The Speculative Fiction writer’s solution for necessary violence

The problem of necessary violence can arise in story-telling. Death occurs, people are maliciously injured, races of people are destroyed. And violence of some description is expected when a principal character in fiction is a god. Or, at least, a being powerful enough to destroy a world. Destroying the world is a fairly violent act on anyone’s scale.

I required a god for the At the End of World series of novels, based on the Mayan end of world scenarios. There are some obvious problems that arise.

I required a god interested in the lesser beings and interesting in their own right. And someone that made mistakes since rectification and resolution are important to interesting story telling. I could create a believable character with those attributes but what to do about necessary violence? A god of sufficient intelligence should get no pleasure from terminal violence, like most of us get no pleasure from squashing an ant.

However, sometimes, an ant needs to be squashed.

What to do?

My solution to the problem was that my god could erase individuals, groups, races and species. It may be possible with sufficient technology, a large power source and a bit of stretched imagination. The god would be able to remove all traces and the effects of an individual, a group, a race and even a species. It would be as if they had never existed. So, no suffering is caused (as long as annihilation is instantaneous), no lingering anxiety, no memories for those that are not erased, just nothing.

It would be the same effect as if your parents never procreated. You never existed for everyone who knew you.

Would you need a large power source for that? Would you need an understanding of physics we don’t have yet? Of course. But it’s a story, let’s not let the current state of science and technology get in the way of our imagination.

Ok.

We then run into the problem of fallibility. No-one is devoid of mistakes. Especially my god, who is just a powerful being with awesome technology and an understanding of higher physics.

Then the thunderbolt struck. Erasure mistakes, in response to necessary violence, would be brilliant! It allowed my god to re-make human species and races multiple times and then erase them when dissatisfied. However, leaving imperfect traces in the archaeological and paleontological record.

No inhabitants of the Americas before approximately 15,000 years ago? Why not? Erased, that’s why not.

Multiple modern-human migrations out of Africa before the most recent approximately 70,000 years ago? Why not? And some might have reached the Americas only to be, you guessed it, erased.

Multiple human species with scant traces? Floresiensis, Denisovan, etc, not a problem. Each a work in progress imperfectly erased.

Necessary, terminal violence without suffering, without revenge. This god would be a Speculative Fiction author’s perfect answer to alternate history. Except it wouldn’t be alternate. It happened but was removed imperfectly, leaving many story lines based on scant traces.

On an individual level, erasure seems an elegant solution to a god’s necessary punishment of wrongdoers or removal of imperfect experimentation. We all know or know of (even if only through news reports) someone who may deserve death, but not necessarily the suffering associated with the end of life (no matter how deserving of termination they may appear). And, the loathed one’s loved ones do not necessarily deserve to suffer because of association.

Think about it. If you had that power, and you were intelligent, and violence was necessary, erasure would solve many issues. Intelligence does not require revenge.

And what if the powerful being was innocuous and lived among us? What if they were the person close by as you’re reading this? The person who suddenly appears quite annoyed that you’re looking at them.

At least you, and your loved ones, will not suffer!

Posted December 17, 2011 by Mark in Books & Writing