My husband jokes that my fiction often has a high body count. It’s true, and I’m sorry about all the people I kill. One particular death made me cry as I wrote it. Right now, I’m drafting Usurpation, the third book in the Semiosis trilogy, and like the others in the series, there’s a lot of violence and death.
Why do I kill so many people and sentient entities in my writing? I’ve wondered about that. A common piece of writing advice is to “write what you know.” In some ways, I think you can’t avoid writing what you know.
I have never known peace. Personally, I’ve lead a quiet, relatively violence-free life. I’ve only had to hide from gunfire once, and I’ve heard a few terrorist bombs, but from a safe distance. But the wider world has always been a bloodbath. (Graph: Our World in Data, deaths in state-based conflicts, World, 1946 to 2020)
Right now, there are ongoing wars, genocides, insurgencies, armed conflicts, random violence like American mass shootings, murderous governments, and civil disorders. In addition, natural and human-caused disasters wreak enormous death and injury.
Some people don’t like to watch the news, and I can’t blame them.
When I watch the news, I more often get angry than sad or depressed. I’m angry because so much of this suffering doesn’t have to happen: it is a choice. We can choose otherwise. There are always alternatives.
Sometimes people choose well. Peace breaks out, fighting subsides, victims get aid and succor, and people learn how to do better. There is hope. In my writing, it might be a rough trip, but I try to find a way toward hope.