Fiction & Politics

October 30th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by SusanGable

The recent antics of politicians from both sides of the aisle in regards to using their opponents’ novels (FICTION!) as a way to smear them, or point accusatory fingers at a huge “moral flaw” in them, has prompted me to write this. For those who’ve missed the fun-and-games as we hit the home-stretch to the latest election, check out Fred Head vs. Susan Combs ( ), George Allen vs. Jim Webb ( ), and now the hoopla being made (again) over Lynne Cheney’s book. ( )

An Open Letter to Politicians of All Parties:

It has recently come to my attention that you all are having difficulty with the concept of fiction, so I thought I’d help you out.

Fiction is not real. Fake. You know, like some of that stuff you make up about your opponent. Like the figures you give the public when you want them to believe a certain way about a new program you’ve proposed. Fiction is also related to story-telling, a skill which I know all of you have.

Let’s say it together: Fiction is not real.

When someone pens a piece of fiction, the characters do not necessarily reflect the values and opinions of the writer. I know that’s hard to wrap your little brains around. But it’s true. Often when a writer is working, the characters do and say things that the writer never would. That’s why we call it FICTION, and once again, fiction is not real. I’m getting tired of you slinging mud at your opponents who’ve written fiction by pointing to some act (generally sexual in nature) committed by one of the characters, and labeling it as a real moral flaw in the writer. It’s interesting that none of you have pointed to a serial killer/thriller’s author as having a warped and twisted mind.

We (fiction writers) are NOT our characters. Often our characters are not even based on a particular person. They’re made-up. Created. Fake. They have their own opinions and values, their own sets of behaviors. The things they do are also made up. (FICTION!) This is why, although Tom Clancy wrote a book about crashing a plane into Congress, he didn’t act on it. I’m sure he didn’t endorse the concept as a real behavior.

We don’t arrest people based on a story they wrote. (Yet. You all do have me worried, though. The exception to this is if you happen to be a high school writer. Kids have, unfortunately, been arrested based on nothing more than a story they wrote. This is why we really do need to enlighten you all about FICTION. )

What happens on the fiction page should stay on the page.

To recap, because I know you’re really struggling with these concepts:

Fiction is not real.
Characters in fiction do and say things that their writers never would.

We fiction writers may lie for a living, but at least we admit it. Hey, better yet, we know the difference between fake (fiction!) and real.

If you’d like to read some fiction, might I suggest you begin with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451? Oh, wait. Those books might confuse you even more.

Susan Gable, Novelist, Reader, and Fed-Up Voter

File Under: Square Pegs

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