Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…

Personal ethics in a Fiction story

I have written previously regarding my book, Second Chance Earth, but let me summarize quickly.

A ruined Earth is taken over by an alien presence who desires to cleanse and repopulate the planet. The people involved have no control over what the entity has already done or intends to do, yet try to make the best of the new life they have been given.

A recent 1-star reviewer has very insistently stated:

“…this is a horrifying tale of humanity giving up its freedom to become happy puppets for vastly superior aliens” and one which “tells of the utter brainwashing and destruction of the human spirit”.

The reviewer goes on to say “I am not sure if the author of this novel understands what he actually wrote” and that I “do not have a grasp of the ethical and psychological meaning of my novel”.

As discerning readers know, most post-apocalyptic literature is dark and disturbing by its very nature, so there should be no surprise when reading a book of this genre. I would also point out that this book is:

1. A NOVEL – “A long written story about imaginary people and events.”  Merriam-Webster

2. A work of FICTION – “Literature created from the imagination and not presented as fact.”  Britannica.com

3. A form of ENTERTAINMENT – “Something which holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” Wikipedia

There isn’t a work of fiction anywhere which remains untainted by the author’s own value system, interests, beliefs or imagination, but no reasonable reader would expect everything presented on the page to be an actual statement of the author’s personal beliefs. If this were true, many writers of horror or murder mysteries, for instance, would need to be locked away to protect society!

I love my book, and believe it is a creative and interesting tale in which the survivors are controlled, but given the means to live pleasant and  productive lives. I doubt there are very many post-apocalyptic stories out there with the happy ending mine provides! Based on written reviews so far, the vast majority of my readers also love the book and do not believe the author is ethically or psychologically deficient.

Now – would I want to live in the world I described, under the control of such a powerful alien being – NO, I would not. In this, I agree with my ardent critic that the story could be seen as a “horrifying tale”. On the other hand, if aliens really were to take over the world, it is extremely unlikely they would have the slightest concern for our freedom or well-being. In such an encounter, we would be fortunate to survive at all, let alone do so in a pleasant manner.

At the end of the day, my book provides a bit of short-lived entertainment, not a treatise on morals or ethics, and certainly not a statement of my personal views. I am grateful most of my readers understand this and will continue to enjoy novels which appeal to their own imaginations. Long live fiction!