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Klavan On The Culture

Why So Horrifying? Supernatural Fiction and The World

October 24th, 2013 - 4:13 am

There are two reasons for this, I think. One is my ever-deepening religious sense. This doesn’t mean I now believe that angels dance on the heads of pins or that the right prayer said in the right way will fetch you a million bucks. But I have begun to experience a moral logic to life that extends beyond life, an understanding that the good and evil we choose to do exists on a continuum of which birth and death are only a part.

As atheist scientists try harder and harder to explain away man’s altruism and spiritual striving with fanciful evolutionary just-so stories, I — and an increasing number of other thinkers and writers besides — am beginning to understand that what these scientists are saying is not scientific at all and doesn’t really make much sense.

As a writer of what I hope are thrilling tales, I find it almost impossible to represent this spiritual idea of life without resorting to the uncanny. I think a lot of the audience is feeling this as well.

And the other reason I and others are increasingly turning to supernatural stories is that the natural world is becoming so outlandish that, even without spirituality, it has begun to seem sort of uncanny in itself. Terrorists mesmerized by a seventh century superstition are developing the capability to end human life — and it’s considered bigotry to say them nay. Sex, which once was an important private interaction between human beings, has become a matter of ubiquitous imagery, assaulting the senses while containing about as much emotion as an electric jolt to the brain’s pleasure center. Journalists and intellectuals have replaced the search for truth with an ongoing attempt to impose a narrative, turning the ever-present voices of media into a cacophony of competing lies.

In a world of such globalized danger, sensory assault and omnipresent deception, is it any wonder we discharge our burgeoning anxieties with tales of zombie apocalypse, vampire seduction and an ordinary world that is not what it seems?

So now I’ve given two reasons why I and other artists and audiences are increasingly turning to supernatural tales:  a rebirth of true religion and the explosive extension of human insanity through technological means. But perhaps these are really two sides of the same reason. Perhaps there is a growing sense in the zeitgeist that the world is on the brink of either great beauty or vast destruction or possibly both.

And only tales of the supernatural can express both the glory we anticipate and the gnawing fear we feel.

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Satan is real.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have been reading this blog and following your commentary with Bill Whittle for a while now(and also reading your books). Have you thought about putting down some of your ideas into a non-fiction book? I would certainly be interested in such a book and I think many others would as well.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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I think part of the answer is this, we use zombies and monsters as enemies in movies because the left will attack anyone who labels another human being a monster no matter how terrible that monster is. Stories need bad guys but the left has labeled bad guys as merely misunderstood guys.

The democrats scramble in the latest "FREE *insert cop-killer's name here*" movement. The msm races around to humanize Islamic murderers in an effort to help us "understand" them. Child rapists are given month long prison terms. Since the left has no morality they have no metric by which to judge another human being. All they can do is cry "RACIST" to anyone who raises a voice in opposition. The democrat party has been the party of slavery/KKK/segregation/racism for over a century so they project their own racism on others a lot.

The ultimate convergence of the supernatural and the real will occur when the real Antichrist comes. Now that's going to be a wild ride.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
To Macy1983, God bless you and may the herpes be with you.

Ok, Klavan, I broke down and ordered a coupla novels of yours on Amazon today.

But I have a question. There was a series of novels I read 30 years ago that I cannot remember who the hell wrote them. All of them paper backs and I lost them in the tornado.

Need some help here.

All I can remember is that the guy was an investigator an his best friend was gay. Go figure. The only thing I remember for sure is that the boat he lived in was parked in slip 54 in Florida somewhere.

Really perplexed here. Need some help. Anything jog your memory?

The guy wrote a ton of books. A revisit is in order. I really liked those books. As anti-PC as it gets. A shot of reality so-to-speak.

Looking forward to reading your books. Say hay to Bill

charles

25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks, Charles. Let me know how you like them. That series sure sounds like Travis McGee by John D. McDonald, but he parked his boat the Busted Flush in slip F-18, and his partner Meyer wasn't gay but would only occasionally take a woman off for sexual healing.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
The question about angels dancing on the head of a pin was a medieval joke, given at exam time to perk up the students. The correct answer is: an infinite number, since angels are pure spirits, and occupy no space at all. Any specific numeric answer was incorrect, and the student bombed out.

So if you believe that there are nonhuman spirits, there is no reason not to believe they can "dance" on the head of pin, or anywhere else that pleases them to rejoice.

They even attend the pinheaded historians who keep misinforming the public; telling us that the question of "how many angels can dance on a pin" was ever a matter of serious debate.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is one reason I haven't even tried to write contemporary fiction. I simply can't see the world except through the lens of what I believe to be true; religion colors everything. I can't force myself to look at it with an unbeliever's eyes because it just seems too ridiculous to be believed. I cannot understand such willful self deception.

The other reason is that when you're dealing with the real world, there are simply too many assumptions in your reader's worldview. Science Fiction or Fantasy can reduce the assumptions by taking the reader out of the known world into an unknown, where their assumptions can be challenged or even ignored. Same for historical fiction, so long as you're dealing with somebody ignorant of that particular era. When you find yourself on unfamiliar ground you are more open to thinking about what is depicted than when you're on ground you know well. I think that means fantasy especially has the potential to be the apotheosis of fiction...someday. I would love to be the guy who did that, but I'm not holding my breath.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...I’m finding it harder and harder to describe my vision of the world in fiction without resorting to the supernatural."

I encountered something similar about half-way through writing my Visual Novel: having completed two character's paths, I realized that to tell the story in my head, there was no way to avoid elements of what Tolkien called "the Secondary World." I'm pleased with the results.

Like you, I am a convert to Christianity, and after a dozen years find it nearly impossible to not see the world through that lens.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe a great part of the reason we are looking to stories in the "supernatural" is because the real world doesn't contain heroes.

For awhile it was those braving the frontier life during the American expansion (cowboys/lawmen), followed by military/police types against evildoers (Schwarznegger, Willis, etc).

But those archetypes are not believable any longer, so the only "heroes" we can believe in are those OUTSIDE our culture. They may be from other worlds, other dimensions, but the main point is they are NOT a part of our day-to-day world.

Just one more symptom of the underlying corruption of our culture.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The Blind Spot," (other dimension) by Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint is from 1921. John Carter of Mars from 1911. "The Girl In the Golden Atom" by Ray Cummings, 1922. "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merrit, 1918. There are tons of examples from this period.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
When in doubt, I prescribe History! A great overview of how we came to think and act the way we do is "From Dawn To Decadence, 1500 To The Present, 500 Years Of Western Cultural Life" by Jacques Barzun. It's gently pessimistic, but even a great historian cannot escape his own time.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"When the nation's history is poorly taught in schools, ignored by the young, and proudly rejected by qualified elders, awareness of tradition consists only in wanting to destroy it." - Jacques Barzun
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love. That. Book. The masterpiece of a genius - and he wrote it when he was, like, 90. Great stuff.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
A great supernatural series is the "Harry Dresden" series by Jim Butcher. About a wizard in Chicago. Each book expands upon characters introduced in previous books and the author keeps getting better and better while the characters grow. This is probably the BEST and most successful series ever -- book number 14 was released this year.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Strassman vs. Obama: "corporate power" vs. "common ground"--August 11, 1995

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjzPirAp0vM
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Crime stories always involve justice of some sort. Justice only makes sense with the existence of God. I guess one can say that crime stories have always involved the supernatural.

One rather spooky crime story is Scarlet Street: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/scarlet_street/
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
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