Art is dangerous.
It is one of the attractions:
When it ceases to be dangerous
You don't want it.
Before writing this piece, I read the blog below titled "The Fear of Writing: Revisited" (1/5/2022) That was nearly seven months ago and here I am pissing and moaning about the same work, The Candle Man. It is, in part, a time travel piece and what I find interesting is that what I predicted as a resolution to the POV's goal back in January I see happening all around me now. The book became unjammed a few weeks ago, and I am nearing completion. And the fear? It has quadrupled.
The works of mine that won awards never struck me as award winners during the writing. It is simply not something I think about during the writing. What has struck me many times during the writing of The Candle Man is that this work might be a career ender. It could get me killed. Just a little melodramatic, you think? The old boy is losing it bigtime? Think again.
Writing, comedy, and music--Art-- poke fun at, and occasionally gore, sacred cows. That was how it was. Sacred cows apparently do not like to be laughed at and they certainly resent being gored. That is how it has always been. These days, however, the sacred cows have control of traditional publishing, the news media for the most part, current politics, law enforcement, education, with many businesses and other institutions falling in line, cancelling products, firing individuals fingered by a knee-jerk mob, cancelling favorite entertainers, and doing preposterous things in order not to have a few loud individuals give them a mortal label others take as true without question.
On a minor level I have experienced this myself. At a science-fiction convention in the Northeast I had attended as a guest at least twenty of the previous twenty-five years I was on a panel during which I shared my belief that there are no "races" among the Human Race. If we go to current science, we all originated in the same place: Africa. For speaking these words, I was labeled a "racist"(?) and disinvited by the convention committee. I used to believe that SF and fantasy fans and professionals were some of the most accepting and tolerant persons in the world. Turns out these days many of them are just as polarizing and agenda driven as any of the cancel culture politicians or news toadies who fill the moments every day with lies, cruelty, and intentional misunderstandings.
I recently got into a tangle on Facebook because I refused to refer to a gender neutral individual with a plural pronoun. "Transphobic" was the label. My objection was mathematical not cultural. I am an English language professional. The English language and what I do with it is my toolbox, bread, and low sodium butter. I do not refer to an individual of any stripe as "they" for the same reason I do not refer to a hoard of rioters or a thousand incoming missiles as "him." I have no doubt this individual will get its buddies to threaten my publisher with a boycott unless they dump me and withdraw all of my works. This is one reason why I have my own imprint.
But these days the sacred cows have legions of thugs they influence to protest, disrupt, block, badmouth, burn, attempt asassination, and even murder. It is not organized to the point where there is a single leader who hands out the party line and orders the faithful to commit acts. Every so often they get their signals crossed. Feminist and trans gender advocates served their individual causes and wound up with biological men competing against women in sports. I don't know how that one will resolve. Although there is an obvious solution, currently its obviousness is shared by only a few. I do not have a dog in that hunt save that the solution, should it ever be found, is in the hands of those who conduct and put on the various sports affected. If the solution is left to competing mobs hurling semantic blanks at each other, one can only speculate upon what sort of mutant venue would be produced.
The Candle Man not only goes after sacred cows, it plans to cut them into steaks and char them with mushrooms, onions, and perthaps a chili or two. Are there consequences for integrity? That is one of the themes in The Candle Man. Spoiler alert: Yes, there are. Is there something that can be done about it? Probably not. Bigots, attention seekers, and the power hungry we will always have with us. Much depends upon how important freedom of artistic expression is to enough of we Humans to become a marketing demograph. Perhaps boredom is the key: Imagine how dull it would be if the world became a place in which there was no dangerous art.
I got the Duke Ellington quotation above from Dave Chappelle's speech at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts: "What's In A Name." It is on Netflix right now and is worth watching for anyone in the arts. For those who have been preprogrammed to regard Chappelle as the Devil, put aside your bag of someone else's labels for an hour and listen. You may be surprised. In any event, if you are in the arts you will learn something . . . unless you already know everything.
What do I want my story to be? Your characters await your answer.