Fiction and the Left

On the left in North America, the novel kind of died or was killed a long time ago, if nowhere else. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was not only first published in serial form in a left periodical, his research for the novel was funded by it – by the socialist newspaper, The Appeal to Reason. I’m aware of no left news periodicals that are regularly running partisan liberatory fiction. Liberation Lit is one of the few left journals of any type that runs much progressive partisan fiction, and that consciously seeks it out.

Left periodicals might find it ever more to their benefit to run Lib Lit type fiction because, at least compared to nonfiction, it reads better in print than online. Moreover, a lot of nonfiction is actually more useful online than in print, by far; whereas, probably the opposite is true for fiction, with the exception of microfiction. Plus, running liberatory fiction would give left news outlets a comparative advantage over the many news outlets that don’t run any fiction at all, or very little.

Lib Lit stories are topical and partisan, issue engaged and progressive, and so such stories should be a serious part of left news, let alone cultural, periodicals. It’s no surprise that Mainstay/Lib Lit has to break ground in the dominant publishing world – but it seems surprising that it would be isolated in left publishing circles and need to break so much ground there. It’s not clear why such liberatory imaginative work is not getting far more direct support in progressive outlets (that is, publication). There seems to be a sort of bunker mentality toward partisan fiction. It’s time to climb out of the bunkers, or, maybe better said, at least expand them a bit, and muscle up in the process.

Or at the very least discuss the reasons for the separation. No one on the left has ever explained why they have for several years chosen not to publish a word of the investigative Iraq conquest novel Homefront, or Civil Acts, or other related topical progressive fiction. A very few outlets have said they lack the resources to do it – although that actually means they don’t prioritize it high enough – especially since, for example, the book publishers could simply POD publish topical partisan novels for a couple hundred dollars, and thus at least put them in print under a recognized, established organization.

The left periodicals and other left publishers can’t say what The New Yorker magazine chief fiction editor Cressida Leyshon has written in turning down liberatory fiction, that it’s not appropriate for The New Yorker, since such fiction does fit in politically with left outlets. I assume the silent left outlets don’t publish partisan fiction because of scarcity of resources, but it’s interesting that scarcely any have said so. They have mainly been entirely silent, or simply send notes declining it. And so they block it out, and they are blocking out their allies rather than their opponents, and may well be hurting their own efforts, and broader progressive effects, in the process.

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