What is ‘Evil’?

Last night on “The Story Telling Podcast” we were talking about what makes a good villain, and making them less cliche. So I started to think; What does ‘evil’ really mean?

The idea of something being inherently evil isn’t new. Man started walking upright and venturing out of their caves and into open land where more food was available, but so was more danger. I am sure the various monsters of the time trying to eat them seemed ‘evil’.  As they developed into societies they also had to worry about rival bands of early hominids. Wolves, bears, and lone people out in the deep forests. That is why most of the villains in old fairy tales are woodland creatures and witches in the woods.

But society has changed. We now have scientific understanding of how ecologies work, and how to avoid danger in the deep dark woods. We know how to light up the night so they aren’t as dark anymore. Those old fairy tales that use to scare our children into avoiding “the evil places” aren’t relevant to our modern age. The idea of ‘evil’ has changed, just as we have.

Now our biggest fears are natural disasters that we can not anticipate or stop, and other people.

If you watch the news it is clear that the world is polarized as to who they think is really ‘evil’. Extremist religious groups blame other religious groups. One country blames another nation. Politicians blame social media and ban twitter or Youtube. Corporations blame taxes. Poor blame corporations.

So who, or what, is really evil? Who is capable of really deciding?

Religious folks will point at god, and say god decides. But which god? There are so many to choose from, many of which teach similar things, but none of which are in full agreement. Then you add in the fact that interpretations of religious text has shifted over the centuries as culture has shifted. That is as evident as the multiple branches of EVERY religion now seen. It doesn’t matter which religion you look at, Christian, Islam, Buddhism, pagan… they all have sub sects that have differences in their belief structure.

The scientific minded among us might look to culture, but culture shifts and turns. Culture depends on so many facets of human development. Just ten years ago we still taught our children “being gay is wrong”, now several states have gay marriage, and the number is growing. And while I admit that it seems like the spread of some religions is part of the reason being gay was deemed  “wrong”, it isn’t the entirety of it, and it will take a lot of work to fix the damage done.

What is evil? I think the simplest answer is “that which threatens a persons livelihood.” Be that a wolf trying to eat you in the dark forest, a rabid st bernard named Cujo, a wall street tycoon sucking up every last dime he can at the expense of real jobs, or someone taking over a plane and flying it into a building.

Evil is in the moment. It is dependent on a myriad of circumstances in our lives, and while one finds it evil another will hail them a hero. The tycoon doesn’t think he’s evil, he thinks he’s doing a fantastic job and won at life. The man in the plane thought he was striking a vicious blow at the capitalist pigs. Cujo was only doing what the virus told him to do.

Or ideas of evil change as we change. So do the creatures in the dark. Of all the creatures that haunted our dreams (vampires, werewolves, and witches) only zombies seemed untouched. Movies sprang up and they were just as scary as before. No zombie with sexy eyes, or illicit love affairs. No zombies trying to make peace with the humans. Just masses of rabid creatures that once looked human.

Until “Warm Bodies”.

So many of our dark creatures have been changed into something that was just misunderstood, and now we can be friends. Or if not friends, grudging allies. Now all we have left to fear is each other, and maybe the technology we create.

If evil is “that which threatens a persons livelihood” then the only thing more evil then humanity is time itself.

FAQ : Are Zombies Overdone

In a forum this morning, a fellow writer said they came up with an idea, and thought of setting it in a zombie apocalypse. They wanted to know if zombies were overdone.

My Response:

Zombies are a bit over done at the moment, but they go in and out of style just like witches, vampires, and werewolves. I believe “witches” are the current hot thing, or so I keep hearing.

The thing is, you should write what you love, because that love will shine through. So what if the market has too many zombie stories. Your first job is to write, worry about markets later.

Second, if you could take the zombies out and replace them with anything else and still have the same story, then really it isn’t going to matter. People will come for the story, not just the monster of the day.

Lastly, Even if they are over done, there will always be people who love them. Write it, publish it, and it might find a small audience now, and a larger one later when zombies become the “thing” again.

But really, just write what you love.

A Challenge and a Review

millwords

A Challenge

A group of my fellow authors started a little challenge for the new year. The challenge is to be the first to write a million words for the year. Not just on books we might be writing, but also including things like blog posts, notes for world building, articles, or anything else we “write”, because ultimately writing is all about putting words on a page.

I am skeptical that I can do this. Sort of.

I write a lot each day. I write a bit on some stories. I do blog posts. I answer emails, and talk in forums about odd things I find on Reddit. But I can’t bring myself to “count” those words.

I suppose, if I wanted to, I could cut and past all those little snippits of words from conversations about the political climate in Washington, and weather or not the cute little otter running back and forth across the fence is really THAT cute, and shove them into a file marked “BLAH” and count them. But that feels like cheating to me.

And it isn’t that I’d be cheating the challenge, because the challenge specifically says “ANYTHING” I write counts. It’s that I feel I would be cheating myself.

Last year I wrote about a quarter of a million words, only including actually work on books and short stories, or blog posts. That also included a few ideas for future stories, but it didn’t count all the blog posts I started and never finished, or those I eventually threw out as a bad idea. It didn’t count several thousand words I threw away as something that would never come to fruitfulness. Maybe those things would be interesting to see.

I wanted to work myself up to 1000 words of story a day anyway, and that would get me close to 400k all alone, so perhaps with all this other writing added in I will get closer to a million. But I refuse to count posts on Reddit, Twitter, Goodreads, and other social media. THAT is where I draw the line.

A Review

FO-smSimon Canton was nice enough to do a review over on his blog for “Forgotten Ones”. It was a fair review, and…

Well, I don’t generally make it a point to answer reviews, or comment on them for various reasons, but I will say that I do have two more books planned for the “Eternal Tapestry” story-line. One will be a revisit of the “Necropolis” short story, and go back to the first time Jadina meets Maylin. The other is a story that comes after “Forgotten Ones”, dealing with another goddess that managed to survive the modern age. Because I agree with Simon that it would be much better as a full novel. So,… I’m working on that.

I find it incredibly interesting that so many people read my stories and their first comment is “I wish this was longer, I wanted to read more.” Which just leads me to think that I really, REALLY need to put out some novels so I can give people what they are asking for.

I’m working on it!

Some Updates

“Mermaids Curse”, my NaNoWriMo project, is now at 48k. It’s about half finished, maybe a little more. It also has a LOT more action then most of my books, and maybe a couple sex scenes just because they seemed to fit at the time. (That is, if I can write them. I’m still not that confident in writing a full fledged sex scene.)

That is my big project at the moment, but in between filling out those chapters I will continue writing short stories simply because I love finishing stories, and I love publishing things so people can read them. Since it takes me such a long time to finish a novel it just makes sense that I’d do a couple short stories a month too.

“Footprints” is finished, but I won’t be putting that out for a little while. Garrett Robinson is working on an anthology, and “Footprints” will, hopefully, be part of that. I am not sure if I want to put it up as a single before or after the anthology is released.

“Zombie Swarm” is the current short story I am working on. It is my first (and probably only) zombie story, and looks like it will be 5-8,000 words. It is a rather unique view of zombies, and I really can’t say anything other then that till it is released. Which, I hope, will be by the end of this month.

The Walking Dead

Walking Dead

The phenomenon of “Walking Dead” isn’t really surprising. They tell a damn good story. And it’s ZOMBIES! Who doesn’t love a good zombie flick?

But it isn’t the zombies that make Walking dead great. In fact, the zombies don’t always play a huge role in the story. They are an obstacle for the characters to overcome. They are a background. But they are not the true focus of the story.

The major theme in movies like “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later” is the zombies. How did they happen? How do they escape from them? How many interesting ways can we kill them? How much blood can we show on screen?

“Walking Dead” centers around the survivors, their interactions, and their characters. How do they cope with being alone? How do they interact? Who do they turn to?

Themes of racism, adultery, survival, and family overshadow the zombies. The zombies are present, and often become tools used by the writers to pull the characters together, or push them apart, but the zombies are not the theme of the story.

“Walking Dead” showcases how a character driven story can really captivate an audience no matter what the backdrop of the story may be. They managed to take something that is usually used as a two hour show and stretch it into two seasons of some of the best TV I have seen in a while. This is, of course, my opinion, and I am partial to zombie movies, so take that with a grain of salt. However, the ratings don’t like. People love this show.

Remember this in your own writing. A great book is usually about the interaction between characters, not the sensational item. Throw in a zombie, a dragon, a wizard or a spy. If your characters don’t make us feel something (amazement, sadness, laughter, edge of our seat suspense) then we won’t care to come back and read again.