Join the Daniel Abraham newsletter!
11.01.10by Daniel Abraham
No one said much here about that last post, but there have been some conversations at my LJ account, Aliette de Bodard’s LJ account, and the Westeros forum.
Yes. One wants to be subtle. No, one does not want to moralize.
To suggest, however, that one ought to rename and otherwise obscure the very real crime that is rape strikes me as offensive. Because really, when I read between the lines of your article, what I see is don’t put it out there because it makes people tense.
I reject that. Rape is something that needs to be addressed more often , not less. What we need is to change the superficial way it is so often portrayed.
When I was in college, I did a paper for my contemporary drama class where I was critical of Weiss’ Marat/Sade. My thesis then was that by assaulting the audience, Weiss was undermining his ability to engage with the ideas he claimed that he wanted to express. (I got a C. The teacher was directing a production of Marat/Sade that semester, and I perhaps didn’t support my argument well enough to persuade him that he’d done it wrong.)
Now certainly I may be wrong, but it seems to me that talking about gender and power, sitting with the uncomfortable relationship between them, and even addressing questions of who controls your body and the psychological effect of violence aren’t made more accessible by raping a character. And partly that’s because I tend to disconnect from a narrative once it becomes clear that the author is willing to take me there for effect. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant may be brilliant and humane deconstructions of a tortured man’s journey to insight, but I’ll never know because I’ve never gotten past the rape scene.
I’m sorry that we disagree on this point, because of course, I want everyone to like me all the time, right? 🙂 But it seems to me that rape is so overpowering a subject that once I explicitly introduce it into my narrative, I can either *only* talk about it (at the expense of other aspects of the conversation between gender and power) or else treat it superficially (which I find offensive and wouldn’t want to do).
I’d be interested to see what you make of the Black Sun’s Daughter books in light of our conversation, though. If you do read them, please consider letting me know what you thought.
And, thinking about it some more, consider that what I’m saying is less that it makes people tense than, when done with enough realism to make it ethical, it overpowers any other issue in the narrative and invites the reader to emotionally disconnect. Since I’m not writing a series *about* rape (but about issues that share a fair chunk of rape’s Venn diagram), including explicit rape in this project (and, despite a raft of my colleagues obviously different opinions, in this genre) seems to me like a mistake. If someone’s writing an urban fantasy version of Irreversible that really takes on the issue, I can respect that and admire their integrity, but I’m probably not going to read it. See The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant mentioned above. 🙂
Mail (will not be published)
James S. A. Corey
© 2020 Daniel Abraham / James S.A. Corey.