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Working through some age-old questions


I tried to read A Game of Thrones. Really, really. Three deaths in the first twenty pages gave a clear sign that this was not a book for me, but I persevered. I thought that, once Mr. Martin had established that both sides had serious moral flaws, he would let up on the ugliest parts of his political and social "realism." I was pretty sure that he was going to continue killing off well-liked characters, so I read with emotional detachment: why invest in characters to watch them be brutally killed? Still, I've heard a lot of people talking about the series, so I pushed on. By about page 200 it became clear that rape and the murder of children and animals was going to be SOP. 

            The reading experience left me with a number of nagging questions. Is there something wrong with me that I can not endure such violence? Thousands and thousands of people enjoy these books. Is there something wrong with a society that needs the graphic depictions of violence and cruelty to feel that they are reading something “real?”  Is it okay to watch modern-day gladiatorial contests if we are only killing people in our minds? Does Mr. Martin think that these depictions will shock people into working to curb the worst aspects of human nature?  

Because I know that terrible things like this (and worse) do exist in the world. And I know that some people, who have experienced these terrible things, can find comfort in reading about shared experience.

            Which leads me to my next two questions: First, is this what I want to read about? No, because I already see enough suffering in the world. There are enough real people who need my emotional, spiritual and monetary support. No, because I have already fought people who wanted to kill my son, and I do not want to relive those emotions for “fun.”

Secondly, is there value for me to write about such things?

            This is important as I consider final revisions to my WIP. VH is, mostly, a gentle book. It tries to deal with social bullying, self-imposed poverty and hunger, and the search for personal purpose and independence. I’m hoping to address the problems that I see in day to day life: things that I’ve experienced for myself.

             In a culture that values A Game of Thrones, is there still a place for hopeful stories about everyday troubles?

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
queenoftheskies
Apr. 25th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
I think you raise some valid questions.

I, personally, have not read A Game of Thrones. I hear people rave about it/the show, but it's just not on the top of my list. I much prefer to read books by people I know first. :)

I think I'd probably feel like you if I read it, from what you've described. I stopped reading a book once because of something a character did to two cats. I just don't need to think about those kinds of things.

Bullying is a topic that's in the spotlight now, so I would imagine that social commentary would be welcome. I also think there's value in addressing problems from real life, as long as we don't do so with a sledge hammer, you know?

I think it's really difficult to tell what's going to appeal to readers, but I don't think we all have to write books like A Game of Thrones to appeal.

BTW, I should have beta comments for you next week. I have one other to finish first.
aanna_t
Apr. 25th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
Bullying is a topic that's in the spotlight now, so I would imagine that social commentary would be welcome. I also think there's value in addressing problems from real life, as long as we don't do so with a sledge hammer, you know?

Oh, true!

I think I'm just wondering about the themes I use. What right do I have to criticize the social value of someone else's work? Is there anything socially redeeming in my own?

I'm trying to find where I fit in the complex matrix of opinions on that point.
aanna_t
Apr. 25th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
And thank you =) I look forward to your comments!
sartorias
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
I do not want death of the innocents in my fiction. There is enough in real life. I do not enjoy it, there is no wit or wisdom therein, there is nothing for me to learn and certainly no fun. So . . . though I admire him as a writer, I can't read that series. I'd rather reread Armageddon Rag.
aanna_t
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly. And now I need to go find Armageddon Rag...
aanna_t
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Actually, just last night I was extolling the difference between GoT and your Banner of the Damned. You deal with so many of the same topics that I see in GoT, but without resorting to the techniques that I find distasteful. The ugliness of politics, the fuzzy lines were duty, honor and morality meet, how different cultures see right and wrong, how different people see good and evil... You deal with violence in an unflinching and heartbreaking way without needing to be graphic. By doing that, you allow me to meet your story both emotionally and intellectually. Oh, there are many, many discussions there!

At any rate, I admire your Hitchcock-esque way of keeping those things just off-screen, and allowing your reader to fill in the details at their own comfort level.

Edited at 2012-04-25 06:49 pm (UTC)
sartorias
Apr. 25th, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
I write to my own comfort level--which will make me out as a wuss to one set of readers, and too nasty to others. Inevitable!

But thank you very much. That means a lot to me!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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