Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

The Apolitical Novel

Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there.


I usually try to blog every Monday, but last Monday was Australia Day, and so I didn’t.

The older I get, the more difficult the day becomes, for me. It does for a lot of people, really. When I was a kid, I was taught that the day was the day that Australia was discovered, as if, somehow, it had not existed before. I didn’t question it at five or six. Most kids don’t. I didn’t grow up in a household that would, either. The last two decades, however, haven’t given me the excuse of being able to claim that it was simply what I was taught, and each year, I find myself thinking about how Australia Day seeks only to reinforce the concept of Terra Nullius. How, each year, on the 26th of January, Australia – and especially white Australia – sit around and celebrate a concept that denies the rights of first sovereignty to indigenous men and women, and continues to deny them this, despite the apology given to them years ago, now. More and more, I become convinced that the day is one that damages the necessary reparation that needs to take place in Australia, and one that further takes men and women of all colours and creeds away from the idea of making Australia something that we can all be proud in. Such is the damage of continually celebrating the acts of colonialism from an empire long gone.

So, yeah, I didn’t blog on Australia Day. I simply didn’t feel like it.


 In other news, the Godless will be released in paperback in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, I’ll have a short story set in the world that I can release on the day for everyone, but we’ll see. No promises on that kind of thing: sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it comes hard, and I just roll with it, as I normally do.

However, if you want an interview, or something similar, feel free to hit me up. Alternatively, if you’ve read the book and liked it, feel free to post a review somewhere, or tell a friend.

In other news, the Godless made Locus’ 2014 Recommended Reading List for fantasy fiction.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea of an apolitical novel, and how I think it doesn’t exist.

Every now and then you see an author, or a reader, or someone from another art form, talking about how their work isn’t political, or how they don’t like politics in the work to be shoved at them. There’s nothing wrong with that: after all, there are works that are overtly political, and works that are not, and that’s fine. People, after all, read for a variety of reasons. But the truth is, I simply don’t believe that anything is free from politics. You may not notice politics in a certain work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It can be a very simple concept, such as the idea that to sacrifice your life up for your friends, or your country, or it can be something that takes up a lot more space and is a lot more complex, such as the socio-political dynamics that you have built into or out of, your fantasy world. Indeed, it may be as simple as genre tropes: the monarch kingdom is a conservative political idea, and it’ll sit there as that, no matter if your characters engage in it or not.

An apolitical book is a myth, but not all books are about politics, or left and right divides. My first novel, Black Sheep, is a political novel. It set out to write about racism and, though the book is rough and, in places, not very well done, the political focus of the book was its purpose. The Godless, on the other hand, is not a political book. The issues of equality that have been at the centre of much of my writing over the last twenty or so years – yes, sadly, I’ve been at it that long – were changed into a world building guideline for the book. Simply put, the fantasy world that I made is a multicultural one, but around equality – and by that, I mean, anyone can be anyone. After that, however, none of the politics of equality become thematic, or plot driven. The plot is instead about armies, about dead gods, lost cities underground, and all the other bits and pieces that make up a novel, including, the politics of two cities. But it’s not a political book, not in the way that Black Sheep, or another dystopian novel, would be.

Still, it isn’t without politics, but that is no different to all novels, in all genres, and fantasy is no different. An author may not wish to write about the rights of women, but by limiting them in the narrative, a political choice is made. It is not necessarily a bad one, either: there is nothing wrong with a book that explores the relationships of men with each other. There is a larger argument to be made against an literature in general and their treatment of women, but no one novel or author will bare that burden (we all do, no matter who we are) but there remains nothing wrong with such a good. Just as there is nothing wrong with books where women explore their relationships with each other, or homosexual men and women explore their relationships, and so on and so forth. Rather, my point is that a choice, even made for nothing more than narrative demands, still remains one with a political weight to it, and these, in combination with all the other choices that an author makes for his or her work, ultimately ensure that no book can ever be apolitical.

Anyhow, a thought for today, vaguely organised in a blog post.

Tags: repost

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