The author approached me about doing an author interview or a spotlight a few days ago. While that didn’t particularly catch my interest, something else he’d mentioned, about doing a piece on “Can a science fiction novel help prevent child abuse?” really interested me. I thought about it and realized I like the idea of giving authors a chance to speak out about something related to writing or reading. If they want to promote their book a bit at the same time, I’m okay with that, too.
Hence, the start of Guest Posting on Sci-Fi & Scary.
Can a Science Fiction Novel Help Prevent Child Abuse?
by Robert Eggleton
Historically, speculative fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy depending on one’s values. In 380 B.C., Plato envisioned a utopian society in The Republic and that story represented the beginning of a long string of speculations: ecology, economics, politics, religion, technology, feminism….
Charles Dickens may not have been the first novelist to address the evils of child victimization in fiction, but his work has certainly had an impact on the consciousness of us all. Every Christmas, Tiny Tim pulls at our heart strings, now by cable and satellite, and stirs the emotions of masses. In another Dickens novel, after finally getting adopted into a loving home as millions of today’s homeless children also dream about, Oliver eventually made it to Broadway well over a century later. Oliver Twist may be the best example of Dickens’ belief that a novel should do much more than merely entertain, but entertain it did, very well.
Similarly, a 1946 essay by George Orwell self-assessed his writing of Animal Farm as a fusion of artistic and political expressions: Why I Write. Orwell’s subsequent novel, 1984, was also so popular that they both became required reading in high schools. Dickens likely influenced Orwell and many other novelists, such as Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells, who included social analyses or commentary in their works. These authors were huge influences on me as I conceived my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, and the potential of fiction to prevent child abuse.
After earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1977, I began a career in child welfare. I’ve worked in the field of child advocacy for over forty years. A few months ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist from an intensive mental health day program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.
One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.
This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held in since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the Universe, Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day with inadequate sleep. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent home, and I would remind myself that despite the popularity of escapism as an exclusive function of novels, the road for fiction to influence the world had been paved.
I got to the point where I needed more to sustain my drive. My wife and I talked it over. That’s when the idea of donating proceeds to the prevention of child abuse became a commitment that has sustained my discouragement to this day. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines and Rarity from the Hollow became my debut novel.
More than half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893, now serves over 13,000 families and children each year and is located in an impoverished state in the U.S., a place like so many others with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. childhswv.org. Today, I promote Rarity from the Hollow for the obvious purpose, to increase sales that would sustain this project, but to also to increase sensitivity to an important social problem that I believe feeds the ills of many of the other problems in this world, such a drug addiction, crime…and with hope that readers look around in their own back yards and consider becoming part of the solution by an improved awareness of underfunded and worthwhile child welfare programs in their home communities.
As I was writing the story, I also envisioned childhood mistreatment from victimization to empowerment – one that victims could benefit from reading. Maybe I wasn’t so off-base. Four book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited having read Rarity from the Hollow. Three of them wrote glowing book reviews of the novel, one of whom publicly disclosed for the first time that she had been a rape victim as part of her review http://mistralkdawn.blogspot.com/2015/12/interview-with-robert-eggleton.html?zx=b438ff3b4e310b53 , and the fourth reviewer promoted the novel on her blog and on a radio show broadcast from the U.K.
Last, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a parent could read a book and actually become a better parent? In my experience, we typically parent the way that we were parented, even, sometimes, when we strive to do better. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between experiencing abuse in childhood and inflicting abuse as a parent. Many abused kids demonstrate resilience that, for me, is amazing. Especially when abuse is related to the mental illness or substance abuse of or by the parent, guilt, in my opinion, rather than functioning as a motivator to address the problem can actually be detrimental. Parents who read my story may achieve insight that their children, more than anything in the world, want to love them, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that their children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered. This can encourage parents with problems that interfere with parenting to seek help. It’s not too late.
Similarly, especially with increasing awareness of PTSD, such as that experienced by Lacy Dawn’s father in the story, “Rarity from the Hollow” provides hope to spouses that the condition is treatable. By exemplifying the impact of treatment, this story may encourage readers with PTSD, such as Vets returning from the war in the Middle East, to seek treatment. I certainly hope so. In my experience, PTSD and anger management concerns are related, and can potentially result in sudden anger at anything, including a defenseless child.
So, what do you think? Will fiction continue to prompt human thought in a way that drives consideration of policy, how we go about this crazy thing called life? Or have we all gone down the road named “Escape from Reality” so far that social commentary has become a pothole on our entertainment highways?
Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. Some of these courses tell her how to apply magic to resolve everyday problems much more pressing to her than a universe in big trouble, like those at home and at school. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.
Some Review Links for Rarity from the Hollow:
“… Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton is a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them… it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/
“… Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow
The eBook version was released on December 5, 2016:
Standard Disclaimer**I have not read Mr. Eggleton’s book. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect my own, nor should the posting of this article be taken as an endorsement of his book. I am simply giving him a platform to speak out upon.**