When Evil Becomes Not So Evil

I’ve seen a number of TV ads for movies that will release this month, and I have to admit, I’m concerned. One called Jigsaw has this storyline:

Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one man: John Kramer. But how can this be? The man known as Jigsaw has been dead for over a decade.

There’s another one about a serial killer. Another that released on Friday is called American Satan and is about a pact with the devil. Then there is Happy Death Day and the one about a baby-sitter who is part of a satanic cult, looking to kill the kid she is supposed to watch.

Yet we have no idea why someone would shoot an automatic gun at a crowd of strangers.

I think there’s a disconnect in our society.

Mind you, I’m a writer, and I believe in the pretend. I don’t think imagination is bad. I don’t think we should whitewash stories so that all the bad parts are as good as bleeped out. On the other hand, I don’t think we should make the Wicked Witch of the West the hero in the story. I don’t think we should look at brutal killings as entertainment.

So am I condemning murder mysteries? Maybe I am. I have been a consumer all too often and maybe I shouldn’t be. Because I think the more we see the evil that man inflicts on man, the more we become callous to it.

For example, I’ve seen wild fire video year after year here in SoCal. Honestly, I don’t have the same compassion any more when someone standing in front of the burned ruins of a house says that they lost everything. I sort of shrug and think, You’ll rebuild your life in a few years.

It might be true, but it’s not compassionate to view people in that way.

That’s what I think this excess of evil as a form of entertainment might be doing to us. Serial killers, demon activity, evil babysitters—who cares? It’s all just for fun.

For fun?

When did people dying become fun? When did people making pacts with Satan become entertainment?

Well, as far as the latter is concerned, Faust comes to mind, the German legend retold by such writers as Christopher Marlow and by Goethe. In fact there have been plays and operas and symphonies based on this legend.

But what seems apparent is that the stories were once told as cautionary tales. Making a deal with the devil brought ruin.

Maybe the modern day movies depicting evil still have the same purpose. On TV the crime solvers still track down the perp. Shows aren’t generally about criminals getting away with crimes.

But I have to wonder, what about compassion? Are we becoming hard of heart because of our propensity to find entertainment in stories that deal with evil? Or are we reinforcing the “good guy wins” narrative?

Sadly, in the TV ads for this month’s movies, the emphasis is all about the death and/or mayhem, I assume, because that’s what sells. If we were watching horror because good wins out, shouldn’t that be the selling point?

Instead, I think movies and TV programs alike have become “darker” because what we watched fifty years ago no longer gives the adrenaline rush of fear that it once did. So now we need something more sensational, more graphic, more bizarre.

We are like the crowd going to the traveling circus to see what outrageous display they might have behind the curtain. Does it make people feel “normal” to see someone else who is so strange? Or did it harden their souls so that they had no compassion for those who dealt with disabilities they couldn’t imagine?

Same idea, I think, for us today. I suspect the more we watch evil, the less evil it seems, and the less compassion we have toward those who suffer—brutality or the compromise with evil or the loss of loved ones. Now we want something new. Something more dangerous. Something that will make us feel “normal.”

What do you think? Can we see so much evil that it no longer seems evil to us?

Published in: on October 16, 2017 at 6:06 pm  Comments (11)  
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Exploring Horror Or Exploring Light

300x179xthe-walking-dead-s4-e16-zombies-636-380-300x179.jpg.pagespeed.ic.35AUmep_fuWhen I first heard the term “Christian horror,” I laughed. I thought the person was kidding. I mean, how could blood and psycho-killers and hauntings and demon possession be Christian? Since then I’ve learned that some serious writers—including some Christians—believe horror fiction holds a necessary place in understanding evil, and therefore confronting it.

A number of years ago, for example, author Brian Godawa posted a three-part apology for Christian horror at Speculative Faith. More recently author and friend Mike Duran has published Christian Horror:On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre.

While I’ve moved from a hard stance against horror (I insisted that the genre existed to accomplish one thing—produce fear), conceding that some writers and readers confront evil and explore how to counter it through fiction, I’m far from holding the view that horror is “must read” fiction for Christians, that to turn away from an exploration of evil is to isolate ourselves from the reality of the world in which we live.

I expressed my thoughts in a post at Spec Faith nearly four years ago, ideas to which I still hold. The following is a slightly revised version of that post.

Author Anne Rice, best known for her vampire fiction and her conversions to and from Christianity, has stated that her vampire books were actually explorations of the spiritual. Spiritual light or spiritual darkness?

Some may say that an exploration of spiritual darkness must precede any look at spiritual light. I suppose this might be one of those areas that differ from person to person, but I can’t help but wonder why we Christians aren’t exploring the light more than we are the darkness.

Corrie ten Boom

Certainly darkness is in the world. Yet when I think of darkness, some of the most uplifting, true stories I’ve read come to mind. Take Corrie ten Boom, for example. Without a doubt, her story contains horrific elements, including the inhuman conditions in a Nazi concentration camp and the death of her dear sister as a result.

But throughout, from the decision to help Jews, to Corrie’s release from the camp and her subsequent commitment to show the love and forgiveness of God to victim and victimizer alike, the story is infused with hope and promise and the sovereign hand of God over all circumstances.

Elisabeth Elliot

The story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming is similar. These young missionaries, so committed to sharing the gospel with a group of people who had never heard of Jesus, died at the hands of the people they wanted to save. More astounding, Jim’s wife Elisabeth and Nate’s wife Rachel returned to the tribe, lived with them for two years, and saw many come to Christ. The forgiveness and love these women lived out in the midst of tragedy and loss is a revelation of God’s love and forgiveness.

Joni Eareckson Tada’s story is equally inspirational. Injured as a seventeen year old, Joni has lived as a quadriplegic for forty-eight years.

Joni Eareckson Tada

Despite her disability, she shines the love of Jesus into the lives of hundreds of thousands through her writing, painting, and speaking. She has even put out a vocal recording and starred in the video of her life story. Perhaps her greatest work has been establishing Joni and Friends, an international disability center bringing hope and help to people throughout the world.

Hope. That seems to be a key thread that runs through these stories of triumph over tragedy. The darkness is very real in each one—Joni’s despair, the deaths of the missionaries and Corrie’s sister, the brutality of the Nazis—but triumph dominates the story.

The Hiding Place is not the story about Corrie’s sister dying but about God’s love and forgiveness manifested in an unspeakably cruel place.

Through Gates of Splendor is not a story about five twenty-something missionary men being killed but about the truth in this verse of the hymn from which the title of the book came:

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender.
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

Joni is not the story of a seventeen-year-old whose life caved in, but of a God who brings meaning and purpose out of suffering.

You might wonder why I’m taking a look at all these true stories in a post about speculative fiction. I see how inspirational the lives of these three who suffered greatly have been. They personally explored the light in the midst of the darkness of their real circumstances. The result has been phenomenal. They have pointed generations of people to Christ.

Why, then, would a fiction writer not want to adopt this model — an exploration of light in the midst of darkness? Why go the other route and spend pages and pages exploring the dark, even if the light comes filtering in at the end?

I personally (and remember what I said at the beginning of this post about us all being different) find hope and help to be what I want to read. Darkness, I already know. Hope and help in the midst of darkness is compelling. Why aren’t more Christian speculative novels exploring the light?

It seems to me we are becoming fixated with what is true to the human experience, and as a result we are not setting our “mind on things above” (Col. 3:2). Do we think we know all there is to know about God, so we don’t need to focus on Him as much as we do the depravity and corruption sin causes?

Darkness will be a part of fiction, I believe. But I also see there are two ways of looking at it. In one case, stories seem to explore the darkness, in the other they seem to explore the light that triumphs over the darkness. This latter type is the kind of story I like to read and I want to write.

The Value Of Monsters

MonsterI’m not a horror person. I don’t go to horror movies, and I try not to read horror literature (once in a while I’ve acquiesced and read a novel by a friend or for a blog tour). I’m not big on supernatural stories either, which usually have some type of confrontation with demons. I’ve chalked this up to the fact that I don’t like to be scared.

I figured no one liked to be scared, so I couldn’t understand why a great many people “enjoyed” horror stories. Lo and behold, when I actually took time to ask around, I discovered that a lot of people actually DO like to be scared. They get a rush of adrenaline that jolts them, and they find the experience exhilarating.

Except . . . then I discovered some people who like monster stories but not demon stories. The monsters are pretend, the explanation goes, but the demons are real. The monster stories inevitably show victory over the monsters. They help process through make-believe what we must contend with in real life. And good wins out in the end.

In the long run, I think that’s precisely the function monsters serve. We are faced with humans who act like monsters because of the corruption of sin. Sometimes we see our own monstrous tendencies. And of course there are the rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness–spiritual monsters–Paul says are our true enemies (see Eph. 6:12).

Fictitious monsters put limits on evil. They become more manageable when they have a defined scope and a finite appearance. Oh the other hand, I suspect one reason vampires (until Twilight) were such feared monsters was their immortality. If you can’t kill a monster, it becomes infinitely more frightening.

Some of the most famous horror stories were, in fact, centered on efforts to kill what seemed to be indestructible.

Perhaps the best and most truthful horror story would be the one that shows a monster that cannot be overcome, at least not by ordinary humans. We are, after all, without means to defeat sin and Satan. God alone can put an end to those we war against.

But I suppose most monster stories aren’t about ultimate victory as much as they are temporal overcoming. After all, stab a stake into the heart of one vampire, and another one creeps around the corner into town.

So we battle one monster at a time, and perhaps the make-believe stories help some to go forward into the fight, equipped and prepared and less afraid.

Me? I’ll just confess it up front: I’m a coward. I would much rather hide from the prowling lion, the wolf in sheep’s clothes, the dragon breathing fire. I have a Rock, a Fortress, a Deliverer, and I prefer taking refuge in Him. 😉

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm  Comments (6)  
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Fantasy Friday – I’m Not Buying It

DunCowcoverI’m not actually writing this post about a particular book–it’s more about an idea.

There are a collection of authors who are on a number of bloggers and readers and journals “must read” lists. For fans or writers of speculative fiction that list undoubtedly includes Ursula LeGuin, Walter Wangerin, Gene Wolfe. But I’m not buying it.

Some months ago, a blogger wrote an article about why Christians should read horror. I’m not buying that either.

Call me snapped, but I don’t want to read stuff that is dragging my mind and heart into despair, and I’m not planning on reading that kind of book ever again if I can avoid it. I’ve tried.

I hefted myself through a number of “Christian horror” titles, and yes, there were messages of redemption toward the end, following pages and pages of ritual pagan human sacrifice, loss, and grief or fear and madness. I’m not buying the idea that my life is richer for having read those books, or that my spiritual eyes are open wider, or that I understand the world better.

I’ve also tried reading The Book of the Dun Cow, a title that appears on any number of best book lists. I stopped on page 136. That’s more than half way through (my copy has 246 pages). And I’ll tell you, by nature I’m a finisher. I’ve finished my share of bad books simply because I started them.

As it happened, the place in the story where I stalled is at least two pages of the animals coming:

The Foxes had come from the north. The Ants, like thought, had come from anywhere. Now, out of the east and wet with the sticky water of the Liver-brook, Otters rumbled into the yard, scooting chaos into the Antian dignity which had preceded them, snapping left and right like a hundred fish, altogether unrestrained by the gravity of the Council, playing games . . . Animals brown and soft, animals quick and gray, animals ruddy, animals black and melancholy, animals with piercing, suspicious eyes, animals plumed and animals pelted, winged animals and those footed for the ground, the fleet and the contemplative, the leapers and the dodgers and the crawlers and the carriers, the racers and the trotters . . . (pp. 135-137)

It keeps going, but I didn’t. There’s a point where I say, I’m not buying it. This book is supposed to be so deep, so profound, so great an example of stellar, literary writing, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. I’m just not.

I’ve tried reading A Wizard of Earthsea, too. This is one every fantasy writer is supposed to read, and I’ve started it, at least three times, I think, and I still have it on my to-be-read pile as if I will some day try once again and succeed. But really, should a “must read” be that hard to get into? Judging from my bookmark, I actually made it to p. 37 the last time I made the effort. And maybe I’ll give it another try some day. After all, it is fantasy, and it has maps.

I’ll admit, I even had a hard time with Out of the Silent Planet, book one in C. S. Lewis’s space trilogy when I reread it a couple years ago, and I haven’t picked up the other two books since. So maybe it’s me.

Or maybe contemporary fiction–21st Century Fiction, writing instructor Donald Maass calls it–has spoiled me for the old style. I don’t want to read books that meander or digress, but I also don’t want to read books that wallow in angst or fear or despair.

I’m just not buying it any more. These books can win all the awards out there and have other writers praising them to the hilt, but I’m not buying the idea any more that the best books are the ones I don’t like to read.

CFBA Tour – Hurt by Travis Thrasher

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is featuring Hurt, a young adult novel by Travis Thrasher, categorized on the back of the book as mystery and thriller. One of those endorsing the book, however, says The Solitary Tales books are superior entries “in the genre of Christian horror and teenage angst.” Oh, joy! My two favorite things! 😕 But wait.

The Story. Seventeen year old Chris Buckley has returned to the town of Solitary to save his mom. For all he knows she’s being held against her will by an evil pastor trying to manipulate him to do things he doesn’t want to do. And to keep him from the fledgling faith he recently embraced. The problem is, Pastor Marsh and the man he works for, as well as the man who does his bidding, won’t stop at threats. In reality, no one Chris knows and loves is safe. Who can he turn to for help? Who would believe him if he told all he knows about the men behind the evil in Solitary?

Evaluation. Travis Thrasher is an excellent writer–that’s clear from the start. He creates a character with a unique voice. Yes, he’s full of angst, but he isn’t without hope. In fact a good portion of the book is about the protagonist wrestling with his faith or discovering a new love.

Both of these threads–and sometimes they intertwined–are masterfully written. I liked Chris as a guy who appeared self-assured though inwardly he feels like he hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing. I like his protective nature, his inability to say all he’s thinking, his awe at the bright spot this one special girl has become in his life.

The horror never felt particularly horrifying to me, but I think that aspect of the series was more prevalent in the first three books. In Hurt, the perpetrators have been unmasked, the goal of their schemes is clear. The real focus is on how Chris is going to respond when the critical D-day approaches.

To be honest, the end wasn’t what I’d hoped. I wanted Chris to have a better plan, to do more, stand up for what he believed, resist evil. Instead it seemed as if he was still in reactionary mode, which he’d mostly been in throughout the novel. He had put some plans in motion, but what those things were mostly happened off stage. The one critical event had some flaws.

For (a purposefully circumspect) example (to avoid spoilers), at one point Chris needs help with a belt, but later in the scene, he seems to have no trouble with this belt even though there’s no one around to provide the same kind of help he required earlier.

There’s also a place where Chris could have exercised at least a modicum of forgiveness–the kind he’s received–but he spurns the opportunity in what seemed to me to be a cold-hearted disregard for life. In standing against evil, I’d like to see the character offer a sharp contrast–not returning evil for evil.

All in all, the book moved at a brisk pace. There were moments that were thoroughly engaging. I can see fans of horror embracing this series. I think the Christian elements and faith discussions were natural to the character and his circumstances. I liked the contrast between evil Pastor Marsh’s “sermons” and those of Chris’s girlfriend’s pastor.

Recommendation. Would a non-Christian read these books? Sure, if he wasn’t predisposed to hate Christians or Christianity. I think it’s an entertaining story without a bit of preachiness. Chris’s struggle with his faith seems believable under the pressure and intimidation with which he lives.

What about Christians? I see less here for Christians. Young adults may relate to the characters, but I’m not sure what they’d come away with.

Nevertheless, readers of any kind who like horror or thrillers can enjoy Hurt, no doubt.

– – – – –
About the Author

After college, Travis Thrasher targeted working in the publishing industry and was fortunate to find a job early after graduation. He worked as Author Relations Manager for Tyndale House Publishers, the publisher of his first two novels.

The thirteen years he spent working in author relations taught him the business of publishing as well as the psyche of writers.

Early on, he made a deliberate choice of not wanting to be boxed in by a brand or a genre. Instead, Travis has chosen time and time again to write the stories that mean something to him at that moment. He views his first ten years of being published as training and practice. Those novels in many ways were written for himself.

The four years of writing full time have taught him the discipline and determination necessary to make it as a novelist. They’ve also served to close the chapter on what is hopefully just one era in his writing journey.

The stories continue to fill his head like they did when he was in third grade. The only difference is that Travis now knows what to do with those stories. His goal continues to be to tell stories that move him as well as his readers. He wants to continue to experiment and take risks, but more than anything he wants to provide readers a satisfying experience.

The dream remains the same. To try and write something magnificent. To make up wild worlds full of wonderfully rich characters. To make sense of the world through the stories he tells. And to try and inspire hope with the words he writes.

Learn more about Travis and his work at his web site, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Published in: on January 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm  Comments Off on CFBA Tour – Hurt by Travis Thrasher  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Strange Man, Day 1

This week the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell. This supernatural suspense is the second of three books published by Realms, an imprint of Charisma House/Strang Book Group, that we are featuring during this first half of 2011.

Interesting fact. The Realms imprint came into being under the watchful eye of Jeff Gerke (also an author, writing under the name Jefferson Scott), now the head of his own publishing company, Marcher Lord Press.

Years before bringing MLP into being, Jeff envisioned an imprint dedicated to the publication of Christian speculative fiction. Realms was his first effort to bring that about.

While Jeff moved on after launching the first set of books, Realms continued with some modification. Now this fiction arm of Charisma House focuses on inspirational stories, specifically an unlikely pair: supernatural thrillers and prairie romances.

It’s an interesting marriage.

As I’m sure most people expect, the CSFF tour is featuring only the supernatural thriller half of the couple.

Supernatural thriller, of course, is a euphemism for Christian horror — a genre author Greg Mitchell is familiar with. He first conceived of the idea for the story that became the first book in the Coming of Evil Trilogy more than ten years ago.

At the time, he wrote the story, inspired by an episode of the Twilight Zone, as a screen play. When the script didn’t find a home, he eventually undertook the job of rewriting it as a novel. He decided first to self-publish The Strange Man in 2007. Later he revised the story yet again and sought publication with a traditional house. Realms acquired it along with the next two books in the trilogy.

Greg admits he has a love for monster movies and comic books, but he also wants to communicate his faith. Consequently, he was the perfect author to write a faith-based story with a Strange Man and accompanying gremlins.

How do the two fit together? That’s a topic that may need some exploration. (I’m guessing that the people who thought Mike Duran’s The Resurrection didn’t have enough suspense won’t have the same to say about this one). In the meantime, watch this video trailer, then see what others on the blog tour have to say about The Strange Man (the book, not the author! 😉 )

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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Legion and Attacks against God

I’m defining “attacks against God” as that which contradicts or distorts the truth about Him as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. Some attacks against God are subtle and some are overt.

While I didn’t think the attacks in Avatar were subtle, apparently others did. Certainly those in The Shack were subtle enough that thousands of Christians have not seen them in light of the positives they discovered within the pages of the book. (An aside question: would Christians have so readily overlooked the idolatrous goddess worship espoused in Avatar if The Shack hadn’t desensitized many to the idea of God, the woman?)

Coming soon to a theater near you is a movie that appears to be a frontal assault on God and His nature. Legion, scheduled to release January 22, is a science fiction-horror movie or an apocalyptic thriller film, depending on what source you read. Here’s the premise and you can click on this link to see the trailer:

After God loses faith in humanity, the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), who has become a fallen angel, is the only one standing between mankind and Armageddon. This time using angels to execute the Last Judgment, God’s wrath descends on Earth to exterminate the world’s population. In a desperate, last-chance gambit, Michael leads a group of strangers to a small New Mexico diner to protect a young waitress (Adrianne Palicki) who may be pregnant with Christ in his second coming.


Here’s what one reviewer has to say:

Now, folks, don’t be too biblical if you want to enjoy this movie.

It focuses on the fallen angels versus mankind when GOD is disdainful of cruel people and their evil deeds.

LEGION the movie is a part supernatural and part horror flick and not a religious picture per se, so don’t reach for your bible.

It’s a mix of the EXORCIST and the TERMINATOR, if you must.

In other words, chill out. Relax. The movie’s just for fun, and boy is it! (“You will be treated to graphic scenes of violence, guns, sexual references and language, plus grotesque images and transformations. But you will enjoy the fast stomping action from tip to toe, heart in your mouth.”)

I know I probably sound like a kill-joy, but heart-in-your-mouth action does not make it okay to lie about God, to distort His character, to besmirch His angels or His Son.

However, the real issue, as I see it, is this “don’t reach for your Bible” attitude. The implication is, nobody was trying to tell the Biblical story, so don’t get all fired up.

However, when someone writes something that contradicts truth, we generally call it a lie. When a story shows God as the antagonist, especially when, by inference, God is the God of the Bible, this is nothing more than the flip side of the Avatar lie: Mother Nature (Eywa) is god, a good god who will protect Mankind as Mankind protects her.

On one hand, an angry God bent on destroying Mankind; on the other a kinder, gentler god who promotes peace and oneness and harmony.

And we are supposed to relax, chill out, not grab for our Bibles? After all, it’s just entertainment.

That’s as big a lie as the others.

Vampires and Angels

Faith_Fiction2I’m late, but I wanted to add my voice to the discussion started at My Friend Amy as part of her Faith ‘n Fiction Saturday. Here are the questions:

So my question for you today is…what do you think about these kinds [vampire] of stories? Do you enjoy the fictional vampire stories or the fictional stories about angels? Are you more likely to read a story about an angel than a vampire? What do you think is the appeal of these books?

Interesting topic in light of the discussion we had centered on Eric Wilson’s Haunt of Jackals.

First vampires. Not my cup of tea. I may have mentioned a time or two that I’m not a fan of horror. I don’t like being scared and don’t understand why anyone else would. It is an unpleasant sensation, so why would I voluntarily put myself through the experience for hours on end? It makes no sense to me.

Some people have told me it’s an adrenalin rush. I get plenty of that as a sports fan (and earlier, as a coach and player) and don’t find that source to be unpleasant (unless my team loses 🙄 ).

Of late I’ve been dismayed by the “twilighting” of vampires. As I understand their original mythic role, they were evil, beings to fight against. But today’s vampires—from TV’s Angel to Twilight’s whats-his-name—vampires might be blood-suckers, but their self-restraint made them good. It’s a very humanistic message, not to mention that it plays to the “love the bad boy” syndrome too many young girls fall into as it is.

But are angel stories any better? I’ve only read a couple. I understand “fallen angels” stories are becoming more and more popular. Uh … I thought fallen angels were demons. So how can fallen angels be characters we cheer for? Perhaps the fallen angels will be beings to fear, taking the place, in essence, of olden day vampires. In that case, I refer you to the paragraph above about my reaction to horror. 😀

The larger issue when it comes to angels, however, is exactly what Amy said in her answer to these questions: angels are real. Vampires, as fictitious beings, aren’t tied to the original imagining of such creatures. Authors are free to speculate all they wish.

Angels, as long as they are not the cute and cuddly kind—in other words, angels portrayed in any way as Scripture reveals them to be—must be handled in the same way other historical beings are handled. They must be researched. They must adhere to what we know to be true.

Personally, I don’t see stories about angels being interesting at all. If we give them anthropomorphic emotions, we will be distorting reality. If we show them as single-minded servants of the most high God, then there really is no internal conflict that makes for a good story.

I’m not in anyway interested in these stories. The ones I’ve read fell far short, even when the writing was good.

So I’ll have to say, count me out of these angel/vampire tales.

How about you? Are you a fan of vampire stories? And if so, why? Have you read any angel stories? Do you look forward to the new wave of stories featuring angels?

As an aside, months ago I started a discussion over at Amazon and last week, who should make a comment but Anne Rice. I wanted to verify that this was THE Anne Rice, and sure enough, it was. In the process, though, I visited her Web site and saw the “angels are the new vampires” tag line. That was the first I was aware of the coming trend.

The Twilight Phenomenon

Here it is, Fantasy Friday already. Some of you may feel “fantasied out” since I’ve been discussing John Olson’s fantasy, Shade all week. But remarkable, this is also the week of a movie release with the same kind of cultural impact as Harry Potter. Or nearly so.

I’ve heard some in the media refer to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight as the next Harry Potter. And last night one news program featured a story about the line of movie goers waiting for the midnight showing of the film version of the YA novel.

Why did I say this was “remarkable”? Because Twilight is a vampire story and Shade is a vampire story (no matter what Olson says about it being a vampireless vampire story. A Mulo is, for all intents and purposes, a vampire, and there’s no getting around it). When we planned the Shade CSFF blog tour, we had no information about the Twilight movie release, so there was no intentional connection on our part.

The thing is, what little I know about Twilight, I surmise the vampire may actually be vampires, ranging from good to evil. This idea introduces many questions, some of which one of our tour participants, Nissa, dealt with here and here.

I found this line in particular interesting:

In particular, can a vampire be saved, or are they doomed to hell? I know, worrying about the eternal salvation of imaginary beings is a little silly, but still….

Imaginary beings. Like wizards who can wave wands to make things happen or ride broomsticks?

If J.K. Rowling can fancify witches and wizards, how much more can Meyer do so with creatures that never have existed?

I remember when Bryan Davis’s first book Raising Dragons came out, one critic wrote a scathing review, saying he shouldn’t have changed the “real King Arthur story.” As if there was a “real” story. An established myth, yes, but a real story?

So too with vampires, it would seem.

Honestly, I never imagined myself taking this position. Vampires, after all, live off the blood of others. That is wrong on so many levels. But what has Meyer done with this fantasized creature? Once again the caution seems necessary—no knee-jerk reactions. Take a look at what the story is actually about and, with discernment, measure it against Scripture.

If only I wasn’t so repulsed by the whole vampire idea … 😮

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 12:33 pm  Comments (7)  
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More about Christian Horror (?)

Before I get started, I want to mention I’ll be putting up the poll for the November CSFF Top Blogger Award soon. You might take some time to read the blog posts from the participants listed in the last post with three checks in front of their names. Those are the bloggers who are eligible for the award.

On Monday I concluded a discussion about the definition of horror with this paragraph:

So where does Shade fit in? Does Dr. Olson’s story about supernatural evil—for clearly, it is that, even though there are no vampires—exist to generate fear, or to wrestle with the forces of evil? Is it a story intended for nothing more than entertainment, or is it attempting a greater goal by entering into the examination of spiritual warfare?

My initial reaction to Shade was that it reminded me of a Frank Peretti book—not a particular one, but that kind of story that brings the supernatural to life in a contemporary setting. I have happily called such books “supernatural suspense,” because they are most definitely not slasher-variety horror. There is a greater purpose than to frighten.

Perhaps adding “Christian” mitigates the denotation of “horror,” and therefore “Christian Horror” is an accurate name for the types of novels (and short stories) that do something greater. I happen to think it is important that people come to grips with the spiritual world. The fact that demons exist, that Satan is real, that a battle is on-going seem to be important facts to grasp if a Christian is to take seriously the Apostle Paul’s admonition to put on spiritual armor.

I’m not so sure about fist fights and knife fights with demon-possessed characters, however. It seems to me that such plot developments may exist primarily to entertain. Not a bad thing, mind you. Stories need to be interesting, after all. But if a book is to reveal something about spiritual warfare in the here and now real world, perhaps the actual tools of fighting evil need to come to the forefront.

Otherwise, how is a reader to think? Evil does exist, but Melchi, who protected Hailey, is just a character in a book. Who is to protect readers, then? Does Shade give any insights into answers of that question?

I don’t think so. Hailey is a Christian, after all, but she does the least fighting of all. In fact, her most proactive role is to run away.

Yes, there are many unanswered questions in Shade, many of which may be addressed in future books. And there are the many subliminal references (I ran across another one today. The Blaise character I wasn’t sure to whom he referred? My guess is it’s Blaise Pascal, the noted 17th century mathematician and Christian apologist who wrote criticizing a trend in the church to use reason to justify certain sins). Yet the actual story seems to be a pleasant yarn, a good vs. evil struggle, with good coming out on top, mostly by happy coincidence and a selfless, sacrificial act from an off camera character.

In the end, I guess the reader needs to decide if he or she thinks this work exists for its entertainment value alone, or if it accomplishes something greater. My guess is Dr. Olson was trying for something greater. Did he pull it off? Up to you to decide.

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 2:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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