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?