Strange as it sounds, I’d like to begin this entry with a brief digression regarding a currently airing anime series. Yes, I know, last week I promised you something about fanfiction. Trust me, I’ll tie this in with Wayward Son, you’ll see.
There’s a mecha anime currently airing called Valvrave the Liberator. A lot of my friends on/m/ are talking about it—I’m not keeping up with it, though, because I just don’t have time! I’m busy with both the fanfiction I’ve mentioned here, my job IRL, studying, and a bunch of other things I haven’t mentioned on this blog (yet). So, if any Valvrave fans come across this entry, don’t think I’m knocking your show or anything. However, for anyone who’s not watching the show yet, keep in mind I’m going to mention a plot point my friends have been discussing recently. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading here! The same applies to Wayward Son–I’ll be discussing developments in later chapters of it, so watch out for spoilers!
What I want to talk about is this: Long story short, in episode 10 of Valvrave, from what I’ve gathered, the protagonist gets possessed by…something (the spirit of his mech or something like that) and rapes another character.
The scene is very strange, again from what I understand. The main character has a mark on his head that indicates he’s possessed and not in control of himself, having been made a puppet of that spirit thing or whatever (Like I said, I don’t watch the show). Perhaps it made more sense in the context of the show, but honestly, even people who are watching the show aren’t impressed by its inclusion of rape. One anon on /m/ asked if people realize how awful the show is now. People who like the show better say the rape is just proof of how ludicrous it is, or are amused by how it’s pushing boundaries. No-one I’ve seen, however, thinks the rape scene was particularly well-done or added a whole lot to the narrative.
So, what does this have to do with Wayward Son? Well, here’s what I wanted to talk about today. Have a look at its latest chapter, “A Beautiful Foe.” Near the beginning, there’s a funny passage involving Renault and a prisoner his friends captured in battle. In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here it is:
“You’re assuming anyone here actually wants to take advantage of you,” Renault sighed. He hadn’t intended her to hear his mumbled insult, but alas, she did so anyways, and swiveled around on her seat behind Varde to glare at him.
“And why wouldn’t you, hmm? No proper, red-blooded man on Elibe could ever resist me for long! Perhaps you prefer the company of men, is that it?”
Renault pondered the question for a moment, then gave what he thought was an appropriate reply: “If I were to say yes, would you shut the hell up?”
Lamentably, this accomplished the exact opposite of what he’d hoped. Prudence let out a delighted squeal loud enough to make the unfortunate Varde’s ears ring. “Really?! This is just like one of my novels! Who do you think is handsomer, Lucian or Cross? Oooh! Oooh! And are you a seme or an uke?”
Nothing too offensive, right? I made a couple jokes about the terms “seme” and “uke,” which you see a lot in fanfiction and refer to same-sex couples, but the intent was humor and the dialogue should have put a smile on the reader’s face rather than disturb them. This was not, however, the first draft of the passage. Originally, the little exchange looked like this:
“Look, lady,” Renault growled, his visor flashing red as his patience finally ran out, “Nobody here is actually into that sort of thing. But if you don’t shut the hell up, I’m going to do much worse than ravish you.”
“Eep!” Their captive didn’t seem like the sort of woman who stopped talking easily, but the cold, calculated malice in Renault’s voice was enough to silence her immediately. Even his allies were unnerved—Wallace felt a distinct shiver run down his spine as he heard those words. After watching Renault in action during that last battle, there was no doubt he could back them up if he wanted to.
“Um…thank you, Sir Renault,” said Varde respectfully. “But perhaps that was a bit harsher than you intended…”
“Whatever keeps her quiet,” he grumbled in response. That was as good an answer as any, and the rest of the trip back to Caelin went relatively smoothly, although the Northern Cross leader never once stopped pouting until they’d passed through the Caelin gates.
Now that was a little nastier. I don’t think it would have been necessarily gratuitous, since Renault, at this point in the story, is a fairly nasty man with a very sharp tongue. Even so, I decided to change it around to the more humorous passage we actually saw, and avoided even alluding to rape. Why? Well, you can likely gather the reasons from the reactions to Valvrave’s rape scene I mentioned above. Almost none were positive—most people thought it was silly at best, straight-up stupid at worst. Now, Wayward Son is darker in tone than Valvrave, but even so, the response Valvrave elicited reinforced a truism I’ve observed after years of participation in fandom:
More often than not, the inclusion of rape in a story causes an author or creator far more trouble than it’s worth.
I have seen very few instances where a scene explicitly portraying rape, or even just making it a major plot point, was able to do more for the story than an alternative couldn’t, and which didn’t end up angering a whole bunch of people. There are, I suppose, authors who can pull it off successfully. George R. R. Martin may be one, the instances of rape in A Song of Ice and Fire (and there are many) make sense in the context of the world he’s created. Still, he’s one of the best writers in the business. I obviously have nowhere near his level of skill. Therefore, I’ve made the decision to simply avoid portraying rape as far as I can. There are exceptions; in one chapter of Wayward Son one of the protagonists rescues some girls from being sold into slavery, and a villain is noted to have raped people in the past. However, I’ve re-written even larger segments of the story to avoid touching such a sensitive subject.
As another example, there’s a lengthy scene in chapter 35 where one of the villains is gloating over pillaging all the money from a destroyed town’s coffers. Originally, I’d written the villain to be “enjoying” a captured girl he’d enslaved and mind-broken. However, I concluded that it might be too offensive and garner me some bad attention, so I went with the less salacious “stealing money” scenario instead.
Is all this a bit of self-censorship? Maybe a bit, but I’d say it’s worth it. I spent some of my adolescence getting into all sorts of trouble on the Internet, and at this point in my life I mainly want peace and quiet. If some degree of “self-censorship” will keep me from getting the same sorts of reactions the Valvrave rape scene netted the anime, it’s an acceptable sacrifice.
Hmm…this isn’t my most profound or well-edited writing entry, but I’m a bit tired at the moment. Forgive me if this seems like a bit of a drop in quality. I have a couple more entries about my experiences writing Wayward Son. I’d like to provide my perspectives on writing a “super long epic,” what I like most and least and what I’d change about Wayward Son, and a longer entry on writing “grimdark” fanfiction. One of those may come next Friday, depending on my mood. I’m also getting a new computer soon, so I might post a review of it as well! Stay tuned…