What I’ve written here is an acknowledgment of the power of fiction and the presence of God wrapped in a type of emotional appeal, an appeal that starts with talking about dreams. Note that I’m not limited to making emotional appeals when I talk about God—I also can make an intellectual case, as I did writing for Speculative Faith with my “Car-Universe Without a Motor” series. But note also that unlike someone who is convinced human beings are nothing more than a product of evolution, for whom emotion has no deeper meaning (much of it supposedly a leftover from our so-called “reptile brain”), a believer in God has grounds to think emotions as well as reason matter in their proper context–that emotion can bring a person to acknowledgement of truth. God created feelings as much as rational capacities and each have the power to point the way back to their Creator.
My emotions were wrapped up in a vivid dream I had as a child in which I extended my arms and a strong wind wrapped around me and lifted me into the sky. The wind followed me, like Elijah perhaps, and whirled around me. But unlike Elijah, who went where the Lord directed him, the wind in my dream carried me wherever I wanted to go, me tilting my arms like a bird to fly wherever I wished.
I awoke from the dream saddened by its loss—but determined to retain that memory forever. I of course only partially succeeded. Now it’s just a faded memory of a memory, drained of all its color, but still retaining a very small portion of its power.
Recently I had a similar dream, of being an acrobat of such effortless skill that my leaps and twists In the air didn’t drain me of energy and left me hanging upward long seconds before coming back to ground. This is of course something I’ve never actually done and probably could not ever do the way I dreamed of it even if I had trained to be an acrobat from my childhood—at least not in the gravity of Planet Earth. On the Moon, or “a” moon, such activity would be much easier.
There’s something in me that is not limited to a desire to fly—or leap—and wishes it could be in a world other than my own. I want to see alien stars. And vistas. And explore strange worlds.
Speculative fiction taps into some of these desires, doesn’t it? We with our protagonists via our imaginations get to hunker down on the neck of our trusty dragon as it glides through the air.
Or we can maneuver our starship to the place we see the entire galaxy stretched out before use like a gem-studded tapestry. Or many other things.
Why do I dream of walking on the Moon or other moons? Why do I long to see alien stars?
Why, if I am the supposed product of vast ages of evolution, would I not be much more automatically focused on my own survival, much more interested in keeping myself alive? Why do I long for beauty? And not just the familiar beauty of things I’ve seen, but also the beauty of things I have never seen? The thrill of experiences I’ve never had?
Could it be that fiction that steps out of the world we live in on a daily basis has the power to point out that this world, the one we reside in, is not enough for us? That we long for more because more must surely exist? That we long for a form of eternity and transcendence because God has stored up these things for those in a relationship with Him? That these treasures can be found in a spiritual sense in this life but also in a very literal sense in the next?
Speculative fiction can do much more than point the way to unseen beauty—it can even do harm, by glorifying evil and mocking that which is good. But heroes who stand of for what is really right and true in fiction reflect the genuine struggle that exists between good and evil, a struggle that’s not limited to events our human eyes can see during our earthly lifetimes.
A hero I have never met, because he never existed, of a species which never existed, faced a villainess who tried to overwhelm all sense of anything the group could see beyond the Underworld. “There is no sun” she said, strumming music as she enchanted them. She told them the sun was something they imagined based on lamps, that Aslan was something they imagined based on housecats, that the very “Overworld” was simply a product of their imagination, that the world around them of underground caverns was all that existed. All that had ever existed.
The hero stomped on a fire, burning his marshwiggle flesh, and said, in part:
“All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
Our longing, our dreams of other worlds are worth having, our God is worth following, even if we had no rational grounds to believe in our God or in the real existence of a life after this one. We do have a number of logical grounds, but even if we didn’t, our dreams, our so-called play-world, as Puddleglum said, “licks the real world hollow.” So we should live then for that “play-world,” for its values and the values of its Master, and not for this grungy world of grubbing to survive, advance, and dominate. And the very best speculative stories have tremendous power to remind us of that.
Let this perspective on dreams of other worlds shape what you write, my friends.