Worldbuilding, Part 2 (or how I learned to love bad reviews)

If you've read any of  my books, you'll know that I'm one of those science fiction authors with a non-traditional perspective that comes through loud and clear. In some cases, the worlds I build (Castiti is a good example) are basically the kinds of worlds I'd love to live in. In the Casitian Universe series in particular, the core of the conflict has to do with the conflict between different ideas of how human beings should live. I try my best to have the complexity come out (like the Casitians get very annoying at some points… because they are, after all, human beings,) and I work hard at not having the bad guys be too one-dimensional (although it happens, sometimes.)

I've learned, however, through a failed experiment where I had my books on Amazon for free for a while, that some people hate my books because of my perspective. Here's one example, from an Amazon review:

This book made no sense. it's a couple hundred pages talking about how awesome socialist bisexual aliens are. Quick recap: aliens arrive to liberate dolphins and make humans stop damaging the earth. they force changes upon the world. the world gets split into factions for and against the aliens. in the end, it's decided that the people who don't trust the aliens because they're socialist, believe in no long term relationships and haven't created anything for themselves in 1000 years have to leave the earth. maybe i'm just not catching the social/political undertones but it just seemed to be a defense of being tolerant(not a bad thing) encased in a story that could be summed up in about 17 words with very little to do with sci-fi.

So the headline of this review is “far from a scifi novel.” It's kinda funny to me, because even if one hated the book (for whatever reason) it's still science fiction. It has aliens, and space travel, and other worlds and…  And of course, this person completely missed all of the complexity of the culture clash. I had a few other reviews like this. One titled “Author –> heterosexual relationships do exist.” There are at least two heterosexual couples in that book, but I guess because the main characters are queer, they missed that part! Anyway, I do try to pick out of reviews like this things that are important to make sure I work on. I'm a greeat plot developer, and love worldbuilding, but my character development needs some work. If someone in a review like this (where their own social and political ideas are obvious) says the book is “boring” I try to figure out whether that is just because of their perspective, or because maybe I'm not moving the plot along fast enough, or going deeply enough in some way. There are weakness I know about, and I hope I get better each book I write. 

I make no apologies about my writing. I write a lot of queer characters (most often where being queer is completely incidental, which really bugs some people). I write strong female characters, and gentle male characters. I like to think up new and interesting family structures, and new and interesting economic and political systems. I like to wonder what it would be like if the underlying ethics of a society were equality, environmental sustainability, mutual aid, and compassion. I like to minimize violence, death and destruction (it happens in almost every book at some point, but it's never gratuitous, or the point of the plot.)

So actually, if some people hate my books, I think perhaps I'm doing it right.

 

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