The Value of Dark Fiction Part 2

We all tend to assume that everyone views the world in the same way we do.  We assume that everyone thinks in the same way we do.  We all tend to feel like no one understands us, but we talk and act like everyone does.  Perhaps life would be easier if we talked and acted like no one understood us and felt like everyone did.  That being said let me try this again; last time I made assumptions, sparked a lot of debate, and probably managed to hurt some feelings (which was, and is, not my intention).

The value in dark fiction is found in its ability to reach certain people and teach them in a way that nothing else can.  I can say, with absolute certainty since I am talking about myself, that a young man who has hurt and been hurt deeply does not need a story about how the good guys win in the end.  This young man, let us call him John (A part of me has always wished I was named John…I like my name, but I like John too), does not need a story about a person who has made a few mistakes but sees the error of his ways.  Nor does he need a story about how everything works out for good or how God is in control.

John does not need a story that tells him the world is a good place and he should be happy.  To John; whether this is because of his experiences, because of his mind, because of his pain, whatever the reason might be; these stories lie.  What John needs is a story which reflects the world he knows, a place of hate and pain, and a character who hurts and is hurt as deeply as John, himself.  He needs a story, and a character, that can help him make sense of his own pain.  A story that can help him understand a God who would allow that pain, and how this God could possibly be called good.

John needs a character who reflects himself.  John needs a character that is similar enough for him to connect with.  John needs a story that explains to him on an emotional level, as well as an intellectual one, how God can possibly be called good.  How there can be hope, trust, and love in the face of pain so extreme that he has no way to express it.  John needs a story that shows him that the things he has held onto; the hope, freedom, and joy he has found in hate, in sin, in evil; is a lie.  That it is nothing compared to what he could have in Christ.  John needs a story that will teach him how to deal with pain, how to love God, and how to love people when the only thing he knows, that he understands, is how to hate.  More than anything John needs a story in which he can place himself and follow the path laid out to freedom.

This is the value of dark fiction, the value of graphic fiction.  This is the value of that fiction which expresses the deepest levels of pain, and the darkness so often found in the human condition.  While it may bring understanding, it may edify others, and it may create a point of connection between very disparate people; the truest value of dark fiction is found in its ability to reach, and bring healing, to people which nothing else can.

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About noothergods

I hate writing these things. Ok, a little bit about me. I split my time between this world and other worlds so I'm only here about 25% to 50% of the time. Other times my body might be here (or you never know it might not) but I am off somewhere else having strange and usually pretty horrible adventures. I consider myself a scholar of Christian Theology and of Religion in general, I love learning about other people's belief systems. I think that Shinto is fascinating and I'm obsessed with the theology of sin...and with monkeys...I don't know why I'm obsessed with monkeys but I blame Gus...if you know him you'll understand that, if you don't then...well...I blame Gus. Anyway, I'm the one of the blog that needs to be censored the most so if there's anything posted that you find offensive it was probably me. I think that my brain doesn't really work the way it's supposed to but that's an issue for a whole other time. I have two degrees, a B.S. in Religion and an M.Div. in leadership. I enjoy a great many things some of which include writing (gee, what a surprise), martial arts, anything media that has a good story to tell, cooking, discussing/reading/occasionally writing about Christian theology, General theology, religious belief systems, philosophy, etc. I also enjoy reading medieval and previous magical texts and studying the history, practice, and beliefs about magic from around the world. I don't practice magic and if you want to know my personal beliefs on the subject you can email me, however the intersection of magic and religion is a very interesting topic.

Posted on March 5, 2011, in Tobias Mastgrave and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very well expressed. God did not chose to put us in a world free of pain. Rather, He left us here in a world marred by sin, pain, and injustice, and instead gave us His strength and grace to confront that world. The world is full of people like John who need us to recognize their darkness. If they don’t believe that we understand their pain, they won’t hear a thing we say.

  2. Hmmm. Sounds rather like the story of Jesus, doesn’t it?

    I don’t think anybody here has a problem with “darkness” infiction as such. I think we all retch at a Thomas Kincade painting, or at its fictional equivalent. The suffering that Frodo and Sam undergo in Mordor is inexpressible, and without it their story would have no power. The exile of the Elves is a sorrow deeper than words, always coexisting with and underlying the joy they take in the beauty of Middle Earth. The growing Shadow in the East is part of what sucks us into that world. A story without darkness is a story to which no deep connection is possible. I do not think these ideas need any defense.

    The place where the controversy arises is with the word “graphic.” How graphic do our depictions of evil need to be in order to be effective? How graphic is too graphic? What are the lines that should not be crossed here, and why? At what point do further gruesome details hinder the redemptive value of the story as a whole rather than promoting it? What are the artistic as well as moral principles by which such questions must be answered?

    To me, the value of dark fiction is unquestionable. I think we will make more progress when we realize that the only questions worth asking are the kind in my second paragraph above: what are the techniques that allow the darkness to set off the light versus those that threaten to allow it to overwhelm it? Maybe if we realize that we are talking about craftsmanship rather than the moral value of the story, the discussion can be less heated.

  3. Wayne the Shrink

    “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”

    Meditate on this for a moment – we as Americans do not want to nor are we willing to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” – we want to fly over it, drive through in our air conditioned SUV’s, but we don’t want to get out, get our clothes filthy, smell the stench until our noses adjust and we don’t notice it, or know the experience. As American Christians we are doubly adverse to this experience. Yet until we do, we have no ability to reach those who are there without the comfort of God, without His staff to hold to, and are truly hopeless. Until those of us who are protected have worked intimately with the hopelessly hurt rape victims, the hopeless addict, with the bitter selfish unforgiven who will not forgive, the homeless who is so disconnected that he or she cannot function in society, we are not competent to say what will or will not reach them. Not until I am comfortable with my darkness, desire to kill others, to hurt and render (yes, we all have that), can I reach he who acts that out on any level. Until I know my own disgust and hate, I cannot reach one that lives in theirs.

    “Graphic” in the sense of the experiential is necessary to reach into that experience in the reader. An external description of fact isn’t enough, the internal experience must be explored, no matter how distasteful. However, “graphic” in the sense of gratituous scenes placed for titilation detracts from the reality that is necessary.

    As a Clinical Psychologist I’ve had to learn all of this. Apparantly I taught some of it to Kyle.

  4. I often apply a similar argument in defense of Christian rock. While I personally don’t like to listen to Christian death metal (never mind the irony of that classification), I understand that for some, they feel like a hard rocker understands the real world and puts it in his songs. They will trust that music before ever willingly listening to Michael W. Smith.

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