Digression Girl

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I’m writing this hours after something utterly horrible has happened. It’s something which caused my anxiety to flare up and my outrage to erupt. I’m trying to use this negative energy for something, because it’s keeping me from sleeping at the moment. The horrible event that has me in this state got me thinking about fear, anger, hate, and horror. It reminds me that there’s enough out there to be legitimately terrified about without having to make stuff up or think of supernatural forces to trigger that fear.

In short, we are too efficient at making our own monsters.

I would suggest that anyone consider that when trying to create something horrible for a fictional work. Don’t disregard the mundane in its ability to mortify. At least two recent horrible tragic gut-wrenching events have occurred in the US that reinforces this, not even touching on the reality that is Ukraine right now.

The terror is multilayered: the disregard of the warning signs; the willing ignorance about addressing, much less solving the issue at hand; the bloody heartbreaking toll that it takes on the families and communities impacted by it; the despair and disillusionment that cements inaction, countering any calls to meaningful positive action; the manipulation of the issue by those who benefit from the dystopia evoked by all of this. The virtual or literal destruction of the perpetrator(s) of such nightmares is short shrift for those grieving the loss of loved ones. This isn’t any sort of cathartic execution of Count Rugen by Inigo Montoya—this is the stunned grief in the aftermath of a disaster. Horrible loss endured that never can offer any semblance of fair or healing restitution. This is the sort of loss and grief that continues to destroy long after the disaster has ended.

If anything of events such as these are used for fictional works, I would suggest that they serve as warnings to the audience. The broken families and communities impacted by the disaster are the result of inaction, greed, willful ignorance, abuse of law, or a lack of moral conviction, or even all of the above. It should serve as a stark reminder of what is at stake, and what irreparable harm will occur if things are left to be as they are. The town of Derry from It (especially from the recent films) comes to mind. That town endured constant tragedy, and there was an unspoken unwillingness to do anything about it. It wasn’t until the Losers Club did do something, despite the adults’ and the town’s malign indifference, that It was dealt with at first, and then for good.

However, regardless if a threat is ended, the damage has been done, and will linger long after that event. The trauma may be so great for some that it ruins their future prospects and lead to more tragedy and suffering along the way, if not potentially setting the stage for another disaster. For some of the most hate-filled and monstrous out there, the disaster may be inspirational, ultimately leading them to commit their own atrocities.

Such horrible events and their lingering influence, if they are to be used in a fictional work, should be used not to pound the table on a personal pet peeve, but rather to emphasize the consequences of a lack of action, or making and committing to a difficult choice, for the sake of a community and its future. “Allowing” the vampire to feed on villagers rather than destroying it, or failing to oust a tyrant out of an aversion to conflict, or any such bad continuous situation that repeatedly spawns tragedy is a considerable analog for the problems at hand.

But then again, I would argue that no allegory or pastiche is necessary to tackle this in fiction. Imagine superheroes having to tackle events like this, much less the fallout of an event like this. How would a Superman-like character deal with something like this? Of course, such a character would be often used in a positive wish-fulfilling role to prevent something horrible like this from happening, but what if it was too late to stop? How would a Batman-like character deal with this? A Spider-Man-like character? A Punisher-like character? Imagine the Punisher wreaking havoc on businesses and politicians whose inaction led to such a tragedy—it’d be revenge fantasy for one, but horrific as well.

This is a very difficult topic to address. However, staying silent and hoping and praying it won’t happen again while simultaneously failing to take actions to actually prevent it from happening again is delusional and futile. There are generations dealing with trauma, and the suck-it-up approach to treat it fails horribly. Fictional works, whether consumable or interactive, is one means at our disposal to tackle the mere concept of such horror. And, as such, be a means for some to face the terror on their own terms, or share the experience and impact without forcing others to literally endure the same horrors themselves.


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