A Company of Writers: Kenneth Hoover
March 27, 2017 Leave a comment
Shining a Light on Dark Fiction
I want to thank Darke Conteur for this opportunity to talk a little about the things I write, and why as a professional writer most fiction I’ve written is dark.
I’ve sold over 60 short stories (and articles) and several novels. Almost all are dark-themed. I concede this says more about me than the state of speculative fiction in general. So it begs the question: Why so dark, Mark?
The bottom line is it gives me an opportunity to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell. I don’t write dark stories because I’m trying to be edgy or ride a popular wave. Those tactics never work anyway. By the time you get around to doing exactly that the field has moved on. But when I tap into my creative self these lurking shadows beg to be let loose. Who am I to deny them?
Personally, I don’t like “safe fiction” which doesn’t challenge or call into question ideas about ourselves. To be sure, fiction which doesn’t challenge can be extremely well-written. But I have a sneaking suspicion the dark things stay with us longest because they are more often deeply buried.
It’s up to writers to bring them to light.
From Shakespeare’s tragedies, to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Deerslayer, to The Empire Strikes Back and many dark myths which have shaped our past and modern culture the power of darkness is lasting. You can come up with many more examples than I can, I’m sure. There’s a lot of darkness out there and it’s not going away.
People create it, and read it, and desire it, for a reason. Because it speaks to who we are as a species and what we want to avoid.
One caveat needs mentioning. Dark fiction doesn’t mean violent. Violence for the sake of violence doesn’t make a story dark. It makes a story clunky and gets in the way of more powerful themes trying to come to the fore.
For example, my dark western novel Quaternity (CZP, 2015) has a lot of violence. So does my novel Haxan (CZP, 2014), the existing weird western short stories, and Seven Devils, a new novel recently accepted by CZP. But it’s not something I dwell upon for the sake of its existence. I don’t describe violence in excruciating detail. That would minimize its power and what the story is trying to convey.
Anyway, that’s where your creativity comes in! Sometimes I’m successful in writing this way, sometimes not. But I’m always trying to find that perfect angle because it’s who I am.
There are lots of writers who tell all kinds of great stories. But you will find me crouched in my own little corner of the universe playing with matches, and trying to shed light on the darker things that make us who we are.
Kenneth Mark Hoover’s fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Frontier Tales, and others. He is a member of WWA and his latest novel, QUATERNITY, is a dark western published by CZP/HarperCollins in 2015. You can find out more from his blog kennethmarkhoover.me or his website kennethmarkhoover.com.