It can be really interesting to get readers' comments. This is aside from the fact that I always welcome them, regardless of whether or not I completely agree with them. Mostly, I do agree with them. But even when I do, every so often there is one tht started me thinking. In a previous post, I mentioned that I'm "into" wolves, and a kind reader responded that when writing about wolves, one should be "objective" about them; they are part of nature, neither evil nor good. Now of course I agree with this, siince I happen to know a good deal about Canis lupus and its various relatives, and this knowledge actually, eventually spurred me, in a roundabout way, to start writing what I'm writing now. I should add, for the record, that in my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals, wolves don't come into it. I have some other things, set in the near future, where wolves do play a part. And it is this that got me thinking.
When I was growing up, wolves were almost always the "bad guys". And "we" were "right" to finish them off. This attitude is very old and rooted iin agricultural and pastoral pasts: when there is a danger of wolves eating your cows or sheep or goats or whatever, then they will be looked at as "the enemy". Never mind that they are just doing what they have evolved to do, namely catch vulnerable: weak, sick, very old, very young, "in the wrong place at the wrong time" prey, usually hoofed mammals, of which there are usually reasonably abundant numbers . Unless something in the environment has drastically changed.
So, for years, people shot wolves(and coyotes, their smaller and more adaptable cousins), pretty much on sight. But at about the same time as Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf was first published(again, for the record, I read it at about that time, but it didn't make much impression on me at first), an environmental consciousness began to flower, and people started looking at wolves quite differently. Yes, as the reader pointed out, after this time, some people started "idolizing" wolves as everything noble in nature, which, in my opinion is just as silly and unrealistic as "demonizing" them. But people who wanted to write anything that featured wolves, could not do what C.S. Lewis did in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where wolves are pretty much instruments of evil. This attitude, by the way, is rooted in certain medieval notions of wolves as aspects of the Devil. But even that attitude is rooted even more distantly in agricultural fears.
Be that as it may, far fewer people live off the land and practice agriculture any more. And in many parts of the world, wolves, and their environments, are constantly threatened by various forms of human intervention. Yet people's consciousnesses in most parts of the world have been raised to various degrees, so that now they actually value the environments they live in, not only as a place where "things they need" are produced, but as important in and of themselves, and important to preserve, for the people themselves. This consciousness is even setting in in a number of poor and developing countries where deforestation is extensive. Of course, these places don't have wolves, but they have creatures that are just as important in some symbolic way, and increasingly, people have made the choice to live with them.
This shift in consciousness was brought home to me after rereading the young adult book Viking Warrior, which I mentioned in another post, where the 15 year old hero encounters a wolf pack and thinks of fighting it, then decides the appearance of the pack is a sign from Odin, and "talks" the wolves out of trying to eat him. Nowadays, people just don't write about predators(wolves, bears, lions, etc), in anything like the way they used to, as "enemies" to be "bested" by "manly hunters", but are more likely to see them as "part of nature", though they may have to be careful in encountering them.
Which brings me to the meat of my question: Shouldn't a writer have a viewpoint? Shouldn't s/he express that viewpoint? Supoose they do "love wolves" and see them as "noble expressions of the greatness of nature" or the like? It may be a silly viewpoint, but it is a viewpoint, and more basically, isn't that the reason writers write? To express something they believe about their world, or something they believe in? I'm not suggesting writers and other creative people go on "political" crusades, though I know some who do. Rather, I'm suggesting that it is well-nigh impossible for anyone in a creative field not to have strong ideas or opinions about something. Wht else would make them want so much to be heard, that they take up the difficult task of writing it down, or painting it, or singing a song about it, or whatever they do? If such a person, for example, writes a poem about the nobility and grandeur of wolves in the natural world, and someone reads it, and ends up thinking it is silly, because they, the reader, thinks they are being "objective" about the p lace of wolves in nature, again, so what? It is one reader's opinion. To take another example, I don't much care for the current wave of what I call "Celtomania" in fiction and other places; I particularly don't like the endless stream of romances that feature hunks in kilts and are written about a Scotland that probably exists or existed only in their overheated imaginations, but I tell myself, okay, it's a viewpoint. A phony one, maybe, but a viewpoint still. And I could go on and on. In my view, writers must have a viewpooint, a belief. Otherwise, why write. I don't have to like it; I may end up beig very "objective" in pointing out that the writer's viewpoint is extreme or not grounded in reality, or whatever, but neither I, nor any other creatively inclined person, can ignore the fact that the person has a strong belief that they must express.
And this, by the way, is one of the things that makes "art"(and here, I mean any creative endeavor, no matter how "popular",) often a controversial enterprise. Because the author's viewpoint is probably never going to please everyone. Sometimes, such claims as the person makes are bizarre, such as in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, stringing Da Vinci, Templars, certain Catholic religious organizations, and a lot else, into(in my view) a dreadfully weird mix. But he really thinks he has an idea, and he's really making money off it. It's unfortunate, again in my view, that a lot of people believe much of what I consider complete, though quite entertaining, nonsense, but then, what can I say? I'm mixing Neandertals, medieval England, and some medieval "mythology" all together. Is my "mix" any weirder? I don't know. I am trying to make what I'm doing as historically accurate as I can, but I am sure that, if I can ever get it written and published, and people read it, there will be those who think my ideas are as bizarre in their way as those of Dan Brown. And, just for the record, I don't know what they'll think when I start doing the near future(with Neandertals, of course), and add wolves. . . .