As far as personal tastes go, I understand that everyone is different. Most people are into sports and that is something I couldn’t care less about. There are people who feel the same way about my books and the fantasy genre as a whole. I respect there are different hobbies and different points of view. That is what makes us human. However, there is one thing in the literary world that particularly bothers me, the attempt to claim that erotica is not pornography.
The last sentence of the previous paragraph undoubtedly raised the ire of a few. Questions such as “how can you claim to be respectful of other people’s interests and make that claim?” For me it’s simple. I am a logical person. As the old saying goes if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. On twitter especially I have seen erotica authors (which seem to be a dime a dozen on there) make various impassioned arguments that erotica isn’t porn at all.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines porn as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” That sounds a lot like erotica. After all, what is the point of a story that primarily centers around sex if not for the soul purpose of arousal? Sex by itself is not a plot, other plot elements may be intertwined with the story, but if that was the focus it would cease to be erotica.
I bring this up because all other genres may not be enjoyed by all people. I don’t particularly fancy romance, but at the end of the day it is still art. That is what sets erotica apart from all other genres. Strictly speaking, erotica isn’t art, it’s porn. A quick search into the definitions of the two clearly makes a distinction. This isn’t about me pushing my morality onto others or to insult those who read erotica, but I want us to drop the pretense that it is some sort of extreme romance and not functionally a literary version of late night Pay-Per-View.
I believe this is an important topic to discuss. Especially considering the popularity of the genre and recent scientific findings of what porn does to the human brain. As always though, anyone reading this is welcome to disagree. I encourage everyone to research it themselves. Especially the effects of porn and the differences between porn and art. From my point of view the evidence is undeniable, but of course there are those who feel passionately that I’m wrong.
Anyone who is an adult knows that with maturity comes more responsibilities. If you are a typical adult living on your own with a family you’re raising, this is particularly true. On top of work, raising children, and maintaining a relationship adulthood affords far less spare time than when we were younger. As a result, friendships fall apart and hobbies such as reading become neglected. Are we really so busy? If so, then is it necessary?
Western culture is notorious for cramming our lives with as much stuff and activities as possible. Children and work are huge commitments that take up most of our daily hours. Yet how much of this lack of time is due to having too many obligations instead of poor time management skills? After all, if you really want to read or spend time with a person you would. Sure, there are a plethora of good examples of things that could separate someone from a friend for a prolonged period or their reading hobby.
I have come across many people who say, “I would love to_____ but I just don’t have the time!” Here is my counter to that. The things I really love to do I still manage to do. Things I enjoy but aren’t as passionate about are the ones that get neglected due to “busyness.” Those we love and desire a real relationship with we reach out to even if we our personal lives have little room to work with. As a writer, when I read the statistic that roughly 80% of Americans do not read, I cannot help but wonder if the excuse of busyness is the reason. Then the next question that comes to mind is how can we writers come to terms with this and help American adults effectively rediscover the magic of reading?
Perhaps the answer lies in each and everyone of us contemplating what is our priorities in life. If we enjoy watching television, we will watch it. We all need to take an honest assessment of ourselves and discover our true priorities. If there is someone you think of as your friend but haven’t called him/her for years perhaps deep down, you may love or respect them but they are not really as close to your heart as you believe. The same goes for the more trivial things such as our hobbies. The point is that we all, myself included, need to reassess ourselves sometimes. If something needs to me more of a priority we need to make it so, otherwise we don’t care as much as we claim.
When Harry Potter became popular, there was debate amongst Christian circles whether it was healthy for children to be exposed to or not. After all, Scripture condemns sorcery, and that in Harry Potter, children go to school to learn magic. As a Christian who enjoys fantasy of all kinds, this was a struggle for me growing up.
As a young man who attended an extremely conservative Christian college, my hobby of writing and reading fantasy became a point of contention in some conversations. Later, in my college career, something happened to me which caused an existential crisis of faith. For a few years I questioned everything, researched everything, learned varying perspectives on all matters in order to find out what I believe and why. Ultimately, I learned that obsessively researching online only leads to confusion and depression, but I digress.
In the end my faith remained intact, and I came to a few conclusions on important matters, one of which is that being a Christian doesn’t mean I have to be against it, but the opposite. Deciding to condemn fantasy and avoid it is a personal conviction, not a Biblical truth. For me, the genre is not mere fun, but a part of me, it reflects important timeless truths. If you are one who believes reading or watching fantasy is wrong, that is your choice and conviction. However, it is far from Scriptural to condemn stories simply because they have magic. The words of Jesus seem aptly appropriate for this, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.” I know, that doesn’t give us a pass to do whatever we want, but Paul makes it clear that some people have more sensitive consciences than other. That is okay, however do you like Football? The argument could be made that its evil if Scripture is twisted to say that due to scantily clad cheerleaders that football is evil. I know that sounds silly. So are most arguments against enjoying fantasy.
In the end a walk with Christ is more important than fiction choices, and those who enjoy stories different than what you like do not deserve condemnation. So much more could be said on this topic, which is why I will continue this in my next post.
Part of being a writer is reading. That is painfully obvious. Reading gives an author the tools necessary to equip him or her to do the job. That said, I find it difficult to find things to read regularly that I enjoy because I’m pretty picky.
I can spend quite a while reading reviews and scrolling through books in genres that interest me, but rarely am I wowed by something. I like originality, hope, and meaning in stories as I’ve indicated in past blogs. That doesn’t mean characters have to be perfect, on the contrary, I like them to have flaws, but not when those flaws are used to create senseless tension. For example, one series I read a few years ago had a character fight and pine for a female. When he finally wins her heart, and marries her he cheats, without a believable motive to do so. It appeared that the entire point of the secondary romance was to create a forced sense of suspense. As indicated, the character had no real motivation and that’s what bothered me. I know cheating happens, and characters can do it to add depth, but there must be a believable reason for it.
I know quality books are out there, but due to limited time I continue to be picky about my choices. I fully admit that it is partially a personality quirk of mine. However, my search for books that live up to the fiction classics continues. For it is the classics that I tend to enjoy the most, yet I know there are good stories out there, I only need to find more of them.
The Tolkien era of Fantasy had brought us villains who were evil for the sake of evil. Their motives were pretty much they wanted to destroy the world because they were evil and nothing more was really known about these antagonists. That was the point, they represented the force of evil more than being individual characters with motives. In a few stories this works, but now there is a call for more depth to the villains of the stories. Generally, now there are antagonists with motives and backstories, and just like reality these people tend to not see themselves as evil but as saviors.
History is rife with horrible rulers of both nations and organizations. Some of these people were like Sauron who simply wanted to dominate others without sympathy or empathy for anyone else. Others though were more like Darth Vader, horrible people who saw themselves as protectors or necessary such as Valad The Impaler.
How often do we do things that are wrong and justify it in our minds? Taking that line of thought further, how often do we glorify our ideological positions while demonizing the “other” side? Sure we may not be killing anyone or desiring to, but isn’t that a similar train of thought that these evil people in history and fiction acted on? I’m not saying everyone who dug in their heels and stood up for their convictions is akin to a villain, but just that it is easy to continue down the rabbit trail and become so blinded by ideology empathy no longer remains. This is especially common in political spheres from 2015 to present in America.
Certainly, there are things we all disagree with. That is okay, in fact it is necessary for anyone who has a spec of critical thinking and morality. With the advent of the internet it is becoming easier to live in an echo chamber and grow angrier at those who are outside of your thought circle. Hope is only found in those who agree with you and me, while despair and the end of the world comes in the form of those that dare think differently. To me, it looks like there is less nuance in our culture than there was even ten years ago. People are ready to sever ties with friends and even family because of differing viewpoints because their beliefs are “dangerous.” With this mentality, called Tribalism, which I addressed in previous blogs, it is only opening the door for a real evil to rise to power. As freedoms erode the people will cheer that person on because “their” person was in power, not the “other” side. Of course, the opposite group will do everything they can to oppose the person in power, but perhaps it won’t be enough. This is hypothetical, and not a subtle dig at the current president or any before him. I know that some already view him in this light, but that isn’t what I am referencing. In an environment where people are looking to be offended or read into their own bias, I feel that is necessary to state.
Fiction is meant to teach us. To help us ponder our own actions as well as the happenings within our own culture. Let us actually implement the lessons from history and fiction, lest we create a monstrous world we cannot undo.