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Posts Tagged ‘controversy’

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Please see disclaimer*

Flush with success after rooting out thought-crime recidivist Jonathan ‘Paltrow-Fucker’ Ross and stringing him from the gallows the Committee for the Unification of Narrative Tropes has begun turning its eye on other problematic areas, such as ancient myth.

Committee chair Zutana Alors explained the committees priorities thus:

“For millennia now classical myth has exerted a strong, exclusionary and problematic influence over multiple cultures and has cast a long shadow over all fiction. By attacking the root cause of these particular tropes we hope to eliminate a great deal more problems before they start. Much of ‘science’ fiction and ‘fantasy’ takes its cues from these sorts of stories and changing them should eliminate a great deal of offensive material.”

Pressed for further details the committee released a preliminary report on the changes they’ve decided to make, specifically to Greek mythology.

  • Race is an issue, all the characters are Greek. To fix this people of all ethnicities will be introduced into the mythology, over-represented compared to contemporary demographics to compensate for millennia of literary oppression. The only remaining Greek character is Hades, who will double as a symbol of hegemonic white oppression over that period.
  • As a symbol of beauty Aphrodite creates unrealistic expectations and hence body issues in many young women. As such she is to be replaced by a genderfluid, pre-op, plus-size, disabled transwoman with special needs. This will demonstrate that anyone can be sexy and that everyone is deserving of love.
  • Ares is a phallocentric glorifier of violence and destruction. He creates a problematic template for toxic masculinity. Changed slightly, Ares will make an excellent figure of fun and a cautionary tale to be avoided. As such he is now a buffoon with a giant cardboard sword and is to be renamed ‘Dudebro’.
  • Theseus and the Minotaur has been deemed to be prejudiced and triggering towards Otherkin (those who identify as having animal souls) and will be rewritten into a peaceful encounter wherein Theseus and the Minotaur engage in a long debate. After the debate Theseus will check his human privilege and come to an understanding of his innate, subconscious prejudice to the non-human community.
  • Zeus is also a deeply problematic figure as a womaniser and serial rapist. As a model the committee has looked at how to correct the story of Leda and the Swan. In the new version Zeus approaches Leda respectfully with no obvious intent of seduction or physical intimacy until she expresses a possible interest. They undertake a journey to visit Eunomia, goddess of law and justice, where they draw up a contract of consent before their coupling. Leda changes her mind and says no, Zeus respects that and returns to Olympus. This has required excising Helen of Troy from the canon, but as – like Aphrodite – she presented an unrealistic, platonic ideal of female beauty – this saved even more bother.

The committee was asked by a member of the Culte de la Raison who attended the open meeting why they were devoting so much time to rewriting fictions and where the harm was in what were obviously just stories. He was informed that words hurt before being dragged outside by the Revolutionary Guard, all the while protesting the need for empirical evidence. He was then beaten to death with typewriters to make the point more emphatically.

*Definitions of liberty and equality may vary, fraternity includes sororalty and all points in between. One liberty per customer – to be determined by the committee. Some are more equal than others. Dictionary definitions not accepted. Semantic arguments not accepted. Allegory, metaphor and problematic characterisation or situations not covered. May cause ideological fanaticism. Side effects may include loss of humour, ‘triggering’, excusing bigotry from traditionally oppressed groups and emotional blackmail.

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xlargeI’m sure you’ve seen that picture, above, doing the rounds. Many people seem to think it makes some clever point about gender, SF & Fantasy art and so on. I don’t particularly think that it does. The aim is, apparently, to show the silliness of the first cover by changing the genders around to create some kind of ‘aha’ moment in the viewer but in that task I can’t see that it succeeds. The humour here is not the ‘aha, look how ridiculously women are treated in art’ but rather the ‘haha’ of the pantomime dame or the incompetent transvestite. Its not funny because its a transposition its funny because its a bunch of unfit men in feminine poses. Tellingly, the woman in the supposedly ‘masculine’ pose doesn’t look silly, which rather demonstrates how one-sided this all can be.

The cover on the left is clearly a call-back to James Bond, steeped in reference and film and literary history. An actual reversal has been done in James Bond and wasn’t ridiculous. That was a genuine like for like substitution and, tellingly, it’s a) not funny and b) beloved by many women.

Any point that might be trying to be made is lost because of the stupidity and, yet again, all you end up with is a circle-jerk of the already convinced talking about how clever and meaningful it is. There are discussions to be had on this topic, but cheap and nonsensical stunts like this (and the other cover poses) that fail to take into account gender dimorphism, athleticism, reference etc and fail to do a like-for-like change don’t add anything to it other than being a jumping-off point for discussion.

If I had the skills to do it it might be interesting to do a genuine like-for-like substitution of the same cover, (Tom Daley might make a good swimwear substitute rather than out-of-shape writers) but alas I don’t.

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Murder a dude, get made untouchable. God seems a little conflicted on this one.

Murder or attempted murder is a fucking awesome plot element.

Attempted murder can place a character in jeopardy where the readers’ care about what happens, without necessarily taking the character out of the story. It’s a threat with implications, but not as final as death itself. It forces the character into a life-or-death situation that tests their mettle.

Murder can have interesting knock-on effects on a character’s relationships and their relationships with each other. If a character murders how do the character’s friends and family react? Who do they confide in – if anyone? Can you use this as a springboard to explore legal procedure and policing in your setting? What if nobody cared about who was murdered? What if it’s a frame up?

If you lose someone close to you how hard is it for the character to endure that? What’s the effect of the act on the murderer, the relatives of the victim, the witnesses? Why did the murder happen? Can murder ever be legitimate? Can someone ever deserve it? Who decides that? Do the forces of law and order turn a blind eye?

How does the event change the people involved? Is the murderer remorseful? Does the victim become transformed by their death into a secular saint despite their character flaws? Is there an afterlife in the world of your book? Is the ghost vengeful? Can it do anything more than simply observe?

There’s not a great deal of media in which death doesn’t occur. A body presents an intriguing puzzle for a detective. A hero in an action franchise litters the ground behind him with corpses. Science Fiction and Fantasy often include wars, battles, fights because they’re exciting and get the blood pumping. Who hasn’t imagined having gun triggers on the steering wheel of their car?

There’s more, but I think that amply shows that it needn’t be lazy writing and as story material it goes right the way back to the oldest human myths. It’s a story-making tool that should be available to you as a storyteller, great or small. Whole genres of popular TV show and book hang upon murder. What about Cluedo as a game as well? What about Risk?

So, part two.

Does the existence of murder stories, even as a cheap jab to get someone’s emotions involved, somehow trivialise or normalise killing?

Hopefully by this point most of you are nodding along and going ‘I see what you did there…’ and let’s hope to fuck you actually do. If you reacted that badly to the previous article without thinking, just because it had a hot-button word for you then you’re really no different to someone who calls GTA a ”Murder simulator’.

Grow up.

This is a follow up article to THIS.

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I am pissed off.

Admittedly, this is pretty much a default state for a Grim and it may be being exacerbated by a) having a headache and b) having gotten into a drawn-out and argumentative discussion with apologists for religion.

But I digress.

In this case I’m pissed off at myself.

I’ve written a couple of erotica pieces for submission to anthologies recently (I’m a word whore. I’ll write just about anything and hey, writing porn is good fun and gets the creative juices flowing in more ways than one).

This latest piece kind of ran away with itself and got into fetishes and things that I don’t have. When it comes to sex, and sorry if this is TMI, I prefer to be dominant, in control. The scene in the story played out entirely to the opposite. It just made more sense in the context but it isn’t what I, personally, ‘get off’ on.

I sat there looking at the manuscript and thought: ‘What are people who read this going to think of me?’

What a crock of shit. Why should I really care what anyone else thinks of me? What you write doesn’t necessarily say anything about you. Still,  found myself worried and concerned and playing out the controversies and arguments from the last couple of years over, again, in my head.

There’s this creeping presumption in activist circles that you are what you make. There’s also a presumption that there’s some underlying ‘thing’ going on behind everything, almost like a conspiracy. Where in the ‘good old day’ an accusation of being ‘obscene’ or ‘ungodly’ would do the trick from the conservative side of the equation, these days an accusation of an ‘ism from the opposite side does the same trick.

Poor old Piers Anthony is presumed to be a paedophile and a would-be-rapist because quite a few of his books touch on these themes. I have been presumed to be sexist because some of my RPG works are satirical examinations of sexist presumptions. This keeps flaring up to the point where, potentially, genuine problems are being written off as just another storm in a teacup and ignored.

Why would I be concerned about the interpretation of my own work?

Two reasons, one valid, one not so valid.

1. I’m in the business of communication. If I fail to communicate my ideas then I’ve failed at that purpose. Even if the other person is a dick, stupid or whatever else their problem is, that’s damn hard to get past.

2. People ARE going to judge you on what you’ve produced, even though this is abject bullshit.

I want to write interesting things, I want to transgress. I want to write about things I know little or nothing about because I am interested in them and it prompts me to do research. I want to walk a mile in another man’s (or woman’s, or small furry creature from Alpha Centauri’s) shoe.

I can’t do that if I listen to these people.

I can’t transgress political, social, sexual or other bounds without it being presumed that I am advocating such.

You couldn’t write Lolita in this culture of hate and presumption.

You’re not supposed to write about native peoples, the opposite gender, races other than your own. Yet, at the same time, you’re supposed to be inclusive and welcoming. These are mutually exclusive goals.

I worry and I get pissed off. That’s who and what I am. So I can’t just write all this off and not worry about it at all. All I can do is try to work around and through it and recognise it for the unrealistic orthodoxy that it is.

That, and write what I want.

I am NOT responsible for what people read into it.

There’s a story about Isaac Asimov which seems pertinent…

He once sat in (in the back of a large lecture hall, so semi-anonymously) on a class where the topic of discussion was one of his own works. Afterward, he went up and introduced himself to the teacher, saying that he had found the teacher’s interpretation of the story interesting, though it really wasn’t what he had meant at all. The teacher’s response was “Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you have the slightest idea what it’s about?”

The photo at the start is taken from this article, which asks a very good question. What is our community, what are our standards? This lowest-common-denominator bullshit is killing creativity and free expression on what should be an open internet.

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