I’ve been pleased to see that most of those who have taken on the task of slogging all the way through A THRONE OF BONES appear to think rather well of it. And while my publisher suffered an understandable amount of angst prior to publication, I’m not terribly surprised that there haven’t been too many serious objections to the presence of vulgar language, graphic violence, and sexual scenes in the novel. I think this is because most of the individuals prone to thoughtless knee-jerk reactions aren’t going to go to the trouble of wading through an 850-page book in order to go through their fainting couch routine. Not when there are so many shorter books available about which they can more easily complain.
Those who take the requisite time to read through the book tend to see that the inclusion of these less-family friendly elements adds to the verisimilitude of the reader’s experience. None of us may have experienced an arrow grazing our cheek or piercing our arm, but we have all had that moment when we misapply the hammer or slip with the knife, and we all know what tends to come out of our mouths at such moments. It is seldom hosannas of praise to our Maker or calm and reasoned discourses on the manifold wonders of Science.
In like manner, many of us have been away from our wives for a month or more, and we all know the intense combination of desire and hunger that we feel upon seeing them, smelling them, and touching them. To omit such aspects of the human experience is to deny reality, it is to deny a vital element of God’s Creation, and it is to make the fiction even more of a lie than it already is. I don’t criticize those authors who choose to omit these more mature elements, as I am sure they have their reasons for making such compromises, but I am staunchly opposed to those readers and publishers who would deny authors the ability to make such decisions for themselves.
What the SFWA writers who have mocked me for preferring, (and know that it is a choice on my part), to be published by a small and independent press fail to understand is that freedom is now more important than advances, marketing muscle and retail distribution. The beauty of Hinterlands is that I can not only write exactly what I want to write, but I also have the freedom to use my books however I see fit. By the end of this year, the significance of that should become obvious in a way that has implications that go far beyond with whom I happen to publish.
The cartoon makes a valid point. Many of those who question or condemn the vulgar legionaries in A THRONE OF BONES don’t hesitate to watch NCIS or read A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I’m entirely willing to accept criticism from those who limit their media consumption to 50-year old Disney movies and Christian bonnet fiction, but not from anyone who betrays even the slightest familiarity with secular entertainment.
I know I’m not the ideal standard bearer for the cause of historical and intellectual verisimilitude in science fiction and fantasy, much less the cause of behavioral realism in Christian fiction. I’m too outlandish, too controversial, too vulgar, and too intellectual. I’m also insufficiently talented as a wordsmith; the primary role of my prose is to simply stay out of the way of the story and the reader’s experience of the world and the characters. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be anyone else who is willing and able to point out the observable problems, provide the counterexamples, and then face the inevitable criticism.
So we’re left with a literary movement that consists of one writer, of limited literary abilities, who is published by a small press that doesn’t sell to the retail chains. It shouldn’t have a chance in Hell of making any difference whatsoever, and yet, it has one key thing going for it. It is aligned with the truth, and the truth always wins out in the end.