There’s a concept I’ve heard expressed often, both by media creators and consumers, and it’s simply this: the media I consume is a reflection on what’s going on in society. Basically the suggestion is that if there is a question about the appropriateness of the values and content of a book, it’s simply a reflection of what’s happening in society. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that society shapes the media.
Then I started creating media. In creating media, I came to meet, mingle, and become good friends with other authors, artists, and musicians. In so doing, I came to understand something. That idea that society shapes the media is flat out wrong.
The truth is, we, as content creators, shape the media. We decide what the values will be. We decide what language shows up in books. We decide what moral decisions are made in stories. We even decide what behaviors take place, and we decide how appropriate they are for books.
Outside of the extreme genres, such as horror and erotica, editors and agents tend to try to influence authors to tone down the language, sexual content, and violence in their works, because they know what sells. More often than not, within the middle genres, the heavier material makes it into the book because the author insists it must be there, despite the editor’s suggestions. I realize there are certainly exceptions to this, but this is more often the case. Essentially, the industry is at the mercy of authors when it comes to appropriate or inappropriate content in a book. True, they have veto power, but they have no production power. They can only say, “Yes,” or “No.” They can’t create media. Some will call that an oversimplification of the process, but when it comes down to it, it’s really up to the author.
We, as content creators, have a great responsibility. We shape the media. We decide where it will go, and ultimately, we decide the media values of the future. If you doubt your personal influence in this field, it simply means you haven’t been in it long enough. Your books have influence. They have power. And that power will be used. The question is, what are you doing with that power? What do you want books of the future to look like? What do you want your grandchildren reading, because at the moment, you’re at the cockpit of the jet that is carrying medias standards today.
So what will it be? Where will you take media? It’s your choice. People are going to read your books, and be changed by them. What kind of influence do you want to be?