Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Scary Side of Writing

I read something on a blog last week that scared me. It scared me because I'm a writer of fiction, and it reminded me once again what a big responsibility that can be.

Believe it or not, this blogger was celebrating the fact that piracy is making a comeback these days, and was downright giddy about what Somali pirates have "accomplished." I looked up old news reports to read about these newfangled pirates, and found that they have fired rockets at cruise ships and hijacked vessels carrying food to starving Somalis. Why was this blogger so happy? Because he loves pirate lore, including Pirates of the Caribbean. Now, I've admitted being a fan, myself. Does that mean I make any connection between that otherworldly myth and these outright thugs? I don't think so. The writers of Pirates probably didn't see that one coming, either.

I also love Star Wars. Does that mean I want to ditch Christianity and become a Jedi? What a laughable thought, you might think. But did you know that "Jedi" was listed as an official religion on the last U.K. census, and that 390,000 people marked Jedi as their religion? Granted, a fair number of these people could have done it for a joke. But I used to go to science fiction conventions. Trust me, some of them weren't joking.

Did George Lucas set out to create a new religion? He has said (in a Bill Moyers interview) he merely wanted to get people to think about God and not endorse any particular faith. And yet, some people are embracing Yoda's teachings as real.

Fiction has always been a powerful force (no pun intended, Mr. Lucas), for bad and for good. Remember how Uncle Tom's Cabin riled people up about slavery? It's always exciting to think God might use our work for good. But it's a little frightening to think that, once it leaves our hands, our original message can become twisted and misused.

I've heard people say, "It's only a movie," or "It's only a book." I wonder if there's really any such thing?