In My Heart, In My Dreams

It has been quite the week. Work has been a labyrinth of strange occurrences and frustrations, while writing has been a labyrinth of quite a different variety. I’m starting to get nervous about walking the tight rope of my story, but on the interminable drive home yesterday a neat solution to several of the dangling plot threads came together, and I think if the execution is handled correctly, this could be a real breakthrough to provide momentum to the back half of the novel.

Did I say back half? Oh, yes, I did. I am now officially at the halfway point of this overhaul – 35,000 words in. I have other pieces that I need to work on, but this book has started to take on a life of its own, demanding to be written. I am but the conduit, so I obey.

Not sure if readers are familiar with the Duke Nukem Forever controversy. I’m a lifelong video game player (notice I don’t say gamer there, I don’t tie up my identity into the hobby) and it’s something that’s really captured my attention, not only as a player but as a writer. To sum it up, its predecessor was a crass, borderline offensive sexist romp. In movie terms, think of it as a frat boy comedy or Beavis and Butt-head. Lowbrow, but fun if you can overlook the more offensive elements. I can do this – I appreciate a good bit of crass humor; I loved Beavis and Butt-Head and some of those frat boy comedies. I wouldn’t miss them if they disappeared off the Earth tomorrow and am aware of some of the stereotypes that they perpetuate, but in general execution renders some of the harmful content pretty inert. It’s a damned fine line to walk, though, and I do sometimes worry about my own propensity to enjoy some of this and whether it perpetuates things. In the end, I’ve decided life is too short, and I’m just generally not easy to offend.

The new iteration of the game, however, edges from that self-aware presentation into something that’s more mean-spirited and hateful. Setting aside how women are presented as nothing more than dolls to gratify the protagonist’s sexual needs, there’s a particularly disturbing section that managed to offend even me. Aliens have been kidnapping women and impregnating them to create new aliens. Disturbing, to be sure, but a well-trod sci-fi trope. What makes this particularly icky is a combination of hearing the crying woman, begging for the release of death, combined with this frat-boy humor. When he puts some of the women out of their misery, for example, he makes an abortion joke. When his two “girlfriends” turn up pregnant, he makes a pun at their expense even as they promise to lose the weight gained as a result. Like I said, it’s pretty hard to offend me, and the whole thing just made me sick to my stomach. Repugnant is the word that comes to mind.

I questioned the minds of the people who would create such a thing, and I canceled my pre-order of the game, but ultimately the issue here is not my reaction as a human being, but my reaction as a writer. That’s what has grabbed my imagination about this thing so hard. I’ve been working at it to try to figure out the intent of the work – did they mean to present this as an ironic indictment of sexism and botch it? Or did they mean it just the way it came out? The conclusion I am reaching, however, is that intent doesn’t really matter; what does matter is a combination of the content itself and the execution. The content itself certainly is sexist, even within the context of the work. Hell, the context of the work makes it look all the more damning. On top of that, the execution is completely botched.

This is leading me to some serious introspection on the question of how I might better be able to handle execution and try to better communicate my own intent behind my work without being ham-handed about it. It’s something I really want to read more about, so I’m going to start diving a little more into literary criticism. Yes, here I am, looking into literary criticism thanks to Duke Nukem. Like I said, it has been quite the week.

Today’s link is to fellow urban fantasy author Kalayna Price’s site. Check it out!

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One Comment

  1. I’m with you – intent doesn’t mean dick if the finished product doesn’t reflect it properly. But I have faith in you!

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