PDA

View Full Version : On Killing


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


Pages : [1] 2 3 4

choppy
April 16th, 2004, 05:35 PM
Inspired by the guns vs. swords thread, I thought I'd throw this question out to there.

How do you, as a writer, justify the violence in your stories? Or do you write in vilolence at all?

Many stories are set with "war" as a backdrop. Somtimes the author tends to shrug off this responsibility and sweep it away, hoping that the reader will believe the war itself is just, as long as the reader can empathize with the character. Is this acceptable to you as a reader?

Or how about this one: does the fantasy of killing (in the context of a SF/F story) promote violence in our society, or does it provide a controlled outlet for bottled up emotion?

Thought?

Ouroboros
April 16th, 2004, 06:43 PM
Vioence itself is value free. Whether it is regarded as acceptable or unnacceptable depends on the cirucmstances of a given situation, and what is at stake.

For example, most of us will hold sovereign the rights of individuals (and indeed nations) to defend themselves as violently as necessary if their lives are at stake through no fault of their own. Conversely, we would regard as unjustifiable violent action for ... say.... purely monetary gain, or what have you....

---

In fiction, I would argue that this is also true. Violence and / or killing is contexual in how it is interpeted. A graphic scene of torture and child murder is a study of out-and-out evil, and hard to interpet otherwise. A hard-fought and bloody revolution in pursuit of freedom might be just the opposite, and incredibly moving, no matter how high the body count. Either may have their vital place in a fantasy novel.

A related question is at what point does violence of the former kind, darker fantasies, become uncceptable or problematic? In common with all media, books have been blamed for inciting unsavoury acts at various points in time, or regarded as being practically porn for the unsavoury-minded among us.

I come down heavily on the side of freedom of the press and would prefer to see questionable material on the shelves rather than go down the path of telling consumers what they can and cannot buy.

As regards the responsibility of the author : Tough to say. Writing SF / Fantasy books isn't exactly forming legislation or policy ... it's storytelling to a free market. IMO the true weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the public, for it is we who wield the real power ... sales figures. I disagree fundamentally with the increasing trend towards palming off of our responsibility for our actions and choices onto external bodies like the government, the TV we watched, what our parents taught us and whatnot ... grumble grumble....

Abby
April 17th, 2004, 12:42 AM
The way I see it, the basis of a good story is conflict. That may be emotional conflict, but it's often physical. How many good books have you read that lack violence or conflict? I don't think there are any.

Of course, the violence need not be graphic. Then again, graphic description lends the story a touch of realism.

I only object to violence in a story (be it books, films, games, etc.) when it's gratuitous. If it serves the story, then it's fine. If it's just stuck in there for absolutely no apparent reason, other than to draw in drooling teenage boys who think it's cool, then I get turned off to it.

As to whether violence in fiction promotes violence in our society, or if it's an outlet: I'm not a sociologist, but I believe it's both. Some dumb people undoubtedly think that certain characters (thugs, mercenaries, gangsters) are cool and try to emulate them. They probably emulate the same types of people that they know in real life.

I agree with Ouroboros about responsibility in society. Parents with violent kids *undoubtedly* have something to do with their kids' behavior. It's not all the fault of video games and TV. C'mon, people; war and violence have been glorified since humankind existed! Entertainment is a reflection of humanity, not the puppeteer of humanity.

user123
April 17th, 2004, 03:51 AM
Violence in Scifi and Fantasy novels is a great way to show a characters emotional development, it tells us why this character is acting the way they are. War is useful to all writers and give a dramatic setting for their stories.
As for its effects on society, well I do not really think it has that much to do with it. Violence between one group and another has been around since before the first rough marks were painted on some cave wall. Violence in books, vid games and on TV are just a easy way to push the blame onto someone else. There will always be those among us who enjoy do nasty things to others for the fun of it. Baning books and the likes just because they use conflict as a motivating force isn't going to change that.

Dawnstorm
April 17th, 2004, 08:26 AM
1. I'm not a violent person. I hate violence. It scares me; on both ends.

I once felt so frustrated that I wanted to hurl something across the room. The impulse was there. Picked up a hand-held video-game (Pre-game-boy-nintendo). Looked at it. Can't hurl that. It will break. (I haven't played with it for years. There weren't even batteries in it.) Next thing I picked up was a book. (Lots of them everywhere, so it figures.) But I couldn't hurl a book, could I? :eek: Finally, I picked up a chit of paper. I could crumple it up and throw it... By that time, the absurdity of the situation struck me. Nothing like laughing at myself, to get rid of frustration...

And yet I have no trouble playing violent video games. To me, it's an outlet. A safe way to get rid of violence. Psychodrama, if you will.

2. Violent scenes in fiction only grip me when they're emotionally charged. (There are exception, like Ballard's clinically detached view of bored violence.) Violence for the sake of depicting it doesn't bother me so much as bore me.

3.


Abby said
As to whether violence in fiction promotes violence in our society, or if it's an outlet: I'm not a sociologist, but I believe it's both. Some dumb people undoubtedly think that certain characters (thugs, mercenaries, gangsters) are cool and try to emulate them. They probably emulate the same types of people that they know in real life.

I've got a university degree in sociology, and, let me tell you, what you say sounds more mature than what many sociologists have to say on this issue. Most studies are set up in a way, so that their findings confirm their hypotheses. And if "scholarly foes" do happen to accept each others data then they're bickering about the interpretation. I doubt I'd be any better, though.

4. About violence and censorship: it's like carrying sand in your cupped hands. Some will spill no matter what you do. Personally, I'd rather have it out in the open then suppressed inside someone's head... (notice my biased language, here? ;) )

I find it interesting, though, that people comment at length about violent fiction, games, rock lyrics... but hardly ever about violent news.

5. I've read and enjoyed plenty of non-violent books. There are plenty of non-violent SF short stories I've liked. Violence is certainly not needed to make a story interesting. It's just one element among others.

===

So that's it from this end of the line...

Jamza1986
April 17th, 2004, 08:43 AM
I don't understand people who think violence is in any way 'cool' anyway. To me its fine in books or films up to a point. If it goes over the line I just find it unnecessary, but I never find it 'cool.

choppy
April 17th, 2004, 11:54 AM
To me its fine in books or films up to a point. If it goes over the line I just find it unnecessary, but I never find it 'cool.
Out of curiosity, where is the line? How does one distinguish between gratuitous violence, and that which is necessary to the plot?


I find it interesting, though, that people comment at length about violent fiction, games, rock lyrics... but hardly ever about violent news.
This is an interesting point Dawnstorm. Personally I think that we're more forgiving when it comes to news because it's real. It happened, and by ignoring it, we're denying ourselves a portion of social responsibility. However when a group of intellectual geniuses like "Prodigy" write a song called "Smack My Bitch Up," or when someone else releases a video game where the main character has to kill others by suffocating them with a plastic bag, it feels as if we're somehow celebrating the suffering of others.


Writing SF / Fantasy books isn't exactly forming legislation or policy ... it's storytelling to a free market. This is an interesting point too. The thing is, one might argue that the function of science fiction is to explore possible futures, based on our knowledge of the present. Consider all the uproar about cloning these days. Governments all over the world are considering (if they haven't already passed) anti-cloning laws or restricting stem cell research. I believe that a part of the fear surrounding this technology stems from speculative fiction.


A related question is at what point does violence of the former kind, darker fantasies, become uncceptable or problematic?
For me, any violence needs justification - what I started the thread to explore. If it's not justified, I won't find it acceptable. In addition, I have to accept the justification.

JRMurdock
April 17th, 2004, 02:25 PM
How do you, as a writer, justify the violence in your stories? Or do you write in vilolence at all?

Going back to the original question, let me give my own opinion.

The history of the world (I don't care how recent or far back you go) is overwhelmingly violent. History is written by the winners or wars and at times the history of a civilization is erased by those same winners. History is violent.

Taking that into account, not all stories can be all dandylions, faries, and sugarplums. There's violence in the world. People live, people die, people are brutally murdered. That's life.

When I'm writing a story, I don't concentrate on the blood and guts of a death, I write the character's perception of that death. I write about how they deal with the war/death/violence. As Abby put it, this is a chace for your character to develop perhaps even grow from the experience.

I have written non violent stories. I've written violent ones. It all depends on my mood if I feel a character needs to die or kill or deal with death. My stories, at a deep subconcious level, are a reflection of me and my mood.

ironchef texmex
April 17th, 2004, 03:47 PM
Originally posted by choppy

Out of curiosity, where is the line? How does one distinguish between gratuitous violence, and that which is necessary to the plot?


To answer this I think you first have to go back to Ouro's statement. Violence is value free. It is morally neutral. When a man beats his wife it is morally wrong, not because it is violence, but because of the reason that it is propigated. When the police arrive and forcefully put a stop to it it's different; that is their moral responsibility.

So, there's a difference between the fighting in Saving Private Ryan and Friday the 13th, part whatever. One is a tribute to the suffering endured by the Allied fighting men in World War II, the other is a kind of pandering to basic human instincts.

The first one is definately not wrong. But I'm not sure that the second one necessarily is either. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that watching (or reading) violence acts as an outlet for anything. People don't work that way. We don't get things out of our system. We form habits. But trying to connect that to violent media seems silly to me. Of course there is going to be a correlation between people who commit wanton acts of violence and watching wanton acts of violence. Think about it. People watch what interests them. Saying that it CAUSES violence is a whole different can of worms.

Did watching the gladiators cause the Romans to suddenly kill each other for no particular reason? How bout the folks watched Tv in the 50's when the only thing on was boxing? More violent? I doubt it. I'm not a sociologist either, but my guess is the only connection between watching/reading violence and committing it is for those poor souls who have been given no moral code from parents or a church or whatever and the media that they see fills the vacuum, becomes their way of looking at the world.

Should the writers and directors of Friday the 13th and their ilk feel responsible for the vacuum children? It's debatable. I think my vote would be no.

Cephus
April 17th, 2004, 06:35 PM
Originally posted by Dawnstorm
I once felt so frustrated that I wanted to hurl something across the room. The impulse was there. Picked up a hand-held video-game (Pre-game-boy-nintendo). Looked at it. Can't hurl that. It will break. (I haven't played with it for years. There weren't even batteries in it.) Next thing I picked up was a book. (Lots of them everywhere, so it figures.) But I couldn't hurl a book, could I? :eek: Finally, I picked up a chit of paper. I could crumple it up and throw it... By that time, the absurdity of the situation struck me. Nothing like laughing at myself, to get rid of frustration...

LOL, I thought I was the only one who ever did that. I have never been able to just throw something, no matter how mad I was, because all I can think is "you know, if you break it, you'll just have to buy another one".