D is for Death

I once calculated – back of the envelope style – how many people have died in my stories. I came up with roughly 40 billion. There are some fuzzy areas though. For example, in my story “Humanity’s Future?” humans have been extinct for millennia. Do I include these in my death toll?

One of my favorite authors is Patrick F. McManus. In one of his stories about a college writing class, he talked about the Three D’s of serious literature – Death, Despair, and Disillusionment. While I’m not a fan of serious literature, as I mentioned, my stories do contain quite a bit of death. (But only a dab of despair and disillusionment.) I started wondering if all that death is a part of my main genre.

Now I am not saying that scifi is all death, for example there’s … well, nothing pops out to me at the moment. But really I’m not talking about accidents or the occasional murder; I’m talking about a lot of death. Yes Rambo killed a few hundred people in his last movie, but that pales in comparison to the billions killed when the Empire blew up Alderaan. And what other genre lets you kill billions? Jane Austen’s Death Star? Shakespeare’s Genocide? Dr. Seuss’s Nuke-Juking Suks?

I am not implying that there’s too much death in scifi, as with everything, the context matters. Would “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” be as memorable if the planet Cheron hadn’t been destroyed because of racial hatred? Yes, I’ve exterminated mankind, but there has always been some lesson behind it. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


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