Top Five Topics I Would Have Sneaked Into Conversations At Realm Makers

I can’t always attend Realm Makers, but when I do, I might sneakily bring up ideas like these.
on Aug 6, 2015 · 4 comments


Tomorrow begins the world’s only real-world conference for Christian fans of fantastical worlds, Realm Makers.

Because of time and other limitations, I cannot go to this world.

However, I was able to attend the 2013 inaugural conference and represent SpecFaith, and I look forward to a return to Realm Makers. There it’s likely I would meet many of you.

It’s also likely I would find ways to sneak several favorite themes into conversations with people. This includes variations on ideas we explore at SpecFaith that, I believe, could help revolutionize this little effort to explore fantastical stories for God’s glory, and to promote more of these stories by Christian authors who can do things other storytellers cannot.

1. Christian-made stories should exist to glorify God.

Every time I say this some folks get nervous and twitchy. I get that.

Maybe we assume “glorify God” means only activities such as Bible reading and prayer.

Maybe we forget that the apostle Paul highly regards these activities yet also says they are means to us enjoying “everything that God created,” things that are “good” but must be “sanctified” for our enjoyment by Scripture and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5).1

Let’s explore this truth however we can.

2. Only if storytellers first glorify God can they meet other goals.

Related: If I say, “Christians’ stories should exist to glorify God,” folks who enjoy the Craft of Writing may think of secondary goals: the Industry, readers’ expectations, and even other spiritual goals such as moral instruction and evangelism.

In reply I bounce off a quote by the Patron Saint of Christian Fantastical Fiction, C.S. Lewis: “Aim for Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in; aim for Earth and you will get neither.”

The variation is: Aim your story for God’s glory and you will get other goals thrown in—excellent craft, biblical truth, meaningful themes, honest images of humanity (including any necessary Gritty Parts), and evangelism and moral reflection and all that. But aim for any of those things, and you will (very likely) get none of that—or get them only despite yourself.

3. Join a local church and share fantastical stories within it.

They need your gift of fantastical fandom. Even if they don’t know it.

They need your gift of fantastical fandom. Even if they don’t know it.

Are you a Christian fantastical story fan who wants to share stories with others?

Do you also want to find more readers for Christian-written fantastical stories?

Then here is no better way to fulfill this desire than by participating in God’s visible Kingdom embassies on Earth—your visible, biblical local church.

Internet websites won’t cut it. Not even real-life extra-church conferences would cut it.

Your umpteenth irritated social-network comment about how too many Christians read Amish historical oozy cozy sentimental wuv novels and not enough sci-fi won’t cut it.

If you can2, find a biblical local church and join it. Or if you already have a church, consider growing in confidence about your love of fantastical fiction and confirming this enjoyment from Scripture (see no. 5 in this article).

Then practice going beyond any temptations to keep your fandom as a “guilty pleasure.” 3

Be bold about your enjoyments of excellent fantastical stories for God’s glory. Bring them up in conversation. (People may ask “how was your day?” and that is a perfect lead-in.)

Or go further. Loan people books. Share websites. Start a formal or informal story group.

Go beyond the blogs. Think incarnationally, in the real world, about your fantastical worlds.

4. Let’s not use Christian-made fantastical stories as a ‘gateway drug.’

Soon I must write about this temptation in myself, and surely in others.

It’s a temptation to think back on Christian-authored fantastical novels you enjoy(ed) as merely the first stories you got hold of on the way to better and secular stories.

For example, if you have a culturally conservative background, you might look back on Frank Peretti angel/demon warfare novels as your means to getting hold of Star Wars.4

We can resist the temptation and value popular fandoms—The Lord of the Rings, the two Stars, Doctor Who, superhero franchises, and so on—just as much as the less-popular culture we still enjoy. In fact, Peretti novels are still more special to me than is Star Wars.

5. Fantastical stories foreshadow fantastical eternity.

No matter your position on whether manmade stories will last for eternity5, there’s no denying that fantasy, science fiction and more reflect the eternal dimensions of biblical faith in way that other fiction genres—as great as they can be—simply can’t reflect.

Jesus seems clear that human marriage will be fulfilled in eternity. So Christian novels that are only about human romance at best only partly reflect that eternal fulfillment.

But eternity is and will be filled with fantastical wonders—creatures, places, adventures, miracles, angels, very likely God-exalting technologies and science, and above all, God Himself. And these are the very realities reflected, however flawed, in fantastical stories.

In this age, the magic, places, and tech of fantastical stories reflect exaggerated reality.

But if these stories were to last for eternity, they would be contemporary fiction.

What topics would you sneak into con conversations?

What would you say about these?

  1. God-given things are not limited to sunsets and grand canyons. God created food, but man created recipes—just as God created man, but man creates culture as God intended (Gen. 2:24).
  2. Exceptions confirm the rule—when you truly can’t find a local church that practices biblical teaching, organic fellowship, organized caring, natural shepherding and rightly limited membership, that is a tragedy.
  3. If you’re really guilty about this fandom, then that’s another issue—you should be enjoying the story from faith, “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
  4. I myself have difficulty thinking of an “Adventures in Odyssey” spoofs of Star Trek or The Twilight Zone as a means to the source material, or Lewis references as means to Lewis.
  5. Yes—because the Bible includes manmade stories and the Bible will last forever, and because humans were meant to last forever as humans, and humans naturally make stories.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Julie D says:

    Number 3 is a real struggle for me right now. First off, there’s the vague and moving line between ‘complaining to complain’ and ‘complaining to correct’, especially when the things one is struggling with are either issues for the American church as a whole or church-specific issues that one can do nothing about. Even if I could sort those categories out….church isn’t supposed to be comfortable, but there’s good challenging and bad challenging, and….

    Okay, background: I am a college graduate who moved back home to a rural area.  Our church’s (100-something congregation, Baptist) senior pastor resigned May 2013; we currently have our former youth pastor back on an interim basis (long story). The most recent candidate for senior pastor candidated two weeks ago, but they decided not to call him, so we’re back at the beginning again.  With the pastoral role empty, it’s been really hard to get any solid expositional teaching; what fellowship activities we have are either youth- or marriage-oriented.

    • Ah, so sorry to hear of those difficulties.

      That’s what makes it difficult to speak of doing more about this in a local church.

      Especially in certain churches–such as those in rural areas–there is simply no opportunity. Folks are very set in their ways, and even if myths about fiction do not reign (e.g. “all fiction is deceptive”), other notions (such as skepticism about why Christians even need fiction at all) accomplish the same discouraging effect.

      • Julie D says:

        I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s an unspoken sense of ‘only some things are appropriate to talk about during fellowship time’ and ‘geek’ is not one of the categories. Weather, fine. Work, fine. Packers, fine.  Avengers: Age of Ultron (even though it’s the top movie at the theater and therefore ‘pop’ culture, not obscure geek): not fine.  I did’t really notice it when I was in high school, but after coming back from college (which has a more relaxed attitude towards media; I got into Doctor Who, Firefly, MCU, etc, at college, and attended 3 Renaissance Fests with college friends) it’s painfully obvious

  2. Pam Halter says:

    hi Stephen! Sorry you can’t make it to Realm Makers this year … I went for the first time last year and have determined not to miss another one, if I can possibly help it. I’m here in St. Louis and eager to get started! I’ve already helped write up some labels for folders and am heading back down to see how else I can help. Then there’s Jeff Gerke’s earlybird workshop at 4pm, followed by dinner and the Splickety Party. So excited to learn as much as I can!

    Good topics – I hope I’ll hear some of these come up during the conference.

What do you think?