I've been debating whether to do this blog post for a long time. Basically, I didn't think it was an issue and didn't warrant discussing but I've seen a lot of the sentiments I strongly disagreed with being echoed without argument. Basically, it's the argument of fictional conspiracy theories being dangerous, reactionary fantasy, or the idea of superheroes being a right wing power fantasy. It seems like three separate ideas but they both relate to the idea of a certain, let's call it an "idea" of politics and how it interacts with genre fiction as well as whether there's a responsibility for writers to support things they may believe in with their work.
Before we begin, speaking as a Master of Literature, this is stupid. I believe it was Larry Niven who said, paraphrased, "There's a word for people who assume the writing of an author reflects their worldview: that word is moron." A writer has no responsibility to reflect any specific ideology or worldview with his writing than anything else. A man who loves democracy can write about the divine right of kings, a man who hates tyrannies can write about dictatorships, and a person who absolutely hates romance can write characters who are deliriously in love. There's a reason why it's called fiction after all.
|Conspiracies are my bread and butter.|
On March 3, 2015, Lindsay Ellis (the former Nostalgia Critic) wrote an article about why she couldn't get into the X-Files revival because conspiracy theories were cute in the 90s as well as harmless. However, she argued conspiracy theories like the Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, and John Birch Society lunacy like the United Nations plotting the takeover of the USA were things which had caused serious issues in the United States. They were the bread and butter of people like Alex Jones and contributed to the way some people chose to vote in the then-upcoming election. She argued the X-files gave a legitimacy to the ideas and conspiracy theories shouldn't be indulged.
Given that a massive number of my books depend on conspiracy theories with Agent G being about corporate conspiracies, Esoterrorism being about the secret mages who rule the world, and The Supervillainy Saga's protagonist routinely dealing with corrupt cults or supervillains hiding behind legitimacy--this kind of annoyed me. Even more so, it reflected a blindness of literary criticism which is really what's annoying me here. Basically, it looked at the surface elements of the characters without bothering to follow them to their natural conclusion--conspiracy theorists=Right Wing nutjobs ergo bad. Which is ridiculous.
|A sci-fi novel written by Hitler.|
This isn't about whether there's any real life conspiracies. That's utterly irrelevant as there will always be conspiracies as long as power or money is to be gained by lies while equally there will always be theories that are just plain stupid. No, this is about politicizing tropes--which bothers me. The attempt to turn tools of genre into things which have some innate bias to them. It's a clickbait sort of argument that is meant to make the people making the accusation look smart while also making the people consuming media look dumb.
This is nothing new as J.R.R Tolkien has often been accused of being pastoral, conservative, and Medievalist. He was some of those things but the accusation is based on his writing versus his personal beliefs. Attempts to argue the orc is racist, he supported the divine right of kings, and he was preaching about the terrifying horde of "foreigners" entering Middle Earth are just some of the things I had to deal with in academia. These were interesting discussions when I was in college but the idea of the orc being an orc was always a nonstarter the way Freud's famous saying about cigars was. Michael Moorcock discussed this in his "Epic Pooh" essay which I disagree with completely but enjoyed reading.
It reached something of a nadir for me with the frequent accusation of superhero fiction being innately right wing. The argument, so to speak, being that vigilantes take the law into their own hand so they're a crime busting power fantasy. This argument immediately falls apart with the fact Superman started as a socialist New Deal Icon and Batman targets rich mobsters (as well as clowns) rather than the poor. Wonder Woman and the X-men being right wing is about as ludicrous an argument as you can make if you know anything about the characters. Its a surface detail accusation that warps an entire genre into fitting a narrow category.
|Sometimes authors incorporate DO politics--badly.|
The thing is, all of these elements are inherent to the world created in my fiction. They don't necessarily reflect the actual world but just the character's own. Protagonists must be dynamic to hold the audience's interest even if their beliefs are wrong--narrative or otherwise. I also make these themes overt and part of the narrative--I don't need to "trick" readers into ascribing to my view. I also think readers can't be tricked into it. It will either fit with their views already or will be something they use as allegories or applicability for their own views. Like the police in my state who have a raging mad-on for the Punisher. In simple terms, sometimes an orc is just an orc.
|The Punisher's hippie creator made him as a villain.|
In conclusion, I just spent a page ranting about people trying to turn tropes into tools and dismissing genre fiction based on surface ideas. I also have mocked my degree given politicizing fiction pretty much is the basis of literary criticism. There's plenty of meaning in fiction and plenty of politics that is informed by reading works--but you should always keep a certain distance. Every book is something created by both what the author puts in as well as what the reader takes away. Now I return you to your regularly scheduled review blog.