Dealing with Difficult Themes in #Fiction

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In writing science fiction, two areas of uncertainty arise before the start. Assuming it’s not Space Opera, the first barrier is the large number of readers who believe all sci-fi involves space wars, forgetting that at least two of the most brilliant works of literature were also science fiction: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984. The second barrier relates to the themes futurist writers must deal with in their stories.

By setting a story at some stage in the future, as opposed to most fiction, which is set in the past, however recent, the need to guess about developments in so many different areas can’t be avoided. I use the word ‘guess’ advisedly. But I’ll decorate it with ‘educated’, well-researched’, and ‘logical’. The writer of science fiction must research thoroughly, and understand the science involved at least well enough to comprehend the possibilities.

In my latest work, due to be published by Fantastic Books Publishing in October of this year, I tackle some themes that’ll be seen as contentious by many, ill-advised by some, and downright provocative by others. That’s fine. I feature contentious issues in most of my writing. It’s not that I’m argumentative, but wide reading and an interest in many topics, gives me a view of the world and its direction at odds with those of most leaders in commerce, industry, religion, and politics.

So, the themes that drive my latest piece of fiction, set in the near future of ten years hence, are those of the impending climate emergency, the probable evolution of Covid 19 into something more deadly, and, inevitably for me, the role of religion in perpetuating myth and legend as fact and, in the process, exacerbating many social and global problems. I’m aware many potential readers will object to my views on these issues. But I’ve always written to reflect the world as I see it, using story and characters to examine these topics in as balanced a way as possible for an individual. We all have blind spots, favourites, biases, prejudices, areas of ignorance, fixations. How conscious we are of these elements in our own personality defines the quality of our arguments as well as where we place ideas within the spectrum of truth, through probability, possibility, superstition, and fairy tale to the extreme of utter nonsense.

If a writer is serious about any issue, it follows the writing must be an honest reflection of the author’s understanding of the reality of that problem. Many writers concentrate more on commercial value of their output and overwhelm concern for truth with their worship of the sacred dollar. I’ve never written to make money. I want people to read my work, but I won’t betray the essence of any message I want to express by diluting it to curry favour with some readers. I tell it like it is and remain aware such doggedness will inevitably alienate some potential readers. For me, truth matters. Of course, I’m a storyteller, so I use drama, emotion, adventure, humour, and tension as I set my players within the environment chosen to portray those ideas.

So, the new novel will raise the hackles of some, cause others to scream expletives, make some hurl the book, or their e-Reader, across the room in frustration, and allow the rational, caring and empathetic reader to nod in agreement. Which will be you?

6 thoughts on “Dealing with Difficult Themes in #Fiction

  1. You have to tell it as you see it, Stuart. Too much of our society (and I think maybe yours too) is driven by what others may or may not accept. Our politicians are a prime (and irritating) example. Vaccines, for instance. Governments need to stop treading on the rights of the vaccinated in order to pander to the unvaccinated. Canada has a very high vaccination rate (at this stage, the highest in the world), but we’re being curtailed by a small minority who are refusing, and in the process endangering everyone’s health through the possibility of a mutation that defeats the vaccines. Maddening.

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    1. Thanks, Lynette. You’re right. There’s a growing trend, worldwide, to cater to the minority, often at the expense of the majority. It’s as though ‘normal’ has taken a back seat and everyone wants to be part of some ‘special’ group. The reality is, of course, that we are all to some degree ‘normal’ and to some degree ‘special’. But politicians in particular, constantly under the influences of lobbyists, commerce, and personal greed and ambition, are those landed with the impossible task of balancing the perceived needs of the many ‘few’ against those of all the rest. To a large extent it is their own doing, as most political systems, based as they are on the idiotic and selfish rules of capitalism, have deprived ordinary people of a sensible education while, at the same time, allowing them the means to express themselves without restraint on social media. The results of this toxic mix are now becoming daily more evident. If the world had developed true democracy, the ruling elite would never have gained their almost unassailable hold on power, and we would have a world where justice, sustainability and the common good were the qualities that guided opinion and action.
      As for the antivaxers, in common with all conspiracy groups that stand against government policy, they have a partial excuse for their ignorance; politicians are growing ever more deceitful and corrupt, so it is hardly surprising that people do not trust them or their decisions.

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      1. Agreed. The antivaxers here seem to be in some sort of weird group delusion with a Covid denier who ran for the federal conservative leadership but was booted out of caucus months ago for his very strange pronouncements (sort of Trump-like but actually worse). What a mess. And now there’s China’s aggression against Taiwan brewing …

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        1. Ah, the Trump-like figures gain traction by pandering to the lowest common denominator, aware that there is a large group of people for whom the very idea of independent thought is anathema. It’s how religion gains a foothold, too. They play on the genuine fears of the uneducated, foolish, or just mentally lazy and insinuate their message as a means of gaining power, which they then abuse.

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