The world has changed -a lot - since I first started writing speculative fiction back in the 70s, and perhaps not all of it for the better.
Urban violence and vandalism are two issues which really strike at my heart, both of which, to my eyes at least, seem to exemplify the apparent lack of respect the youth of today have for not only themselves but for their fellow man and property.
Violent bashings, rapes, car-jacking, hooning, vandalism and endless graffiti seem to be prevalent in most areas of the world now, and it has got me wondering if purveyors of horror/violent fiction might somehow be contributing to what some would see as the glorification of anti-social behaviour?
Are people like myself innocently contributing to this issue by publishing stories with a violent or sinister bent? I really hope not, but the reaction to some of the darker tales included with FlashSpec VII has certainly caused my heart to tremor uncomfortably.
We received an alarming amout of violent and gratuitous rubbish submitted as horror stories - tales that crossed the line in many disturbing ways, which were quickly rejected. Of course, that was my perceived line, but whose line should it be? Who should decide the difference between dark or depraved? Should there even be a line? I don't condone censorship of creative arts, but is violence for violence's sake creative at all? It's certainly not art, as far as I am concerned.
So, these are the dilemmas I have been pondering since I read comments that some of the stories in FSVII apparently left their readers feeling sick. I was gutted. Have I become so desensitized to the daily violence and horror that surrounds us that I too crossed the line? I am horrified to think that that may be the case. I even pondered withdrawing VII, fearful that I may be unknowingly contributing to this epidemic of cruel and heartless violence.
So, if we write, edit or publish violent fiction are we somehow to blame?
Have we crossed the line?
August 16th, 2007, 08:38 PM
I wasn't around in the 70s, but I don't see the world as being more violent since the 1980s. I think it's more sensationalized.
The world was pretty violent in the 1940s, during WWII. I don't think we're at that level, right now.
I think that if you blame violent fiction for real life crimes, you might as well blame TV, games, and the internet as well. More people participate in those mediums than read books.
Are these things really to blame? Have we really crossed a line? My answer is no. People who commit atrocities should take ALL the blame. Most readers of violent fiction live settled lives and don't harm anyone. I think that a lot of ingredients go into making a school shooter or serial killer, and the books they read is probably the least of it.
August 16th, 2007, 08:45 PM
... a lot of ingredients go into making a ... serial killer, and the books they read is probably the least of it.
Agreed. There has already been much discussion and blame attributed to various other media - heavy metal music is another one! My concern (obviously) relates to the media that I contribute to or make available, fearful that it too may be another of those ingredients you have alluded to.
August 16th, 2007, 08:54 PM
Um, you can't really blame books for crime because most of the people committing the crimes don't read books. I think that most of the blame is in t.v. and music. I live in a fairly big city so crime is common, most people do stupid things so they won't be a victim. They do things to be friends w/ the guys who are appear to be "gangsters" (lOl). Gangs are also a problem that can't be solved. Crime always breeds more crime and is always spreading outward.
August 16th, 2007, 08:57 PM
You should put your feelings of guilt into a story. :) It might make for a good one.
Personally, I've never worried about this topic, and I write a lot of dark and violent fiction. People in my stories regularly get tortured. I do it for the story, for character development or plot reasons, not just for the sake of describing torture. After all, a good story needs conflict. A good protagonist needs to struggle against something. We learn from people who went through something hellish and survived.
I don't see how you can write a meaningful story without hurting your characters. Maybe that's just me, but ... I can't think of any examples.
August 16th, 2007, 09:06 PM
Without pain, conflict would seem... articifial, at least in my opinon. Also it's other people's decisions to do something, an influence can't be blame for the actions of another. Music is to blame for a lot of things, but I hate it when rappers are accused of something along these lines. The rapper just made a product relevant to modern day america (or most of the time, just what seems to sell records), america is dangerous, it is infested with drugs and it is backwards and crooked in some ways. I'm not approving of it, though I'm a big fan of most rap, the action of someone is exactly that, their action!!
August 16th, 2007, 09:16 PM
You should put your feelings of guilt into a story.
LOL! Great idea. :D
August 16th, 2007, 09:19 PM
Music is to blame for a lot of things, but I hate it when rappers are accused of something along these lines.
Are you talking about music, or rap? Personally, I have never seen how anyone could link the two - but that's a whole different discussion! ;)
Heavy Metal - now that's music! :)
August 16th, 2007, 09:50 PM
Don't feel guilty Erebus. I really, really doubt that anything you have written or published has contributed to the current prevalence of urban violence in any way. As others pointed out, people who are out on the streets committing crimes are not at home reading books. :)
It's very difficult to place the blame for greater societal problems on one or two things. My own opinion is that any form of media, be it books, music, movies, or what have you, is not going to "influence" a person into committing violent behaviour unless the desire to commit the behaviour was already there, simmering under the surface. I think it's really simplistic to blame violence on something like rap--I can listen to rap (although I don't particularly care for it) and I can guarantee you, I will not feel like killing someone. The people who take the violent messages in media to heart are already troubled individuals.
So why are there so many troubled youth today? Loaded question...it seems to me that a lot of young people are not grounded these days, they don't spend enough time with their parents (because they are both working all the time to keep up with the rising costs of living), they don't spend time with their grandparents, etc, because families don't all live in the same town anymore, they don't really connect with their teachers because the teachers are overworked and frustrated by a flawed system...Too many kids are being raised by their peers, spending time on the streets, which is not a good place to learn wholesome values, it's a place where you eat or be eaten.
I'm certainly not saying that I have all (or any) of the answers, but I believe it's safe to say with confidence that you can have a clear conscience over this. The problem of youth violence is so complex...interesting topic, I'm glad you brought it up. :)
August 16th, 2007, 09:53 PM
One of the most gratuitiously violent books ever written is the Bible, so if we're going to start blaming authors for all the problems of society, we should probably start with God and work our way down :D.
I can't speak for most people, but I think it takes more than reading a Clive Barker book to turn someone into a serial killer. I mean, I've read (and enjoyed) some of the most depraved books out there. I listen to some aggressively-tempoed music, and the list of video games I play regularly would send Hilary Clinton into fits. Despite this, I'm pretty well-adjusted. In point of fact, I would say that violent media probably reduces violent actions in a normally-developed psyche. It's much more healthy to vent the perfectly natural feelings of anger and frustration we encounter in a virtual or art-based way that IRLly. I'd rather run some people over in GTA and feel better after a bad day at work than bottle it up and become an angry person.
A person who snaps over reading a book didn't snap because of the book... they were ready to snap anyway. It could just as easily have been being cut off in traffic, or an off-hand comment by a stranger in public. It's not the art-form that is responsible, but rather the broken psyche at work inside the person who goes crazy.