Sedition & Escape

It feels like it should be unnecessary to say this, but yesterday’s assault on the Capitol by domestic terrorists was sedition and every person involved should be identified and prosecuted. Also, Trump should be removed from office and prosecuted for, well, all sorts of things, but most immediately for inciting an act of terror.

That’s probably not what you came to an author’s blog to hear about or think about. We want escapism, and I firmly believe escaping into fiction is a healthy and valuable coping mechanism when reality is so relentlessly hostile an environment for nurturing joy and wellbeing.

I think it’s necessary for writers to speak up, though, because all of us are political. All our work is political. Even work that claims to refrain from engaging with politics is political by its silence. But more specifically, every time we write we are creating a world, one containing at least a little conflict, a little injustice, a wrong in need of righting. If we didn’t, there’d be no story to tell in the first place.

If you’ve read my books you know they’re political. I may laminate it with a thin layer of vampires or robots or far-future genetic engineering, but it’s all there. Withrow’s story of rejoining the world is ultimately one of outcasts finding each other when surrounded by a society that would gladly destroy them. Valerius’ story is political in so many ways I wouldn’t even know where to start discussing it.

In fact, after yesterday’s assault on the Capitol by a mob of white supremacist conspiracy theorists, I have to rewrite the second Valerius book. I was thiiiiis close to done but now it needs an entire storyline unthreaded, reconsidered, and rewritten. And it needs a new central mystery. I have ideas on that, so it’ll happen. It’ll just take time. The alternative would be to leave things as they are and risk being terribly misread, and I can’t bear to think someone would read it six months from now and think yesterday could ever be justified.

I understand and sympathize with anyone who reads this or other writers’ comments condemning yesterday and rolls their eyes while wondering why politics have to come into it. But all work, and I would argue especially speculative fiction, is inherently wrapped up in—and a commentary on—politics in reality. We read books in the context of our own lives. It’s unavoidable. And if politics flow in one direction, such that I must rewrite this book, then they sure as hell flow in the other direction, such that I worry about a book’s effect on and interpretation in consensual reality.

Readers—and writers—like to see problems solved and villains defeated. The problems in our stories spring from problems in shared reality, though, and the enjoyment we derive from seeing evil defeated and wrongs righted should motivate us in the real world long after. Let us be willing to speak out against what’s wrong or unjust as readily as we cheer for the hero when they step on screen.

But anyway, this week I needed a little escapism myself, so I made these from art I commissioned like a year and a half ago:

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