On Sept 18 2010, K. Daru gives a generally favorable review of the first book in my Legends of the Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon, highlighting elements of the fantasy aspects she/he thought were good, then discussing elements of the “religious” aspects of the story that were good and concluding with the following:
“And therein lies the rub. The fantasy, by itself, would be four (maybe five) stars. The depiction of Christianity, by itself, would also be four stars. But I found the juxtaposition between the two jarring. Every time the story turned to Christianity, I found myself yanked out of the fantasy world and into the present day; my mind couldn’t decide whether I was reading an epic fantasy or a modern-day conversion story. This lack of immersion makes the whole of the book less than the sum of its parts, and is what finally led me to give it 3 stars.”
I reproduce it here because it triggered a sudden realization for me related to fantasy and Christianity. For as long as I can recall, there has been discussion of Christianity in Fantasy, and the importance (some feel) of not jerking the reader out of the fantasy world with the Christianity. It has to be hidden, pontificators pontificate, or it’s flawed.
Okay, they’re welcome to their opinion, but it was the way this reviewer articulated that opinion that struck me: For some readers the fantasy world is IT. That’s what they care about. That’s why they read fantasy. That’s why they can read almost any kind of fantasy regardless of what it says because they just love the escape to another world.
I love the escape too, but it’s not the be all and end all for me. Take Avatar, the movie. Great world, but I didn’t like the story at all. I have no interest in returning there because there was no Truth in that story.
And Truth is what I love. Of course I mean Truth as revealed in God’s word, and for me fantasy — all of it, my own and others, is merely a vehicle that can communicate Truth. (See my article Why I Write Fantasy in the page tabs above) It’s the Truth that I love, that gets me excited, that I want to think about and investigate and handle. Particularly the truths related to salvation, the Christian life, the Christian’s relationship with God, the angelic conflict… That’s what I’m interested. The world is secondary. (That admission is almost sacrilege in some circles, but so be it.) It’s a means to an end, a way to bring out concepts in a new way, unencumbered by baggage that often accompanies Christian vocabulary and concepts.
For readers who also love the truth, that is what they love about The Legends of the Guardian King. Those are the ones like Christine W who said of Return of the Guardian King
“The message of perseverance and placing your faith in Eidon comes across so strongly and resonates within the reader long after the book is closed. I wanted more, but not because she didn’t finish the story or that it was lacking in something, but because it inspired me and left me wanting a closer relationship with God.”
For readers who are more interested in fantasy as a genre, in going to some new and exotic world, well, they’ll be less impressed. If they notice the Christian foundations, that’s really all it seems they do: notice. They say “Aha! Eidon is God! Ha! This is representative of Protestantism versus Catholicism and Islam. I’ve guessed the secret.”
But they don’t see or care to see the analogies to the Christian life. A person has to want to see those things. Has to be ready to see them. But what’s cool is that some of us plant, others water and still others reap the harvest. And I see more and more how God can use these books in the lives of people who may not seem ready. Who read them and are offended, or bored, and yet for some reason feel compelled to read to the end. Even those who didn’t read to the end, who gave up midstream in disgust, even those on some level must have been ready, because they had the opportunity to read the books. So even if they don’t like what they read, and give only a three, or two or one star rating, the fact is those concepts and images and truths have entered their souls.
And, whether they accept or reject them, the Word of God does not go forth void.
That was a very good point, about truth in fantasy I mean. I think that that is why The Lord of the Rings has lasted so long, because Tolkien brought out such rich themes of courage and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. I don’t really like horror movies for similar reasons, not because they are scary, but because most of them have no real point to them. Thanks for the thoughts on this subject.
Tolkien, Lewis… yep.
Keep at it Karen – your points are very well made.
I think the point you brought up is very interesting. All authors are getting at something and it’s not always the plot, though there are some who write solely for the plot. When I read a novel I want to like the story but what I’m really interested in is what is driving the story, what is the underlying message. What does the author hold true, and what are they trying to say with their story. I have recently read a novel by a first time fantasy writer named Patrick Rothfus, Something about the title drew me in, it’s called The Name Of The Wind and the book was very good and beautifully written. He alludes to a mythology that is driving the secrets of the story. The book I read is only book one and doesn’t answer the questions about the deity of the story, Tehlu and his angels. You get a couple of different conflicting stories about the deity from people in the book, then you have the enemy of Tehlu, Encanis, but the enemy driving the book is the Chandrian and this guy who is covered in shadows who leads them and the reader has no idea how these things fit together. So I can’t wait for the next book because I’m very interested in where the author is going. Now if the book turns out to have a very anti-Christ message, I’ll be pretty disappointed. The point is that the message matters, it’s why I read the story. Your stories are wonderful, they are such a beautiful and exciting platform for the truth. You know they changed my life.
I heard a very interesting quote about this very thing.
I regret I could not find the actual quote…I believe it was by C.S. Lewis but am not sure. It goes something like this:
Christian fiction is a back door to the heart when the front door is firmly closed.
I love quality Christian fiction/fantasy because of this.
It opens your eyes to view Truth in a different way…like facets in a diamond. The more ways you look at Christianity(and from different directions), the more interesting and facinating it becomes. Fantasy facilitates this. And as for escaping…I use it to escape too…I just want to make sure I am escaping to the right place. Keep up the good work Karen.
The other morning I was in a yoga class and we were holding our hands as if holding a ball and we were supposed to imagine holding a ball of light…translation for me…a Terstan orb or Kelistar! It made me think of Gods light.
I enjoyed your books very much. And your skill of weaving the truth into the story made it a great read for me. And this was a very interesting blog post. However, this statement caused me a little concern:
Take Avatar, the movie. Great world, but I didn’t like the story at all. I have no interest in returning there because there was no Truth in that story.
There is a truth if one cared to really look for it. But we all see through a glass darkly.
Hey, Steven! Good to hear from you again. Thanks for your gracious comments about my books and even this post. But, of course, I have to ask regarding Avatar… what truth are you referring to?
I am not generally a science fiction/fantasy fan, and I almost didn’t read Arena because of it. I’m so glad I did, however, because I LOVED it. I completely agree with you that fantasy allows an author to communicate truth without getting sidetracked by religious terms that already have connotations (whether positive or negative). Too much Christian fiction seems to leave the Christian part for long, preachy sections of dialogue.
I’m curious if you can recommend other Christian fiction that you think does a good job of communicating truth through the actual story. (Other than classics like C.S. Lewis, that is.)
P.S. I agree about Avatar, too. Beautiful world, but some parts of the movie just struck me as evil (the soul-transferring seance, for example, was very disturbing to me. Yuck!)
Hi Karen! I am a fairly new reader of yours and have read ALL of your books thus far. (Can’t wait to read your newest one!) Because I am a novice poetry/short story writer myself, and have a passionate interest in allegorical Christian fantasy, I absolutely LOVED your books, especially the Light of Eidon series. I first borrowed them from a friend, but enjoyed them so much I just had to buy them for myself. I was intrigued at every turn; mesmerized by your writing style and descriptive imagery, drawn in by the story line, and captured by the tangible and intimate way in which you portrayed Eidon and Tersius as God and Jesus. It was so powerful, and in my opinion, the mix of Christianity and fantasy was perfect, as each lent credibility to the other. Each book was profoundly magical and thought-provoking, often moving me to tears as I was reminded afresh of what Jesus has done for me. I found myself thinking as I read it, “Why haven’t I ever thought of writing a story like this?” 🙂 So, in summary, I just wanted to be a positive voice and encourage you to keep up the wonderful work. Your books are inspiring and God is using you greatly! Blessings to you!
Thanks, so much Sharilyn. I do appreciate your very kind words. They are wonderfully encouraging.
Interesting points, about the difference perspectives from which Christian fantasy can be written. I’ve read certain books where the two aspects jar against each other as you’ve mentioned, and others where they are seemlessly integrated.
I’ve written stories where the Christian Truth is blaringly obvious, which has been attacked by some secular readers, and praised by Christians.
I have also written fiction where I’ve tried weave the Christian Truth throughout the story, as an integral part of it.
Oh, love your comments about Avatar too. Looked great, but the story fell flat.
Bravo! I love your insights. I stumbled upon your site here tonight and now I really want to read your books. I, like you, LOVE the truth. The world is starving for truth and God bless you for bringing it to them through your books. Like you said, maybe they weren’t expecting it, but now its in them and now God can water it and let it grow. You planted the seed they may have never received anywhere else. God bless you.