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Political Poser

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  • Matt
    Would you really want to know that your favorite author is stumping for a politician, whose views are totally in opposite of yours? Would that sour you on
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 5, 2004
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      Would you really want to know that your favorite author is stumping
      for a politician, whose views are totally in opposite of yours? Would
      that sour you on buying their next book, being aware of their
      political view point? Or should it matter? Everyone has an opinion
      and freedom to express it, especially Hollywood types and other
      entertainers who go out of their way to make their views known. They
      can plaster whatever they want on their websites, etc.

      But, as has been recently the case, consumers have a right to not
      support those people, not buy their products they stump for, not see
      their movie and most especially not buy their book. A bit extreme,
      but not totally. The power of the pocketbook is all we have, as the
      public, to control what we want and don't want.

      I only say this because George R.R. Martin has a Kerry/Edwards banner
      plastered on his website, asking for campaign contributions. I want
      to know when feast of Crows is going to be done, not that he's
      stumping for some politico during campaign season. Democrat or
      Republican, it shouldn't matter. I don't want to know your political
      pursuasion, your view on world events, your social agenda or what you
      think about hybrid cars . . . i want to read your book.

      i would never feel secure in the fact of alienating a section of my
      readers by proclaiming my political allegiance or affiliation with
      some agenda, any agenda, especially if i were a genre writer. I'd
      leave my personal views to my personal life.

      Of course, writers always put their views into their writing. Ursula
      LeGuinn, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Clancy, Mya
      Angelou . . . all have a well known view. But they don't overtly
      advertise it.

      I just find it interesting. Usually, genre authors stay out of the
      fray. You hear rumors, know gossip, especially at cons if you've been
      on any kind of panel or sat in on one, and talked to authors
      privately or in groups. YOu find out things, what their views are.
      But the general populace never finds out, usually, unless there is
      something overt in their writing, constantly. That doesn't sell well,
      however. Editors don't like political agendas in genre writing, i
      think. it distracts from the goal of entertaining and suspending
      disbelief. Your characters end up doing things that are illogical to
      the story or general tableau of the story.

      I hope this will spur discussion. there's no right or wrong answer
      here. Just opinions. Tell me what you think. Some will think people
      can do and say whatever the want. First Amendment and all that.
      Others that you should keep your opinions to yourself and just write.
    • ellowan
      There are a lot of things that I ve been upset to find out, and that would include a favorite author holding an abhorrent view, political or otherwise. It s a
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 8, 2004
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        There are a lot of things that I've been upset to find out, and that
        would include a favorite author holding an abhorrent view, political
        or otherwise. It's a little hard to put into words, but, even if I
        wouldn't have wanted to know that, if such a person had such a view,
        I wouldn't want them to hide it. I guess my wish is that the author
        or person would not have such a view in the first place, but if they
        held to the view, then it's a little dishonest to not own up to it.

        That was my general take on the matter. On the specifics of Martin's
        website, it's his home site. It's not the A Feast for Crows
        website. If he wanted to talk about restaurant reviews, or his
        illicit underwear collection on his homepage, that's his affair
        (though probably subject to subsequent prosecution in the latter
        example). Now, if there's a big Kerry/Edwards banner plastered on
        the Random House page advertising A Feast for Crows, that would be a
        little worrisome.

        I came right up to this situation only a few months ago, in fact. I
        read Ender's Game about a year ago, and loved it. So, on to Card's
        website. There's no Kerry/Edwards banner on the front, but that's
        just a question of degree. One to two clicks from the front page of
        his website is all that is needed to go to a host of political and
        religious essays that tells me as much as I need to know about Card's
        views in order to understand what formative agenda is behind the
        world of Ender Wiggin and any number of his other novels.

        I would hope that if a person, author or otherwise, had a strong
        opinion as to who they were voting for, or what issue they were
        passionate about, they would put it on their site! That would make
        them a person with cares and concerns, rather than some drudge whose
        only task is to crank out yet another page of text. I am not at all
        interested in protecting the right of readers to remain ignorant of
        an author's opinions. That's the responsibility to the reader to not
        visit a place, like the author's homepage, where such an opinion
        might become evident. Also, if you are eating up a novel that has a
        political agenda (and what doesn't, even if the author isn't aware of
        it?) would you want to just eat it up, or would you want to know what
        opinions influenced the author in the first place?

        I suppose it comes down to Martin's role. Is he just there to make
        money? In that case, it would undoubtedly be safest for him to stay
        as vanilla as possible. Matt's point about editors is probably quite
        correct: they do not want authors to have a visible agenda, or really
        any sort of agenda other than selling books.

        On the other hand, what about his role as a citizen? He's not some
        sort of public spokesperson, speaking in an official capacity. His
        trade may be writing books, but he's not part of the Book Writing
        Corporation (I don't think he is, anyway). A person visits his site
        of their own free will. You don't have to go to Martin's homepage to
        buy his books; those are at Amazon.

        I'm sure he's quite aware of the potential loss in readership for
        putting in a political plug on his site. I might be tempted to say
        that he doesn't care. On reflection, though, I think he does care
        about losing readers. Some people wouldn't, but I think most people
        would. It might be more probably to speculate that he cares more
        about speaking out than any setback incurred by losing readers.
        Personally, I respect that.

        So, what about the role of his readers? I, for one, would probably
        be 90% likely to stop reading even a favorite author who expressed an
        opposing view on a matter I cared about. Martin's fantasies are
        intensely political, and if I become aware of what his beliefs are, I
        would have a hard time separating his writing from his agenda.

        I would encourage people not to force themselves to read things.
        Reading should be a labor of love. If you don't like what an author
        stands for, don't buy that author's books; read library books if you
        have to. Write a letter of complaint to the author. If you
        absolutely must, write a letter of complaint to the publisher, too.
        Maybe they don't want to carry such a polarized author, though I
        think it would be a shame to rely on that sort of pressure. Frankly,
        I would not want to be in a society where publishers muzzled their
        authors, lost readership or not. That kind of thing already happens
        too often for my tastes, and when it comes to an individual vs. a
        business, nobody can say that it's a fair fight.
      • Matt
        I think the problem, for me, would be that after finding out about an author s peculiarities, i d be hard pressed not to start scrutinizing his writing in
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 9, 2004
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          I think the problem, for me, would be that after finding out about an
          author's peculiarities, i'd be hard pressed not to start scrutinizing
          his writing in relation to that attitude or agenda, thereby
          disrupting the whole enjoyment process of actually reading. As it
          regards Orson Scott Card, i think he's a Latter Day Saint and puts a
          strong amount of his religious background into his writing. There's
          nothing wrong with that, but it can put off some people; having said
          that, i think it's Harry Turtledove who has had some notorious anti
          Mormom vitriol in some of his writing, bashing them and saying
          inherently false things in his writing.

          Much like Dan Brown and his decidedly Anti-Catholic meandering in the
          Da Vinci Code and Gods and Demons.

          Everyone has something they don't like and a point of view. It will
          filter into your writing, though i try not to let it skew mine. I do
          try to put real world issues and conform them a bit to make things
          coalesce better. Discrimination, violence, war, freedom, sexism . . .
          these are universal truths.

          Of course, an author can plaster anyting on his/her website. But my
          mother always told me don't talk about politics, religion and don't
          lend friends or relatives money. I try to stick by that. In Martin's
          case, since he hasn't published a book since October of 2000 and is
          well on his way to making it 5 years that he's been working on Feast
          of Crows, with 4 publishing dates having come and gone since April of
          2002 when the first one was hinted at, i would assume people are more
          interested in a Song of Ice and Fire, then they are Kerry/Edwards.
          but that's his call.

          I remember when Holly Lisle still had her site going and updated
          daily, with her blog. She had some distinct, very conservative views
          on some things, liberal on others. She, unfortunately, has stopped
          updating her site and has relegated herself to just working on her
          work and not messing with the Internet anymore because of the time it
          was devouring. I think the thin with genre authors is that they can't
          get cute with certain things. There are rules and themes they have to
          follow and you can't wander off on some crusade that is going to lose
          you readers. Your editor will kill you.

          But, there's always going to be people who are going to push forth an
          agenda, their adoring fans be damned or enlightened, depending.
          Martin is braver than i will be when i get my author site up and
          running.


          Matt
        • kaeolin
          I think what s interesting is that even though you write Democrat or Republican, it shouldn t matter, the fact that his views are opposite of yours is
          Message 4 of 6 , Sep 2, 2004
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            I think what's interesting is that even though you write "Democrat or
            Republican, it shouldn't matter," the fact that his views are opposite
            of yours is exactly what matters to you, and bothers you. If he were
            posting a Bush/Cheney sign, would you have even been provoked enough
            to write this message? Politics is all about perspective. And I
            think some interesting and cogent things have been said already about
            this topic, but I'll just say that I agree (I think trevinwolfe wrote
            this) that free speech and the fact that it is a personal web site
            allow Martin to do what he wants. And frankly, I think it's ashame
            that Americans are so polarized about politics that they would shun
            good literature just because the person doesn't agree with them. That
            seems to be a fairly narrow way of viewing the world and living one's
            life. And you can say that's reality, but those people I know who want
            to change society for the better, whether you agree with them or not,
            don't accept reality for what it is. I admire that kind of courage,
            strength, and determination.

            I guess you can tell that I believe strongly that people should
            discuss politics, that if we don't talk about our different views, and
            why we hold them so dear, we can't learn from those conversations nor
            are we really making any attempts to understand differences and thus,
            able to move beyond them. I know that in a conversation of "right and
            wrong" there is a place that people can meet and begin to move beyond
            feeling the need to be righteous. There's a wonderful quote by Rumi:
            "Out beyond ideas of "rightdoing" and "wrongdoing" there is a field
            where the soul lies down. I will meet you there."

            More importantly, many Americans seem to lack political maturity and
            tend to make gross generalizations (like all Democrats are liberal or
            all Republicans are conservative) and/or have visceral reactions to
            what they read or hear without thinking about what is being written or
            said. I think part of this thin-skinned attitude that Americans have
            about their politics is precisely because they are not willing to
            discuss it, and thus never learn how to have those conversations (in a
            sane manner) and leave satisfied and compassionate of their fellow
            discussants' opinions despite the differences. Politics shouldn't be
            about anger and vituperative language (and hate), but it so often is.
            That, I think, is a great disservice to ourselves and our country.

            Okay, I'll get off my high political horse.

            And regarding personal writing and s/f/f: Well, I think Matt is right
            that politics is everywhere, some just do it less overtly. But, Matt,
            you also write "that doesn't sell well, however. Editors don't like
            political agendas in genre writing, i think." But you give great
            examples of well-known (and lucrative) authors (LeGuin, Heinlein,
            Clancy, and how about C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Phil Dick, and many, many
            others) who DO insert agendas into their writings. I guess I just
            disagree that editors want to avoid that. I guess if you want to be
            political in genre writing, the trick is you'd better do it well =).

            I'm curious, do you think those authors that have elaborate
            politico-socio world building are political or not?
          • Jeff C.
            ... Political commentary in writing has been around for a long, long time. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hugo, and others used their novels to forward their political
            Message 5 of 6 , Sep 3, 2004
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              --- kaeolin <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

              > Clancy, and how about C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Phil
              > Dick, and many, many
              > others) who DO insert agendas into their writings.
              > I guess I just
              > disagree that editors want to avoid that.


              Political commentary in writing has been around for a
              long, long time. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hugo, and
              others used their novels to forward their political
              ideas. I think that what Matt was implying, is that
              most of these writers try to keep their political
              leanings hidden within their work rather than posting
              their views openly.

              As for me, I will probably read Martin's next book,
              but if it isn't out until next year, I won't be
              rushing out to get it. No political statement on my
              part, just that I won't wait forever for the next
              installment.

              Jeff



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            • Matt Baker
              Well, it will be five years by the time next spring rolls around. There s still no publication date on it. I think i did mention a few of those others, and
              Message 6 of 6 , Sep 3, 2004
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                Well, it will be five years by the time next spring rolls around. There's still no publication date on it.

                I think i did mention a few of those others, and mentioned they were able to get away with it because they wrote well enough and were popular enough to do it.

                "Jeff C." <jpesk@...> wrote:

                --- kaeolin <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                > Clancy, and how about C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Phil
                > Dick, and many, many
                > others) who DO insert agendas into their writings.
                > I guess I just
                > disagree that editors want to avoid that.


                Political commentary in writing has been around for a
                long, long time. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hugo, and
                others used their novels to forward their political
                ideas. I think that what Matt was implying, is that
                most of these writers try to keep their political
                leanings hidden within their work rather than posting
                their views openly.

                As for me, I will probably read Martin's next book,
                but if it isn't out until next year, I won't be
                rushing out to get it. No political statement on my
                part, just that I won't wait forever for the next
                installment.

                Jeff



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