Some time ago, I followed a link to an anti-fantasy article, in particular railing against C.S. Lewis. In truth, I’ve heard others talk about encountering such people as the author of that post, but I haven’t come up against them often, and I’ve certainly not read a full-blown article reasoning against the genre at such a thoughtful level.
By saying “thoughtful,” I don’t mean to convey any agreement. I believe it is not unusual for people to think something over, to reason it out, and to come to the wrong conclusion. Fantasy, however, doesn’t generally seem to be one of those “think-it-over” topics. Instead, opponents seem to react emotionally. In reality, they are reacting to code words such as witch, magic, dragon, wizard, and such.
Not more than a day or so after I read the article, an author in an email group pointed to a discussion about theology and fiction in which another anti-fantasy writer condemned the genre as evil. YIKES! 😮 These anti-fantasy crusaders DO exist. The do still exist! And are growing more vocal, it would seem, possibly because Christian fantasy is finally taking hold.
Ironically, this discussion-board writer taking the anti-fantasy stand described the evils of “Christian” fantasy with apparently no knowledge of the genre. She repeatedly condemned it for using “evil”:
I will reiterate again – if life’s experiences lead you to share a story about how God has impacted your life, cool. But to make up stories using characters and images that have already been used for evil and then try to twist them into something godly – is to taint and corrupt any perceived “good”. You are giving satan the glory, not God.
I immediately thought about the books of Christian fantasy I’ve read: George Bryan Polivka‘s – no, no witches, goblins; Sharon Hinck – none in her books either; Jeffrey Overstreet – don’t remember any; Andrew Peterson – no. Karen Hancock – not those either. Sure, each of these books have creatures representing evil, but they don’t fall into the category of “images that have already been used for evil.”
Granted, both Donita Paul and Bryan Davis have books about dragons and they make those dragons good. Davis actually gives a story explanation that credits God for the transformation. Donita Paul seems to take a more traditional approach, letting the reader conclude on his own that wizards in the DragonKeeper Chronicles can be good or bad, that dragons are good but can be captured and/or corrupted.
Which brings up the issue. If some other writer uses a dragon as a symbol of evil, are all writers thereafter obligated to make the dragon a symbol of evil? I would loudly proclaim, NO! To take such a stand is to deny God’s power of redemption.
Ah, one might say, Satan is beyond redemption, and the Dragon is a symbol of Satan in Scripture. One writer in the discussion pointed out that we should not confuse the Dragon with dragons. The latter, of course, don’t actually exist! They once might have. Some people think possibly dragons were dinosaurs. Nevertheless, in literature today, they can take on the value the writer gives them.
To think otherwise is a kind of prejudice, akin to saying Germans were evil in the 1930’s and 40’s and therefore they must be considered evil in all writing from that point on. Odd to think that people can be prejudiced against creatures that don’t actually exist, but there it is.
Re-posted with some editing from A Christian Worldview of Fiction, “In Defense of Fantasy,” May 22, 2008.