News and Announcements:
Glad to be posting again today since last week, as you may have noticed, I was absent. Unfortunately, I spent a portion of the day with my Internet provider trying to find out why I wasn’t able to access the web. Nothing solved until late Tuesday, and then I’m still not sure what the issue was. The level-two technician I last talked with said I’d be contacted by someone else within seventy-two hours. Seventy-two hours! Unbeknownst to me, the problem was fixed, however, and I never heard back from them.
In other news, you may have realized that our regular Tuesday columnist, Christopher Miller has left us. He and his brother have gone into a new business, and Christopher found that his time too stretched to continue here at Spec Faith. We hope to unveil his replacement soon. And now, to the topic of the day.
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For a long time–maybe up to the present–Christians who wrote speculative fiction did so because they couldn’t find the kind of stories they enjoyed most. Not in the science fiction and fantasy sections of general market bookstores. Not on the fiction shelves of Christian stores.
The general market selection of science fiction and fantasy, it seemed, didn’t include stories that delved into spiritual truths handled from a Christian perspectives. Christian stores, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to the fact that more and more Christian worldview science fiction and fantasy novels existed.
Times, they done changed already. The number of Christian speculative novels has mushroomed, in part because of the revolution in the publishing industry brought about by e-readers and by print-on-demand technology which makes self-publishing affordable.
Add to this fascinating mix the fact that speculative fiction has moved to visual media in a big way. And not just stories devoid of spiritual truth. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings broke into the public eye in a dramatic and financially successful way. Three of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books followed less successfully, but the three-part version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit has kept those passionate for Christian speculative fiction hopeful.
Superhero stories expanded the list, if not intentionally, at least by accidental imitation of the greatest Hero of all.
TV and video games have joined the foray, adding many more stories centered on the confrontation of good and evil, though that “good,” as in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, might be “good witches”–a concept mirroring that used by J. K. Rowling in her Harry Potter books.
Speaking of Rowling, it would seem she is diving back into the wizardry world she created, but not through the means of a novel. Rather, she is writing the screenplay at the behest of Warner Bros. for a Potter spin-off. The story will follow the adventures of the fictional author, Newt Scamander, who wrote one of the Hogwarts textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
The movie is not a prequel or a sequel of the Potter books, Rowling explains. And Harry, Hermione, and Ron don’t make an appearance. Rather, the movie will be an expansion of the magical world in which the books took place.
So the question: do we need books? Isn’t it possible that visual storytelling will replace books?
According to Christian young adult fantasy writer Ashlee Willis Leakey, books are essential:
Anyone who does not love books is, in my opinion, missing one of the greatest joys in life. God gave us words. He gave us minds to use them, voices to speak them, hands to write them down, and imaginations to let their creativity fly free. Books are community – they are the way we remember things, and speak to one another. They are portals between worlds, keys to time’s endless path.
Books. We need them. Don’t try to argue with me. We need them.
I’m not arguing, I can assure you. I write fiction, after all. But is it true? In this day and age, with the development of visual technology that can recreate literally anything a person can imagine, do we need books?
Will Rowling’s new movie be as beloved as her Harry Potter ones were? Will the visual way of telling stories supersede books, much the way books superseded the bard and oral narratives? Does the media matter, or is the question really about what we tell, not how we tell it?
We had a good discussion on this topic last May. (See “Books Versus The Screen.”) I think it’s worth revisiting, however, because I believe we’re in the middle of a storytelling revolution. I used to say, a publishing revolution, but the fact is, visual media is changing with lightning speed, as is the method of delivery.
So what’s your projection? What will storytelling look like in ten years? Twenty? Fifty?
Should readers work hard to pass on the love of books? Should we cling to our hard copies like soon-to-become antiques? Should we accept that storytelling will forever be altered and work toward incorporating the best aspect of books with the best of visual media? Are text-enhanced movies a possibility? Or movie-illustrated books?