Reality Skimming

Dialogue on Dark & Light

Dialogues: Perspectives from two authors of SF on Dark & Light.

Topic: Dark & Light in SF

Krista D. Ball Krista D. Ball tells lies for a living, according to her mother. She is the author of several short stories, novellas, and novels. Krista incorporates as much historical information into her fiction as possible, mostly to justify her B.A. in British History. Krista enjoys all aspects of the writing and publishing world, and has been a magazine intern, co-edited four RPG books, self-published several short stories and a novella series, and has been a slush reader for a small Canadian press. Whenever she gets annoyed, she blows something up in her fiction. Regular readers of her work have commented that she is annoyed a lot.

Lynda Williams Lynda Williams is the author of the Okal Rel Saga originally published by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy and the publisher behind Reality Skimming Press. Part 10: Unholy Science will conclude the series in 2014. Lynda's work features larger than life characters contending with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science. Drop into the scene at Reality Skimming Press at Lynda works in learning technology and teaches applied computing.

1) What's your position on dark and light in human nature?

Krista: Many people like to think of humans as inherently good creatures. We have the capabilities for such kindness and compassion that, underneath our dark natures, there must be something that makes us want to be good. I do not believe this. I look at the world and see a struggle between good and evil, what is right and what is selfish, and the disregard for humanity. Unless raised to be compassionate, caring, and an upstanding member of the global community, people need to be taught how to be such individuals. It's no wonder that fiction reflects that darkness.

Lynda: I discovered the depths of man’s inhumanity to man as a previously innocent teenager by joining Amnesty International and volunteering with a crisis centre. I've been working on coming to terms with it ever since, because my gut reaction to darkness is to fight it. How to be sure it's really darkness and to what extent one personally can or should fight back are details I'm still working on. Theoretically, at least, I finally found the math to support my instincts in a biography of the statistician who uncovered the mechanics of why a sense of ethics is the only non-genetic trait that can be selected for on the basis of group dynamics -- provided the ethical group is in competition with unethical ones. Which is fascinating when one looks at the way bad guys are so essential to a good story in SF. The book is The Price of Altruism by Oren Harman.

2) Should there be darkness in YA books?

Krista: There weren't really "young adult" books when I was a teenager. The few books that existed specifically for teenagers generally preached to me about the evils of sex, why pregnancy would ruin my life, how guys all wanted to rape me, and how smoking a cigarette would cause me to end up addicted to heroin and prostituting myself for my next hit. (This is not an exaggeration, by the way). Now, YA is full of depressing dystopias where violence reigns. And I'm ok with that. I think there is a need for all kinds of YA works, from adventure stories that are fun and suspenseful, without any true threat or danger, to the extreme end that looks at the dark underside of the world of teens, to the capabilities of teens under extreme circumstances. Bit just because one teen wants to read about the brutality of child soldiers does not mean the next wants to. I think we owe it to everyone to provide both options.

Lynda: I used my characters to process my teenage reaction to darkness, pushing them to their limits in their Okal Rel Universe adventures. Later, my characters had an even worse time of it because I introduced handicaps and imperfections. But no matter how I tortured Amel or drove Horth to the breaking point, they remained heroes because they hung onto the good things that they strove for. Darkness in fiction, for me, lies not in what happens to a character but how the story influences the reader. If we come away thinking it’s smart to be the bad guy, it gives me shivers because we can’t afford to build a world where people are either too afraid, or too cynical, to even aspire to be heroes. By heroes, I don't meam perfectly unselfish paragons. I don't believe in those kinds of heroes. Stories should strive for the light, even if they transverse darkness, exactly to help us recognize heroism when we see it, and celebrate it as something it takes courage to champion. Something that lifts us all above the day-to-day concerns of life to aspire to make the world around us just a little bit better, when and where we're able.

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