Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tragedy and the Arts

Is it wrong that this gives me a story idea?
Over the last year, more than 40 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania, some as young as six months old. Many more have been attacked with machetes, their limbs cut off while alive. Their body parts are used by witchdoctors in potions and remedies as they are believed to bring wealth and success in business.
I do have an albino character in some of my stories, ones which haven't been published yet.  In the stories he's an adult, but the idea of something like this happening in his past could definitely be made into a story.  I'm not sure how well this would fit my world's society.  Not that I think they're above this sort of thing--just that they have a different concept of magic than what gave rise to this macabre harvesting.

But the first question I have to ask is whether it's right for me to draw on this tragedy for a story. Tragedies always give rise to stories.  There are stories about 9/11, the Titanic, the Holocaust.  Why?  The crass answer is that tragedy has emotional power, it has drama, it has all the ingredients that go into a good story.  It's why the simple factual accounts of tragedies, such as the video above, have such power.  There's more to it than that, though.  Stories are one of the ways that we try to make sense of the world.  It's one way we process tragedy: to try to find something redemptive in it, to learn some lesson from it, even just to let others share in the pain.

So my hesitation in writing the story has little to do with whether art should deal with tragedy.  It has more to do with the type of story I write.  Would a fantasy adventure story really be a good way to try to make sense of this tragedy?  I have my doubts.

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