Inspection- Social Discourse Has Become a Very Bad Fantasy Novel

by Ken Carman

  My cousin John Clark is a writer of fantasy novels. I remember the first time, at a family reunion, he told about his latest. It seemed excellent but I realized: more than ever, fantasy is simply not my genre’.
  In fact I already knew, to a certain extent. Previous to that I was already bothered by how fantasy has been stuck in a blender with the various forms of Sci-Fi and horror on TV, in movies and books. I prefer classic Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi that challenges social norms, Sci-Fi that challenges the way we think. Once you mix in fantasy or horror, for me, it ruins the genre’.
  Maybe, as his sister Kate: another writer in the family, once suggested, I do like being in “control” too much. I’ve never thought of myself that way. It’s more I prefer linear writing, don’t care for writing when a character raises his hand and a magic sword just appears, or a character turns into a Grimggwatch, from the kingdom of Igeldiepoo where the Scwatches rule their semi-universe. Any book where I have to keep looking up “Grimggwatch” or “Swatches” bores me. I slept through a quarter of The Lord of the Rings and had tried to read The Hobbit when I was young. My brother was a fan and suggested it. So I already knew when given that as one of two options in 11th grade to choose the other book.
  Constantly flipping pages to figure out what the hell the author is talking about ruins reading for me.
  I find blood and guts spewing everywhere not “horror” at all: just gross and, again, boring. Indeed one of the most horror-filled moments for me in cinema history is when Charlie (The book was Flowers for Algernon) is in a house of mirrors and keeps coming face to face with himself before he was cured of his mental issues. Something about what’s inside us that we cannot overcome, to me, is “horror.” A zombie eating intestines is just a gross meal.
  I mean no disrespect towards writers, or the fans, of fantasy, or horror. I firmly believe books find us, and sometimes it takes time for us to adjust to some, and no one book works for, or suits, everyone. For example: I loathe romance novels of the pulp kind. You like them? Have at it. I don’t think less of you for your preferences, and I hope you won’t think less of me for mine.
  But I am beginning to think social discourse has become a very bad fantasy novel. There are no rules. A rancher living off the government teat is a hero, a father on unemployment, trying to raise his son and look for a job when he can is a lazy bum. Guy at gas station has a right to “stand his ground” against mythical gun and shoot into fleeing car, killing one… but kid being stalked after going out to get a drink and Skittles has no right to stand his ground against neighborhood watch guy who was told not to get out of his car, doesn’t identify himself and, according to standards set for his watch group, was not supposed to be carrying that gun.
  Who needs logic or reason?
  The sword of truth is in your hand simply by claiming so, or more likely because you’re on the “right” side. Reverse the specifics and those partisans living in their own poorly written fantasy novel world would support the clean cut kids playing loud Christian music against the angry rapper who claimed he saw a gun, the poor, white, kid walking home late from a BYF meeting who the troubled black watch guy killed because he “claims” he was jumped for no reason. Let’s add that they would rage because he lied on the stand about how much money he had to defend himself, and lied about being dragged out of his vehicle: something that never happened.
 It all matters who you cast as the good guys and gals in your poorly constructed fantasy world. George Soros is bad, or is he good? The Kochs are heroes, the Kochs are villains. Money influencing politics is bad if it’s politics you don’t agree with. If either profits from their philosophical expenditures, well it only matters what flavor wizard they get when the mental casting is done.
 Really?
  Congressman Issa: head of a committee, can issue a report vetted by no one, that the other side on the committee doesn’t have to see: a report where the chairman can make any damn claim he wants, and that’s proof of… what? And that’s his favorite way of “proving” what he does instead of legislating, investigate anything that will get that “evil” black guy in trouble?
  He’s the “good” wizard. That makes him the hero. No matter how bogus the claims, no matter how little he proves his accusations: even if he demands only the information that he can skew to his favor, yet none of what proves he’s being a intentional partisan dick… none of that matters. He’s the hero.
  It’s as if someone rewrote the 50s and, to the cheers of crowds, when asked, “Have you no shame,” Joe McCarthy disemboweled his accuser with a samurai sword that suddenly poofs into his hand.
 The readers cheer!
  The mystical wand appears in the land of unregulated business and the evil, scheming, scammers all disappear or are defeated. The magical, mystical “free” market system solves all.
  The Rancher? If he were a member of Occupy no guns targeting authority need apply. Just spray him and his friends in the face.
  In the magical land of right wing logic no logic need apply, and dare I say the left is not that far behind? If a woman appears on a front porch very early in the morning in a neighborhood known for violent break ins, shooting through a door rather than opening it might not be all that irrational.
  Look: I respect fantasy writers like my cousin John. He and his mystery writer sister Kate would never write nonsense like this. I understand: now getting ready to release the second edition of my book Autocide, good plotting is labor intensive and requires detail. The Rancher story is a good example. It’s as if I insisted on keeping a character who quickly destroys the story I intended to tell. And that’s what Mr. Bundy did every time he stepped up to a camera, a mic. But even before the play began it seems predetermined he would get the role of the hero from the McVeigh types and the more far out libertarians.
  I wish our pols and talking heads would stop thinking this kind of fiction worth writing. But I do understand when they blather nonsense unworthy of lines from a cheap pulp novel why the gullible, and those willing to believe anything about who they are told to hate, behave as they do. It’s called faith: the kind of “faith” that led humanity to worship golden calves, gleefully attend a beheading or participate in human sacrifice.
  And the last is kind of like what we have now, instead of honest investigations, and respectful public discourse.

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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