However, as I've been outlining and drafting this novel (working title: Stock), it occurred to me that I was writing a fantasy novel with almost no violence (outside of a fistfight or two). The plot is resolved through hard work and cleverness. It got me to wondering why there aren't more fantasy (or science fiction) novels that deal with issues outside of violence?
Searching the web, I found a few really interesting articles on violence, such as this one from Kotaku. A similar thread on creating non-violent narratives came up on the IGDA mailing list recently. Is it time that genre media diversifies into non-violent narratives as well?
Most of my favorite novels are violent: The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Gone Away World, The Book of the New Sun, This Book is Full of Spiders, Rumo, Harry Potter. Violence is a part of these worlds, and it's handled in a respectful manner. Also: most of the violence in these books mean something. When someone dies in Locke Lamora or Harry Potter, it shatters the characters.
There are also a lot of novels I enjoy where violence is minimal or non-existent:
Even as I'm writing this, I'm having a difficult time coming up with non-violent novels that aren't humorous or middle grade. Going middle grade, there are all sorts of wonderful books that aren't violent: Maniac McGee, Stargirl, Holes, Dancing Carl, Wayside School is Falling Down (a personal favorite of mine). However, these are all real world stories. Middle grade fantasy is also violent.
I don't have a problem with violence in media. Growing up playing Doom, Quake, and Goldeneye gave me a high tolerance for stylized violence. I do have a problem with real(istic) violence, of the sort portrayed in Battlefield and Call of Duty, but not enough of a problem to forgo these titles altogether. Real world violence disturbs me greatly, whether it's footage from a war zone or from a UFC fight (I could rant for ages on all the reasons why I hate combat sports, especially UFC, but I won't...at least not right now). It makes me physically ill to see. With the former, I force myself to watch it. The recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon was very trying, but I monitored the coverage because I felt it was an important event.
I don't know why we have such a fetish for violence in media. Most major fantasy releases deal almost exclusively with violence it seems: A Song of Ice and Fire, The First Law, The Prince of Thorns, etc. But even with a near constant barrage of dismemberment, in book form, it's still easy to skip over violence because we can choose not to visualize or acknowledge it. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgress works so well because Nadsat forces you to confront the shocking violence.
So many fantasy novels that are focused on finding the magic sword or crystal gauntlet or whatnot. In science fiction, it's always about raising an ancient rail canon from the surface of a dying star or carpet bombing the planet of the flufftoids. In horror, it's about turning birds inside out, or making lampshades out of skin.
Violence is easy. How many times did our parents tell us this very thing? Using words is more difficult than simply socking someone in the jaw. Same thing in writing. Violence has consequences that most books don't delve enough into.
I'm not saying books shouldn't have violence. Violence is a part of our world and I assume all other worlds as well. But why do our protagonists need to be fencers and jousters and knights and battlemages? Can't we write compelling stories about dancers and merchants and chemists and cooks?
Again, I'm not condoning or rejecting violence. I have already pre-ordered The Republic of Thieves. I can't wait for the third volume in The Kingkiller Chronicles. My most anticipated movie of the year is Pacific Rim (don't judge). I just feel like there should be more variety.
My question for the peanut gallery: what are your favorite non-violent fantasies? Who are your favorite non-violent protagonists? What role should violence play in fiction?
I await your responses with open arms and knuckledusters. Until then, I leave you with this: