It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
I recently stumbled on this quote by Voltaire:
“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
I have always known that the French philosopher was a wise man, but that particular quote started me thinking. In speculative fiction like fantasy and sci-fi, killing is always a staple, and the murderers are rarely punished. Most speculative fiction books include killing in one way or another. Battles. Assassins. Interstellar wars. Magical quests where unless the hero kills, often multiple times, he can’t get where he is going. Paranormal adventures, where killing is rather the norm. Think about The Lord of the Rings or Ilona Andrews’ extremely popular Kate Daniels series.
Another norm is the hero’s moral quibbles afterwards. He didn’t have a choice at the time; it was either kill the enemy or be killed by them, but afterwards, it seems almost mandatory for any writer to dig into her character’s psyche for a post-killing self-doubts or self-recriminations.
None of us ever wants to encounter death or murder in our day-to-day lives, but reading about them feels okay, not scary at all, and I’m not even talking about mysteries or thrillers. So why did speculative fiction genres adopt killing as one of their darlings? What is our fascination with sudden and gruesome death in the make-believe milieu? Where are those trumpets of Voltaire in fantastic stories?
I’m an extremely peaceful person but even I have killings in some of my stories. I write fantasy after all, and in fantasy, killing appears the easiest way to solve problems. Kill the evil vampire, and everything will be honky-dory, right? But I doubt it could that simple, even in fantasy.
What do you think? Do your heroes kill? Do they indulge in self-flagellations after the fact?