Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Offensive material

Over at mystery author JA Konrath's blog, he received an e-mail from a woman complaining about the violence in his writing. Various comments then followed on his blog.

First, I've never read any of Konrath's novels. I have a couple of them, but haven't got around to reading them yet. But since I've not read any of his books, I really have no basis upon which to form an opinion about whether the violence in his books is too much, just right or possibly even pretty weak. But his main character is a HOMICIDE detective, so how the heck could he write a series of mystery novels with such a character and not have some violence?

I also wonder if I'm relatively immune to violence in literature. The only author who has ever made me squeamish was Clive Barker, though Neil Gaiman has come close a couple of times. Stephen King? Nah. I think King's pretty tame when it comes to violence.

But then when I think about movies, I don't really like overt gore in them. I can't stand the "Saw" movies, and not just because they're horrific and gory, but because there doesn't seem to be any REASON for the gore; there's very little plot line, just a bunch of people trapped and being tortured. Also, the one movie that made me almost puke was "8MM," starring Nicolas Cage, which was about snuff films. I do, however, love zombie movies, but not so much the gore in them (I like zombie movies for their social message — and yes, there is one).

Then I think about my own writing. I don't usually (I repeat, usually) set out to intentionally disgust or offend anyone, but I'm sure some of material is likely offensive to someone. After all, stories with swords in them without anyone ever actually swinging a sword are pretty boring.


Howard von Darkmoor said...

Hear you loud and clear, Ty.

Violence I have no problem with. It's the gore and pain and misery and horrible acts that are presented just because that I don't like. I agree with your assessment of the Saw movies - I watched the first one at the recommendation of my brother-in-law (who often shares no taste at all with me; then often does) and was on edge the entire movie for the same reason you state. I won't watch Saw II even though he again recommended it to me.

As far as reading material goes, there are some pretty horrific acts described quite well in print, but again, the purpose for which they are presented greatly influences whether they are found offensive or not. And the simplest counter argument to complaints of readers regarding an author's tendencies is to offer them the chance to not read the author's works. I mean, how hard is that choice to make? Either accept the author's style along with whatever appeals to you to begin with, or read someone else's novels.

---This has got to be one of the most interesting statements I've seen in a long time:
"I like zombie movies for their social message — and yes, there is one" --- I don't watch 'em, I can hazzard a guess, but I'd like to hear your explanation if you wouldn't mind. Thanks!

cyn said...

great post! i was going to write one myself recently about how much aversion i actually have to violence, especially visually. i am a chicken and refuse to watch horror films. but the hack and slash ones are even worse for me. big coincidence as 8mm did me in when i watched it. it was awful. does it mean it was good in that it gave that much impact on us both? i'm not sure. reading wise, i was a king fan, but don't read much horror these days. i have found it hard to write violent scenes myself--not due to the chicken factor--but rather since i don't see or read much of it, i don't think i'm very good at it. boo.