I am going to tell you a true story. If you are a softie please don’t read, it’s a bit disturbing.
When I was in 3rd grade, I read this story in a children’s magazine (for those of you who don’t know, I was born and raised in Turkey.) It was written by a local Turkish author -the same magazine published translated stories like Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
Anyway, the story went like this: The protag is a 6 or 7 year old kid, he’s traveling in a ferry with his parents. He goes walking around and finds this baby seagull who can’t fly just yet. He takes it in his hands, pets it, then strangles it on a whim and feels the life drain from it. The story goes on describing how its body went cold and stiff and how it didn’t take much effort to kill it, just a little squeezing in the neck. He half expects it to come back to life but it doesn’t. He was actually experimenting, like those kids breaking their toys for the hell of it. It was written in first person from the kid’s perspective. The kid was not the villain, that’s what makes it so fucked up.
The whole thing was described in such vivid detail I remember it even after 30 years (fuck, am I really that old?) then he feels guilty and tells an adult (either his father or the someone from the ship staff… can’t remember…) They scold him and give him a lecture. He really feels bad after the adult explains how wrong it is and he killed an innocent thing without even thinking, he should repent and beg for forgiveness from god and the spirit of the baby bird.
That dark story got me to sit down and think about how fragile life is and how easy it is to take the life of something weaker than you. I thought I’d beat that kid up for killing that poor baby bird if he were real. I have read hundreds and hundreds of short stories as a kid but this one is one of the few I remember to this day. It was a powerful piece of writing. I wasn’t mad at the author, though, I was mad at the character. Never at the author. And I was a 9 year old kid for crying out loud.
I think that story would not see the light of day in a first world country as children’s literature. If it did there would be war. I am not sure if it was wrong to publish that a children’s story, I don’t have an opinion. But I can say it was enriching for me. I’m glad I read it.
I remembered this whole thing when I ran into some debate about the controversial Justice scene in Mark Lawrence’s book. And now this whole thing got me to sit down and think how stupid people can be. I don’t mean to be arrogant but I was hell of a lot smarter as a 9 year old than all those grown ups who get mad at the authors like Mark Lawrence and R. Scott Bakker for the vicious actions of the characters they write.
Life is cruel and far worse shit happens in real life than what you read in works of fiction. If you can’t handle reading about vile people doing horrible things, don’t read grimdark. Simple as that.