Humanity in our writing is an inescapable fact of life. We cannot not be who we are, as readers or writers without resorting to our humanity as the central paradigm and theme. As writers, attempting to write in identification with the non-human results in a failure to capture the imagination of the audience, because imagination requires identification and identification requires similitude.
Even animal stories fall back upon anthropomorphizing their animal subjects in order that human readers can identify with them. Alien stories dealing with created species are expressed in terms of humanity, because humans simply may not see the world except through human eyes.
Why is there a constant seeking for identification? And why is it, that without that identification, the alien-ness, the otherness, the everything that is not us, we collectively perceive as inhuman and thus inherently of lesser value? We desire it not.
Humans seek similitude
No advertisement finds such success as that which uses the human face. We seek similitude. Take it a step further and use humans who other humans identify with, and you have an entire business – or in the case of China, an entire social credit scoring system – that is worthy of statistical analysis precisely because human behavior is collectively so readily predictable.
This is evidence that we seek sameness. By the same token, instinct demands we fear that which is different – the unknown and the alien. In a barbaric world, the alien might be the next village over. In an alien world, perhaps it’s the species that lives beneath, but the one whom humans live with in symbiotic equality.
Finding the sameness between peoples lays the groundwork for cooperation and thus, social and economic progress. Remove similitude in a book, and the book must make appeal to a select niche of readers, if such a niche exists. Orientation towards selective niche groups further supports tribalism. Tribalism necessarily tends society toward division because it demands the unification of selective groups in opposition to other groups.
The idea of live and let live is a utopian theory that has never yet been achieved and won’t be precisely because there are finite resources and people desire unity with the good and fear that which they do not know or understand.
Humanity will out
But even in books where similitude between us as readers and the characters of the books is removed, there is an inherent presumption of our humanity. The very words authors use to convey our ideas are founded upon human historical conceptions, dated to a particular time and a particular place that is exclusive to this earth and a specific linguistic context.
It’s very rare that you’ll see an author attempt to write a book in a wholly inhuman language – though a choice vocabulary of fantastic words may lend a certain unworldly credibility to certain writing. A Clockwork Orange and 1984 made free use of dystopian language creation and with brutal effect, but interestingly, those books, perhaps more so than others, were intended to deeply underscore the very point of this article: we react with horror to horrific things precisely because our innate humanity instinctly understands and knows that such a reality is not natural.
What does it mean to be human? Such is the essence of every book ever written. How do we convey our human-ness? Is it sufficient to simply lay before readers all the disturbing, sordid evils humanity has retrogressed to with the argument – as one so often sees in leftist writing – that it’s “real”?
Yes, it is real. But presenting an evil and identifying it as an evil is wildly different from presenting an evil as either a neutral state of affairs or an evil.
In our bizarro world, evils are often presented as desirable goods, and traditional goods are cast in a morally doubtful light. But the truth will out. Regardless of how they attempt to brainwash people. Regardless of how many woke goods they trail out before us, so much of it in order to pay their dues and bend the knee, pandering to the gods of globalism, ultimately, the expenditure of the dollar tells all. We just want a good story. We don’t want to be preached to.
Ultimately, the rejection of their woke junk will force their hand to either demand and enforce the appropriate groupthink with the worst dystopian measures, or sabotage the human mind in order to ensure most humans are incapable of individual thinking. As made clear by Yuval Hurari and Elon Musk, there are quite a few who firmly believe that hacking the human brain is not only not beyond our abilities, but a reality we must come to terms with in the near future.
Humans seek after the good
As humans, we are oriented by God to seek after the perceived good – a mere shadow, seeing through a glass darkly, of our desire for union with our creator in the beatific vision. Unity with which we love was placed in us as the modus operandi. Original sin, which perverted our original orientation and planted our eyes on this earth, causes us confusion by allowing us to obfuscate seeking after the self-gratification of our own will, seeking unity with temporary goods, with seeking after the gratification of God’s will and keeping our eyes on heaven.
We constantly seek after unity with that which we love – as much for that which we should love as that which we should not. Whatever is the object of that desire for unity is a perceived good. Guts and glory, the love of a woman, power, gold, pleasure and perversion. Our flawed human nature will, like the Jews of the old testament were so readily apt to do, make a god of any old thing. We do not require anything so grandly demanding of cult worship. We will happily dedicate our livelihood, our spare time, and our finances to worship at the altar of some paltry perceived good – gambling, pornography, strip clubs. The vice of men is more often extraordinarily ordinary than not.
The desire for unity is compelling
It’s the strength of the desire of that seeking that is so often the backdrop for authorship – both in terms of villains and protagonists. Jesus said, “Whom seek ye?” And such a question an author must ask of every character in their work. What does that character ultimately want? Are they ultimately self-serving? Do they overcome the demons of their nature? Is that character ultimately seeking unity with Christ or servicing his own will? Even in books that are arguably religiously neutral we still have an orientation one direction or another. Either it follows natural law, or it doesn’t.
We invariably write stories that begin in a premise of hope, a seeking after what natural law tells us is the good. After various circuitous journeys and travails, a tale either ends in and with hope in some form or fashion, or is so vastly the opposite of hope, that it gives us pause and forces us to reflect on those things which have produced the lack of it. A humanity without hope is a devastating thing to behold. It certainly does not sell books except that they serve as a profoundly moving warning for us all.
While our humanity is inevitable, I submit that catering to that desire for unity with God, expounding on our so common failing of confusing that desire with a desire for the things of this world as a major theme, and treating evil qua evil, should be positively encouraged in our writing. Not in a way so grossly inept as to be preachy, but in such a way that it necessarily produces in the reader an orientation toward hope. Humanity needs redemption, and part of our onus as writers (yes, there is an artistic responsibility in writing), is to draw attention to what redemption may look like in a thousand ways and raise humanity above itself to seek after the objective good.
May we all be so inclined. Deus vult. Amen.
Page Zaplendam is an indie-pubbed author of The Unofficial Chronicles of John Grissom vampire series. She writes spec fic, fantasy, and science fiction with an emphasis on plausability and character driven stories in between homesteading and caring for her many children. You can find her on gab @pagezaplendam or infrequently blogging at www.pagezaplendam.com.