Coin of the Realm

Several weeks ago, I was explaining my love of horror movies, which really can be expanded to my love for all speculative fiction.  There is something very specific about it that I love, which also informs other areas of my life.

I love to push the boundaries of possibility.

It’s the explorations of the limits of the human mind and the world around it that I love, which requires going to the dark, shadowy corners of the soul.  I want to understand, better than I currently do, what makes us afraid, and angry.  I want to explore the limits of what is possible, and what makes us tick.

Now, I don’t think that that is a particularly novel (pun intended) reason to enjoy speculative fiction, but I will say that it affects my life in another way.  There are few corners that I don’t let my mind wander to, no matter how dark, scary, or depraved the idea.

Imagination is the coin of the realm for novelists, and I want to have as much as I can stand.

I think it’s important to understand the boundaries that most people have, and to explore what is past them.  After all, a lot of the things that we don’t like to think about happen anyhow.  Life is ugly, and doesn’t conform to how we would like it to be.  There are terrors in the deeps, and people who murder and torture and use.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious persecution are alive and well (which is to say hate is alive and well).

And you know what else?  People are racist, and sexist, and homophobic, and hate-filled without being totally evil.  These are facets of who they are, and they can be otherwise good people.  Someone racist doesn’t necessarily kick puppies and burn down orphanages for fun.

I think it’s important to understand these things, the underbelly of the human mind if you will, to better write about it.  A mind, once expanded by the shape of a new thought, never fully goes back to its old shape, and I think that’s a good thing.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to go out and wallow in depravity in order to make your writing more realistic, but I do think that you should expose yourself some to the things you may have to write about.  It does no good to be so averse to scary (or hate-filled, or sexual) situations that you can’t write about them.

To me, the writer is there to get the story into the real world.  As is often said, the book is the boss, and where the story goes, I follow.  I do my best to get out of the way and get it down as faithfully as possible, which means I probably shouldn’t be so scared of my own story that I can’t write it.

Though once or twice it has been close.

So!  What about you guys?  How do you deal with taboo or scary topics in your writing?

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