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August 27th, 2011

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02:42 pm - My Hard Limits on Fiction
Thinking more about my previous post, I considered what sorts of things I'm willing and not willing to read that deal with similar issues. My immediate reaction to any story set someplace with something like Southern style race-based slavery, women being treated as chattel (especially if this includes both rape and female children being married off to adults), or large-scale involuntary human sacrifice, then it's clear to me that the culture is utterly villainous, and I want the book to focus on that fact.

My preferred story in such a setting is one where the protagonist or protagonists are primarily from the oppressed group and spend the story either escaping from or reforming the society. Having the protagonists help some more benevolent (or at least non-heinous) society conquer the villainous society also works. I'm also willing to read a book where the book focuses mostly on the oppressed group and how one or a few individuals find ways to live as best they can in this hideous society. However, what I am not ever willing to read is a story set in such a society, where these various sorts of oppressions and nastiness are simply a part of the society and the story mostly focuses on other issues. Of course, this means that I largely avoid historical fiction, because one of the unpleasant truths of a careful study of history is exactly how hideous most pre-20th century societies actually were.

Also, I universally regard a significant focus on exactly how horrific the members of a villainous culture are as clumsy and bad storytelling – if I'm reading extensive of scenes of rape, murder followed by cannibalism, or similar horrors to set up the villains as richly deserving their terrible fate, I won't read the book, and if I see these sort of gratuitous horrors without the villains meeting a horrible fate, then I'm likely to never read another story by that author.

While much of what I read are books where large-scale hideous oppression is largely not present, I am more than happy to read books with various sorts of nastiness in them. I love P.C. Hodgell's Rathillien series, and while the Kencryrath Highborn are a fairly misogynistic group, the Kendar are largely not, and this misogyny and how various female Highborn deal with it is also something that is extensively addressed in the books. Similarly, I read quite a lot by Charles Stross, and both loved and was very impressed by his recent novel Rule 34, which had a truly hideous villain (a casually murderous sociopath), but the book did not focus too much on that character's nastiness, unlike Stross' earlier novel Iron Sunrise, which I ceased reading because I found the villains far too gratuitously villainous. In short, I think gritty brutality used simply to increase the story's so-called "realism" (which is sadly one of the hallmarks of much early 21st century anglo-american genre fiction) to be both repugnant and completely uninteresting. If I see a hideous society (or for that matter, individual characters engaged in hideous acts) in fiction, I want that hideousness to be actively addressed, not merely accepted.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
Stuff I would not read:

Anything promoting racism, homophobia, slavery, child porn, etc. as virtues.
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
Stuff I won't read:

Anything with the attitude that There Are Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, because I am really, really sick of that ideology, disagree vehemently, and am just tired of stories using it to provide a blanket anti-intellectual / anti-scientific / anti-transhumanist / anti-development of any kind excuse why things "should" be a certain way.

Other than that, I'm pretty much open.
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
*nods* That annoying trope is also on my to avoid list.

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