Playing Politics

Haven’t been around much these last two weeks, folks.  Finishing up Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest, and while I made terrific progress, it always takes longer and requires more work than you ever suspect.  Even when I adjust my expectations through experience, it still is true.  That’s weird, but it’s the nature of the job.  The book is nearly finished, and I’m very happy with it.  But there’s not much point in talking about it at this point since it won’t be out until next year.

Today, I’d like to post something about politics.  Not any specific politics, but the concept of real life politics and how my own opinions of these shape the stories I write.

The short answer is as little as possible.

I’ll be honest.  My chief concern is that if I write anything with any political slant that I’ll be eliminating a sizable portion of my potential audience, and why the heck would I do that?  Perhaps it’s because I lack courage.  More likely, it’s because I like getting paid.  And I get paid based on people buying my books.

But it’s not only a matter of financial sensibility.  Plenty of successful writers incorporate their political leanings and ideas into their stories while maintaining strong careers.  It’s not as if my own politics are uniquely radical or charged with controversy.  And probably that’s why I tend to avoid politics in my fiction.

Politics divide as much as unite.  We live in a world where we are constantly forced into false dichotomies.  Political philosophies (and pretty much all philosophies when you get right down to it) have a tendency to close us off rather than open our minds.  My goal as a writer isn’t to give you certainty or comfort.  It’s to create fun stories and maybe even get you to think about things in a different light.  Yes, I know I’m a funny writer, but that’s one of those dichotomies I’m talking about.  Believe it or not, I like to think my stories are about important ideas and grand concepts.  And in that way, I’m not unique because all fiction is by humans for humans and comments on the human experience, even if we, as individuals, can’t relate to 95 percent of it.

The problem with politics, religion, console wars, Addams Family vs. Munsters, etc. is that people usually already know what side of the line they’re on and so writing about these topics runs the risk of preaching to the choir.  Echo chambers don’t do anybody any good.  Discussion should be about exposing ourselves to new thoughts and strange ideas.  Sure, we’ll reject most of those thoughts and ideas, but if you’re only goal in life is to sit in a safe spot, wrap yourself in the warm blanket of certainty, and believe you’ve smugly worked everything out by reciting a borrowed catch phrase, well, I can only feel sorry for you.

The few times I comment on politics in this blog are those moments when I run across that attitude.  It’s why I can’t stand Sarah Palin.  Her personal politics mean far less to me than her self-satisfied way of dismissing anyone who doesn’t agree with her, of equating her every thought and action as synonymous with patriotism while accusing anyone and everyone she doesn’t like of being secret commies.

And, see, right there, I might have lost a few potential readers.  Although if you’re still on the Palin bandwagon, I’ll admit I’m perplexed by that because what is she now but another controversy stirring pundit who contributes nothing to our society.  Like the Kardashians, but with more potential to do harm.

The problem is that you, as a reader, shouldn’t give a damn about how I feel about Palin.  And I certainly don’t give a damn how you feel about her if you want to buy my books.  Yet by merely bringing up the topic, you can practically guarantee someone will be offended, and I’m a big believer in being offensive on purpose, but not so much doing it on accident.

This is why I don’t often refer to other writers, books, or TV shows when discussing my thoughts on media.  I might have a rant I need to get out, but I’m not out to create a false competition.  If I wrote something like “J.K. Rowling isn’t a very good writer”, then you can sure as heck expect some blowback.  (Do not quote me on that.  I don’t believe anything of the sort.)  There’s already a lot of artificial rivalries created by the fans themselves.  Divine Misfortune inevitably clashes with American Gods, though they have very little in common aside from gods in the modern day world.

I very deliberately choose my battles.

So don’t expect me to bash 50 Shades of Grey.  I’m not here to jump on that bandwagon, and what would be the point?  Much smarter people can tell you why they don’t like it, but I’m willing to remain neutral because I’ve got stuff to do and books to sell.  And don’t expect me to create an evil Republican mastermind who wants to eat all the poor people because such strawmen characters strike me as hollow and self-serving.

Occasionally, I’ll make an exception.  I’m willing to say, without equivocation, that Frank Miller is a godawful writer at this stage of his career.  Or that Marvel and DC’s comic books are full of gruesome gore and sex that I find distasteful and often ridiculous.  And I’ll say that my belief in the power of cooperation and compassion clearly labels me as a liberal and that the more extreme versions of conservatism puzzle me.  My distrust of organized religion only gets stronger as the years pass, and also, The Munsters are way, way better than The Addams Family.

But I don’t try to overtly integrate these opinions into my writing, and I don’t try to trade on them.  Except for maybe the cooperation and compassion stuff, but that’s not really a liberal / conservative idea because, take away the labels, we all tend to agree on that basic premise.  It’s mostly the details we argue over.  And I’d hate to lose a reader over details.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,



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  1. Shawn
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m only offended that you’ve underestimated the dangerous power of the Kardashians.

  2. Raoul Raoul
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    The Munsters are way, way better than The Addams Family.

    You, sir, are a monster. And not the good kind of monsters, like Cousin It. The evil kind, like the Munsters.

  3. Posted May 27, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    You put it out there and we reviewed it (albeit poorly). Have a listen to two idjits review Emperor Mollusk and the Sinister Brain here:

  4. Posted May 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I tend to stay away from discussing politics for similar reasons, i.e. the rabidly-defended false dichotomies. It’s all right vs. left, forward vs. backward, and so on.

    Politics is a 37-dimension vector-space, people. Stop arguing over where you are on the x-axis and look at the broader world.

    (But I think the Addams Family is the obvious winner.)

  5. VultureTX
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    You don’t push political views. Other SF authors do however. Allen Steele and Stephen Baxter are both rabid anti GOP, to the point of historical revisionism in their near future SF novels. (and yes I suspect that there are anti DEM SF writers in the mold of Ayn Rand as well pushing their views)

    As for causing divisiveness, do you actually give money to and promote media that contains racists? I already caught your post on misogyny, but Hollywood has many bigots of the racist/religious sort, and some of us find it hard to enjoy their creations while having to see their messages of hatred for some innocent sub group of humanity that are embedded in their works.

    Finally, there is the whole repeated scenario of “I met with these ‘creators of media eternal’ and I did not like their politics”. When you are in Texas and the authors joke about wanting to kill a Bush with a time machine, you have to wonder why you buy their stuff. [and yes they still make these comments post 2008]

    /The problem with being a fan of SF after 35+ years, is that you develop opinions. Which can be issue when you have been putting on conventions for 25 years.

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