Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Far Do You Go As An Author?

I'll be releasing SECTOR C on the 1st. It isn't spoiling anything to say that much of the plot revolves around a company that sponsors canned hunts (hunts where the animals are tied out or put into an enclosure so the hunters are assured of a kill). The question of whether or not canned hunts are ethical is a small part of the story but not the main focus.

I don't have an agenda with the book other than wanting to present some philosophical questions for people to think about: Just because we can do something, does that mean we should? Put into similar circumstances what would you think, how would you react?

To that end, I worked hard to present balanced arguments to some of the ethical questions raised. I especially wanted my villain to be a rational person with grounded reasons that make sense for the choices he makes. He's countered by a protag who's a veterinarian and who's closer to being the spokesperson for my own ethical beliefs.

People die in the book. Animals who aren't human die. Although I've been told the animal deaths are more emotional than the human ones, I again tried for balance.

The ending doesn't wrap up neatly. It doesn't necessarily leave room for a sequel, but it does leave more questions about how the reader would react in the situation the world is left in.

My intent is not to manipulate anyone's thinking one way or the other. But I'm also concerned that because I start with a hunting scene and have some rational arguments for what the fictional company is doing, readers will believe I've written a pro-hunting treatise. Or that I'm anti-science. Or that I'm something else that I'm not that will somehow taint their attitude toward the book.

I think my subconscious was wrestling with that concern and that's what helped spur the creation of the Confessions of an Animal Junkie blog. I now have a public site that pretty much defines where I stand ethically. A pre-emptive block. One that I didn't necessarily realize I was glad to have until I had it.

So my questions for you are:
  • Do you judge an author by their book or by the speeches they put into their characters' mouths?
  • Are you planning or have you planned any "damage control" activities before releasing one of your books?

5 comments:

Beckah-Rah said...

I care about the writing, for the most part. I like to think I'm an open-minded person (most of the time), so if you can present your case in an eloquent and intelligent manner that's organic to the plot, I don't care what you're writing about, and you might even change my mind.

I only care when things get too preachy or an agenda gets in the way of the writing. For example, Stephen King's "Insomnia." Great book, but I felt like I was being beaten over the head with his abortion views. It was distracting and it took me out of the story.

Vivacia said...

I think I have judged authors by the voice or comments they've given their characters, but it doesn't tend to influence how much I enjoy the story. After all the story comes first and any other political messages are a secondary concern, unless it's too blunt throughout the tale.

I think it often depends on the reader's point of view though. I've read a lot of SF and Fantasy by feminists and I loved them, but a big part of that was because it resonated with my own opinions at the time. But as I got older and some of my opinions changed, I saw their works differently. I still love them, and am grateful for the ideas they gave me, but I don't necessarily agree with the politics.

Authors inevitably put a lot of themselves on the page and I think it's important that they stand up for what they believe in, while not bashing the reader over the head with it on every page. And even a book with a 'bad' message can still entertain. Twilight for example; the message is awful but as a story it's reasonably entertaining (imo).

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm a vegetarian pacifist. I read military space opera with people getting blown to bits but it's the strong female MCs that draw me in. It's the emotions that are created on the page that really call to me. And yet, these books are all about war. It's the main theme that runs through them.

To make your villain three dimensional, to give him solid reasons for being who he is, to make him and his actions grey - awesome job.

People hunt. Sometimes for food and sometimes for sport. Too many times it's for sport as far as I'm concerned, but there's no law against it. There's no law against feeding the deer beneath your deer stand all year long and then shooting them at that same place the very day hunting season opens.

I, however, fail to see the "sport" in that. The same is true for canned hunts. People are trying to pass laws against them, but they have not been successful yet. There is enough interest (and money) to keep them going. There may also be enough ignorance that they happen at all.

We're talking about one person's values versus another's. And isn't that what life is all about?

Do you think Suzanne Collins advocates for televised games where children kill children? Or that you should learn to kill things - both animals and people - with snares and bows? Her MC is a killer and so are a lot of the secondary characters.

Whirlochre said...

People forget that fiction is fiction.

That's why actors who play serial philanderers get attacked in bars.

If my novel ever makes it to publication I'm looking forward to being hung, drawn and quartered for some of the things my characters say and do.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Thank you for your views, everyone!

@Becky: I agree with the over-agenda-izing angle. Even if I agree with the view, it does get wearisome, doesn't it?

@Vivacia: I think you're right about how we culturally often move on from a worldview. That you can still appreciate that view as important for its time is a mark, I believe, of an open, educated mind.

@Sarah: What you say makes perfect sense to *me* and I know as authors we only should have to cater to a targeted audience. Interestingly, I saw on a discussion forum today where one author said her beta reader took offense that the MC was an atheist and proceeded to tell the author that she was going to hell. Are those people outliers? I'd like to believe so, but sometimes I'm not so sure.

@Whirl: Where does the line form?!