On Writing

The Politics of Fantasy

Real world politics and morality have always found their way into great fantasy and sci-fi. Why I'm allowing the tragedy of America's gun violence epidemic take center stage in my latest novel in progress.

“A weapon maker arrives in town. Do you know his most difficult sale? The first. When people see just one man is armed, the rest of the weapons sell themselves.”
– The Book of Resurrection

It’s strange to me that so much of fantasy is referred to as escapism. Aesthetically, yes, I concur on that. Elves, magic, monsters- it’s fun to lose oneself for a time in a story of a world with such fantastic things that don’t and can’t exist in ours (that we know of).

The best fantasy still ends up being subject to the circumstance of our world- our politics, our morals and ethics, even our science. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is simultaneously seen as the story of WWII writ fantastic, as well as allegory for Catholic/Christian theology on the human condition and struggle for redemption.

I could go on, and on: Robert Heinlein explored the ethics of nationalism (Starship Troopers), polygamy (Stranger in a Strange Land), and judeo-Christian values (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) as results of evolution and survivalism more than actual objective “right” through his science-fiction. Even Terry Pratchett with his stories that children can read and enjoy in the Disc World explored #woke issues such as gender equality in Equal Rites, and peppered a progressive tone of tolerance and reason throughout his series.

I’ve started work on my next novel finally, and it’s a fantasy story set in a fictional world which begins with “the legendary hero” coming back to life after having died seven years prior. He’d been led to believe that his sacrifice was the lynch pin to “end the war” and make the world “perfect.” He was right only on the former, and only technically so. So, he comes back to a ruined and polluted world to try to save it.

There’s a lot at play in it- the world and challenge has “grown up” in the seven years since his passing. Whereas before he was fighting against an invading army, now he’s fighting against an established system- one that the people are largely okay with despite its depravities. The age of swords and magic is drawing to a close. This new ruling institution is one of providing comforts to the people through the magic of technology.

Last night, I wrote a scene where the queen of the city changes the game against her opponent in an even larger way, more than just the hegemony he was already struggling to find a way to resist: she introduces the first of many inventions: a gun.

Our legendary warrior, who could face fifteen skilled fighters and emerge victorious is stymied by the power to kill a man from fifty yards away with a projectile so fast it can’t be seen. It’s not only a system he’s facing, it’s the march of human progress, the ethics of a system providing safety and danger to its people to keep itself in place.

I don’t think it should be difficult to see where this is coming from. I’m an American, and for the umpteenth time this year, we lost innocent lives- children- to gun violence. Loss of one life is too many. Seventeen,  though. It’s had me in a state of mourning and bewilderment at the system in place that allows these instruments of death to be so accessible, to be at all accessible. Yet, that’s the system that’s enforced, and the people that support access to guns, support that access because of the very dangers that guns present: they want to “feel safe.”

It’s amazing to me, especially in this particular moment in American history the kinds of atrocities and cruelties that are being justified in pursuit of a feeling. Refugees are being turned away because Americans don’t feel safe having them in the country- despite lack of any demonstrable evidence that refugees have ever posed a danger to anyone. We proliferate access to guns, and oppose gun restrictions so people can “feel safe” owning guns, even though the dangers are far greater with that access being allowed.

I could go on and on. We’re at a daunting crossroads in American history. We’re at a point where two thirds of the country opposes access to these weapons, but a single entity with enough money is able to tip the scales. We’re at a moment where Democracy is no longer of the people or for the people, it’s of the mighty dollar and for the highest bidder.

There’s plenty we can do in this world to work on making the change I hope we all wish to see. The simplest thing, is that we can support the people that are fighting the good fight and trying to overcome like Everytown (follow the link and donate if you have even a couple dollars to spare). We can engage family and friends who lean right to have real, reasonable discussions about what gun regulation truly means (a lot of 2A supporters are conditioned to think it means their guns are going to be stolen, even though the word “regulated” is in the actual text of the second amendment). We can do so much, each and every day to add up to the movement that may someday diminish and possibly prevent anymore of these tragedies. We have to try.

For my part, I’m also writing a story about a hero who comes back to life to grow up, and who wrestles with and opposes the very same war machine put in place by an evil queen.

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