Amber Shades and Funhouse Mirrors:
An Introduction to A Flame in the Dark
An Introduction to A Flame in the Dark
"Christians should have nothing to do, whatsoever, with horror."
If you're here, you probably fall into one of two categories: somebody who has heard the above phrase spoken by well-meaning people, or someone who has said it. If you fall into the latter category, please forgive my bluntness when I say, "balderdash!"
Believe it or not, it isn't my intention here to write a line-by-line rebuttal of the various arguments I've heard on this subject, or even to write an apology for "Christian horror." Instead, I'd like to tell you a little about why I created "A Flame in the Dark," and why I, personally, believe suspense fiction is both interesting and important.
The first horror film I remember (with any clarity) watching for the first time is George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead." The film, for those who haven't seen it (or have refused to), centers on a group of people trapped in a farm house, while outside a horde of unearthed dead tries desperately to get to them and, ultimately, eat them. As plots go, this one is fairly simple. The profundity lays instead with the characters, and the themes Romero explores.
The thing about this movie that really piqued my interest was not the limited, black-and-white gore effects, or even the adrenaline rush of being scared out of my wits. It was watching this group of strangers reacting to this strange and frightening situation. It was watching the power struggle between to men, equally strong-willed, who wanted simply to survive. And it was the realization that every monster depicted in the film, both living and dead, was Us. Humanity.
You see, horror, like any good fiction, has the power to show us reality in a way we've never before thought to see it. It shows our dreams, our hopes, and -- yes -- our fears. It reminds us of both the evil that man is born into, and the Grace that renders us both good and whole.
For me, it is the wholeness of man with which I am primarily intrigued. I believe Man, created in the image of God, is also a Trinity of sorts. We have a body and a mind, and we also have a soul. Unlike God, however, our trinity of parts is often at odds. Our bodies, in the pangs of hunger, may seek to consume anything that might sustain us. Our mind, however, will caution us to be picky: not everything the body wants is good for it. It is the mind that wrestles to temper the desires of the body with common sense. But it is the soul which allows us to ignore the will of both Mind and Body to determine what is not only desirable, but moral.
So, back to "Night of the Living Dead." What is a zombie, after all, but pure carnality? Stripped of will, of the power to reason, of conscience, the animated corpse exists for the sole purpose of feeding its hunger. In the film, the character of the Father is also blessed with enough will and intelligence to protect himself and his family. But, stripped of any sense of moral propriety, he is ultimately just as carnal in his motivations as the undead he tries to avoid. It is the hero of the story who is depicted as properly moral, in that he seeks the best solution for all, even at risk to his own life. Certainly, he has the carnal desire to stay alive, along with the brains to make it happen. But He, unlike the father, is set apart by the moral belief that every life is worth struggling to maintain.
But what does all this have to do with my title: Amber Shades and Fun-house Mirrors? Simply, it goes back to what horror fiction can reveal to us about ourselves and the world in which we live. Good horror will act to the reader (or viewer) as either distortion mirror or a pair of amber-tinted glasses. "Night of the Living Dead" is, in my opinion, like the fun-house mirror. It is a reflection of us, bent and twisted to force a change in perspective. In the mirror, we see ourselves, but at an angle we are otherwise unable or unwilling to view.
The amber glasses are a different ball of wax. Rather than being inward-focused, they offer a view of the world around us. The amber tint doesn't actually block the light, but rather distributes it evenly across our field of vision, revealing with higher contrast and more clarity those things which were hidden in unfiltered shadow.
The stories and poems contained in AFitD will function to you, if you allow them, as either fun-house mirrors or as a pair of amber shades. I hope you will find them as exciting, entertaining, frightening, and, yes, revealing, as I do.
And with that, I welcome you, Dear Reader, to A Flame in the Dark.