Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Bad Art and Banal Evil

The evil of banality is a blog entry from slacktivist about the relationship between poor fiction, lack of imagination, and a compassionless world view.

Of course there is no suggestion that being a poor writer makes you a poor human being (or a good writer the reverse). This is not about grammar, word choice, or the craft of composition. This is about a particular type of bad writing - writing that objectifies and dismisses characters who are not point-of-view. I am drawn to this critique it because I loathe this style of writing - unfortunately quite common in SF.

Here is a short extract, which is indicative. You'd have to read the article to get a rounder view of the point slacktivist is making.

The plane allowed passengers a view of the Chicago area. Smoke. Fire. Cars off the road and smashed into each other and guardrails. Planes in pieces on the ground. Emergency vehicles, lights flashing, picking their way around the debris. As O'Hare came into view, it was clear no one was going anywhere soon.

The emotional progression is - smoke - fire - cars crashed - planes fallen out the sky - our hero's journey plans might be seriously affected. There is no 'oh my god a bunch of people died horribly here'. The hero, following this scene, recounts his difficulties in travelling from Chicago to New York. That's it. The carnage is incidental.

I know this could be done ironically, or for a variety of other fictional purposes, including to undermine your sympathy with the narrator. But in this instance - and in some other books - we find no such distancing irony. Tunnel vision, emotional focus entirely on the self, is taken as the norm, as the constant norm.

We all get tunnel vision. I hear about a crash and think 'Damn, I'll be late'. I'm as shallow as that. But it is suffocating and depressing to adopt the perspective of a person who only ever thinks that way, either via a novel, a painting, or whatever. This is Bad Art.
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic