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Lacking Worlds: How A Focus on Spirituality Can Hamper Christian Fantasy

This is a difficult post to write. In part because I’m still formulating my opinions and how to express them. And in part because no single fantasy title encompasses all of what I’ll talk about here, which is more of […]
| Jul 25, 2006 | No comments |

This is a difficult post to write. In part because I’m still formulating my opinions and how to express them. And in part because no single fantasy title encompasses all of what I’ll talk about here, which is more of a general feel, made up of different bits and pieces of single facets of current fantasy titles that just left me unfulfilled.

Also I’m not saying that ABA books don’t have these same failings, but they may just not be as apparent to me since I don’t necessarily share the author’s worldview. And after this post you’ll probably see why I lean more toward writing science fiction than fantasy.

I guess if I had to boil my thoughts into a single statement it would be that most of the Christian fantasy I’ve read has had worlds built out of a religion rather than the beliefs rising out of the world.

What I mean by that is it seems that the worlds come about as a by-product of the creation of a “new form of Christianity” and the presentation of the world echoes that. Where everything in the world seems to be some kind of type or symbol or analogy to something in Christianity.

And perhaps there is a bit too much of a focus on making spiritual truths incarnate. This leads to some fairly repetitive story elements:

  • A king or prince who is an obvious Christ figure.
  • Miracles and demonic influence replacing magic.
  • An idealized physical kingdom made up almost completely of believers (of varying strengths)
  • Immediately recognizable evil. Immediately recognizable good. Very little grey.
  • Points of direct and obvious divine intervention (usually very spectacular) and often reserved for the climax.
  • Plentiful points of crisis in faith, to keep the heroes from being too powerful.
  • Big neon sign pointing out “THIS IS WHAT IS TRUE” (or at least to me)

I’ll admit upfront that some of that is just a conceit of the fantasy genre. And there isn’t necessarily anything inherently wrong with following those conceits. My big question is can’t we find new ways of exploring faith in fantasy?

Can we hit on other big questions beyond just the basics of faith? Beyond our relationship with Christ, beyond being a citizen of God’s Kingdom, beyond spiritual warfare? And can we perhaps explore some of the same questions, without necessarily forcing or giving specific answers, to the type of thing we see secular fantasy exploring?

What is the nature of man? Why are we here? What is the nature of evil? Is there truly good in the world? What is faith? What is truth? Is war just?  And more. Christian characters living out their beliefs and interacting with a world and events that may not be centered directly around their belief system, or at least not directly.

Anyway I think where I’ll go from here is to look at specific books that I’ve read and give my thoughts on where they stand here. What aspects I like, what aspects irk me. And such.

Feel free to suggest titles that you’d like to see me address.

Cya next week.

And don’t forget about the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour about Christian Fandom. Find a list of the participants in Rebecca’s Monday post.

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