I’m attracted to monsters when I do art, to people struggling against larger forces. But when I write I avoid the monstrous. I slash my eyes away from anything that is horrific and scary.
I love reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, which is all about hard choices and monsters. In fact, if you looked through my reading choices, you’d find a substantial portion of them deal with people striving against great evil. Even the astonishingly slow-moving A Gentleman in Moscow (one of my favorite books) shows the character pushing back, ever so tentatively and covertly, against the evils of Soviet communism.
I think this is true of my book club as well. They have a predilection for books set in WWII, where the choices are stark and the evils immense. It’s not true of everyone’s reading choices, of course. A substantial number of romances and mysteries do not feature existential evil.
We need existential evil in some of our books. We need to know that when evil comes, people can stand up. They (and we) can do the hard things. Victory is possible, even if it exacts a price. Perhaps now more than ever we need that in our fiction.
And I’ve avoided it out of a personal cowardice.
This is why it helps to have a secondary creative outlet. When my writing is tightly buckled in, my muse can still tell me where to go by speaking through art.
I don’t know how to approach existential evil in my stories or in the world. I am heart-stricken by the horrors of the damaged Earth I see in front of me and I avoid horror where I can. Still, I cried last night for koala bears and the fires destroying so much of Australia.
I don’t want to cry for my characters. But it seems I must. This is a long process and I’ll be thinking about this for a while.
I hope you are defeating your demons and that where there is existential evil you are doing your part to fight it.
If you want to take the fight to Australia, there is an auction gong on at Twitter with the proceeds going to the Country Fire Authority. Use #AuthorsForFireys to search for it. You’ll find various pieces of art, services, books and so forth.
Or work for the cause you prefer. The world is filled with existential challenges. You will find many causes worthy of your time and money just waiting for you to show up and make a ruckus.
Be brave, friends!