Reality Skimming

Ethics in SF #4: Going Too Far

This week we take a break from guest features and let Lynda share her opinion on limits and going too far.

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Lynda WilliamsLynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Part 7: Healer's Sword arrives in November 2011. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science.

Q. As an author, have you been feeling the pressure to send the 'extreme' message about your work to make it stand out? If so, take a moment to reflect, with me, on whether it might be time to acknowledge that some push back might be more exciting.

I just made a mistake that changed me. I approached a writer for an article on 'Ethics in SF' thinking I needed to frame questions in a bold way to encourage the person to identify limits. Why? Because I'd filtered what I heard said at a con through my presumption that 'extreme' is what everyone is striving for more of: darker psychology, more brutal betrayals, uglier sex and more violent death.

Okal Rel Universe
The ORU is a 10 novel series, published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I have done my share at exploring the nasty side of life, from the banal villainy of spoiled-brat H'Reth in The Courtesan Prince, to the self-conscious sadism of Ev'rel in Throne Price. I claim no moral high ground in the matter. But I have identified what disturbs me about the 'dark' trend in SF literature. The balance of power is shifting from glimpses of evil, briefly indulged and swiftly punished, to ones in which the transgressing character is exonerated and even glorified. Vampires can be cool people even if they have to murder innocents regularly. It's not their fault, they're predators. Horror should expose the stupidity of 'girl next door' values and adventure should demonstrate how life is futile and good guys die pointlessly.

Because that's life.

Amel admits as much, to himself, in Throne Price, when the worst is happening. But even then, he knows he would rather cling to his faith in better possibilities than accept a reality so ugly that existing in it has no value to him. If that's pathetic, rather than brave, then I'm pathetic because I feel the same about writing and consuming literature. Maybe I'm just dumb. Certainly, like Amel, I do not always win. But there's a win in this experience because I have decided it is time to open my eyes to the possibility other people might be equally troubled and the brave thing to do is to expose my offended sensibilities. Even to the extent of being 'uncool' if necessary.

Your Turn: Comment with your own reaction to the questions.

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