I have recently interviewed two Irish suspense writers – John Connolly on last week’s Author2Author, and Stuart Neville for our upcoming February issue – both of whose fiction writing grew out of an interest in the supernatural, and both of whom expressed the opinion that suspense/mystery readers and perhaps a great many suspense/mystery writers harbor an abiding suspicion of That Which Cannot Be Rationally Explained.
Supernatural fiction, after all, is often inhabited by what amounts to an Evil Intelligence, a kind of anti-God force that does not abide by the laws of the physical world as we have come to know them. Perhaps these villains’ greatest threat is their power to deprive of us of our precious reason, what we had come to believe was the bedrock of our daily safety. The heroes of such stories must overcome their enemies with courage alone, which is a discipline of pure balance, compared to the brute strength of applied logic.
Traditional mysteries, however, actually seek to strip away mystery, to reveal through rational insight the threads holding our wild world together. What seems at first meaningless and random turns out to be a part of a larger whole, and the detective, an engine of scientific good, uncovers the trail of cause and effect that led inevitably to the event that now fits logically into the world as we know it.
It is so like humans to reside in one of these two camps and spend our days grousing about the other. One camp would deny order exists when clearly it is everywhere always, and the other camp would turn life into a great dull clock, ticking away unimaginatively until its final hour. Our true lives, of course, are lived forever between these two worlds. Such is the creative tension alive in the human mind. To perceive the delicious order of things – the predictable sunrise, the constancy of gravity, the steady flow of rivers to the ocean – and be simultaneously free to think anything at all, unbound by any law other than our own desire.
Welcome to life, young humans. This is what we’ve got. You needn’t pick sides in anything. Between desire and reason blooms a perfect rose, and that little flower is you.
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