In short, if an author does not fall into a specific mold, they will be boxed out of the industry. If the writer does not pander heavily to one political party or the other, publishers have no interest. In fact, most major publishing houses won’t finish reading your query if you are not emphatically in favor of the political left.
Before people stop me there, point a finger and accuse me of being Trump-Loving Right Wing Nut Job, let me assure you my political views are left-leaning libertarianism. I consider myself a moderate.
The issue is that it’s not enough to be a moderate, or even be passive about your liberalism. The publishing industry demands that writers actively promote left-wing bias, to a point of exhaustion.
Back to my original comment about Ernest Cline’s sci-fi work, it almost feels as though he was bullied into this position by Penguin Random House. Ready Player One was fantastic. It had subtle political commentary about a potential dystopian future but remained largely A-political. And the story was fantastic. I could not put it down.
Ready Player Two, however, felt contrived. In what felt like every other chapter, I found myself slogging through a rant about how women don’t receive enough credit for achievements like the moon landing, how the Lord of The Rings is racist because of the lack of diversity in the cast, the list goes on. Now again, before you aim your finger at me and declare, “How dare you suggest that women’s rights and achievement shouldn’t be talked about!” Of course, women have been undercelebrated for their achievements throughout history, and certainly the course of society should and will change to reflect that.
That’s not the point. When such issues are shoved into the story with such incongruity, as though to check off a list of “Woke” boxes for publisher criteria, the story suffers. I kept finding myself ripped from the action to hear another rant about how much homosexuals have been discriminated against in situation “A” and “B” that simply felt like it did not belong in the story.
My reason for pointing a finger at the publishing industry, rather than Mr. Cline himself, stems from the fact that Ready Player One focused on a fantastic story with well crafted allegory; only the sequel shoved its bias in my face like a toddler showing me a new toy. As the political climate has edged more towards intense tribalism, it feels as though it is the publishers pushing this material, not the authors.