Here’s part two of D. Barkley Briggs’s article “Star Wars.” This portion contains the real meat and potatoes of his thoughts. Enjoy. And don’t forget to look for The Book of Names in your local bookstore or on-line. I can hardly wait for my copy to arrive. I’ll be reading it in preparation for the January CSFF blog tour, yes, but I’ll mostly be reading it for pure enjoyment!
– – –
Star Wars (continued)
by D. Barkley Briggs
This is the power of speculative fiction. This is the power of fantasy: to capture the mind, to both focus and liberate the emotional, imaginative faculties, to form real and symbolic connections, to viscerally associate yourself with a magical, desirable, grand-scaled life. The means by which this manifests, in speculative fiction as in life, are multi-faceted. My preferred subgenre being High or Epic Fantasy, the story usually involves a mission of such dire consequence that all must be sacrificed to assure its success. Evil is here too, real and dangerous and intoxicating. Magic abounds. The human drama plays out. Friendships form that add something transcendent to the journey. We/I/You will face hardship, but we are quietly assured that, though it will not be easy, it will
be worth it. Your life will matter. This transition from third person to first person, made within the context of imagination and adventure, is vital. Why? Because readers invested in the struggle of that other realm often find themselves taking up the good fight in this world.
Thus it was with me, in that darkened Tulsa theater. Launched by Star Wars, common stories no longer satisfied. I learned to depend on, and therefore trust, only those stories of sufficiently epic scale. Tolkien was High King of this realm, of course. But there were others: Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. LeGuin, Terry Brooks. In Middle School, The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper supplied another lens for my world, when thirteen year old Will Stanton discovered he was really an Old One, servant of the Light, one of a mystical race of humans caught up in an ancient, perilous war against The Dark. That’s me, I thought. Or at least that’s what I wanted to be. I recommitted to the cause.
Much later in life when my wife died—leaving me with four
young boys and many questions of emptiness and rage — I bought a dozen or so grief books. They were all non-fiction because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what’s supposed to help inform and guide you through the bewildering process of grief. Some were very fine, and added a little to my comfort.
But truth be told, I didn’t finish a single one. Instead, I eventually returned to Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master trilogy. Having read it many years before in high school, I remembered the agony and confusion which the protagonist endured. Over the course of three books, Morgan of Hed is shaped through a series of trials, pain and betrayal
into his ultimate destiny. Furthermore, and most important for me, was the shock that occurs when he finally discovered who was at work in the shaping.
Somehow, I was reminded of the sovereignty of God. What Morgan endured was necessary for a higher purpose. In the numbing devastation of my grief, needing a reminder of Higher Purpose, I found it in the land of the High One via the pen of McKillip. I even wrote her a note and thanked her—the first and only time I’ve ever written an author as a fan. Why? Because in the darkest, most grueling season of my life, her flight of fantasy reached me. Her and a guy named Job and various Psalms of Lament. Ironically, something that could be argued as utterly disconnected from “the real world” became a very real lifeline, thrown from shore to my sinking vessel, from typeset pages to my
I write fantasy because I read fantasy. I write it for my
own sons, for their journey through the world. I want them to see what is unseen, to live within a symbolic milieu. Do we need to be rooted in a biblical worldview? Of course. That was never the question. Just give it wings, people. Give it wings.