I've been distressed by the tragic shootings in Virginia, and the latest story I've read is the most disturbing yet. According to Adam Geller of the AP, the gunman was an "English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service." The head of the English Department said, "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative...or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

Of course the greatest tragedy is the immediate loss to the victims, their friends and families, and all the students at the school. But undoubtedly this underlying theme about creative writing will play out in the press in weeks, even years, to come. What will it mean for mystery writers in terms of suspicion and censorship? We can only stay tuned and hope...

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I'm troubled and angry. Good thing I'm not in college. I hate meetings.
It's a fine line to walk. It used to be frighteningly easy to get someone institutionalized/hospitalized. The pendulum has swung the other way and now it is very difficult. Not only in terms of basic criteria, but just finding an opening for the client. I'll never forget sitting on the phone with a hospital, trying to find a bed for a suicidal teen - YES, she has a plan, YES she has a history of self-harm and suicide attempts, NO there isn't a way for her parent to assure she will be safe tonight...sorry, no bed available, have her come back tomorrow and maybe we'll have one open then. And it was not uncommon. I don't think Simon has to worry about "troubled and angry" adults or kids getting locked up simply for being unhappy and pissed.

From the bits of information trickling out, it seems that Cho was hospitalized after police were alerted by his roommate that he was suicidal. Yes, lots of early stuff going on, that (for now, at least) seem to have been dealt with appropriately. So...we don't have any easy answers here, no clear place to point to and say THERE is the problem.
Simon and Angie both make good points. Someone very close to me was hospitalized on a psych unit because of an episode of acting out while in high school, and the resulting stigma has affected her entire life thereafter. On the other hand, I know of people now who are in desperate need of hospitalization, but there are no available beds. (I work with an improvisational theater troupe called the Mental Health Players, and we're a program of the local NYS psychiatric center, so I'm in touch with what's going on.) At least in New York State, probably the majority of people who need in-patient psychiatric care end up in prison instead. Unfortunately, the Virginia Tech episode will serve only to increase the fear and stigma surrounding mental illness. (My book's about this, but heaven forbid I should promote myself on this forum.)
I think that one of the main problems is that solving a problem with a gun has become, in a way, more acceptable -- at least to people like Cho who have already fallen into the deep end and can't get out. By that I mean that "first person shooter" video games, violent action movies, cruel horror films, and possibly written fiction have much more of such things than say 20 or 30 years ago. I think individuals who are pre-disposed to such things gravitate to them and sometimes go over the edge.

With Columbine it was "first person shooter" video games that were focused on as the clear sign, or perhaps cause, of the tragedy. I find it interesting that in South Korea, which is I believe where this person was from?, there is an epidemic of young people who live in, and sometimes die because of (48 hours at the computer, no food, etc. -> death from dehydration), online immersive computer games which take over their lives. There is a program in South Korea to deal with this as an addiction.

I think that whether it is a video game, a movie, or a work of fiction that the media itself must take it upon itself to solve the dilemma of violence contained in the game/movie/story. A main character may resort to extreme violence but what leads up to that and what follows in the aftermath should/must/ought to make "sense" in terms of society at large. As Jon mentions above, a story about a bizarre killing spree when the assignment was what I did last summer just doesn't make sense in a writing class and wouldn't make sense in a fictional story unless the Author does the work to explain it and deal with the aftermath in the context of the story.

Unfortunately people like Cho wouldn't care one way or the other, I'm afraid. They are on a path that society must learn to recognize and learn to deal with. Things that don't make sense are one place to start.
"I think that one of the main problems is that solving a problem with a gun has become, in a way, more acceptable"

You're absolutely right, as regards someone like Cho, but I think that charge can also be levelled at those on the other side of the fence. The owner of the gunstore who sold Cho his weapons, for example, who defended himself by suggesting that "if more kids in the college had guns, this might not have happened... Instead we've got 26000 unarmed kids, unable to protect themselves."

Surely I'm not alone in seeing the awful anti-logic there?

My position remains that better control and/or regulation on guns wouldn't stop unhappy people from causing tragedies like this... But it *would* make them a lot harder to carry out, a lot less "successful" (which is to say a lot less deadly), and a lot slower to occur (which allows a lot more time for second thoughts, or identification of psychological problems by other people).

The easier you make something, the more likely it is to happen. That's just common sense, surely?

A gun is a device solely and uniquely designed for the purpose of killing quickly and efficiently. I simply can't accept that the ability of any young person to walk into a Virginia gunstore and buy a 9mm handgun - with nothing more than a tick in the "No" box of a "Do you suffer from mental illness?" question paper - can be considered a irrelevant issue in the debate on guncrime.
[quote]Surely I'm not alone in seeing the awful anti-logic there?[/quote]

I think back to when I was a teenager in high school, I'm dating myself here. :( Guns were not prevalent. If any classmate had a "hand gun" it would have been frontpage news around town and the student population. We're talking the USA here. I dare say there was the same angst, problems, mental disease that we have today, and I think people in that age group from 12 to 20 will always suffer in these ways in every generation until they "grow up". But when I was young it would not have occurred to anyone to "solve" a problem the way Cho did.

I myself like action movies for reasons I'm not always sure of. But I fear that today such lifestyles have much more allure for troubled people like Cho. They really come to believe that is the way to solve life's problems.
To return to the question about censorship of crime novels, they are one of the most popular genres now going. Not likely anyone would make the attempt to get rid of them.

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