Cynical Fiction

I have written before that dark and gritty is the way of things in the modern world of fiction.  Whether there is a heavy call for more grit or it is simply author’s and film makers trying to push their vision onto audiences I’m not certain.  I think it is possible creators of fiction are trying to capitalize on the popularity of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, both of which are prime examples of dark and gritty fiction.

Grit however, doesn’t belong in everything.  The purpose of fiction is to address at larger, important issues, some of which are not addressed often by reality.  Time and again I read about stories which will take a “darker tone” along the lines of GOT. I am much more familiar with The Walking Dead than I am Game of Thrones, so I cannot speak much for the latter or its source material, but at the heart of the show isn’t just trying to be realistic, it’s cynicism.  So many movies and books lately have taken stories and turned them incredibly dark for the sake of realism.  Realism is the ultimate justification for characters dropping like flies and good being forced out to the brink of utter destruction until a small miracle happens at the end.  When good finally gets Its day, the main characters typically have become jaded and become stripped of what made them heroes.

In fiction and reality, heroes are not perfect, nor should they be.  However, there is a difference between being flawed and being hardly recognizable as a hero, or worse not distinguishable from the villain.  This appears to be a growing trend, especially in film and television.  Is that really realistic though? Yes, for some people, but not everyone.  There are many heroes who endured unimaginable tragedy and still maintain their integrity.  It is growing less common to show heroes like this.  Dark, anti-hero types are fine and work well in certain stories, but the storyteller must beware of cynicism.  The truth is that fiction is escapism for many, if they want a healthy dose of reality and realism, they don’t need fiction.  That isn’t to say I don’t expect realism in fiction or to have all characters have happy endings, but their lives should have meaning if they are main characters because fictional characters represent something.

Characters, if done correctly are people that readers relate to and root for.  Even if their story ends in tragedy, or become evil, their stories should serve a purpose other than shock value for the audience.  This sort of flippant disregard for characters has begun to happen to those with decades of lore and generations of fans.  Why is this?  Do people really crave so much dark cynicism?  Cynicism that is growing in entertainment is teetering on the verge of nihilism.  Do we as a species really crave dark, depressing stories for the sake of realism?  Some do obviously, but I have a hunch the number of people who do want that are fewer than expected.

Tribalism Pt. 2

“If you aren’t with me, you’re against me.”  Hopefully most people would find that to be an absurd line of reasoning.  Yet, we see it put into practice by so many people.  Particularly lately when tensions are high between political ideologies.  At this moment everything is affected, and it quite possibly will only get worse.

I’ve said many times before on this blog that it isn’t the writer’s job to pander.  An author is a conduit which the characters use to tell their story.  In my previous blog, I focused on how media is often seen through the lens of politics.  I did address that sometimes authors use their medium in order to push an ideological agenda, but for the most part I feel a lot of times people are simply reading into stories and getting offended over nothing.

It is time to address the fact that there is legitimate political pandering in not just books but television, music, and movies.  This contributes to the paranoia that everything is pushing an agenda, whether that is the intent or not.  When this happens, there isn’t just a bias, but too often the message is, “If you don’t believe or think like me you are evil.”

To avoid the misconception that I am adhering to political conspiracy theories, I will simply say that often only one side of the spectrum is what’s represented most.  When this viewpoint is represented, it also more likely takes the more extreme point of view of this ideology which is “if you don’t believe like me you are a terrible person.”  Yes, I know there are people who think like that in EVERY belief system.  This is merely a general observation I’ve witnessed.  This isn’t productive, nor what fiction is about.  Obviously, the beliefs of the creator come through into the product, but it shouldn’t be overbearing or pandering.  Subtlety is almost always the best approach in fiction when trying to get a point across, that is what all of us writers must remember.

Lessons from writing: I have a voice

I’m a quiet introvert.  I spent most of my life being submissive, avoiding conflict, and generally letting people steamroll over me.  Due to dealing with bullies for many years, I feared being friendless and rejected.  I rarely voiced my opinion, especially in situations where I knew someone would disagree with me.  If a “friend” spoke harshly or was even mean, I kept my thoughts and feelings private, pretending outwardly that I wasn’t bothered.

This started to change once I had a life-changing event take place in 2013.  I was riddled with anxiety due to yet another abusive friendship I found myself in.  That year I finally spoke my mind on the toxicity of the friendship dynamic.  Something which was completely foreign to me.  A year later I decided to publish my first book and start blogging.

Writing has opened a new window for me.  I feel more confident in what I have to say on a page and that has transitioned into my personal life as well.  I’m done being a doormat, and once I made that decision, people started to take notice.  Some were flabbergasted that I would dare to speak my mind.  Writing has shown me it’s okay to have an opinion or voice, even an unpopular one.  Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, even if their behavior doesn’t warrant it.  However, that doesn’t mean, as I erroneously once thought, that we cannot or should not stand up for ourselves.  In fact, I would go so far as to say if a friend or family member doesn’t listen to your voice, especially if you are treated poorly or have an issue, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship.

If you are reading this I want to remind you that you have a voice.  You have a right to speak up for yourself, your beliefs, and to defend yourself.  Perhaps like me, you will find writing a means to empower you and your voice.

Book Reivew: Orcs

This is one of those books that kept me interested while at the same time I wondered why I kept reading it.  The titular orcs are a war band, that are virtually indistinguishable from humans, who travel across their world in search of powerful relics they wish to keep out of the evil orc queen’s hands.

If you envisioned a story written from the perspective of Tolkien-type orcs, then you will be gravely disappointed.  The orcs act no different than humans. Perhaps the intent was to give their race depth, but the author falls flat at doing that too because all the characters are flat and never grow beyond caricatures and stereotypes.  Orcs are fundamentally tribal polytheistic humans who are fighting against their crazy queen and a bunch of Christians.  Sure, they aren’t called Christians, but the Uni’s in the story adhere to basic Christian theology and even call upon the Holy Spirit.  It is a thinly veiled jab at Christianity that utilizes every stereotype about the faith.

I mentioned already the orcs are caricatures, but frankly that is an observation I had across the board with both the protagonists and antagonists.  It was as if the author didn’t spend more than five minutes on Google researching Christian and polytheistic beliefs before forming a clear opinion about them and placing 1.5 dimensional orcs in the middle of it.

I will say that despite my disappointment, the plot was interesting enough to keep me hoping things would get better.  I may not have cared about the characters, but I wanted to which meant the book had potential, or so I thought until the anticlimactic ending.  That isn’t to mention the awkward and abrupt graphic rape/sacrificial magic scenes thrown in there without warning.  They were so explicit and jarring the sex scenes felt like they were ripped out of an erotica novel and pasted into this one just to put off the reader.  Nothing was implied or shown, everything was told in all its gory details.

If you enjoy gritty fantasy I would say this might be for you except for the shallow characters, both on the protagonist and antagonist ends of the spectrum.  Other than a moderately decent story, this book is unpolished and fails to offer anything new or exciting to the Fantasy genre.  It especially fails to do the lore of Orcs any justice.  Overall, I would give this book a 1.5/5 and would not recommend it.

Social Justice Bullies

Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous.  We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage.  Why is that?  Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?

Bullies exist, they always have and always will.  It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives.  However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately.  It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.

Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet.  Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic.  The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism.  The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended.  It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are.  Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?

Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none.  No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place.  Offended people now are the social bullies.  Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.”  How do we fight this?  Call it out for what it is, bullying.  Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind.  Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be.  The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate.  Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most.  Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards.  We all need this.  Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.