Politics and Speculative Fiction: it happens.

Don’t write about politics on your social media, you say? Good luck with that!

I got some advice to never write about politics, because I’d automatically lose half my readership. I disagree with this for several reasons. Here’s the big one. If you don’t like my politics, you won’t like my writing. I don’t write with a political agenda, but I have political thoughts. I’m writing speculative fiction. When I speculate, my politics come into play. I write fantasy, but it’s not epic. I focus on world building and character development.
 If you write epic fantasy, maybe you can get away with having no ties to the real world and you can create a place that has no political flavor. That’s great. But when you write smaller stories like mine, and when you focus heavily on world building, politics will come up. And your readers will notice. 

There are no safe topics

There was a time that it was really easy to step aside from politics. These days everything seems to have a political slant. Think about it. If you go out for fast food, you can’t go to certain restaurants because it will support some political cause. Where you buy craft supplies tells everyone your political leanings. Commenting on the weather can be  a political statement. Reading a history book by a certain author is a political statement. 

Authors are under political scrutiny 

I am not kidding. I worked in a bookstore years ago. It was a problem back then and I can’t imagine what it’s like now. There are two books Dr Seuss wrote. One of them offends conservatives and the other one offends liberals. My opinion? It’s Dr freaking Suess. Both of you shut up about it! 
 I was told the other day not to read two of my favorite authors because they had “bad” political views. SE Hinton hasn’t written in a few decades, and her political views never came up in those books. People swear she has some politically offensive opinions. I haven’t bothered to look it up. Whatever she might tweet or post now, it doesn’t change what she wrote back then. I also seriously wonder if rumors of her politics are apocryphal. If you’ve seen her post offensive things, I apologize for doubting you. I just don’t care to look into it. This is now, I Read Then.
Orson Scott Card writes his views into his stories. I’ve read his stuff for decades. It was always there. Nobody complained about it much then, but now if I mention he’s a longtime favorite, I get the stink eye. I don’t back down. I briefly met the author while I worked at Joseph Beth Books. I’m not kidding when I say that he was hands down the easiest, most down to earth author who ever spoke or signed books in the store during the time I worked there. If you spent any time with that man, you’d like him. He’s VERY personable.  And whatever his political leanings, his writing is solid and I’ve learned a lot about writing by reading his books.
I’ve set some of his books aside, but it wasn’t due to political issues. It was his religious stuff — and it wasn’t because I didn’t agree with it. It was more about his tendencies to go off on these tangential plot lines that usually involved his beliefs about souls. I’m guessing it’s some deep theological stuff that is beyond my comprehension. And it’s the kind of stuff that would take years to study or understand. The soul stuff will start to creep into his series by the third or fourth book. There almost always comes a point where I stop reading the series because I have no idea what’s going on. Luckily, he tends to end the series with the book that stymied me. One day, I’d love to talk to him and ask him what all that stuff means. I probably wouldn’t understand, but I’d still like to hear him talk about it.
Margaret Atwood is very politically active and outspoken. I know people who refuse her stuff. Still, she hasn’t suffered because of it. Many people read her stuff, and it more than makes up for he people who don’t. 

It’s not a new thing!

Jonathan Swift was a very politically active author. His books were almost always political satire. He wrote all sorts of political and religious pamphlets. He was a member of the Anglican Church and had fears of a Catholic revival in England. He wrote some devise works. They don’t seem so decisive any more because his writing  is over 300 years old. I’ve met people who had no idea Gullver’s Travels was political satire. I know it is, but I couldn’t tell you what it all meant unless I googled every reference.
Gene Roddenberry  was very political. In his original series, his cast selection was controversial and politically charged. When he staged televisions first interracial kiss, people went crazy over it. Nearly all of the episodes had a political or social message written into them. And he wasn’t subtle at all. The Next Generation and the other series that were set in that time period  went even further and more blatant.  I’ve heard folk complain about the liberal slant the shows had, but I’ve  ever met anyone who boycotted the show.
There are many authors between these two time periods 

*I want to fire BlogPad Pro. I wrote this article. I saved it. I edited another article. I saved it. I went back to this article. It told me there was a conflict. I assumed it was no big change. When I hit save, this post turned into yesterday’s post. WTF city. I have to rewrite everything.

Long Story Short

I don’t believe at all you’ll lose readers if you mention politics. You will lose those readers once they open your book and notice the politics you weaved into your story–much of it without even thinking about it! You can’t sell books to everyone in the world. You have to attract the attention of your niche market. If you weave politics into your story, readers will want to know. Posting politics will make sure people likely to read your book will find it.
I wouldn’t suggest going deep into the fringe and go on rants, but these days moderate is the new fringe for both sides of the political debate. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m going with my gut on this. I think most people who don’t like my politics wouldn’t be able to get through the first chapter. I don’t hate them for it. People who hate fantasy will toss it aside as well. People who hate fiction.. you name it. There are so many reasons not to like a book. Hating the author’s politics is just one more reason. 

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