“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
― Groucho Marx
Us Americans are currently on the last leg of one of the most contentious and polarising elections in our nation’s history. It has polarised our society and re-arranged political loyalties across the whole spectrum of affiliation. Even our pass times and escapist entertainment isn’t unscathed. Writers and celebrities are constantly weighing in on politics and the culture war. Should Science Fiction and Fantasy be political? Should writers openly wear their political affiliation on their sleeves?
Yes and No. Most, if not all, intelligent fiction has at least a minuscule political element at its core. We are after all social and political beings. What I find unappealing and quite unpleasant is when writers and creators voice their own personal opinions and write polemical pieces thinly disguised as fiction.
I hope nobody misunderstands me. I love politics. I love discourse. Nothing is better than sitting with friends and discussing opinions and world views over beer, coffee, and cigarettes. My favorite pastime is clashing wits with my wife over beers, debating everything from immigration to corporate tax.
I would like to believe that my political and philosophical views are nuanced and complex. So nothing makes me cringe more than seeing one of the writers I read and admire shoot off a disparaging tweet or blog post about the currently opposing political tribe. Nothing makes me sourer than realizing that people I find intellectually stimulating fall into the idiotic us vs them mentality. No, all liberals voting for Clinton aren’t nanny state race hustlers or brainwashed self-hating sheltered college kids. Trump supporters aren’t all undereducated slack-jawed inbred southern racists clutching their guns and bibles.
Most of all I read SF&F for fun and relaxation, not a socio-political lesson. Authors blabbing, throwing political insults and raising pitchforks are the online equivalent of that crude person talking about rated R stuff at grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner. Somewhat entertaining but overall offputting.
Exploring politics, philosophy, and social ideas in fiction is wonderful. I love space opera and fantasy that is heavy on political concepts. My favorite parts of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire are the political and social maneuvers of Littlefinger. I love the corporate libertarian themes of private enterprise vs government found in Hamilton’s novels.
What I find obnoxious and unreadable is when an author shoves their personal public political affiliation in my face. Guess what. There is nothing interesting or original about a conservative writing fiction where the protagonist is a perfect self-sufficient do-gooder, held back by the obviously socialistic meddling, gun grabbing, U.N style government. Nothing is more predictable and boring than liberal writers shoving another perfect feminist empowered grrrr PW RR lesbian fighting the evil white male capitalist corporation or the religious conservatives. Boring! We all watched Ferngully and Avatar. Do something new!
I believe that writers should embrace a gentlemanly(womanly) view on public politics. Discuss your politics in private, let your work speak for itself. I want to read novels that make me think. Make me question the viewpoints of the heroes. Make me understand the outlook of the antagonist. That, in my opinion, is almost impossible if the author shoves their personal viewpoints in my face through Twitter and Facebook.
In closing. My opinion is that writers should keep their personal politics private. Pushing current political viewpoints undermines their fiction, alienates readers from opposing sides, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I personally strive to write fiction that not only entertains but also makes one evaluate their political and philosophical beliefs. I want to explore truly diverse viewpoints. In order to accomplish that goal, I will keep my personal politics private.
Lets focus on the fiction.