What Is Political Fiction?

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The goal of a political novel is to present a political narrative or point of view in a work of fiction that has literary merit.  The goal of the author should be to present the political issues in a way that doesn’t read like an essay or come across as direct advocacy.  After all, a novel tells a story (or stories).  It is literature.  It is not journalism, or a position paper or lecture.  The elements and merits of the political philosophy or system advocated by the author should be evident from the attributes of the characters in the novel, their experiences and events that take place around them.

A political novel should be honest in the way it presents the political philosophy or point of view of which the author is critical, or that is antithetical to the political philosophy or point of view that the author advocates.  As Chuck Troe, the author of Deceit Decline Dissolution has said, “Rational argument rarely penetrates strongly held beliefs. The most effective argument against liberal progressive ideology is to present it honestly and accurately so that it condemns itself.  That is what I try to do in my novel.”

Above all else, the author must strive to write a novel that has merit as a novel.  It must be readable, engaging, entertaining, and well written. It is helpful if the novel includes some humor.  It must have a plot that is interesting, plausible, and not so intricate or convoluted as to be difficult or frustrating to follow.  The writing must be sufficiently descriptive to create in the mind of the reader real places and real events involving real people.  The characters and events must be believable and within the realm of human experience.

Political ideas, philosophies, events and characters are ubiquitous in fiction.  Even fantasy and science fiction frequently reveal a political point of view.   The same may be said of adult romance, mysteries, crime and period novels.  Historical fiction often is full of political content.  However, in those genres, the political may be important but it is not the primary focus of the book or the objective of the author.  In political fiction, political statement, philosophy or point of view is the raison d’etre for the novel.

Most political fiction offers criticism, if not ridicule, of the political conditions of the time and place of the author.  The novel may be set in the near or far future or past or it may be set in contemporary times.  It is likely to criticize, implicitly or explicitly, the political conditions of the time of its writing.  There must be political fiction that applauds rather than criticizes the political conditions and institutions of the time at which the author is writing, but it is difficult to think of an example.

The line between political fiction and historical fiction may be blurred.  However, the former is likely to criticize contemporary political events or institutions, whereas the latter is likely to illustrate, clarify or amplify historical characters and events.  Are Gone with the Wind and Birth of a Nation (both of which were novels before they were movies) political fiction or historical fiction?  Possibly the authors and readers would disagree.

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