Cultural Decay and Fiction

More disturbing news out of China makes a person simply shake his or her head in wonder. CNN reported that seventeen children have died in a string of five attacks, while 100 have been injured. The attackers have used kitchen knives, gasoline and a hammer to carry out these heinous crimes.

Chinese news outlets are reporting the attacks stem from anti-government sentiment and, in the case of the latest atrocity, it's reported that the Wu Huanming was embroiled in a rent dispute. Conveniently, he returned to his home and committed suicide.

I have a story that will be published soon in Redstone Science Fiction. It's a work of quiet horror--a character study in co-dependence and the emotional effects of solitude. I briefly, in the first paragraph, touch on the H1N1 flu virus, a pandemic that was much in the news at the beginning of last fall.

The swine flu has not yet proven to be the global game changer that many epidemiologists predicted it might be back then. In fact, it's a fairly benign form of the flu. That said, hundreds of deaths in the United States (mostly in infants, children and adults with compromised immune systems) did occur. For the loved ones of those who were lost, the worst-case scenario did happen, and I sometimes shudder to think how they might react to reading my story.

Joyce Carol Oates is on record as saying that her fiction is closely informed by current news (she's prolific, and her stories echo the climate in which she's writing very well), but I wonder how a story like this one would play out in fiction?

I wonder if editors received scads of submissions featuring plots with roadway snipers after the D.C. shootings a decade ago?

I mean, you have to wonder why these middle-aged Chinese men are so viciously attacking children. After the second attack, it was considered a copycat deal. But they've just kept happening.

It's the type of thing that makes a fiction writer's head spin, particularly those with an inclination toward writing darker stuff. Is it some kind of germ? Is it that old saw about something in the water?

All I know is that I don't want to touch this one. As I've said before, this isn't a place I'm heading at this time...

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