Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guns, Politics, and Writing

Image Courtesy Raw Data
As much as I have political opinions, I've always been leery of sharing them here because:  A)  I don't want to risk alienating possible fans (customers), B) I've got other venues to share them, and C) I really want to focus on my writing, methods, inside scoops and the like.

Once in a while these paths converge and they do so in an odd way allowing me the excuse to talk a little politics as well as talking about the writing process.

I'd been meaning to post this for a few weeks now, pretty much since I posted Chapter 11 over on Bastion, the one that focuses on the teen-aged daughter of a rugged suburban survivalist.  I did not entirely mean to get preachy in there but I realized that the more I re-read the chapter the more I had essentially worked in my own political views into the character's mind set.

Then this week, I learned of a related tragedy.

A three year old lost his life as he and his sister, aged 7, played with a pink handgun that they presumably thought was a toy.  It tragically was not.

The United States has an incredibly unique relationship with guns.  They are part of our national heritage, but not in ways that most people recognize.  Data from the time of the revolution shows that image of the common man with his musket hanging over the door was more of an anomaly than the norm.  Yet that image persists and influences our discussion today about guns.

While I could wax all manner of preachy about who should have what guns for what purposes, I'm going to shy away from that conversation.  I've got my thoughts, though I suppose linking the story about the pink gun tragedy may tip my hand slightly, and instead I want to focus on my writing and what I realized I had done after the fact.

So if I can pull an excerpt from Chapter 11 on Bastion: The Last Hope:

“I said ‘take a gun’, dammit.  I’m not going to try to keep you here but if you’re going out, you’re going out like you mean business.  So march yourself over to the armory, and take a goddamn gun.”
“Dad,” she started to protest.  It was not that she did not know how to use a firearm.  He had been taking her to the range since she was old enough to handle a pistol.  Nor was she particularly reluctant to use one.  Guns were like any other tool, appropriate for the specific task of killing something, generally something that wished her harm.  But if there really had been clouds of death sweeping through the greater Chicago area, who was left to threaten her and would they really be lurking along some sleepy suburban street in Sugar Grove?
Additional emphasis mine.

Well the whole passage is mine but you get my point.

I've always argued that when the gun control issues have come up, specifically that guns only serve one purpose:  Killing Things.  They're not intended to intimidate (though they can through reputation), and they're not strictly for comfort (though it can be comforting to know you have them).  At the end of the day they are for killing things.

And that was the exact attitude that I wrote into Angel, and by proxy her father, and I rather intend to continue in my writing.

It is not my intent to sway people politically.  My opinions on how many bullets a magazine should have, or if we should cap the number of rounds per minute a hand gun can manage aren't really relevant to any story I'm telling.  But what is relevant is the purpose my characters have for guns.

They have guns to kill things.

Contrast that to the cartoon I watched growing up, labeled as "educational" thanks to the little PSA at the end:  GI Joe.  Thousands of rounds of ammunition were fired off, and the worst that happened was that something blew up near someone and they were thrown to the ground to be captured later.  That might make for good cartoon TV but it kind of flies in the face of reality.  Sure a solider may expend a lot more rounds than he hits with, but he's usually not ~trying~ to miss.

He's trying to shoot someone.

I know that Bastion (and Mind the Thorns) are going to be violent stories at times.  Bastion is about resisting efforts by aliens to drive mankind into extinction.  We kind of have to shoot back.  But as the writer I also bear sole responsibility for the style of violence I write into that world.  It is my task to craft a tale that is engaging but also honest.  And that is my ultimate goal.

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