Last Friday, our guest blogger, author Wayne Thomas Batson, wrote about fantasy as a vehicle for soul searching. His remarks reminded me of what I read from Anne Rice when she announced her conversion (since revoked) to the Catholic faith.
As she states, even in her vampire novels she was exploring the spiritual:
Much could be said, and has been said, about all of my works. I would like to say that the one thing which unites them is the theme of the moral and spiritual quest
Apparently the search continues in the second book of her angel series Of Love And Evil.
Interesting!I have one friend who refuses to read Tosca Lee‘s Demon: A Memoir because it is too real. After all, demons exist. Instead, this friend prefers to read and write about make-believe monsters — vampires and zombies, selkies, werewolves, and the like.
All those creatures are too horrible for me, at least if they take center stage in the story. I saw an old black and white version of Frankenstein’s Monster when I was a kid, and had nightmares for weeks. It was months before I could go downstairs to our basement level bedrooms without imagining a monster waiting in the dark.
Ever since, I’ve preferred something akin to the mythical creatures who existed in a pretend place and a pretend time — balrogs and orcs, Calormenes and Tash, bisonbecks and blimmets.
The greater distance allows me to examine the war between good and evil, much as Anne Rice’s vampires apparently allowed her to look at the same:
Interview with the Vampire, the novel that brought me to public attention, is about the near despair of an alienated being who searches the world for some hope that his existence can have meaning. His vampire nature is clearly a metaphor for human consciousness or moral awareness. The major theme of the novel is the misery of this character because he cannot find redemption and does not have the strength to end the evil of which he knows himself to be a part.
I have to admit, for years I never considered the possibility that horror had anything to do with an exploration of the spiritual. I looked at stories with vampire protagonists as a glorification of evil.
Anne Rice says it’s not so, at least in her stories:
Evil is never glorified in these books; on the contrary, the continuing battle against evil is the subject of the work. The search for the good is the subject of the work.
The battle against evil is the subject of fantasy, too, but why is horror, or supernatural suspense, as we call it in Christian fiction, so much darker? Why does it induce nightmares in some of us and make others shudder so much we’d just as soon read something else, thank you very much!
I can only postulate answers to that question because I fall into that latter group. Hence, I’m speaking from what I think — which dictates what I decide to read, or rather, not to read — so I’m aware my perception might be completely skewered. Nevertheless, here’s my speculation: could it be the darkness of dark literature comes from the point of view — such as might have occurred had Lord of the Rings been written from Saurman’s perspective or The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe from the standpoint of the witch?
Mind you, I’m not suggesting something like Wicked by Gregory Maguire that apparently told the story of the Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. From what I have heard, her evil nature is softened if not explained away by a look at her troubled youth and the roots of her self-loathing.
On second thought, perhaps that one actually is a good illustration, though I suspect less dark than what I had in mind because Oz is so firmly rooted in our cultural imagination as pretend. Interestingly, Publisher’s Weekly called it a “meditation on good and evil, God and free will.”
So I wonder. Am I right that horror or supernatural suspense explores evil and good from a different perspective than fantasy, or is there some other major difference I’m missing?
And in the end, does it give you nightmares? 😕