Fourth ‘Doctor’ Season Brings New Alien Agendas, Part 1

“Doctor Who” helmsman Russell T. Davis may try to popularize anti-Christian beliefs — and in so doing himself act like the program’s Cybermen who require others to “upgrade” to their own beliefs. But the show can’t escape Christian truths.
| May 1, 2008 | No comments |

More hideously scary monsters are coming to the new season 4 of the smashing British sci-fi series Doctor Who. Like the Cybermen, a race of metallic soulless humanoids who want to “upgrade” all humans to be like them, this threat arises from a surprising source and threatens the existence of planet Earth, by compelling people to be subject to certain extraterrestrial modes of thought.

And it’s courtesy of none other than Doctor Who’s very executive producer and head writer, Russell T. Davies.

“Wait wait wait wait!”

While I say that, please imagine me holding up my hands in a faux-panicked manner, reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor, right before I whip out a clever solution to avoid being killed. This is because, unlike some Christian writers and culture pundits, I seem to find myself unafraid of Davies’ own ideological invasions.

‘Upgrading is compulsory’

Davies, who re-launched the new TARDIS and its time-traveling, world-saving Time Lord occupant(s) in 2005, is “the most influential gay man in Britain,” according to an April 6 London Independent article. Well, I kind of already knew that. But furthermore — well, especially if you have Christian friends who enjoy sending you dozens of email forwards, you’ve surely heard of British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins? He’s the same guy who looks stupid in Ben Stein’s anti-evolutionary-dogma documentary Expelled. Well, it seems Dawkins is having a cameo in the new Doctor’s season 4.

“People were falling at his feet,” says Davies, creator of the BBC’s flagship show. “[. . . I]t was Dawkins people were worshipping.”

As writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, Davies often plays with religious imagery (from a cross-shaped space station to robot angels with halos), but he’s a fervent believer in Dawkins. “He has brought atheism proudly out of the closet!”

Later, Davies unabashedly unveils the purpose behind Captain Jack Harkness — an openly “bisexual” character who pretty much hits on everybody, guy, girl or extra-Earth species. The idea is not only to help people tolerate homosexual beliefs, but to encourage children to “come out of the closet” themselves. “If there is one kid now doing that, then in 10 years’ time there will be thousands of kids, and 10 years after that, every kid who wants to will be doing that,” Davies said. “Isn’t that brilliant?”

Intriguing! Somehow the image of the Cybermen enters my mind. “[We are] the next level of mankind. We are Human Point Two. Every citizen will receive a free upgrade. You will become like us. . . . Upgrading is compulsory.” Meanwhile, as for lingering cultural opposition to becoming one with Cybermen? “De-lete. De-lete. De-lete.”

The heart of the TARDIS

One might be a bit unsure why I’m not bothered about this stuff. Is there something wrong with me? Am I a compromising Christian? perhaps one of those quasi-backsliders who’s just being deceived by awesome characters, spectacular special effects and epic good-versus-evil storytelling?

It’s that last element, actually, that seems the best reason. Because while Davies and other writers are putting in evolutionary and even gay-rights junk, they’re also putting in really “fantastic!” messages of redemption, either intentionally or incidentally.

Though the program has its “moments” — innuendo here, a double entendre there — and is based solidly in an evolutionary, everything-supernatural-is-just-advanced-science view, the heart of the TARDIS pulses with remnant energy of a very Judeo-Christian worldview, similar to the warp core of the starship Enterprise. In the Doctor’s adventures, conformity, racism, and evil domination are upended and destroyed. True love, care for people and devotion are upheld. The Doctor is sorry when he cannot save lives — or is forced to take one — and overjoyed when “everybody lives!” as he exclaims in the finale of The Doctor Dances.

But then, goes a legitimate argument, can’t other religions find hints of their views in Doctor Who? And doesn’t it directly oppose Christianity with ideas such as that of The Satan Pit, which is that there’s just one demonic creature in deep space, sending out thought waves that make all kinds of religions believe there really are more-powerful devils and monsters?

Well, perhaps. And it’s true that general-issue moral messages do not make a story Christian. But if we dismiss the Doctor as void of Christian virtue, then we might as well also throw out a lot of “Christian”-labeled books and movies that also imply humans are decent and God-fearing on their own, without much input from Him. Anything that doesn’t directly reference the message of Redemption — that Christ, the Creator/Savior, died to save sinners who deserve and merit nothing from Him on their own — is not truly Christian.

And it’s that message of redemption that makes Doctor Who imbued with Christian influence — a topic I’ll be exploring further in the second installment of this short serial.

(In closing, though, hello again to the Spec-Faith contributing “staff” and its readers. Yes, I have been absent for a time, traveling the universe, but I’ve just recently returned to this planet and I hope I can stay for a while. Thanks for your patience, and I hope to be around more in the coming months!)

Beyond Genre Borders – CSFF Tour, The Begotten

For the first time in almost two years, I am not personally participating in the CSFF Blog Tour. Meaning, I have not read this month’s selection and will not be posting my opinions or feedback or response to the book. […]
| Apr 21, 2008 | No comments |

For the first time in almost two years, I am not personally participating in the CSFF Blog Tour. Meaning, I have not read this month’s selection and will not be posting my opinions or feedback or response to the book.

And yet, I want readers here at Spec Faith to know what’s happening in the publishing realm. Christian publishers (or the Christian arm of secular publishers) are slowly making room for speculative fiction, though they may not always admit it.

A case in point is the CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Begotten (Berkley Publishing Group), first in The Gifted series by Lisa. T. Bergren. On her web site, Lisa herself describes the books as historical, but clearly there is a supernatural component to the story.

Publisher’s Weekly calls The Begotten a spiritual thriller but then says:

Disregard Da Vinci Code comparisons and think Lord of the Rings, but without Hobbits and the allegorical trappings.

From talking with Beth Goddard who reviewed the book for the Tour committee, I labeled The Begotten supernatural suspense. However, I understand there is also a romance element too, so I guess The Gifted is one of those series that defies precise genre labeling.

Good for Lisa, I say. In my opinion, books should be read because they are intriguing, well-written, captivating, not because they fall into a certain class. Which is one reason we hold the CSFF Blog Tour. How will readers know what books are available unless someone tells them?

But it seems I am in the minority, and many readers prefer to stay within a particular genre. However, since there are so many sub-genres, we who read some form of speculative fiction bordering on a regular basis, understand one person’s all time favorite may not appear on someone else’s radar screen.

Late last February, I posted about fantasy sub-genres over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.
The Writer’s Digest had just come out with an article about what genres are hot. Anyone who pays attention to what books and movies are currently doing well knows that fantasy is still riding high. What surprised me, however, was the number of identifiable sub-genres—twenty in all, including urban fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, new age, cyberpunk, steampunk, science fantasy, Arthurian, fantastic alternate history … and epic fantasy.

I find it rather amusing, then, that a publisher might have one fantasy series and think this will satisfy fantasy readers. First, we can read more than the one book a year, or in the case of those that are coming out fast and furiously, the two books a year produced by a publisher’s designated fantasy author. But add to that the fact that readers will not all like the same kind of fantasy, and it seems apparent more titles should be on the shelves of Christian bookstores and on the religion shelves of general market stores.

Here’s hoping the books out there will be so successful, publishers will be scrambling to add to their already growing list of speculative writers.

If you’re interested in what the CSFF Blog Tour participants have to say about The Begotten, take some time this week to visit these sites:

Brandon Barr/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Karri Compton/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Karina Fabian/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Michael Heald/ Christopher Hopper/ Joleen Howell/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Terri Main/ Margaret/ Melissa Meeks/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ Rachelle Sperling/ Stuart Stockton/ Steve Trower/ Robert Treskillard/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

Harry Potter and The Dearth Of The Divine

Every once in a while in some publication, somewhere, comes a great little column like this one, in the Thursday, July 12 issue of Time magazine, that I just wish I had somehow written myself. The piece, by writer Lev […]
| Jul 18, 2007 | No comments |

Every once in a while in some publication, somewhere, comes a great little column like this one, in the Thursday, July 12 issue of Time magazine, that I just wish I had somehow written myself.

The piece, by writer Lev Grossman, examines the role of God in the Harry Potter series — or rather, His nonexistence within the stories — as compared to His place in the works of J.K. Rowling’s “literary forebears,” particularly Tolkien and Lewis. The 381-word selection is well worth quoting in its entirety:

Joanne Rowling has three fancy houses and more money than the Queen, but she still doesn’t have a middle name: the K. is just an empty invention, added for effect when she published her first book. Starting with that first letter, she has orchestrated a sustained dramatic crescendo unlike anything literature has ever seen. By selling 325 million books in 66 languages, she has almost single-handedly made the case that the novel can still be a global mass medium. With the fifth Harry Potter movie opening on July 11 and the seventh and last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, coming at midnight on July 21, the crescendo has reached a grand climax.

Rowling’s work is so familiar that we’ve forgotten how radical it really is. Look at her literary forebears. In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien fused his ardent Catholicism with a deep, nostalgic love for the unspoiled English landscape. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican whose Chronicles of Narnia forms an extended argument for Christian faith. Now look at Rowling’s books. What’s missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.

Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn’t. Rowling has more in common with celebrity atheists like Christopher Hitchens than she has with Tolkien and Lewis.

What does Harry have instead of God? Rowling’s answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry’s power comes from love. This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.

When the end comes, where will it leave Harry? He’ll face tougher choices than his fantasy ancestors did. Frodo was last seen skipping town with the elves. Lewis sent the Pevensie kids to the paradise of Aslan’s Land. It’s unlikely that such a comfortable retirement awaits Harry in the Deathly Hallows.

Protecting the mind against occult-mency?

The other day I entered a brief conversation with a coworker about the Potter franchise. This woman, probably more than twice my age, was also likely more than twice the fan about all this that I would ever be. Of course, she was eagerly awaiting the seventh volume, releasing in the U.S. on July 21.

After we briefly discussed the movie — I saw it Friday with some friends, the first Harry film I’ve seen in theaters — she talked about a friend/relative of hers. Apparently he at first thought the series was “anti-God and all of that,” but had since forsaken that view and was snapping up books and movies left and right with the rest of the world.

“Well, of course it is anti-God,” I commented. “God’s nowhere to be found in Harry Potter. In that Time article [she had referenced it earlier], the author got one thing wrong: God doesn’t ‘die’ in the stories, because He never existed in there. You never hear about where all this magic is coming from. All of these supernatural occurrences are just there. And it’s the same thing as Star Wars or something like that — it’s anti-God too, because it promotes a worldview that ignores Him. But nobody complains nearly enough about Star Wars as they do about Harry Potter.”

My coworker then said something, though, about how nice it was that the series promoted values such as friendship, loyalty and all of that. I suppose, in the back of her mind, these things are inherently Christian. At that point I merely recounted my enjoyment for the novels’ story value, and that was it.

That, however, led to my considering an alternate universe or two, in which J.K. Rowling, who has claimed belief in God, decided to include Him in her stories after all. Exactly how well would that have gone over, with readers Christian and nominally so — God, or some parallel-world version of Him, deciding to grant magical abilities to certain “witches and wizards”?

Yes, Rowling could have even changed the terms, perhaps to something less-evil-sounding like “Jedi knights,” as George Lucas did, and worked the series up to the conclusion of perhaps necessitating Harry’s death, and resurrection, to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort (which, I might add, some speculate could happen anyway; resurrection motifs have been so popular in fantasy fiction). Now, would that have added to the series’ spiritual value, or else confused the spiritual issues further, I wonder?

So far, though, Rowling’s world is inherently Godless. The Creator has no part in the story whatsoever, just as He doesn’t in fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

But no other “god” is given credit for anything in Harry Potter, either, not even spirit guides or even something like The Force, as explanations for all the magical abilities. If Rowling had gone that direction, the books would have been much more pagan and objectionable.

As it is, the “magic” is almost mechanical in nature. Harry is just another Godless story among many.

‘The fool has said in his heart . . .’

Scripture is fairly clear in Psalm 14:1 and other verses that God-disbelievers aren’t the wisest bulbs in the box. But it’s also clear, strongly implied in many other passages, that God nevertheless bestows what some theologians call common grace upon Christ-followers and unbelievers alike. Therefore, it stands to reason that some unbelievers will run rings around the Christians in many areas. And thus, it isn’t that surprising, either, when a non-Christian like Rowling — though she says she believes in God — writes a darn good story that just happens to be Godless.

Does that mean, though, that Christ-followers can feel free to enjoy Godless literature?

I might think so — as long as no threat exists of the Christian being sucked into a lot of useless, time-wasting junk out there, or worse, is insecure in his or her worldview enough to be sidetracked into un-Biblical ideas. This remains an issue of Christian freedom.

But many questions remain, on whose answers sincere, Bible-believing Christians can certainly disagree. How much Godless literature is “too much”? What about the fact, which Jason Waguespack mentioned yesterday, that some stores are intentionally using the novels to promote Wicca and real-life witchcraft? Also, how “Christian” can any story really be at least in its presentation of good and evil, in which characters possess within themselves the ability to choose between right and wrong without God’s input or His sovereign heart-regeneration?

(That’s a topic I hope to explore in a future column …)

Harry Potter and The Media Discernment Issue

We interrupt the various frivolities of a day devoted to chocolates, candy hearts, red balloons, flowers, shallow dating, in-depth dating, wuv, twue wuv, and other things of this nature to bring you a column that has absolutely nothing to do […]
| Feb 14, 2007 | No comments |

We interrupt the various frivolities of a day devoted to chocolates, candy hearts, red balloons, flowers, shallow dating, in-depth dating, wuv, twue wuv, and other things of this nature to bring you a column that has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

In last week’s column, the third in an incidental series, I contended that many Christians who believe Harry Potter is the spawn of the devil do so while 1) not knowing what the series truly contains, 2) believing many “conspiracies” in other areas, 3) failing to realize the truths of Christian freedom, and 4) failing to address the worse ills of terrible theology packing the shelves of Christian bookstores.

However, that partially failed to address the truth that sincere, non-conspiracy-minded, non-legalistic Christ-followers will continue to have reservations about books like Harry. My mother and sister are among them, after all. I was, too, mostly because I saw little point in reading a non-“Christian” book.

But, I had also realized that some people would like to read and enjoy it. Now, on the “other side,” I want to assure readers that in no way do I consider either “side” more spiritual.

Yet fantasy and science fiction altogether have long proved controversial in Christendom. Why is that?

And do some Christians yet have good reasons for opposing Potter?

‘Pagan’ origins

While of course I didn’t live through this era, and persons who did might be able to fill in the details, the modern science fiction genre got its start early last century. Its predecessors, though, were more moral-focused, and sometimes quite Christian-themed speculative stories such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Those, however, gave way to pulp comics that featured artwork, at least that I’ve seen, of basically sailors on the decks of spaceships, with the captain spinning a big wheel; and movie serials, with comical names like Commando Cody and the Moon Men.

Some of it’s silly. Some of it became serious. Again, perhaps Christians older than I can fill in my first-hand knowledge gaps about the Church’s reaction then to science fiction in particular.

The seriousness results from almost all modern science fiction’s rejection of God as a key player in its stories. Somewhere along the way the genre became parallel with the goals of Secular Humanism: mankind will leap to the stars, evolving, and encountering (exploring, fighting with, allying with, romancing with) other alien races who are also evolving. Instead of exploring the universe for the glory of God — which I contend we’ll do in real life someday — characters were exalting man’s technology.

Meanwhile, the whole alien race existence thing anyway seems contrary to Scripture, based on a simple logical inference: sin affected the universe, but Christ died for Adam’s race only, and Christ would never condemn an intelligent alien race for an original sin not their own.

The Vulcans and Barsoomians and Buggers and whomever you like, though, can exist in a parallel universe. And that is an “out” for Christian sci-fi writers: imagining those universes. This is likely why Narnia and Lord of the Rings have succeeded where sci-fi has not — why, they’re different worlds, after all, Christians realize, and those different worlds can have aliens and Magical rules and everything.

Modern fantasy’s backstory is somewhat similar: following some other authors’ earlier efforts, Tolkien and Lewis went completely against the literary grain of their day, and the rest is history. It’s a history co-opted by New Agey, more-pagan fantasy authors, though — the ones whose book covers nearly all show pictures of scantily clad warrior chicks fighting hideous monsters with swords or sorcery-generated light beams or both.

Christians tend to shy away from that stuff, as well they should. Much of it is spiritually, and artistically, pathetic.

But what about Harry?

Learning at Hogwarts

As said before, like my mother and sister I didn’t see much point in reading Harry Potter. There are only so many created-worlds you can take, after all. And even after reading books one through three and enjoying them immensely, it’s doubtful I’ll have the time or motivation soon to take on books four through six. (At present the nonfiction genre, such as the fantastic Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, is my focus.)

But with the new year, I thought I would give it a try. And as when I began viewing Star Trek reruns in October 2005 (yes, I’m only a recent Trekker) first because of “genre research,” I began to enjoy the Potter stories on their own merits.

Despite the witchcraft elements, and despite the frequent sinful behaviors of Harry and his friends — who, I would contend again, are not Christians — I realized for myself that all the reviews about Rowling’s incredible creativity were true. The writing style is entertaining, to the point, but never cheating character development and subplots. The stories are downright hilarious at times; I was often laughing out loud at celebrity wizard Gilderoy Lockhart and an advertisement for correspondence-course magic in Chamber of Secrets.

Then there’s simply that whole “gee-whiz coolness” factor. Say the word light in Latin, for example, and the end of your wand turns into an instant “electric torch,” pardon my British. That’s gee-whiz coolness.

We need more of that artistic awesomeness in Christ-glorifying novels, for adults and children.

And that is not intended to ignore the presence of redeeming moral value in the novels as well. Yes, it’s there, as I’ve pointed out before. Disobediences and sin and all of that are there, but in no way is Potter morally relativistic. Magical forces are there, too, but as with Middle-Earth, which has its own monotheistic creator and everything, one must imagine a completely different universe, with a parallel England that’s populated by wizards, but devoid of the Biblical God.

A captivated audience

I still contend that Harry is not for everyone: not only Christians who are still nervous about the pagan aspects of the novels, or the fantasy / sci-fi / parallel world genres altogether, but for the undiscerning. Children, especially younger ones, fall into this category. If Christian parents wish to introduce the series to their children, it should be only after naturally concluding that the younger reader is spiritually mature enough to ignore the pagan elements and enjoy the story.

However, the fact that this series does target children still warrants extreme concern. Christians who acknowledge freedom for their mature members, but oppose secular librarians forcing the Christian children to read books their parents oppose, do so legitimately (though they might shortcut the process by choosing other school options).

Remaining here, though, is the argument that reading Harry presents a “stumbling block” to even adult believers. ‘Tis a bit difficult to respond to that without sounding — I believe the recently formed term is — snarky.

That’s because it is true that Paul claimed it was the weaker brothers who must be taken into account with issues of more-mature believers’ Christian freedom; ergo, we’re left implying, hoping not to insult or sound sinful, that we are mature, and it is the “weaker” brothers who object and they ought to let us “live and let live” here. (Paul’s language is to “be convinced in your own mind.”)

However, author Randy Alcorn offers a humorous and helpful explanation about what is and isn’t a true stumbling block. It’s well-needed by those who do and don’t think they understand the term:

The stumbling block of 1 Corinthians 8 (and Romans 14) is an action, taken by a biblically informed believer, that does not in itself violate any scriptural precept or principle, but which a less knowledgeable or less mature believer might imitate, in a way that violates his conscience.

[. . .]

It is not a stumbling block for a man to have long hair and a pony tail, if the people who are offended by this are not thereby tempted to have a pony tail themselves, and in doing so violate their conscience.

It cannot be a stumbling block when a woman is offended at a man’s beard, unless she is tempted to grow a beard and in doing so would violate her conscience. It is not a stumbling block when a man is offended at a woman nursing a baby in church, since he is presumably not going to be tempted to start nursing a baby.

I would submit, then, that Christians who would be tempted to read Harry Potter books in a way that would violate their consciences would truly “stumble” over a Christ-follower who has no problem with it. They are the ones who warrant our concern. However, I have much less concern, in this regard, from those who are simply offended — the same groups discussed in last week’s column. My only concern is how they perceive Grace, and the freedom, with Biblical discernment, we have in Christ.

And of course, I remain even more concerned about the bad theology and worse novels found on the shelves of Christian bookstores. If we’re going to go about verbally book-burning, I would rather start there, as an infiltration of the Church from within are far more insidious. What are some examples, or suggestions, that readers might present?

Harry Potter and The Half-Baked Offense

Following the last Harry Potter column in this miniseries, few readers had much opposition to the Potter books’ portrayal of magic and wizardry. That seems understandable, though, at a site devoted to discussion about fantasy worlds and faith — unlike […]
| Feb 7, 2007 | No comments |

Following the last Harry Potter column in this miniseries, few readers had much opposition to the Potter books’ portrayal of magic and wizardry. That seems understandable, though, at a site devoted to discussion about fantasy worlds and faith — unlike some other sectors of cultural Christendom, we don’t reflexively recoil from anything that includes elements of fantasy.

Instead, the questions had become, What is the series’ view of good and evil? What example do Harry’s and his friends’ disobediences set for children? How does Rowling portray adult authority in the story? And so on.

Toward the last, though, reactions turned to trying to explain why so many Christians have so strongly opposed the multimillion bestselling series about The Boy Who Lived.

After all, we have all kinds of things to oppose — things that I would submit are far more dangerous to the health of the Church and particularly its youth than anything little ol’ J.K. Rowling could write. Joel Osteen is just the first of these examples; also, those disgusting magazines with chapters of the Bible thrown in alongside Tips About Boys for teen girls; and (I’m afraid this is going to be very unpopular) treating Rick Warren as though he’s come up with Biblical truths no one ever knew before.

And that’s only nonfiction. Some of our fiction is worse, either doctrinally, or artistically, or both.

Ergo, along with all this supposedly bad “worldly” stuff, we have even worse “Christian” stuff with which we should contend. Why single out Rowling’s series?

Writing Howlers about Harry

I couldn’t help but consider some Christians’ reactions to Harry Potter when reading the Chamber of Secrets scene in which Ron Weasley, one of Harry’s best friend, fearfully opens a letter from his mother. The letter reads itself, actually, in all capital letters — it’s a dreaded “Howler,” screaming bloody murder about how much trouble Ron is in for taking his father’s enchanted flying car to Hogwarts school. (That’s one of those child disobediences that have garner so much attention here.)

Meanwhile, we have the Christians who took seriously the satirical story by the website “The Onion” and email-forwarded it all over the place, screaming bloody murder about how Rowling was going to turn all of the children into heathens.

Unfortunately, I fear they’re the same types of people who believed the whole hoax about Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the FCC and perhaps the Illuminati all trying to shut up Christian evangelists on TV (sadly, this email forward proved to be untrue). Or they got upset about supposedly finding the pagan symbolism of the Proctor and Gamble logo, the hidden messages in the Disney movie Aladdin, or — Rush Limbaugh once got a kick out of this — the subliminally whispered word “S-s-Satan” if you play backward the theme song to “Mr. Ed.”

Frankly, I believe some “Christians” are going to have their brains expanded more amazingly so than other believers when we’re all given their new bodies at the New Heavens and New Earth. (Whoa — this is incredible — this new body, this new mind — good grief, I think I must have been stupid back there.)

And we’ll all have a good laugh about it. At this point in time, though, it’s not that funny.

Many people, if they are true Christians (I submit the false ones pass for true Followers far too often), are plain crazy and reactionary. And, truly, God only knows why — though we can certainly speculate.

Opposites detract

Meanwhile, even non-crazy Christians have always been divided into two opposite camps on any popular media Thing. As has been the case with frequent theological imbalances throughout church history, since the days of the Corinthians and the Galatians, you’ll have two sides: the Antinomians and the Legalists.

We’ve all likely met both types.

The Antinomians — quite prevalent in the Western church — throw out most Biblical discernment and embrace nearly everything cultural, forsaking obedience to avoid anything that will lead to temptation — or that even could result in other Christians with “weaker” consciences being tempted themselves.

Stacks of verses oppose their position, among them 1 Corinthians 6, verses 12 and over, which tell us specifically to “flee” a certain type of sin that’s overly represented in too many movies and books.

Meanwhile, though, the Legalists insist that almost nothing in culture is lawful to us and thus we’ll be more spiritual — thereby keeping ourselves pure and sweet and comfortable (and also somehow impress God more) by abstaining from “worldly” stories.

Perhaps they believe that verses like Philippians 4:8 forbid us from thinking about anything but good, noble, pretty things, and never ugly things. But if Paul disallowed thinking about uglier things from time to time, that would logically rule out his encouraging them to practice “what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.” That would include some of the nastier things in Paul’s thought life, such as dealing with evil religions, pagans and heresies and public debate.

The problem with this approach is not just its un-Biblical and arrogant nature, but its inconsistencies. Many comment-authors addressed these before: for example, many Christians’ opposition to Harry Potter ignores “witchlike” or magical characters elsewhere, such as in fairy tales, Mary Poppins or even Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

And I still contend that the occult elements of Star Wars, though easily tolerated by the spiritually discerning, are even worse than those of Harry Potter: Jedi knights are just magicians under a different guise, and The Force is little more than the dualistic, New Age idea of a “neutral” godlike magical power.

But again, those are secular stories. How much worse are the stories put out by Christians that are full of un-Biblical notions — and how much more worse are the nonfiction “Christian” books that sometimes advocate plain heresy?

Here Paul’s words come to mind again:

[W]hat have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5: 12-13 (ESV)

Paul’s context is actually about rejecting someone practicing sexual sin, but his words likely apply to “judging” church “outsiders” about their bad theology too. If we do that at all, it would seem we would focus on cleaning out the Church first, whose readers and authors should know better, and secondarily we would publicly question the bad teachings of secular books and stories.

Ah, yes, but that’s quite a task. As Bilbo Baggins said, in the (ahem) “secular” film version of Fellowship of the Ring: “Now — where to begin?”

Harry Potter and The Moral Authority Question

Last week, my first installment in a sort-of-series about the Harry Potter novels — the first three, anyway — garnered less criticism than I might have expected for J.K. Rowling’s stories about youngsters who use magic and “witchcraft.” Instead, most […]
| Jan 31, 2007 | No comments |

Last week, my first installment in a sort-of-series about the Harry Potter novels — the first three, anyway — garnered less criticism than I might have expected for J.K. Rowling’s stories about youngsters who use magic and “witchcraft.”

Instead, most of the interaction concerned Potter’s protagonists’ non-magical, ethical behaviors, especially when they happen to break the rules at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Clearly the first common criticism of the series regards its magic elements. But the critics’ second “howler” — in Potter-world, that’s an angrily written letter from parents that actually screams at young wizards — posits something like this: Harry and his friends often sneak out at night, disobey their professors and break school rules during their adventures. What kind of moral example does this set for the kids?

Relative to Biblical morality

In the first place, I’m not entirely convinced that kids should be reading Harry Potter in the first place. Though I’m not yet a parent, I’m quite familiar with small children and their levels of moral discernment — and comprehension of the fantasy/reality boundaries. And lots of media offerings, not only Potter but even intense action films such as Lord of the Rings, are too much for kids.

Biblical worldview or not, some stories contain elements that will confuse children’s perceptions of either reality or morality. The frightening scenes from Lord of the Rings would have kept me up nights if I had first seen them at a younger age; now I can “handle” them easily.

But for some Christians, particularly those without strong spiritual leadership at home and church, will be affected more easily by stories with bad worldviews. Their perceptions of morality will be altered. Thus, if I were a parent, I would not let my children read Harry Potter — if at all — until they’re old enough to discern right from wrong actions in any story anyway.

Meanwhile, I contend that stories such as Star Wars can actually be more subtly dangerous from a worldview perspective. After all, Star Wars presents a world with a very magical, occult-mystic Force; just because they don’t call it magic or witchcraft doesn’t make it any less so. The Force has a Light Side and a Dark Side; its power is morally neutral, like a law of nature.

This isn’t a Biblical worldview at all, yet somehow Christians haven’t boycotted those movies nearly as much as they do Harry Potter.

And of course there’s that infamous line in Return of the Sith, in which Obi-Wan informs Anakin that “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” (We can presume he meant that as an absolute statement.)

A similar statement is uttered by one Hogwarts professor in the climax of the first book: “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” But the only difference between this moral relativism and that of a noble Jedi knight is that in this case, the professor is a villain.

Meanwhile in Pottersville, Hagrid, undervalued gamekeeper at Hogwarts and one of Harry’s best friends, sternly informs Harry that “not all wizards are good.” By default, though, most are good — at least at first.

Hogwarts heroes

Meanwhile, despite the disobediences of Harry, Hermione, Ron and others, Rowling is clear that the Hogwarts professors, save some exceptions (a few villains, buffoons and oddballs, as with any real-life college) are upheld as strong authority figures.

Professors Lupin, McGonagall and Dumbledore are given high respect at the school. If Harry and Co. sneak around after hours — yes, often intentionally — the professors mete out judgment. The youths don’t want to cross them, and they never do so just for juvenile kicks.

While we might still question if the moral end justifies the means, Potter’s protagonists haven’t yet disobeyed just for the sake of disobeying. For example, Harry and Ron Weasley don’t use an enchanted Muggle (non-magical) car to fly into Hogwarts because they want a joyride. On the contrary, they were “locked out” of the magical train station and need to find some way to get to school — and when they arrived, they were petrified of the consequences, but reluctantly accepted their punishments.

Though Hogwarts’ good professors do uphold the rules, they also show mercy and compassion to their students. This further earns the students’ respect, and in return, they often succeed. In the second novel, for example, Harry’s loyalty to Prof. Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ headmaster, brings Harry desperately needed help from the senior wizard during a final confrontation with an evil, snakelike monster.

Harry and human nature

Much discussion that followed my first installment regarded the question about whether youths, or people altogether, are naturally good or evil.

My view of orthodox Christian theology claims “evil,” easily, based on multiple Scriptures. Therefore, any story in which characters are presented the choice between good and evil, and choose goodness, without the divine influence of Christ, is questionable — at least according to some sectors of Christian theology.

However, if we’re to start stressing the doctrine of Total Depravity now, we need to start weeding out most Christian novels as well.

Christianity, of course, is based on Grace, and that is the only way to redemption from human rebellion. Thus, even stories that involve morality and God but don’t present Grace will not be fully Christian. However, at this point, stories with worldviews based at least upon the Law — good and evil, right and wrong — will suffice nicely.

They’re certainly a whole lot better, anyway, than any of that postmodernist, relativist junk they throw at us in literature classes, in which all of the characters are nasty and most often die at the end.

Question the magical elements, if you will — I will, likely in the next column installment — but at this point it’s clear that J.K. Rowling is at the very least, not postmodernist. Absolute morality, and good and evil as opposites, do exist in Harry Potter’s world. And while disobediences do occur, they are either punished, or else fall under something like the “just war” theory.

After all, if the evil Lord Voldemort was out to destroy your school and kill everybody, wouldn’t you sneak out at night under your Invisibility Cloak if you had to?

Howlers, Heresies, Hoaxes, Hexes and ‘Harry Potter’

After reading through the first three books in the Harry Potter series during 1.5 weeks, I’m still wondering where all the absolutely repugnant parts are. Then it came to me: perhaps I had accidentally retrieved the Cliffs Notes version from […]
| Jan 24, 2007 | No comments |

After reading through the first three books in the Harry Potter series during 1.5 weeks, I’m still wondering where all the absolutely repugnant parts are.

Then it came to me: perhaps I had accidentally retrieved the Cliffs Notes version from the library instead. After all, the more-recent books in the series, which are stacked 12 and 16 deep on stores’ cardboard display cases, are about double the thickness of your standard copy of The Fountainhead.

But no. These are the real books. I double-checked and they haven’t been edited in any way.

So why are the first three books so, to me anyway, seemingly non-offensive?

Maybe it’s because they aren’t so wicked. Or maybe it’s because I’m compromising. You decide.

Of course I’m speaking of the (in)famous Harry Potter series.

Literary wizardry

Balk if you wish, but frankly, if it weren’t for Harry Potter, the rest of us, fantasy writers, would be getting even less attention than usual. This genre is big again. The speculative is big. The Chronicles of Narnia likely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen without Harry being forerunner. Eragon would still be obscure (some would say fortunately so). Also, Bridge to Terebithia is finally onscreen.

Of course, the Lord of the Rings film trilogy might have resurrected fantasy, solo, but who knows?

J.K. Rowling is brilliant. Another rabble-rousin’ author’s book, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, got all kinds of credit for being such an adrenaline-laced yarn — credit that it didn’t deserve at all. It was boring and predictable. But say what you will about Harry, those stories and characters are wonderfully crafted and four-dimensional. Pardon the expression: Rowling knows well how to cast literary spells.

But what about the witchcraft? What about all that witchcraft? Argh!

To me, Harry Potter is merely a severely souped-up Bewitched, only without the laugh tracks and the character of Darrin Stevens being magically adjusted in height, face and voice halfway through the show. Also, neither Darrin nor Samantha nor even Endora ever had to tangle with a possessed professor, or a giant snake, or needed to jump back in time to save a captured prisoner from having his entire emotions sucked out by creatures called “dementors.”

Ergo, if Bewitched doesn’t seem like the genuine occult to you — neither will Harry.

Subcreated separate worldviews?

But perhaps Bewitched does reek of the occult to you — as it does to many Christians who opposed the 1960s show during its run, and who even now do not at all like the statue of Samantha Stevens riding her broom in Salem, Mass.

Perhaps any story that seems to include “magic” as some neutral force, limited to certain individuals and useful for good or bad causes — is inherently negative, opposed to the Christian worldview.

However, that would mean we must get rid of Peter Pan, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and all of those fairy tales.

No, they do not contain any Aslan-like Christ-figure, who is clearly in charge of all “magic” altogether. They are not set in another world where the rules are different and any “magic” is pretty much akin to our natural laws. They contain little Christian worldview elements beyond basic moral values: courage, inner beauty, kindness to the poor, etc.

So, should we renounce any story like this that is not intrinsically Christian in worldview? Or, to tweak a typical skeptic question about the Creator, is God “big enough” to create people, who can subcreate stories and imagined worlds in which He doesn’t exist?

Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ Sings Of Truth and Timelessness

Somehow the story of “A Christmas Carol” isn’t often recognized for what it is: a clearly drawn work of speculative fiction, a fantasy. Dickens’ classic is a fantasy story that had somehow transcended the genre, and was ahead of its time — a century before Lewis and Tolkien.
| Jan 4, 2007 | No comments |

This Dec. 25 brought an especially pleasant surprise my family and I — a 1999 motion picture adaptation of the famous holiday novelette by Charles Dickens.

Among the dozens of movie versions, this one apparently isn’t as well-known, though it should be. Its script captures the book almost perfectly; the sets are great; visual effects are top-notch, especially considering the year and the made-for-TV medium; and acting, superb. And perhaps best of all, Patrick Stewart is in command of the bridge, playing with majestic drama the title role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Somehow the story of A Christmas Carol isn’t often recognized for what it is: a clearly drawn work of speculative fiction, a fantasy. And this film, to me, seemed to draw that out all the more clearly.

A tale of mirth, mixed myths and morality

Will a reader or viewer of Christmas Carol find gnomes? Crossbows? Dragons? No. But, Ebenezer Scrooge during his three journeys with the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future, does rather fantasy-like things like become invisible, travel through time and fly to locations throughout England. His ghost hosts are, respectively, an angel-like creature, a giant, and a wraithlike figure, cloaked in gray, who resembles the Grim Reaper. And though the story’s moral worldview is clearly Judeo-Christian, Dickens blended in the rather “pagan” elements of ghosts and somehow made it all work.

This is a fantasy story that had somehow transcended the genre, and was ahead of its time — a century before Lewis and Tolkien. Somehow it’s become ingrained in culture, almost too much. Dickens made Scrooge an adjective, fictitious ghost visitations widely imitated, and humbug a term so common that it even avoids spell-checker red-wavy-underlining in Microsoft Word.

The Patrick Stewart film’s visual effects (evidently the first Christmas Carol adaptation to use computer-generated imagery) makes the speculative elements even clearer. The ghost of Jacob Marley melts through Scrooge’s bedroom wall, and minutes later, his lips and jaw horrifically drops two feet when unfastened. Scrooge gazes through his window to the street outside and beholds the spirit world, full of floating, spectral figures. The glowing Spirit of Christmas Past fades in and out, his edges more transparent than the best of his body. And the Ghost of Christmas Present whisks Scrooge to witness Christmas celebrations elsewhere, flying across England within a dark, whirling funnel cloud.

Incidentally re-writing literature

Dickens somehow got away with an insane idea for its time — something that would likely not pass muster if submitted to a Christian publisher today.

The story’s theme, now proved timeless since its publication in 1843, was completely against the trends of the time. It seems the celebration of Christmas was actually becoming a has-been at the time in England. Dickens helped revitalize it. And his original goal was to pay off some bills — along with pushing a not-so-subtle propaganda.

A similar scene occurred one hundred years later, when multiple writers were trying to be the smartest person in Europe and talk about how people need to read Reality stories. Lewis and Tolkien said the heck with that, wrote up a few crazy novels about fantasy worlds and somehow got them published.

The world trembled. Readers loved it. And no one cares much for those smartest people in Europe now — except to set the cultural context for Lewis, Tolkien and their literary progeny.

Every trend has its day; sometimes, literally only a day. Then it’s over. All the movies with similar themes, pulp-paperbacks in one genre, pop-hunk heartthrob “artists” lip-syncing for dime-a-dozen songs, news reports about shark attacks, etc., will all go away. Might anyone remember “The Spice Girls”? (Not for too long, before it’s disgusting.) Might anyone remember how repugnantly prevalent they were in media? It is not so anymore, thank Heaven. Their 15 minutes of fame weren’t worth an atom of length even on the young-earth Creationist timeline of history.

Unfortunately the same occurs in Christ-honoring publishing. What’s the dominant genre now? Well, thrillers and mysteries are more prevalent, which is good. Yet still the dominant genre is the Romances, with all manner of adjective modifiers: contemporary, historical, comedic, cozy, prairie, city, country, Irish, Scottish, Australian, Albanian, Liechtensteinien, etc. Throw a rock in a Christian bookstore, and you’ll likely hit a woman and about three Secret Sisters buying pillowcase-loads of Cozy Romance paperbacks.

Now how long might this dominance last? Maybe only a few years longer. Maybe only until another Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, or even a Peretti or Dekker comes along and writes something that seems especially insane at first but then catches on like wildfire.

Or maybe the Romances will seem to last long after people like us are trying to be the smartest people in the U.S. and claim that the Christian pulp-romance is due to be replaced by Speculative Fiction.

Ah, but we might back up this claim with Scripture.

Waiting for the Timeless

Yes, the Author of the Bible itself is quite clear on this point: that ultimately, almost all the really important stuff right now, whatever’s on the charts, whatever’s grossing the most at the box office or on the New York Times bestseller list, is doomed to go away. All the other creative works and timed trends will either be roasted or else become absorbed into the Timeless: the realm of Eternity.

Seeing as how Eternity itself is “speculative,” quite a few of those forms of books will fit in nicely when Christ returns and it finally gets here. But I would guess that “contemporary romance” might seem a lot stranger in the New Heavens and New Earth — at that point, it all becomes “historical.”

However, I’m willing to suppose A Christmas Carol would have a place in the Timeless. It’ll share shelf space in Heaven’s libraries along with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and multiple other novels that broke ground for new growth instead of following in the same tired, crusty furrows.

Dickens’s Christmas Carol broke ground. He revitalized old traditions and forged his own, worldwide, and almost by accident. The next great sci-fi or fantasy author, especially within Christendom, will likely stumble into the same role.

That can only happen if the author isn’t too trapped in modern “sensibilities” and trends to see the Timeless, to work and strive for its effects. Yet Christ-followers, especially, should have an edge over non-Christian writers, because we know and serve the One Who invented Timeless. Too often Christian artists try so hard to copy the pop tunes everyone’s playing now. But fantastic, courageous works, such as A Christmas Carol and stories like it, harmonize much better with the Composer’s greater Soundtrack.

Writing CoO: Part 1 – Inspiration

Where stories come from is one of the great mysteries of the writing world. Often the formative idea can come in a flash of inspiration where you see a face, a scene, a battle or even just hear a whisper. […]
| Dec 19, 2006 | No comments |

Where stories come from is one of the great mysteries of the writing world. Often the formative idea can come in a flash of inspiration where you see a face, a scene, a battle or even just hear a whisper. The idea never really need come from anything even related to what you’re doing at the moment, but rises from some creative well within. Sometimes it can be impossible for an author to totally track back to the moment of inception for what becomes their finished work, mostly because that finished work may not bear any sort of resemblance to the original inspiration. But for Chamber of Origins, I still remember the drop that was drawn from the well many years ago that first touched the seed that would grow into the story I’m working on now.

This story began with the killing of Grendel’s dog.

High School was a very fertile time for my creative mind, with my writing and drawing and world creating going strong and wild. Most of my efforts were focused on the world of Sauria, but every now and then I would be forced to branch out into different territory, such as the day in English class when we were assigned to re-write the story of Beowulf from a different point of view. Most of my classmates retold the tale from Grendel or his mother’s point of view. I took a slightly different slant.

My story focused on the story of a member of Beowulf’s band, a warrior whose deeds were always out of sight and out of mind, whose boasts were never believed. During the climactic battle with Grendel, this warrior found himself outside the keep face to face with Grendel’s dog, which he slew in a might battle. But the key point here is that Grendel’s dog was an anklyosaur (an armored dinosaur with a club on it’s tail).

This story, combined with my theory that dinosaurs were the spawn of dragon legends and were killed off by medieval man, got me thinking about a new story. The story of a dragon slayer who’s life was consumed by the hunt and slaying of seven “dragons” that had slain his family. But eventually, as always, Sauria eventually came back in and ruled my creative thoughts, leaving this story to grow and mature in the fields at the back of my mind.

Nine or ten years would pass, before the idea would find itself ripening, blooming from single thought and concept to fully fledged world.

But that tale is for next time.

Speaking of which, I won’t be here for next week, as many of us will be taking the week of Christmas off. Look for my next post and the continuation of this story to be on January 2nd.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a rockin’ New Year!

Interview With Harvest House Editor Nick Harrison

Harvest House Publishers, producing more than 160 new books each year and offering a strong backlist of more than 700 titles, has risen into the top five among American publishers of Christian literature. After years printing self-help, Bible materials, and […]
| Dec 18, 2006 | No comments |

Harvest House Publishers, producing more than 160 new books each year and offering a strong backlist of more than 700 titles, has risen into the top five among American publishers of Christian literature. After years printing self-help, Bible materials, and gift books, HHP has made a strong movement into fiction. Senior Editor Nick Harrison joins us here at Speculative Faith for an interview to introduce one of their newest ventures—a Christian fantasy.

RLM: Last year at Mt. Hermon you were excited about a fantasy trilogy you had just acquired. What can you tell us about it?

NH: The Trophy Chase Trilogy is by George Bryan Polivka. The first book, The Legend of the Firefish releases March 1. The second book, The Hand that Bears the Sword, releases July 1. The final book, as yet untitled, releases January 1, 2008. Naturally, we hope that fantasy readers will love the books, but I hope the interest goes even beyond that. I think that it will appeal to both young and old readers.

RLM: So I take it, The Trophy Chase Trilogy does not target only readers who already love fantasy.

NH: I really think the public at large will love the series. To be honest, fantasy is not a genre that I read extensively in. But from the first page, this story captivated me. All the elements are here: wonderful characters (not just the protagonist, Packer Throme, but minor characters as well), a quest, danger, many twists and turns, a bit of a love story, and a very satisfying ending.

RLM: I’m happy to hear that the books aren’t aimed at a niche audience. Every indication, as we look at the culture at large, seems to suggest that fantasy appeals to a broad base of people. Does The Trophy Chase Trilogy remind you of any other fantasy on the market or is it something completely original?

NH: It’s quite original. The Kingdom of Nearing Vast (where much of the story takes place) is a fantasy world….and yet it’s one where the Bible is very much a part of the culture.

RLM: That’s a unique element for a fantasy world. Besides the setting, what, in your opinion, will readers enjoy the most, the characters or the story?

NH: Well, I’ve always said that, as an editor, I prefer character-driven stories to message- or plot-driven stories. And in the character of our hero, Packer Throme, we find a young man whom we are eager to follow into battle. Packer is very human and makes mistakes along the way, but he is such a well-drawn character that we easily understand why he does what he does. When I finished reading, I found myself thinking like Packer Throme thinks. But beyond the great characters, there is a strong plot and a wonderful message. It’s a page-turner, but also character-driven, AND with a strong message. I would not call it message-driven though.

I can’t say enough about Bryan’s characters. I challenge any reader to NOT care what happens to Packer and Panna….or to any of the wonderful supporting characters: Cap and Hen Hillis, Will Seline, Sam Delany,

Marcus Pile, Dog Blestoe…and in the second book: Bran Mooring, Prince Ward, and even a couple of the ill-fated bad guys. Truly a magnificent job of creating living, breathing characters.

One other great achievement here is that in addition to the high drama involving the hero, Packer Throme, Bryan has given Packer’s love interest, Panna Seline a major adventure of her own. Thus there are two major players in the book: Packer and Panna. I’m really pleased that this trilogy has not just a strong male figure, but also a very strong and compelling female character as well.

And if that weren’t enough, Bryan gives us a very keen insight into one of the story’s antagonists, Talon, a female Drammune warrior. And if THAT weren’t enough, Bryan also takes us into the mind of the title creature, the Firefish, a large and fierce sea-creature that figures into a major part of the story.

Bryan’s ability to handle the point of view shifts necessary to pull off this feat is awesome—and unique. Not many authors handle point of view as well as Bryan does. I consider Bryan’s use of point of view a huge asset to the book—even though I know that all the writing books warn against such shifts. I think they do this because few authors can handle those shifts well. Bryan is a master at it, in my opinion.

RLM: I know one of the things I learned from you at Mount Hermon was the importance of creating characters readers care about, so I’m not surprised by what you’re saying. But back to the elephant in the room—Harvest House is publishing FANTASY. Recently someone told me they thought yours would be the last publisher to pick up a fantasy. Was that an accurate statement and if so, what changed?

NH: Our mission statement at Harvest House Publishers is “to glorify God by providing high-quality books and products that affirm biblical values, help people grow spiritually strong, and proclaim Jesus Christ as the answer to every human need.” We try to do that with all the books we publish—fiction and non-fiction. In the past, it’s true we’ve not done much in this genre….but we like to think we’re always open to books that “fit” Harvest House and our mission statement, even if they’re in a genre that’s untested for us. Of course, a book in a new genre may have a higher hurdle to clear….and I think that’s what happened here. We feel the series is THAT good. It cleared a huge hurdle. We are willing to step out and publish something new that meets the criteria of our mission statement AND is a very satisfying story.

RLM: Makes sense. So, how did you find George Bryan Polivka?

NH: I love the way this happened too. It offers hope to unpublished authors. Every week (well, just about every week), I check the two major on-line manuscript-listing services: the one hosted by ECPA and Writer’s Edge. In all my years of checking those services, I’ve asked to see maybe 30 or 40 proposals….and in those 30 or 40, I think we’ve published maybe half a dozen. And I found Bryan Polivka on Writer’s Edge.

RLM: Wow! I know some people in the publishing business who didn’t think those services benefit writers. This is encouraging! But back to fantasy, do you have any plans to look for other speculative works and if so are there any particular elements you desire?

NH: Having taken the plunge with The Trophy Chase Trilogy, we may, at this point, want to wait and see how it does. But honestly, if I found a second series or a stand-alone that I felt was as good as Bryan’s books, I’d pitch it hard to our publishing committee.

RLM: Are there particular elements, like talking animals or magic wands, that you would avoid?

NH: I doubt we’d want wands or overt “magic.” We do not allow crude language or overt sensuality, and of course, the story has to be consistent with our mission statement.

RLM: How would you categorize the “faith element” in The Trophy Chase Trilogy? Is it allegorical? Present as the worldview of one of the characters? Symbolized? Or something else altogether?

NH: It’s overt Christianity. Packer Throme is a believer in trusting the God of the Bible and in Jesus Christ. That may sound strange to fantasy fans…but it really works. The world is a fantasy world—it’s called The Kingdom of Nearing Vast. And yet it is clearly set on earth. And yet the time is not modern times, but not ancient either. Bryan has done a marvelous job of making a fantasy kingdom that is very believable.

RLM: In your opinion what is the strength of the fantasy—the special elements a secular story might term “magic,” the other world, the other characters? Why is this element particularly engaging?

NH: Bryan has created a highly believable kingdom and compelling characters who inhabit that kingdom. He has also given them some enormous challenges that they truly can’t meet without a lot of courage and a strong faith in God. I think, then, for me, the strength of this fantasy is that one really believes in the Kingdom of Nearing Vast, much like one “believes” in Narnia.

RLM: What a ringing endorsement!

Nick, thanks so much for your time. You are a wonderful advocate for George Bryan Polivka and The Trophy Chase Trilogy. He is blessed to have you in his corner! After what you’ve said, I’m excited to read the first book, especially since you promised me a sneak-peek.

I also have to say, it is heartening that another publishing house has stepped into the fantasy arena.

You’ll be interested to know that last week during Kathryn Mackel’s Trackers CSFF Blog Tour, Technorati’s top four books on the Most Popular list were all fantasies, with Trackers coming in at number two. I think the future of Christian fantasy is looking brighter, in part because Harvest House has stepped up to meet the culture where it is at.