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Greetings, Bearers!

I happened to get a snow day today (Meaning I get to sit at home and attempt to write while my children watch endless reruns of Phineas and Ferb and my wife (also a teacher… with a snow day) contemplates ways to be productive while at home (Yeah… good luck with that…).  Anyway, while I was surfing the web this morning (a guilty pleasure which I don’t always get to do), I ran across THIS POST from a fellow at the Kindleboard Writers’ Cafe concerning our responsibility as writers with regard to our audience and whether or not we consider that they may act upon what we write.  He cited Stephen King (the man who essentially made me want to be a writer, whom I still hold in very high regard even though I don’t like a good deal of his politics) and his pulling of the book Rage.  I replied with the below response.  Keep in mind that, while I have some disagreement with King, I nevertheless still admire him, still love his work, and would still point to the man as a must-read for any aspiring author.

Read and enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think!

And perhaps, just perhaps, I might get a page or two done today! 😀  (Snow days aren’t always everything they’re cracked up to be. Trust me!)

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

My disagreement with King about his gun control stance aside for the moment, I think that’s something for people to evaluate for themselves.

Having said that, let me say this: one of the things we need to consider when writing a book that depicts a particular type of conceivably real evil (going on a shooting spree or cheating on one’s spouse, for example) is how that evil is portrayed.  When we as writers glorify the evil act in a manner that seems to bring reward to the evildoer, then we should reconsider how we are portraying evil.  Especially when it comes to writing books intended for younger people;they can be and are affected by the media to which they subject themselves, even if that affectation is only a slight nudge here and there.  What they take in affects their worldview in all senses: their outlook on violence, sexuality, social interaction, etc., all of it is somewhat affected.

When I write about evil, I want it to really be evil and in the end to be as ugly, horrific, and repulsing as possible, even if the story necessitates a sort of allure to that evil at the outset.  Thus, when I write about a marital affair, I write about it with bad consequences soon to follow, because I believe marital affairs are wrong on several levels (unlike Mr. King, who more than once has written about marital affairs in his fiction and has made the violated party of the affair turn into the “bad guy” at times, such as in his works Salem’s Lot, his short story “The Ledge,” and one of the vignettes in the movie Creepshow (the one with Ted Danson)).  When I write about somebody undertaking unjust violence, regardless of the weapon used, I’m not going to make that person look like a hero, nor will I turn him (or maybe her) into a “victim” of circumstances.  Yes, people are fallen, are sinners, and will never be Clocwork Orange in their morals (“Clockwork Orange” meaning perfectly good or perfectly evil in all aspects), but that does not mean I glorify or excuse the bad man for bad actions. 

Regarding Stephen King’s decision to pull his book RAGE, I haven’t read it, so I can’t make any good or bad judgment about it.  And I appreciate the fact that he’s putting principle over commerce in pulling his book; that’s very admirable.  To be honest, I’m not sure why a parent would allow a child to read something like Stephen King, as the man is definitely NOT a young adult writer. I would not allow my children to read King, not because I think they would act on something he put down, but because they’re not mature enough to handle fiction like his.  

But at the same time, I don’t blame Stephen King for anything done by anybody who says they picked an idea up from his book concerning a heinous act.  To do so is to absolve people from responsibility for their personal actions, and essentially allow them to get away with any wicked act under the guise of “the devil (or fill in whatever name you want here) made me do it.”  We saw this with people blaming Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest for the deaths of teenagers.  We saw this with a woman who spilled hot coffee in her lap and suing McDonalds for what essentially amounted to her not taking care of her drink the right way.  We saw this with people suing tobacco companies and gun manufacturers instead of laying the blame at the feet of people who misused those products.  We’re very quickly turning into a society with Freud’s outlook on life: Everything bad I do is laid at the feet of anybody and everybody except for me.  

Is Stephen King worried that somebody reading THE SHINING is going to go to a hotel and start chopping down doors?  Is he afraid that somebody reading 1408 is going to set himself on fire in order to snap out of a trance because he believes an unknown entity is shaping the reality about him?  Is he afraid that somebody who has read “Lunch at the Gotham” is going to start running around with a knife and start going “Eeeee!”?  Is he worried that somebody reading “Nona” is going to imagine a woman telling them how to harm other people? Or how about somebody reading “Strawberry Spring?”, “Cain Rose up?”, or “Morning Deliveries”?  Those all portray very realistic methods of killing other people, yet I don’t see him worried about somebody taking those ideas and running with them.  And if somebody decided to fill a milk jug with cyanide or a poisonous spider, then turn around and say he/she got the idea from King, I would not turn around, point at the author, the man who basically made me (and I’m sure some of you here) want to start writing, and say to him “YOU DID THIS!!!”  

I get that, based upon his political position, King is going to have a certain view on guns-one that I sharply take issue with him on-and while I’m not going to go so far as to label him a hypocrite, I will say this: there are plenty of other ways he details killing in his books which have nothing to do with firearms, and are just as plausible for somebody to undertake if they had the gumption and desire to do so.  Just because it’s not done with a gun doesn’t make it any less of a violent act.

So I’ll summarize with this to end it: write, and write well.   People will make their own decisions, and are responsible for their own actions; you cannot control others.  Just make sure you consider how you portray evil in your book.  And remember that evil comes in more forms than just the ones our pop culture deems as such.

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