Good fantasy challenges us to think about the world differently. Something about wading through the darkness and uncertainty in a made-up world makes confronting both in our own that much easier. And confront it we shall, for the courage to do so is tucked in the pages of stories like this.
… [Quoting Chesterton] “Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God …”
[In McCarthy’s The Road] Hope is characterized by “quiet confidence,” a quality the man embodies throughout the story. When the novel opens, the two have already set out toward a warmer clime and the sea, not knowing what might lie before them there or anywhere else. They travel for months along burned-out highways, sleeping in woods or abandoned homes. They seem to be alone in the world. Yet, the man promises the boy, “There are people. There are people and we’ll find them. You’ll see.”
In those days, I was restless without a book in my hands, without the hope of some new story around every turn to enliven my deadening senses. Unlike most of my friends, I didn’t want a truck or a job or a scholarship; I wanted a horse and a quest and a buried treasure. But there were no real quests anymore. Not in my town.
Andrew Peterson describes his love of fantasy and science fiction as a kid, how that called him out of himself, and what the Lord did with it in his life.
I looked out her window and saw crabgrass, old trucks, clouds of mosquitoes, and gravel roads, a rural slowth that drawled, “Here’s your life, son. Make do.” But my books said, “Here’s a sword, lad. Get busy.” A persistent fear sizzled in my heart, a fear that there existed no real adventure other than the one on the page, and that I was doomed never to know it.
Peterson’s website, The Rabbit Room, is a wealth of imaginative writing, talking, and singing.
Michael Dirda describes the little-known book he says inspired many great fantasy epics. “Published in 1922, the same year as so many modernist masterpieces, The Worm Ouroboros [by E. R. Eddison] combines elements of Homeric epic, Norse saga, and Jacobean drama, while its opulent style borrows the vocabulary and verve of Elizabethan English.”
Here’s a bit of Eddison’s voice from the book:
Dismal and fearsome to view was this strong place of Carcë, most like to the embodied soul of dreadful night brooding on the waters of that sluggish river: by day a shadow in broad sunshine, the likeness of pitiless violence sitting in the place of power, darkening the desolation of the mournful fen; by night, a blackness more black than night herself.
Kevin DeYoung wrote a post in early August on how he couldn’t understand why Christians would choose to watch Game of Thrones. No amount of awesome cinematography, great dialogue, or storytelling could outweigh the soul-damage done by the graphic violence and exhibitionist nudity. DeYoung followed this post a couple weeks later with a list of reasons he still wasn’t convinced and how he didn’t need to watch the show to know it was something to avoid.
We’ve talked about the show briefly here and not in an entirely negative way. What little I know of the story does appeal to me. The castles, costumes, landscape, dragons, and walkers look amazing. But DeYoung’s points are largely the reasons I don’t want to see it.
I remember seeing a conversation with a couple actresses about how much the show featured female nudity and why couldn’t they expose more men. They were willing to run with that, even mock-campaign for it. Men should have equal access to being full frontal, they said.
DeYoung wrapped up his thoughts like this.
On occasion I’ve stumbled upon a few minutes of PG-13 movies I used to enjoy as a teenager (like the Naked Gun series). I’m appalled by the things that didn’t tweak my conscience then but do now. We are so awash in sensuality that many Christians have no idea how compromised they’ve become. . . . Only in a hyper-sexual, pornographic-saturated culture like ours could we think that graphic sex scenes are no big deal, or somehow offset by a brilliant screenplay.
I’m currently reading Watership Down, correcting a long-held error in judgment. My list of such errors is too long to ever be recorded, but this one will be corrected soon. Today, we learn of the author’s death, which took place Christmas Eve. Richard Adams was 96 years old. His daughter says he had been sick for a while and died peacefully. The BBC reports:
Describing Christmas Eve a “rather a magical night”, she said: “It’s the night that traditionally the animals and birds can talk.
“It was absolutely typical of Dad that he would choose such a night on which to leave this world.”
“Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1914. Tanna Cravens boards an airship bound for a colony in Fairyland… But a magical frontier ruled like the Old South isn’t the best home for a woman ahead of her time.”
Author Eric Slade noticed, like many others, that Britain seems to be the home for great, Earth-bound fantasy. If any wardrobe is going to open into a land of witches, winter, and satyrs, it will be in Hertfordshire or Kent, not in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
“Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Unholy Night(among other titles), is being sued by Hachette Book Group for breach of contract,” reports Locus Online this week. Hachette says they agreed to publish two new books from Grahame-Smith after publishing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 2010, and they did receive one manuscript, but the second one, after some months delay, was, according to The Guardian, “too short and substandard, ‘in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public domain work’ (unnamed, but presumably 1897’s Dracula).”
In which anger, lust, envy and avarice erupt in plumes of smoke and the clothes of the sinful are stained in dark soot. In which London is a city of vice, inhabited only by degenerates, its air polluted not with diesel but with transgression, its sewers running with the soot of sinners.
David Randall gives James Stoddard’s Evenmere trilogy high praise, saying he ought to be famous for them by now. “Stoddard . . . makes a nifty apologia for the fantasy genre, as a necessary mediation that allows us to perceive the divine story through the protective articulation of another level of story.”
Stoddard’s books are good, simply as well-written fantasy. But their theological dimension lends them real depth. The High House is a representation of the universe, its architecture the Divine Architecture. Some parts of the allegory are straightforward: For example, the long, empty corridors between inhabited parts of Evenmere echo the distances of the stars. More subtle is the way meaning emerges from the fabric of Evenmere, in glimpses of the divine amid the prosaic:
The bare corridor continued only a brief time before ending at the base of a wide stair, which ascended to a gallery leading to the left, its end lost in the darkness. The steps were gray marble, and monks were carved upon the balusters, their mouths wide as if in song, their faces all turned toward the top of the stair. (High House)
Patheos Public Square has published an article by me. You can read it here.
It is Christians, after all, who (almost alone in our present age) recognize that “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Our confessions declare that we are not good people but evil people, saved not by our golden deeds and noble aspirations, but by the work of Someone Else. To look into our own hearts, recognize the evil there, and mine that material for dramatic ore ought to be no problem for us. We’ve seen our sin (presumably) and repented it. We are under no further illusions about our essential goodness. When a story calls for a monster, we ought to have plenty of models at hand. We ought to have Legions.
“Most of you probably don’t know this,” he said, “but when I was in high school I had every intention of either going into animation or penciling Batman comics. I’ve always loved illustration, but am a total hack when it comes to drawing (which, thankfully, led to a music career).”
So Peterson isn’t drawing the shows himself, but “I would really love to see the Wingfeather Saga play itself out in a different format that might just get Janner’s story into many more kids’ imaginations.”
One Christmas Eve, a heavy fog covered the earth. From pole to equator, a blanket of cloud laid over everything. Santa stood on the four floor balcony of his Arctic mansion and said, “If I don’t find a piercing light to cut through this fog, I may give naughty children nice presents and nice children the coal.” He could think of only one solution.
Dr. Richard Mouw says the stories of Rudolph and Frosty “aren’t dangerous tales. To be sure, they can function as reinforcements of the commercialization of what should be seen as a holy season. But so can the perfectly orthodox carols that play over the speaker systems at Macy’s.”
These stories can be the type of fantasy that points us to the truth.
Author John C. Wright argues against the ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ camp of science fiction with his own Space Princess camp. One side says we will never find intelligent life on other planets or build our own colonies there. The other side says, not only is there intelligent life out there, but the women are remarkably hot and need to be rescued by noble earthmen.
One side says, “Psionics is just magic wearing a lab coat.” The other side says, “Without psionics, there is no way to speak and understand the space princess when you first meet her. Learning a new space-language without psionic aid involves many long and boring sessions with philologists and translators and grammarians, which is all hogwash and humbug. Space Princesses can read minds just enough so that you can talk to them. That is settled.”
You can see where this is going.
Is this kind of argument having assumed your conclusions really that different from the supposedly serious argument put forward in this Canadian propoganda, which says Science is a political value we must all support?
S. D. Smith’s second book of rabbits with swords is being released on Monday. The Black Star of Kingston promises to be as stirring as The Green Ember, as this review states, “It’s a heroic story, demonstrating what happens when an ordinary individual (Like Fleck the miner) follows his convictions and rises to what can only be called heroism.”
Of The Green Ember, Smith says, “Personified animals make big, dangerous themes easier to digest for younger kids. This story is a bit of a throwback to a time when storytellers were more eager to ennoble virtue, while at the same time it’s just a fun tale.”