As I write this, writer twitter is through another round of “should you share your political opinions publicly?”. Ignoring for a moment the notion that there’s any such thing as a-political fiction, in a world where your very identity makes you political, can there even be an a-political identity?
Suzan Palumbo said it better:
I’m a queer woman with ambitions in STEM and none in motherhood. I grew up on public assistance, in public housing. I can have those ambitions because I received a free university-level degree. The fact that I have this degree is a sore point for a number of people who think that people like me shouldn’t be able to access that education. And as long as me being queer, and ambitious, and having grown up poor are political, then that also makes anyone who is not any of those things political. To be about as subtle as a sledgehammer; since it is political to take away rights from certain people, or to make sure that they don’t get equal rights, then also being one of the people whose rights are not under discussion has to be political.
The fiction of a-political fiction
There’s this interview with Alan Moore where he talks about how superhero movies should really only be for children and how there’s something deeply wrong with a society that aims them at adults. I don’t necessarily agree with the man, but he has a point. Batman movies are so much fun, until you start thinking about the fact that the hero is richer than Bezos. He could fix the homelessness crisis in Gotham before breakfast, and by lunch, he would have more money than he did before he did that. And research shows that housing-first solutions make everything that comes after that a lot easier. Who knew? But I’m digressing. Instead of actually fixing things for everyone, Bruce Wayne chooses to hoard his wealth so that he can keep playing vigilante.
There’s a line in the Nolan Batman movies:
And I keep wondering; what if Alfred isn’t talking about the Joker at that point? What if he’s talking about Batman? The Dark Knight is structurally built on the idea that Batman and The Joker are two halves of the same coin. What if Bruce also wants to watch the world burn just so he can feel the hero when he starts putting out individual bushes instead of the raging forest fire that’s sitting right there?
The Scale of Defiance
I swear, I didn’t write this post just so I could plug the anthology my story is in, but I was thinking about these things as I was writing my Recognize Fascism story, The Scale of Defiance. My main character is a woman married to another woman and as is the wont of pseudo-fascist parties everywhere, there are forces that want to make that relationship not valid. I wrote this story in February of this year, not knowing that by October, Alito and Scalise would paint a target on marriage equality in the US. But it’s also a playbook we are all so familiar with; mark someone as Other, then tell anyone who’ll listen that they’re the cause of all problems and how they don’t deserve equal rights. How them even talking about having equal rights is “political”.
And that’s really what it’s all about. A lot of us don’t have a choice of whether or not to be political in our public personality, our social media, or our fiction. Because simply living a good life is considered political.