Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like telling writers what they “can” or “can’t” do. But I’d be interested in your opinions about what they DO do.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of reading two recent releases in the Christian spec-fic world, both of them sent to me by their generous authors: Konig’s Fire by Marc Schooley and The Resurrection by Mike Duran.
Both of these books deal with the clash between good and evil (what stories don’t?) and both are set in this world, not in some fantasy realm or far-off planet: The Resurrection takes place in a vividly depicted coastal town in California; Konig’s Fire takes place in a Nazi torture camp deep in the forests of Romania.
Now, I’m somewhat ambivalent about speculative fiction that takes place in this world (I articulated my thoughts most clearly in a review, posted some time ago, of Tom Pawlik’s Vanish). I mean, when we’re making up an entire world from scratch, then I think we’ve got fair license to make it work however we want. But if we set a story in this world, don’t we have some responsibility to play by the rules of this world? If we don’t–if we blur the lines between reality and fantasy–do we risk causing confusion to our readers, especially as pertains to spiritual realities?
Here, Schooley and Duran differ. In Konig’s Fire, any semblance of realism quickly vanishes. The stuff going on in the Nachthaus (“Night House,” the death camp) is WEIRD, no resemblance to anything that has likely happened to any of us. It is very obvious that we are not dealing with a “this could really happen” story. The book is ultimately allegorical, a thought-provoking, chilling look at sin’s presence and affect on the world. It’s using this world as its trappings and ultimately making a point about it, but it’s not a real-world story. No confusion.
The Resurrection, on the other hand, includes miracles and spiritual warfare, but it’s firmly anchored here. It could happen in your town. Except that it couldn’t–I don’t think. Mike speculates freely about spiritual warfare and the various spiritual denizens that inhabit our world, and while that speculation is at times chilling and at other times just plain fun, I came away a little confused on a few points, and feeling that it wouldn’t be too hard to interpret God as just another deity vying for control of the planet, rather than as the King of Kings thundering His authority over every inch of it. This is reality, but it’s not; the lines are blurry.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. These books differ in style, but both are riveting, intelligent, edifying reads. If you don’t get confused.
What are your thoughts? How much license can a fiction writer take when writing about THIS WORLD without crossing the line? Or is there a line at all? Is speculation really what fiction is all about?