On WritingI’ve written many times about the fact that our stories carry a message. My thoughts on that have always been the same: think about the messages baked into your stories. Even if you don’t intend them, they’re there.

It’s not really my style (with fiction or much of anything else) to rail on the messages others propagate. If I don’t like your message, I’m likely to ignore it. Nine times out of ten, that’s the way to go.

But today, the long-shot 10% odds won out.

This morning, a ridiculously offensive game found its way onto Steam, an online gaming platform. It was called (I swear I’m not making this up), ‘Kill The Faggot’. It’s a first person shooter game, the object of which is to gun down homosexuals. You get extra points if you manage to slay a transgender person.

Yeah, disgusting stuff. You can read more about it here.

You may not know this, dear reader, but I’m a gamer. I use Steam all the time. (Incidentally, the game was uploaded via Steam’s “Greenlight” program. The company did not endorse the game and removed it swiftly.) As a gamer and a writer, I would argue that story is a significant component of many games. No, not all games. You won’t find me waxing poetic about Mario’s struggles to save Princess Peach. But there are a lot of games that incorporate story and message into gameplay, sometimes even in profound ways.

The aforementioned offensive game (I refuse to include the name again) is one such game. There’s clearly a message there, and it’s a hateful, mean-spirited message. It got me to thinking about messages in all kinds of art mediums–novels, stories, movies, music and, yes, games.

Before you say it, yes, I know this is America. I’m a fan of free speech. The (close-minded, bitter) individual who made and uploaded that game earlier today has every right to be hateful. He even has the right to make a game centered on his hate. I’m not arguing that he doesn’t or shouldn’t.

That said, I’m of the opinion that hate is never a good message. Even when I write horror, I don’t want my readers to think I’m promoting hateful attitudes. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

I can’t mandate that you avoid hateful messages in your art. That’s not my place. It’s your art. They’re your messages. I will, however, strongly encourage you to think long and hard before you write any story that advocates injustice, scorn, disdain or enmity. It’s not that such feelings and thoughts don’t have their place. Rather, they are like poison. If used carefully and only in very specific situations, they can be useful, but if used freely and carelessly, they kill.

To quote another great man (who is great despite being fictional), “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it,” (Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore).

Please use your words carefully.


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.

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