If Writing is not Political, What’s the Point?

A recent blog post from Allison Maruska highlighted the dilemma that some writers face when exposing themselves via their blogs and social media. If potential readers get wind of my political beliefs will they decline to purchase my books?

Do the people I hope will buy my books need to know my thoughts on Donald Trump or just how many cups of coffee I drink whilst working on the next novel in the series? My views on creationism or climate change, or only how my latest research trip is going?

My question to people who struggle with these dilemmas is: “why do you write?” Because the truth is that all writing, if it is to mean anything, is of necessity political.

Is anyone in any doubt about Dickens’s politics? Or Orwell’s? Did Wells’s well known Socialism put people off his writing?

Of all genres, Science Fiction is, perhaps, the most obviously political. It’s basic plot involves an individual or group struggling against a regime with which they disagree. However the author chooses to present the two sides, which one is portrayed as the embodiment of evil and which as all that is good and just, he or she is making a political statement.

Neither the writer nor the reader can relate to the situation in an imagined world except by comparison with parallels in our own world. And it is how the author handles those parallels, how, for example, he portrays fear of “the other” as natural or irrational, that reveals his or her political stance on problems in the real world.

Which features of an invented religion are based on the beliefs of certain religions in our world? Are they shown to offer clear benefits to those who practice them, or are they revealed to be the cause of unnecessary suffering?

Even in romantic novels, which might be deemed by some as trivial, the protagonists have conversations and disagreements. The nature of those disagreements reveal, whether intentionally or not, the author’s world view.

When it comes to blogging, if your aim as an author is to show your readers the kind of person who wrote the book or books that you are publicising; if, in doing so, you hold back some essential part of yourself, are you not being dishonest? And if the reader discovers, through reading your book, a set of beliefs he despises is he not just as likely to reject you and your writing as if he made the discovery through your blog?

You might think you are protecting your “bottom line”, and, by extension, the welfare of those who depend on your income for their own security. The truth is, I contend, that you are not being true either to yourself or to your hoped for readers. If you are afraid, as Frank Sinatra put it, in Paul Anka’s words, to “state [your] case of which [you are] certain”, perhaps you are not meant to be a writer.

7 thoughts on “If Writing is not Political, What’s the Point?

  1. Well said, Frank! A society cannot be separated from its politics and religion, if a state religion exists. As writers, we would be deluding ourselves to make such a separation. Our writing would lack substance and meaning.

    The existential threats to humanity – climate disruption, environment degradation, and nuclear war – affect us all as individuals. They are also highly politicized issues.


  2. I actually steer clear of politics in my posts most of the time. Not because I am afraid of backlash or anything like that, it is more a matter of personal choice. The 24 hour news cycle has created a world where we are continually steeped in anything one person says, does, or even what the media thinks they are going to do.

    The constant hum of politics is too much to put up with on a normal basis. Mix that with having to try and market books, write blogs, make appearances and I am at my proverbial breaking point.

    The last US election was bad enough. Now the mid-term election cycles are kicking off and it is starting to be just as bad.

    I wish political discourse in the modern age wasn’t so darned time consuming and tiresome, but it is. I fear not what others might think of me because of my views, I just don’t really care to talk about politics anymore.

    I tell people I want to be the ultimate airport author. The guy you pull off the shelf at the airport on your way to your flight to escape for a little while. I think I owe it to that goal to try and keep out of the everyday drudgery of politics.

    -Bryan the Writer


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