I set my website up on the day of the 2016 US election results. Being a Brit, I found the process fascinating, while perhaps enjoying a bit more detachment from the events than American voters themselves. Perhaps naturally, it got me to thinking about the links between politics and fantasy. Fantasy writing certainly doesn’t have to be overtly political, but there must be few fantasy novels out there with no politics in them whatsoever. Whether their characters are kings, queens, farmers or slaves, fantasy writers have to construct a political environment in which they interact. Political decline or disintegration, for example, can be seen as a central theme throughout the post WW2 era of fantasy writing.
Whatever your viewpoint, the politics of 2016 provide food for thought, if not inspiration, for writers of any genre. Fantasy has been accused of being pure escapism, offering nothing of value or relevance to the reader. I certainly disagree with this. Most readers of fantasy probably don’t want the political ideas of the author shoved down their throats. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing there. One of the interesting stats that came out of the US elections was that readers of Harry Potter were significantly more likely to dislike Trump than the average American. Of course, there could be a number of reasons for this, least likely of which is that JK Rowling set out to brainwash her young readers. But it’s evidence to refute the ‘pure escapism’ charge that gets levelled at the fantasy genre.
The world of fantasy and the world of real life politics overlap. As writers and readers of fantasy, let’s be conscious of that.