A contemplation on depictions of violence by M.R. Gott
It is my view based upon a great deal of evidence we live in a violent world, too violent I would argue. Our fiction reflects our world and helps us step back and analyze this reality, and as such is prone to contain a reflection of the violence we see in our world. The question as I writer I ask is, how to do so without glamorizing, exploiting or glorifying violence?
To help illustrate this point I’m going to describe a popular film and book series, a work I believe to be staggering in its genius. This work depicts scenes of a fetus being dropped in a boiling pot, children being sadistically tortured and murdered, parents murdered before the eyes of their children and an array of other violent actions. Did you guess what series I’m referring to? It’s Harry Potter, and that’s in children’s literature. (Though adults such as myself still enjoy it)
The reason this is not seen as exploitative is the essence and idea of the story being told. Rowling has stated the work is about tolerance, she even outed Dumbledore. There are real emotional significances to the violence. Harry mourns for his slain family members, and there is a sense of impact and loss when character die or are killed. And of equal importance the violence is meant to be scary, readers were worried Harry would not survive the final book.
And this is the justification I use for the violence in my own work as a Horror author. While others in the field often cringe at this label I embrace it. I find it liberating. It frees me to address any ideas, without fear of offending my audience. When a reader picks up a horror novel they are signing a contract with the author that they are willing to go for a dark ride.
Within the horror trappings of my novel Where the Dead Fear to Tread, the story is about informed fatalism. The main protagonist is a vigilante killer, a cliché if there ever was one. He murders those who traffic in child slavery, not a great deal of sympathy from my audience.(Or so I would hope) Where my killer, William Chandler is different however is that he goes to the funerals of those he has murdered, to memorize the grieving features of the mourning family and loved ones, and understand the weight of his choices. He watches their children cry in loss, struggling to understand. William understands that violence leads to sadness, even the violence he does in the name of a cause he believes wholly justified. In order to keep his own sense of humanity he forces himself to understand these consequences. Painful as they may be.
Every character needs a foil and William’s is Kate Broadband, a police officer who is tracking William’s carnage. She is also being seduced by the allure of William’s efficiency, because she does not see the bereaved families, only the ones William reunites. And while his actions tear him apart she begins to romanticize him.
The violence in Where the Dead Fear to Tread is explicit and graphic. I work to ensure my readers understand the impact of every bullet that enters a person’s body, and the damage that a bullet does when it rips through a human being. I want you to grimace with every cut and flinch with every bruise. I want you to find the violence in my book scary, because violence is scary and any work that depicts it otherwise is exploitative.
Then again, I could be wrong. I’m just a guy who writes scary stories.
About the Author:
His work has been called, “bleak,” and “insightful,” as well as “frantic, horrific, brutal, and without doubt the darkest thing I have read in years - maybe in my life.” And that was pretty much what he was going for. M.R. Gott is the author of Where the Dead fear to Tread and the sequel Where the Damned Fear Redemption, and a contributor at Ravenous Monster. While crafting these upbeat, life affirming tales, M.R. enjoys dark coffee, dark beer, red wine, and fading light. For more on M.R. Gott and his works please visit wherethedeadfeartotread.blogspot.com.