People have been querying me regarding what I consider appropriate or inappropriate for family friendly science fiction, especially where it concerns young readers.
Bear in mind that every family is different, as is each young reader, and so the only suggestion I can make is for parental entities to set your own boundaries of what constitutes ‘appropriateness’ in your case. The only caution here is against making a blanket statement that something is bad for your child when you haven’t read or seen it yourself.
So, when I speak of family-friendly/young readers, the only standard that I can use is my own. You will have to use yours and filter or not accordingly. My standards are not in harmony with the standard rating system used by your planet, so be warned. This page is set alone so it is easily referenced.
Most of the novels I review here are not specifically aimed at a Young Adult audience, but nor are books shelved in libraries or bookstores based on the target audience. So anyone of any age or maturity can gain access to materials that are not necessarily written with them in mind. My purpose is not to tell parents what to do, but simply alert them to what they can expect.
Everyone on this planet is born naked. That’s not true elsewhere (for instance, Rigelians come into their world in dressing gowns and tuxedoes, and that’s the only way they know the gender of their offspring. Weird, huh?). Most everyone changes clothes and/or showers daily (West Virginians excepted; for them it’s monthly, but still), which makes most folks naked on a regular basis, at least for brief periods of time.
That means that nudity is not really a big deal, and is fine by me. It depends on the context, of course, which we will cover here:
Most people hope to have sex at some point in their lives. The fortunate usually accomplish this goal, and kudos to them! However, sex is greatly distorted in this planet’s society. Instead of being a way to achieve intimacy with a dearly loved one and to propagate the species, it’s presented on Earth as something to do when one feels an itch in the groin area. The notion of propagating the species is mitigated by contraception techniques, and the notion of intimacy is washed away in a flood of pornography.
That means that adult sex between two people who use it to enhance their intimacy, at least, is okay, too. Because children should not be involved in sex until they are ready for the responsibilities that come with it, please no graphic sexual conduct.
Here is where “context” of nudity comes into a confrontation with appropriateness. If the nudity is merely for prurient reasons, don’t bother.
Unlike the two subjects above, violence is something no one really wants to experience in their lives. Except Klingons, but they’re special that way. Our media inundates us with graphic violence and gory blood-letting, and we are told that’s appropriate for teens, or even pre-teens, according to the rating system most used.
Frankly, it’s not even appropriate for adults. This is the true pornography of Earth.
But wait, you say, what about action violence?!?
Is so much FUN! So, sure, some violence here just for the excitement of it all. Plus, we get to know who characters are by their conduct. There is just no reason to be graphic. Admittedly, bad things happen, but remember they are BAD things.
So the message is: some violence is fine as long as it matters to the story, but does not need to be graphic, and does not need to be the theme. Classic examples of this are Star Trek and Back to the Future.
This is where I get the most questions about my standards. It’s kind of one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” things, but here are three examples of things I’d rather not be associated with: Super violent and gory themes just for the sake of violence, child molestation themes, graphic rape. Granted, there might be some history for characters that might include those tragedies, but I would really prefer helping people to overcome all the horrible things that might happen, not wallowing in it.
For instance, many extol the virtues of Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl,” which won the Hugo the year of its release. I tolerated the first debauched scene of crowd pleasing rape of this fragile creature because I felt it was essential to the story, helping to set the tone and plot. However, a hundred pages later, when the scene was repeated and got worse, this book was closed, taken to the trash, and I’ve never finished it. The second scene was unnecessary and entirely gratuitous, in my opinion. I felt degraded just reading it.
Words matter. Sometimes I hear that an actor or director used some vulgarisms and their defense is: “It’s only a word, that’s all.”
Really? ONLY A WORD? Words are what writers make their living on, that directors bring into the theater, that actors depend on to portray a character or move a story. There is NO SUCH word that is JUST a word. Words make people laugh or cry; they make people feel secure or go to war; they inspire or depress; they impart respect to or degrade others.
Just try to tell someone Shakespeare is only words, or the Bible, Quran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, whatever. Those words have changed the lives of people. They are NOT only words.
The old childish saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a LIE!
So, mild expletives such as “damn, hell, bitch, bastard” might get by my censor, depending on how you use the last two. But, the “s-word” (and I don’t mean sword), is going to get a tsk-tsk, and if overused, may get you disallowed from this site.
The “f-bomb” will be tolerated very rarely, as there are the occasional super-stressful moments where it might slip out. I read authors who use it, and if it becomes pervasive, their book is closed and serious meditation takes place as to whether or not they permanently come off my reading list. Sadly, because I love his writing, Dan Simmons has been removed from my reading list for this very reason, and the next.
The “c-nuclear-bomb” is such a degrading word that if I run across it in a book, that author is on immediate notice to cease and desist. If I see it twice, book in garbage. That word is not allowed here under any circumstances.
To sum it all up, my standards are about respect and dignity, and all creatures deserve those things. As writers, I feel our job is to champion those standards.
6 June 2016