Community and the Commons

Annegret from Germany drops me a line to ask how come I like to read Michael Moore, when she thought my views might lie at the other end of the political spectrum. I can see how this came about. My first novel, The Court of the Air, rather cheekily contained both points from the political left and right viewed through the twisted lens of the Jackelian Kingdom.

I say cheeky, because that’s not something you’re really allowed to do in fantasy or science fiction, where you are expected to wear your heart on your sleeve and reflect this in your works. You either have to be a die-hard lefty like Ken MacLeod or China Miéville, or a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian right winger like Robert A. Heinlein.

A tip to budding authors, even if you don’t have strong political views, you’ll get a lot better reviews, kudos and TV series based on your work, by going down the left-wing path. After all, an evil conspiracy is uncovered and how often is it? (a) a splinter Greenpeace-style group or (b) a greedy faceless corporation? In this answer, you have the path to pleasing many a reviewer.

With my novels, I prefer to illustrate that points of view exist on both the left and the right while leaving the reader to make their own mind up. A rather dangerous thing to do, as I discovered. It turned out that for a lot of readers (at least, the embittered wannabe authors who like to write Amazon 1 star reviews), anyone on the left wing automatically assumed I was a raving fascist taking the piss out of their views and supporting the right, while anyone on the right automatically assumed I was a raving communist and taking the piss out of capitalism, and the politics of the right.

The Court of the Air itself is comprised of the ultimate collection of pragmatists, of course, aka wolftaker agents, secret police who swoop out of the sky and disappear any people they regard to be harmful to the prosperity and peace of Jackals – both on the left, middle and right of politics… religious fanatics, you name it. They’re all fair game. And the game, of course, is kept vaguely honest by being adjudicated by a steam-driven computer program.

For the record, I regard myself as fairly apolitical, and regard anyone with an –ism to peddle with deep suspicion. I must be one of the few people I know that regularly buys both The Spectator and The New Statesman magazine, just to see what people are thinking, and to dip in and out of the ideas-pot.

Does this make me conflicted? Are there others out there like me who don’t care where an idea comes from, and are willing to judge its success purely on whether it works?

Readers of my novels will know that a banned book called ‘Community and the Commons’ has influenced modern society in the Kingdom of Jackals. I never really detailed what went into said tome, but given it was being espoused by a bunch of death-cult socialists, I let most readers assume it was similar to the kind of material being peddled by Mao and Stalin.

Actually, it wasn’t. The whole premise of the book was to pretend you could reduce civilisation down to the size of a single village and then refine your decisions through a macro-reductionist ballshit filter.

By way of example, if you had a village of a hundred people, with thirty of the inhabitants being sweated in the fields, thirty of the people being given food etc for doing nothing, and forty others living high on the hog sitting around thinking up rules for the thirty workers to strictly follow, would that be a modern welfare society, or a slavocracy? Depends whether you are the slave or the master, I guess.

On the other hand, if you had ninety-five people sweating in the fields, a couple of people dishing out the orders and living high on the hog, with three thugs to enforce the orders, is that progressive capitalism, feudalism or a Mafia protection racket? Hey, same answer… depends whether you are the slave or the master!

I’ll expand more on some of these themes in later posts.



I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

4 thoughts on “Community and the Commons

  • June 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Interesting stuff, I love to follow politics in see where authors try to hide the cracks regardless if they write from the right or the left. and how those with an axe to grind with the other seem to apply ‘logic’ to attack their opponents that would be equally destructive if turned around and applied to their own beliefs.

    As for ism’s I love them, and as long as you don’t believe them they can be great.

  • June 28, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Never believe your own -isms, Andy! Or anyone else’s.

    Now there’s a code to live by…

  • June 28, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    i have not yet read any of your books but i appreciate the fact that you have a vision and you stick to it. even if you dont know what youre getting into. (cause you cant!) that alone is worth the lot. even if it might be worth nothing at the beginning…if you plant the right (no pun intended) seeds they may blossom in the future. isnt that what “scientificated fiction” is all about?
    i guess the real problem of people that have the knowledge, the tools, the mind, the potential, the resources and the time and energy for writing books and telling stories is: you have to make up your mind at some point. its called lock-in. the most dreaded and (possibly) at the same time most liberating aspect of creative work – in any field.

  • June 29, 2010 at 8:56 am

    ism’s are a fact of life. They are merely a summary of various collective expressions given form and name, the problem comes when people start to believe in their preferred/indoctrinated ism and see any rival ism as the enemy.

    I just see them like sports teams, where I am a fan of the sport and enjoy watching competing teams and whilst I do have preferred teams I am more interested in following the sport. Some other people (the scary dangerous people) take one team to heart and can see no fault in it that they will admit to the outside world and have rival teams in which they can see no good regardless of how well they compete.

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