If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

J'accuse

Recently, I read in a Smithsonian magazine that the audience of a futurist conference blamed science fiction writers for the slow pace of technological innovation. Their reasoning is that today’s science fiction is so focused on apocalyptic scenarios that nobody is inspired to find the solution to big problems like ending dependence on fossil fuel. President of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, accused writers, “You’re the ones who have been slacking off.” Well…Ouch! Apparently the future of the world is resting on writers and their ability to inspire others.

Then I heard that the Italian government charged the country’s top seismologist and six other scientists with manslaughter. They are currently on trial for failing to predict the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake that killed 308 people. That shocked me. It’s such an inexact science I can’t imagine how someone could be responsible for failing to see into the future.

The recent finger pointing and blame made me think...are mystery and thriller writers expected to anticipate negative, perhaps disastrous, consequences of unknowingly inspiring a person to commit a crime? In this atmosphere of blame will we be held responsible for another’s action?

Certainly there have been copycat crimes inspired by novels in the past. Frederick Forsyth’s thrillers have been used as blueprints for several real life crimes. Agatha Christie’s novel, The Pale Horse, purportedly gave a killer the knowledge to murder using thallium.

In his July 1994 thriller, Storming Heaven, author Dale Brown wrote about a terrorist who flies an unmanned Cessna packed with explosives into the White House. In September of the same year a pilot stole a Cessna and rammed it into the White House. According to his online newsletter, Brown had some rather scary interviews with the Secret Service. They asked where he received his detailed information about the geographic coordinates of the White House and if he had been contacted by the pilot. While he wasn’t accused, he was thoroughly scrutinized.

Contrary to popular writing advice, some argue that writers should not be accurate about the details of how to commit murder or carry out a terrorist attack. Their goal is to try and prevent information from getting into the wrong hands. They believe most readers wouldn’t realize or care about inaccuracies or missing details. Some authors like Catherine Aird write inaccurately on purpose. She makes sure that the poisons used in her books wouldn’t actually kill anyone.

Others counter that a disturbed person already inclined to harm or kill would find a way to do it by using freely available information found in a book, on the internet or by watching the news. Dale Brown said that he would tear himself up if something happened to someone close to him based on events in one of his books, but he still wouldn’t change his style of writing.

Do you think writers should be held accountable for giving people ideas and methods for murder? 

10 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

Of course not, Kara. Anyone can go on the Internet and find out how to build a bomb. Instead of fingerpointing, those groups and individuals should be focused on solving whatever problem they are complaining about. Pointing blame denies blame of self.

Most mystery books use common killing methods. When a writer creates a complicated scenario it shows their creativity. No one can anticipate someone using their work in a destructive manner.

When I hear of courts prosecuting party hosts because guests left their homes drunk and killed someone, I always wonder why. We can't be held responsible for others' actions. If that is the case, then the U.S. government must be held accountable for nuclear arms since we developed it.

Kara Cerise said...

It is concerning when courts prosecute people for others' actions, E.B. I wonder if it will eventually trickle down to writers.

Also, I know it’s an ongoing debate between balancing the details of crime writing with ethical issues. While just about everything is on the internet and has been already imagined there's also the idea that you are responsible for what you "put out there." Laura Lippman takes a middle ground to being a socially responsible writer. In a Skokie Public Library interview she said that she wouldn't rule any subject out but she believes a writer shouldn't sensationalize violence.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kara, I believe (with Laura Lippman) that a writer shouldn't sensationalize violence, but I don't think a writer can be held responsible for someone else's murder or violence based on something s/he's created if the information used to create it is readily available.

If the U.S. government (or some part of it) gives a writer access to classified data, and the writer makes it public for his own enrichment, yes, hold him responsible. But that's not likely to happen, is it? If I can find it, some nutjob can, also.

As far as charging seismologist with manslaughter for not predicting fatal earthquakes, just as well hold the TV weatherman responsible for not predicting the tornado or flood that does damage.

JC Piech said...

Very interesting question. My gut feeling is no, you can't ultimately hold writers, artists, film-makers, etc, accountable for other peoples actions. Mainly because where would that end? Everyone is constantly affecting each other all the time. If someone were to commit murder based on something that happened in a book, if you held the author accountable, wouldn't we also have to hold their parents accountable, for potentially raising that person to be inclined towards violence? How about children who bullied that person at school? Lovers who rejected them? etc etc etc...

Saying that, we can't ignore the fact that we DO influence people. We affect their feelings and ideas. That's what writing is all about, isn't it?

It's a tricky one. But if we keep finger pointing, we will eventually find out that we probably ALL have some part to play in someone else's wrong doing, whether we're a writer or not. That's just how life works.

Great post! :)

Warren Bull said...

Why not blame the Japanese for 911? During World War II Japanese pilots flew their planes into aircraft carriers.
We live in a somebody else must be to blame era. I think I might join Linda in a class action suit blaming meteorologists for an unpredicted rainy weekend. We could find a lawyer, I know. Lawyers are to blame for crowded court schedules. We ought to sue.

Linda Rodriguez said...

LOL, Warren. Yes, you and I will sue the lawyers for the crowded court schedules! I love it!

Gloria Alden said...

It sounds almost like the guy, who refused to take the blame saying "God made me do it." Some comedian once said that, but I can't remember who it was.

My son was painting his treehouse once when the spray can stopped working so he hit it with an ax. Well, he was green from head to toe. It even went through his coat and shoes. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt but there was no hope for his clothes or shoes. His excuse? "You told me not to throw spray cans in a fire. You never told me not to hit one with an ax.

It seems that too many people these days have a very immature way of looking at things and trying to pass the blame without accepting any responsibility for their own actions - understandable in an eight year old, but not in adults.

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you for your thoughtful answer, JC! You make a good point that we constantly affect each other. We may not set out to influence someone else but it happens and we just can’t control what the other person does with the information!

Kara Cerise said...

Linda, I agree that it is dangerously easy for anyone to find all kinds of information online. It must be difficult for law enforcement to stay one step ahead of criminals who have access to this knowledge.

I can’t imagine that the Italian courts will find the seismologists guilty of manslaughter but trial outcomes aren’t always easy to predict. You and Warren may have a shot at a class action lawsuit blaming incorrect weather forecasters :)

Kara Cerise said...

Gloria, comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it” when he was playing a female character named Geraldine Jones.

Your son's reasoning sounds similar to reasoning used by politicians to excuse bad behavior.