The Glamorisation of Suffering: "City of Stairs" by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett

When is it necessary to kill a character to get a point across? I’m thinking about Vo here. By the time we get to the point when things get moving, I’ve already seen how damaging his religious upbringing had been to him. I've already seen how it had wreaked him and how this agony had shaped him into the character’s he'd become. I got that; bumping him off does nothing to further highlight the deed, nor to bring forth the message I got from killing him off. His death is just lazy writing. In fact, his death serves no narrative purpose and hence, it saps the very directive it was supposedly delivering. People don't just suffer in a void. Not all pain leads to tragic and abject death. Such “glamorisation” of suffering is a method to avoid endorsing and responding to that suffering. When everyone dies, it's sad, but we aren't called upon to answer for how we or our society has contributed to their suffering. We ache and move on. Nothing we do can change the fact that they are dead, and we have no impetus to change our ways because that impetus has ceased breathing. But when there's a living person staring you in the face, you are forced to acknowledge and come to terms with the reality of that person and how their suffering takes place in your world. This state-of-affairs is not so much with the Urban SF writers themselves as it is the culture of apparent "laziness" that they seem to have inspired (e.g., Grimdark comes to mind with so many bad imitators out there). 

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.