Today I released a new story called The Day She Started Counting, an EVE Online fan-fiction piece about a little girl in the Amarrian Empire who murders a police officer in an attempt to protect her father’s illegal hobby of assisting runaway slaves. I wrote this around 2010 I think and it’s one of my favorite fiction pieces that I’ve ever written. The editor of EON magazine told me that he would find a way to put this in the magazine even though it was twice their maximum length. His only complaint was the title: I Killed Him, Daddy. I hated that title too and totally agreed that it needed to change before we could publish it. I eventually realized The Day She Started Counting was a much better title. I hope that’s not why they never got around to publishing it, but now the magazine is out of business so I’m finally just going to post it here.
This is another one of those stories that depicts criminals as heroes. It’s funny just how common that is in books, movies and TV, and even when they’re anti-heroes like Walter White, we still identify with and root for their success. I find that so strange about our society. But the moment these same kind of criminals appear in real society, we suddenly hate them and want them to suffer and refuse to admit that they may have had real human reasons for committing their crimes. I mean, how many people really wanted to see Walter White thrown in prison and his family’s future destroyed? But that’s exactly what most people wish for when those exact same people exist in our real-world society… unless… of course, that criminal in the real world is someone we know personally. Nobody ever sees their own friends and family as being criminals. We look right through their crimes and we make excuses for them in the same way we do criminal characters in fiction stories. It’s only with the people we don’t know that we can be cold-hearted and genuinely support our criminal justice system.
Now, The Day She Stared Counting is about people rescuing slaves. Sure, they’re criminals, spitting in the face of their culture and established social order, willing to murder for their beliefs, but I think most people would read this and understand where they’re coming from and tell me these characters are different because they’re trying to rescue slaves, and nobody can support slavery.
Except that most Americans do support slavery. Most of us would never stand for the American version of the characters in this story. Our criminals in penitentiaries are basically used as slave labor these days. Would anyone really support someone who went to break them out, murdering a couple of police officers along the way, even if they were only releasing the non-violent criminals? No, we would hate them just as much as the Amarrian society hates my characters regardless of what we claim we believe about slavery.
And everyone knows that child slaves are being used over seas to produce much of our clothes, toys, nearly all our cell phones and God knows what else. Sure, we all say we’re opposed to slavery and are ashamed that we used to have slaves in this country, but the moment we have to pay a little more for our electronics, we forget all about that. Imagine if some corporate big-wig at Nike or The Gap were murdered in an attempt to stop those companies from keeping slaves in their manufacturing. Only the anarchists could stand for something like that because we’re so ingrained in our society’s distorted view of right and wrong and cause and effect. We’re only capable of seeing our own lives, our own wants and desires. We know logically that other people are suffering, and we claim to care about them, but we have no real empathy, so the moment we have to suffer in any way for their cause, all of a sudden we consider them monsters.
So it’s funny how fiction writers can get away with some really outlandish messages sometimes. I once saw an episode of The Drew Carey Show… at least I think that’s what it was. It was one of the only episodes of that show I ever saw, but it was a story of how he had sex in his early teens with a teacher, but he spent much of the episode talking about how much the experience had helped him socially and had actually been a significant benefit to his life. I could not understand how he could get away with so blatantly portraying child molestation in a positive light on network television. It’s strange how if you come out and say a message like this, it would be found horribly offensive by society, but if you bury it within characters that those same people can get to know, all of a sudden it’s acceptable and they will make whatever excuses they can to still see that character as being fundamentally different from the very same people in the real-world.
I think that’s one reason I love writing fiction. You tell lies in order to get to the truth. It allows people to get out of their own perspective and see things from a new perspective. The problem is that it’s so rare for people to carry that perspective over into the real world, to recognize that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are terrorists, and that the real-world terrorists have reasons and justifications just as the Rebel Alliance had. We need to learn to make that connection, but I think in our modern society, we are so quick to get offended by things, so quick to deem someone as a horrible monster for the things they say, that we separate the moral values of our fictional world from our real world, and build a wall between them, when in reality, the lives of people and the development of our societies of our fictional stories work just the same as our real-world ones.