Book Premise FAIL, or, Some Books I’ll Never Be Reading

So I dithered about posting on these because I don’t like bringing the authors any additional publicity.  For many books, the worst enemy is obscurity.  But I had to share my pain, folks.

Remember Victoria Foyt and Save the Pearls?  Remember how we all wondered how any author could hit such serious WTF territory?

I bring you the latest Foyt-esque forays from two other authors.  You’re welcome.

So I haven’t read either of these books.  But reading the premises has me wanting to put my head through a wall.  First:

Necessary Ill, by Deb Taber

I’m linking to her promotional post at John Scalzi’s blog because her own description of the book is even worse than the blurb:

In Necessary Ill, the neuts (naturally genderless humans) have many pursuits to satisfy this basic urge of mammals to ensure survival of their own species. Some go into medicine, others teach, others research and develop methods for helping the human race overcome its need to overconsume and create long-lasting waste. But what if, with the drive to reproduce removed and the aptitude toward science in place, all that you learned, all that you could see, told you the primary threat to human survival, and the solution was clear and logical: cull the population to more manageable levels?

That’s where the spreaders come in: neuts who spread carefully engineered plagues with the end goal of survival of the species over survival of individuals.

(bolding mine)

Yes, this book seems to have “invented” genderless, asexual people as a scifi concept and made them emotionless scientists who are sociopathic enough to think mass murder is an elegant solution to overpopulation.

What.

Because there aren’t real-life genderqueer and asexual people, right?  Because what people who are outside the gender binary, or are asexual, or who otherwise fall outside of society’s expectations in terms of gender and sexual desire need is a piece of media portraying them as emotionless sociopaths with “inhuman” bodies who don’t form caring bonds with other human beings?  By the way, notice how Taber neatly equates genderqueerness and asexuality, because of course one implies the other.  And of course a lack of male/female gender or sex drive is code for both a lack of purpose in life and NO EMOTION OR HUMAN CONNECTION.  Oh yeah, and if you’re not a nice cis hetero person who wants to copulate like a bunny, you’re probably cool with mass murdering people.

What the hell?!

She also uses “it” as her pronoun of choice for her genderless people.  Which at this point is probably the least of the book’s problems.

This is the sort of book that makes me wonder about the publishing industry.  A whole bunch of people had to read this and approve it before it went to print, and nobody said anything?

Second:

A Tale of the South, by Adina Alexander

It’s a self-published novel about a nice white guy in the 1800’s who is kidnapped by a jealous rival, dipped in a “staining solution” to paint him dark, and sold as a slave in the South.  Despite him trying to explain that, y’know, he is white, so this shouldn’t be happening!  The injustice!

Slavery: it’s so much worse when it happens to white folks who don’t deserve it.

Again, I haven’t read either of these books.  Could they be AWESOME SUBVERSIONS?  . . . well, I think it unlikely, considering the language their authors have been using to promote them.  And I think they needed to be blogged about anyway, because seriously, what makes people feel like this shit is proper fodder for their scifi/alternate history/other fictional playgrounds?

18 thoughts on “Book Premise FAIL, or, Some Books I’ll Never Be Reading

  1. Extra bonuses are more discrimiflips (like Out by Laura Preble which still gives me nightmares of loathing) and historical fantasies that decide to pass off various atrocities (slavery, the holocaust) as the work of evil supernaturals!

    or anything where the new supernatural group du jour is oppressed, so very very oppressed, look at how oppressed they are, let us talk more about oppression – when actual oppressed minorities are COMPLETELY MISSING

    • Wow. I just looked up “Out.” Can’t believe I missed seeing that one till now.

      It makes me wonder about these authors. Are they writing in a vacuum? Did they float these ideas in a writers’ group or look up these sorts of premises online? I mean, in some of these cases, there’s no question they know they’re writing about sensitive issues; are a few keystrokes on a search engine so much to ask?

      • Well, having argued with a few, it comes down to utter complete willful cluelessness. And the willful part is important – because they do not hear ANY criticism. It’s a level of arrogance that makes them think “I know sod all about these issues, but I am THE MOST SPECIAL PERSON EVAH and can comment!”

        • See, the only thing I can think of when it comes to that amount of ignorance and supposed-self enlightened teaching of the masses through those discrim flips is something I’ve been really seeing in racism… which is that the authour is a sociopath.

          In the end, despite their good intentions, it’s ALL about them and how GOOD they are and how this special awesome book is going to CHANGE the world and people will REMEMBER THEM.

          There’s no genuine thought of empathy or sympathy or consideration for how triggering that shit can be, like you talked about when you reviewed that Out book. It’s all about them.

  2. Alright, I’m gonna have to sue you for copyright infringement… *I* was the first on this here website to come up with lists of books I refuse to read, and I went mainstream too, listing Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, yah damned hipster!

    Nah, seriously, all joking aside, I heard of Tale of the South over on Tumblr a few weeks back, and the cover art was hilariously bad, with some stereotypical Southern plantation stuff, as well as a white dude who looked like he was painted brown, yet still had Caucasian features.

    Necessary 3 sounds horrible though… ugh…like… it sounds like a PSA on us sticking to the gender of the biological sex we’re assigned with at birth or else we’ll kill people en masse to ensure proper numbers…

    That and the population control bit was ripped off from an episode of Sliders, where the travels went to a world where the philosophy of population control was taken seriously and humanity is less than a billion strong.

    • Ha! I just looked up yours. You totally get all the points here; I took on the easy targets!

      Yeah, I see “Tale of the South” getting more and more bad press. I hear someone warned her early on and even linked her to the Foyt criticism, but maybe she didn’t think it would happen with her book.

      And yeah, I don’t know what to say about Necessary Ill. I just don’t. (p.s. — it’s “Necessary ILL” rather than “Necessary 3″ if you’re talking about it elsewhere. :) )

  3. *headache*

    I’m not even sure a drinking game could make any of those works endurable! Even the alcohol poisoning wouldn’t come quick enough for any of that trash.

  4. I was almost ready to give the author of Necessary Ill a pass due to a possible cluelessness, (after all, I didn’t realize genderless genderqueer existed until I found out one of my friends was one), until I looked into things closer. With that many stereotypes in play, the author had to at least have had a clue.

    As for the publishing industry, this would hardly be surprising. They likely realized it would be a problem, realized it would cause a storm of a reaction. Likely, that’s what they were counting on. Then, curious people buy the book to find out what the fuss is about. Almost any attention is good attention as far as sales go, and publishers are only interested in moving units. Despite what they claim, they have absolutely no interest in quality.

    As for A Tale of the South, I don’t understand how anybody could be so stupid as to not see the problems in it. Unless, again, the author was intentionally trying to gather attention. A self-published author’s greatest challenge is getting noticed. (Believe me, I know.) This kind of strategy seems a lot riskier for the self-published, however, as they’re not likely to get big enough that people, outside those upset about it, notice the ‘controversy’ and stand to lose a lot more people than they’d gain.

    • Oh, man. I really hope that’s not the case (that they see all the problems but think “any publicity is good publicity”). Willful ignorance is bad enough, but maliciously contributing to societal bigotry just to sell some books? That would be . . . well, evil. I really hope it’s not true.

      With that many stereotypes in play, the author had to at least have had a clue.

      And even if she didn’t notice all the awful stereotypes with regard to genderqueer and asexual people, if she followed her scifi premise to its logical conclusion (which I would consider a prerequisite for writing scifi!), she still has a whole mess of problems when she assumes biological reproduction is some sort of cornerstone for human morality. For instance, a smear a lot of people use against gay and lesbian relationships is that same-sex couples can’t biologically reproduce with each other — is she saying they all become mass-murdering sociopaths too? And how do trans people fit into her world? And what about people who are cis and hetero but who are infertile, or who simply aren’t interested in marriage or raising children? (The childfree aren’t a marginalized group the same way QUILTBAG people are, of course, but I think there are some implications with feminism with respect to women being marginalized for not desiring children.) By saying that people who lack the urge or the capability to reproduce biologically become sociopaths comfortable with mass murder, she’s condemning a whole slew of people. I don’t think an unawareness of genderqueerness or asexuality could get her a pass here anyway.

      (Besides, if she was going to write about something like this, it doesn’t matter how ignorant she was, because if she wanted to write this book, how could she not check? I typed “genderless people” into a search engine and a whole mess of articles and resources popped right up that would make anyone quietly retire an idea like this.)

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