Merrick goes on to describe the early evidences of postmodernism in art as “deliberately indiscriminate weirdness: the ordinary was made to seem in some way excessively other, like stage props for a chaotic rather than reasoned reality. It was almost pose-modern.”
I have to admit, I couldn’t help but think of Lady Gaga when I read that, but of course “indiscriminate weirdness” isn’t all that defines postmodernism. Merrick adds this: “we seem to crave maximised senses of fractured movement, overlay, ennui and nowness.”
He continued by quoting Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich: “We all confidently celebrated our lack of confidence about things: suddenly, it seemed, none of us knew exactly what was beautiful or everlasting; or if we thought we did, none of us were prepared to say so.”
Merrick further defines postmodernism by saying, “The and/but vibe now suffuses almost everything we think and do. Surface has become more important than depth. Style – or, more accurately, stylee – trumps coordinated articulation; disbelief is more acceptable than belief [emphasis added].”
What does all this mean for Christian speculative fiction? In some respects the genre is caught between two worlds, as many Christian speculative authors feel to be true about themselves.
On one hand, we believe, in contradiction to our culture, that there are absolutes, that belief is essential, that beauty is recognizable, and that now pales in comparison to one day.
And yet “indiscriminate weirdness” has an appeal, and the ordinary does in fact have the potential at least to be quite “other.”
If we’re honest, reality does seem rather chaotic, which is why some of us prefer to write fantasy or science fiction where we can order the world according to a set of rules and principles that have a consistency we desire.
Others of us, to be sure, write fantasy or science fiction or horror to express or examine the chaotic, to try to make sense of it, to try to tame it.
As I think about the culture, it seems to me that dystopian fiction or urban fantasy makes such sense for postmodern thought. Embrace the chaos, live for the now, disdain the ideas of beauty and truth.
We embrace the idea of “other,” but we believe in beauty and truth. Rather than articulating these, however, we value showing them.
But here’s the thing. As I perceive the community of Christian speculative writers, many have felt marginalized — squeezed by both sides of who we are. I think that’s short-sighted. We above all others can draw from both camps. We can speak to both sides of the cultural divide. If not us, then who?
Consequently, rather than feeling squeezed out — displaced like lepers outside the city gates — by our place between two worlds, I think a more fitting response would be, YES! We are in the unique position where we can speak for Christ to our culture and at the same time show the culture to the Church.
What a challenge!