Friday, December 6, 2013

Why We Published a Story about Child Abuse

Guest Post from Chris Rhatigan

Mike Monson and I run a crime fiction magazine, All Due Respect. Like every other magazine out there, we have submission guidelines. 

You know the drill—what genres we’re looking for, how many words, how much we pay, etc.

But we don’t specify any boundaries in terms of content.

What I see at many other magazines is something along these lines: no graphic violence/sex, no animal abuse, no child abuse.

We’re a crime fiction magazine, so we’re obviously cool with graphic violence and sex. But some other magazines in closely related genres won’t consider stories about child abuse. 

I understand why. Stories about child abuse make people uncomfortable. A lot of readers want to escape the pain/boredom/frustration of everyday life—and stories about abuse don’t provide that experience.


So Mike and I are evaluating submissions for the first issue. He tells me about one from a writer friend of his, Renee Asher Pickup. Says it gives him chills. Asks me if I want to see it.

Of course, I want to see it.

Renee sends the story, “Amanda Will Be Fine.” It’s the most straightforward, agonizing, brutal depiction of child abuse that I’ve read. The way the last line echoes long after you’ve finished reading the story—it’s haunting.

I don’t feel comfortable reading it. I don’t escape anything.

It also exceeds our requirements in almost every way—sharp writing, clear plotting, real characters. 

We accept the story immediately. 

This story accomplishes exactly what it set out to do: the reader experiences a sliver of the pain that the narrator experiences. 

And this kind of story is why a magazine like All Due Respect exists. If the story is about crime and if it rings true, we want to publish it; we want to tell the world about it. 

Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock put restrictions on their content—and that’s fine for them. 

We’re the place for fiction without limits.

Chris Rhatigan the managing editor of All Due Respect. 
The magazine’s first issue is available at Amazon and Amazon UK.


tom pitts said...

Amen ...

Thomas Pluck said...

Too often child abuse is a plot twist and not shown for how ugly and atrociously common it truly is. I don't think a writer always needs to be brutal or graphic, but I am glad you don't flinch from publishing stories that tell the truth.

AC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Eagleton said...

I think the issue always lies in how the subject is tackled, not the subject itself.

AC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Eagleton said...

Is this gonna turn into a proof of Godwin's Law, Alec?

No one is advocating censorship here, and I don't think it's been a discussion about censorship yet. The issue, I thought, is why most magazines avoid publishing stories about child abuse. And I still stand by my statement, it comes more of the way the subject is tackled than the subject itself. Like Thomas said, too often it tends to be just a plot twist instead of being given the gravitas it requires. I'd add that all too often it's used cheaply for the gut reaction something so horrible inspires in the reader without adding anything at all to our societal awareness or our understanding.

Even the post we're commenting on spends more time talking about the subject matter than the actual story and what it accomplishes beyond being brutal.

Chris Rhatigan said...

In the case of this particular story, it's not done as a plot twist or for a cheap gut reaction. Like I said, what I took away from this story was the sense of experiencing a small part of the narrator's pain. (The narrator is the mother of a child who has been abused.) I didn't actually use the word graphic to describe this story--but it's still hard to read. (I would expect that most stories about child abuse would be a difficult experience for the reader, no?)

Shaun Ryan said...

Sure, because confronting the truth is always a difficult experience. We've been trained from birth to avoid that, telling ourselves lies every day.

I believe good fiction has a duty to make us question our beliefs and assumptions and the way we use them as shields or weapons.

Now, I understand the restrictions some publications place on their submissions; human nature demands it. I'm not going to bitch about censorship, because it isn't. But I don't like the whole escapism thing and I don't like the way our society panders to the lowest common denominator by default either.

So I applaud you, Chris, and look forward to reading All Due Respect, and submitting some crime fiction, when something short tears free and needs a home.

AC said...

Well, I've become the villain again. This time for "bitching" about censorship (an odd notion--"bitching" about something that is a problem and should be opposed at every opportunity). I think my time has passed. When I grew up, the concept of ANY subject being off-limits was laughable. But, so were piss-tests for employment and metal detectors in high schools. Enjoy your brave new locked down society!

Shaun Ryan said...

Opposition is writing what you want to say anyway, not raising objections in the comments section.

Society by its very nature is locked down, regardless of the propaganda fed to the masses by rich old men broadcasting from the cigar and single-malt club. Especially a society that desires "safety" over liberty.

Growing up, some kid showing up on his BMX wearing a helmet would have been laughable too, and would have inspired much rolling and side-clutching. Once we were done with our dirt clod war or BB gun shootout, that is.