Friday, November 5, 2010

Keep Politics Out of My Fiction

Lately, I've been trying to read some books by some of the newer Baen authors and have found that I just cannot. I have known for a long time that Baen, as a company, leans heavily towards the right but I have (for the most part) not encountered that in their books. This may speak more of the books I prefer than the books they publish. I tend to read more fantasy than science fiction, and don't really care for military science fiction.

But since the founder Jim Baen's death, I've noticed a steady trend of political creep into their books, particularly with their new authors. Has it become a de facto requirement that in order to be published by Baen you have to shout your Republican credentials from page 1?

I read fiction for enjoyment, not to get preached to. I am heavily opinionated and work in the policy world, so I don't need to encounter it when I'm thinking I'm picking up a nice story about a time traveling family. (I nearly threw the book across the room when I got to the line in the prologue "Just thank God for Ronald Reagan." It also didn't help that the writing style was crap.)

While I'm a liberal, I don't want to see politics of either stripe in my books unexpectedly. If I want to read something political, I'll read something political. But don't preach to me or shoehorn in political ideology into a fiction story. I've stopped reading authors I used to love because of their constant soapboxing. I can't read Mercedes Lackey anymore because I felt her books were beating me over the head with the message of how unfit, controlling, or even misunderstanding parents did not deserve their children. I don't necessarily disagree with that but I don't want to read it over and over and over again.

Using fiction books as partisan political platforms ultimately drives away readers. If overdone, it annoys those who share those same views, and angers those who do not. And ultimately, it is completely unnecessary to the plot. The vast majority of books tell a damn good story without having the author's personal political or religious beliefs shoved down the readers' throats. It is even possible to tell a good political story without being partisan. Christopher Buckley, who is a Republican, wrote an entire book satirizing the American political system without once naming a political party.

There are too many lines drawn in the sand throughout our society. In a time when the extremes dominate the conversation, and the idea of "you're either with us or against us" has taken on a life of its own, people seem to have become so entrenched in their own particular opinions, mindsets, and world views that they are unwilling to compromise or even talk. I see it every day around me. I do not need or want to see it in books I read for pleasure.

Baen, of course, has the right to publish whatever they want. Just as I have a right to read whatever I want. Unfortunately, Baen's stable of new authors won't make it onto my TBR list.

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