Big Vote, Politics, and Fiction

I have voted, since in Oregon we vote by mail-in ballot. I hope all of you reading this will make your voices heard and vote. Your vote matters.

Obviously politics has dominated much of our culture for several years now. It dominates our news and colors much of the rest of our lives. It often is a fundamental element of historical fiction, and gets interwoven into a variety of other kinds of fiction from thrillers to science fiction. One of my favorite fantasy novels, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, revolves entirely around the politics of invasion, colonization, and the politics of the conquerors. Another favorite, The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (aka Sarah Monette), entirely revolves around the politics of race, of the ruling court, and of countries.

Now, politics are complicated. There’s so much going on and the closer you look, the more complicated things get. There’s the large holistic look, and then the gears and cogs of the the individuals and it’s impossible to capture the full tapestry of the political landscape in a novel. As writers, we depend on a certain familiarity about how things work. We count on certain expectations. If we have a corrupt political system, we count on readers to fill in the gaps of what that corruption probably entails while we fill in the specifics. Likewise if we have a non-corrupt system. Or if we have a religious-based system, or a democratic system, or a monarchy, and so on. Readers have a certain general understanding of what works.

Writers fill in the particulars. We focus on the ambitions and motivations of the specific actors in the political landscape. We have to have an understanding of the politics of the world we’ve created–even if it’s family politics or the politics of a werewolf pack or the politics of a small town or a church or a club. Then we play out the story against that knowledge.

In my Crosspointe novels, I have a ruling system that is both a monarchy and democracy. The ruling monarch rules for his or her lifetime, and the next one is elected from any member of that family, no matter how far out along the family tree. I also had a very strong court system and a strong separation between the money of the monarchy and the money of the actual monarch. That leads to the royal family not having much money and so every one of them has to work jobs. And then their loyalties get divided by being members of various guilds, so they are torn in different directions.

In my Diamond City Magic Books, I have a very corrupt system of criminal organizations running the city with the police and politicians in the pockets of the various mob organizations. Mostly those organizations are run by people with magical powers, which causes some friction as those without feel marginalized. There’s a growing backlash against the corruption and the magic which will be playing out in the last two books of the series as people have to decide if they are divided more by having and not having magic or by having a corrupt or non-corrupt system.

There’s no getting away from politics in life, and often they are difficult and annoying and scary and disgusting. In fiction, we get to challenge them and consider options and more importantly, show characters dealing with and thriving inside them. We get to untangle things and maybe make some positive changes. I like to think my books are hopeful and positive even when things are looking grim. I like to think readers come away feeling like things are all going to work out.

In this world, hope comes from voting. Vote.



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