Friday, July 16, 2010

From Formspring: How well do you handle giving your political views in the context of your audience? Are you ever worried about alienation?

Not well so I tend to avoid it; sometimes can't help it. I don't like hiding who I am, but on the other hand my political views (or religious, or social, or even economic) don't have much to do with my writing so I try to keep that separate. I'm used to being a very aggressive person about my beliefs, and training that beast has been difficult. I won't say it never slips into my work: all writers impose their world-view on their writing. It's impossible not to. If you can't handle being shoved into someone else's world for a time, there really isn't any point in reading a novel.

I try to strike a balance between what I being who I am while not offending others. I don't always succeed. However, it is important to remember that you can't please everyone. Some people are so easy to offend, they get angry and defensive at the mere mention of a differing opinion. This is called a "knee-jerk" reaction, and contrary to popular belief it occurs in people of all political, social and religions stripes. Those are people you are never, ever going to keep happy. They are almost looking for something to be offended about.

For example: in my first book, one of the vampires mentions that he believes God chose him to be a vampire. This is how he justifies feeding on humans: God made him a vampire because he loves him, and left humans as food, the same way someone might believe God made lions and gazelles. I did this because I was tired of the old cliche' of vampire hating God and religion. I thought it made more sense that they would do what I think most humans would do: incorporate what they believed as humans into their new, vampire life. So, a vampire who believed in God before he was turned would probably continue believing in God, and find a way to justify their actions through that belief. This is helped since the vampires in my books aren't affected by crosses or other holy symbols. I think most people--regardless of their beliefs on God--will understand and appreciate this.

However, there will be some who will think I'm making fun of believers, knowing that I'm not a religious person. They will say that I'm making some statement about all religious people being parasites and monsters or some such other crap. I'm not, but there is literally no way I could write it so that they would be satisfied that it wasn't what I was doing. Even if I had a disclaimer at the front of the book stating that the beliefs and opinions of the totally fictional and absolutely not real in any way vampires, dragons and other monsters in this book are not necessarily the views of the author...they would STILL assume otherwise. In fact, they might well view the disclaimer as further proof, as in: "Methinks Poindexter doth protest too much! Why would he need a disclaimer if he didn't actually believe this stuff?" So...yeah. You can't please everyone.

On the other hand, there really isn't any reason for me to be a really pushy dick about my beliefs. I'm kind of all over the political spectrum, anyway. I'm not going to say I'm a moderate, though. Far from it. I just don't blindly subscribe to any one political ideology or theory. I don't do political blogs here anymore, just because that isn't what my blog is about. I try to avoid making political comments on Facebook, but I do it occasionally because my personal Facebook account is different from the Facebook page about me run by fans. Most of the people on my personal Facebook account are friends, family, and acquaintances of the same.

There are some things I believe that I can't exactly hide: it's too much a part of who I am. For example, I'm very open about my musical preference...I even have a Twitter account that shows people what I'm listening to while I write. Anyone following or perusing that will see that my musical tastes, while diverse, tend towards the dark and heavy. I'm also very open about my hobbies, some of which by their very nature express or imply a political opinion. Namely, my enthusiasm for collecting and reading about firearms. Like most firearm enthusiasts, I'm against gun control. People tend to assume pro-gun people are all politically conservative...that isn't accurate. There are as many pro-gun liberals and moderates as their are anti-gun conservatives. In fact, the Democrat governor of my State (Missouri) just signed into law HB 1692, which dramatically expanded the protection of 2nd Amendment rights--and I'd like to thank Governor Jay Nixon for doing so.

I also have very little patience for scapegoating and racial, ethnic or religious prejudice. I realize it's a natural human reaction to things to put people in groups and then decided whether they are for or against them--I catch myself doing it sometimes, and usually appreciate when people point it out (as long as they aren't dicks about it). But, I don't think any problem has ever been made better by demonizing a group of individuals because of some shared identity. So, sometimes I can't help but comment when I see that.

I do enjoy irony, however...especially when a public figure gets their comeuppance: like when an anti-gay-rights politician gets caught having a homosexual affair, or when it turns out a politician who preaches about the "sanctity of marriage" and the outsourcing of American jobs to foreigners turns out to be cheating on his wife with a woman in another country (and, in a further ironic twist: a country that just legalized gay marriage). Seems to me he shouldn't be cheating on his wife in the first place, but if he was going to: there are plenty of able bodied, sexually attractive American women from whom he could have taken his pick. And this whole thing with Mel Gibson has just been too hilarious to ignore! And his defense: that the tapes have been "edited" out of context...WOW, really, Mel? Unless they edited out the part where you said, "I'm playing a racist, homophobic, wife-punching asshole in an upcoming film and I'd like you to let me try out some of my lines," or ended the call with "April Fools! I was just kidding, Ocsana: your breasts are lovely and I don't hope you get gang-raped by a pack of n**gers, nor will I burn down the house if you don't have oral sex with me!" there really isn't any context or editing that can make any of that okay...

This is the kind of stuff you can't make up: sometimes, truth is stupider than fiction. And I love it, I can't help it.

So, yes: I am aware of alienation and I try to avoid doing it without sacrificing who I really am. I think most people will appreciate that. I don't think you have to agree with everything I think or believe to enjoy my books, or even to be my friend. I have all different kinds of friends, and I like that. I think the most important thing you can do is focus on what you have in common with other people, rather than what makes you different. I may not agree with one of my Republican friends on national health care or religion, but I do agree with them on more important things: like how much dragons kick ass.