• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

The Shadow Knows …

by Kim Falconer

I learned a lot about ‘evil’ in the summer of 1981. My eyes were opened to its purpose at a conference in Berkeley California where a Jungian analyst talked about the Shadow. She said when it comes to storytelling, ‘evil’ is the author’s best friend. It moves the story forward, forces characters to grow, allows for heroic acts and takes readers to the edge of their seats.

Tolkien says it like this . . . things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling . . . The Hobbit.

If we want to have a ‘good deal of telling’ we best know make friends with ‘evil.’

'Lilith as a Shadow figure.' H R Giger from Necronomicon 2 Edition C Zurich, 1985

Jung defines ‘evil’ as an element of our shadow—a part of our unconscious that is hidden from us. The shadow can be very confronting to experience in ourselves so we project it onto others or art/film/ literature. It evokes powerful emotional reactions like loathing and disgust because it contains the unwanted and disowned material of our psyche. Yet like the banished Lilith, getting to know the shadow is an opportunity for wholeness.

We see this process in fairytale like the ones where the miller (or farmer) has lost his fortune. Just when the story stagnates and nothing more can happen, the Shadow appears. He’s often a dwarf or cripple, hideous or distorted in some way. He steps in and offers to make a ‘deal’. He’ll help the hero if only he promises to give him what’s behind the barn, or out by the shed. The hero thinks what could be there but a rake or an old bucket? And so he agrees. Now up go the stakes because behind the barn at that moment is the miller’s son, or out by the shed is his baby daughter.

A similar shadow image is seen when Bilbo Baggins loses his way under the mountain. He doesn’t know what to do until he meets Gollum—a loathsome damaged creature. They play the riddle game (a deadly deal) and Bilbo wins but like the miller, what is given up is irreplaceable—for the miller it’s his true creative worth and in the case of Mr Bilbo Baggins, it’s his integrity.

The shadow appeals to the hero’s lack of self-worth or direction. Once the deal is struck, the story can move forward again because our hero has to figure out how to get his child back, or redeem himself (which the Hobbits never quite do as it is Gollum in the end who finally destroys the ring). As the saying goes, the shadow knows .. .

Part two will look at other personifications of ‘evil’ in storytelling. If you have a favourite villain or shadow figure you love to hate, please share it with us here.

Kim Falconer lives in Byron Bay with two gorgeous black cats. Her latest book is Strange Attractors, the third book in the Quantum Enchantment series, and it is out now in bookshops across Australia and New Zealand. As well as her author website‚ she runs an astrology forum and alternative science site‚ trains with a sword and is completing a Masters Degree. Her novel writing is done early every morning. Currently she’s working on the Quantum Encryption Series.

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14 Responses

  1. Hey, she’s hogging all the insightful blogs! Get her!

    I don’t have traditional evil characters in my own work, since I find big evil guys who want to take over/destroy the world very boring and unbelieveable. That said, I find traditional heroes boring as well.

    Evil is a side of a person, rather than their entire makeup. And to me, real evil is not romantic, or tempting, or attractive the way it often is in fiction. Real life vileness is ugly and dull and depressing, and it makes painful and destructive things happen for no reason. And I’ve seen it way too many times.

    Great, now I’m depressed. 😦

    • Katie, I agree. If traditional means ‘one dimensional evil intention to the core for no reason’, then it’s predictable and boring. That doesn’t fly in fiction!

      I agree with putting a percentage of evil in ‘good’ characters and a percentage of ‘good’ in evil ones. That keeps the readers guessing…and maybe the author too as they write!

      It can certainly keep the pages turning!

  2. Funny, I was dreaming about this early this morning (I don’t know what that says about me; probably that I read and watch too much spec fic.)

    There are so many great ways to play with evil in fiction: looming as an unexplained force or a character whose motive is never properly revealed; or more insidious, the evil character who actually has very good reasons and you just can’t put your finger on what’s wrong. The Devil, (talk about the ultimate evil!) is often portrayed this way in book and film. Completely reasonable arguments, solid point of view… but you always know that at the core… he’s the Devil; by definition he’s evil.

    Katie, I love it when evil is tackled as a side of someone. Some of my favourite stories are the ones where you don’t quite know how to feel at the end because while the “evil” character may have been defeated, ultimately you got to know all sides of the character and understand both sides of the story. Phantom of the Opera, anyone?

    • Can you ever read too much Spec Fic?

      Your mention of the Devil got me thinking–there are some portrayals of this character that I adore. Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike is one. His character had some profound insights into humanity (and the relationship between men and women. He also had some very powerful human desires–none the least to be loved.

      And what about Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Count Dracula / Vlad III Draculea did terrible things for God …and then he did even more terrible things against God. What happened to him was evil and still, to the end, he loved. If I had to pick my single most cherished love story, it would be this one.

      I think love evokes the Shadow more readily than any other feeling because there is so much at stake, and so many reasons to be ‘more’ of who we are.

  3. I think evil characters in fiction are often the ones we can relate to better – because they have human weaknesses as we do. That’s why those black and white heroes and villains can be unappealing – we can’t really believe they could be so good – and if they were then they’d be boring and too perfect!
    No one ever tells stories about things running smoothly, do they – it’s interesting when something goes wrong, or things don’t work out as planned. I wouldn’t say that all traditional heroes and antiheroes or villains are necessarily black and white though – as Kim says, most have to struggle with overcoming their own weaknesses, which can include fear, uncertainty, and sometimes, most interesting of all to me – embarrassment. It is not easy to stand up in front of a crowd and state your piece, or start your fight, but this is often what fictional heroes (and villains) must do and it is explored well in Diana Wynne Jones’ book ‘Fire and Hemlock’.

    One of my favourite ‘villains’ is Jaime Lannister in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – at the start of the series he seems quite obviously evil – he throws a boy almost to his death, he is in an incestuous relationship with his sister – he’s generally rather vile and awful – and yet, as the books progress, you see another side to him, that there are kindnesses in the way he treats some people, and that many of his actions that seemed evil were committed out of his love for someone else – trying to protect or aid them.

    And yes, Katie, real life evil when taken as a whole is awful and vile – there is nothing romantic or lovely about hurting other people – but there’s that other sort of real life evil, which is part of our make up and probably shouldn’t be called ‘evil’ so much as ‘shadow’ as Kim refers to it in this post – the darker side of us which has just as much right to exist – there’s a lot of darkness around rights of passage – blood, pain, distress, and one can weep when one is most happy or relieved – but it all makes up a whole.

    • I think evil characters in fiction are often the ones we can relate to better – because they have human weaknesses as we do.

      Yes! This is ‘the Flaw’ that makes a character real,identifiable. Without the flaw, there are no deeper dimensions. And sometimes the Flaw is our ally, the thing that allows us to become whole. I’m looking forward to reading Fire and Hemlock. It’s on my list!

      That’s a strong point about the Jaime Lannister character–a character doing bad things for good reasons.

      Margaret Atwood talked about this in her speech Spotty-Handed Villainesses:Problems Of Female Bad Behaviour In The Creation Of Literature. She said:

      ‘(There are) bad women who do bad things for bad reasons, good women who do good things for good reasons, good women who do bad things for good reasons, bad women who do bad things for good reasons, and so forth. But a grid would just be a beginning, because there are so many factors involved: for instance, what the character thinks is bad, what the reader thinks is bad, and what the author thinks is bad, may all be different. But let me define a thoroughly evil person as one who intends to do evil, and for purely selfish reasons. The Queen in Snow White would fit that.’

      A fascinating discourse on feminism, Good, Evil and what the kids had for breakfast!

      And as you said, the darkness around initiation–like Innana’s decent to the underworld–is a very powerful reminder that blood and pain and distress and weeping can be ‘growthful’,and healing.

      Thank you 🙂

  4. On another level the shadow is a reflection of what the hero refuses to acknowledge within him/herself, what they need to learn, overcome etc. And it’s only by facing it and absorbing the shadow that the hero is able to move on successfully. If they take the route of slaying the shadow then that will inevitably lead to far more disastrous consequences because the hero hasn’t faced the shadow, he/she has merely reacted in a scared manner that displays the lack of necessary growth.

    • Great points and you remind me, Skaldi, of another excellent example – in A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Ged is forced to confront the gebbeth – a type of shadow that takes over people’s bodies – which has chased him all over the world – and as I recall, he is obliged to embrace it and take it into himself – because it is in effect a shadow part of himself that he released through dangerous magic – which is why it has always followed him, but it would destroy him if he fought it – because he would be fighting himself.

      • Skaldi, Nat, this is *probably* the most important, and most confronting, aspect of the shadow. It is a part of our Self.

        Well put.

        *probably/provably* Thank you, Dr Freud. The parapraxis, or slip-of-the-tongue, is another manifestation or ‘voice’ of the Shadow. I first typed ‘provably’ instead of probably. Was that my shadow speaking? 🙂

  5. Hey, Kim has a golden touch for blog posts!

    This is one of the gorgeous conundrums of storytelling, isn’t it. There’s not much to say about a world where all goes well. In fact, it’s so shocking to find such a world in literature that we immediately assume there’s a nasty secret underneath it all (“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Le Guin is a great example.) Agent Smith had a point when he said that humans could not abide a world in which all their desires were fulfilled!

    Funny how we long for it in real life, but instinctively know it’s impossible in art.

    • Mary! Thank you for bringing Agent Smith into the conversations. I got goosebumps when I read it and had to find the full quote!

      Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

      Thank you for the Le Guin reference too. The subtitle of that Hugo winning short story is “Variations on a Theme by William James.” James was a very interesting Philosopher. He felt that truth was whatever we thought it was–whatever we believed. Truth was defined for human reasons, not universal. Interesting. James’ notions do make it easier to understand how people can do ‘very bad things’ and believe they are very good.

      The question remains, good and bad to whom?

      Thank you for the King Midas reference :)I’m looking forward to reading more posts from you (hint hint)

      🙂

      • Ooh that makes me think of Utopia and Brave New World (which I haven’t reread for years) … two “perfect” societies ultimately proving to be dystopias … creating societies without pain, evil, darkness etc turn out to mean creating bland, false worlds that also have no passion, creativity etc. And ultimately they are as distorted as the societies they sought to prevent.

      • Utopia and Brave New World are great references , and you make an important point when you say societies without the ‘dark side’ also lack passion and creative expression.

        Jung makes this connection when he talks about the Shadow– ‘In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”

        Thanks for bringing that up! More fodder for part II 🙂

  6. For those with a fast internet connection (or a lot of patience) this Academy Award Nominee for Best Short Film takes a wide angled look at life, death and the ‘grim’ reaper!

    The Lady and the Reaper

    There are so many FANTASY nominations this year!!! Yay!

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