CSFF Blog Tour – The Book of Names, Part 1

bookofnames-199x300 I don’t know about you, but all I needed to be intrigued by The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs (NavPress) is the cover. (Special kudos to NavPress for doing such a terrific job). My first thought was of Edgar Allen Poe, for fairly obvious reasons to anyone familiar with his famous poem, “The Raven.” (And coincidentally, today is the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birthday! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ )

I tend to think the imagery is intentional, though I have no inside information regarding that. But the possibility raises an interesting question: how dark is too dark when it comes to fantasy?

If you haven’t read any Poe, you may wonder how I got from him to too dark. Poe’s contributions to American literatureโ€”including short stories such as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”โ€”are fraught with the macabre and embraced by the Goth. Too dark is perhaps understated.

But what constitutes too dark?

Ted Dekker is famous for his restatement of the idea that fiction, in order to show the diamond of God’s glory, must show the black backdrop against which it stands. In that context, the question seems to be, How black is too black?

I’m reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King, a very dark book in my estimation. And the closer Frodo went to Mt. Doom, the darker the story became. Yet it is unlikely that book would make anyone’s too-dark list.

So I’m back to the original question, a very practical one for me as a writer … a fantasy writer … with a central good-versus-evil struggle: what constitutes too dark?

Is it true that evil must be drawn clearly in order to showcase good? Dekker said that too much Christian fiction grays evil. If evil doesn’t really look all that bad, then who’s to say Mankind really needs a Savior, so his reasoning goes.

But must we dwell on evil? And what constitutes “dwelling” on it? Is entering into the evil character’s point of view “dwelling” on the evil?

Does this question even have an answer? I believe there is an objective standard of beauty, but is there the same for evil? And if there is, how much is “acceptable” in a piece of fiction?

Here’s the thing. I have a sense that there is a line that authors may cross that would take a story too far into evil, but I don’t know if I can articulate where that line is.

What are your thoughts?

Tomorrow I’ll tie the discussion more specifically in with The Book of Names.

For today, I encourage you to stop by the other participating bloggers who have posted on the book. I’m trying something new. If you click on the check mark that indicates a post is up, it should take you to the specific article. That way, some weeks later, people can still find these articles with ease. (Who knows, if it gets too time consuming, I may have to abandon the idea, but for this month, you’ll have access to the direct links – ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

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