Authors Answer 32 – Controversy

Controversy. Adding just a little can make a story quite provocative. Some people will demand the books be removed from the library, others will love it. There are so many controversial subjects that could offend someone. But who will write about controversial subjects? Some authors would rather avoid that.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 32: Do you write about any controversial topics?

S. R. Carrillo

I like to think the topics I write about aren’t very controversial, but honestly they prolly are (hm, let’s see – sex, violence, queer stuff, antiheroes, drug abuse, twisted families, incest, etc.). Like, my friggin debut novel is about a gay angel and the lost little demon who always wants to eat him. Can’t say I have any regrets, though – the weirder, the wronger, the more I fall in love with the story. Mwahah.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Honestly? I try to avoid controversial stuff, unless I feel very confident that I understand both sides of the concept and am able to represent it without appearing to be biased or hateful. For example, in my zombie novel, “Nowhere to Hide”, the concept of religion comes up a couple of times as characters deal with the idea of it being the end of the world. Normally I avoid talking about religion and my own personal beliefs, but since I’m an atheist from a Catholic family I felt that I could accurately portray both sides of that fence without making either character seem like a horrible person for their beliefs (or lack thereof).

I have been known to write about things that create an emotional response in others, however, and I think that doing so as a writer is pretty much unavoidable. No matter what you write about, it will make someone angry, so the key really is to just get used to that fact and learn how to deal with it calmly and with a good attitude.

Paul B. Spence

Sometimes. I suppose that depends on how you define controversial topics. I have gay and lesbian characters. I’ve dealt with slavery. The nature of freedom and choice. The nature of evil. Cloning. The rights of clones. Gender equality. Species equality. The necessity of war. Life after death, and the soul. And yes, all in one story.

Linda G. Hill

I don’t think my topics – the less than … happy ones should I say? are as much controversial as they are twisted. I love horror – grew up on Stephen King – so I take much of my inspiration from him. Having said that, it still all comes from inside me. I can’t even begin to understand it.

Jean Davis

That’s hard to say since I don’t find many things controversial. A Broken Race features characters with genetic defects and other various syndromes and disorders. I did my best to portray them well. Sahmara‘s main character is bisexual. I suppose that might be controversial for some.

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t specifically try to write about controversial topics, but I’ve found that my characters have strong opinions on certain matters, and backstories (and sometimes continuing stories) that touch on current issues that may be considered controversial.  I have characters everywhere on the sexuality and gender spectrum, and countries with varying opinions on the expression of such, as well as a lot of religious conflict — which is ramping up the further into the series I get, since one of the main faiths is deeply misogynist, one is strongly female-oriented, and another is a combination of mild misandrist and ascetic to the point of ritual self-mutilation.  ….So in short, yes.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Religion fascinates me, at least on an intellectual level as I’m not personally religious at all.  You’ll see it in my Jasper series, and some other stories I’ve worked on feature it in some form.  Class structures and economics are other topics I gravitate towards, mostly because I feel the heat of it myself.  It features prominently in a short story I’m working on called Deferment, about a woman taking action against her student loan provider and the consequences she faces as a result.  The fantasy series I have brewing in my head also deals with class structure.

D. T. Nova

What topics count as “controversial” is itself something that people don’t agree on, but the answer is yes. While a short summary of it might not mention it, teen sex and attitudes toward it are fairly important in my novel in progress.

The negative aspects of organized religion come up a few times as well, thought actually maybe not as often as you’d expect from the villains’ motivations.

Caren Rich

Not on purpose. I generally write about people in the South. Some of my characters are Christian, and that has ruffled a few feathers in critique groups. The books are not what I would label as “Christian Fiction”, but my characters go to church, pray, and mention God in a positive light. The characters are not perfect. There’s  adultery, murder, a little heavy petting (nothing graphic), among other things. My goal was to present real people struggling to be Christian in an increasingly difficult world. The novella, deals with a small town being forced to take down or move their Nativity scene.  I expect that one to cause a ripple or two.

Gregory S. Close

I’m not setting out to offend anyone with Greyspace, but the story is based on the concept that things in the religious domain (demons, devils, gods, angels etc.) are all real, but not necessarily real in the way that they are described by religion. I’m sure this will rub some people the wrong way.

I’m purposefully approaching it from a standpoint that all religions and folklore are based on primitive understandings of extra-planar beings, and that one religion is not intrinsically more “right” than any other.  So I expect some flak from those who do not like their own modern and accepted religion (Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist) on equal footing with mythological religions like the Norse, Greek/Roman or Native American theologies.  Not to mention that I’ll be throwing in faeries and the Tuatha Dé Danann into the mix.

While I’m not going to have Jesus in fisticuffs with Zeus or Thor throwing down with Buddha, I do worry that the premise alone will be problematic for some people.  No doubt that I’ll treat someone’s favorite demon or angel in a way that they don’t like (let alone their deity).  I’ve toyed with adding a Forward to the book, with an author’s disclaimer to remind people that I’m just trying to write a fun story, not a metaphysical treatise, but if it’s going to offend someone, I doubt that a Forward will salve the wound anyway.

Eric Wood

The only story I have written that I would consider “controversial” is about a woman in an abusive relationship. However, part of me doesn’t think it’s controversial as much as it is troubling. Unfortunately, the female character didn’t survive in my story (though, neither did the male antagonist). However, my story isn’t too far from some ugly and unfortunate truths out there.

Allen Tiffany

I don’t set out to do so. At least not with my fiction. As a columnist for a newspaper at a large campus, I certainly poked a few people in the eye. That was always fun. But with my fiction, if there is something someone finds controversial, so be it. I’m just telling a story.

Jay Dee Archer

Funny that this is asked now, because I’m currently working on a part of Journey to Ariadne that deals with religion and fundamentalism. I don’t think it’s too controversial, though. However, in the Ariadne series, I will include religion, genetically modified organisms (particularly food), slavery, discrimination, and experimentation on an intelligent species. Although becoming less controversial, I will include gay and lesbian characters, including those that are married and have children. There’s nothing saying a couple women or a couple men can have a child using their sperm or eggs, right?

In a fantasy series I have under development, rape, war, reincarnation, and polytheism.

So, I’m not against using controversial topics. I don’t go out of my way just to include them, though. If it fits the story, then it’s fine. I look forward to the hate mail.

How about you?

What do you think of controversial topics in novels? Is there anything you’d refuse to read? Is there something that would offend you? What would you read? Let us know in the comments below.

15 thoughts on “Authors Answer 32 – Controversy”

  1. When i write, I neither attempt controversy nor avoid it … if it makes it’s way into my work, good. If not, also good. I just try to be honest about the way I see the world and the way I think it should be, and that is more than enough to cause controversy for some people, I have found.
    Also “I’m not going to have Jesus in fisticuffs with Zeus or Thor throwing down with Buddha”- I would read that quicker than you can say “controversy”!!

    1. Wow, 4 different religious figures all in one story 🙂

      I think it’s important not to go for controversy or avoid it. Just write what fits in the story. If it’s controversial, so be it.

  2. Anything I’d refuse to read? Graphic depictions of rape, torture, etc. (Yes, I’m a bad person for not wanting to read A Game of Thrones. *rolls eyes*) Extreme preachiness (religious or otherwise), even if I happen to agree with the author. Most vampire fiction, especially the kind that focuses on undead sexytimes.

    As for whether I’ve ever WRITTEN anything that’s controversial… Does an “evil world dictator” who decided to outlaw organized religion of any sort count? What about playing havoc with several mythologies? Interspecies pre-marital interdigitation? Dragons no bigger than horses, elves who are not magical tree-huggers, a Mars colony established by anti-science types, a pseudo-“medieval” society with widespread literacy and gender equality…? (No, not all in one book.)

  3. I probably should have also mentioned that two of my main characters are the children of a lesbian couple.
    Which becomes a polyamorous triad when one of them (bisexual, obviously) marries a man. (It’s also mentioned that the two mothers would already be married to each other, if they lived somewhere they could.)

    Intersex surgery comes up too, though as far as public opinion goes I think that’s less “controversial” and more “people don’t know about it in the first place”.

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