Pet Peeve #3 – The One About Political Intrusion
So far my pet peeves have been over fairly trivial things, but this is one I’m pretty serious about. It can make me abandon not only a book, but an entire series, and often anything else written by that author. What can it be, you ask? Well, here it is: I hate, loathe, and despise the intrusion of politics into Urban Fantasy.
Yep, I really do have rules about real-life politics being inserted into my fiction, and most specifically into Urban Fantasy, a genre I read totally and completely to escape the daily barrage of horror that comes out of Washington and from around the globe. To put it plainly, I don’t want to be hit over the head with an author’s views on either side of any REAL political issue. It is very annoying in any book but especially when I’m reading a book about ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves, skin walkers, shape shifters, zombies, the Fae, or mutant killer rabbits. (Yes, vampire rabbits actually did surface in one book I tried to read lately–shades of Monty Python! I wasn’t bombarded with any politics in that one, but the killer rabbits pretty much served the same purpose, anyway.)
I truly enjoy good urban fantasy, the same way I enjoyed Edgar Allen Poe, H. G. Wells, George Orwell, or H. P. Lovecraft back in the day. It is by NO means the only thing I read, but I’m a bit heavy into it right now, due mostly to the extreme amount of it available everywhere. I’m indulging my fascination with things that go bump in the night because I know the pendulum of public interest will swing the other way in time, and the selection will once again be slim.
As you might expect, there is Good Urban Fantasy with thrills and chills galore, well constructed plots, believable world building, and characters you learn to love. Then there is Bad Urban Fantasy, with none of the above, and sometimes featuring writing so awful you can’t even finish the book. And of course, there is Urban Fantasy that falls somewhere in the middle, with just enough good things to make it worth reading, even if it isn’t perfectly done. But for me, even Good Urban Fantasy goes right on the “I Can’t Finish This Steenkin’ Book” pile when it resorts to hammering me over the head with the author’s personal political philosophy. Even when I AGREE with that philosophy, which does happen, though not as often as I would like.
The point is not whether an author is right or wrong in his or her political beliefs, though right–according to my own views, naturally–is marginally better. But who needs it in a complete fantasy world? Hey, you writing the book, there! Think about it, please. You are writing about monsters who turn furry under the light of the full moon, run through the woods in howling, slavering packs, and wake up in a ditch in the morning, naked, covered in mud, and reeking of deer breath! Do you honestly think I believe your political ideas are of greater value than my own?
It would be one thing if the focus of a particular Urban Fantasy book had to do with politics, I guess. Say, if the King of Demons was a powerful senator or a prominent governor. (Notice I mentioned no possible names, here.) But that’s never the case. Why? Because no one wants to read about a zombie apocalypse on Capital Hill, other than the one we see in the news daily. So a completely politically themed Urban Fantasy tale is unlikely. No, instead some authors just decide to ruin a perfectly good, totally ordinary zombie apocalypse by randomly inserting nasty remarks about real political issues or persons. Sometimes they even go so far as to identify actual politicians by NAME, which I find astonishingly stupid. Seriously. I read a book once that referred to “the idiot in the White House” by name, for instance. (What, the actual president of the actual country didn’t set up a task force to deal with your make believe mutant killers for you?) *sigh* The result of that one was that I not only didn’t finish the book, I never read another book in that entire series, and up until that point, I had planned to. Nor am I likely to read anything else by that author. Call me crazy, but I say if you can’t manage your own pack of killer werewolves, best not to expect me to look to you for political advice.
I would think that as a writer who is NOT writing non-fiction books dealing with history, past world leaders and presidents, political scandals, or propaganda for whichever party you espouse, you might face very definite risks in doing this kind of thing. Like, oh, I don’t know–alienating half of your possible audience, maybe? Why? Do you really think anyone reading a book with talking dragons in it will suddenly be enlightened, realize they’ve been following a totally bogus political philosophy all of their adult lives, and immediately change their party affiliations so they can correct the error of their ways? All because your dragon made a belittling comment about someone they may have supported in the past? I could be wrong, but somehow, I don’t think that’s likely to happen. Chances are they will either be able to ignore your rude interruption of their escape from reality and read on, unaffected; or they will, like me, toss the book aside, totally insulted that you actually think they might base their next vote on what some talking dragon, sexed up vampire, or nubile, leather-clad ghostbuster believes. Not bloody likely. Pun intended.
This is an issue that might or might not bother anyone else on the planet, but it definitely bothers me, and there are some authors out there whose work I no longer read because of it. Have a heart, writers! Leave my fantasies untouched by current events, would ya? I’d be ever so grateful.
I’m just one Urban Fantasy reader, I know, but still. I buy books. Tons of them. (Ask my husband!) And I talk to lots of other people who do, as well. Some of them feel the same way I do on this issue. Don’t risk turning off half of your potential audience by being unable to resist an opportunity to sneak in your personal political view. Surely it’s not worth it? Or if you really want to make your case known, write a serious, non-fiction book expressing those views to your heart’s content. That would be fine. That’s the proper place for it. It might even sell. But I beg you to leave Urban Fantasy just that…a FANTASY. I’ve got to have SOME kind of escape from reality, you know. And if not with ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties, then where???
As usual, I’m just sayin’…………………
NOTE: The above post does NOT mean that I don’t care about politics. I actually consider myself to be pretty well-informed on most issues, know what my core beliefs are, know who I support and who I don’t, and more importantly, WHY. But as my day winds down each evening, and I settle back in the Comfy Chair, all I want to do is escape to another place, where the problems are vastly different than those I see on the 6:00 news. I just think that’s a reasonable expectation to have when I pick up a fantasy book.