Let’s Talk Bookish: Problematic Inspiration

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme that was originally created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books starting in August 2019, and was then cohosted with Dani @ Literary Lion from May 2020 to March 2022. Book Nook Bits has hosted since April 2022.

January 13: Problematic Inspiration 
(Ikwords @ Words on Key)

Prompts: Can inspiration for a book be problematic? What inspiration would you consider to be problematic? Should an author be cancelled because of a perhaps controversial inspiration for their book? In other words, is any kind of inspiration “bad”?

Inspiration can come from so many different places, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint just one source of inspiration for any particular work. I don’t think the inspiration can be problematic, as such – it really depends what the writer does with it. We all know Lovecraft was an awful human being, but there are plenty of people, inspired by his works, who have gone on to make it something more of their own. The people he would have hated have in many ways reclaimed Cosmic Horror, and although he as a person is problematic, the inspiration people have gained from his work and his influence over this subgenre isn’t really, as long as those writing in it today are aware of his failings as a human and don’t repeat his harmful words.

I don’t think an author should be “cancelled” because of the inspiration for their work, unless it is directly tied into the author themselves (a wild example: an author admires a hugely problematic person, and decides to use this person’s ‘life’ as inspiration, but makes changes so said person comes out as likeable, successful, etc, and through the writing it’s clear the author holds the same bigoted views as the person who ‘inspired’ them).

Then again, a different person could take the same character and twist it around, creating a narrative where the person is the bad guy who gets his just deserts, reclaiming the events in the same way people can reclaim subgenres like Cosmic Horror. So in this case, you have two people using the same source of inspiration, one in a way that can be seen as problematic, and one in a way that isn’t, so it’s not the inspiration that is problematic (even if the person is) but what the writer does with it.

I think that’s what it comes down to, in the end – it’s hard to say any kind of inspiration would, in itself, be problematic, it’s more what the writer actually does with that inspiration that matters. Most things can, after all, be turned on their head, reclaimed, or examined in fiction in interesting ways, no matter where it comes from.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this too, as it’s definitely an interesting topic! Feel free to link me to your posts or let me know what you think in the comments.


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