Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shades of Evil - With Guest Authors Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall

Jenny Twist
Tara Fox Hall
Although I don't write horror, I do enjoy introducing a little wickedness into my stories when appropriate. Why should creating evil characters be more fascinating than creating good ones? I'm not entirely sure, but they are. My ears pricked up, therefore, at a debate on the subject of evil between two author friends whose excellent work fills me with admiration, and I persuaded them to 'go public' and air their views on my blog.

These two great authors are Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall, who often collaborate on chilling horror anthologies, as well as writing individual longer works - and I've never yet been disappointed by any of these.

Tara said that what sparked the debate was a review by a U.S. college professor [Gregory Alles] of Robert Ellwood's book: Tales of Darkness: The Mythology of Evil, that claimed:  “We learn more about evil and how to deal with it from stories than we do from philosophical analysis…life [itself] is…a set of stories.” This had Tara pondering what, if this is true, does the recent shift in fiction toward making the usual villain of the story into its hero do to our society? Should we be worried that the perceived line between evil and good is not just blurring, but disappearing?

Jenny Twist's response to this is:

See No Evil?

In recent years there seems to have been a worrying shift in people’s attitude to evil. We try to empathise with mass murderers, child abusers, serial killers. We look for reasons. They had a difficult childhood. Perhaps they were themselves abused. They have never been loved. They were dominated by a sadistic lover.
Well, it doesn’t wash with me. It’s irrelevant why they do these evil deeds. They have to be stopped. They have to be caught and locked up and never let out again.
Lesley Ann Downey
And don’t talk to me about rehabilitation. Talk to the mother of Lesley Ann Downey, whose ten year old daughter was tortured to death by the notorious Moors Murderers. (Just to prove they really were evil and not just misunderstood, they recorded her screams so they could play it back later for pleasure.) Talk to the families of the 909 people who died in Jonestown. See if they think rehabilitation is a good idea. Or maybe we should think about releasing Charles Manson. He’s been in prison a long time and he’s probably sorry by now.

Let’s not acknowledge that there is evil in the world. Let’s pretend it can all be put right.

Ian Brady

Myra Hindley

Charles Manson

This same downplaying of evil seems to be seeping insidiously into vampire literature. Vampires have become poor, misunderstood creatures who are only trying to earn a crust – or, in their case, a bucket of human blood. It is not, after all, their fault that they are vampires. They were the victims once.
And so now we have sexy vampires who are tender lovers. We have vampires with human emotions; vampires who are co-operating with humans and making a living in the world. We even have, God help us, sparkly vampires.
Don’t make me laugh. Vampires are parasites, feeding on human beings. They are serial killers. It doesn’t matter what they were before or if they were victims themselves. They are vampires now and nobody in their right mind would want one for a lover.
Real, believable vampires should be evil - properly evil. Not this namby-pamby evil which can be explained away and forgiven, but deep-down, black to the soul evil.
My absolute favourite vampire of all time is Kurt Barlow in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’. He is ancient, clever, devious . . . and evil to the core. Someone you can really enjoy hating. That’s my kind of vampire.

I hope you'll return next week to hear Tara's response to Jenny's post.

More about author Jenny Twist:

Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's published works include: Take One At Bedtime, Domingo's Angel, The Mantequero series, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.


ManicScribbler said...

Thank you Jenny and Tara,
I love 'renting' out my blog to my two favourite authors. You always have such stimulating ideas. This topic has provided a lot of food for thought and I just can't wait for Tara's post next week.
You are always welcome here :)

Jenny Twist said...

Lynette, I know I can speak for Tara as well when I say we love being on your blog. Thank you so much for hosting us.
Love Jenny

Tara Fox Hall said...

I enjoyed this blog of course :) I do love being on your blog, Lynette, and I thank you so much for not only always cheering on our ideas, but giving us a forum to air them publicly :)

Anonymous said...

rehab = HAHAHA! I agree 100% on the rehabilitation thing, NO SUCH THING for these MONSTERS!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jenny. There is evil in the world. I think the trend to be sympathic stems from our floating value system of situational ethics.

Louise Wise said...

I don't think you can compare fictional vampire evilness to real monsters who commit horrific crimes. But 'nice' vampires? Why not? Usually it's the good vamps against the bad if that happens.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Jessica and oldthingsrnew. Nice to find kindred spirits. I suppose the sympathy thing shows that we are fundamentally good, but in my opinion we can't allow this to affect our judgement. Love Jenny xxx

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Louise.
Nice to meet you.
I don't see why you can't compare real monsters to fictional ones. I just wanted to demonstrate a trend in thinking that applies across the board really.
I suppose you could argue that since vampires were once human beings, why shouldn't they retain human feelings and values. I'm sure that's what Tara thinks.
But I think they lose their souls.

ManicScribbler said...

Jenny and Tara - any time :)

ManicScribbler said...

Hi Jessica, Oldthings and Louise - great to see you hear. I knew this topic would be controversial. Thanks for dropping by.

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