Message to all writers who won’t write about the election

Paolo Bacigalupi fielded a question posed by a commenter on his blog recently that continues to make the rounds: whether or not SF writers “undercut their fiction by talking about the election” on their blogs. He gave a good answer that’s worth reading in its entirety, as is John Scalzi’s response. But it’s left me thinking that in some ways, the very fact that someone could even ASK this question is a measure of just how fucked up our political discourse has been getting—or maybe how isolated/out-of-touch certain portions of the SF community have become, and how deep our heads are buried in the sand.

Because as troublesome as I find the question, it gets at a very real problem.  I see lots of authors’ blogs out there; some of them are great, some of them less so; some of them post every day—many (like Making Light) make politics an ongoing focus . . . but there’s a lot of them out there that never, EVER post on the election or on politics.  Presumably some of them don’t care (in which case I can’t help but wonder how they came to write SF in the first place), but one can only assume that others care too much:  they’re worried that they’ll turn off the right, or the left, or whatever, and it’s safer to just talk about their latest book or some Youtube video or a bunch of fucking LOLCats.

And they ought to reconsider.  One of the things that happens in fascist societies (or in societies in which the rule of law is unraveling) is that people become afraid to talk about politics for fear it will impact their livelihood.  Our society feels on the brink to me in ways that it hasn’t previously, and this should concern us all.  We’ve got secret prisons; we’ve got enemies lists that no one can get off of; we’ve got unprecedented surveillance of the homeland; we’ve got an election about to take place amidst horrendous economic conditions and growing accusations of vote fraud . . . and we’ve got far too many people on the sidelines in silence or denial.  And way too many of them are writers.  People, wake up.  Speak up.  You may not have another chance.

5 Responses to “Message to all writers who won’t write about the election”

  1. Leslie Says:

    I feel much the same way Dave, as you know. This is no time to ignore what’s going on around us. The changes over the past eight years have hit me hard. There is an interview with Naomi Wolfe on You Tube called Give Me Liberty that’s been emailed to me twice this week that ‘s pretty scary. Hard to know what to do next.

  2. David Williams Says:

    Leslie– it’s a great video, one that everyone should watch, and I’m posting it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XgkeTanCGI

    fyi, Wolfe asserts that (a) at least some representatives were told last week that there’d be martial law if the bailout didn’t pass:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaG9d_4zij8

    and that (b) a brigade has been moved from Iraq into the U.S. to deal with potential civil disorder:

    http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/09/army_homeland_090708w/

    The former could (potentially) be construed as hyperbole. The latter’s just dangerous. The overall pattern is not a good one.

  3. Melinda Says:

    Good post, Dave, and a lot of good thoughts, too.

    In my opinion, writers blogging about politics or religion or what-have-you is all about execution. If I read a strong, carefully-thought, cogent argument by someone whose views I don’t share, I can still respect them. If I read a whining, screech-fest by someone I agree with, not only do I lose respect for them, I cringe at sharing their views.

    I think there are a lot of fiction writers who forget that blogging is writing and requires the same careful attention as fiction. This includes putting yourself in the reader’s position and asking “How would I feel if I had voted for G.W. Bush and read this blog post that outright calls me a moron without backing up the writer’s opinions? Would I be likely to respect this person afterward?”

    That’s the difference. There are fiction writers who emote all over their own blog space and then say, “I’ll never write about politics again. It makes people crazy.” There are writers (like you, for example, and the folks at Making Light) who make fact-based assertions that some people might find unpleasant without stooping to belittling, angry language that makes even people who agree with you cringe.

  4. David Williams Says:

    hey M- it’s a great point; and I agree, a lot of what folks object to in writers getting all political is when they preach to the converted and therefore dispense with logic (and often civility). And then after a while there’s no critical thinking going on on the site. That might be fine for something like Daily Kos, which is all about mobilization (and I respect that), but you’re right, it doesn’t work so well for this kind of blog.

    In that regard, an interesting quote from the New Yorker I just came across:

    “With the Internet, all of us were going to be content producers, but it’s become an echo chamber.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/13/081013fa_fact_packer?currentPage=all

  5. Joel Sparks Says:

    Kudos on this. Not all SF is about near future, like yours, but most SF posits a world grown out of the current one. Ignoring the state of the world means, if nothing else, getting the axioms wrong from which you derive your futures.