So, how many people have you killed?
I mean, characters.
And how long have you been doing it?
I have to confess: It was hard for me to kill my first character, but after that it got easier. I actually stopped noticing how many there were or who they were.
I occasionally killed a major character, at the end, but even before I got to the end it was possible for me to kill minor characters as if they were placemats. I even people killed people I wanted readers to love. If it bumped up the plot, I was all for it.
And then I suddenly realized that I had gotten used to killing characters. I was killing them without remorse.
How many, I wondered, had I killed?
Ah. I didn’t want to go back and count. It was like going back and counting calories after an expensive dinner out. Why ruin it?
More than ten? Of course. Hundreds? Possible. Thousands?
Well, actually, even more than that. Like a great many writers these days, I’d killed off a proportion of the planet for an apocalypse that caught my fancy. It was a particularly lovely apocalypse. It would make a wonderful, visual, stunning movie. Not your usual, squishy, guns and guts and screams and hands-smashing-through-glass kind of movie, either. A grand and glorious apocalypse with lots of people dying in a very artistic way.
See? Even now I’m proud of it.
I remember being outraged by how easily Orson Scott Card got Ender to destroy a whole civilization and then absolved him of responsibility. Nope. Own up, Ender! Responsibility exists!
And yet, I kill people.
How long will it go on? Will I ever grow tired of it? Will I switch to stories where no one dies; where, in fact, people fall in love and have babies? They could be strange new babies; I could, conceivably, do that.
Because even though I feel no guilt, I feel that I should feel guilt. It somehow isn’t right to say these weren’t really people and I didn’t “really” kill them.
Besides, I’m sure that the idea of killing is not a slippery slope. It isn’t, is it?
Just because I can write about it so easily doesn’t mean I’d ever actually do it, right?
Bio: Karen Heuler’s stories appear in literary, fantasy, and science fiction magazines regularly. Her 2014 novel, Glorious Plague, was about a strangely beautiful apocalypse, and her second story collection, The Inner City, was chosen as one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly. She lives in New York City, where murder never happens and rents are extremely low.
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