10/05/2006

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Today is my son’s seventh birthday. He is at a wonderful age now, old enough to perceive the enormity of the world and everything there is to learn, and young enough to find the wonder in it all. I love to watch his excitement as he sees the leaves change color, as the evening star rises over the horizon, as a deer rubs the velvet from its horns outside his window. In watching him, I share in his joy of the world and recall my own sense of discovery.

It is in our nature to reach beyond ourselves, to question and wonder and search. I enjoy reading mind-expanding works, to finally wrap my mind around that abstract concept and experience that feeling of, “Oh, I get it now!” And for me, most of that discovery comes not from cumbersome nonfiction tomes, many of which fall short of inspiring or—dare I say it—even interesting, but from well-written speculative fiction. It is through these stories that I gain insight into the workings of the world and her people.

For example, I have been reading a series about a boy who became king, in a world beset by evil, and he is struggling to define the concepts of “right” and “wrong” with near infinite power at his fingertips. Looming monsters and magical attacks aside, this is not much different from what we face every day. I am queen of my little world, which is beset by the evils around us. Perhaps the character’s (and thus, the writer’s) insights into how to deal with such problems can help me? How much better would this story be if it included Christian insight?

Oddly, with so many people reaching out to find belief and inspiration in works of speculative fiction, many Christians speak against this venue. “It is evil,” they say, “because it speaks of magic, of unreality, of false gods.” And yet what are miracles to the unlearned, except a form of magic? What is unreality, but a reality yet to be discovered? And really, whose fault is it that false deities abound in fantasy and science fiction and horror? I’ll bet those darn evil false gods wouldn’t appear in oh, say, Christian speculative fiction.

In a universe of infinite possibility, it is important that we remember God is with us as we search for truth. He encourages us to “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” How I love for Him to be with me as I read, both fiction and non, for inspiration and enlightenment. And perhaps, those who long for the lost joy of discovery will read stories from the “Lost Genre” and discover not just truth, but Truth.

8 comments:

vbtenery said...

Alethea:

Good article. I enjoyed your creative thoughts.

Virginia

Andrea Graham said...

It's not the power itself that is the question, but the source. Power from God should be celebrated, but if God is not the source, the source, by process of elimination, is the devil.

I agree, of course, that the lost genre should and can be taken back to the glory of God, which needless to say means identifying Him as the source and avoiding terminology that by nature has demonic origins, such as witchcraft and magick, which is how wiccans spell their craft to distinguish between the comparitively harmless illusion variety.

Miracles are not a form of magick, but the opposite thereof, as magick is satan's counterfit of God's power. The point of Christian fantasy then is to subtly turn hearts away from the devil's counterfit and towards God.

I agree with you about false Gods, but understand some are gun shy, due to CS Lewis's speculative presentation of the ancient roman deities as angels placed in charge of their associated planets.

Becky said...

Althea,

This is an interesting discussion. I did an interview with Andy Meisenheimer, a new acquisitions editor at Zondervan, and asked him about speculative fiction. I wonder what your reaction to what he has to say will be.

I'm posting the interview on Monday at Speculative Faith.

Hope you and the rest of the guild can drop by. Just might serve as more discussion fodder.

Andrea, I've noticed that some people don't seem to want to let spec fiction writers establish the rules in their made up worlds. If Lewis wants Hermes to be an angel in Narnia, why can't he be? It's not like he's taken something from Scripture and said it isn't so. It's pretend, the same way Pooh Bear talking to Christopher Robin or Piglet or Eyore is pretend.

I'll be speaking on this subject next month. I'm finding the preparation a challenge.

Becky

Andrea Graham said...

Actually, it was his sci-fi Trilogy, out of the silent planet, and he had Venus (He used their greek names I think) as the archangel of Venus and Mars as the archangel of Mars and so forth. And Heaven forbid me from telling a master like CS Lewis what he can do. I'm just observing some would not be comfortable with that and I understand why. He actually managed to make it make sense in context, as his theory was our devil was the archangel of earth, who decided to do what he did in the bible and rebel against God, hense all the problems on earth, and of course the most dangerous lies are half true, so I guess in CS Lewis' world the devil went out and made up slanderous stories about former allies. I don't know if I necessiarly agree with him, but the bible is of course silent on whether God has such a system of management in place or not, as we don't really need to know, do we?

However, some can't get past the false gods=demons thing and I'm not sure I can really blame their confusion, even though I don't think that was Lewis' intentions. Considering he also wrote the screwtape letters, he knew well demons weren't something to sneeze at.

Andrea Graham said...

p.s. as a spec-fic author myself, I have no room to complain about speculating on things we really didn't need to know as I do it often enough :)

Grace Bridges said...

Mind expanding is exactly the aspect I love so much about spec-fic. It makes me feel like I have grown a bit on the inside to be confronted with a premise that might just be possible - probably isn't, but we don't need to know... We can put our characters in completely mind-blowing scenarios, show how they react and grow through it, and ultimately suggest that God is bigger than all of it. Which also helps expand my concept of God: something that can never find its ending. Ever wondered why the angels in Isaiah and Revelation constantly cry out Holy, Holy, Holy? Perhaps because in every moment they see God is bigger than they ever saw before. This is the kind of amazement I love in spec-fic.

Donna Sundblad said...

That's mind bending too, Grace. And who are we to limit where God will reveal Himself? If he wants to use spec-fiction as a tool who are we to say no. The problem seems to be that some consider spec-fiction wrong, when it is neither right nor wrong.

Becky said...

John Olsen (co-author of Oxygen among others), when speaking at the recent ACFW conference in Dallas, said that there's a difference between fantasy and supernatural thriller. The latter is a story about what is real, ie. angels and demons. The former is a story with "magical elements," things that are not real now or ever.

I found this helpful because he was drawing a distinct line between magic (and he was not referring to evil power) and miracle, between spiritual and pretend.

Just as science fiction takes science and extrapolates to far-fetched conclusions, supernatural thriller takes supernatural truth and extrapolates. (I take it, in supernatural thrillers, magic would refer to evil power).

Fantasy seems unique in that it deals entirely with the pretend. And yet, the pretend is a portent of reality.

I think those opposed to speculative fiction may often confuse the supernatural thriller (adventure) with fantasy, thus interpreting the pretend as real.

There are writers who merge the two, and they may not be helping the image of CSFF any.

On a different topic, I encourage you to read Mirta Schultz's Friday post over at Speculative Fiction (see previous comment for link). She gave some really solid, practical suggestions for CSFF readers and writers regarding promotion for the genre. It's well worth the read.

Becky