Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[writing] Is all fantasy political?

Been noodling on something that cropped up on Twitter last week. A reader said she preferred her fantasy not to have politics in it. I think she meant allegories of contemporary politics, but that's just my gloss.

Anyone hanging around this blog long knows I'm passionate about contemporary politics. Anyone hanging around my fiction long knows I don't write about it in my fantasy, other than the very occasional contemporary fantasy short. I detest allegory in fiction, even when it's allegory I agree with.

Yet to my casual thinking, politics is inescapable in fantasy. The classic high fantasy tropes of the secret heir, the broken succession, the usurper/evil overlord, the quest to restore order/justice/the rightful line of kings — that's all deeply political. That flavor of fantasy is almost always about things happening to societies.

One could go up a couple of layers into metanalysis and argue quite sincerely that all fiction is political. This is a bit like arguing that all fiction is biographical. I'm pretty sure that's true, but also largely meaningless except as a tool for certain kinds of criticism.

So I'm nowhere near having an answer here, but I find the question interesting. Haven't made up my mind yet whether that's interesting-but-trivial or interesting-but-significant. A few questions for you, and quite curious to read your responses in comments, or on your own blogs.

  1. Is the question of whether fantasy contains politics meaningful to ask in the first place?

  2. Is traditional high fantasy as political as I've so casually portrayed it?

  3. Is it fair to analyze those politics only in internal terms, or does an external analysis bring value? Ie, are all us fantasy readers secret monarchists?

  4. What about other forms of fantasy? Other forms of speculative fiction?

  5. What about the politics of race, gender, class and so forth?

  6. Am I asking the wrong damned questions?

If we all get clever enough in comments, I might have a poll later.

Tags: process, writing

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