A Proper Balance of Politics and Business

A Proper Balance of Politics and Business

What’s the proper balance between political opinion, professional life, and writing? Every writer, every publisher, and indeed every individual person must decide how to delineate their own personal “proper balance.” Here at Weird Sisters Publishing, the eponymous sisters – G. S. Norwood and I – see many things the same way. But not all things.

Recently I’ve come to realize that the expression of political views in the public-facing, professional sphere is one of those things. G. is more reticent about getting too “deep in the weeds” with political opinions than I am.

Neither one of us particularly subscribes to the idea that “corporations are people.” But to say that corporations – business entities – don’t take political postures from time to time is ludicrous. Moreover, it’s ludicrous to assert that policy decisions made in the political realm have no impact on businesses. They clearly have massive effects. But what’s comfortable, and what’s “too political” for Weird Sisters Publishing? What is our “proper balance”?

This square image contains the elements you would see when you logged onto the homepage of Weird Sisters Publishing in April, 2024: the licensed artwork, visible in part in the header and in whole at the top of the page itself, is a fantasy astronomical © by Lucy A. Synk, titled “Nazgûl Nebula,” 2019. It shows an exoplanet (not from our solar system) against stars and a nebula that looks a bit like a person in a hooded robe with wings. The words above the header form a navigational menu to “Home,” “Our Books,” “The Weird Blog,” “About Weird Sisters Publishing,” “Privacy Policy,” and “Contact Us.” The words on the header itself say, “Weird Sisters Publishing: We Have Tales To Tell.” It also says, “Welcome to Weird Sisters Publishing” beneath the full view of Lucy’s painting. Along the right-hand sidebar under the “Search” widget and the blue button that says, “Subscribe to The Weird Blog!” the menu lists “Pages: Welcome to Weird Sisters Publishing, Our Books: We Have Tales To Tell, Meet the XK9s in Jan S. Gephardt’s Books, The Other Side of Fear, The XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, and What’s Bred in the” (the rest of the menu is cut off).
Artwork “Nazgûl Nebula” ©2019 by Lucy A. Synk. Used via license from the artist.

A Few Things Are Baked In

Well, the “completely apolitical” ship has already sailed for Weird Sisters Publishing! We’re a women-owned business, and right there on our homepage it says, “Weird Sisters Publishing aims to produce the very best stories we can, illustrated with excellent original artwork by talented artists. We’re especially eager to work with talented women and persons of color.”

Clearly, our “proper balance” leans in favor of social justice. It certainly does, in terms of empowering women and persons of color . . . although we do also hire white guys from time to time. Talent is talent, after all. And a person who’s reliably good to work with is a treasure, no matter what their ethnicity, creed, gender, or race. Balance, after all – and, indeed inclusion – necessarily means “everyone.”

This square depiction is a detail of a photographically detailed illustration of a young woman with dark brown hair sitting at a white laptop computer in a white, artificially-lit room, surrounded by white humanoid robots. The robots also have white laptop computers, but they are not looking them. They are looking at the woman, as if awaiting prompts. Image courtesy of “My Office Apps.” See the Image Credits for a link to the article it was originally used to illustrate.
Detail of an uncredited (A.I.-generated??) photo from “My Office Apps.” See Credits below.

Where We Draw the Line on “Inclusion”

You might also have noted an undertone of “made by humans, please!” in that expression of our approach. To be more explicit about that, our letter of agreement spells out that work we commission is “original, not AI-generated.”

This extends, for me, to eschewing (as much as it’s possible to discern) the use of AI-produced stock images. I license images for the organization’s use from time to time (especially for social media), and I appreciate that our subscription service, 123rf, clearly labels AI-generated work (although they do try to entice me into using it).

Weird Sisters’ vision of “inclusion” doesn’t extend to replacing humans with machine learning. So I guess we’re definitely “species-ists,” when it comes to our hiring decisions.

On a deep violet background, the name “G. S. Norwood” is positioned over 3D views of “Deep Ellum Duet” as both an ebook on a tablet and a slender trade paperback. Their covers say, “Deep Ellum Duet. Two Amazing Stories in One Volume,” with the quote from Nebula-Award winner Elizabeth Ann Scarborough: “‘Some of the best stories I’ve ever read!’ G. S. Norwood. Cover art © 2022 by Chaz Kemp.”
Cover art © 2022 by Chaz Kemp. See Credits below.

Creating a Proper Balance for G. S. Norwood

For many authors, it seems best to remain mum about politics in their professional lives. That’s G.’s personal proper balance. Her writing isn’t about politics, or certainly not primarily about that. She writes women’s fiction, urban fantasy, and mysteries. I’m really looking forward to having a chance to share more of her work with readers in the near future, so more people can see her work in those genres!

But, no matter which genre she chooses for a particular project, her focus is on the specifics of the plot and the interplay of well-rounded, beautifully developed characters interacting with each other. She realistically depicts the influences of history and society, including culture, on her characters.

Some might argue that the themes around which one builds a story and the specific plot threads one intertwines, are political choices. As are the elements of society and history one depicts. But G.’s normally not making a point about them. Her “proper balance” is more apolitical than mine, because she has other kinds of Tales To Tell.

A square image with an orange-brown background shows the covers of ‘The Other Side of Fear,’ ‘What’s Bred in the Bone,’ and ‘A Bone to Pick.’ Above them the words say “Meet Jan S. Gephardt’s XK9s.” Below them, three lines of much smaller type acknowledge cover artists Lucy A. Synk ©2020 and Jody A. Lee ©2019 and 2020.
L-R Cover artwork ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk and ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee. See Credits below.

I Find it Impossible to be Apolitical in Science Fiction

Everything I just said about a story’s themes, as well as history, society, and culture often carry a more overt sense of politics or political thought when it comes to science fiction. A writer can choose a real-life past or present setting for most genres, and bring to it as much or as little focus on the society and history as works for their story.

But in science fiction every world is a form of thought experiment. In this genre (and also quite often in fantasy, as well as in other speculative fiction) we often build entire new worlds out of extrapolations. Yes, we build them from elements in our contemporary life, but we have much greater latitude in what we choose or discard. This means there’s no aspect of the setting and milieu that is not a deliberate choice. I have written elsewhere on The Weird Blog about Politics in Science Fiction. I also have written about Politics on Rana Station, the fictional setting for my XK9 books.

And since I’m openly political in my own fictional universe, my personal proper balance embraces considerably more political opinion than G.’s. I’m still sometimes blindsided by what she considers to be “too political,” so when reposting things on the Weird Sisters Publishing or G. S. Norwood Facebook pages (currently their only social media presence, to my chagrin), I’m still trying to feel out the proper balance sometimes.

But I’m trying. It’s an ongoing process, and there’s not always a chance to check with her first. So please wish me – and our proper balance – good luck!

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt has struck what she feels is her own personal proper balance with her XK9 Series of science fiction novels and shorter fiction (subscribers to her monthly newsletter currently have access to more original short fiction set in the XK9s’ universe than is currently available for sale). Her newest title, Bone of Contention, is set to be published September 24, 2024. It completes the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, although the series will continue.

IMAGE CREDITS

Most of our imagery is “home-grown” for this post: a screen-grab of our own homepage (desktop version), plus social media images created to promote our books. G.’s book, Deep Ellum Duet, incorporates both of her earlier-published stories into one volume (cover art ©2022 by Chaz Kemp). The current titles in the XK9 Series that are available to the general public are The Other Side of Fear (a prequel novella; cover art © 2020 by Lucy A. Synk), What’s Bred in the Bone, and A Bone to Pick (cover art © 2019 and 2020, respectively, by Jody A. Lee ). Many thanks to “My Office Apps” for the illustration of the woman surrounded by robots.

4 thoughts on “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business

  1. Well. I’m very much on the apolitical entertainment side of things. I read fact based books to learn things. I read fiction to entertain myself. I really don’t need nor want politics of any kind infringing on my desire to entertain and put this world behind me for awhile. When I read fiction I want to escape, not endure a lecture, whether or not I agree with those political or religeous points.

    Someone who feels like they “need” to include their POVs smacks of hubris. You probably don’t care, but you’ve lost a reader. Your material is very good and I have read everything you’ve written so far but I have so many choices that I don’t need to have any agenda of any ilk shoved down my throat

    1. Hi, Peter,
      Differences of opinion make the world go round. Thank you for your previous support, and have a lovely life.

    2. If you’ve enjoyed her work up until now, then it seems to me her politics haven’t inpinged on you too terribly. Just a thought. If you feel that it will now that you know she’s consciously choosing what to portray and how, then you do you.

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