Alright, I’ve got about two regular readers, time to cut that in half by taking a broad, backhanded swipe at the state of science fiction. I won’t call out any specific titles or authors; if you think that I’m writing about you then you’ve helpfully self-identified as the problem.
If you pitch your book by leading with your identity group, go ahead and pitch it directly into my trash can. Don’t tell me about your race/gender/disability, tell me about your STORY. Why should I care? Hell, you’re not even going to sell me a $0.99 quick read with just your protagonist’s identity, you’re certainly not getting one page read with yours.
And yeah, veterans, that includes us. Bring it in real quick, sit kneel, stand, because I’m about to drop some knowledge: if you’re relying on your Budweiser / Tab / EGA to sell your book, I hope you have a second job so that you don’t starve. A few of us may get a few Kindle Unlimited reads, but even free readers are going to need a reason to stick around. Rip-roaring adventure, deep philosophical musing, dark satire, you gotta give me something.
Now, LEAD WITH THAT! Sure, your identity informs your book. That’s why you have a bio page. Your blurb needs to give me a hook that I care about. “Disabled woman IN SPACE!!!” generates about as much interest in me as “dude, have you ever looked at your hand…ON WEED?” But pitch it as “placed in a life support shell at birth, a physically disabled ‘brain’ must choose an able bodied ‘brawn’ partner to share command of a unique class of starship and explore the galaxy” and now you have Anne McCaffrey’s “Ship who Sang,” and my attention.
But McCaffrey then delivers. It’s an adventure starring the brain, not two hundred pages of exposition on the nature of her disability. Somewhere along the way, we lost that. Authors became too focused on the “who,” either their own or the character’s (frequently interchangeable), and neglected what they were doing. “Why” has also often become a trite “because they’re [identity].”
The slightly more advanced form of this particular cancer is “it’s Starship Troopers, but they’re all gay.” Hey, great. I’ll go read Heinlein, instead of your porn parody of him. “What if we changed the identity of a famous protagonist” is, at most, a blog post. But if you’re going to be a shameless hack, at least you told me up front and saved me the read.
Stories, people. We’re here for the stories, not your long winded exploration of your own bio page.