Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Harm no child

This is my boy, Connor.  I love him.
Just as I love all of my kids.
A couple of months ago, when I was first invited to Scott Oden's Orc anthology, I made a comment on the Facebook page about not harming children in fiction.  Some people reacted to that as if I were making a directive, which I wasn't.  I was merely pointing out that, due to the details of my life and personality, descriptions of violence against children really upset me.

Case in point, I was reading a fantasy novel in which the villain threw an unwanted infant, barely a few days old, into a river.  That scene wrecked me, and almost brought me to tears.  The image I get in my head when I think of it still puts a lump in my throat.  And that was just a piece of fiction!  But when I was reading that book, my own son was barely a few months old.  So, it hit me on a very personal level.

Now, I know that the purpose of that scene was most likely as a way of further illustrating what an irredeemable bastard the guy was, and in that regard, it succeeded in spades.  I could not wait for him to get his comeuppance (which never happened as of the end of the second book in the trilogy...still need to read the third).  But I always felt the point could have been handled better.

In Phil Elmore's first Mack Bolan novel, Vigilante Run, the opening scene includes a description of an infant who was killed in the crossfire of a vigilante shootout (not by Mack, but the main bad guy).  That scene also bothered me.  But it was handled much better.  It shown from the point of view of a very remorseful Mack Bolan, and was brief and bereft of gory detail.  I asked Phil about that scene (he frequents the Mack Bolan forum, and is a great guy to talk to), and he even stated that he had struggled with that scene when writing it.  But in the end, he felt that it really illustrated the main character flaw of the villain (his disregard for collateral damage), so he left it in.  That actually made me feel better about the scene, in an odd way.

So, what does this all mean?  Probably that, at heart, underneath all of my manly bluster and violent tastes, I'm a big sap who loves his kids more than anything in the world, and who holds a special place for children, even fictional ones.  And thus, it's a safe bet that no child (fictional or otherwise) will be harmed in the writing of my stories.  If the death or harm of a child would serve my story best, it will be understated, and will most likely happen "off camera."


I have been making a little progress on Age of the Sword.  I finished the brief section on Sorcery, and am now writing the section on Religion.  I've also decided that this game will never be for sale.  It will be made available as a free PDF, and I am looking at possibly creating a format that is more usable as an electronic book.  One of the blogs I follow is by a guy who does this exclusively.  He's written some great games, and formats them so they are best used on laptops for the new generation of gamers who like to do that with their table-top RPGs.

The first book of Gorus the Gray is taking shape.  I'm almost done with the first chapter, and have been adding to and tweaking the outline.  Oddly, what started out as an attempt to recreate the S&S tales of the 60's and 70's is turning into something much more detailed.  I'm starting to think that while that old style of telling these sorts of tales may indeed be a thing of the past, that's probably not such a bad thing.  That being said, this book, and any sequels, will still be somewhat shorter and more simple than a lot of the fantasy fiction you find on the shelves today.  Which, in my opinion, fits well with the eBook model.


Andre said...

I could write all day on why harm against children affects us differently than other violent themes which we even pursue for entertainment. There is a protectiveness of children that seems instinctive and visceral.

This is what lies at the root of the Abortion debate, is why movies rarely if ever directly show a child being killed or severely hurt, and why you can almost never kill a child in a video game. I don't think you're unique on this one it's simply something we, as a culture, really are uncomfortable with.

Tom Doolan said...

That's very true. Which would explain why I was so shocked at some of the comments in response to my sentiment on Facebook.

Greg Christopher said...

I am with you, buddy.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Silly as it might sound, because "it's only a cartoon", but that is the the main reason I gave up on 'Family Guy'.

Maybe it's because I was a new dad at the time. Maybe I would have let it slide if I didn't have my own kids, but there was a season where the dead-child/baby/abortion jokes just kept coming.

Enough was enough for me. I hopped off the Seth McFarlane bandwagon and have stayed off it.

David J. West said...

That's why I put "Game of Thrones" down for a good week.

Shane Mangus said...

Tom, you and I have a lot of things in common. I too have very dark and sometimes violent tastes in movies, literature and art. Despite all that, there are just some things I would rather not see/read, and explicit harm of a child is one of those things. I will gladly back your play when it comes to this subject.

I am looking forward to Age of the Sword. I am a HUGE sword & sorcery fan, and I always get giddy when I learn of a new s&s game being developed. Good luck with it, and feel free to call on me if you need an editor or just to bounce some ideas back and forth.

Charles Gramlich said...

Once at a con I was asked if there was anything I didn't do in my horror stories. I said, "I don't kill kids." I'm like you. I just can't bring myself to do it. I've written a couple of horror stories that involved childhood abuse and those nearly killed me even though the children survived and in one case triumphed. It was still tough.

Phil Elmore said...

I had a lot to learn yet, when I wrote that first book. I don't believe I would have composed that scene today, were I to write the novel again. I'd have found another way. After more than a dozen novels, the tone of that scene is darker than I typically choose to go.