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49. How Can We ‘Terraform’ the Church to Enjoy Fantastic Fiction?

We can’t expect “chosen one” authors to save Christian-made fiction overnight, so instead, let’s slowly transform our “deserts” into habitable kingdoms.
Fantastical Truth on Jan 26, 2021 · No comments

Christian fans want to build bigger audiences for fantastical stories. Yet how might we help our Christian family and friends share in this happiness? How can we help transform Christian deserts into thriving lands that love excellent fantastical fiction? Here’s a hint: we can’t wait for “the chosen ones” to come along and defeat the darkness and save the land. Instead, we actually need to skip the fantasies and borrow from sci-fi, and commit to the multi-generational project of “terraforming” our churches, families, and Christian subcultures.

Prelude: assumptions

  • This material is inspired by Lorehaven’s last cover story, “Only the Beginning of the Adventure.”
  • Some people think we “really could use” more fantastic stories.
  • Whether these come from Christians or not is immaterial, right?
  • We think differently: to cultivate imaginations better, we need fantastic stories.
  • We need them outside the Church yet we need them inside the Church.
  • They get great results (versus political obsessions). Better: they glorify Jesus.
  • That’s our mission at Lorehaven. It’s why we’re upgrading. New writers, etc.
  • Authors and writer groups supply the what. Much of what we do is the why.

Trope 1: ‘The Chosen One’ saves the land

  • For a new year, and success of Christian-made fantasy, I see two big tropes.
  • This one is The Chosen One. We await special authors who’ll save the land.
  • By “the land” we mean either “Christian lands,” or general popular culture.
  • We say, “If Only we had Chosen One Christians in mainstream popular culture.”
  • If we do get another Chosen One, that person will likely get all the attention.
  • Our more recent Chosen Ones were basically Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, and the Left Behind series authors.
  • Peretti’s novels explored spiritual warfare; readers considered this an Important Topic
  • Note our podcast episode about This Present Darkness, and Peretti’s own 1997 interview
  • The Left Behind authors explored the end times; readers ranked this also an Important Topic
  • Ted Dekker seems to be an outlier, yet his first books were coauthored started with an Important Leader (Bill Bright)
  • They all created fantastic stories, yet got more attention due to their perceived Importance.
  • Yes, we like authors who seem like “chosen ones,” such as Lewis and Tolkien.
  • Lewis and Tolkien, however, were generations in the making; you can’t get new versions of them overnight.
  • Lewis and Tolkien themselves emphasized not great heroes but smaller actions of faithfulness.

Trope 2: We all help ‘terraform’ the Church.

  • Instead of a trope found in fantasy, let’s consider science fiction.
  • Start with a desert world. Few resources. No oxygen. Cold and dark.
  • Then, through science and/or sci-fi “magic,” you start terraforming the place.
  • Land in ships. Build domes. Bring resources from outside. Start slowly.
  • Then eventually, hey-presto! you get a human-friendly world. After centuries.
  • This isn’t the easy way. But I think it’s the only way we have.
  • It’s also more biblical: it matches God’s stewardship mandate in Genesis 1:28.
  • God is the Creator. He gives us the gift of “terraforming” in his name.

Results: better, long-term success for Christian fantastic stories.

  • Christian fantasy 2.0 may be less about Important Topics and more about story.
  • For this purpose, we must slowly change Church perceptions of Importance.
  • Stories are important. On their own. They do teach. Yet they put story first.
  • Practically: be a church member. Try to start a book club. Make “domes”!
  • Get resources from outside, from Lorehaven, Realm Makers, and others.
  • Big one here: Realize you will likely not live to see these stories get popular.
  • That’s not an “our country is doomed” statement. Just an observation.
  • Few artists of niche/pulp heroes lived to see their boom (only Stan Lee).
  • It takes generations to turn around any culture. But we already see results.
  • In the New Heavens and New Earth, real fantastic world, we’ll see even more!

Fantastic fans

Micah Harris, re. Fantastical Truth ep. 48:

I am a big Star Wars fan and I agree with Parker completely. I’ve had the same thoughts on people being morally outraged over make-believe! It was a JOKE! But check this out. True story: I saw a news show highlighting some brave souls who had saved some chickens from a cult! Presumably not from being converted, but being sacrificed. They had established a sanctuary for the chickens and one girl commented on how the chickens could be HAPPY there!!! What’s not a joke is that we live in a society where the well-being of chickens is championed while the aborting of babies, and even leaving one with a disability who has survived an abortion to die, is championed as well. It sounds like something out a Terry Gilliam or Jonathan Swift satire. The unbelievable thing is that this is our world.

Stranger Than Fantastical Fiction

A bill was filed this week in the House of Representatives to create a “Bigfoot Hunting Season” in Oklahoma.

[State Rep. Justin] Humphrey [who filed the legislation] said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with the state wildlife and tourism departments to craft final language for his bill that specifies only the trapping of Bigfoot. He also hopes to secure at least $25,000 that can be used as a bounty for the first person to trap the creature. “A lot of people don’t believe in Bigfoot, but a lot of people do,” Humphrey said. “Just like some people like to go deer hunting, while some don’t.”


Next on Fantastical Truth

Christian fans assume or imagine or think we know the purposes of fiction. Then we face the side-eye from family members, friends, or random internet commentators. “Spiritual” folks may ask: Why read novels instead of the Bible, devotionals, or biography? Casual folks may assume: Why read a novel instead of watching a movie? Academic folks may puzzle: Why read novels with others rather than just take a shortcut to what you want to say? On Fantastical Truth, we’ll start this new series about Fiction’s Chief End, exploring fiction, fantasy, and science fiction, and how the Bible doesn’t just allow but endorses these wonders of human imagination for God’s glory and for our good as humans.

Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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    In the Fantastical Truth podcast from Lorehaven, hosts E. Stephen Burnett and Zackary Russell explore fantastical stories for God's glory and apply their wonders to the real world Jesus calls us to serve.

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