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This is a difficult post to write. I’ve tried several openings, but they all point toward an apology, and that’s not what I’m aiming for. On the other hand, I’m not looking to posit any excuses, either. I am what I am, and my work is what it is.

I write fiction. And there is violence in my fiction. The question is, does that violence, along with all of the other written, televised, sung, animated, and filmed fictional violence that permeates our society, make the creators thereof liable for the real violence that threatens to overwhelm us?

I don’t know. Plainly it has an effect; when I used to play video games, I knew I needed a break when I could feel my aggression levels rising. Fortunately, for me, as soon as I turned off the game I was fine. I am not an aggressive person, let alone a violent one.

But my fiction is violent. Fictionally speaking, I’ve killed off a lot of people. How do I reconcile those actions with my real-life views?

To me, fictional violence is like nudity in art. When is it Art, as opposed to pornography? The short answer is that it depends on the intent, whether to educate (or at least entertain) as opposed to arouse. (Further than that, I will not venture on the subject.) And I believe the same is true of violence. I use violence to tell a larger story; my novels are not about violence, although violence occurs. I try to use violence as a tool in telling stories of romanticized justice, not to romanticize violence (although I agree the line can be thin). My characters try to use their brains as much as their fists, and frankly, I would not find them interesting otherwise. When I do kill off characters, I try to make it serve the larger story. I am not writing slasher movies. It’s kind of like the difference between chess and checkers, applied leverage versus brute force annihilation. There is also the fact that most of my stories take place either in fantasy worlds or another time, giving them a sense of lowered reality, like a fairy tale.

I am fully aware, however, that a reader could take what I have written and pervert it in his own mind to some end which I would find abhorrent. There is nothing I can do about that. The Beatles did not write “Helter Skelter” thinking it would inspire a madman to kill, and no one blames them that it did.

Nor, it must be noted, does violence in fiction mean that only violence may be taken from fiction. Harry Potter has a great deal of violence, much of it perpetrated against children, but the charitable achievements of J.K. Rowling’s fans are admirable.

In the end, I believe only the intent of the artist can be judged (and that’s difficult enough). For me, it comes down to this: I write violence for the sake of stories, not stories for the sake of violence.

#SFWApro

 

 

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