Surely you're familiar with the concept of thew third rail? that's the one that carries a lethal charge on subway rails. Hit that puppy and you'r4 cooked.
Applied in this case it means what subjects are too dangerous for you, the author to touch? Are there any? Do you touch them anyways?
That's going to differ for everyone but trust me on this, the third rail is a very dangerous rail. It might seem innocent as it lies there doing nothing but humming softly, but it's a damned killer.
Let's look at a recent incident on social media, shall we?
A writer posted that he was fairly certain he wrote dark fantasy, but several people had disagreed with him. To find an answer from a group that follows dark fantasy fairly well, he gave a brief synopsis, explaining that several of the characters at the beginning are enslaved. degraded, forced to remain naked at all times and some are raped.
Now, kids, what is YOUR first reaction to those words? In a few cases the first reaction was outrage, a promise to never read the author and disgust that said author would use child/adolescent rape as a method of tittilating the readers. All of which would be perfectly understandable if the author had posted a scene from the book which, in fact, used the violent rape of minors as a method of generating arousal in the readers. Which might actually have be4en the plan. But the responses were to a sentence that mentioned that characters are forced to be naked and some of them are raped.
It's a completely knee-jerk reaction to a scene that was mentioned, but never posted. Another response was simply that the reader was sick to death of rape scenes in fantasy novels being justified by the historical accuracy of what likely happened in the past and would no read any novels that dealt with the subject matter.
Again, I can understand that. The need to mention it in that post is a personal choice. For me, I don't much like dealing with rape in books. The closest I've come in years was one female character killing the four men who thought she would be easily attacked. That said, sadly, there is a historical precedent for these mattes and a lot of fantasy authors like to add a certain level of reality to their fantasy.
That's one example. Here's another: HBO is coming out with a new series by the same folks who produced GAME OF THRONES. The series is called CONFEDERATE and the premise is an alternate history where the south won the Civil War and how different the world might look. Judging by the one trailer I saw it looks like a second civil war is on the buildup, but that's purely conjecture on my part.
I have seen several people posting that this show needs to not be made.that it will be nothing but an excuse to show rape scenes against African American women and that it will glorify slavery and degrade African Americans as much as possible, despite that fact that at least two of the screenwriters are, in fact, African American. Again, there have been no previous and to my knowledge there has only been one teaser trailer revealed so far. The articles I've read protesting the notion seem sound enough, but the assumption, automatic in this case, is that the show will be all about glorifying white supremacy.
That's like saying GAME OF THRONES glorifies necromancy and the genocide of giants without ever having seen an episode. Unless the author of the article in question has seen the show (and no claim was made to have seen the show or a script or anything else) I don't understand the assumptions being made.
Rest assured, if I wrote a story in which Hitler had won WWII I would not be writing a tale in which the white lifestyle was the best and condemning all others as fools. I'd be showing how demented and broken the Third Reich was at the end and telling stories of the underground intending to end the regime.
There are endless variations of this theme. Endless groups who will gleefully shoot down anything that is different or steps on their flavor of the month. "How DARE you write about a 40 year old man and his 18year old lover?" First, Ew. Second, if I decided to write about it i would. I would also aim for realism in the piece.
Look, forget the commercial aspects for a second. I write the stories I want to read. I am unabashedly glad to write about the weird and the wonky. IO have no despite at all to write about the love between a man and his mule, but if I did decide to write about it, I can promise you there would be no sex scenes revolving around the issue. That's my personal taste.
But I write HORROR, and I have written some rather dark stuff in my time that involved torture, rape and violence against children. All of those scenes took place "off screen," because that's my preference. Horror is all about the taboo. I am not all about the gross out. If a writer is, if you are, more power to you, but don't expect me to join in on that particular "fun."
Write what you want to write, but understand that there are often consequences to your actions. Sometimes those consequences come in the form of publishers or distributors banning you.
In one case, while writing for White Wolf's "Book of the Wyrm," I added several scenes in which trinket were designed that could corrupt small children. One distributor refused to carry the book because of the scenes I'd written. Personally, I took it as a compliment.
Being banned did not hurt my sales that month, but sometimes that changes.
The only sort of censorship I firmly believe in is self censorship. There are plenty of subjects I simply will not write about, but that's up to the individual.
My latest sale is mentioned below. It is very violent. I am nod the least bit upset about that fact. Your mileage may vary.
I wrote PULPED for this anthology:
Monday, August 7, 2017
Third rails in fiction
I write fiction, a little of everything and a lot of horror. I've written novels, comic books, roleplaying game supplements, short stories, novellas and oodles of essays on whatever strikes my fancy. That might change depending on my mood and the publishing industry. Things are getting stranger and stranger in the wonderful world of publishing and that means I get to have fun sorting through the chaos (with all the other writer-types). I have a website. This isn't it. This is where you can likely expect me to talk about upcoming projects and occasionally expect a rant or two. Not too many rants. Those take a lot of energy. In addition to writing I work as a barista, because I still haven't decided to quit my day job. Opinions are always welcome.