Since its publication on March 20 I’ve seen this article everywhere. Maybe you have too. If you haven’t, here it is: The Christian Fantasy by fantasy novelist Lars Walker.
There’s a second reason why fantasy gets no respect. We (here I’m speaking as a fantasy writer) have earned it. I’ll make a confession here. I don’t read much fantasy, and I read almost no Christian fantasy. I’ve been burned too many times. You buy a book, hoping to experience over again the joys great fantasy can provide (for me, the Mines of Moria, the Ride of the Rohirrim, and the resurrection of Aslan provided the greatest moments of joy I’ve ever experienced in literature), and what do you get? Wannabees. Wannabee Tolkiens, wannabee Lewises, wannabee (christened) George R. R. Martins.
This springs (I think) from a basic misconception about fantasy—one that shows how few Tolkien and Lewis fans have learned anything from their role models.
The misconception goes like this—“Fantasy is just made-up stuff. It’s like dreams. Whatever you fantasize is good enough.”
No, no, no, no.
Many Speculative Faith readers would say: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Preach it.
However, Walker has many friends at this particular pulpit, a fact he admitted elsewhere:
This [attention for the column] surprises me, because I was actually a little embarrassed to submit it. I thought the material was fairly self-evident and had already been done by others. Which goes to show, you never know.
With him, let’s explore further.
- Why might some authors want to imitate Lewis and Tolkien? 1
- Should authors even be trying to equal those Inklings in aspirations and scholarship?
- What does motivate many fantasy authors to try picking up keyboard and map-drawing software?
- For what reasons is some Christian fantasy subpar (just as much secular fantasy is equally bad or worse)?
- What is the Biblical purpose of story at all? How would Lewis and Tolkien have answered that question — and how might many modern authors and readers answer it? 2
Or is Christian fantasy really subpar at all? After all, Walker admits:
I don’t know the field as well as I should.
Might he think differently after sampling some of the reader-acclaimed titles available from many indie publishers and listed in the Speculative Faith Library?
Either way, this gives all the more reason to promote a certain conference 3, and to promote other efforts to make this market grow beyond internet splinter groups, niche-marketing 4, and (I dare to suggest this) evangelical-fiction fault-finding.
- Read more at ‘The Next C.S. Lewis’? feature by Rebecca LuElla Miller, and the two-part Beyond Inklings Imitations feature series by A.T. Ross. ↩
- Here’s how I would answer that question: Beauty and Truth 4: The Chief End of Story. ↩
- Realm Makers 2013: An Expanding Vision, Rebecca P. Minor, March 22, 2013. ↩
- Content to Be a Niche, Rebecca LuElla Miller, June 11, 2012. ↩