stupid vs. evil

On Writing

“Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.”

― Jim Butcher

I could not agree more. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that a lot of what we conceive of as evil–all kinds of barbaric, insensitive, mean treatment–is little more than stupid people in action. Not necessarily intellectually stupid, either. There’s such a thing as emotional stupidity, and let me tell you, it runs rampant.

But that’s not really what I want to dwell on this week. Instead, I’d like to point out that the above quote, with all its smart-ass, epic wisdom, doesn’t come from a treatise on ethics or some kind of essay on morals. It comes from one of the Dresden Files books. Yes, a series about a modern day wizard who lives in Chicago, advertises in the yellow pages, and sometimes rides dead dinosaurs through the middle of town.

It’s easy, sometimes painfully so, to think that the fiction you’re working on isn’t all that meaningful. No matter what genre you write in, if you’re not penning something ridiculously serious, you may feel like your work lacks any underlying message.

You could not be more wrong.

Plenty of authors–Butcher, Millar and Green come immediately to mind for me–have written fantastically fun books that appear to have no real depth on the surface. Until, that is, you come across a line like the one above. Then, if you’re paying attention, you very nearly need to set the book down to soak in the truth of what you just read.

Those are some of my favorite moments as a reader.

And here’s the thing–I’m not entirely certain the author always knows when he/she has written a line like that. Maybe something hits me square between the eyes, enlightening me out of the clear blue, and it didn’t seem all that important to the writer. Maybe they were just letting their own values bleed through, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

I’m not really sure.

What I know with certainty is that such moments happen and they’re beautiful. As you write, try to remember that. Never think of your work as meaningless. It’s not. I don’t care if you’re writing about mutant frogs that learn to play world class polka music, there’s more than likely a bit of you in that story.

Wow. Mutant polka playing frogs. Someone really needs to get on that, you know?


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

16 Responses to stupid vs. evil

  1. dumanae says:

    I’m just saying take the warning labels off of products and let the stupid sort itself out. Just kidding love your point about reading.
    Mutant polka playing frogs hmmm good band name.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. diannegray says:

    ‘Stupid’ reminds me of the movie Idiocracy – what a great movie with an even greater message. It flopped at the box office, but it’s scarily true that we are moving more towards ‘stupid’ than ‘evil’.

    I get those “something hits me square between the eyes, enlightening me out of the clear blue” moments when I read Salmon Rushdie. He’s a genius at opening our eyes 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. carmical says:

    This was me.
    “There’s such a thing as emotional stupidity, and let me tell you, it runs rampant.”

    This in me now.
    “There’s such a thing as emotional conviction-perseverance-grit-persistence-it will happen because I am in charge- rockin’ this place, and let me tell you, it is a powerhouse.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s all just the human condition – right? Tolkien gives Gandalf great wisdom, truth is to be found in fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Not much can be said about rampant stupidity – it is what it is. Maybe the bible got it wrong – it isn’t the poor but the stupid you will have with you always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      I think you’re on to something there. The stupid are always with us…but, thankfully, wisdom can be found all over the place, too, if you just look for it.

      (That was very yin-and-yang of me, wasn’t it? lol)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dumanae says:

    I think a lot of writers have this story that pkays outin the paper. In their heads and,if a good writer,the readers head it becomes a reality of a whole new world. I dont think,for the book to be good, that the story coukdnt mean something. The reader always takes moments from the books and lives it over and over and sees the hidden meanings there. Rodenbery said that you are writing a story about the relationships between people no matter what your heroine is in fantasy or sciencefiction and if you write tgat way those little gems are bound to ingrain themselves in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. P. C. Zick says:

    Thanks for this post, Dex. I’m guilty of thinking I need my work to be serious or it’s not worth writing. I blew that all to hell this past month when I participated in Romance in a Month. I had fun but still have managed to get a serious topic (homeless vets) into the “romance.” Hope it works.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. tristdagon says:

    Harry is a man of great wisdom, when he wants to be. Loved your post.
    Having a message doesn’t mean you have to convey it in a serious manner in order for it to be taken seriously. Sometimes the humor makes said message all the more powerful. At least that’s what I think.

    Liked by 2 people

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