When Democratic strategists look back on how woke theology cost them key races in 2021 — never mind the coming flood of the midterms — they will discover the #MSWL. Hidden away on Twitter, it's one of the actual headwaters of all things blindly woke, the way the mighty Mississippi begins as a shallow stream. It’s part of the reason we have drag queens reading to our kids in public libraries and Virginia doesn’t have Terry McAuliffe as governor.
#MSWL is a hashtag meaning "manuscript wish list." For anyone interested in publishing fiction, the road to...
When Democratic strategists look back on how woke theology cost them key races in 2021 — never mind the coming flood of the midterms — they will discover the #MSWL. Hidden away on Twitter, it’s one of the actual headwaters of all things blindly woke, the way the mighty Mississippi begins as a shallow stream. It’s part of the reason we have drag queens reading to our kids in public libraries and Virginia doesn’t have Terry McAuliffe as governor.
#MSWL is a hashtag meaning “manuscript wish list.” For anyone interested in publishing fiction, the road to a book deal is complex. Publishers aren’t interested in reading manuscripts sent directly to them because most are truly horrible. They will only consider reading those submitted by literary agents on behalf of authors. These gatekeepers are forced to root through mountains of garbage to find something they can sell to a publisher and thus claim a commission. They are scavengers of a kind.
But the agents don’t want to actually read whole manuscripts because they are mostly awful, so they ask instead for a query, a short summary in a prescribed format. But even these are so uniformly awful that most agents now just want to be pitched via tweet (it’s called #PitMad, pitch madness). So for Grapes of Wrath, the author might have written, “After dust storm, subsequent road trip out west sucks.” It’s a poor way to evaluate anything more complex than directions to a 7-Eleven.
So the agents now simply tell writers what to write about via the manuscript wish list. That way they will hopefully never see anything too original.
Big-time agents do not need to troll Twitter like creeps offering candy in the park. Instead, if you are a recent or maybe not so recent AmLit grad who can’t work at the New Yorker because they stopped hiring Caucasians, you can be a Twitter agent.
On Twitter, the mass of agents are white, straight females or gay males, with a tendency toward pink or blue hair, and liberal to the point where it physically hurts. Their bios (here’s a typical one) seem to describe the same person, just switching out Sarah Lawrence for Oberlin and The Office or Friends for “anything with queer representation.” They love cats. They love coffee. They don’t like things, they “celebrate” them. They don’t promote women, they “champion” them. And they hate racism, you guys.
Just because their dreams were crushed when the trumpet player in high school band turned out to be just weird, not gay, they want to take it out on your kids, as they seek to acquire almost exclusively “young adult” literature, aimed mostly at girls. Through the #MSWL, they demand only books with BIPOC characters, or LGBTQIA+ stories. They beg for marginal representation in tales, and often combine themes so the actual request is for a fantasy magical realism story featuring ambi-gender vampires who also excel on the lacrosse team.
Here’s one actual list: “anything set on an HBCU campus, all of the magical realism, mythological retellings, romance/love stories, all the millennial joy and adulting hardships.” Oddly, often their comps — comparisons, things they want to see more of — are based on TV shows and movies instead of actual books. So it’s “send me the new Avatar,” not “send me drama like Hamlet.” If they do list Hamlet as a comp, it’s only because some version appeared on Netflix with Lady Gaga playing the prince. One asks for books that will remind her of Nancy Drew computer games, seemingly unaware of the iconic book series.
Some agents don’t even get around to the actual subject for a couple of subtweets, instead leading with “First and foremost, I’m looking to partner with folks from traditionally marginalized groups to help elevate their voices.” Others call for books that no one would ever want to read but that are based on this week’s buzzwords: “I’d love to see more urban fantasy/paranormal romance that doesn’t rely on traditional government bureaucracy or law enforcement structures!”
Sometimes wannabe writers will tweet at the agents seeking more details, as in “How do you feel about the unseelie taking the form of conservative Christian preachers to start the apocalypse?” The agent responded, “I’m really, really picky about apocalypse stories to be quite honest,” to which another would-be writer replied, “Honestly, this was an element in an urban fantasy setting idea I was fleshing out. Vampires had just gotten out of a civil war where the old vampire patriarchs were toppled and a crop of women vampires were in charge now and trying to both figure out how to survive ethically.”
Better to write to this prompt: “I want a story with this vibe: Three women discovered they were dating the same man. They dumped him and went on a months-long road trip together.” Just lean hard into sisterhood and you’ll hit most of the #MSWL requests.
The agents and the remora-like writers around them have no idea how shallow it is to say they “only want books that are compelling, with great characters and plotting” like they just recently figured that out. They know nothing about hypocrisy, like how demanding an ever-narrowing list of subjects is supposed to be supporting diversity, or how marginalizing some writers is a poor start toward championing others. Straight was boring until gay was scary and now that gay is dull it has to be trans. Shallow is too deep a word to describe all this.
So when you wonder how we got from Clifford the Big Red Dog to drag queens reading children’s books about anal out loud in public libraries, it starts with the #MSWL and its over-schooled and under-educated agents acting as the shock troops of social justice. Never mind that most of what they do contributes little to social justice. The point is to win feel-good points and prove they were sincere in that winter semester same-sex fling, not just experimenting.
Wokeness as a social disease is created and enforced, starting small and young with things like the #MSWL. And make no mistake, they’re bitter and coming for your kids.