I’d venture to say there’s a consensus that darkness needs to show up in our stories. The central fantasy trope, for example, is the struggle between good and evil. One of the things that made The Lord Of The Rings so compelling was the struggle Frodo undertook to destroy the growing evil.
So as I look at the discussion, I’m thinking, what is the point of departure between those who read and write horror and those who don’t? From my perspective, the answer is “focus.” But I hear others saying something different.
It’s just odd to me how many of these articles come down against horror. If speculative fiction of the sci/fi fantasy is … like, horror is the redheaded stepchild in the less-reputable side of the family.
I’ve admitted this was my previous stand. I now believe horror has a place in the catalog of Christian fiction. At the same time, I think some of the reasons people offer as justification of horror is suspect.
One such justification is that Christian fiction traditionally has focused on what is safe and clean:
Mostly, it is a reaction to an industry of over-sanitized, “safe,” “inspirational,” “family-friendly” fare. The leap isn’t so much TO horror as it is AWAY from fiction that avoids realism and darkness.
And this from another commenter:
I’m not sure how they can show the light more. I mean, a lot of the problem of current Christian spec fic is that they don’t really engage with anything but the coziest, surface-level form of showing the evangelistic journey . . .
I think the idea of Christian horror is good in one sense that it’s possible to make Christian fiction more complex and adult in a plot sense. I can understand disliking gore or hard stuff, and not wanting a diet of it, but the problem with the light side is that it has all the substance of a cozy mystery about a detective and his cats. I don’t think it’s impossible to make clean, complex fiction, but I haven’t seen many good examples of it.
Perhaps these two comments strike at the heart of what I believe about Christian speculative fiction: an exploration of evil isn’t the answer to the problem of Christian fiction that doesn’t engage the world, or really even Christians, on more than a superficial level. Exploring the light is.
In truth, I think this approach is consistent with what Scripture tells us. Perhaps the sternest indictment comes in the book of Jeremiah:
“For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know.” (4:22)
I think we could just as truthfully say, They are shrewd to write about evil (or to explore evil), but to write about (or explore) good, they don’t know how.
One commenter said as much:
I can think of ways to write about Christians, but writing about God’s love beyond simple evangelism stumps me.
I don’t think this idea is unique to this one writer. At the same time, I think, Ah, but there is so much more about God than just His love. For instance, we live in a culture that has increasingly denied the concept of a just God bringing judgment against those who stand against Him. Where are the stories that show a just God acting in wrath against evil? We have stories in which the heroes fight in order to survive, but who fights in order to judge the darkness?
C. S. Lewis was masterful in addressing themes that went beyond God’s love, though clearly, he didn’t hesitate to show that aspect of His nature as well. One of Lewis’s most famous lines, in fact, became so well known because it made people think about God in a new way (He’s not safe, I tell you …)
His more imaginative fiction—The Great Divorce, Screwtape Letters, Til We Have Faces—dealt with things like the reality of heaven and the reality of the spiritual in daily life and loving God more than others, even when we don’t understand what God is doing. His space trilogy does explore man’s condition, but in the first two volumes does so in comparison to holiness and purity. Only in That Hideous Strength does Lewis focus on man’s sinful nature as well as spiritual forces of evil.
In short, Lewis did not write “cozy speculative fiction.” Even his children’s books are laden with truth about God and His work in the world and with humankind. He addresses creation, death, the effect of sin, end times, obedience, God’s severe mercy, and much more.
Why, I wonder, have contemporary writers departed from this rich legacy? Why do we see the only answer to cozy stories to be an exploration of evil?