With each new author and title I read I come across a most marked difference between the books I revere, detest, like, abhor or am indifferent to. Basically, I can tell when an author has done the homework necessary for their work and when they haven’t. This also includes having people actually be critical of the work in that oh, so frightfully discerning way.
I don’t know why some authors don’t do their research thoroughly, if they by chance just didn’t think they needed to or if they were just being lazy, but it shows. In most cases it’s painfully obvious when this happens. A bit of advice here, dear authors: The more controversial the topic (politics, religion) the more research needs to be done.
I am not saying this merely to pontificate about these things but rather to encourage more informed works to be placed upon the shelves. Partly I say this because I’m selfish. I really hate reading a book that sounds interesting in premise, find the author has brought up something controversial, uses it like it’s nothing more than a buzz-word, define that buzz-word wrong, then make it do nothing.
With character driven stories this is less of an issue but it is still an issue. Historical fiction you need to have your facts right: dates, dress, courtship behaviors, technology, etc. So if you call a woman in the 1800s a “housewife” and she’s using a microwave (and it isn’t a work of science fiction) you better bet your ass I’m putting the book down and, I’m willing to bet, others would too.
Take this book I reviewed in which the author decided to bandy about the term Marxism with seemingly little understanding of it that, aside from my vitriolic reactions to that philosophy, left me wondering why the hell it had been put in there to begin with. It’s bad enough when an author puts something in a story they either don’t understand or can’t communicate it worth a damn proving they do but to have it matter NOTHING to the story… Well, it pushes me off the cliff while exclaiming, “Wow, this is abysmal writing and I shall never read another book by Author X again. Ever.” [For those who don’t know me personally- I stick to such protestations especially when the book I had read was revered by so many.] Now if, for some strange/masochistic reason, I endeavor to finish a book constructed like this it is that much harder to convince me you have something of merit to say. That check for suspension of disbelief you had written? It bounced.
That whole issue could easily have been handled with either not mentioning politics at all OR by making it matter and show me you did the work to understand it yourself. I’m not talking you, as a person, BELIEVING it but that you, as an author, have thought about it, questioned it and understood it. It takes either carelessness, ignorance or arrogance to commit such a transgression as this and, for people like me, you better believe none of those things endears an author to me. Certainly not in this context. Think the highest of your reader, aim to enrapture them with the story such that, even with opposing political views, you get them hooked on your premise, ideas and characters.
If you’re doing something like mentioning politics within the construct of a piece of fiction for the sake of controversy you still need to be thoughtful about the ideologies and philosophy you’re talking about. Basically- show me you care about accuracy in your works. It’s one thing to be controversial, it’s quite another to be considered an ass. And when the odds of being perceived as an ass/hack is greatly reduced just by doing your homework- what is there to lose?