Sunday, July 26, 2015

GUEST POST: Author Francis H. Powell

 In the chasms of our minds lurk dark thoughts...

Why do so many writers choose to write about dark surreal subjects, things that they wouldn't wish upon themselves or others. Why do readers have such an appetite to read about such dark subjects? In a way we are weaned on such darkness, so many children's stories have such a dark side to them and maybe children's innocence is lost through being read them.  I read stories a lot to my two and half year old son,  today a story about Mr Nosy and the beanstalk...the story seems innocent enough, then suddenly there is a giant, who says “I will grind your bones to bake my bread”. The meaning and implication of this sentence is hopefully lost on my son...I imagine. I started reading Pinocchio, not a fluffy Disneyesque version, but an original story, I couldn't believe how dark it was, I had to skip large sections. Maybe you can't  keep a child away from the full horrors of this world, but then you worry you might be filling their heads with deep inner fears.

The Brother's Grimm are very much responsible for this strong legacy of dark fairy tales, that are so much interwoven in our childhood. The Brothers, both librarians collected many stories for different German regions, their earlier stories being interpretations based on real events, indeed very sinister events. This is an interesting pointer for a writer, a story works better, even if it is totally outlandish, that it is still in some way plausible. They had to adapt these stories, they had accrued, and leave out  elements such as rape, incest, torture and cannibalism, which were too much for innocent minds of children.  The anointed “father of fairy tales”, was a Frenchman called Charles Perrault, whose original Cinderella, had some extremely graphic violence, obviously done by the hand of the wicked step sisters. We should also bare in mind that at the time Perrault was writing, children's literature didn't exist and so he was writing with adults in mind. By contrast when we think of Tim Burton films we could term them as fairy tales for adults.

Maybe when the Brother Grimm were alive, it was a time when people let their imaginations run wild and people had this great capacity to “tell stories”. These days we hunch over a computer, we watch television or DVDs, people don't entertain one another by telling these incredibly imaginative stories.

Like the Brothers Grimm, some of my own stories emanate from real stories  I have picked up on, in a newspaper. Newspapers can be rich in stories about unlikely happenings...a man appears on a form of identification...he has no incline who he is or knowledge of his past...nobody comes forward to say who he is...These kind of stories really enthrall me.

Quite a few of my stories I would class as being “fairy stories for adults”. In my story “Flawless” a man is all set to marry the woman of his dreams, in the midst of his proposal, a beautiful insect  flies into his mouth and he is forced to swallow it. A few  days later he develops an awful skin disease.  The woman named Julia, soon deserts him and his brother deviously steps in and wins Julia's love and worse still intends to marry her. All this is too much to bare for Sirius, a noble man, who then cuts himself off from the world. The only thing left for him is...revenge. One the day of the wedding, he takes an axe and walks to the church where the treacherous couple are about to married. As he is about to strike the first blow, he is engaged a terrible coughing fit and this beautiful insect flies out. His skin immediately returns to its normal state.  The story also has a message, which is about the fickleness of people, how feelings are altered because of something like a sudden skin condition, and paramount is the theme of betrayal.

Another story that has distinctly fairy tale feel about it, is called “Bugeyes” It is a story about a child born with overly protruding eyes, hence is rejected by his mother and cast aside, being brought up by a gamekeeper. Later he has a sister who like him has the same features, namely large distinctive eyes. As with her older brother  she is rejected by her in-bred aristocratic family and sent to the gamekeeper, who is responsible for her upbringing. She grows into a beautiful woman, and becomes famous, her large eyes, helping to propel her career in the modeling world. She becomes the talk of the town and is invited to grand party, by another sibling (one with reasonably sized eyes and therefore not rejected) to large house by rights she and her older brother should have grown up in.  The story comes to a head as “Bugeyes” gatecrashes the part and seeks to claim what is rightfully his...

It seems a human characteristic, we seem to want to indulge in surreal dark stories, maybe stories are not passed down and elaborated in the same way that they were in the brothers Grimm's time, but the spark is still there...

Check out Francis Powell's new and very horrific anthology of 22 stories about misfortune:

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