Battling Reader’s Block

Hope everyone is doing well this fine June… It feels like the month is FLYING by.  Tomorrow is going to be about 90 degrees where I live, so I’d say summer is here.

Albert Bierstadt - Matterhorn

Since I finished 12 Rules for Life, I’ve been having pretty bad reader’s block.  You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell… Current status seems productive:

  • Still slowly plugging away at the Tesla biography (it’s interesting but very brainy)
  • On track for Cleo’s read-along of The Four Loves (Lewis), though I failed to post for part 1 (will roll it up into the next part)
  • Also reading Master and Commander (O’Brian) and The Scapegoat (du Maurier), both of which are pretty good books so far

I think recent “real-life” stress has zapped my attention span.  I hate it when that happens.

There are certain types of books that can get me out of that.  I will probably keep sampling books till I find one.  Till then, it might be kinda quiet around here…

On Fictional Violence and Naming Children

Note: Contains Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers

(Note 2: I never thought I would be doing a post on Game of Thrones, but here I am.  Never say never.)

When I first heard about this book/TV franchise, it was years ago, still in the early days of the TV series.  At first I was interested, because a lot of people were comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, and aesthetically there is some similarity.  I read some Amazon reviews of the books (as I usually do) and was a bit disturbed to hear the series is full of heinous, macabre scenes, including frequent sexual violence.  I always pass on that kind of content and decided not to read it.  Frankly, I also expected the hype would fizzle out sooner rather than later.

Well, hindsight being 20/20, I was completely wrong, and enthusiasm for the series catapulted into eight TV seasons.  I’ve been observing the franchise’s progress from afar and, thanks to the media, wasn’t allowed to not know the fact that it finally reached its last season this year.

I wouldn’t have given it much further thought, if I hadn’t stumbled across this story: Latest Game of Thrones episode sends curveball to children named Khaleesi

“Khaleesi” basically means “queen” in this story, and by association refers to Daenerys, one of the female characters and arguably the poster child for the series.  Many viewers had perceived her as a strong heroine, and sure enough, her name and title made it on to baby names lists.

In season 8, the show writers threw in a plot twist in which Daenerys decides to bomb a conquered city with dragon fire, mass murdering innocent civilians.  This may not be shocking material for the series as such, but it poses a real problem for parents who had envisioned the character as a role model, or at least a namesake, for their daughter.

I’m no fan of Bustle, but they followed up on the topic with a fascinating article which suggests Daenerys was always a villain, just not as blatantly.  If that’s so, it could be argued the writers were taking this aspect of the character to the next level, rather than reinventing her.

Not being a fan of the show, the whole outrage doesn’t affect me, but I do find it interesting that:

  1. there is such a high tolerance of evil (yes, let’s call it that) depicted in fictional form, justified in the name of fiction.  And that’s not one or two isolated episodes; it’s a steady diet throughout eight seasons.
  2. anyone would name their child after a fictional character which is still a work in progress
  3. anyone would associate their child with a TV show famous for its violence

It’s hard enough finding a common name without connotations (Twilight managed to taint “Edward”), but naming your child after a fictional character is quite risk.  If the character is new, their legacy is still to be established.  If the character is old, even a classic, they may have a fairly solid legacy, but perceptions can still change rapidly.  Take Atticus Finch, for example (not that anyone’s naming their boy Atticus… or are they?).

As for the violence, I wonder how many people are actually desensitized to it now.  It also begs the question, how much violence is excessive, in fiction?

I’m completely against sugarcoating non-fiction.  Some terrible, despicable things have occurred in history and in recent events – things as bad or worse than are shown in Game of Thrones.  We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

When it comes to fiction, however, I’m always more skeptical.  As a writer, I can’t help but feel that much fictional violence is really gratuitous.  How do you justify graphically depicting something awful, except to illustrate a historical fact?  And if you’re illustrating those particular segments of history, why are you using fiction as the outlet?  (It’s a question for myself as much as anyone else.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these topics…