Children’s Book Blog Tour – The Diamond of Darkhold, Day 3

Contest reminder. See details in yesterday’s post to learn how you may become eligible to win an ARC of The Diamond of Darkhold. The drawing will be held Thursday.

I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to discuss adults in The Diamond of Darkhold, Jeanne DuPrau’s latest book, fourth in the City of Ember series which the Children’s Book Blog Tour is featuring. Again I need to mention that, of necessity, there will be some spoilers, though I’ll keep them to a minimum as much as possible.

This series is actually a dystopian science fiction, though I’ve referred to it as a fantasy or a science fantasy. The differences are sometimes blurred, but fantasy generally relies on some kind of power apart from the natural and science fiction relies on seeing the world as it could become because of science. Both are “fantasies” in the sense that they portray the world or a world which does not now, nor did it ever, exist.

All that as background for the background of this post. 😉

Here’s where the spoilers come in. The city of Ember is an underground city established two hundred years before the events related in the first book of the series. Sometime around the middle of the twenty-first century, the world suffered a cataclysmic event. Those who foresaw what was about to take place built Ember as a place of refuge for the human race. In addition, they considered what the people would need when they emerged from their underground city, for emerge, they would, since their resources would run out after two hundred years.

As near as I can tell, not having read The City of Ember, the generation living when the city failed has no recollection of life above ground. In fact, they don’t seem to be aware they are living underground. They know how their city works and that it is failing, but why and what to do about it doesn’t seem to have been passed down to them.

Flash forward eight months to the time when The Diamond of Darkhold takes place. It is apparent that even those people living above ground are now ignorant of what the world once was. They don’t know what certain technology was for, have wrong-headed or complete ignorance of the history of the world, and have lost many of the skills, such as reading, which would allow them to learn.

But the thing is, the adults that lived through the catastrophe would have known all these things, yet they did not pass them on to their children. Or if they did, the importance of what they were teaching somehow became shaded, so the second generation Emberites didn’t consider it important enough to pass on to their children. Then, those third gen people had little knowledge, if any, to pass on to their kids—the people running Ember when it failed.

Fiction, you say. Just a made up story. Really? A similar failure to pass on vital information is recorded in the Bible:

All that generation also were gathered to their fathers, and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.

This, despite God’s clear instruction:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Not to mention, they had “stones of remembrance,” set up for the specific purpose of eliciting this question from their children: Dad, what are those stones? and thus opening up a discussion about what God did for Israel.

So there you have it—parents not passing on vital information to their children in fiction and parents not passing on vital information in history. The question then is, are we doing our part today to pass on vital information to the next generation? And what exactly is “vital”? Would the stuff we talk about most fall into that category?

Just something to think about.

Take a look at what others discussing The Diamond of Darkhold are saying on the tour hosted by Kidz Book Buzz:

01 Charger, the 160acrewoods, A Childhood of Dreams, All About Children’s Books, And Another Book Read, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Comox Valley Kids, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Hyperbole, Looking Glass Reviews, Never Jam Today

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 11:14 am  Comments Off on Children’s Book Blog Tour – The Diamond of Darkhold, Day 3  
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Two for One – Vanished, Day 3 and Sir Kendrick

Well, this is awkward. As you know, if you hang around A Christian Worldview of Fiction very much, I participate once a month (with few exceptions) in the CSFF Blog Tour, as I have been this week. Occasionally, I also tour books with CFBA. I am quite selective with those books, reading in my genre as often as possible. Imagine my pleasure when CFBA announced a tour for a YA book by an author I hadn’t heard of before. Then imagine my consternation when the tour date was moved to coincide with the CSFF tour. Precisely coincide. Which wouldn’t matter if I only posted one day, but with CSFF, I post all three days of the tour. What to do? Post late for CFBA? File two separate posts?

I settled on a Two for One post instead. You get double the value for your buck! 😀

On to Day Three of our tour of Kathryn Mackel‘s latest, Vanished.

If you’ve stopped by Kathryn’s blog, you undoubtedly read today’s post about the tour. In it she says “We know Vanished has suffered a blow at the hands of my publisher.” Most likely tour members and visitors here didn’t know Vanished had received a blow from her publisher. I searched Kathryn’s archives to see if I could unearth a post giving the details, but did not find one.

Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is public knowledge. Kathryn has very graciously mentioned that the sequel to Vanished will be put out by a different publisher. That is the blow. This hunt for a publisher for book 2 of the Christian Chiller series was not by author choice. However, I think in one of Kathryn’s interviews, she said she had hoped to announce during the tour which publisher had picked up the series. That would have been cool, and certainly appropriate because a number of you are now hooked by a story that will not resolve until the next book. But evidently the deal is not yet signed and sealed.

My suggestion for those of you eager to finish this compelling story is to sign up for Kathryn’s newsletter, which, by the way, also enters you in a contest for a free book. That way you’ll be sure to hear when the next book is coming out and where you can find it.

With that said, I want to encourage you to visit other blogs on the tour, as I will be as soon as I post this. There are some interesting interviews, a couple incisive reviews, a few topical discussions (one for writers on POV, a couple on “Christian horror” as a genre), a getting-to-know-Kathryn-Mackel quiz, and a news-breaking announcement. Lots to read, to think about, to comment on.

I’ll do what I can to update the list throughout the rest of the day, but here’s the latest for now:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
** D. G. D. Davidson (excellent discussion of horror developed in the comments)
** Jeff Draper (someone actually dared to discuss Christian horror!)
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene (short summaries of her other books)
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
* Shannon McNear (check out the special news Shannon has released)
* Melissa Meeks (also has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel)
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
* Chawna Schroeder (Day 2 is another excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel, very different from the others)
Stuart Stockton
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith (There’s a short quiz)
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

– – –

And part two, the CFBA tour for Chuck Black’s Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. And this, by the way, is a review.

The Story. The best way I can begin this discussion is by quoting from the last page in this small book, “Author Commentary”:

Unlike the Kigdom Series allegory, in which characters and events are based on people and events taken directly from Scripture, the Knights of Arrethtrae Series presents biblical principles allegorically. Each book teaches about virtues and vices conveyed through the truth of God’s Word. Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione teaches about loyalty, forgiveness, foolishness, and rebellion.

Coupled with the opening of the book, an introduction to the Knights of Arrethtrae and the prologue, which explains about the King and His Son the Prince and the rebellion of a third of the Silent Warriors, led by the Dark Knight Lucius, the book appeared to be tracing-paper-thin allegory. However, I was pleasantly surprised by an unpredictable knights-of-old fantasy story with more than one twist. It was fast paced and engaging.

Strengths. I liked a great deal in Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. The characters were interesting from the start, and I quickly came to care what happened because I cared about them.

The “what happened” was a wonderful surprise. About the time I thought I saw the direction of the story, it took a turn. Not one that was improperly motivated, however. The parts combined to create an interesting tale.

The lessons were surprisingly well-woven into the lives and actions of the characters. I say “surprisingly” because I was pre-disposed to think otherwise by the intro, prologue, and commentary.

Weaknesses. I think the main weaknesses were the intro, prologue, and commentary. I thought of something I read in a writing book recently (I think the one by Jerry Jenkins), that writers really need to get out of the way and let the readers experience the story. Yes, indeed.

Also, it seems this book is aimed at homeschoolers because there is a complete study guide in the back—questions over each chapter of the very small book. I call this a weakness, though others might put it under strengths. I want to see a book be a book first and for most. If a writer wants to make questions available, this era of technology makes that so easy to do electronically. For me, seeing questions at the end, I immediately think this story has an ulterior motive for existing. It doesn’t make me inclined to lose myself in the world.

Another iffy weakness is the fact that most of this story is told, not shown. In the current writing climate, that is rare. The fact that it is such a short book (170 pages from Introduction to Epilogue), but covers a significant span of time, includes multiple points of view, and encompasses as much action and danger as it does, could only be true if the author chose to tell large portions of the story.

I’m listing this as a weakness because of the visual generation we live in. And because I know readers don’t enjoy quite as close a connection with the characters in stories like this. However, since I grew up with books that started out like, “Let me tell you the story about …” I found myself in familiar surroundings. Good story, good, good story, but what would it have been like if it showed more, explained less?

As allegory goes, there were some places I had a little difficulty. Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, was one issue. That God and Jesus were represented as King and Prince is another. Not that I’m opposed to allegory. It’s that I don’t understand why.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegory served the purpose of enlightenment. Each stop, each bend in the road, each person Christian encountered along the road showed some aspect of the journey of life that was clearer, more easily understood because of the allegorical picture. I don’t know what aspects of God and Christ were clarified by referring to them as King and Prince.

As to Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, I question it because of who he was pitted against. I don’t want to give anything away here, but I wondered, in a one-on-one allegorical correlation, just how accurate a representation the story turned out to be.

Recommendation. After my “Discernment” posts, I’m less inclined to give a recommendation. I will say, it’s not safe. 🙂

I enjoyed reading this story, much more than I expected to after reading the parts that explained the allegory ahead of time. I found it uplifting and even touching in places. If I was still teaching, I’d recommend this book to my students in a heartbeat. (And they’d love it because it’s short. 😀 But I suspect they’d also love it because it was an enjoyable story). I know I found it entertaining, but it also brought to the front some issues that are important and can, therefore, serve as a jumping off point for some serious and relevant discussion between parents and kids.

Fantasy Friday the Thirteenth

I suppose there is some poetic congruity in writing about fantasy on a day some people look at through their myopic lenses of superstition. 😀 Of course, in my view, fantasy has nothing to do with superstition and everything to do with truth. That truth is delivered in story form and requires a bit of mining to be uncovered is all the better!

But I’m straying from my intended subject. Some of you may have seen the press release posted at CSFF and at Spec Faith announcing a second Christian fantasy book tour, this one to take place on the West Coast with twice the number of authors. Since I’m on the West Coast and a Christian fantasy writer, I’m excited about this week-long event. Already the media is lining up to cover it.

I have to mention, however, that a discussion in an email group I belong to brought up an issue I think the tour illustrates—fantasy in the CBA is still primarily the property of the young. Of the eight authors participating in the tour, only one can be said to have written primarily with adults in mind. I’m referring to Sharon Hinck in her Sword of Lyric series. Some, to be sure, are marketed to both youth and adults. For example, I’ve found Donita Paul‘s Dragon Chronicle books on both YA and adult shelves, sometimes in the same store.

Perhaps because of Narnia, adults have no qualms reading books marketed for younger readers. And certainly young people have no qualms reading books aimed at adults. I remember being taken aback the first time I saw one of my junior high students reading Tolkien. But why not?

A good fantasy stirs something in all of us. We recognized the good and evil struggle as familiar territory, but it looks so much clearer in a fantasy setting, so we gain perspective, consciously or unconsciously. A good fantasy challenges us to rise to the occasion, to see our existence as part of the larger plan, our role as significant to the gains and losses. We want to be that hero or heroine.

A good fantasy also doesn’t sugarcoat the dangers. There is a White Witch deceiving, dragons hoarding, Black Riders stalking. But in the same vein, a good fantasy points to the fellowship, the sacrificial Lion, the way in and the way further up and further in. These are truths that we recognize, whether eight or eighty-eight.

One writer decrying the paltry number of adult fantasy titles in CBA stores mentioned the lack of subplots in children’s fiction, making those stories less desirable to adults. I suppose this is a valid point. The structure of a children’s book or even a YA might be a little more simplistic. So the question I’m wondering is this. Do CBA fantasies target youth because this is where the buyers are or because the writing suits this audience more?

Well, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up. More fantasy discussion to come, I believe. 😉

Safe Fiction – Part 5

The other night I was talking with a group of friends, and the topic of “safe” fiction came up. Since two of these Christians are moms and the other is a school teacher, they had a vested interest in the topic. At one point, we began discussing The Wizard of Oz, primarily the film version so well-known today.

In most circles, this book and movie would be an illustration of safe fiction, the kind we want our children to read. After all, it upholds the importance of home, the value of courage, heart, wisdom and honesty.

From Wikipedia:

Regarding the original Baum storybook, it has been said: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is America’s greatest and best-loved home grown fairytale. The first totally American fantasy for children, it is one of the most-read children’s books . . . and despite its many particularly American attributes, including a wizard from Omaha, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has universal appeal.” The film itself is widely considered to be one of the most well known, beloved films of all time, and was one of the earliest films to be deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress.

“Culturally significant” is an apt description, I think. The movie and book, in my opinion, prepared several generations to accept secular humanism in place of Christianity. A bold statement, perhaps, but not without grounds.

First, the author himself, L. Frank Baum, was a theosophist. Again from Wikipedia:

Theosophy is a doctrine of religious philosophy and metaphysics … [which] holds that all religions are attempts by the “Spiritual Hierarchy” to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.

No wonder, then, Dorothy and friends arrive in Oz only to discover that the wizard, as the supposedly all powerful ruler (and therefore a God figure), is a fraud. No wonder in the end, good witch Gilda tells Dorothy she’s had the ability to go home all along, she just had to find it inside her. No wonder the Tinman discovered he had heart all along, the lion learned he had courage, and the scarecrow, brains. Throughout the story, there is this strong thread, You can do it, you can, you can.

And what a popular message that is today. Self-help seminars, books, infomercials, all proclaiming this belief in the human spirit. How many athletes say that in wrap-up interviews! We just had to believe in ourselves.

So now in western culture we have Man, clawing up behind Satan, trying to replace God. In part because of a piece of “safe” fiction.

There were, I’ve heard, some objections to the movie when it came out—because it had witches in it, I was told. So if the good and bad witches had been replaced by good and bad shoe salesmen, the problems would be taken care of?

The search for safe fiction can be a dangerous, dangerous pursuit. It looks for whitewashed walls, all the while oblivious that a tomb may be behind them.

Fantasy Friday – The Defense Continued

As part of the assault against fantasy, the writer I mentioned yesterday used some verses of Scripture as a way to prove the genre is ungodly. One such verse is 2 Timothy 4:4. Her translation says And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables.

Context, context, context. But here’s what this writer is missing. Fantasy is all about the struggle between good and evil. Not a struggle in the physical realm alone. The beings she so hates, and the ones she doesn’t know about because she hasn’t read Christian fantasy, are often symbols.

Consequently, wizards in Donita Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles, for instance, are not literally the male version of the Biblically forbidden witches, women tapping into satanic power to conjure and control the physical world. In fact, the wizards in that series have power that seems intrinsic, not derived. And they can align themselves with whomever they wish.

In truth, they are more closely symbolic of angels than anything else. But they aren’t allegorical figures. Consequently, one of the characters, a young girl at the beginning of the series, must learn to develop her wizarding skills.

She studies, practices, receives instruction from older wizards. Hmm, now it sounds more like a young Christian filled with the Holy Spirit, being discipled by older saints. Nowhere in the books are these good wizards deriving their power from some satanic-like force.

Yes, I said “good wizards,” because there are also evil wizards. These are powerful beings out to achieve their own ends, looking for more power for their own purposes, with a desire to defeat anyone aligned with Wulder, “the creator and one true, living God of Amara.”

So evil, defined by the books themselves would be those opposed to God. Sounds like truth to me, not fable.

In Fantasy’s Defense

I mentioned last Friday that I’d followed a link to an anti-fantasy article, especially railing against C.S. Lewis. In truth, I’ve heard others talk about encountering such people, but I haven’t come up against them much and certainly not in a full-blown article reasoning against the genre at such a thoughtful level.

By saying “thoughtful,” I don’t mean to convey any agreement. I think it is not unusual for people to think something over, to reason it out, and to come to the wrong conclusion. Fantasy, however, doesn’t generally seem to be one of those topics. Instead, people seem to react emotionally. In reality, they are reacting to code words such as witch, magic, dragon, wizard, and such.

Not more that a day or so passed, and an author in an email group pointed to a discussion about theology and fiction in which another anti-fantasy writer condemned the genre as evil. YIKES! 😮 They DO exist. The do still exist! And are growing more vocal, it would seem, possibly because Christian fantasy is finally taking hold.

Ironically, this writer taking the anti-fantasy stand described the evils of “‘Christian’ fantasy” with apparently no knowledge of the genre. She repeatedly condemned it for using “evil”:

I will reiterate again – if life’s experiences lead you to share a story about how God has impacted your life, cool. But to make up stories using characters and images that have already been used for evil and then try to twist them into something godly – is to taint and corrupt any perceived “good”. You are giving satan the glory, not God.

I immediately ran over the books of Christian fantasy I’ve most recently read: George Bryan Polivka‘s – no, no witches, goblins; Sharon Hinck – none in her books either; Jeffrey Overstreet – don’t remember any; Andrew Peterson – no. Karen Hancock – not those either. Sure, each of these books have creatures representing evil, but they don’t fall into the category of “images that have already been used for evil.”

Granted, both Donita Paul and Bryan Davis have books about dragons and they make those dragons good. Davis actually gives a story explanation that gives God credit for the transformation. Paul seems to take a more traditional approach, letting the reader conclude on his own that wizards in the DragonKeeper Chronicles can be good or bad, that dragons are good but can be captured and/or corrupted.

Which brings up the issue. If some other writer uses a dragon as a symbol of evil, are all writers thereafter obligated to make the dragon a symbol of evil? I would loudly proclaim, NO! To take such a stand is to deny God’s power of redemption.

Ah, one might say, Satan is beyond redemption, and the Dragon is a symbol of Satan in Scripture. One writer in the discussion pointed out that we should not confuse the Dragon with dragons. The latter, of course, don’t actually exist! They once might have. Some people think possibly dragons were dinosaurs. Nevertheless, in literature today, they can take on the value the writer gives them.

To think otherwise is a kind of prejudice, akin to saying Germans were evil in the 1930’s and 40’s and therefore they must be considered evil in all writing from then on. Odd to think that people can be prejudiced against creatures that don’t actually exist, but there it is.

As you might suppose, I have much more to say on this subject, but will save it for Fantasy Friday. 😀

Fantasy Friday – Thoughts on Lewis

In one email group this week, someone posted a link to an article entitled “Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” I don’t want to post the link because, quite frankly I’m not interested in driving traffic to that site. If you want to read it, of course you can simply by Googling it.

The gist of the article is captured in this quote: “Many [readers captivated by Lewis’s storytelling] forget that magic, divination and astrology — both real and imagined — clash with God’s Word.”

Unfortunately, this article was not posted on a blog, allowing for comment. I was able to find an email address, however, and this was my reaction:

Hi, [author’s name]

I read your article about Prince Caspian. I applaud your desire to read with discernment. Our culture, including the church, seems to be moving away from analytical thinking.

Unfortunately, I think your knowledge of Greek myths and undue literalism may be coloring your judgment.

Fantasy literature is very different from the realism of literary or other genre fiction. The fantasy world is one of the author’s imagination. Therefore, if Mr. Lewis wants the Creator-Lion’s power to be called magic, it does not mean he is ascribing to a belief in the “magic”—demonic power—of this world. When he brings in Bacchus as a character, there is no reason to assume Lewis was putting a stamp of approval on debauchery and madness. Rather, his implication is the redemption of the world.

In Surprised by Joy, Mr. Lewis’s non-fiction work recounting his coming to faith, he states plainly the tipping point was when he realized that the Christian story is actually the True myth. In his thinking, knowing that Christ did die on the cross and did rise from the dead, redeemed all myth, for he found in those pagan stories the echo of truth, the yearning after that which they did not know.

Of course, I have no way of knowing at this point how the movie will portray Mr. Lewis’s story, but the Narnia books, in my opinion, do a remarkable job shining light on Christ—the Creator-King, the Lion of Judah, the suffering Savior, the all powerful Friend, and so much more.

This, in my view, is the best kind of fantasy. The parts of the made up world are not to be understood literally or even allegorically. Rather, the stories are more reminiscent of parables. Even Jesus used an unjust judge in one of his stories to teach something about God.

Perhaps if you could set aside what you know about Bacchus or magic or witches, and read the story that Mr. Lewis wrote instead, you might see why so many Christians celebrate his fiction and desire to write like him.

No surprise, I haven’t heard back from the author. I suspect my line about the stories coming from his imagination didn’t win any points. She has a link (which I didn’t read) to an article (or articles?) about imagination. It’s associated with the reader’s imagination, so I didn’t think at the time it was relevant, but then, I don’t think I fully grasp the point from which arguments against fantasy come.

Fantasy Here, Fantasy There, Fantasy Everywhere

My head is full of fantasy. Just last Monday Sharon Hinck had a live chat with members of the ACFW Book Club discussing the April feature, Restorer’s Son, the second book in Sharon’s Sword of Lyric series. Great stuff. I was heartened to see so many readers, not normally fantasy lovers, who raved about the book. And I do mean raved.

On top of this, as you know, we’ve been collecting nominations for the Clive Staples Award. It’s been lots of fun to see what books readers are putting forward as worthy of recognition.

Yesterday I visited the web site of the Mythopoeic Society, a fantasy organization tilting toward the literary and scholarly, inspired by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. I discovered this organization also gives out awards—has for almost forty years.

Well, on Monday I also posted over at Spec Faith, and in the midst of writing the article got the idea for a “Commenters’ Choice” award for the best Christian speculative web or blog site. I’m still not sure if we should lump the two together and have one award or separate and have two separate awards. Still, the idea was exciting.

Then we’re nearly ready to put out the next issue of Latest In Spec, so the news authors are listing is always interesting to me.

Let’s see. One example, Bryan Davis‘s next series, the one published by Zondervan, has launched this week with the first book, Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. This sounds like an intriguing series.

Besides the contests and news, there’s this little movie coming out very soon, launching here in the L.A. area, I think, May 18. I’m referring to Prince Caspian. You can read an interesting blog post regarding the movie over at Fiction Mirrors Truth (love the name of that blog).

So there you have it. That should get your brain thinking about fantasy, too. One more recommendation: pick up a good fantasy to read when you want to relax. You just might find yourself transported to another world where you’ll stay until the last word on the last page. Ah, that’s the fantasy experience! 😀

Thoughts on the Most Popular Post

😮 Picture me surprised. The post here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction that gets the most hits—a steady number each week—is Myths and Legends, Fairy Tales and Fables … Oh, My.

When I first notice that post was receiving traffic, often from search words, I reread it to see what profundity had captured the minds of blog searchers near and far. What I discovered was … nothing profound at all. A throw-away post, I thought. Some good comments, but nothing controversial. Nothing that led me to explore the topic in more depth. In fact, the comments made me think categorizing fiction into kinds might be a waste of time.

This week I notice that this post had surpassed the previous high traffic article, so I reread it yet again, hoping this time to discover the magical element that brought readers to the topic. Nope. I still don’t see it. If anything, I ask more questions and give few answers.

The one thing that intrigues me about the post is that the definitions for the different fantasy types seem to indicate a differing purpose lurking in the minds of the authors. Was Lewis intentionally passing on lessons in the Narnia stories? Was Tolkien intentionally making a statement about the supernatural as he constructed a history of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings? When Stephen Lawhead embellished the stories of Robin Hood in his King Raven series, was he intending to take the reader away from the old traditional stories for a particular purpose?

In all these types—fairy tales, fables, legends, myths, and add in allegories—it seems the theme is a strong thread holding the stories together. In some cases, the thread is quite plain, while in others it is more subtly woven as a highlight, though it changes the entire tapestry with its presence.

What I’m wondering now is, Are some of the current so-so fantasies missing the mark because they are missing the theme element? Just wondering.

The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy

I’ve mentioned this in passing a time or two, but recently the point has come home more forcefully. Speculative fiction is hugely popular in the culture, but for the most part, since there has been little Christian science fiction or fantasy published, the genre is driven by those with an opposing worldview.

But what makes this particularly different from suspense or mystery or literary fiction, movies, or television? After all, CSI isn’t Christian, and neither was Murder, She Wrote. Mysteries have a long history, with few surfacing as Christian, and no one seems to think this is a serious problem. So why would it be for SF/fantasy?

Simply put, because of the required tropes. In a mystery, a crime is committed and someone has to solve it. Justice triumphs. There is little leeway. In science fiction and, more so in fantasy, good clashes with evil. Good wins out. But, and here’s the central issue, what is “good”?

Spec Faith blogger Stephen Burnett wrote in his post yesterday about the British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. From what he says, I thought of the Star Trek: Next Generation or Voyager or Deep Space Nine or even Enterprise. All those showed essentially a fight between good and evil, but good was defined as sentient life that is willing to do no harm to other sentient life. Those wonderful shows primarily said night in and night out, Can’t we all just get along? No matter the sexual orientation or the cultural practices—unless said practices harm others.

I called them “wonderful” because they built these captivating worlds and populated them with interesting people, but I also think the programs reinforced a solid humanist worldview. Certainly, for a Christian aware of this, the shows were informative, providing a basis for understanding our culture. And yet, there was that “reinforcing” aspect.

In some ways, this is the question, Does art reflect culture or influence it? I suggest the answer is, Yes.

Which brings us back to the issue of the need for a Christian worldview in SF/fantasy. While humanists have been defining good and evil for some time, now atheists are beginning to do the same. And New Age writers, Buddhists, Mormons …

Once, even in works by a-religious authors, a good/evil struggle nevertheless mirrored Truth. But with writers shaping good after their own image or in the image of their favorite idolatrous religion, good has been turned on its head.

I was reminded of this just last Wednesday when I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles at our local dollar theater (which charges $1.50 😉 ). In that movie there is a clearly defined evil, but good? Not so easy to spot. The closest representation of supernatural good was actually more concerned with self-preservation than with anything else, even becoming an antagonist at one point to those trying to defeat the evil.

And who was fighting evil? Humans. So, the real good vs. evil struggle was humans vs. supernatural evil, with supernatural good sort of neutral—sometimes aiding and sometimes hindering.

God? Not present.

Is this the Truth we think art should reflect … or the influence on society we would like to see prevail?

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