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Thread: Politics and Fantasy
March 27th, 2006, 03:54 PM #16
I'm still curious as to why he wrote that article to begin with, as I said earlier. Jeff, where are you? He just posted a response to Scott's redux, and I really don't think this is about either of them. That's the least interesting aspect of the conversation.
Sometimes we're just not sure what we are trying to say. Did someone ask Jeff V a question that he was replying to? I liked the heartfelt sensibility he expressed. I have to admit though that I have a bit of a difficult time when someone wears their political heart on their sleeve. If you're already committed to a political point of view, then everything you say thereafter is suspect, isn't it? I mean, what's the soul searching all about if you're not really searching your soul?
March 27th, 2006, 06:13 PM #17
If you commit yourself to a political point of view, do you bend the PoV to your needs, or do you conform to its tenets?
I have trouble commiting myself. I have trouble deciding. Yet, on political alignment tests, I consistently end up on the side of the scale that goes for less regulation. It's odd, really. I like rules, because they give me something to cling to when I have troubles to decide, or when I'm to exhausted to think. Yet, my ideal is "no rules", "each to his own"... Idealistically, I'd probably be an anarchist; but I'd be hopelessly exhausted by all the decisions I'd have to make. Deciding is taxing, not the least because that would mean I'd have to find out what I actually want (and that's only the start of it).
But if you don't commit yourself your meanings are in a flux, and it's hard to make sense. I like very few of my posts, and there are many that never get posted.
I find writing politics into fiction easier than actually arguing a point. In fiction, the uncertainties are part of the package. In an argument I have to pretend to have a clear cut position, only to be able to actually say things.
Politics is about what you think you want, and what you realise you don't want after all, once you have it. And it falls apart when you don't really know what you want.
Right now, I don't feel like I'm making much sense...
March 27th, 2006, 06:30 PM #18
No. Actually you're making a lot of sense. I find often that I can argue either side of the issue. I'm not certain of very much. There are some things that I strongly believe in and I am consistent in that regard. Most of these things are ethical and they are not based upon any higher principles of any sort. They are mostly decisions I've come to from being a father, from being a son, and from being a husband. As far as politics is concerned, I'm less commited to a staunch POV. Again, there are things that I would not accept in my life if I could help it, and yet even some of those lose precedence when other concerns of mine are threatened.
The difference between the ideal and the real is enormous.
April 4th, 2006, 11:07 PM #19
Writers (Vaclav Havel and those South Americans notwithstanding) generally make very bad politicians. There's something about the process of writing that's hostile to the formation of ideologies; maybe it's just what you were saying Gary, that it's about exploration and not about heading to some predetermined goal. I find myself in an inner debate all the time. On the one hand I think writing is profoundly political, in the sense that you described it Gary and also how Scott sees it; on the other, what other people generally take to be political doesn't feed into my ideas about writing at all. Politics is usually understood in a very reductive sense - that to be "political" is to toe some ideological line or other. But that's clearly not by any means the whole truth. Scott says it pretty well, in how representation either shores up or critiques prevailing perceptions of reality, which are always embedded in questions of social and economic power.
Dawnstorm, to be pedantic (forgive me) it's Keats, not Shelley, who said "beauty is truth, truth beauty" which is, as it happens, a deeply puzzling line the more you look at it. Shelley, on the other hand, said that poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world", which is a political statement if ever there was one. Shelley was a very political animal, and had in fact to flee England because of his political poems; and in a way, he's making the same point as Scott does.
And just to agree with you, Gary: I too fantasy is a genre particularly suited to political thinking, because it is a step away from reality as we know it and so allows a critique that is not bound to given realities. I suppose most of that kind of attention has tended to focus on SF rather than fantasy, which has been regarded as a conservative and nostalgic genre if it's been regarded at all. (And not totally without justice, to be honest...) But if you think of fantasy as a genre which has its roots in Plato's Republic as much as in the Iliad and the Odyssey, which evolves into various Utopias over the centuries, and things like Christine de Pisan's City of Women, you can think of it as a tradition which has included much radical utopic (and also dystopic) visualising of alternative possibilities. And also those mediaeval fantasies, I can't remember what they're called, of nonsensical and outrageously funny imaginary lands, full of obscenity, which were very popular back then, and deeply subversive (this when the Inquisition was getting going, to set one context).
Anyway, all very interesting...
April 5th, 2006, 03:12 AM #20Originally Posted by alison
Thanks for the correction. I keep making that mistake (thinking Keats, but saying Shelley; or more accurately, the quote doesn't come to mind when I think of Shelley, while it always comes to mind when I think of Keats; but when I think of the quote first, I usually think Shelley.)
April 5th, 2006, 09:25 AM #21
So after all we've said, is it possible to write without being political? Even if we define political loosely we still know what we mean by it. Do we express a point of view in our books regardless of our intent? Or intentionally?
I am particularly concerned about the environment. It's obvious from my books, but that's been a concern of mine since I was a child. I think of it more as a concern for life than a political agenda. I'm very empathetic, and I suffer for others. I always have. My imagination is strong and I can't help but feel saddened by other people's sadness. I've always supported the underdog, even in my support for Nietzsche (LOL), which I construe as support for the minority POV, the thinker left out in the cold. His insight into human motivation was inspiring, as it coincided with my own inclinations.
In any case, how can we not present our ideas in our books? I expect that my books are not offensive to either a conservative or a liberal (though of course particular aspects may be, as Dawnstorm expressed in his interpretation that I believe in ethical ideals) because they are about a quest for understanding and they don't presuppose that understanding. I was not even clear about that in the beginning books. My POV changed as I wrote. I wanted to write something hopeful in these dark times, and I thought that an expression of ethical certainty in some respects might achieve that goal for me, but it didn't, and I couldn't maintain it. So in many respects my agenda was quasi political to begin with, though not necessarily alligned. Now I just want to understand. I'm so much more confused than i was when I began this series, and I'm glad about it. It hasn't detracted from my desire for hopefullness, but it has forced me to re-examine my understanding of what it might mean. As I said, I am a father, a husband and a son. Those circumstances shape my POV considerably.
May 18th, 2006, 09:47 PM #22Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
My own ancestor, William Brewster, was smuggled out of England on the Mayflower because he wrote controversal books! Yet, that was another time.
As for it's place in Fantasy... I find Fantasy amazing because you have total freedom to say "what if..."! Look again at Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels. I love the idea of a perfect society where nobody is "rich" or "poor"! If only the human race wasn't flawed by greed and power. I don't think I would go so far as view the world as the Horse people do, that humans are too detestible to be more than mere beasts. (But some days I come close to it, when I see a 13 yr old student abused and pregnant go to her home country for a few weeks then come back not pregnant and mentally unable to speak! And CPS can do nothing because there are no records of the abortion in the US)
What if we had a group of islands that were each populated by a different race and culture and yet they were united. That is something Ursula LeGuin did for her EarthSea series.
I have never read a book where I said, "Yep, this author is a Democrat/ Republican". Also if I read a book in which a charcter takes herbs to abort a child it doesn't necissarily mean that the author is Prochoice. Fantasy is just that, a "what if".
Do we have a responsisbility? I don't think so. In the end I suppose it is the author's choice, do I want to offend, get people's attention?
What are the consequences of being polically controversial? You risk losing some readers? Or if you are really controversial, you risk the News catching on and it becomes splashed in the media and suddenly you are a best seller because everyone wants to know what all the hype is about. Like the Million Little Pieces ordeal. Personally I value my reputation as a human being too much to write something so politically controversal.
I think I bird-walked far enough now, I'll be quiet now.
And also those mediaeval fantasies, I can't remember what they're called, of nonsensical and outrageously funny imaginary lands, full of obscenity, which were very popular back then, and deeply subversive (this when the Inquisition was getting going, to set one context).
May 19th, 2006, 09:00 AM #23
I could list a million reasons (well, maybe not a million) why an author might risk readers. Being overtly political is just one. I guess it depends upon what your motive as an author is. If you have a political agenda, then you're writing for a different reason. But again, how can we help but express our perspectives when we write? And why shouldn't we? Isn't that what makes us unique? How we write, what we write and what we write about?
If I believe in questioning everything - values, political POVs, faith etc - and some of my characters do that, as long as I don't preach and claim that my way is the only way, I'm doing what I need to do. Of course, we can try to write something that appeals to everyone and has nothing controversial in it. We can try to be strictly commercial and plain vanilla. But why would we ever want to?