Policies on politics

Greetings, fellow writers!


The short-lived surge of politics in over very own end-of-year review got me thinking. Not on our own political leanings, mind you, but on those of characters.

I do think a writer can never truly escape the real world and the life he leads, a pretty huge part of which is politics both big and small, no matter how hard he tries to ignore them. Even fantastical writings eventually gets analysed for politics and leanings and such. I guess we all have seen the "Good Guy Sauron"-Meme. So, in my opinion, politics and real worldviews and ideologies always seep in some way or another.

So. How do you handle that? Do you have politics discussed at all or do your protagonists share you personal leanings or do you use politics to make them unsympathetic? Ar they silently ignored, openly shared? Do they influence how characters get along or not?


I personally seem to radicalise my characters, sometimes a bit to much. Most of them are either extreme left or right or completely apolitical, with often no middle ground. Which is hard on me, since I do not share these extremist views yet it is vitally important to don't make carricatures out of them.

But it gives me a quick and easy way to stir conflict between some groups who are forced to work together and it quickly identifies those people as living on the fringes of a mostly moderate society.


I'd like to keep this thread and discussion in the abstract, if possible. No names of living or active politicians, please. :)




I don't have characters talk about their political leanings a lot, but I do try to show it through their actions. In Defection I have a budding fascist, who's influence can be seen on the community she lives in, and on her team. The main character is a hedonistic capitalist, and most of the cast have a certain amount of pragmatism in their relationship with the world around them.


In a high fantasy project still on the drawing board and establishing shorts I'm going to go deeper into conflicts of philosophies. No right and left wing given the setting, religion vs atheist vs pagan and the driving principals behind the three. Also the conflicts between 'warrior', 'healer', 'rouge', and 'bard' archetypes. The setting will have rather prevalent eternal war philosophies running rampant. Also eugenics because no setting is complete without horrifying secrets (this isn't a spoiler, the eugenics is right out in the open).


I've found out I prefer writing about people with opinions and the ability to act upon them. Hence my works are more political in nature than action-packed.


That in turn forces me to equip my characters with stated opinions, not always my own. A lot of those opinions would be considered political in nature.


Notably two readers could disagree whether or not an opinion was political or not to begin with, because even that is a matter of opinion. Someone's daily truth (so obvious it doesn't even merit arguing) is the cause of deep internal conflict for someone else.


When my characters have political opinions (or at least what a majority of adults in the 'western' world would consider political ones), they're all over the place. Most sympathetic ones mirror myself to a degree in as much as they're able to harbour both left and right wing opinions. Ie, my 'heroes' are extremely unlikely to follow one political party with it's associated 'package deal'.


I tend to follow the reality of the location. Some characters are far more political than others. Some are confrontationally political. Like this gem of a conversation:


"You should be grateful for your mom," Mike said. "She's only hard on you because she loves you and wants you to be safe. Mine disowned me at nineteen, after she found out about my lifestyle choices."

"She disowned you because you were gay?" Wow, what a bitch. "That's just fucked up, man."

"Nah, she was all about that, kept trying to hook me up with her gynecologist's son."

"Then what was the problem?"

"I'm a republican."

((He might have been joking. Maybe.))


....


And I tend to work political reality into my stories. I have a supervillain gang (Hispanic) currently trying to bribe a reverend into playing the "race" card on the police, after a recent series of busts and crackdowns by said cops. Even had a couple (nonpowered) gang members trying to claim a hero used racial slurs and threatened them. Why? Because shit like this happens, and I won't pretend otherwise.


Of course, I treat the white gang(s) with an equal blanket of "these people are assholes". I guess I just have a personal bias against gangs. And I am okay with that.


....


My personal philosophy is something along the lines of "No One Is Pure." Most people are short sighted hypocrites, but even the worst of us usually have at least some redeeming qualities. I am more than happy to convey that message in my storytelling.


Somebody once said to me that politics is philosophy in action. As such I really believe that political leanings are direct extension of our worldviews. No character is complete without a worldview, it's fascinating how closely intertwined psychology and philosophy are, as such your character would remain half-baked without an ideology. I think the amount politics touched on is directly proportional to A: The type of work, and B: how agendized the author is. But given that A is generally dictated by B, it's really just about the writers preferences. Don't get me wrong, a story which teaches you absolutely nothing will never be great, I myself love a work which handles well deep subjects.


For me personally, the main group in my story (working on the backlog right now) are the UTOPIANS, so... politics yes, in a sidelong sort of way. I'm not going to preach to anybody, but how we present reality in fiction says a lot without saying anything, really. I'll be handling a lot of subjects as I go forward, but I'm keeping in mind what I think is the cardinal rule about Politics in fiction. And that is that the story needs to not be about it, depriving readers of escapism. Storytelling is one of the most important ways humans convey information, just make sure it stays about the story.


Antlers, CO takes place in a backwoods town in 2000-2001, so it's a little removed from present day politics. :) But most of my characters definitely stray towards being liberal. My protagonist Austin's family is made up of government workers, but they all work for a department that isn't supposed to exist on the record, so they aren't elected to their positions by the public and basically have to remain apolitical and deal with whatever other government officials are in power at the time. Possibly the closest thing to a political ideology in Antlers is that my med student character Otter is very pro-medical marijuana, but I have no idea when/if that will actually get mentioned in the story itself. I mean, all of the protagonists are LGBTAQ+ in some way, but I try not to politicize it. I'm more of a fan of genre stories that just so happen to have LGBT casts rather than stories that are only about coming out and/or prejudice, so Antlers is a supernatural mystery first, and LGBT fiction second. Most of the characters are already "out" by the time the story starts, and their sexuality/gender identities are usually referenced casually in passing, if at all.


That's a heck of a question. I think I read somewhere that the two topics you should avoid on social media are politics and religion... it tends to cause snap judgements in people before they even start getting into your creative efforts. When I first created "personified math", my initial thought was to avoid all of that, which honestly wasn't too hard because there was no reason for politics to come up.


But then, my Quartic and Parabola (both female) started flirting... and more. And the Cube Root disapproved, in a rather outspoken way, and I realized that somehow he was conservative, so I guess the others were liberal, and that was unexpected. In other words, to answer your question, I don't have characters discuss politics, but politicized ISSUES (LGBT, marijuana, gun control, etc) come up due to character choices. Because of that, one can probably see a liberal leaning in my writing, but I never set out to make it any kind of plot point. As another example, Chartreuse Vermilion is bisexual in T&T, but I've never really focussed on her, so it hasn't come up... when it does, I imagine some other characters might have opinions about it, but the politics is liable to come out of their reactions, rather than be something I initially built in. If that makes any sense.


The Solstice War is inspired by World War II and the Eastern Front and I chose that setting because of its political history in large part, so I definitely do not avoid it. I would say I relish in it. Especially as someone whose life and decisions are in present society heavily politically scrutinized. Whether I want it to or not, my existence as the author of anything will in some dimension become political, because of my personal life and identity. I could have hidden behind pseudonyms to try to avoid that, but I would rather confront it instead. Aside from that I don't think I can write a story anymore that does not in some way involve politics, since I enjoy political theory and history, and also because depicting characters like myself (which is another reason the story is the way it is), is always heavily political. I also feel that whatever you intend to write, people who analyze it will uncover some form of politics, whether you believe them to be yours or not. Even neutrality and an "apolitical" stance is in itself political. So even aside from it being an (inescapable) interest of mine, I think being aware of the visible politics of your work is a useful skill.


The world of Anathema is strongly driven by politics, but for the most part, the main characters are interested in the policies and developments that affect them as superpowered beings. Most people find discussions about metahuman rights more interesting than left-right-center debates, and they are much more prevalent on the news.


My story touches on politics, but also religion and racial issues. Various nations have their own opinion on superpowered people and how they should be treated. France is very open-minded and welcomes all - and then later tries to cut back on that freedom when things get out of hand, and, well, things get MORE out of hand. China refuses to publish information about its metahumans, and because powers are 'distributed' seemingly at random, China and India have a LOT of them, making everyone else nervous.


Deleted some things because they might have been a bit spoilery.


Like in other areas, I use the intersection of my main character as both a protagonist and a villain. Some views he espouses aren't meant to be taken seriously, some are said in a way meant to be parody, and then others are serious. So if you don't share his serious views, you can chock them up to him being a villain. If you like them, you might feel alright because he's the protagonist. Same for how he portrays others' political and religious views.