Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fantastic Finish

I thought I was done talking about fantasy, but I had a couple more thoughts bouncing around in my brain that needed release.

Why fantasy? It's not for everyone. My mom always said she had "no imagination", and had no interest in something like LOTR. However, there are people who crave this sort of thing. Their imagination is so strong that they almost need a whole new world to pour over, to immerse themselves in and become part of it. I can be this way - it's why I like Star Wars so much. My mind gets so busy that I can be all over the place if I don't have something to feed it to keep it satisfied.

Why Christian fantasy? First of all, there is a saying that you "feed the good dog". We have a noble and a base nature. If we feed the base nature, then that is what comes out. It is important that if we need something to feed our imagination, that we make good choices. I'm not advocating having picture perfect fantasy lands that are like a lousy Disney movie, where there is always a happy ending. I want stories that are gripping, that raise questions, that give me meat to chew on mentally through the day. It's just that books can do all that without having to glorify the base elements of mankind.

Also Christian fantasy can express the mysteries of God in a way that more "realistic" fiction can't. My feeling is that Western Christianity is like our culture - very rational, logical, and oriented toward lists and details and having a "box" to put everything in. We are scientific - we like to be able to explain things and have it make sense. Well, I don't know when the last time you read the Bible was, but God doesn't always make sense. He operates in a realm that is far above our own; He dwells in unfathomable glory, but keeps relationship with His fallen children here on Earth. Western Christianity can try to explain away the mystery and wonder in our faith (whereas our Eastern brethren can readily appreciate them because they live more in tune with the spiritual, but that's another post :D).

Fantasy can explore and appreciate it because it doesn't have to make sense. Fantasy operates in a world that is not our own, and doesn't have to play by our rules. It can then expose us to the transcendental, to the God whose ways are higher than our ways. He is not explained, but He can be experienced in a way that we can get - maybe just a little better than we do now.


  1. Jason, you sound like you just may have fallen victim to the fantasy bug!

    Another great post. Excellent points.


  2. Becky, I wouldn't go *that* far ;). Although one possible story nugget I've had was more fantasy. Like I said, I appreciate all you guys who can dream up whole worlds.

  3. Sometimes it seems like less work to make up an entire world than to make sure a real world location is portrayed accurately! In my (humble!) opinion, it is more fun to build worlds than to do research.

  4. I agree, too, Valerie. And it's more fun.

    Jason, I just held my drawing for the free book I offered to blogger participants (you maybe didn't even know about the offer), and you won!

    This is a copy of Landon Snow and the Actor's Riddle by Randy Mortenson.

    Contact me over at FIF--think they have private messages--and we'll work out a way for me to get an address to mail your book.

    Congratulations. And thanks again for your superb support, even if you're not fantasy bit yet.


  5. I like your particular point as follows: "My feeling is that Western Christianity is like our culture - very rational, logical, and oriented toward lists and details and having a "box" to put everything in. We are scientific - we like to be able to explain things and have it make sense."

    I've spent my Christian life trying to have a balance. I tend toward the rational (which, fittingly enough, if my personality profile, the INTJ, the rational, the mastermind). I have dozens and dozens of books on apologetics, reasoning about the faith, the proofs for the faith, the historicity of Christ, etc.

    But, because God is not limited to "mind" or "reason," I also have books by mystics and the more experiential teachings, such as the Desert Fathers and some saints.

    Both extremes are bad--to get too mystical that you verge on pantheism or New Age. Or so rational that you forget God is not capable of being fully understood by mere reasoning faculties.

    God says "reason" with Him.
    God says "know" Him.

    But God says also to love Him, to praise Him, to sing to Him, to experience Him so fully that He prays for You, because you don't have the adequate expresssion for what is in you.

    I've had some, few, mystical, ineffable moments of worship. Perhaps others have these more frequently. Those moments confirmed to me what my mind already knew--but they were so beautiful and so beyond words that it makes you sound like a nutter, a real fruit, to try to explain to a sister or a husband what you have just experienced.

    I believe so fully in a world that is more than material, in forces that are beyond our sight and touch, but that influence our lives, and sometimes rip into time/space and wreak havoc or bring blessing, that my "real" world is already the stuff of fantasy.

    In the same way that some metaphors seem outlandish the first time we might come upon them--God as a mother hen. That visual is silly, until you ponder it more deeply. We have heard these metaphors all our lives--Christ the Passover Lamb, Christ the door, God the Consuming Fire....

    If I said, "Hi, I'm Mir, I'm a lamb and a consuming fire and a roaring lion," if you had no context for those metaphors (cultureal or spiritual), you'd say, "Okay, let's call the mental squad to come pick up this chick."

    Fantasy fiction is a huge metaphor to some extent. It's a whole new way of seeing human experience. It's creating a world that isn't ours, but speaks to ours.

    Science Fiction is an outworking of our fears, our hopes, for the future.

    Both genres speak about our hopes for the world and the times to come, referencing new experiences to shed light on the old.

    I think it takes a certain type of mind, childlike in a sense, able to wallow in wonder, to enjoy SF. Staid minds won't. Complacent minds won't. Minds that don't want any sort of challenge to their imaginative faculties won't.

    I can't help but think that a God of the New Thing is pleased when, as Christian singers create new songs, Christian writers create truly new story worlds. (Where sometimes, a person actually IS a door, a metaphoric reversal that plays on a metaphor. Where a wise being may actually BE a lamb or a lion. Where the dead walk among the living and speak things the living don't want to hear. Or do.)

    I'm all for wonder and miracles.