The Politics of Fiction

From Writer Unboxed:

I’ll start this post with a disclaimer. As a fiction writer, I am drawn to writing stories that work within the realities we exist in. I’ve rarely worked with magic, fantasy, alternate world histories, or creating imaginary worlds.

Primarily, I enjoy stories of humans living in contemporary urban realities. I wanted to expand the way I wrote, but it always seemed like a struggle. Over time I made peace with it and plunged further into the kind of writer I wanted to be. I wondered why I related to books that told stories about our times, struggles, pop culture, gender roles, and other political realities.

My upbringing between two countries (U.S and India) possibly shaped how I read. The sense of displacement and mixed ideas of identity had imprinted a curiosity for people and how they could adapt to very different realities depending on circumstances. The idea that the world we relate to can be so stunningly different for another person in another country or even another city or village in the same world compelled me.

Writing in real life meant a lot of my work started to blend into prominent political stories that pointed to the limitations of colonized worldviews. The most important revelation in my writing was the understanding that all writing (whether you mean to or not) is political.

Our writing points to our worldview; who published what, and what gets published? It demonstrates our cultural imaginations, both in their glory and limitations. When I talk about this, a lot of people get uncomfortable. The idea that one is bringing ‘politics’ into writing is something only some types of writers desire. I think this discomfort exists because the concept of politics has been largely misconstrued. We believe ‘political writing’ takes a particular stance and label. It is motivated by fear that certain writing will offend some people.

To me, politics means growing awareness of how humans experience and construct cyclical systems of oppression. Why are some stories boring to us and others amazing? For example, in a western mainstream imagination of books, main characters living in a country we know little about can be boring or not relatable unless it caters to a sense of exoticness that satisfies the way we imagine alien life to be. Indian diasporic writing was limited to only first-generation struggles for a long time. In contrast, stories set in India were limited to exotic ideas of clothing and food.

Books written from a non-first-world perspective have only a few readers who praise them for their international qualities.

Most of the world has set American pop culture and markers of the ‘good life’ as the gold standard. Most of the world is familiar with American books, movies, and music, and many know more about American politics than their own countries (and in many cases, more than Americans). Globally, there is already a pre-existing bias for us to relate to the features and realities of this culture. This isn’t so much a problem; it is a loss for us to examine the world from perspectives and storytelling styles that might take more adjustment to enjoy. I believe that reading and writing things that might seem unfamiliar to us can broaden the way we understand humanity.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

who published what, and what gets published

PG’s first reaction to this portion of the OP was something like this: “How quaint. The Author trapped in the Twentieth Century.”

PG has mentioned before that he virtually never pays attention to who the publisher is when choosing a book to read. Harper Collins or Uncle Rufus Press makes no difference to PG.

This habit/fault/folly may be related to his absence of interest concerning who wrote a review of a book for a publication. A New York Times book review holds no special meaning to him because it’s been centuries since PG bothered to read The New York Times.

He suspects these personal practices originated from PG’s early adoption of the internet. He was the first lawyer he knew to start using the internet. Because of that, without any intention of doing so, he became an “expert” on using the internet in a law office.

As the one-eyed man in a profession where nobody bothered to learn to use a typewriter, PG became an expert on computers in law offices. Groups of lawyers who get together, swap stories and occasionally learn something about the law, AKA Bar Associations, asked him to come and show them how to use a computer in a law office.

PG was the first lawyer he knew to access the internet. (There were undoubtedly other lawyers who preceded PG, but he has never, to his knowledge, spoken with them.) He remembers utilizing software to sign onto the internet, suck up a lot of information, then automatically sign off to keep long-distance charges lower than they would be if he actually read information on his screen while online.

As long-time visitors to TPV will know, PG was an early unpaid proponent of self-publishing through Amazon when a lot of people didn’t know who or what Amazon was. Later, over the course of several years, PG represented traditionally-published authors who wanted to break out of their contracts with major publishers so they could self-publish. PG’s name was mud in more than one high-rise New York City office.

PG has spent too long explaining the complicated background of why he doesn’t care who published something and what “gets published.”