Fantasy Friday and Beating Dragons


So today I’m trying to catch up on blogging duties. I have subscribed to a number of blogs via Bloglines but haven’t had the chance in the last couple weeks to check in on them.

One that had multiple posts I began skimming is The Rabbit Room, a team blog hosted by Andrew Peterson, author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. As I read the titles of the various posts, I paused at Telling the Story: The Jesus Storybook Bible. What caught my eye was the fact that Andrew was relating this book to his six year old daughter and it just so happens I’m looking for a present (yes, still looking—you get extra time when you were sick pre-Christmas) for a six year old.

(I love to make a big production of simple stories. Have you notice? 😉 ) The snippet from Andrew’s post I had to read at Bloglines didn’t tell me enough, so I clicked on over to the original. Lo and behold, the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones, also came across the post and left a comment. Among other things, she gave one of the greatest quotes about fantasy I’ve read:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
– G K Chesterton

But there’s more. Over at Sally Lloyd-Jones’ site, there’s an excerpt from The Jesus Storybook Bible:

It’s like an adventure story about a young Hero who came from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne, everything to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that have come true in real life.

You see, the best thing about this story is—it’s true.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the center of the Story there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the Child upon whom everything would depend. This is the baby that would one day—but wait, our story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning…”

So what does any of this have to do with fantasy? As I see it, Christian fantasy points to the True Story. That’s its job. Subtly or overtly—both have their place. Medieval, classic, fairytale or whatever other type of fantasy you want to name, it doesn’t really matter. If it is Christian, it points in some way to the True Story. This is not “Christian worldview” or a story written by a Christian. This is not story osmosis whereby the work soaks up the author’s beliefs simply because it is his product.

This, as I see it, is an intentional act of reflecting the True Story so that readers will know the dragon succumbs to the Knight.

CSFF Blog Tour – On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Day 3


I so love a good controv … uh, discussion! (Emoticon here, rubbing hands together with look of satisfaction glinting from its eyes).

Seriously, I feel like I learn so much from the give and take of dialogue, even about my own views and certainly about what others are thinking and what makes them tick.

I’m referring, of course, to the stir resulting from my last post in which I quoted Andrew Peterson, author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, in his comment on another site answering the “Christian fiction” question.

Those of you who visit here frequently know I have an ongoing discussion with Mike Duran about this subject. And here’s the crux of the issue. Some people define Christian fiction as (mostly preachy) stories in which one character becomes a Christian.

My argument has long been (contrary to what Mike may think – 😉 ), Christian fiction isn’t that alone, and no stories should be preachy. That’s just bad fiction.

In the discussion yesterday, Mr. Peterson (thanks for taking the time to comment, by the way) added something new to the mix: stories that unintentionally tell the truth, are they also Christian? He cited C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Les Miserables, Gilead, Peace Like a River, and one or two others (and I admit, I question whether all those authors were unintentional about the redemptive elements of their stories). Commenter Travis then mentioned an extension of this idea: “the gospel sneaks itself into stories by non-Christians.”

So the question is, are all stories that show redemption, intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or subliminally, “Christian”? And where precisely does a story with a “Christian worldview” fit in?

To answer the first, I would have to say, No, stories by non-Christians, no matter how much they may remind us of Christ’s redemption and no matter how God may choose to use those stories to bring people to Himself, aren’t “Christian.”

I plead for the same definition in fiction as in life. In simple form, “Christian” refers to a person who belongs to Jesus Christ, who follows Him. A non-Christian’s story may reveal a struggle between good and evil, with good winning out, and Christians understand that Good is God, that He wins through the death and resurrection of His Son. But I suggest a story that is open to good being interpreted as “The Force” or Mankind’s own positive energy, or whatever else non-Christians understand as good, can’t be considered “Christian.”

On the other hand, I don’t think Christians are limited to retelling the redemption story. There is a significant need for “seed planting” stories. These, in my view, fall into the category of Christian worldview stories. They are true and consistent with Scripture, but make no attempt to portray Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. It doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t point to Him.

What’s the difference between the former and the latter? I’d have to say it’s the intention of the author. Here’s where I pull out my bullhorn. What we’re talking about is writing a story that has a theme. Some refer to it as a message and others as an agenda. I disagree. A theme is a theme. It is neither a message nor an agenda if it is woven with care into the fabric of a story.

And that careful weaving, I contend, is next to impossible unless some thought—some intention—is given to it.

Can a non-Christian stumble upon truth? Certainly. The myths C. S. Lewis fell in love with eventually pointed him to Christ because he finally came to realize there was a True myth. Perhaps they are imitations of reality, perhaps they reflect the hunger for God in every human heart. Nevertheless, those myths are not Christian.

And why is “proper labeling” important? Perhaps only for the sake of identifying truth. How many Christian parents embraced The Lion King because it was cute and clean—never mind that it was full of false religion.

Christian fiction, in my opinion, should not be about the trappings of Christianity, but somewhere along the line this seems to be what it has become in the minds of many.

Who can change this if not writers? Not by writing “less” Christian works or by eschewing theme. Not by assuming our worldview will surface without our intention. No. Christian themes, Christian worldview themes need to be crafted into our stories. And that takes work. Just as much work as crafting a world or a character or a plot.

Bullhorn down! 😉

You might wish to read what people are saying about the delightful book that started all this conversation, so check out the other posts by these fine bloggers:

Sally Apokedak/ Brandon Barr/ Jim Black/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Valerie Comer/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Jill Hart/ Katie Hart/ Michael Heald/ Timothy Hicks/ Christopher Hopper/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Margaret/ Rachel Marks/ Shannon McNear/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Deena Peterson/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Cheryl Russel/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ James Somers/ Donna Swanson/ Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Jason Waguespac/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

Highlighted links are bloggers I know have posted already.

CSFF Blog Tour – On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Day 2


Did I mention yesterday that I wrote a review of Andrew Peterson‘s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness last November? At the time, I thought the book was due to release in January, so it seemed like the perfect time to start generating some talk about it. Lo and behold, the book didn’t come out until this month. Plenty of time for people to forget I ever mentioned it.

I bring this up now because every once in a while people ask me what I thought about the book. I am certainly not shy about voicing my opinion, as I’m sure you know by now, if you’ve stopped by A Christian Worldview of Fiction before 😉 . Rather than regurgitating my opinions, however, because we’re doing a tour for the book, I’d rather give you something else to think about.

Thing is, this book is fun, well-written, well-liked—from everything I’ve read—which doesn’t leave anything particularly controversial to discuss. So my next thought was to post an excerpt and let you see for yourself the quality of writing. I still might do that tomorrow, though Beth Goddard beat me to it in her post for the tour.

In hopes of settling on a particular angle to discuss the book, I decided to do a bit of touring before I wrote this post. Usually I operate in the opposite order—post, then read—but having posted late yesterday, I figured any early visitors would be occupied with that post anyway, so … more than you want to know, I understand. Getting on with it!

In my ventures into the blogsphere, I came upon a review of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, thanks to Brandon Barr, by Fantasy Book Critic who runs a site not dedicated to Christian fiction.

The response was incredibly favorable—glowing, you might say. Which is great, great, great. But then one of the commenters asked why it was considered Christian fiction. The site proprietor said it was because Andrew Peterson is a Christian and WaterBrook Press is a Christian publishing house. Then the author himself left his response to the question:

Thanks for the kind words, Robert.

To chime in on the “Christian Fantasy” question, it’s true that I’m a Christian and that WaterBrook publishes Christian books, but I want to be clear that I didn’t set out to write a “Christian novel”. There’s no Aslan/Jesus character. There’s no overbearing moral to the tale.

My goal was to tell a story that, ultimately, would make you want to keep turning the pages. I tried to, as Madeline L’Engle put it, “serve the work.” One of the quickest ways to turn me off to a story is to have the story itself take a back seat to some point that the author’s trying to make. Sure, there are aspects of the story that I hope shine light into the reader’s imagination, and perhaps into his soul, but that was never at the front of my mind while I was writing.

I’d be curious to hear whether or not someone who didn’t know I was a Christian would suspect that I am one upon finishing the book.

Once again, thank you for the gracious review, Robert, and I hope the rest of you enjoy it too. I’m off to the bookstore tomorrow (release day!) to stealthily rearrange the shelf placement of a certain, ahem, book.

Well, this writing with no clear intent to write a Christian novel has a tendency to set me off. Is he saying, therefore, that the book is NOT Christian? Or that it turned out that way by accident?

I’m sorry. Writing is such an intentional activity. I make choices all the time. And if the direction of the story heads somewhere I don’t want to go, then I change it, via my characters’ choices. Or I change my character if I think the desired direction and the character are somehow incongruous. Writing is not accidental.

That leaves “intentionally NOT Christian.” No Christ figure, though I certainly wouldn’t say there is no picture of redemption. And is such a “Christian worldview” appropriate in fiction? Of course. In fact it should be applauded, celebrated. Why is it we have to hedge around the subject? Jesus told lots of parables that didn’t picture Him dying a substitutionary death, and none of them were devoid of purpose. All of them were important in understanding what He came to accomplish.

I think our understanding of “Christian fiction” may be way too narrow.

OK, see what others have to say about On the Edge:

Sally Apokedak/ Brandon Barr/ Jim Black/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Valerie Comer/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Jill Hart/ Katie Hart/ Michael Heald/ Timothy Hicks/ Christopher Hopper/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Margaret/ Rachel Marks/ Shannon McNear/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Deena Peterson/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Cheryl Russel/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ James Somers/ Donna Swanson/ Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Jason Waguespac/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

Highlighted links are bloggers I know have posted already.

%d bloggers like this: