I sold a story in 1995 called "Crypto," and I was looking at it yesterday with the idea that I might try to sell it as a reprint. But there's a problem. That problem is politics and religion.
The story is meant to be humorous, but in making its jokes it pokes fun at political correctness and at televangelists. It also picks on congress. I was careful with the “congress” jokes to not attack one particular party, but the televangelist jokes could possibly be seen as attacking the more fundamentalist types of religion. And in today’s cultural climate, people seem to be unusually rabid in responding to even the hint of an attack on their politics or religion. Even when the story was first published a couple of readers reviewed it negatively because they took it to have an “agenda.” Honestly, there was no agenda, just an attempt at some jokes. In fact, I was completely surprised that anyone would have thought I had an agenda, although in retrospect I’m surprised that I was surprised.
I have a friend who got into trouble with some readers for her “agenda,” even though it was a “character” in her book that expressed some anti-government sentiment. I at least thought readers would not take everything the characters say or think as evidence of the writer’s beliefs. I was wrong. And in “Crypto,” the jokes (or insults) come through the narrative, which is easier to attribute to the writer’s personal feelings.
In the end, I decided that “Crypto” is going to become a trunk story. I’m going to put it away for now because I know that one reader who feels attacked is very likely to share that feeling with other readers. That outcome might not be good.
How about you? Do you avoid issues of politics and religion in your writing? In your everyday discussions? Does it turn you off if what you’re reading expresses a different perspective on politics and religion from your own? I’m curious.
Finally, in other news, Robert Swartwood is hosting an “Ultimate Flash Fiction Package,” in which you will have a chance to win 120 bucks worth of books. Check it out here.