Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Presidential Endorsements from Novelists: Not Required…Really

As I visit the Twitter feeds of various novelists (both famous and obscure), I notice that many of them are tweeting more about the upcoming election than about fiction or writing projects. (Among the literati, it is fashionable to lean to the political left, so anti-Trump/pro-Clinton bromides and memes predictably dominate.)

Most of this tweeting and posting is purely onanistic. To be blunt: If you’re a novelist and you tweet about politics, you’re doing that for you, not for any distinguishable audience. 

Very few voters, when trying to make up their minds about an election or political issue, say to themselves, “Hey, let’s see what the novelists are saying onTwitter! Then we’ll know what to do!” 

Regarding the intersection where politics, fiction writers, and social media come together, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written the following:

“…If you want to know what my politics are, then read my novels. It’s pretty clear. But I don’t blog about current events, I don’t comment on current events, I don’t retweet most of what’s in the news.”

This is sensible advice. Like Ms. Rusch, my politics have informed many of my stories. It isn't my goal to hide my political beliefs, let alone to be neutral or politically correct. 

But there is a difference between not hiding one’s beliefs, and becoming a public version of that annoying Facebook friend (everyone has one) who won’t shut up about politics. This is the guy or gal who constantly hyperlinks news stories about how bad the Democrats/Republicans are, and who seems to spend every spare moment scouring the Internet for Photoshopped political jpegs. 

This isn't about freedom of speech. This is about being less self-indulgent and more mindful of readers’ expectations. Our modern, advanced economy is based on specialization. Ultimately, fiction writers are in the entertainment business. There are already hundreds of major newspapers on the Internet, and thousands of political blogs of every imaginable ideological stripe—from the social justice warrioring left to rightest of the alt-right. Donald and Hillary are already well represented in those quarters, as are the voices of their detractors.

There are many things that the fiction writer must do to serve her audience well. Making an official endorsement of a presidential candidate is not among them. 

If you read my fiction, you can probably guess who I’m going to (somewhat reluctantly) vote for in November. But I’ll try to avoid telling you who to vote for in my Twitter feed. 

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