Why in the world would a computer geek, educated in engineering and logic, become an author of fantasy for youth? And Christian fantasy?! Isn’t that an oxymoron? Why would a Christian want to write about the impossible?
I had the same questions. When I first started writing with an eye to getting published, I was no fan of fantasy. For two years I labored over a contemporary/adventure series, and my eldest son, a true fantasy enthusiast, insisted that I come over to the wild side and write in his favorite genre. He would tactfully explain that my story was too dull to pique the interest of modern youth.
I countered that I didn’t like how fantasy heroes so often escaped their dangers with a new magical power or a call to a Tom Bombadil-type character (LOTR fans, please don’t flame me) who magically released them from an impossibly difficult trap. My son then played his logical trump card. “Then don’t write your fantasy story like that.”
How could I argue? He had won, we both knew it, and so began my journey.
Soon after, I had a dream about a boy who could breathe fire. I told my son about it, and he and I agreed that this would be a great foundation for a fantasy story. We brainstormed for two hours and came up with the basis for my Dragons in our Midst series.
Although I thought the idea was great, being a Christian, I wondered if God would approve. Was the dream from God, or did I just have too much pepperoni on my pizza the night before? Would God want me to teach eternal truths using a story that was untrue, in fact, impossibly untrue?
As is my custom, I searched the Bible for an answer and found that Jesus taught using stories—but not just any old stories. Some clearly contained elements of fantasy. I read about a camel passing through the eye of a needle, an impossible event without God’s miraculous intervention. Much of the story of the rich man and Lazarus couldn’t possibly happen in the world Jesus’ hearers knew, for they had never seen the afterlife dimension that Jesus described. These stories fall squarely into the realm of fantasy—stories that can’t happen in our world without some kind of supernatural cause, in these cases, God’s power.
And Jesus made fantasy stories come true. He made a coin appear in the mouth of a fish. A fig tree withered at His command. He calmed a storm with a spoken word. He walked on water. Without His power, none of these events could ever occur. They are fantasy stories brought to life. And each one taught us a lesson we will never forget. Why? Because fantasy brands images on our minds that cannot be erased. As we recall the images, we remember the lessons behind the amazing pictures. Fantasy creates indelible portraits of God’s wondrous truths.
Jesus knew how our minds work, so he taught using fantasy elements in His stories. With such a powerful, authoritative fantasy trail-blazer leading the way, it seemed clear that I should simply follow.
Although my stories are untrue, and could never be true, they paint pictures of faithfulness, courage, love, and prophetic fulfillment that reflect timeless truths in a way that young people, I hope, will never forget. The messages I receive from readers all over the world prove that my dream of a fire-breathing boy has kindled a newly-awakened passion in thousands of young people.
So, Christian fantasy isn’t an oxymoron. It’s a natural combination that Jesus Himself authored. And this logic geek is happy to venture into the land of the unreal, as long as I can see His footsteps leading the way.
Next week: Why Fantasy? – Part 2 I will look at why traditional fantasy characters resonate with so many readers.