What to know before writing Transgressive Fiction

Updated: Dec 31, 2020


Allen Jones, Chair, 1969 (Credit: Tate)


I was reading an article by Lance Rubin "Discourse and Terrorism in

Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby" and I thought it is necessary to explore Transgressive fiction in current social circumstances around the world. Transgressive Fiction is an anarchical movement in literature matching perfectly with postmodernism criteria. However, the question for a transgressive writer and person is that should we write about aggressive ways of changing society in a world that is suffering from terrorism? Should we write about sensitive topics such as racism and sexism? Should we build up characters who are against what is a society's norm? Should we criticize religion in an uncensored manner using sex and gore? Should we ignore the overly sensitive society of today when everyone easily gets offended for any possible reason you can imagine? Should we normalize the abnormal?


Well, this article is based on my personal opinion on why you should write transgressive fiction.


1) Transgressive art in any form is unsettling

TRANS·GRES·SION (trans-gresh-uhn) Definition: An act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense. Synonyms: offense, crime, sin, wrongdoing, misdemeanor, impropriety, infraction, misdeed, error, lapse, peccadillo, fault, infringement, breach, violation, defiance, disobedience, nonobservance


So, Transgressive fiction does not sugar coat reality with lies. We fight against censorship and it means what we write is absolutely free from any limitations.


2) Transgressive art is ironic and absurdist

In Transgressive fiction, we write about what makes our society absurd. We create characters that act against what is believed to be the norm. This means that transgressive fiction is a double-sided blade: on one side we are rebelling against what has force-fed us as evil or well such as feminist movements, fighting against elitism in art, encountering sexism and racism but on the other hand, we create a character who is, for example, a misogynist. Does it mean we defend misogyny or we are trying to show how disgusting it is through his own eyes in a story? In that character's eye, nothing is wrong with him, but what about in the reader's eyes? Well, that depends on how deep you can think and what is your analytical skills level. If you get offended by a piece of transgressive art, I recommend you to think twice.


3) Transgressive Fiction is facing censorship

Lance explains that "Chuck Palahniuk was asked if the attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the way he wrote, a particularly relevant question given that his novel Fight Club (1996) opens with a domestic terrorist group about to destroy the world’s tallest building, while the novel Survivor (1999) opens with the narrator telling his life story into the black box of a hijacked jumbo jet he plans to crash. Palahniuk answered by claiming that since 9/11, “You can’t really do what used to be called ‘transgressive’ fiction...People just don’t have the tolerance. They won’t laugh at

things—even like Thelma & Louise sort of things—they won’t laugh at acts of rebellion. . . . [It] all get lumped together as terrorism".


Lance then adds that for Palahniuk the problem is that publishers and even authors themselves are willing to suppress any writing that has the slightest chance of being interpreted as endorsing or minimizing "terrorism". So that means that subversive novels are being avoided and Palahniuk suggests “a backhanded tendency [after 9/11] to censor fiction, and I have to wonder where it’s coming from if it’s just happening or if somebody generating this?”


4) Transgressive fiction is based on Shock art

If you enjoy reading Transgressive fiction and want to write one yourself, remember that you need to not only shock your reader but for yourself. That means you are not allowed to censor yourself just because the religion, morals, or society said so IF you're trying to criticize it in a progressive manner. For example, I created a character who is a pedophile. Some people are angry about it and ask me whether I support pedophilia. This saddens me because it means, people are learning to just look at the surface and judge rather than thinking about the message such art is offering.


5) Transgressive fiction can be banned

You need to accept it by heart that your book may get banned. However, in my idea, to allow arts to be banned by the powerful is to accept, and conform to (which a transgressive person would not like), which means that paradoxically excludes people from engaging i