Yesterday I watched Trump adviser Stephen Miller, with his cruel, lifeless eyes, discount the worth of the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The poem is “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus. It was added later, he said, and insinuated that it didn’t have anything to do with the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. I don’t understand the conservative preoccupation with the way something originally occurred. Every writer knows the first pass at something is rarely complete and almost always inadequate.
The poem and its message of sanctuary and openness, to me and to many other Americans, defines the statue–it explains its metaphor and purpose. It’s as important as the Statue of Liberty herself. But what does any of this have to do with a blog about writing books? I write fantasy and erotic romances, those aren’t political. Except when they are. (And, honestly, they always are. Everything is political. Ursula LeGuin has said that fiction writers tell lies in order to tell the truth.)
My latest book, an erotic M/M romance set in a fantasy land, involves a young prince named Elarhe. Magic is forbidden in his land, but he has developed magical powers, so he steals away, disguised as a peasant and crosses the border to the neighboring kingdom where he hopes to explore his abilities. He is an unauthorized immigrant and finds himself doing “anything dirty and dangerous” in order to survive, including interring the bodies of victims of a tannery’s poisoned runoff. (Because I also like to sneak environmental themes into my books….)
He is treated badly in his new land, but he never gives up and never stops trying to improve his life and make a difference. The idea to make Elarhe an immigrant arose from Trump’s stupid border wall and Muslim ban business. (I tend to react to things by writing about them. I think all writers do this whether their conscious of it or not.) When I was crafting Elarhe’s character, I very much wanted to imbue him with a confidence and optimism that I associate with immigrants. It takes a special courage to relocate to a new country. I’ve thought of doing it myself and have always felt too fearful to make the leap.
I admire people who search for their dreams. I find nothing admirable about dead-eyed, creepy little Nazis who bully reporters and think poems have no value.