Of Storytelling and Acceptable Hazards

Saw my first in-the-flesh black widow spider today. That was interesting; not just for recognizing the hourglass I’d seen in so many bug identification books, but for a look at the eggcase. Instead of the silky ball I’m used to seeing in other spiders, it’s all spiky. Like a tiny version of one of those nubbly squeak toys for a hyper puppy.

But most importantly, it is outside, in a location no one is likely to put their hands, and somewhere easy to see. (Especially after we put up some red sticky-tape, “Black widow, do not disturb.”) So I plan to leave it alone. It’s a spider. It’s outside eating bugs. So long as it does its thing out there, I’m cool.

For me, a black widow spider outside falls into the category of acceptable hazards. It’s there. It could be dangerous. But likely not. I’m a bit more afraid of the local traffic, honest. Tourist season is a go, and I’ll spare you the details of how many near-misses I’ve had in the past few days.

In any setting, characters are going to have their own set of acceptable hazards, that might look quite crazy to readers on the outside or even people from a different area in the same world.

For example, Stargate. Based on show canon, SG-1 regularly goes through to a completely alien planet on about a monthly basis. Different ecosystems, different diseases, different cultures – that’s a whole host of hazards that should make most sane people want to curl up under the blankets and not come out for a year. The fact that Senator Kinsey wants it shut down isn’t nearly as surprising as the fact that Hammond and others successfully argue to keep it open. Especially after incidents with epidemic diseases and a black hole. Yeep.

For another example, Saiyuki. The Sanzo-ikkou hit every town knowing they’re likely to run into youkai assassins, dangerous humans, idiots of both species, and the odd mad scientist experiment. But they keep going… admittedly, in part because they’re just that cranky with the universe. πŸ˜‰

Anyone else have favorite Acceptable Hazards in fandoms, or things they’d like to see as Acceptable Hazards in stories?


51 thoughts on “Of Storytelling and Acceptable Hazards

  1. I somehow relate this post to how I think I am willing to be violent to protect my family and myself. Also how I react to bees and wasps when outside compared to when they are inside in a room with me.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ve always seen the ‘outside it’s fine, inside Kill It!’ thing as being sort of territorial. As in, this space I realize I will not always be safe in (outside), but this space I need to be hazard free as much as possible as an area I can relax/feel safe in (inside).

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Honestly, I don’t find Black Widows that scary, even when I saw one drop onto somebody, it didn’t bite. Now, brown recluse? I know someone who lost a good chunk of their leg to a recluse bite.

    Honestly, bears, cougars, and the like here don’t really phase me, it’s the knowing how to act around them. Now, deer, on the road are eek, mainly due to, you know, the whole several hundred lb animal coming through your windshield. Snakes too. And I know a lot of people think the fact I know what to eat off the land right here is too hazardous but then again, they eat wild mushrooms, and I think that’s crazy. There’s one that you can only tell by really careful looking where it’s at if it’s absolutely delicious and nutritious or delicious and deadly poisonous. Look up Death Cap or Destroying Angels, both of which grow around here.

    Honestly, I’d like to see a lot more snake handling done well in fiction, snakes get far more of a bad rap then they deserve.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. On the neighborhood listserve I ran into that over decorative plants, some sort of trumpet vine-y thing, very pretty, smells nice, too. Someone wanted everyone to contact the nursery and tell them not to sell them.

        Me: “so, they’re poisonous, were you expecting to eat them?” Others “but the children!” Pets might have been shouted about, too, I don’t remember. Me: I like them, they’re pretty, and I trained my child not to put random things in mouth.” Well… it went on for a while. Finally shut down when someone, might have been me – this was at least a year ago – pointed out that even tomato plants have poisonous parts and you just can’t avoid all risk, et.c, et.c, I think both sides gave up.

        Sigh….The farm the Teen voluteers at has lost farm critters to something feline. THAT I can get behind as a hazard, but still not worth panicking over. But decorative plants? Is it just that Mom was a country raised by farm people so plants are not ‘strange’ to me rather resources? or what..?

        Hazards really are in the eye of the beholder.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I have been incredibly wary of bees/wasps/hornets/etc ever since I was a kid and one spent fifteen minutes on my thigh, poised to sting, before someone else brushed it off. Diddo with snakes; a camp counselor came up behind me and dropped one over my shoulders without warning me first, and then refused to take it off until another counselor made him.

    I’m okay with bees and snakes as long as they stay at least a yard away from me. Any closer and I get nervous and start backing up, because if they actually touch me, I’ll freeze up, and I know it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Probably not the best example, but during sleep away camp while the other girls were screaming about the huge moths I was the one catching them and throwing them outside. I’m not really afraid of bugs ( except centipedes, way to many legs) Now that I think about it, large bodies of water can be an acceptable hazard if you can swim( if it’s calm of course. Storms, fast currents, and flooding can make it not acceptable in an instant.)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Ladies and Gentlemen, I love wars. As setting and as backstory.

    We, or at least most Americans, have been living in a golden age of peace. This has an influence on how we are socially.

    The Americans after the next World War will be somewhat alien to us, and vice versa.

    I like how altered circumstances can alter decisionmaking. I like how extreme circumstances can show someone’s character in the decisions they do not change.

    Wars are very compatible with themes I find myself drawn to again and again.

    Three for this project in particular. The unpleasant circumstance you would not choose turns out better than the alternative. True love beneath the appearance of callousness. The hazards that are acceptable when one foresees the life expectancy of the Spartans at Thermopylae or the French at Cameron.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Don’t know about fandom, but IRL I’m willing to risk that someone will abuse the ability to keep and carry weapons, if the rest of us can keep and carry weapons to defend ourselves from attack.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I find it interesting how hazards that start out as unacceptable or close to it can go to acceptable with repeated exposure. Simple example: found a Black Widow at my retail job, mildly freaked got my boss to kill it. A year later on a ranch ‘well there’s my third black widow, no big deal.’ (BTW black widow webs are distinct from other webs as well.) Or horses, for horse people the risk of severe injury or potential death from dealing with a thousand pound animal is just a fact of life and doesn’t worry most of us too much….though you learn situational awareness. Whereas someone who’s never been around horses may go, ‘risk of injury or death from these creatures is acceptable!?!’ If they comprehend the risk.

    I do enjoy fiction involving many people armed and that’s just an accepted fact of life. Ex: Pilot -“there was a scuffle, this guy tried to pull a gun on me failed, I took it and he ran off.” Port authority- “Well under this section of legalese colloquially known as Finders Keepers it’s yours now, you never know when you’ll need a good gun, I’ll send the paperwork over to you and here’s the address of a good gunsmith to check it over.”

    It’s also interesting in what makes an acceptable hazard? Is it enough money, familiarity, a goal that trumps everything else, a strongly held belief, everybody else is doing it, cultural norm, or lack of real understanding of exactly how dangerous something is or is it simply you live there and can’t really avoid it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the bits of tension in Kabaneri which is very realistic is the difference in attitude between people in sheltered stations and people who run the trains between them. In the stations, bushi rule, everyone’s terrified of the Kabane outside. On the trains… bushi reaaaaally don’t scare you compared to the monsters that you have to deal with.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. If there is a potential world-destroying threat, I could see the prisons/asylums being opened up.A: Lunatics might do well against Outside Context Problems.B:Sociopathy is something usually frowned upon in society, but if the threat needs every hand/gun/axe to do very nasty things to kill it/them…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lunacy isn’t that helpful in real insane situations. Likewise sociopaths. The problem with them is they like to prey on weaker things. They’re usually cowards.

      I.e., if there are monsters out there, the sociopaths will let everyone else die to keep them alive, then stab survivors in the back.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I just started working at the local hospital as a housekeeper. I walk into rooms with hazard signs such as “radioactive body fluids” or “droplet contaminants”. The other ones like, “airborne”, I’m not geared for because I don’t yet have the customized face mask.
    If I don’t follow protocol, I either get myself (and family) sick or I can get another patient in another room that I visit sick. I’m having faith in training and my own sensibilities.

    Yeah, I’m a little nervous about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hazards that are not acceptable to me: Snakes, scorpions, and spiders. As long as they’re outside it’s fine, but I totally freak out if I see one in the house. I’m like “My territory! Enter and perish!”, so yeah. They do their thing outside and away from me and my pets, and we’ll be cool. True Story: I used to live in the country, and at one point we had like six cats living on the porch – including kittens. One morning my dad looked outside and saw a rattlesnake in front of the door, barely a dozen feet from the kittens. My mom wound up sneaking out the back, grabbing a hoe, and then going around to use it to drag the snake out into the yard to kill it. The hoe was really dull. We’re pretty sure that the snake laughed itself to death.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Warhammer 40K and Warp travel. Imperial ships go FTL essentially by punching a hole into reality, dropping into an alternate dimension where the laws of physics and distance don’t quite apply, and then punching a hole back into realspace when they’ve reached a good spot. That alternate dimension just happens to be inhabited by daemons who’ll be more than happy to eat, kill, and/or possess the crew should the ship’s shields fail while in transit..

    Also Warhammer 40K, Imperial plasma weapons. Man-portable plasma weapons are enormously powerful for their size (we’re talking about pistols and rifles that pack a punch comparable to a vehicle-mounted autocannon) but have a disturbing tendency to critically overheat, which may lead to fun side effects like venting superheated steam in the user’s face… or just melting and/or exploding.

    Plasma pistols in particular are like a cursed six-shooter from a B-grade western. A shot fired in anger will not fail to kill.. but you’ll never live long enough to reload!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The scariest thing is that apparently during the old Golden Age of Man, humans experimented with multiple different methods of achieving FTL.. and Warp travel was ultimately considered the most practical and /safest/ method.

        What the *hell* were the other options? o.O

        Liked by 1 person

  12. If I see a group of raccoons in my way, I just find a different path. If I see a rat I’m scared for the rest of the week. Jumping at every little noise, can’t sleep, nightmares if I do sleep. No idea why. Aside from that, I don’t have to deal with many hazards. In stories, its interesting how characters are usually willing to risk their lives but not willing to risk their minds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Raccoons creep me out.

      Probably because the only time I’ve seen them is when they were on our patio, eating the dog’s food, not being bothered by the cats growling on the other side of the sliding-glass door, and generally acting like miniature bears when I got up enough courage to go out and run them off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Puyallap(pronounced pew-Al-app) WA. Raccoons. Took out dogs and cats alike. I assume they got this under control(this was like 10 years ago) but it was pretty out of control. They can be both big and nasty.


  13. I’ve been playing with a fantasy setting where, after a large war, things got messed up and the dead no longer pass on without assistance. End result: vengeful spirits and various undead nasties went from being very rare to commonplace. Now, most of the kingdoms reacted by training people to solve the problem… but the country the main character is from tooka very different approach. Their approach was something along the lines of: “If you’re only going to indiscriminately attack everyone we will put you down. However if you have a legitimate grievance (like being murdered) we will hear you out, and if you’re just not ready to pass on yet… we have a proposition for you” Basically, there is a huge swathe of land at the border of their country (which got a lot bigger after some of their neighbors attacked them and got flattened) that is allowed to remain haunted, and is full of spirits and preserved bodies that are waiting to be called back if necessary. Almost anyone would think they are crazy, but to them the mega-haunted belt isn’t a hazard unless you’re stupid enough to wander inside without the proper training.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Bugs (especially roaches and wasps) wig me out for reasons I can’t easily articulate. I don’t think they’re an immediate danger to my person, diseases aside. I just don’t like them.

    By contrast, heights have never bothered me. I used to climb on the roof when I had issues at school (which of course got me in more trouble, but I couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble even when I was behaving. Eventually you just give up. I thought of myself as a ‘bad kid’ for years.) and just stay up there in the wind and the quiet until things seemed less awful.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. … Seems like most of the discussion moved towards RL personal examples of Acceptable Hazards rather than necessarily ‘favorite examples thereof’. Might as well give my personal favorites for both I ‘spose…

    For RL Acceptable Risks… Mine aren’t as impressive as most on this page (and some of others’ examples are things I’m politely holding my tongue and not calling crazy), but I know some people find these worrying. I’ve got two and they’re both fairly innocuous and minor: People and Flying.

    A lot of my friends and others are not just introverts, but anxious in large groups or crowded places, nevermind how stressed I’ve seen people get interacting with strangers, even in typical everyday scenarios like customer service. Personally? I figure optimism is the better part in such scenarios.
    I understand being anxious and nervous around people who you can not predict the behavior of, or being overwhelmed by large groups where you feel like you have no space. I’ve got anxiety and these are things I’ve felt personally in the past, and occasionally still do. But I’m also a frequently awkward card-carrying extrovert.
    I like people – at least as a concept and in moderate doses. I fully admit to MIB’s ‘people are dumb panicky animals’ and as someone with nerdier interests living in a football town I rarely have a lot to talk about with people around me. I work in customer service and by doing my best to be as positive and helpful as I can, while making dumb jokes at my own expense, I can be non-threatening and hopefully brighten up an otherwise run-of-the-mill interaction, just a bit. And if they clearly just want to get in and go as quick as they can I can try to do that too while still being pleasant and friendly, making it as easy as possible for them.
    As for crowds? Don’t know what precisely to tell ya. Once you learn how to move with the flow of a crowd it all makes a bit more sense. But all that life and people around you… I mentioned it before about Conventions and how everyone gathered for a shared interest is so invigorating, but I can get some of that same feel, standing on a corner downtown in the middle of the day. Not always, not every time, but occasionally I can tap into that sense, that everyone around me is moving forward in their own way, at their own speed, continuing the track of their lives and moving into the future, whatever it may be; and on the way even the most cynical of us carries our hopes and desires for a better tomorrow, even if that hope is just the thought that you’re​ one day closer to your next day off. But it’s still more than even that… To get really ridiculously poetic for a moment – it’s the heartbeat of society, of civilization, and it’s amazing.

    Flying’s a bit more mundane. I know lots of people find it scary, stressful, and overwhelming. Not to mention potential dangers, from pickpockets to terrorism to mechanical failure. But the first time I was on a plane I was too young to remember because I was barely a month old. With family spread out across the states and my mom’s job involving a fair bit of travel I can’t​ tell you how many planes I’ve been on. These days I still tend to fly at least once a year, usually to see family around Christmas. I get people who find it scary, but to me it’s mundane. There’s a basic and healthy level of paranoid caution to prevent theft. When it comes to delays, spending a night crashing on a bench in the airport​ can be crappy, but they provide reschedules and if you get there late you still get there eventually. The sheer fun of travel, of seeing someplace new, of the sheer beauty of the world from an airplane window… I can’t really explain it.

    For favorite examples in Fiction… I’ve got two, and they’re less specific incidents than specific reactions. I love the trope ‘Unusually Uninteresting Sight’. It’s fun, goofy, and can be used to all sorts of hilarious effect. The other is taking a mundane situation, or one the main characters have moved on from now and having a character recognize how crazy it all is. Those are some of my favorite jokes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually just gave this more thought at work, because we’ve got tornado and flash flood warnings going off for the county, but we’re still working away.

      Weather totally falls under acceptable risk. When I first moved to Iowa from California my fourth grade class had read a book all about a night of horrific storms that took place in Tornado ally, and I was terrified because we were moving smack in the middle of it.

      Nearly 20 years since then and I can’t even tell you how quickly the weather I previously worried about is just a fact of life.

      This made me realize, the part of Acceptable Hazards I enjoy the most overlaps a great deal with the ‘Humans Are Warriors’ things that orbit the web now and again.

      Acceptable Hazards can be used to establish how a setting differs from the familiar, but I find it most fun when it’s used as a joke and an outsider recognizes the seeming absurdity of a situation.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah heh, I realize glancing back that writing things in a rush before my break comes to an end isn’t always the right idea.

        I mentioned the realization that my enjoyment of Acceptable Hazards overlaps specifically with Humans Are Warriors, but I didn’t mention what I meant by that.

        The point I think I mostly did get across but was building to was a specific line I often see as part of Humans As Warriors or Humans As Survivors: ‘You don’t realize you live on a death planet until you leave.’

        Humans will live wherever we can scrabble out a place, often for a variety of reasons. But once you start living there – even if going in seemed scary – the Treadmill of Happiness effect kicks in as much as it can and you get used to it… Until someone reminds you how terrifying it is to the outsider at any rate.

        Tornadoes were that for me personally. Everything brought up here is another​ notch in the ‘Humans Are Weird’ list. And I’m thoroughly pleased by that.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. Like many people commenting on this page, I fall into the spiders / snakes / wasps / bees are acceptable provided they stay out of my space mentality. I’m not afraid of snakes like I am spiders but rather cautious – because even when they aren’t venomous, they still have teeth. Lots of teeth. Lots of sharp teeth. And i’m not keen on getting bite.

    Having no desire to get stung is my reason for being cautious of bees and wasps.

    But still have the mentality – you stay in your space, I stay in mine, and neither of us has to come to any unnecessary tragedy.

    My favorites for Acceptable Risk mentality are the ones where while most people would run away from the monsters, these guys run toward them because somebody has to if anyone is going to survive and I guess that somebody is me . . .

    Through I also find it amusing to watch someone who isn’t familiar with their weirdness freak out by the stuff they now consider normal. Think that’s part of why I like the idea of SG-1 crew meeting the Around Magi crew so much – both of them have their own brand of weirdness that will make the other one go “Wait, what?!”

    The bunnies think someone connected (may be loosely connected) with SG-1 will have trouble computing why the idea of being host to a Gao’uld weirds out the Magi crew but not Full Djinn Equip and/or the rest of their connection with their respective Djinn and/or Household Vessel Spirits . . . . of course, anyone from SG-1 side finding out about Djinn Equip might be more concerned with the fact that it makes Simon Cavins and Alan Ryan (and anyone else with one) People of Mass Destruction. And how scary Aladdin and other Magi are when you stop and think about it . . .

    To say nothing of the Rens, whenever they start showing up . . .

    Of course, part of our amusement will simply watching them trying to figure why these tourists (the Magi crew POV) from Colorado and these local school teachers-actors and students-actor (SG-1 POV) are so weird . . .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Take your time. We all look forward to it as well, but we want you to make it from a place where you want to and are good to make it. We understand RL being crazy and can be happily patient till you feel up to stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree with sightlessraiton, we can wait . . . just allowing the bunnies to make their comments as they occur to them . . . and as (hopefully) gentle reminder than whenever you get the time for it, there are people still interested in that story. Maybe I’m projecting but sometimes after something I’m working on has had to lay around for a while, I start to wonder if anyone besides me is actually interested in the darn thing or am I just wasting my time . . . (now, granted I’ve written notes and other pieces for stuff that I know is never seeing the light of day because it is pure self-indulgence crude I wrote down to get it out of my head so the bunnies would shut up . . .)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I concur. I could list a number of your incomplete stories or yet to be written bunnies that I remain strongly interested in, yet I have some goals for my own behavior. I appreciate what you have chosen to share with us. Thank you again.

        Liked by 3 people

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