I believe passionately that fiction writers can use their ability to help effect positive social change. My novels all reflect this and I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.
Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”
Great point. So far, the four novels that I have written all carry a political message, as you can see on my website. But over the summer I had the amazing experience writing a fantasy novel together with my 11-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.
Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and freedom. I was writing for my son and there is (I hope) plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he did.
When my wife and I discussed whether to allow him to watch Lord of the Rings which features a lot of violence, I suggested that the most important message from Tolkien’s trilogy was that of friendship.
My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers fantasy-fans.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com