Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror have been called “escapist literature.” Much of it may rightly be described as pure entertainment, although sometimes it may have a loftier purpose. In my case, I write entertaining fluff. Starstuff and shadow blended for the pleasure of the reader (and the writer). Hopefully an entertaining diversion from the mundane reality of the world. But reality has a tendency to intrude.
The massacre at Orlando’s Pulse club on June 12 has shoved the idea of plotting out something entertaining to the background. Creatures of the night find their power to terrify fade into insignificance in the wake of a huge body count. Unimaginable sorrows played out on the screens of cable news push away ideas of the plotting of make believe. For me it brings back memories of the days following the 9-11 attacks in 2001, when I watched the news reports, drank beer and stared at my small pile of unpublished stories and wondered “why the hell am I doing any of this?”
Something else kept roaring through my head that week; a story I’d read about the great comedian Allan Sherman (“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”) when he had a date to perform the weekend following the Kennedy assassination in 1963. He kept that date and opened by telling the audience: “There’s no sense pretending that we don’t all know what happened yesterday…but one of these days we’re all going to go back to work, and we’re all going to have to remember that we’re still alive.” And writing is what I do.
Another of my heroes, Rod Serling, regularly used science fiction and fantasy to address contemporary issues. What he would write about today’s contemporary LGBT issues we can only guess but he often used the downtrodden and the oppressed as characters. We write and read because that’s who we are. There’s a need to do it, a passion. Even in grim times we want to know where the story goes next.
Do the hero and his boyfriend live happily ever after?
Does the dragon chasing them get a good meal?
We want to know. There is a power in story, whether reading or writing them that drives us forward. It’s either that or the dragons that chase us win.
Oh, and the week of 9/11/2001, I said “nuts,” put a manuscript (with SASE) in an envelope and mailed it off. Life will go on.