On my quest to read a book every week this year, I have been thinking a lot about fiction and what it means to me, why it draws me in, makes me feel a part of the world. I’m naturally drawn to fantasy and science fiction, but why is that? What makes these genres so incredibly important to me personally?
Writing fantasy gives me a way to address my own demons, my own darkness, in a way that isn’t unleashing them on the world. The novel I’m working on has a character who wants to rob others of their will-power. She’ll use any power available to her to tear a person from their own spirit, form them to suit her will. Stealing souls, holding bodies captive, lying, manipulation, murder, these are her tools in her quest for ultimate power.
Of course this person is “evil” by any standard. But she is also a part of me. It is through writing her that I can accept my own desire for power and my own issues with how I think the world should be. If we do not confront this darkness within ourselves, we start to turn it outside, blame others, create an external enemy to give our own fears form. That is the power of fiction, it can save us from ourselves.
Today, I was reading an essay by my current author obsession Ursula K. Le Guin titled “The Child and The Shadow,” from the collection The Language of the Night, when I discovered this quote:
“Unadmitted to consciousness, the shadow is projected outward, onto others. There’s nothing wrong with me — it’s them. I’m not a monster, other people are monsters. All foreigners are evil. All communists are evil. All capitalists are evil. It was the cat that made me kick him, Mummy.
If the individual wants to live in the real world, he must withdraw his projections; he must admit that the hateful, the evil, exists within himself. This isn’t easy. It is very hard not to be able to blame anybody else. But it may be worth it. Jung says, ‘If he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.'”
I read this passage and put the book down. I searched youtube for the above video. I listened to it and cried. Aside from the political implications of the song (which I do not want to consider or discuss because I have nothing to contribute), there is a deeper, spiritual implication. When we refuse to confront our darkness and instead turn it outside, we are stunting ourselves. We’re the universal soldier, and we really are to blame. Our orders come from far away no more.
And that is one reason why I need fiction. I need to be able to see the darkness in others to accept that it is within me. I need to experience the rage, the violence, the horror, and the injustice on the page. I need your darkness to fight my own.
What do you think?