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Lazlo Zalezac: Blog

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Living With Controversy

July 13, 2007
Posted at 12:00 am
Updated: July 13, 2007 - 2:08 am

I have received lots of emails praising and protesting "Hunter." I have been called everything from "Brilliant Patriot" to "Ignorant Racist Fascist." I've been told to continue the story because people who disagree with it need to be awakened to the reality of the world in which we live. I've been told to kill it because the people who believe this way will not think about the issues with the depth that it deserves and that as an author I'm only propagating ignorance and intolerance.

I knew it would be a controversial story and I knew that I would have some very strong reactions from my readers. My expectations have been met. Nothing I have written has so polarized readers. I had seriously considered posting it under a different name.

I don't usually respond to email because of the quantities that I often receive. I have been posting multiple stories concurrently and with each chapter I get between twenty and a hundred emails. I've said in the past that I would rather spend my time writing a story than writing a thank you note for a thank you note. A few readers have complained, but most ask that I write more and post more frequently.

However, today I received an email critical of "Hunter" that did not go to the extremes of many of those who dislike (or absolutely hate) this story. It was a nice short email-

"Do you really believe the rhetoric espoused in your story "Hunter"? Surely it is just a theme to justify the story?"

My first inclination was not to answer it. My second thought was to provide the following reply-

"You pose an interesting question. It is a question that never came up as a result of any of my previous stories where I discussed religion, race, the homeless problem, economics, irresponsible business practices, marital violence, prostitution, child abuse, incest, polyandry, bisexuality, extramarital sex, and interracial sex. It never came up when my main character was a Saint, a Bully, a Prophet, a Hobo, a Hero, an angry middle aged man, a klutz, an emotionally wounded man, men in dysfunctional marriages, or some furry animals that crashed onto the planet. Oddly, I don't feel like answering it."

Then I realized that I did feel like answering the questions put to me, but I did not feel like limiting the answer to a single recipient. So my answer is as follows.

Sometimes when I write a story, I take a situation as it stands at one point of time and I place a character with a particular set of attitudes, flaws, and views about how the world should work within it. I then allow the world to evolve and describe how that character interacts with the situations that crop up. The character can change the situation a little and the situation can change the character a little. I try to stay true to the character, the world, and the way that the world evolves. So far, that approach has led to some pretty interesting stories.

In Hunter, I took the initial state of the world as it stood several months ago when I started the story. Apparently I have captured the situation well because people are reacting to my description of it just like they are reacting to it in real life. There is anger, both reasoned and irrational. There is a desire to place blame on (fill in the blank) for creating the current state of affairs. Even worse, there is fear; lots of fear that what I've described is too real.

I selected as my main character a Marine Officer (First Lieutenant) who had to retire as a result of an injury sustained in Iraq. He is third generation military, very patriotic, and was willing to lay down his life to preserve his country. I could go further and say that I have described my character well. Many people empathize with him. Many people who don't empathize with him point to him as an example of the worst kind of American.

Having given my character a set of attitudes and the world a starting point, I then let that world evolve. You may not like Mike Bowman, you may not like the world as it stands today, and you may not like how I allow the world to evolve. I guess that is okay. The story is about a fictional character by the name of Mike Bowman trying to cope in that world. Period.

One last comment. Sometimes to understand a person it is necessary to walk a mile in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. I'm not sure if it is more important to understand our friends or our enemies. I am sure that it is important to understand both. I read stories and I write stories as a way of walking a mile in another person's shoes.