Over here in the US of Holy Shit, we have a few problems. A few, big, huge giant, honking seven hundred billion dollar problems. Add to that a light-your-pants-on-fire contested presidential race (aren’t you glad I write a romance blog and not political punditry? I know I am) and you have one very exhausted Sarah who is more than ever grateful for every opportunity to take refuge in the “yes, it will end happily” world of the romance novel. The billionaires, they don’t lose their shirts or invest in sub prime mortgages in Harlequin Presents’ world. They don’t need no stinkin’ Dow. Their money is inherited and, since they’re worldy wise and brilliant, probably collecting more interest sitting in shoeboxes under the bed.
Anyway, over here, it’s crazy pants time. The election is a little over a month away, there’s debates on television (note: I think any candidate who does not answer the damn question asked of them should lose time to talk. There should be a moderator with time docking power, is all I’m sayin) and signs and ads everywhere, and the tension is only going to increase. Which leads me to my next question:
How do you feel about authors discussing politics? A few authors have emailed me privately with videos and links, and I’ve discussed the current presidential race over email with heaps of people, but more than once, I’ve had someone remark that they feel awkward saying anything on their blogs about the political situation. One author said she didn’t feel like she was in a position to get political: whereas it’s ok for actors to embrace activism, for authors of commercial fiction, it’s not ok at all.
My general reaction is, “Why not? Go for it. If you have something to say, say it.” Yes, it may alienate some readers. Yes, it may mean that people who don’t politically agree with you vow never to buy your books again! (Yeah, says I. Riiiight. I’ll believe it when I have access to their bookstore buying history.) Yes, it might raise a particular kerfuffle, but in the long run, these folks live in the same world I do and I am very curious as to what they think. But I mentally keep it separate from their work. They as people do a lot more in a day than merely writing the books I read. So of course they have things to say about taxes and war and expenditure and governmental oversight, etc.
But yet there’s that reticence. And I get it – I totally get it. But I am never comfortable keeping my own mouth shut because it might be better for someone else. John Scalzi agrees. When asked if fiction writers should write about politics, he replied:
The reader who believes a fiction author should keep his or her opinions to themselves is effectively (if generally unintentionally) saying “You exist only to amuse me. You are not allowed to do anything else.” To which the only rational response is: blow me.
I’m not going to hesitate to add my voice to the national dialogue on any subject just because someone somewhere might not be happy with what I have to say. And more to the point, I think it is bad and dangerous thinking for people to suggest that fiction writers should have to live in a black box of opinion.
[My apologies for not being able to remember who sent me that link. But you’re awesome!]
I concur heartily, and do want to hear what people think, or, at least, read about it. I think it’s a cousin to the Romancelandia culture of Be Nice Or Else that silences romance authors on the subject of politics when authors wish to discuss it – though obviously if you’d like to not talk about it, that’s totally understandable.
I’m always dumbstruck, though, by the idea that someone who sends me a video or web page that has to do with their political opinion often includes a “if you don’t support this person, I hope I didn’t offend you.” I am rarely offended if you disagree with me. Telling me I’m a horrible person with no moral compass because I disagree with you, well, that’s obnoxious to be sure. But disagreement itself isn’t offensive – just like offending someone isn’t the same as assaulting them (TM Robin). I hate that two people with different political viewpoints keep quiet when around one another because they might…disagree. Argue. Debate. Oh, shit, dialogue. That’s just terrible. Can’t have that. Holy crap.
So if you’re an author who is very politically exercised right now, do you keep silent on the subject? Do you keep your political commentary in a specific environment, such as your personal non-author-related blog? Does your political activism on your author blog extend to encouraging voting and political involvement but not discussions of a particular candidate? Does the relative prominence of your name as an author mean you’re less likely to be outspoken about your personal feelings about the current campaigns? Or do you prefer that romance be a politics-free zone, from the authors to their blogs?
What’s the fallout if an author you like takes a political stand that you don’t like, and really, does it matter? Is an absence of politics the only way to go when you’re trying to sell something, because we’re so polarized that alienating the sales base is bad idea jeans? What’s your take?