blindness as a solution, just something at play in her world.

      In some screenshots from the tweet storm, some people were also getting angry that some of the discrimination was based on magical powers and such, even though that is a common and often praised way of discussing prejudice. That trope can actually be an extremely useful way to discuss prejudice, and I could name a few examples if you like. But people seem to have searched for a way to construe it as always racist and absolutely refuse to consider that they can be wrong on those fronts sometimes, or at least have some nuance on the subject.

      Haven’t read through all of these, but here:

      Something this whole issue reminds me of is a review I read recently. It wasn’t trying to trash anyone, but it claimed that one of the characters made a jab that basically implied that conservatives don’t like biracial people or something. It bugged the reviewer, and it bugged me, too, since if the character did say that, it would be a blatant lie about me, my family, and lots of other people I know. But, unlike those people on Twitter, I didn’t get blindingly angry or trash the author, and I even thought through it a bit and considered some points in defense of the author as well, such as the fact that characters often hold opinions that are different than their author’s.

      I haven’t read the book, so I’m not even worried about trying to correct the author at this point. If I did correct the author, though, it would be from the standpoint of calmly letting her know the truth. I wouldn’t hate the book just because of that quote, and I would make it clear that I didn’t expect the book to be retracted or anything. It would just be something for her to keep in mind for the future.

      • notleia says:

        The vague direction of my general guess as to what some people might have objected to (not that I can prove any of this, because we don’t have access to the text), is like how some people object to the X-Men because it could be interpreted as blaming the victims for their own oppression.

        Because unlike the X-Men or (I guess) the Affines, black people/gay people/other assorted minorities used as analogies are NOT inherently more dangerous or threatening than anyone else. Implying that they are somehow inherently more dangerous is to imply that they are somehow responsible for provoking the reaction against them.

        • Part of that is probably where some semblance of nuance and understanding author intent comes in. There may be better or worse ways to portray such plotlines, but in general they seem to be very useful and not victim blaming at all(at least with the ones I’ve observed. I’m sure there’s some that were done poorly). In fact, they point out the hypocrisy of the oppressors: the oppressors call the victims ‘dangerous’, but then the oppressors are or become far more dangerous than the victims ever were. These stories also discuss the atrocious nature of prejudice in and of itself, so it isn’t even trying to say ‘every oppressed group in real life is an exact parallel to the oppressed group in this story.’

          It is also important to note that when people are prejudiced, they will invent reasons to label the oppressed group as bad, dangerous or inferior in some way, even if their fears aren’t true. Stories with discrimination based on magic powers often serve(or at least can be used as) a way to directly challenge those prejudices/fears. For one thing, it points out the basic fact that people CAN be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they ARE dangerous. If there is a potential for danger, it’s fine to use caution, but that is absolutely no excuse for lumping everyone of a certain group together, being completely terrified/hateful/scornful of every one of them, and trying to hurt and discriminate against them.

          I actually feel a little concerned when people say stuff like ‘inherently more dangerous implies they are somehow responsible for what they endure’. I haven’t nearly seen all the X men franchises. But, if the X men were real, could we really say hunting them down is actually justified?
          Yes, we would have to adjust our world to be able to handle people with those powers, but we wouldn’t need to hunt them down to extinction, which was what the ‘regular people’ seemed to attempt in a lot of X men plotlines.

          Also, magic powers in stories don’t usually make the characters that much more dangerous, if at all. In the end, what makes someone TRULY dangerous is their mind. What do they CHOOSE to do, ultimately? The most average, normal, weak person can be extremely dangerous if they had the mind to. It takes hardly any strength to wield a devastating weapon like poison or bombs. On the flip side, a lot of magical characters(even in stories where they are discriminated against) are kind and not dangerous at all. Many only become formidable out of necessity or circumstances. If they are/were living their lives without hurting anyone, it’s pretty clear that they didn’t provoke any action against them, powers or not.

          In many cases, the issue seems to be more about interpretation and such, not the stories themselves. Maybe instead of saying NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO WRITE THESE STORIES AND ANYONE THAT DOES IS AWFUL, we should change the conversations surrounding these stories. People should really start to have nuanced conversations with their kids about this, so that they can actually start learning the right things.

          • notleia says:

            Heck, I dunno. Are they going overboard? Prolly. But it seems like there may be half a relevant point buried under the Twitter tantrums (it’s Twitter, whatcha gonna do)

            • Yeah. The whole issue’s kind of a nasty cesspit we have to wade through. Now and then I think people bring up valid points, but they either over react like you said, or assume that every single thing they bring up is undeniably a valid point and everyone that disagrees is evil. And then I guess it feels like some people in this world are actively looking for things to get offended at.

  3. Some of this is probably a symptom of finding one or two upsetting things and then immediately getting angry instead of actually putting them in context of the work as a whole. People may actually find that even if a story is flawed, the entire work might actually say a lot of important things in spite of that. Or, the ‘flaws’ might not be flaws at all and are present to help make an extremely good point, and readers won’t understand what it is until they get to the end.

    I noticed this during Breaking Bad, actually. When Jesse initially went to this one rehab group, the counselor leading the group basically taught a self acceptance philosophy that sounded kinda flawed, at least in the manner it was expressed in, and seeing it portrayed as a good idea made me uncomfortable. And, Jesse even seemed to accept it for a while. But, many episodes later, there was a pay off to all this. Jesse had an outburst that laid out some valid criticisms of the counselor’s self acceptance philosophy and obviously had an impact. If I decided to write off Breaking Bad just because of the counselor’s initial presentation of that philosophy, I would have missed the payoff of Jesse’s outburst. A similar thing occurs with Walter White’s reasoning behind deciding to sell drugs.

  4. David Davies says:

    I would really like to buy this book, if only someone can rush to this author’s rescue and get her to do it with Indy.

    And am I perverse, or maybe a space alien, that I actually enjoy the frothing rage my views trigger in SJWs?

  5. Kristin Janz says:

    One thing I think is getting overlooked in this discussion is that the author said publicly that she believes not publishing this novel is the right decision, and that she doesn’t want anyone to defend the book or get outraged on her behalf. As far as I can tell, she believes in progressive social justice principles herself, and her original intent was to market the book primarily to that community.

    Imagine you’re a young Christian author, and you write a book that you intend to market primarily to a Christian audience. You also think it has some really unique and interesting perspectives on traditional Christian ideas that will help get more people interested in Christianity. But then the advance reviews start coming out, and a lot of them point out that the way your novel seems to be denying the divinity of Jesus is actually pretty heretical, and undermines Christian beliefs rather than promoting them.

    You’re horrified, especially after you consider the criticism and conclude that they’re probably right. The very last thing you wanted was to undermine the Christian faith and give people more reasons not to believe in it. So you decide not to publish the book after all.

    Now, would you really want a bunch of angry progressive social justice activists holding you up as a poster child for the intolerance of evangelical Christians?

    I share some of the concerns that have been expressed here, especially about our culture’s increasing lack of interest in nuance and moral ambiguity in fiction. But maybe we should focus on defending people who actually want our support.

What do you think?