Spoof: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 1

This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos.

Who writes spoof these days? Matt Mikalatos, that’s who. Matt Mikalatos, author of Imaginary Jesus, which is being repackaged and re-released by his publisher (Tyndale) as My Imaginary Jesus — a much better title, in my opinion.

But I’m getting far afield. I was talking about spoof — “a humorous imitation of something … in which its characteristic features are exaggerated for comic effect.”

Spoof is precisely what Matt writes, as his newest book, Night of the Living Dead Christian, demonstrates.

The interesting thing with Matt’s writing, though, is that he has married spoof with allegory. Now that takes some doing! Yet, in my opinion, he’s pulled off the upset. He’s writing this quasi memoir-ish, urban fantasy-ish spoof that has blatant, purposeful, in-your-face spiritual parallels, and it works.

The thing about spoof is that it taps into what’s going on in pop culture, but also exploits an undercurrent that most people might not realize exists. In this case I call it vampire fatigue.

For some time, in a large part because of Twilight and company, vampire stories were white hot, but as happens with more frequency in our capitalistic society, what sells, promoters stuff down the throats of the public until we are gagging with the excess.

Enter the spoof. At that point when society has had it’s fill, the subject is then ripe for a little ridicule fun-poking.

Matt’s brilliance as a writer is that he spoofs himself as much as he does the vampires, werewolves, and zombies he writes about. His humor is contagious, and I found myself laughing out loud in places, while chuckling out loud in others.

But there’s more. The addition of allegory spreads the spoof. Not only is there fun at the expense of the fantasy/paranormal elements he uses as the foundation of the story, he’s also doing an adequate spoof of the Church.

In this case, however, the ripe-for-ridicule tendencies are a result of the ways in which the Church and individual believers have been infected by tradition and the distillation of God’s Word into systems of thought superseding the way of Life.

Matt taps into this expanded material in a manner that does more than raise a few laughs. His spoof/allegory hammers home weighty thoughts about weighty subjects, even while cushioning the blow.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at some of those weighty subjects, then Wednesday I plan to give my review. In the meantime, see what others participating in the tour for Night of the Living Dead Christian are saying. (Check marks link to articles that have been posted already).

The Use of Allegory – CSFF Tour, Day 3

I wanted to title this “The Use of Allegory in Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3,” but it seemed like it might be a bit long. 😉 However, that’s really where I want to start.

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller (Warner Press), of course, is the March CSFF Blog Tour feature, and in my review of the book yesterday, I mentioned the allegorical elements and my intention to write about them in more detail today.

First a little background. When the CSFF administration team first discussed whether or not to include Hunter Brown on the tour, one reaction to the short plot synopsis was that it was so transparently allegorical. And sure enough, that same statement appeared on the tour, as a weakness.

As I added my comments to the ongoing discussion, I realized wrong assumptions about allegory might actually become one of my pet peeves! 😮

In actuality, true allegory is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy. Here’s an excellent definition:

Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy.

Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.

– from Ted Nellen’s Cyber English

As Wikipedia notes, allegory often is present in parables and fables and often has a rhetorical purpose.

Of late, allegory seems to have fallen into disfavor, at least by Christians. I suspect one of the great fantasy writers may be partly to blame. Evidently J. R. R. Tolkien made a strong statement against allegory in the introduction to the second edition of the Lord of the Rings: “It is neither allegorical nor topical….I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” (from Wikipedia, allegory) Interestingly, he made this statement because many were seeing the story as an allegory of World War II.

But here’s the point: because Tolkien didn’t like it does not mean allegory is bad. The use of an extended metaphor is not bad. Writing about one thing with a secondary meaning beneath the surface is not bad. Even if the metaphor is fairly obvious.

Wikipedia includes quite a list of works considered allegorical, but in my thinking few are true allegories, in which the metaphor permeates the story and is maintained throughout. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a superb allegory, as is Animal Farm by George Orwell. The first is religious, the second political.

Other examples of allegorical works or ones with strong allegorical elements listed by Wikipedia include the following:

Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene
Jonathan Swift – A Tale of a Tub [and Gulliver’s Travels, I might add]
Joseph Addison – Vision of Mirza
Herman Melville – The Confidence-Man
C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia

    “generic allegorical elements of good and evil, as well as many Christian themes, expressed in a narrative with strong fantasy fiction elements and credible characters: not fully an allegory.

    Modern allegories in fiction tend to operate under constraints of modern requirements for verisimilitude within conventional expectations of realism.” (Wikipedia, allegory)

Albert Camus – The Plague, The Stranger
John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials
Franz Kafka
Frank Herbert – Dune.

Allegorical films include:
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country – The Cold War
The Matrix – a retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

So what does all this have to do with Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow? Clearly, the Miller Brothers used allegory in Hunter Brown. However, the story isn’t allegorical. Yes, the Author is clearly God. Yes, the Author’s code is the Bible, and yes Codebearers likely represent Christians.

But who is Evan or Sam or Gabby or Hope or Stretch or Belac or Faldyn or Ephraim? These are simply characters in an adventure fantasy acting in ways consistent to the personality the authors gave them. They don’t step out of character to preach to the reader. They are authentic and tell Hunter what fits the occasion. Sometimes he believes them and sometimes not. Some of them help and encourage him and some don’t. Some are friends and some are formidable foes.

Here’s the bottom line. One genre trope in fantasy is the struggle between good and evil. How can we who believe in a loving, supreme God not equate Him with ultimate good, no matter how the author intended to write it? Consequently, whether Tolkien determined to show spiritual truths or not, I see God and His Son Jesus Christ when I read about Gandalf and Aragorn.

That the Author in Hunter Brown was fashioned by Christians who most likely had God in mind when they wrote in the part should not disqualify the story from being good, exciting, entertaining. I don’t see that putting God in stories and having Him act as He acts is considered a weakness. Having Him show up allegorically is really no different.

Of course, one problem with using allegory is that some readers will interpret all elements allegorically and find some wanting. Check out Steve Rice’s post about the weaknesses he sees in Hunter Brown. And be sure to visit the other bloggers listed (and check marked with post links) in Monday’s post.

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