On the Detritus of Commercial Violence

The more I learn of those bits of culture and literature that are popular, like Game of Thrones, for instance, the more I come to the conclusion that I’m not qualified to write anything popular. Don’t get me wrong, however; I’m proud of that fact. I’m just not negative enough, or cynical enough, or enjoy chaos and violence enough to pour out that kind of work. Moreover, I’d never want to have a fan base that consisted of people who find them entertaining.

I suppose that makes me an anachronism, a fact of which I’m increasingly aware. I read a couple of books a month, and like only a fraction of them. Those I do like are invariably old, often older than I am. I wasn’t raised on the violence of video games. Sure, they had them; I’ve just always found them boring and pointless. Instead of sitting on my fat ass, killing pimps and whores for fun, I spent most of my youth on my bike, usually riding to the beach. Death is for the dead. You don’t grow up in a military family and learn the message that killing is cool. Likewise, I wasn’t Dungeons and Dragons type either. In fact, I hated nerds. As a kid, for Halloween, I used to dress as “a kid who hated costumes.” I’d wear my own clothes.

I did used to love, love, love horror flicks though. By age 20, I am certain I’d seen every one ever made. But then came the age of the slasher flick. Imagination became out of style and wanton, pointless violence was its substitute. Stupid, boring, violent crap. What is scary about a psychopath? If he can die, I can kill him. If I can kill him, why should I fear him? (I blame Jamie Lee Curtis for the death of American genteelness.)

Yet, an entire culture seems to have devolved around this level of stupid violence. My work will never be considered cool or modern, because there won’t be anyone dying pointlessly. That doesn’t mean I’m a passivist. Hell, in my sci fi novel, my main character, Roxx, kills half a dozen people before you ever learn her back story. She drops bad guys like they’re radioactive. I also grew up on Bruce Lee films, and my Roxxy is a Bruce disciple with a penchant for guns and sonically enhanced swords. So, yeah, she’ll kill a mutha quick. But see, none of it is random. In fact, there’s a whispered social message behind most of it, if you squint hard enough to figure it out.

And I’m not judging GOT or the millions who love it — I’m sure it must be brilliant or so many wouldn’t be so enamored. At the very least, penning something utterly reprehensible so that it will appear in all the news feeders is brilliant marketing.  I just mourn the days when other forms of entertainment were considered to be as interesting. The days when Spartacus didn’t need to show tits in every scene to be a classic. The days before Pet Sematary (and King’s raging alcoholism) when there were still some things off limits, even in horror films.  The days when you could allow yourself to fall in love with characters, because some dumbass, fuck-for-brains college pukefessor wasn’t teaching burgeoning writers that the way to make the story pop and keep readers intrigued is to continually fuck with them every single second of every page. The days when love songs weren’t fuck songs. The days when most of what I read didn’t make me want to kick someone’s fucking ass.

The days when books had to be well-written to be well read.

I miss the days when romance mattered; when the sound of cracked trumpets couldn’t be mistaken for lyricism. I miss caring about characters and breathlessly turning the pages even though I was certain everything was going to work out in the end BECAUSE THE FUCKING WORK WAS WELL WRITTEN and not because I needed to see if they died in the next chapter. And most of all, I miss the days when writers understood that the numbers of sociopaths in the world is dramatically less than the numbers in their stupid fucking shows, and people get PTSD, and feel remorse, and grieve, and don’t just pop over to the next bloody scene so they can fuck the next bloke the hell up.

I miss the days when being a writer wasn’t a thing that made me want to wash my goddamned hands. Most of all, I miss, so dearly, loving books. I missed when books made me want to cry and not because of how shitty they make me feel the world has become.

Y’all don’t hear me.

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10 thoughts on “On the Detritus of Commercial Violence

  1. I am right with you. Except I don’t like Horror Movies but I like Games of Thrones well anyway.I don’t find killing cool even that I was in the Army but that is a different story. But I agree I love as well the older well written Books were you have to read the hole book to understand what it is all about. I think you write very good pieces even if I find one or two not that good but I suppose that is fair enough.So keep writing and all your followers and Fans and of cause me will read your work just because we like it.

  2. The last book that made me cry, and I mean gut wrenching, good 20-minute jag: “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” The man knows how to weave a tale.

    I haven’t followed GOT so I have no idea what the outrage is about.

    But I’m right there with you. Fortunately, there are still some satisfying indie movies, but I’ve pretty much given up on popular fiction.

    Next thing you know I’ll be yelling at kids to “get off my lawn!” 😦

  3. 2Spools

    Gosh, only yesterday I picked up The Water Babies from a box of books. My bedside read for the next few days, I wondered when turning to the first page if this was purely nostalgia or just a return to something tried, trusted and true. I’m still turning the pages, and am totally absorbed.

  4. Easy there big fella. I’m the old cogger around here.
    I agree with almost everything you said BUT I don’t feel as bad about it as you obviously did when you wrote this.

    You like old books: good for you, there is a reason for that: they’re good.

    Modern literature has ALWAYS been crap. We remember Charles Dickens because he could write but what we forget is that there were thousands of authors who were selling heaps of books and they were garbage and, rightly so, they are not remembered.

    A couple of my countrymen started the SAW franchise. They made a LOT of money but they will become a minor footnote in cinema history because the stuff they write is crap.

    People will always be attracted to your stuff because you paint characters, I even got to use one of your lines in conversation just today!
    Despite the blood and guts GOT is amazing. It’s very well written and extremely well made.
    The massive outcry after this weeks episode is because we are invested in the characters and now we are wandering around wondering what we are going to do now that a big chunk of our favourite characters are no more. It takes guts to kill off your best characters but more importantly it is congruent with the times that this show is set in. A splinter could kill you let alone a sword!

    One of my favourite Australian authors is Chris Womersley. He wrote an excellent book called ‘Bereft’ if you see it and you are interested in the period just after WW1, read it.
    In the meantime…………. lighten up!
    You have a real talent, a talent that a lot of the rest of us would do bad things to have.
    Write your stuff and let the good people find you, and while you are writing and waiting keep looking for those other good writers, they are out there.
    Terry

    1. I agree with what you’ve said except the part about killing off you characters as being brave. It’s actually easy and cheating. When you’ve run out of things for them to do, you kill them and essentially reboot the show.

      I’ve no problem with that, except that they actually teach writers that’s what they are supposed to do. I’m just sick of the idea that they only way to make anything interesting is to make your characters’ lives horrible.

      I’m really not upset about this. I don’t watch TV, so I don’t really care what’s on it. I do, however, get discouraged that those types of books are the only ones that sell. I don’t care about becoming rich and famous; I’m too old, and I already have my retirement set up. I do care that I have to choose between what I like and what will sell.

      1. Thank you for the reply.
        I think it is possible that we are talking about two different things.
        Your comments seem to be directed towards writing and mine are more about writing for film and television.
        I’m a student of the latter and you are obviously more qualified to talk about the former. So maybe it is best if we agree to disagree?
        I did not realise that you are an ‘old timer’. Your photo makes you look mature but young.
        Love your work.
        Terry

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