1. Mark Carver says:

    One reason why I think violence is tolerated in fiction in general is because it is a vice we can “enjoy” while in reality it remains far from our real lives. If I wanted to, I could indulge in foul language, sexual transgressions, or other moral failings with ease, but gun-slinging slaughter is way outside my realm of experience. It allows the reader to say “yeah, that’s awful, but I’d never do that,” and they’d probably be right. My books are often wildly violent and while I don’t want readers to revel in the bloodshed, I don’t feel guilty about writing them because those are the stories I feel compelled to tell. All stories are about struggles, and violence is a strong manifestation of those struggles, which, for better or worse, are really interesting to read about.

  2. Martin LaBar says:

    Thanks for saying that.

  3. Martin LaBar says:

    Thanks to Mr. Burnett for the re-do of the web site. However, there are some problems with the Comment apparatus. I’m using the latest version of Firefox for Windows.

    1) The Comment apparatus says “Required fields are marked *,” but there aren’t any asterisks.

    2) The fields aren’t labeled. I didn’t know what was required, or in which field, until I made a mistake, and was told that I had not entered an e-mail address in the second field.

    3) Any letters entered seem to be converted to capitals. That does interesting things to some of our names — mine is LaBar — and may possibly also make some e-mail and web site addresses incorrect.

  4. Martin LaBar says:

    Whoops — lthough the entry box has me as MARTIN LABAR, somehow when my comments are published, I’m Martin LaBar, which is correct. Interesting.

    I wonder what would happen if, say, LeBron James commented?

  5. Martin LaBar says:

    Whoops — although the entry box has me as MARTIN LABAR, somehow when my comments are published, I’m Martin LaBar, which is correct. Interesting.

    I wonder what would happen if, say, LeBron James commented?

  6. J. S. Bailey says:

    I completely agree with this post. A good story needs to have conflict. Not every story will need violence as a form of conflict, but certain stories absolutely require it. (Can you imagine how much less impact the Harry Potter series would have had, for example, if Rowling had eschewed violence?)

  7. dmdutcher says:

    I think it’s possible to have non-violent SF, and it be good, because SF and even fantasy can be about the idea as much as the plot. It’s just that most Christian spec fic tends to be about melodrama than ideas. Actually much of modern secular spec fic is the same way, but I’ve rarely seen any Christian book tackle speculation about the future apart from dystopian worlds at all.



    • David, what stories are you thinking about that are melodramatic? I’m not aware of that as a problem in Christian speculative fiction.

      I’ll also ask this: if a fantasy trope is to show good versus evil, how does one do that without violence?  I don’t quite know what you mean when you say speculative fiction can be “about the idea as much as the plot.”

      I’m afraid I expect a good plot, no matter what the genre. (It’s one reason I have a very short attention span for “literary fiction” if the author doesn’t include an actual story).

      Re. tackling the future, have you read Katy Tyer? Chris Walley? John Otte’s Numb? I’d be surprised if there aren’t others. It’s not my genre, but those came off the top of my head.


  8. Toi Thomas says:

    Not trying to stir the pot here, but I fear I may. If so much violence is needed to enhance the conflict in many of these stories, then why is profanity looked down on. I’m not advocating the use of profanity, and don’t use it myself, but I stand by my question. In reality, when there’s a great deal of violence happening, there’s usually quite of bit of profanity being used to talk about or recount it. If all the good guys are watching their language, wouldn’t it enhance the intensity of the villain if he “talked like a sailor”? I get that this is all fiction, but shouldn’t some of it seem realistic? I often worry that my villains don’t come off quite as menacing as I’d like, because they’re too clean.

  9. Toi, I think I addressed your comment, at least in part, in the article. This, of course, is only my opinion. I’m not speaking for those who actually make the decisions. Here’s the pertinent paragraph:

    I’ve answered those criticisms from my own personal perspective. Language goes straight into my mind and sexually explicit scenes can be titillating, for men or women, or both. On the other hand, violence on screen doesn’t incite in me the desire to perpetrate violence. It doesn’t induce me to hate.

    As a writer, I think we can find ways of making the language of our bad guys seem realistic. I mean, we are writing speculative literature. So why not invent words or if there’s another language, give those who speak that language swear words. The point is, what is offensive to them doesn’t have to be offensive to our readers, I don’t think.

    Language is fluid. What once offended the culture is today rather commonplace, largely because someone decided they wanted to be offensive to get attention. So others copied them and now “bad words” are no longer so bad. And ones that used to be impolite are now so offensive the media will only refer to the word by its initial, if that.

    In light of that, using “bad language” is actually a way to date a work of fiction much the way using general slang terms does.

    I tend to think writers who want to do the best job possible can find ways to make the antagonist and his minions sound as evil as you want without offending readers (or make them roll their eyes because the bad guys sound like kindergarten teachers.)

    That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. 😉


  10. Toi Thomas says:

    Thanks Becky for your further insight into my question. I guess it all boils down to social programming and insecurity. I feel sometimes I don’t appeal to others with my tales of fantasy, but I guess that’s the point. It’s not for everyone. I don’t really think profanity is necessary to make a villain more believable, but I sometimes wonder about the villains people see in movies and on TV and wonder if they are all being compared against one another.

What do you think?