Friday, April 20, 2007

Crime fiction in the wake of real crime

It's come to light that the Virginia Tech gunman was an English major who produced disturbing creative writing. As previously blogged, my knowledge of the tragedy was delayed several hours as I was writing crime fiction. In fact I've written two stories this week.

The correlation between crime fiction and real crime raised questions on Crimespace.

From Julie Lomoe:

Of course the greatest tragedy is the immediate loss to the victims, their friends and families, and all the students at the school. But undoubtedly this underlying theme about creative writing will play out in the press in weeks, even years, to come. What will it mean for mystery writers in terms of suspicion and censorship?

My comment:

The gunman's creative writing may look more suspicious now simply because we're trying to find logical connections to the senseless event. I'm optimistic that the tragedy won't reflect badly on mystery writers because mystery fiction emphasizes the puzzle over the crime. Crime fiction itself often shows clear lines of morality even if the characters cross them.

From Jordan Dane:

Why do you read crime fiction? Do you think books allow us to feel more in control because in a fictional world, wrongs can be righted with more certainty than real life?

My comment:

I enjoy the clarity of crime fiction. I may not be able to predict the outcome--in fact it's best when I can't--but I can follow the clues well enough that the ending satisfies--whether it's happy, sad, or neutral. I like the fact that every sentence of a crime novel serves a purpose: to establish a tone, reveal character, build suspense, etc.

I also like the series familiarity that develops in genre series but seldom in literary fiction.

From Robert K. Foster's comment on Dane's question:

...I find that crime/mystery fiction is the closest thing to the "real world" in fiction. It deals with things we all see everyday, more so than SciFi or Fantasy. With SciFi or Fantasy you can bring things back into the "real world" like heroism or whatever. With Crime/Mystery fiction it's already there.

My reply to Foster's comment:

All fiction is something of an escape from reality. Because it appears so close to reality, it's easier for me to leap to crime fiction than to science fiction/fantasy. Once there I can, in Richard Slotkin's words, "play imaginatively at being both policeman and outlaw." For most people, imaginative play doesn't cross into reality; empathizing with a fictitious criminal doesn't drive them to commit crime.

On some level certainly with the second story, I was motivated to write to dispel any shadow the real crime unfairly cast on crime fiction.

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