1. Literaturelady says:

    Wow, great topic, Becky.  Your posts are always insightful and make us think hard (and that’s a good thing!).
    I guess my answer would be: each genre has its place in telling hard truths.  Non-fiction isn’t inferior to speculative fiction or vice versa.  In non-fiction, the author is usually clear about his topic and opinion, and chances of misinterpretation are probably lower!  Speculative fiction, on the other hand, can act as a mirror; sometimes things are more vivid when reflected back instead of seen in front.
    Maybe I’m living in a box, but I haven’t read many recent publications (although I’m very interested in The Enclave).  It’s Lord of the Rings that comes to mind here, addressing a topic for our culture: specifically, the characters’ reaction to evil.  I get the idea American society denies the truth of total depravity (the individual is good, but society* corrupts; he probably had a difficult childhood and that’s why he shot those people; and excuses like that).  But the LotR characters never excuse evil (“Wormtongue was abused by his boss!”) or try to reason with evil (“Do we really need to fight Sauron?  Maybe if we each give a little, we can work something out.”).  No, the heroes fight evil head on and call it what it is, furthermore.
    Also, I don’t recall the heroes excusing their struggles against sin (“What are you talking about, Sam; I haven’t succumbed to the Ring!   So what if it’s on my finger?”).  And those who deny their failings as sin either look stupid (Legolas and Gimli with their early prejudice) or fall to greater temptation (Boromir) or to a nasty death (Denethor).
    I could go on…but that’s what popped into my mind.
    Great post, Becky!
    * made, incidentally, of individuals.

    • Great comment, LL. I think you’ve done an excellent job revealing the ways in which LotR addresses Western culture’s issues, even though they probably weren’t more than a gleam in the eye of atheistic philosophers when Tolkien wrote the books. Now if we can do the same today re. the newer issues that challenge the old ethics.


  2. Galadriel says:

    Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, has a creepy and unsettling premise of teenagers being unwound for parts– perhaps a bit over-the-top for some people,  but it really makes one wonder about organ transplants and what a “culture of life” would really be.

  3. Galadriel, I haven’t heard of Unwind before. It does sound a bit creepy, but it reminds me of the premise of one of my writing partner’s stories. What people won’t do to keep living. And yes, it does seem to challenge the idea that there are no exceptions to the practical working out of the “culture of life.”

    Merrie Destefano’s first novel (Afterlife, I think) flipped life/death issues on their head. Man had learned how to extend life without end, but Christians (she didn’t call them that in the book) advocated for death (no going to heaven if you don’t die). Well, actually they advocated to be “one lifers.”

    Actually Jill Williamson’s new book Captives suggests that the people in the Safe Lands have also learned how to renew life, but only up to nine times. This aspect doesn’t come out as a major factor in this first book, but I think the story is set up to make it an issue in future books in the series.

    I think writing science fiction or futuristic fantasy makes it a little easier to play with these ethical issues, at least when it comes to the things that may come up because of the advancement of science and technology. I suppose political, social, religious issues can be addressed in any type of speculative novel.


What do you think?