Friday, November 2, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Politics In Fiction ... And Real Life

If you haven't heard this yet, it's all true.

Star Wars: Episode VII is coming in 2015!

How is this possible, you may ask? I'll give you a small clue:

 "Hey! Where's Pluto?"

The Walt Disney Company made this possible with the purchase of this franchise and everything under the Lucasfilm banner. Now, if you're a huge SW fan (like me) this is a big deal. A mixed reaction is expected and understandable, and I wish the franchise well as it grows and continues to be an amazing stretch of the imagination. On top of all that, Mr. Lucas is giving most his $4 billion away. Nice one!

This, coupled with the election next week, it got me thinking. Lots of people love the original trilogy. The recent one? Not so much. For me, I enjoyed them and I'm glad the new trilogy doesn't surpass the old, since it would make the latter three not as cool. With acting, Jar Jar, and other things in the complaint list, I've yet to see or hear serious cripes with it's politics. In many ways, I feel that's where the strength of the prequels lie - depicting the fall of a galactic government.

And this, I feel, is the most powerful line of all those films:

Did you catch that? Applause. Not war. Not famine. Applause.

I remember watching that scene in theaters opening day. Those words chilled me to the core. The idea that such a huge governing body could be duped by a single Sith awed me, even though I was expecting it. Not too long ago, my good blogging/author friend Michael Offutt featured a post about the new Clone Wars season and brought up this relevant question: "How is it that Palpatine had the Jedi eliminated and the galactic populace seems fine with that?"

Let me add a little real world perspective on that ...

How did the 3rd Reich get away with eliminating so many people (mostly Jews) and most of the Nazi Party seemed fine with it?

It's not an overnight process, I can assure you.

In college, I had the chance to take a psychology class that focused, in depth, on Good and Evil - or rather, how people become good or evil. What motivated them to do so? It began with the premise that most people have the desire to do good. Life experiences (social, educational, economic, whathaveyou) has the power to reinforce this good or drive it to more nefarious purposes. People in Germany were not suddenly okay with mass murder overnight. It took decades of persuasion. The Old Republic in Star Wars didn't fall overnight either. It was already falling, well before Episode I began (taking down a government that big would require a thousand-year-old plan).

Am I saying liberty is going to die soon? Not at all, but it can't be taken for granted either. As history has already shown, politics and government have a cycle. Greek authors called it The Kyklos, a cycle of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy (lather, rise, repeat). Today, there's the Tyranny-Liberty Cycle, which (so far) accurately describes the rise and fall of every major government in history, in the order of Liberty, Complacency, Dependance, Tyranny, and Revolution.

Let's see this cycle at work in Star Wars ...

Episodes I and II played out during the Complacency stage, as Palpatine put it “The Republic is not what it once was—the Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good.” Episode III showed the Republic's Dependance on the clone army, using it to "clean up" the mess left by the Separatists.

"What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?" (I think she was onto something ...)

Tyranny officially began when Moff Tarkin said "all remaining reminisce of the Old Republic have been swept away" in Episode IV. 

Episode V and VI is all about Revolution. Lather, rise, repeat.

Kudos to Lucas for dreaming up this complicated political dilemma.

But if sci fi is a precursor to sci fact, could this happen for real? It can and it has, in its own way. Ender's Game, after all, showed how social media could effect government well before the advent of Facebook.

Over the last couple of mouths, I decided to inform myself about my country (America) and the world as it stands today. I am astounded. I think it's completely fair to disagree with people, but the viciousness and divisiveness right now is at the worst I have seen in my 30 years of life. What has happened to civility? Did it ever exist or was the lack thereof hiding all this time? And in all the research I've done, I'm amazed how ill informed some are - or worst yet, misinformed.

This negativity is more than enough to make a little girl cry

We live in a great time where information, on just about anything, is readily available in our pockets. Unfortunately, every story has indefinite angles - they can be spun to have more. Fact Checkers have been reduced to semantic word plays. Death threats are somehow okay, so long as it's through Twitter. Articles (and history) have been rewritten to match or comply with current narratives.

The list goes on. I am hopeful, after November 6th, regardless of the outcome, the good nature that I have seen and know in people that has been absent these last few months will return. I won't deny, however, while I've been sitting quietly in the background watching all this happen, I have a better understanding of how people react to certain things, which I hope will make the politics in my fiction writing more believable. Being informed, even with sources we don't agree with, can enhance real and fictional perspectives. What's the advice?

Be informed, with multiple sources, and vote. Research and practicing the right to elect our government officials gives us the unique chance to increase our knowledge of how government works, can work, and in turn, allows us to participate in history. I'm glad to be part of it!

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. This blog isn't meant to sway anyone politically. There's plenty of other places to go for that, but I will say, to have a good understanding of the political spectrum, especially if we plan to use politics in our fiction, we have to branch outside of our leanings and look at the other side too, and try to understand without being on the attack. It's hard to persuade people when we call them a racist or a socialist, directly or indirectly, only because we disagree. We're better than petty name-callers.

Politics, on the other hand, make for excellent reading. Some of the best books out there are rich with them, such as Dune, Game of Thrones, and Mistborn. My works have a fair amount of politicking, especially my first round of sci fi attempts, Made for good drama. I wish you a great weekend and a greater week ahead. To my friends on the East Coast, I wish you well and hope you'll recover soon.

"May the ballot be with you!"

Looking forward to the end of this election? Do politics play an active role in your writing? What's your favorite politics-rich story?

I'm David, and the Solo kids had better have sabers, so help me ...


  1. The second trilogy set was not good. With all of the great books written about what happened after Jedi, hopefully they draw upon some of that for the next three movies.
    Our state has early voting so I have already done my duty!

  2. There are a lot of culprits for the state of politics today. Big companies taking over newspapers and are more concerned with selling papers than reporting news. Fox "News." Karl Rove and that whole crew, who figured out it's a lot easier to prey on fear. Then all the social media that puts vast amounts of information out there, also allows vast amounts of misinformation. Plus the Citizens United thing that allowed a lot more corporate money into politics, which has only exacerbated the problem. It's only going to get worse, not better.

  3. So true. If we need to try to understand the other side on any issue. At the very least, it is important to "know thy enemy." ;)

  4. This is a very smart post. I appreciate all you said. Yes, I'm dreading the election. I voted early and am trying to ignore the rest of the babble until the votes are all counted. There is so much hate out there, so much pettiness. There are times I am not so proud to be an American. I've seen the other side of things. I've lived in Europe where they both hate and adore the U.S. If we are striving to be a better example to other countries (which it seems we are), then we need to do better than we are doing.

    But off my stool, wow what news about Disney acquiring Lucas Films! Maybe Disney is the new world order =) (shudders). They really are the dominating force it seems (no pun intended). I too have mixed feelings. We'll see how they do on the next movie. I guess I should be excited that there will even be a next film.

    Good ideas here, though. I never thought through the political parts of my stories (mostly because I hate politics so much), but maybe that's just what I need to do. Thanks for the insight.

  5. I agree with you on the politics in the prequel trilogy.

    I have one thing of note to mention. I'm not making any judgments, because this is just a fact I am stating, not an opinion or an attempt to persuade anyone.

    A recent study showed that, in general, people of lower intelligence or people that are less well educated or people that are not educated about political issues tend to vote Republican.
    People of higher intelligence or who are better educated or educate themselves about political issues tend to vote Democratic.

    Just thought I'd mention that since you brought up being educated on the issues. I don't remember who did the study, but it's been shown to be true in more than one case study, and no study has shown the opposite.

    1. There are many studies like that. My question, like you, is who did it? D. S. Hillygus? I'll look into it. With any study, you want to know who did it, who financed it, and the methodology used before you even read the study. I studied stats. Data can always be used for a desired result, so a study that produces a polarizing statement like that raises a red flag for me.

      My comment would be the same if the results were reversed. If you find it, I'd like to see it. :)

    2. It was something I heard on NPR, and they are pretty non-partisan in their reporting despite what some people say about them. I just can't remember who did the study they were talking about.

  6. Good post, David, and you make such good points. I remember when Republicans and Democrats could disagree civilly. I'm appalled at the tone of discussions now, and I do feel much of the ugly tone comes from the Republicans.

  7. Ah, well said, on both the Star Wars and the politics in general. I hope Disney does a good job on future Star Wars films (and whatever else they decide to do). As for the current politics, I wish we could get away from the squabbling and mud slinging. One of the local candidates running for governor here where I live has made it a point NOT to have any adds speak ill of his opponent. And he's requested that the independent groups not run anti-adds on his behalf. He simply states his platforms and leaves it at that. I love it and it has made for a very clean race (or I should say a cleaner race than normal). If only all campaigns could be so nice.

  8. I saw a tweet by the Governor of NJ a few days ago about how he was going out to tour the damage with President Obama. He said such, that he was republican and that the president was democrat but they were adults and this was how adults behaved. It's shocking how many people I have hid from my facebook feed because they cannot state an opinion without diminishing the worth of someone else who's opinion differs. There are ways to disagree with someone and still be a civil human being.

  9. I can't wait for the end of the election season for so many reasons.
    I think nearly every scifi or fantasy book has either politics or religion as the underlying conflict.

  10. So true David. The problem isn't everyone's opinions on political issues but how ingrained everyone has gotten that their way is the only way. It's quite disturbing and has been for awhile.

  11. I'm trying to stay away from politics, especially this election year. It's so vicious, I can't tell what's true or not. It's been sad for me that some people try to force something down your throat. Like if they shove hard enough it will stick. When in reality, it actually has the opposite effect on me. Show me humanity and intelligence - I'll vote for you.

    i.e., I can't wait for this election year to be over!

  12. Fire Flower??? Must be a Star Wars term. Thanks. I think.

  13. "May the ballot be with you." LOL I'm interested to see how this election turns out. We will see what happens next week. Until then.

  14. I love how you went from Disney to politics! lol. Now that was smooth. Gave me lots to think about.

  15. powerful post! i actually read the whole thing! (i usually skim long ones...blush)
    excellent points! i believe i am informed and will vote according to how i hope things will go for the better of america. if the majority is opposed, i am seriously fearful of a fulfillment of a fall. and i'm also adding a pepper more of politics to my book, thanks!! i think it's just what i was looking for!

  16. oh yes! i love how you started with the wariness of the disney star wars project! totally undecided about that! and that line is one of my faves too!

  17. Brilliant post on many levels. Can't wait to see what they cook up for the next Star Wars...and I'm with you on the sabers things. ;)

  18. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Star Wars. I'm actually in the minority (apparently) who enjoyed the latest three movies.