April 21, 2008
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In lieu of my own words, some wise ones from Eleanor Arnason, explaining her aversion to “quest against evil” fantasy novels:
In so far as evil exists, it is people, and they are evil either because they have malfuctioning brains or because they have become corrupted. Evil is not creatures with many legs that remind you of spiders, and it isn’t dark lords who loom in the distance. It is the greed heads and power freaks who decided to invade Iraq and destroy a nation to meet their personal needs, whatever those may be.
If fantasy is going to help us understand the world, then it ought to come up with descriptions of evil that help us recognize evil in the real world. Tolkien does this in Saruman, Wormtongue, Boromir, Denethor, the thugs in the Shire and so on. He shows us a wide range of corruption: those who intimidated by evil, those who are tempted, those who utterly corrupted.
I guess what I am saying is, evil is not The Other. It is right here in our neighbors and allies and the leaders we trust.
I like that. I’ve always thought that the corrupted friend was a better villain than the guy who was just “evil” for whatever reason. Even though I do write some fantasy, I don’t think I’ve often, if ever, written a “pure evil” villain. The villains in my stories are, as Eleanor says, the people among us who feel themselves above our moral codes, better than our society, more important than you and me.