Reality Skimming
23Nov/11Off

Ethics in SF #8: Justine Graykin

Justine Graykin returns to Ethics in Speculative Fiction with an article on writing optimistically.

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.

Justine GraykinJustine Graykin is an SF writer, librarian, philosopher, historical archivist and blogger who also loves to read. She is married with two children, too many cats, two dogs and flock of chickens on 50 acres in New Hampsire. She likes to hike, participate in community theater and is a member of Broad Universe. Read Justine's work online: "Chimera" published and anthologized by Absent Willow Review; Works by Justine, including "Archimedes Nesselrode"; and Excerpts from The Elder Light Series. About the last, Justine says, "My best work, that which I feel represents the kind of science fiction I really want to write, has yet to be published. It's a hard sell, but I keep working on it." Her short story, "The Next Con" appears in the anthology, UnCONventional, published by Spencer Hill Press, release date January 2012.

Writing in the Light

We as a culture seem to be on a downward spiral, surrendering to darkness and ugliness as inevitable, embracing it and making it our own. In both life and art we are locked into a hideous game of "Can you top this".

The usual argument to support gritty brutality in literature and visual arts is that Reality is like that, and Art is reflecting Life. Well, Reality can also be warm, funny, joyful and beautiful. As the Dalai Lama says, "I prefer to be an Optimist. It feels better."

There is also an argument that exposing all this ugliness and suffering in Reality will somehow raise people's awareness. That may be so, but it doesn't seem to have done much good. Reflecting horror in our arts and entertainment seems only to have stimulated an appetite for more of same, and greater extremes. There isn't much evidence that it galvanizes people to do anything about it. Quite the opposite; it becomes normalized and accepted.

There is solid scientific evidence emerging which suggests that subjecting ourselves to ugliness, violence and despair has a negative effect on our brains. The more we surrender to anger and aggression, the more we condition our brains to do so, and the more we are prey to depression and addictive behaviors. Conversely, the more we focus on compassion, understanding and joy, the more our brain begins to restructure itself to make that the norm. We are talking measurable, physical changes in the brain structure, the size of the hippocampus, the activity of the amygdala. Being happy really is more healthy.

Writing is, at it's best, a subversive activity. I believe compassion is the new radicalism (again, I'm borrowing from His Holiness) and we need to be radical in our work. Dare to not be dark. Dare to offer solutions instead of despair. Dare to defy the toxic market for ever more extreme shocks, and write about the triumph, against all odds, of the good. Not a sappy, shallow, Disneyworld good, but the stubborn, patient good of the person who has the courage to turn the other cheek, who embraces the radical philosophy of rejecting revenge and forgiving one's enemies that made the Christian message so startling.

Confront the immense challenge of being a peacemaker in a violent world, bringing illumination into darkness, embracing joy instead of apocalypse. Be truly radical, truly revolutionary.

Write in the light.

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

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