A friend of mine lost his mother last Friday. Neither sudden nor unexpected, her death closes a door for his family on over a year’s worth of fighting–agonizing treatments, of dreams and failed hopes, and personal discovery for all of them. I doubt I can truly understand how any of them feel (though as a writer, I may try), and yet, maybe because I’m a writer, I find myself inspired as much as saddened by death and discussions of mortality.
My friend and his family are very religious. I’m agnostic and a-theistic (spelling intentional)–even somewhat pantheistic–mostly unsure. Knowing how freely I create life and death, joy and sorrow in my writing, and seeing how most major religions attribute these same human skills to their chosen deities only encouraged the budding skeptic my father tried to create of me. The majority of recorded gods and goddesses are far too human in their behavior for my own comfort. And the idea that we humans are so similar because we were created in the image of these beings provides little more consolation. But I suspect I’m not the only one, even among skeptics and non-believers, who find themselves thinking about life more when someone we know dies.
Writers can seem to approach death in a very cavalier manner. In genre upon genre, what pulls the reader inside the bookjacket is body count, and what stops the reader turning pages is the author’s well-crafted description of the sun shining through the skyscrapers (except for the bright few who paid attention the page before and knew that it couldn’t be the sun because it was past noon, and that fiery glow could only be an asteroid crashing through the Earth’s atmosphere, bringing with it devastation and more…death).
|Kali in traditional pose|
Writers are constantly creating and destroying worlds. We’re gods (and goddesses) and murderers too. And we do it because we’ve been told to by those people that buy our work…which of course makes those readers gods over us (and the publishing houses who decide what is going to be available for those readers, gods over them…but I digress). There is even historic precedent for this. In the pantheons of some faiths, there are gods whose sole purpose is to record things for the pleasure of the lord of gods. One instance I can think of is the Armenian god called Tir (not to be confused with the Nordic God of the same name). I’m sure there are others.
The effect fiction can have on people is worth considering. Fans have spent years of their lives on a particular author’s fancy, driving that passion far beyond the life it might have had were the author left to his or her devices. Be it the way Star Trek has made a few generations of young people into various incarnations of Sheldon Cooper and worse (just kidding, since I love Star Trek…TOS mostly, but I found Enterprise extremely enjoyable and even forgave Paramount for some of what they did to Babylon 5 with Deep Space Nine), authors make their thoughts into real creations for others to lives, breathe and experience.
In my last post, I touched on the topic of the multiple worlds of revisions–the worlds of “what if”. Now I have a What If to consider.
What if we really did create worlds? What if each thought, digression and, creation of a person had the chance to create a whole new reality, populated by living creatures, sentient beings or all shapes and kinds? I’m not suggesting that all our random thoughts spin off into alternate realities, but (in the same manner that a string of yarn is not a piece of clothing, but can be made into one when given due attention and work) what if some do become real worlds with us as their creators?
The concept isn’t that far from reality as some might think. Given that we could have functional AIs running about within a century or two and the propensity we already have for creating artificial worlds as witness by games such as Sim City… It’s just a matter of some time. (Heck, it’s just a matter of some time before we create cells that have a chance of mutating and evolving on their own from ordinary organic molecules.) Just give us another century or two and the whole human race will have earned the title of deity. It boggles my mind when I think of the moral implications of god-hood, and that’s often just in my own fiction.
Like the song “Shapes in Shadow” sung by Heather Alexander (sorry, it’s only available as far as I know in copies of the original Bayfilk cassettes), I “create worlds out or words alone”, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I know these characters (I’ve have people in Critters tell me that I was the more horrible person in the world for not paying more attention to certain characters even), I know their family members, their dreams, their fears, even why they didn’t bother eating their whole breakfast this morning (except of course, ‘Listii… he’s like the anti-Mikey; “he’ll eat anything”). And you know what I do regularly? I put these people, who, through no fault of their own, were “born” into my thoughts and my scribblings and torment them with impunity. It’s not that I don’t like my characters. I do. I love them (well, maybe not all of them…some are down-right obnoxious when I think about it). But, yeah, if it makes the story better, I’ll have one’s throat sliced on the battlefield (or the trysting nest) in a heartbeat. At least if it advances the story and “feels right”.
How’s that for morality?
In my defense, I prefer to write scenes where my characters have happy experiences. It might even be one of my draws to writing erotica, given how delightful physical pleasure can be so gratifying and euphoric. Even then, it’s not all bunnies and light, as one can see from this piece of erotica, Returning Affections. If you haven’t read it, please do, and let me know what you think. I’m always interested in feedback.