Tag Archives: violence

You can’t have history without violence

amazing art by John Jennings

Let’s talk about “historical accuracy”.

A few days ago I saw some stuff on Twitter by Long Hidden co-editor Rose Fox about someone upset/offended to find violence in the anthology. Rose noted that it’s possible the person in question just couldn’t handle violence/horror, which is okay and to be respected, but Rose thought and I agree that it’s a strange thing to not go into an collection of stories like this ready to see.

Marginalized history is violent history. Marginalization is itself a form of violence. If you’re going to tell these stories, each one will, in its way, be a story of violence.

“Historical accuracy” is so often employed by writers as a defense against people pointing out that stories that use rape to add shock value or to motivate male characters or as the sole defining feature of the characters hurt in that way, or that stories that focus on primarily white cisgender straight ablebodied male characters are ignoring a huge proportion of the population of the entire world and are sorta kinda racist/cissexist/homophobic/ableist/sexist (also fucking lazy, dig?). THESE THINGS HAPPENED IN OLDEN TIMES OR WHATEVER, they cry, or THESE THINGS HAPPEN WHEN THERE’S WAR AND STUFF, or IN MY INVENTED UNIVERSE ONLY THIS ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE IS IMPORTANT SO IT’S NOT MY FAULT. As if these are objective facts of some history – whether of the past or future – instead of real choices being made by an author with total control over the shape and content of their story.

And then there are voices clamoring for authors to not be “forced” to make their stories “artificially” diverse, as if it was some kind of hardship, as if it would make the story bad instead of richer and more interesting.

When used in this way, “historical accuracy” is an excuse for not writing well. And it’s one that – I think and hope – fewer and fewer people are accepting as legitimate.

But historical accuracy requires violence.

The history of humanity is a history of violence. It’s a history of oppression, of subjugation, of mass-murder, of the erasure of voices and stories and cultures and entire peoples. Violence is woven through history like a blood-soaked thread, staining everything it touches. History shapes the present and the future; everything it means is inextricably bound to the world in which we live and move. Stories of marginalized people, forgotten people, are necessarily violent. They must be violent, if they’re going to be true.

Those of us in the category of the oppressor, whether or not we want to be there, can either face that violence or turn away. And if we don’t want to be there, if we don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, we can’t turn away. We can’t afford to. This is the truth.

If you can’t take violence of the kind I think this person meant, that is, again, something that has to be respected. People need to be able to make safe spaces for themselves. But one shouldn’t go into Long Hidden expecting to see anything but violence. These stories are true in the way that the best fiction is. They’re “historically accurate” in a way that is not a defense and needs no defense.

And it’s the kind of historical accuracy we actually need.

Sunday Linkdump: All the cars upturned talk like the trains

Heisenberg

Be aware: There is a lot. Without further ado:

  • This week in awesome: An artist is making a map of Manhattan using only handwritten directions from strangers. It’s about as great as you’d expect.
  • “Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever”. No, this is not an Onion headline.

    Where is the Gawker for women? The ESPN for women? The Awl for women? The Slate for women? The Onion for women? Perhaps when Google finally launches a search engine for women, we will be capable of locating the websites targeted at us, so that advertisers may sell us things. For now, we will read Bustle.

  • Breaking Bad as Hamlet. I don’t totally buy it, but it’s an amazing comparison.
  • “Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You”. And here’s where I would register my outraged shock if I had any. Shock, I mean.

    Comics aren’t for women. And if women do like comics, they shouldn’t, because testosterone, and that’s not the right platform for them. But for those women who do read comics, it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed. Because women don’t read them, you see, so it’s not necessary to write characters that will appeal to them. So if you’re a woman, and you’re reading comics, first of all, why are you reading them? Second of all, don’t expect anything that appeals to you.

  • Related: Do villains really need to commit “taboo” acts for us to get that they’re villains?

    A cowardly bully, who snivels and whines when any hurt at all comes their way, isn’t just a villain that people hate. He or she is a villain that people despise. It goes back to what people mean when they say a “bad guy.” Someone being “bad” isn’t just about actions, it’s also about character in the old-fashioned sense of the word. And when the focus is on “bad character” rather than atrocity, it’s possible demonstrate that a villain is despicable without showing any crime at all.

  • Also related: Warren Ellis on why we do need violent stories.

    We learn about things by looking at them and then talking about them, together. You may have heard of this process. It’s sometimes involved in things like science. It’s also the system of fiction: writing things in order to get a better look at them. Fiction is how we both study and de-fang our monsters. To lock violent fiction away, or to close our eyes to it, is to give our monsters and our fears undeserved power and richer hunting grounds.

  • Also also related: Why it may be a good thing that video games “devalue life”, and why it might open up some opportunities to rethink the meaning of death.

    This fixation on interactivity obscures the fact that games are also a computational medium, based on models and protocols, codes and commands, simulations and rules. By assigning literal, numerical values to life and death, games are necessarily going to “cheapen” them to some extent – but, as we’ll see, this cheapening can render the form peculiarly suited to exploring what life is worth in the era of biopower and computerized risk assessment, drones and cloning, artificial intelligence and data mining.

  • N.K. Jemisin: “There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.”

    Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.

  • Orson Scott Card: Now officially disconnected from reality in every meaningful way. Also howlingly racist, in case anyone wasn’t sure about that.

    “Where will he get his ‘national police’? The NaPo will be recruited from ‘young out-of-work urban men’ and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.

    In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.”

  • (TW: wow racism) Amazing series of photos: “A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored”. The only real issue is that it’s sort of implicitly presented as if any of the images are a surprise or are skewering common perceptions of the KKK, when in fact they are all exactly what I would expect.
  • “Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism”.

    These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.

  • “Thoughts on the Trending Hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”.

    Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it’s basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, “Oh well, we believe in equality for all.” I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.

  • Bayou Corne, Louisiana is disappearing into a sinkhole 24 acres wide and about 750 feet deep. There are reasons why this is happening.

    Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear.

  • Finally, from me: a post on the systems of cultural capital built up around print books and the spaces they occupy, placed in the context of a world that features increasing numbers of ebooks.

    Of course the spaces themselves in which one goes to experience books are laden with differing degrees of cultural capital. Independent bookstores tend to be more prestigious than chains. Independent bookstores with lots of antique shelving that’s high enough to need those cool rolling ladders tend to be more prestigious than a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. You stand in these spaces, a hardcover first edition in your hands, surrounded by whispers and wood and that fantastic old book smell, and you can think Aha, I am a Cultured person in a Cultured space and I am Experiencing Books.

Hope the bridges all burn your life away.