Sunday, March 6, 2016

Why I Write: "Politics" in One's Fiction and All Art is Propaganda

I shouldn't read reviews of my books. The bad ones knock me down and the good ones also knock me down. The latter making me relax, the former forcing upon me an unneeded refractory period. 
Within these reviews there have been a few accusations launched at my books: that they have "politics" in them, when, ostensibly, they shouldn't have any. Let's leave aside the fact that if my writing is obvious enough to be seen as political, it will sell less [1]. Let's instead focus on what it means for a book to have no political leanings:

Simply put, it's not possible for a fiction book not to be political [2]. If a book does indeed say nothing about current policies or other matters, then it is being political with a tactical silence. That this silence might be more comfortable than an overt attack is besides the point. As Orwell said: "All Art is Propaganda".

And to paraphrase what that Banksy tag (in the photo above) says: in all conflict it is impossible to remain neutral. That applies to fiction books about conflict as well. [3] I will note that this isn't an accusation, for being silent is also being safe, no small task for many people in the world. But in more stable countries in the world, it's sad to see people react so negatively to ideas in books that they don't agree with. [4]

[1] I'll explain, but take note that the bestselling books, especially the ones within certain genres have readers with certain preconceptions, and so these usually come with a love for the status quo. To be certain, hard-headed rebels as protagonists sell well. But that comes with certain caveats. There can be corruption up top (usually in a single figurehead or cabal) in many of these books as long as it doesn't interfere with a basic "goodness" in the over all mission and system. In other words, it accepts the status quo as gospel, or close to it. Closest I have seen to questioning the status quo (in more literary books) is really just whining about a situation and throwing up one's hands and saying "it was always thus" or "there is no better choice" etc etc (nihilism for suburbanites, I suppose I would call this).

Finally, perhaps it's still a mark of what I write and my skill level that those ideas should be better packaged so as to slip past the reader unnoticed. A big reason as to why scifi is able to make such political points more so than realistic fiction: it allows for plausible deniability (or  perhaps people simply suspect it less when there's so much new to the world being shown).

[2] I'm speaking about anything to do with world politics, or that describes the world we live in. So in the case of my book, any book about the war on terror will always be political. It cannot help but to be so.

[3] Where much of what is considered neutral is really tacit approval, while much of what is considered "political" or soapboxing is not much more political (though perhaps taking a stance that is not part of the status quo, and thus it stands out). I will also point to the fringe essay I wrote, on how humans naturally feel uncomfortable with ideas not of the status quo. This obviously plays a part in all of it.

[4] Again, don't think I'm so naive as to not understand the cultural phenomenon in the US which claims that fiction is not the place for a political (is ideological the right word?) argument. I think I heard George RR Martin say this. So there's that wall to climb up against as well. But I'm of the mind that even if it's accepted, it's merely accepting the status quo in your fictional-world (probably why sci-fi still manages to say something these days, while literary fiction does not).

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1 comment:

  1. Then you have the problem of today, that is the people are only looking for novels that will reinforce their own political views, which is what you are doing as well, and since there is no truth, well that is where we are


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