Mackel Tour; Fantasy and a Christian Worldview, Part 13

So I finally tracked down the other bloggers who are posting about Kathryn Mackel’s newest release The Hidden. If you take some time to check out these other posts, I think you’ll get a good feel for this book and for Mackel as a writer.

Jason Joyner – Spoiled for the Ordinary
TL Hines’ blog
Cheryl Russel – Unseen Worlds
Jim Black’s blog
Mimi Pearson’s Mimi’s Pixie Corner
David Meigs’ The Curmudgeon’s Rant
Kevin Holtsberry’s Collected Miscellany
Linda Gilmore’s blog
Gina Burgess’s blog
Bonnie Calhoun’s Bonnie Writes
Valerie’s In My Little World
Jezreel Cohen’s Jezreel’s Reviews
Chris Mikesell So Much Stuff I Can’t Recall
Tina’s Scraps of me

I’d also suggest you take the time to look at Mackel’s own web site which will give you more background and a feel for the scope of her writing.

As to fantasy, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about good and evil, partly because of Mackel’s The Hidden. In this book there are some characters who believe that the amnesia victim, who main character Susan Stone stumbles upon, is the perpetrator of violent crimes. Susan, on the other hand, believes he is himself the victim of abuse.

I won’t do a total spoiler and tell you which is the case, but I think this leaving the reader suspended, uncertain of who is good and who is evil leads to ambivalence about the characters. I wonder if it also doesn’t confuse the issue of good and evil.

More and more, novelists are convinced that in order to paint all characters as three-dimensional, there must be a section in the antagonist’s point of view. Of course, Mr. Bad Guy has to have believable motive, because after all, he is the hero of his own tale.

So we the readers must endure the rapist giving his reasons why he is right in doing what he does. Or the murderer. Child molester. Or whoever perpetrator of whatever crimes the writer has assigned the character.

I don’t buy the idea that this even-handed treatment of the antagonist is necessary, or even good in Christian fiction. Mr. Bad Guy does what he does because he has a sinful heart like everyone else and has chosen sinful means to attain his sinful desires.

This idea that we need to “understand” the bad guy has cropped up because of the humanistic philosophy of our culture. Without some trauma or some wrong choice or unfair treatment, the humanistic reasoning goes, Mr. Bad Guy could have ended up more nearly like Mr. Good Guy. You see, left to himself, without the ills of society (as if people don’t make up society), our poor victim would certainly have followed his good nature.

Uh, no, since it is not in existence!

And yet we as Christian writers seem to be buying into this approach. Either that or the devil made him do it (see supernatural suspense, i.e. horror).

Fantasy, the classic kind or the adventure kind, doesn’t have a problem painting bad as bad and good as good. Yes, for this to work, evil characters must be painted realistically, in 3D. To me that also means assigning motives, just not mixed ones. He does what he does because he’s greedy or selfish or power-hungry. Those are all believable.

The impact on the reader is a removal of ambivalence, freeing him up to root for the good wholeheartedly. The way we should root for God to win over Satan.

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

Published in: on May 31, 2006 at 5:00 am  Comments (8)  
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