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03 February 2015

Ideological Boundaries

I'm writing a book. Maybe you'll read it someday. If you're at all interested, I hope that you'll have that opportunity, and I hope even more that you'll enjoy it. The process of writing it is difficult, and it's rewarding, and it's exhausting, and occasionally it's even fun.

It's a novel. And there are people in this novel—characters, I mean—with whom I don't agree. It's hard to be fair. I was never really tempted to throw up a bunch of straw soldiers that I could easily knock down, but it's still difficult to be fair when discussing philosophical or ideological positions that I don't share, especially when these elements aren't the focus of the narrative.

But it's important to be fair. There's a group of people in this book who started off as the enemies, the "big bads", the primary antagonists of the story. It was easy to outline. But as I wrote it, I realised that these people weren't people: they were one character—one guy—just repeated over and over, copied ad nauseam. No nuance, no disagreement, only a clone army, dressed differently but marching in ideological lockstep. That's dangerous, and it's boring, and it doesn't make for much of a good story.

It's not all fixed now (I haven't even completed a first draft: nothing's fixed!), but at least I'm aware of the problem. And when and if the book is published, I look forward to hearing from everyone how unfairly I have portrayed those who disagree with me.

I was thinking about all of this last night as I was polishing up a chapter that I was especially proud of, and over lunch today I happened to stumble upon this really excellent video from Hank Green, in which he discusses polarizing ideological monoculture, and the important diversity that thrives in boundary zones.

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