East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The politics of dancing


Boris+Vallejo+-+Conan+ouvrant+une+bouteilleAnd so the old story popped up again – the fact that certain genres and certain types of stories have an innate ideological color.
Stuff like, basically, “sword & sorcery is right wing literature1.

I find the notion scary enough when expressed by people that usually do not read the genres they are politically or ideologically tagging. The thing becomes absolutely creepy when it’s writers that say stuff like that.

Is fantasy really intrinsically ‘fascist‘, horror ‘misogynistic’, science fiction ‘libertarian’ (whatever that means), steampunk ‘reactionary’…
Always and no matter what?
Isn’t it a little unlikely?

Such a suggestion means one of the two

  • either the genre carries so strong an inherent bias that the author is powerless in escaping it – i.e. all sword & sorcery is fascist, no matter who writes it

  • or anyone writing a certain genre is automatically pushing a certain type of agenda – i.e., all fascists write sword & sorcery

Both positions are not just utterly stupid – they deny author control over the text and, basically, any form of author freedom – but exactly for these reasons they are also extremely disrespectful of both authors and readers as human beings.

In terms of actual writing, of technique, the idea that genre means ideology denies the possibility of subverting clichés, and actually playing within the form. It is almost a form of predestination.
And it also denies reader freedom – the intelligence of being able to read a text without automatically marrying its (supposed) theses, believing its (supposed) message, embracing its (supposed) agenda.
And finally, it is a very simplistic way for color-coding stories, and – possibly – for attaching some kind of self-righteous indignation and justification for personal antipathies.

As readers of this blog probably know, I write a lot of genre fiction – science fiction, sword & sorcery, historical fantasy, new pulp adventure, supernatural horror, steampunk/steampulp.
I’ve been accused of a number of political sins – mostly by people that have not read my stories.
That’s their right, of course – you can’t debate prejudice, because it is not rational – but honestly the idea of, say, my Aculeo & Amunet stories being called reactionary or misogynistic causes me a certain amount of hilarity.

I still think that we, as writers, decide what we are writing, and what the message or the agenda – if any – might be.
I’d like to be color coded – if that can’t be escaped – for my stories, for what they actually are and what they say, not for the shelf on which my stories are placed in bookstores.
I don’t think this is asking too much.
Do you?

  1. we get a lot of that here in Italy – basically a relic of the ’70s, and a relic that’s pretty hard to kill. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “The politics of dancing

  1. Yes, this ideological labeling of genre fiction is something very deep-rooted in our culture. I remember both my parents being so worried when I started reading fantasy… Worried that I could become a fascist, sort of (sic). And I’m still atonished when I remember their worrying, because they’re both intelligent, well-educated and open-minded. Obviously, as soon as they noticed that I hadn’t become a Casapound worshipper, their concern faded away… 😀


    • As I said, it is a deep-rooted idea among those that do not read genre fiction.
      Probably the consequence of bad press and a few psychologically dubious individuals that made headlines.


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