Philip Palmer glorifies violence

Paul Raven @ 14-07-2010

It’s not my accusation, mind you; he’s claiming it himself. Sf novelist and screenwriter Philip Palmer’s had it up to here with people bemoaning sensationalist violence in cinema – don’t they realise that sensationalism is the entire point of the medium?

What I’m saying is; let’s stop pretending.  Of course violence, when it’s in fiction rather than in life, is fun.  It’s part of the imaginative experience; imagination is our way of living other lives, and since we can do so without incurring actual injury, the more violent the better.  It’s cathartic, it’s exhilarating, it can be beautiful; but the key point is; IF YOU’RE A SANE AND MORAL PERSON, WATCHING VIOLENT MOVIES DOESN’T MAKE YOU VIOLENT.  Reality, fiction; fiction, reality: two different things.

[…]

Hell, I read this stuff all the time, and what I write is often WORSE in terms of gruesome barbarity. […] So does that mean I have calluses on the tenderest parts of my mind, the bits that are used to focus empathy, as Adam so beautifully if cruelly phrases it?

Well perhaps so.  But on balance I feel that constantly wallowing in imaginative violence has made me not one whit more aggressive, or capable of violence. I remain as timid, fearful, and cowardly as I have  always been. I would happily slay a Barsoomian plant man with my long sword; but I am not in the habit of mugging elderly ladies, or randomly shooting people in pubs.

[…]

But why, I am forced to ask, does violence in fiction appeal so strongly, to me and to so many of you?  Why do we not daydream about peaceful characters, who broker peace and leave a trail of concord and amity behind them? Why do we prefer the Man with No Name, or Conan, who are more inclined to leave a trail of corpses behind them?

I guess the answer is obvious; we’re never more alive than when we are in fear of dying. And to experience that intensity of life while reading a book, or watching a film, and without any ACTUAL possibility of dying, is vicarious ecstasy.

Having met Philip in person a couple of times, I struggle to imagine a less aggressive or more softly-spoken man (with the notable exception of his part in discussions regarding the funding models of the film industry); having read a few of his books, I can also assure you he’s not overselling his own pleasure in writing (and by extension consuming) media with violent content..

For my money, I’ve always been opposed to campaigns against violence (or sex, or controversial topics) in media, not so much because I feel that they aren’t at all problematic, but because I believe that censorship is far more problematic to society than the media it seeks to control. The internet is something of a vindication to me in this case; as ill-informed and banal as some of them can be, the fact that we can (and do) have passionate debates about what art and entertainment should and shouldn’t say is one I take great comfort in. Let those who want to watch violent movies do so; if you don’t like ’em, don’t go see ’em. Censorship starts and ends with your own thumb on the remote.

That said, I’m not at all fond of gratuitous violence in movies. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve lived without a television for over a decade (and have thus become resensitized), but really graphic violence physically unsettles me to the point that I can struggle to watch a film that has more than a few moments of it*. But perhaps it’s as much to do with being more of a reader, too; strong fiction writing is all about implication, letting the reader’s mind fill in the nastiness in the gaps, and I still find implicit violence in cinema or television far more effective at generating a brainkick without booting me out of the narrative completely.

But what about you lot – are you gonna follow Philip down to your local multiplex for a ninja-swords gorefest, or stay at home and put your feet up with something more subtle?

[ * – My ex-girlfriend convinced me to watch P2 with her last year. Half way through, I had to leave the room. If you’ve seen the film, you probably know the scene I’m talking about; much as I understand Philip’s argument, I don’t know how I could justify the graphic nastiness of that particular bit of cinema on any level that makes a real difference to the story being told. And don’t even get me started on the Saw franchise. Your mileage, of course, may vary. ]


Contemplating immortality, contemplating death

Paul Raven @ 03-06-2008

ninjaThere’s a lengthy (but well worth the read) article at COSMOS Magazine about the prospect of functional human immortality, which – thanks to fairly recent scientific advances – now looks plausible as opposed to impossible. Unlike many articles of its kind, it looks at the psychosocial implications of such a change:

“Our relatively brief lives and our routine proximity to the deaths of ourselves and others are the foundations of everything we have ever thought or believed. Neither religion nor philosophy necessarily promises immortality, but each offers ways of coming to terms with or giving meaning to death and, therefore, life. If death is to be postponed indefinitely, then both religion and philosophy face fundamental crises.”

Well, at least we’ll have the leisure time to talk it all out! [image by brunkfordbraun]

On the flip-side, an article at Wired takes a look at a new computer game wherein the bodies of your slain opponents don’t disappear:

“Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of the seriously violent games I love deal with the corpses by simply whisking them away. […] After I’d killed my way through about seven battles, I experimentally backtracked all the way to the beginning, and sure enough – every body was still lying there, every blood fleck on the ceiling intact.

Now, did this change the emotional, or even moral, timbre of the game?

In some ways, yes. You really do get a better sense that you’re a sociopath when the evidence of your crimes is stacked around you.”

Perhaps, rather than being the training grounds for murderers that some might claim them as, violent games could actually encourage their players to think harder about the consequences of their actions in the real world? That could come in handy – especially if we ever find we can live forever.


HIS WHORE THE VECTOR by David McGillveray

Jeremy Lyon @ 06-09-2005

“His Whore The Vector” by David McGillveray is a dark tale about dictators, revenge and what violence wreaks.

[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]

His Whore The Vector

by David McGillveray

The palace was a monstrosity in poured concrete with clumps of antennae bristling from every roof. Nadine was driven to an anonymous side entrance guarded by militiamen and taken inside. The door groaned shut behind her.

Behind the walls, the gardens had been left to wither in the heat. Desiccated roses lay in mass graves and a fine covering of dust clung to every surface. Nadine was led into the cool gloom of the main complex. The slap of her escort’s boots echoed along the maze of corridors: always a different route, always the same destination.

Gerber was waiting: white, white skin untouched by the sun, shaven head and flat, colourless eyes that kept the world out. The European mercenary had been rewarded for his enthusiastic bloodletting a decade ago in the purges with a position heading security for the most notorious butcher of them all. Continue reading “HIS WHORE THE VECTOR by David McGillveray”