Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Feeding Hope

For some reason I've been thinking a lot lately about why I became a writer in the first place, and particularly why I always wanted to be a genre writer. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery. Those have always been my loves. And I've come to realize, ironically enough, that the reason I was drawn to genre fiction in the first place was that I found what's now called mainstream fiction to be rather unrealistic, if in a particular way. (There also seemed to be a conspiracy on the part of adults to depict children and teenagers as dangerous aliens -- metaphorically at least -- but that's a story for another day).

Well okay, just one example, since it fits my current theme. You want highly improbable, and let's face it, completely contrived? I give you Lord of the Flies. Left without the softening agent of society children will revert to savagery? No. Really? Been in a girl's washroom lately? Ever? Walk home from school much? Internet bullying, if we want to update things a little? Who needs a crashed plane, an island wilderness and a conch shell?

Even if my thirteen year-old self accepted the premise (which doesn’t, after all, contradict my experience), there's a larger question here. Why would I want to read books that show me people at their worst, as if that is the only reality there is? What I found in genre fiction was writers who took Golding's type of premise for granted, and then gave me characters who at the very least tried to do something about it. That's what I wanted to read then, and that's what I want to read now. It's only in genre fiction that we still find heroes (of both genders), and we can still talk about honour without putting ironic quotation marks around the word.
Put simply, genre books feed the culture of hope, not the culture of despair.

Okay, so maybe none of us are going to be called on to solve a murder, to colonize another planet, to discover the formula or recover the jewel that will save the world from destruction -- that's not realistic. But to be encouraged to use knowledge and ideas, to apply our ingenuity, to find we have the right attitude, the necessary strength and sufficient courage to tackle the problems life does put in our way? That's realistic.

Violette Malan's short mystery fiction has been published in the Canadian anthologies of the "Ladies Killing Circle", in the noir anthology Crime Spree, and in the magazine Over My Dead Body. Her erotic has been published in Penthouse. She is co-editor of "Dead in the Water", an anthology of crime and mystery fiction and she is co-founder of the Scene of the Crime Festival on Wolfe Island.

Violette's first fantasy novel, "The Mirror Prince", was published by DAW (New York) in 2006. "The Sleeping God", the first of her Dhulyn and Parno novels, was published in 2007. The series has continued with "The Soldier King" in 2008 and "The Storm Witch" which was released in September 2009. Her most recent novel, Path of the Sun, was released in Sept. 2010.


  1. Great article, Violette! I love mysteries and fantasy for the very reasons you give. I started Path of the Sun last night and although it begins with plenty of blood and gore, I read it safe in the knowledge that good will triumph in the end. Thank you.

  2. I am sure glad you are out there, Violette, fighting the good fight and writing the good right!

  3. In a world where right does not triumph nearly enough genre fiction provides a reassuring world where right, not might, almost always triumphs.

  4. Can genre fiction --- by giving hope, demonstrating heroism, fighting injustice --- bring back to society in general a "Can Do" attitude? Will it be enough to inspire individuals to shed modernity's "irony-as-action" stance that seems to have paralyzed human development and the individual's contribution toward change?

    Or does our work simply make our readers long for some past golden age or pine for some future saviour?

    If writers see themselves as agents of change, how do we accomplish the former instead of settling for the latter?