Against Political Criticism

If I wanted to write political arguments, I could. But I write fiction instead, because I think political arguments are incomplete and one-sided. They’re simplistic answers, and the only way you can get to such answers is by ignoring half of the questions.

It takes a whole story for me to even identify a few of the questions. It usually takes a story told from multiple viewpoints. I don’t make the Royal Academy novels complex for the sake of complexity, but because even the limited academic canvas I’ve chosen is tremendously complicated, and has no clear set of either questions or answers.

This is why I scorn critics who act as if, by writing SFF, authors have enlisted in a cause and can be legitimately judged according to how well they serve it. I do not care what the cause is. Somebody who judges books by how Diverse or Problematic they are is just as great an enemy of literature as somebody who judges books by how well they support True Christian Belief or Meritocracy. They are all offended by the author’s uppity insistence on telling the truth as he sees it, using her entire brain, reporting their actual thoughts and observations.

This is why I am irritated as heck by so much of the supposedly ‘thoughtful’ criticism I run across online, with its lists of things a novel should contain in order to serve The Cause. Not that I think these checklist critics should be silenced. If a novel doesn’t support your political position unambiguously enough to suit you, by all means say so. You could pay it no greater compliment.

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