How dark is too dark?

So, maybe you’re a teenager or twenty-something, goth or just likes to wear black, thinks deep thoughts about death and realizes your life is going nowhere even though it’s just begun.

You might be a thirty to forty-year old, well established, married, homeowner, good to decent job with benefits, flashing back to your youth and realizing you didn’t get as wild as you wanted to before all this normalcy set in.

You could be fifty plus, grandparent or simply elder statesman, looked upon with a kind of reverence only because the young people you encounter don’t usually deal directly with someone your age and they somehow seem appealing to you.

Everyone has dark thoughts but manages to suppress it. Those who don’t are arrested. In truth, they are a small minority. Then, there is the writer of dark or transgressive fiction. That would be me. Some of the stuff I think of and consider initially make me go “Wow! I don’t think I should write THAT!” Immediately after that, there is an article on Yahoo! or on t.v., something that really happened, somewhere in the world, the U.S., your own state, your own neighborhood. And you say “Wow! What I’ve just thought of is nothing compared to the real world.”

I’ve read some dark fiction that seems to be trying to shock, going to an extreme to see if it can fit in with a reader’s sensibilities long enough to whack them over the head. That kind of writing reminds me of cheap B horror movies anywhere from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s. They are no better off than cheap porn, offering no substance and riding the coattails of shock only.

What I find the most tantalizing and scary are tales of the real world, real people, who react against the grain of the normalcy they project. Underneath, the maggots are already eating away at their soul and they won’t stop until everyone around them feels their suffering.

Manson is boring. He looks like a psycho and acts like one. Dahmer is fascinating. The boy-next-door with the angelic face and the dark desires. Rader is interesting because the president of a church is not supposed to have desires to Bind, Torture, and Kill. Too many people lump all these killers into one dark bunch, as though the act itself is what creates the darkness.

To me, it is the attempt at hiding it and covering it up that is darker. It is not the cheap porn of Helter Skelter. It is the darkness within that blinds our eyes when it is eventually revealed.

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2 Comments

  1. M. F. Sullivan said,

    June 10, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I was just having this conversation with someone the other day. You hit the nail on the head. Consider American Psycho, for instance, and the infamous rat scene which really was just a chore to read. Contrasted against, say, Lolita, with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them rape scenes which are also the most beautifully-written rapes in the English language, it becomes clear which is superior literature very quickly.

    Like

    • H.B. Berlow said,

      August 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Additionally, there have been a greater degree of “dark” shows being presented by the networks. “Hannibal” (recently cancelled and not that great of a show) was a risky venture. Although cancelled, it lasted long enough versus “Stalker” which was far darker. It IS possible to feed the general public darkness without them realizing they may the subject of the piece. That’s where authors who write dark fiction recognize the issue: We are first looking in the mirror and then turning it around.

      Like


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