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.
A post by C.E. Lavender
Some might say that I'm one of the most unlikely of writers in the Lost Genre Guild. I grew up in a conservative community of Free Will Baptists. Most of which still prefer good old fashion hymns instead of praise and worship music. (Not saying that either is bad as I like them both.) My dad was the head-deacon and taught the adult class on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Needless to say we barely missed a service.
I'm now an ordained minister and very ministry oriented. Christianity never seemed as a new concept in my life. Writing fiction, however, is.
Most think that Christian fiction isn't ministry oriented. That those in the industry are doing it for one purpose, money. I've come to learn otherwise. As I've pursued writing Christian fiction, I've learned something very important. "I'm not that different than most writers out there." Many of the writers that I've come in contact with are writing fiction for the glory of God.
So if I write for His glory, then why not write non-fiction?
Sure, I've dabbled in non-fiction. And I'm not saying that I won't go back because I'm sure I will, I have plenty to say on the non-fiction side.
So why bother?
Why spend my time and energy on writing fiction?
And a lost genre of all types?
Oh, the answer is simple.
Because I have something to say.
A message to get across.
Sure the doubters might question what could I possibly have to say that is completely made up in a genre that is deemed lost by the industry big wigs. Well, it's true that a writer is going to write what he/she enjoys writing. That's just simple logic. I grew up reading fantasy novels from the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and R.A. Salvatore. While I enjoy fantasy and stories from various authors of this guild, its not just about the type of writing.
Like I said, I have a message.
If I want to get across the message of Christ to unbelievers the conventional pulpit preaching, going to church thing isn't going to get it for a majority of non-believers. And some of them won't even pick up a Christian non-fiction title.
But how many more might pick up a Christian fiction novel? In my opinion, more non-believers would pick up a made up story for entertainment than they would go to church.
But that still doesn't answer why I chose to write in the Lost Genre. Out of all the different types and styles, why here?
I have something to say.
I've really focused my writing on Spiritual Thrillers. Everyone likes a thriller right? But how many of us just want to reject or avoid the idea of a spiritual warfare that is waging around us? Doesn't it say in the Bible that we don't battle against the flesh? I believe the spiritual battle is waging heavier today than it ever has. I have seen a few cases, and I'm sure you have to. Unfortunately, the casualties in this war equates to a spiritual death and not a physical death.
That's the final death, the death of a soul. One that will die forever. In my writing I want to bring this to light. Sure I want to entertain, and I want something exciting and fun to read. But most of all I want something with a purpose, something to glorify His Holy Name.
So why bother?
Sometimes we must think outside of the box to save souls in this war. What are souls worth? Can we put a price on a person's soul and say "I wouldn't write Christian fiction. What good would that do?" Well, let me tell you that Christian fiction will not only keep you reading things that are wholesome and Christian oriented, but it also might save the soul of someone you love.
The war is waging, what are you doing in this struggle of good verses evil?
In the early eighties, Lawhead brought us “Dream Thief” – a sci-fi epic showing the incredible revelation that yes, there is life on Mars, and they are Christians! As preposterous as this sounds, he made it believable by sneaking up on us through heart-tugging beauty and nobility. It made perfect sense, the way he told it.
The similarities between Dream Thief and Empyrion are obvious, although Empyrion is actually made up of two books: “The Search for Fierra” and “The Siege of Dome”. However, all the copies I’ve ever seen have had both volumes combined. And the story jumps right from one to the other without a pause, so I speak of it as a single entity. Anyway, Empyrion is also about the discovery of godly saints on a far-off planet, but is much more subtle than Dream Thief.
The saga of the planet Empyrion begins on Earth in the twenty-third century, when interplanetary colonies have begun to spring up. Our hero Orion Treet is called upon by the Cynetics Corporation to report on their secret project in the star system Epsilon Eridani, eleven light years from Earth – made possible by a black hole warping space and cutting travel time to just a few weeks. The first colonists had arrived there five years previously. But when Treet and his companions arrive at the atmospheric dome, they come face to face with a society that is thousands of years old and millions strong. Yes, you guessed it – the black hole warped time as well, and threw our travellers into the distant future of the Cynetics colony, which lost contact with the mother planet at the very beginning.
Enter Dome – the vast, gloomy city sealed under glass for fear of the supposedly unhealthy atmosphere. An independently developed society, highly organised into social “Hages” with uniforms and functions, and hostile to the outsiders. The people, oppressed and fearful, live in bondage to an evil deity and power-grasping, small-minded men.
The depth of the society Lawhead has created is quite stunning. He has invented new words, as the English language has obviously developed further in such a long time. Wearing garments called yoses and living in kraam blocks, the Dome-dwellers fight for stent (prestige) and advance through the levels as they can while trying to please the Hage Directors. Cynetics has become a deity, albeit unreachable, and aging technology has become magic to the simple. And as anyone who has read Lawhead’s other works will know, he does not draw back from describing the awful cruelty of the godless.
In time, Treet comes to hear of the Fieri – a people group that split off from Dome in ages past and went to seek their freedom under the open sky. The creation of just one society was not enough – as the travellers leave to search for the other city, they discover a world so breathtakingly and painfully beautiful that it is scarcely possible to do it justice in a little review like this. You can smell the clear air and feel the power of the huge white sun-star as its rays probe the thin atmosphere, which Treet and his friends learn to breathe while crossing the huge desert between Dome and Fierra.
If Dome is a hell-hole, showing what degenerate mankind is capable of, then Fierra is a society so delightful that we believe the travellers to be in Paradise. Wisdom and kindness rule in the gently glowing city, under the eye of a benevolent deity with many names. Sickness is eradicated, fish can speak, big cats lounge in lush courtyards, and money is an unheard-of concept when there is plenty for all.
The tale is highly spiritual, though never overtly Christian, and we follow the Earthlings as they find peace with themselves and each other. Beholding Fierra is like taking a deep breath of sweet air, or a long draught of freshest water. The God of the Fieri makes himself known in subtle ways and is so intrinsically good that the Christians among us are left in no doubt at all: This is my God, too. When Dome threatens Fierra with a nuclear holocaust, it is this God’s urging within Treet that moves him to act, ultimately saving both societies although losses are incurred.
The beauty Lawhead describes has caused my heart to ache in longing to see it for myself, to know this God. And then I am reminded of the Bible verse in second Timothy four verse eight: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (NIV) What will Heaven really be like? Perhaps it will indeed have similarities with Fierra. Although no direct mention is made of the God of the Bible or of Jesus or of atonement, we can see the change that comes over Treet after his encounter with the deity, and he realises he is no longer alone – someone else is sharing his awareness, supporting him with love and acceptance, and teaching him what he needs to know in a situation becoming more dangerous by the minute.
This, then, has become my own goal in writing Christian sci-fi: To create something so beautiful that it pulls the reader in and changes him somehow, letting him imbibe of the great longing all men feel for their Creator – through the standard novel-writing kitset of characters, landscapes and plots. Simple enough? But not so easy as we would like. In the words of a Fieri teacher, Lawhead gives a bite of wisdom:
"Talent is commendable, for it makes the discipline easier to endure, and the dedication comes more naturally. But talent alone isn't the answer. Talent is raw; it is a beast, wild and untamed. Talent must be mastered; it must be trained so that it can be used with wisdom and purpose. It must be pruned like a tree so it will bear only the best fruit."
Although the characters in this scene are talking about dance artistry, I think it is true for us writers as well! If we follow this advice, perhaps we, too, will be able to aim at fiction's highest goal: to touch people with the heart of God. If we will hone our talent responsibly, then we can give our very best to this noble task. Whether we create whimsical fantasy worlds or sci-fi futures, I am convinced God can speak through it, if we will let him
Empyrion: more reviews