Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honor Killings in Fiction

I've been thinking about honor killings in the news and honor-based fictional societies, which has led me to the question, what is it about the Klingon's honor- and shame-based society that makes them cool? I mean, they've got Mauk-to 'Vor (ritual killing of an individual so that his honor can be restored), and the rituals around discommendation affect the honor of a family for seven generations. So how is different from honor killings like the one which happened in Arizona? If the father involved had used a sword instead of a jeep, would that have made it better?

I asked around how and why Klingons were acceptable. One Facebook friend responded "To themselves, they are socially acceptable." A group of writer friends thought that Klingons were more acceptable because their honor killings seemed to be confined to acts of males against other males. (This was followed by an interesting observation about historical romance novels: make the female main character too bold and the historians trash your story for being too modern western; make the female main character an integrated part of her historical society and the feminists trash your story for supporting the patriarchy.)

Thinking about it more, I made an continuum. On the left side I put Sheri S Tepper's Land of the True Game series, because the central moral theme is that parents have a responsibility to make sure their children have souls (the ability to be moral) and kill them if they don't. A little to the right go the Klingons. Further to the right are mediaeval cultures like the Vikings or Knights of Chivalry. And all the way on the right is the Arizona Honor Killer.

What this appears to boil down to is, when do we as readers admire fictional killers? Now I have to figure out where National Geographic specials with hunting lionesses on the serengeti fit in.

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