Monday, October 29, 2018

Lies, Morals and Writing

I decided to do a two part blog, mostly because I've thought about two related topics and I want to tie them together.  This may not work. :)

If you've read any of my earlier non-hiking blogs, you probably know I don't like dishonesty.  And that's where I want to start today.  I do a lot of reading:  news, blogs, and fiction novels.  And a lot of what I'm seeing today appears blatantly dishonest.  I prefer to presume that writers and journalists are competent rather than incompetent.  They've gone through school or training and they have bosses and editors that review their work.  Fiction authors, especially for eBooks (generic term), may be the exception, as they may be doing their first professional releases.

But if the writers are competent, that means that many of them are dishonest.  When they leave out details that don't provide the whole truth or that lead a reader to a conclusion that may not be true, I assume they are being dishonest.  The exception is a big story, where they glaringly leave out one or more of the who, what, when, where and why.  In those cases, I tend to assume either they are lazy, incompetent, or their bosses are not giving them the time or resources to investigate properly.  But that's another blog.

Most of the media are now anti-Trump and most of their stories leave out or distort background that would show President Trump's actions or words were quite reasonable.  To me, that is dishonesty, and abhorrent behavior.  Likewise, when they bury or don't cover President Trump's successes.  That is not even-handed journalism. It is a blatant attempt to push the electorate to vote against President Trump, Republicans, and their positions.  Again, abhorrent.

Then there are the election advertisements.  I haven't seen a democrat's ad (or their PAC's) that I find believable or honest.  The closest might have been Beto O'Rourke's original ads that said he wanted to end divisiveness.  He didn't lie about his opponent, and I assumed he believed he wanted to end divisiveness.  Until he started the dishonest attack ads against Ted Cruz--that push divisiveness.  In a 30 second ad, I do not expect a full discussion of an issue.  But I do expect an honest presentation of the facts and what they mean.  I don't see them.

I try to carry over that belief in honesty in my private life.  I abhor lies.  Of course, I'm not perfect.  I've had recent medical problems, and my wife keeps asking how I am doing.  Instead of telling her it's been bad, I just say I'm ok.  But when she asks about specific symptoms, I tell her the full truth.  I never volunteer statements that are false or partial truths.  I never answer with false or partial truths (except in the socially acceptable setting where people don't want to hear about your problems).

I sometimes get emotional when discussing other people's falsehoods when talking with my wife.  I don't like them doing it to others, and I don't want people to lie to me either.

Transitioning from lies to more general morals is a bit more difficult.  I consider my morals my view of whether acts are right or wrong.  I had a religious upbringing, so I also consider acts, that the Bible identified as sins, as wrong.  On TV and movies today, adultery is one of the most seen acts that I consider wrong.  It really bothers me.  Then there is cheating, stealing, cussing, and murder.  At least in most series and movies, stealing and murder is still considered wrong.  And on some stations or channels, they will still bleep out cussing during hours when children could be watching.

If a series or movie seems to grant approval to immoral acts or builds its plot around such action, it bothers me, and I stop watching.  I've stopped recording (for later viewing) series after a couple of episodes.  I try not to watch a movie if the summary shows it supports immorality.

Books (and I only read electronic books now because of my eye-sight) are a different problem.  I buy some off of Amazon, and I 'rent' others through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.  When I was young, I could go into a book store and go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, and look at the book's summary.  Back then, I found the vast majority of those books to be on the right side of morality.  The lead characters were the good guys, out righting the wrongs in their universe.  Kind of like the Super Heroes of today, only most didn't have super powers.  Those books didn't have cussing, adultery (very often), or graphical depictions of sex acts.

And since getting published (and edited) was tough, they were usual well written with few plot issues.

Today's flood of Kindle Unlimited books are showing a lot of poor writing, with poor character explorations and lots of plot issues.  You can avoid most of those issues by looking at the reviews.  The best reviews are usually for pretty acceptable writing.

But I've also changed preferences from science fiction to fantasy.  I still read a mix, just like when I was younger, but the mix has changed.  Maybe the science fiction writers are fewer, or maybe I'm just not finding the good ones.  But I think the TV series that make vampires look romantic instead of evil monsters seems to have influence and created a lot of fantasy writers.  It looks like some authors that in the past would have written romances (that I would not have read) are now doing urban fantasy, which I occasionally read.

But some urban fantasy authors seem to think that the romance is the central plot line.  And too many end up with graphical sex scenes.  To me, that is just too much like porn.  It is morally repugnant.  In a few cases, I've had to stop reading authors that went too far.  If the romance isn't incidental or supplementary to the plot, I won't read it.

Most recently, I started a series by two authors.  It read like traditional fantasy, set in an urban fantasy universe.  It was a little simple, but it had engaging characters and nice action, plus an intriguing fantasy world development.  I read the 10 (somewhat short) books from Kindle Unlimited.  Then looked at their other series.

I think the lead author switched from the first series to the second (though I am unsure of the order).  The authors are different genders, and the lead character was female (instead of male) in the second series.  I'll go into more detail in part on the series and writing of these two authors.

But the second series had some moral issues that almost had me drop it.  First, they came up with a 5" troll with green hair.  A cute concept.  But the troll hides his intelligence and ability to speak when he is first introduced.  Instead, most of the troll's language in the first few books of this second series is cussing; usually, some variation of the f-word.  I think its supposed to be humorous.  Maybe in real life, it would be humorous.  In the book, it was ok the first time or two, but then it became too much.  And worse, all the characters in the books observing the troll thought it's language was humorous or cute.  Why do this?  In most literature, characters using foul language were thought to be foul persons.  This writing seems to be conveying the message that cussing is ok.

The next item that bothers me in one of their other series, is when a group of high school kids go shopping in a mall run by magical beings.  I don't know why, but they have one boy still a knife for whittling.  The text indicates he doesn't have the funds to pay for it, so he just picks it up and runs.  There is no subsequent mention of consequences or corrective action, or even any indication that the boy believes he did something wrong.  Instead, the story seems to laud the boy with accolades for his subsequent whittling.

Another issue in that last series, with the boy thief, is that the female lead comes across information that her school's administration needs to know.  There are bad guys trying to disrupt the school and hurt the students.  Instead of telling the administration, she repeatedly keeps the information to herself.  While this may be a mechanism to support the defective (in my view) plot approach, it seems to support the position that it is ok to keep important information from the authorities on folks seriously breaking the law.  Is that a message you want young readers to take away?

In those last three series I mentioned, the average review was always 4.5 to 5 (out of 5) stars.  I'm not sure what's up with new writers, maybe this was an aberration.  But it sure seems that writers are going the way of journalists; i.e., immorality and dishonesty is ok.

The next part in this blog will focus more on the writing of several series of the two authors I mentioned above.

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