A hard topic to cover as it has been so much of a current issue that inflames egos, ideals, and often prejudices. However, once people get together, they will form groups with the primary intention of telling others how things should be. Politics, money, and power play a large role in most societies, and it is hard to avoid even in story books.
A word of warning to authors. Your political views are not the theme to explore in a book, unless you are writing specifically to that. Animal Farm, 1984, anything by Solzhenitsyn and often post apocalypse novels all have a barrow to push in terms of “this system is bad, my one is better”. If you can make a decent story out of it, then go for it. Otherwise, it becomes a heavy handed effort that will turn readers off any of your books. Not all people, or indeed countries, will think as you do. But a good effort will get readers thinking, and that’s always a good thing.
Historical fiction, including time travel, well, you might think that’s easy because we know what was happening. But do we? As the old saying goes, history is written by the victors. Ancient Roman men writing about Boudicca’s revolt frame it into their own mindset and miss important details such as where the battle was held. History also tends to whitewash out the contributions that are made by women and minorities. It is also a fact that in most respects, society has moved on. No one now thinks slavery is a good idea, or food regulation is a bad idea. But they used to – and this can be hard to work into a novel without diluting the attitudes of your characters or making them sound terrible if you don’t.
Interpretation of history or archaeology is also changeable. The bias of a researcher may give you the impression that women don’t contribute past reproductive age, whereas more recent research suggests that surviving elders are important for the generations to learn and survive. It’s not all stone tools, sometimes a story may be just as important.
Research for any genre is essential. I’d suggest getting a firm understanding of political systems if your book needs details. Know how the world manages itself, and how it does not. Learn about things outside your local experience – although this is good advice generally for any writer. You may discover some cherished beliefs are not as widespread as you thought. Ask questions that relate to your book – a multi novel series may need info on the changing political system over the span of the fall of the Roman Empire, whereas another may explore the politics of power at a tribal level.
For fantasy – research might be the key to a believable world if you base it (like many others) on a semi medieval system with castles, lords, peasants and wandering heroes. But these all run the risk of sameness. At the most basic, there will be some system of power, and someone (with associated toadies) in control. The character may have an important role inside or outside the system, based on the level of corruption, crime or otherwise.
Fantasy can have the tendency to be an intensive world build. Look at Tolkien, spending years creating an immense history of the world of middle earth – races, songs, wars, genealogy. It can all get very laborious to write and read. Still, if that’s your thing, go for it. A detailed made-up world is a joy for others to enter.
Fantasy can also have a message that can be slipped in. Pratchett has an immensely detailed world, full of inter species conflict and harmony, politics and schemes. While brutal, the logic of Vetinari is a lesson to all in running a city where everyone is vying for power. The evolving job of Vimes teaches us about living in relative harmony with different folk and accepting those differences as every bit as valid as your own quirks.
Science fiction can look forward to a future that spins out the threads of the present. That of course may be a good or a bad thing. An apocalypse based on the worst aspects of current politics of the USA ends up violently bad, with militias controlling the innocent, and the innocent dying or becoming something they dread. Adding religion into this mix gives you Heinlein’s dead hell scape in “The Number of the Beast” where the future of the USA ended in a nuclear war.
Alternatively, we have a more optimistic view of the future in Star Trek, where people no longer labour for profit but for the common good. Humanity faces a constant battle to improve and learn, but overall harmony and cooperation is the key theme. The concept of a global government system is clearly something to work on, and whether such an administrative nightmare can exist is something to ponder.
Another scifi theme is a utopia. Born often out an AI system that controls the weather, food etc, it is often seen as a bad thing for humanity. Without the conflict and struggle of existence, are we still human and evolving? From Wall-E, Rousseau, to HG Wells to Star Trek, Gattaca and Logan’s Run, many authors have toyed with the idea. Once again, the story should triumph over the message.
Romance can happily avoid politics altogether, unless a source of conflict is needed. Can a left leaning match with a far right? Two worlds, and two very different ideologies. I am not sure that politics is a great fit for romance, for after all, romance is the one we read most for escapism. The author runs the risk of alienating readers and pleasing no one.
Adding politics into a novel also runs the risk of massive info dumps. While it can be explored via dialogue, this can create very weird conversations. Are you writing to blow your horn, or entertain? Remembering that while you are interested in a battle six hundred years ago that influences the pattern of gown Princess Hortense wore to the ball, I fear these sections are the ones most skipped over by readers. A light and deft hand is needed to insert politics into a novel.
So politics in your novel can be a balancing act. Too little and the world lacks some basic foundations. Too much and your reader may fail to accept the message you are inadvertently promoting. Like many human invented activities, everyone has an opinion on it. There is a good reason politics is avoided in dinner table discussions.
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