Violence in Fiction

The intention of this post is not actually  about raising the profile of  my trilogy nor the last part of it; the project and its characters are merely the anchors for some thoughts on the use of Violence. Bear in mind this is written from a Fantasy perspective so if you are a reader/writer of other genres you may feel some of the points need tweaking. Feel free.

Fantasy, particularly ‘Heroic/Epic rely on large swathes of violence as there will be Wars and there will be Battles, which considering Human History has to be a given. War is part of us whether we like it or not. Somewhere along the line in response to the Opposition or Villains of the narrative the central character(s) will take up arms, several times in fact maybe leading up to one climatic battle, when all may be resolved or some part left unsettled for future tales in a series. Once upon a time in much popular fiction there was a simple sort of tale when Good vs Evil had Evil defeated and that was that, which was about as Fantasy as you can get! Folklore and Legends actually produce a more realistic overview with morally ambiguous central characters and tragic endings. These days there are many Fantasy series rather than stand alones, either one theme such as Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn

Mistborn

Or very complex interactions in which very few nice folk ever appear (and if they do, they don’t live long)

Game of Thrones

All are replete with unavoidable violence, the authors’ mirroring Human history and maybe their views on society in general. Joe Abercrombie being particularly adept at tales dealing with the very gritty, dirty end of violence in which sometimes ‘Fantasy’ hardly rears its head. Take for instance.

Best served cold

Being intentionally set in a land similar to 16th century Italy and nary  a rune or magic staff in sight- nor anyone you would wish to invite over for an evening. The central character (on the cover there) is not a nice person at all, but there again she does not have an idyllic back story.

As with many forms of fiction Fantasy is replete with its own set of genres and sub-genres and in the overwhelming number of works there will be violence of some sort, which since we are dealing with in some form either ambition and/or malignant forces, to repeat is bound to happen. How is this dealt with has many options and variations, from Good eventually triumphing to the very nihilistic someone walking off into the sunset in a devastated landscape, in which evil lurks under a rock (beloved of the writers of comic books/graphic novels and horror movies)- why people think the latter is entertainment is beyond me there are plenty of ‘live’ examples in the world we live in.

Anyway since the post has gradually, as it must, drift into my opinions of the subject this is where I use my own characters to ‘sound off’ (Actually I am fairly certain they do exist from in another part of the Universe and probably in another segment of Time, thus  they have a great influence on my own views)

Heroic Fantasy loves kingdoms and empires which since the setting is usually based in semi-classical or Middle Ages to Renaissance  settings is only natural. History indicates both could be quite robust in carrying on but were prone to their own shares of less than dynamic rulers who were propped up by systems or cliques of self-interest. Thus The Oakhostian. As an empire it is composed of princedoms, city-states and other set-ups. The current dynasty started off with one  fellow who seized power by being physically ruthless against other nobles and the the emperor, albeit in a surgical way, so no rampaging. His son was more inclined to secret police and espionage. Neither bothered the mass of the population as the mass of the population didn’t bother them and both sides saw that as fine. The third in line was more easy-going, affable, with a gift of selling himself and his ideas, and knowing which side to play and when, he also appreciated women a lot and died when as gamboling about with his latest squeeze he fell into a fish pond, knocked his head on an ornamental statue  and drowned. The fourth in line is too young for the job, nervous and doesn’t make decisions. There are of course vested interests big and small. What I did want to create was something far from perfect. An environment  in which an great deal of compromise, morally elastic actions and pragmatic activity went on, most folk just wanting to keep the whole thing going and get by as best they could, because there was always the danger of the Unknown breaking out (Either as demonic forces or the catastrophic ill-use of a nascent power known by various names, commonly Ethereal of Stommigheid)  Thus in some respects mirroring post WWII Europe in the latter half of the 20th Century.  In this empire Violence being contained in the local law and order problems, the spats between princes, princes and their own nobility and the occasional uprising by one group or another. These can be ugly, but since they occur ‘somewhere else’ most folk don’t worry about it. Which I feel is sadly ‘business as usual’ and fairly realistic.

Like most Fantasy series these days, you’ve got to be ready to produce something of maybe 200,000+ words per volume and have a whole world peopled by an entire cast. In fact this is half the fun of it. Since this is not my own web-site for dedicated readers in their thousands (ahhh, per chance to dream). I will only concentrate on how the three central characters individual approaches the question of violence.

In alphabetical order:

Arketre Beritt: From somewhere which might be similar to parts of the Southern USA. Brought up traditionally rural, in an attempt to find a direction joined The Devoteds (like Nuns) however with a tendency to be disruptive and a girl-chaser, by a long standing   agreement was sent to the LifeGuard. This was originally supposed to be the Imperial Guard but is now a state within a state. Initially she was trained as a medician (think medic).  To begin with she appears the nice, little fair headed, eager helper in a file (unit) but as the saga continues and she is exposed to persistent violence she reveals a more deadly side to her nature, killing without compunction, partly as she sees her duty but also in her own urge to deliver retribution. This is of concern to folk she is close to, lest they lose her to a pathway into nothing but violence. Her close friend Trelli is most adept at warning her and under her influence Arketre will display her healing skills and a rough diplomacy. She is something of one type of ever present soldier, conflicted between duty, rage and a softer side. Being in a steady relationship with Karlyn supplies another anchor. She is at her most stable with Karlyn and Trelli otherwise she is a person of War, although looking for a way out at any cost as long as Karlyn and Trelli are not harmed.

Karlyn: Originally with no memory of her past, only her recent life of being washed ashore from a ship. She lived in a city before venturing out on her own mission to strike down evil by burning down places at random. She, has an affinity with the inflammable, talks to and clambers above trees empathises with most creatures, has a very esoteric sense of smell and adept at finding and navigating pathways out of the conventional world into different realms. As the saga progresses it is found she is of another species of Humans, The Shadow Lords, was sent on a scouting task to the world of Humans but it transpires was ambushed by malevolent forces. Initially very scatty  and askew I was somewhat alarmed at how parallel she could be with Harley Quinn and together we had to work quite hard to ensure folk knew she was her own girl…Or actually two as at times her previous noble identity (Lady Maighdean Ardea )takes hold. She has no problems with killing, although being far swifter and precise than Arketre and only as a response to a direct threat, once the threat is dispatched, that is that. Fallen sweetly in love with Arketre and a friend verging on bossy big sister to Trelli. Her principal concern is staying with Arketre and not being drawn back to her family, quite at ease with punching her brother or cousins from trying to make her.

Trelli (aka Trelyvana Waywanderer): In Fantasy terms Trelli is not unusual, there she was an ordinary housemaid (later self-promoted to Housekeeper, if anyone asks her) when due to the son of the household’s research into ‘The Ethereal’ forces, she was inadvertently inculcated with its energies. Thus she can knock folk over, tackle those using Ethereal for evil purposes, learnt how to fly (in an eclectic way), travel between realms and sometimes influence minds. She was initially very suspicious of this, particularly as it manifested itself in red and blue aura about her fingers, causing her to wear thick gloves or tuck her hands under her armpits in an attempt to avoid folk noticing. Whereas she has come to terms with this circumstance, she is constantly aware of the potential corrosive effect on her character and thus to possibility of loosing destructive forces; she is therefore ever wary of any external or internal influence to lead her down such a path. Of the three she is therefore the least willing to launch into battle and even then is restrained, unless in direct conflict with the demonic forces (The Zerstorung), in which case as it is a fight to the finish she has no qualms. Due to the encouragement of her two friends she always has a tendency to resort lesser forms of physical violence when provoked. Through her friendship with Arketre and Karlyn and the mutual reliance which is fostered within the trio she is able to navigate a pathway through conventional experiences with little trouble.

It is my usual inclination when writing to give the malignant forces a very hard time, since if there is one thing I find irritating is the self-satisfied, monologuing, god-complex villain whose perfect plan is only foiled at the last chapter either by supreme sacrifice or some sudden burst of amazing whatever. My own narratives tend to be influenced by my reading of military histories and the fact there never is a perfect plan, that things go wrong and its the folk who make the least mistakes who usually come out on top. Thus no one in my books ever does things adroitly, it’s all about that catching of the other out and either then pummeling them, or skipping out of the way to come back for another shot. This normal lack of over-arching competence in situations allows the trio of central characters to escape some of the more excessive fates and experiences seen in other books (Note: As these books are self-published for their own sake the characters and I reckon we can between us get away with this as much as we please- look upon it as a sub-sub-genre Fantasy-Heroic-Feel Good )

Violence or the threat of it is ever prevalent and sometimes the central characters in particularly Arketre are the instigators. As stated earlier, the backdrop of the narrative is an empire under threat external or internal  so this is to be expected. Whether the use of violence is as necessary as the characters (or I) see it remains very much up to the perspective of the reader. Whether the central characters come across as likeable people is also left up to the reader to decide for themselves. Personally over the years (since about 2014) I have grown quite fond of them, seeing them as people of their time and circumstance, dealing with matters as they see fit and in general authority or those they work with or for having to catch up with the trio as individuals or in various combinations.

Therefore Violence exists. When using this in fiction the responsibility lies with the writer and to an extent the reader as to whether the levels, perceptions and morals of the usage are acceptable. Personally I use it a great deal, and dear reader don’t expect the villains ever to walk away from it.

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