The quest of the writer is to cast a light on the human condition, and the storyteller has always been drawn to the dark heart of human experience. We are intrigued by the stories that keep us awake at night. We are enthralled by the tales that make us check the locks on our doors. We look to the shadows and take comfort in knowing nothing, for now, is there.
We have never shied away from fear. It has been a driving force in our development as humans. The coming and going of the sun was once the border on our perseverance until fire pierced the impenetrable frontier of the night. Fire aided our battle with fear and drew us together in settlements for safety. We built walls, doors with bolts, and weapons. We swiftly learned that predators do not always walk on four legs. Fear brought us together, and fear ensures we arm ourselves against one another.
Exploring fear in fiction is not a new phenomenon. From Sophocles to Dickens, Poe to Dumas, Dostoyevsky to Hugo, O’Connor to Christie, storytellers have unflinchingly excavated the haunted labyrinths of fear and of the greed, deceit, betrayal, and love behind those thorns of fear. And in this modern era, we give the stories that explore our collective fears a distinct name: crime fiction.
We write and read crime fiction to exorcise our fears, to name them, and to draw them into the open. There on the page, we can explore them in the light of day, in the comfort and safety of our homes. We can read these tales of violence and mayhem, knowing that whatever horrors may have touched our own lives, we have survived another day. And so we turn the page.
There is a collective therapy in crime fiction, just as there is a social responsibility in crime fiction. The fears that haunt us are numerous. Some are universal, many are divided along the lines of gender or race. Today’s crime fiction is a sanctuary for exploring the diversity of fear, an operating table for the skilled surgeon of an author to take a scalpel to society and expose the infection within.
The rise in independent presses devoted to crime fiction gives more writers than ever before an opportunity to explore these fears. Independent presses open new doors for talented, diverse writers. The indie movement provides a platform for unique voices to explore those uniquely collective fears.
We are captivated by the stories that lay bare the depravity that plagues humanity. We are entranced by the tales that descend into the shadows and the mire. We find comfort in our fears named, explored, and cobbled together on a page to show us our unease and our suspicion is universal.
And now, more than ever, is the time to set pen to paper and eviscerate the dark heart of human experience.