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Do we have a duty?

One of the side topics that has been touched on through both the m/m imbroglio and the cover fail battle is the common theme of “does an author have a duty to their readers?” It’s an interesting question – but I don’t think it’s the right question.

A better question, I think, is do we have a “duty to others?”

And the answer is yes. Oh, not a legal duty. No-one will come around to your house and force you to acknowledge it except in limited legal terms. No-one should either for that matter.

But an ethical duty? A moral duty? Yes. I believe so.

I have a number of ethical and moral duties that aren’t FORCED upon me but I feel exist nevertheless.

I think I have a duty to the planet to do as little harm as possible and heal what I can.
I think I have a duty to my fellow human beings to cause them as little distress as possible.
I think I have a duty to my fellow human beings to alleviate distress when it is within my power to do so.
I think I have a duty to society to try and make it a little better before I die – or at least strive not to make it worse.
I think I have a duty, as a privileged person, to work through my privilege and do my best to limit the harm my privilege causes.
I think I have a duty, as a person born in a society stained by prejudice, to take steps to avoid perpetuating that prejudice and to expunge prejudice when I am capable of doing so.
I think I have a duty, as a thinking, feeling being, to recognise my actions and my words have consequences – and that I need to be aware of them, considerate of them and responsible for them.

I think I have several duties, this list is not even remotely conclusive, just some of many.

No-one is ever going to force me to uphold these duties. There are laws that will cover aspects of them, but few none that will cover them all – nor should the, for the harm such a law would cause would far outweigh the benefits it would bring. But these are, I feel, ethical duties I have.

So when I read someone say “I don’t have a duty to anyone but myself,” or a writer say “I don’t have a duty to anyone but my publisher” well, I can’t help but double-take. To only have a duty to that which benefits self and that which brings you money seems a very… limited ethical code as well as being rather self-absorbed.

I believe we have a duty to others. I believe we have a responsibility not to hurt or harm people when it is possible to avoid it. That doesn’t mean I’ll get it right (hey, look at my Light & Dark story. Shiny Sidhe from Britain that rule a vast world wide empire of fae they consider beneath them? The cluelessness abounds in that one) but it means I will try to think and consider and do the best I can.

And yes, I think that is a duty.

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This, this, and all this.

Yes, to all you have written and more.

The terrifyingly sad thing is, the ME mentality totally negates the very idea of "duty to others"

not necessarily. the concept of ME can be completely service-oriented. ;)

My comment was made in the context of the post.

"Me" as related to being "service-oriented" is, to this me, a different subject, perhaps for another time.

*nod* gotcha. just felt the urge to peer at, 'cause the concept of selfishness vs. altruism, in my mind, is a very tricksy beast.

It's this idea that they don't even have to listen to other people - that expecting them to listen to criticism and people who are offended is like some VAST IMPOSITION this you're hitting on a bit of a touchy subject/dangerous ground. what i feel MY duties are the ones I personally chose to take on, and i'm under no obligation to bow to anyone else's ideals or prioritize shared ideals in exactly the same order. what you' ve said here IS well said and well expressed according to your beliefs, and admirable, but your beliefs are not universal, tá?

as a writer, my obligation--my duty--is to my characters and to my story, and to doing the best job i can expressing that story. that is it. i sucked at it at first. i'm getting better. it may be that simply doing the best job i can making them real and relatable and believable will make it less likely to upset people, (a big part of the craft is having people be upset abut the things that are genuinely intended to be upsetting, and not something i just missed entirely due to whatever cultural assumptions i was raised with, etc.) but in the end, nobody gets to tell me what to create for what reasons, and certainly not on the basis of "someone might be upset."

to create what i want, as i want--yes, that IS my privilege, as an autonomous human being, it's one of the few i've got, and it's one that i am not interested in compromising under any circumstances, and i do not give a flying FUCK what anyone else has to say about it. it will NOT stop me from writing what i need to write. readers can HATE what i do for whatever reason they have and that's fine, and they can throw it against the wall or set it on fire or write angry letters. in that case, we'll both be angry/upset, but all of us will live to see another day, and i can try again. readers can express what they feel is problematic, and i can either heed them or not, apologize or not, or whatever is suitable for the circumstances. but i personally draw the line at anything further, either by order or by implication.

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okay, here's the thing. i'm seeing a whole slew of communication issue here. starting with this is a post that is speaking in fuzzy generalities, instead of making it clear that it is addressing specifics (or specific people).

now your comment continues to suggest that both of you are actually talking about a specific group/set of people online. but the language that's being used in this post and a few others can be (possibly mis?)construed as a universal slam to people that might otherwise agree with both of you, if there had been specifics. after all, bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of who it is behaving badly.

also, slightly ot, but i'm having a slight problem with that sociopath line. (i'm not a sociopath, i just uphold a particular belief set as regards matters of art and creation.) but, for the record--sociopaths are also writers. and sometimes very good writers, for all that they may not do well on the social front.

and as a human being, well, you listed faulty examples, as there's plenty of other things besides humans that demonstrate a certain level of regard for others. AND given that i have outted myself as being someone that holds a particular value set--i never suggested i had NO regard for the feelings of others, that regard is very much there. but that there are lines to how much that regard is going to inform certain aspects of my life; it would be terribly unhealthy otherwise.

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I'm bewildered as to how having a care for the harm one might do with one's writing can ever be a bad thing.


okay, are you finished being all righteous-bewildered-condescending in my direction? NOW can we talk about the fact that you guys are in an internet slapfight with some unknowns, and i was initially looking at a post that does NOT function as "the universal ethics of life and writing?" which is what i THOUGHT he was doing. so i'm responding from an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CONTEXT than you're operating in? can you at least acknowledge that different contexts EXIST? essentially i figured out this post wasn't FOR me, per se. you hear me now or are you fixated on the idea that we're arguing about [this] and you're right and i'm wrong, and you have to win? because if that's case, i'm not interested, i've got writing to do. =|

*nods at what you're doing.*

it sounds reasonable. none of that's even relevant to the stuff i'm working on at this point, though. i've never been good at pwp or m/m romance genre conventions, reading most people's origslash is painful because for the most part the characterization IS shit and DOES suck, and i dropped out of the fishpond altogether a few years ago. i have a few scattered people i've met in the trenches still on my flist, but as far as slash goes, i got what i needed from it: i got over my stage fright, learned how to write a sex scene, and i moved on.

But doing it for selfish reasons doesn't absolve me from the responsibility of doing it responsibly - since motive and execution are very separate things.

you're really preaching to the choir, here. you have no way of knowing that, it's fine, just, yeah.

Good intentions don't make something harmless, and selfish intentions don't predicate harmful results.

i'll drink to that.

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OH. well then--that's an entirely different matter--why didn't you just say so! otherwise, i try to read tone and it tends to be negative, 'cause i'm paranoid like that. but if you just tell me "dude, i DO NOT understand what you're saying." i will go "ARGGGH!" and try again. 'cause yeah. communicating's hard. =\

I'm really tired of being shouted at by people allegedly on the same side as I am, when I'm only saying what they think they're saying.

THIS. this is what i'm feeling too. this is so frustrating.
=| hi? i'm sorry my wires got crossed. i was really confused by this whole thing. i am totally having a beer now. i would totally offer you one too, but lj does not have this function yet.

I think you're both agreeing with each other. Or would agree with each other :) or something

You've probably missed the majority of the imbroglio to which I would say you are very very very very very very very lucky. In fact I say RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN! The SILLY is there and it will give you the headache of greater headachyness.

LJ? Needs to fix this.

oh, probably. *sigh* i fail at making sense, as usual.

i am not even AWARE of an imbroglio. is it that same crew from the lamdda thing? (i only have one of them on my flist and i can't remember her saying anything that's pissed me off recently.) wait. no, don't share. i don't want to know. i'm going to drink my beer and pray my story makes more sense than my lj comments. =|

The same crew and a little more, yeah. And really no, you don't want to see it all :) It's messy messy messy. I'm, still realing from the "m/m fiction is a female space and gay men should STFU already"

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I think the problem here is, having missed the drama llama (lucky her) Kami has missed just how bad it is by a quote in her first comment:

i can try again. readers can express what they feel is problematic, and i can either heed them or not, apologize or not, or whatever is suitable for the circumstances.

Which is exactly exactly exactly what I think we've always been saying. Listen, to consider, to think, to respect.

Unfortunately, unless you've seen the nasty out there, it's hard to grasp that this eminently reasonable and sensible position is exactly the kind of thing that is being fought against.

In all seriousness, where can it possibly be harmful to insist that an author accepts responsibility for possible damage their writing might cause?

if unforeseen bad shit went down as a reaction to something i wrote, i'd want to address it, sure. my words are my responsibility--what people do with those words are their responsibility, but i'd want to address my end of that particular arrangement, yes.

THis isn't the same as saying 'don't write something'. It's asking 'why are you writing it that way?'

that's a critique, as far as i'm concerned, so if that's the thing being objected against, then that's ridiculous. a mature artist of any stripe should be ready to discuss their work. critiques are important.

I honestly can't think when that would be a transgression of anyone's liberty, and I really do want to know what examples you had in your mind.

in what you've put out there, there are no transgressions i see, it's part and parcel of the work, as far as i'm concerned. so that's all cool, and i have no argument with any of it.


okay, now here's the part where i'm gonna try to explain myself. seriously, i totally mis-construed the idea that was being advanced here. reading it cold, i got the idea that i (as part of the flist) was being lectured on a personal philosophical, spiritual and creative level and that sparky was speaking as an extension and authority of a collective. (i will also note that i don't trust groups and i hate the concept of "one tru way.") i was completely thrown, and quite defensive, 'cause well, i consider him a friend of a frightening number of years that i am not going to even attempt to count. so yeah. >_>;

if expressing what i see the way i see it is Not Allowed, is seen as wrong and bad by my peers, then they might have been transformed into one of the badly behaved extremists that CAN'T recognize the line between reality and my perception and a personal mythos dumped on a page over night. i might as well lay it out from the get go, so there's no surprises, and then it can be decided whether or not he wants to deal with me anymore. there really isn't anything else i can do, except go, "um, i do that. there are some reasons that this isn't going to change. if you think that's bad and wrong, well, i'm a bad person, feel free to drop me." (on an emotional level, laying things out and waiting to be rejected sucks, but i'd rather do that then pretend to be something other than what i am with a friend.)

the not having a context took me from where this is actually fighting about whether people should be allowed to critique other people's work, to where i'm fighting for identity and functioning, so i was snarly. i hope that makes a little more sense. it's kinda tangly. i suck at explaining myself? reading it over i'm kinda going "um. i know what i think i'm saying...."

BUT for the record, if you don't get what triggered me there, it's okay, don't worry about it. the bottom line is, as far as what you've stated here goes, no i have no problem with it. critiques ultimately benefit the work, which is in my interests AND the reader's interests; i don't see how there's any lose, there.

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Ah context is all - Basically I'd say to everyone write what you want to write, because people neded to writer and I want people to write - but be aware that actions have consequences and respond to them and acknowledge them

i can try again. readers can express what they feel is problematic, and I can either heed them or not, apologize or not, or whatever is suitable for the circumstance

This. See, this is a good thing that we're sad about because it's not happening.

The problem we have at the moment in the great drama llama is that various parties are saying that if, say, they write something harmful or grossly offensive that they shouldn't be criticised, that no-one has a right to criticise

As you've said here, you'll listen, you'll consider, you'll think, you'll consider if an apology is necessary or not or act suitably for the circumstances. This! Oh gods THIS is so what I want from the m/m genre and slash in general.

The sad thing is, the current raging debate is that This? This consideration and thought and listening? Totally unreasonably, apparently.

The problem we have at the moment in the great drama llama is that various parties are saying that if, say, they write something harmful or grossly offensive that they shouldn't be criticised, that no-one has a right to criticise

that's not only asinine, it's silly because you can't STOP people from criticising anymore than a critic can stop people from making art, good, bad or otherwise.

Pretty much - but since when has common sense ever stopped the silly? :)

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