SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Writer's Room => Kidlit Genres => Topic started by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 07:37 AM

Title: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 07:37 AM
I wasn't sure where to post this topic...it crosses lines...but I was under the impression this was a members only area. Because of the topic and people's strong feelings toward it, I felt it best to post this in a protected area.

I'm curious. I know that some Christian groups object to the use of magic in stories, and some prefer realistic fiction only. Where is the line? What types of magic do you object to? Why? Which books with fantasy/magical elements are okay for you? Which are not? Is any mention of a witch bad? What about fairy tale type witches? Witches who are healers? What about stories with objects that have magic powers? What about "super-hero" stories, where a child might possess powers.
If you'd rather PM me with answers that's fine.

I'm not trying to stir up controversy, I'm curious. I live in a very conservative Christian area, and I guess I'm wondering what is acceptable and what is not.  Many of my stories, and my two mg novels in process contain magical/fantasy elements. I do want to appeal to people who find the "Harry Potter" stories to be "too much." And even some of my more liberal Christian friends are uncomfortable with Potter.

I know answers will vary. This thread is not the place to disagree with people who have strong feelings about magic in stories. This isn't a place to gripe about censorship.  This isn't a place to get into a debate.

But I would like to get some viewpoints on how the more conservative/fundamental Christian groups feel about magic in stories.

Again, PM me if you prefer.

Thank you.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on May 17, 2007, 08:33 AM
Kay,

I don't have a real answer for you, but when the subject comes up I always think it's interesting that most people don't object to elements of magic that are included in fairy tales/folk tales (Merlin/Camelot/Hansel & Gretel) or Greek and Roman myths, (Perseus/Three Hags) which contain lots of the supernatural world. But these times are long past. Perhaps having a modern kid doing magic is more objectionable than having a kid who lived long ago be a wizard?


Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 08:38 AM
Thanks, Elaine. Well I have known people who have objected to Greek mythology being taught in the public schools. And I heard kids around here just say, "I can't read any books about magic."

I'm just trying to figure out the boundaries.  I'm actually trying to stay "out" of trouble for a change. I probably live in one of the more conservative communities in a rather conservative state. I'm trying to be aware and respectful of other's beliefs.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on May 17, 2007, 09:10 AM
I think if you are writing real world stories, there's some trickiness in appealing to a certain niche of the population- on the one hand, some people object to any magic that can be taken as witchcraft, but on the other, there are also people who would be fine with magic in a book, as long as it didn't tread on something they consider holy.  For example, if you're writing secular books, some people are going to be unhappy if you have a secular character doing anything that is considered a miracle in their holy text/belief system, unless you're doing very obvious parallels a la CS Lewis.   Others get fuzzy whenever magic is involed, but in my (very unscientific) analysis of this kind of thing, it seems like people tend to have fewer problems with things that are magical, but don't seem to have much grounding in a wider supernatural framework.  In terms of witchcraft, I think there's a real difference for some people between "witches" who use spells or rituals to enact magic and those who don't.  I can't testify to this for sure, but I feel like Sabrina the Teenaged Witch and Bewitched are probably going to get fewer complaints than the kind of "magic" you see in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  

One very common line I've seen people draw is that magic which exists inside a person (with no outside influence) raises fewer flags than the kind of magic that relies on some external force.  In Buffy, Willow often calls on Hecate/Artemis/Etc, and even if you're dealing with Greek gods, you're going to run into more objections if you have spells/magic that involve appealing to some kind of deity than if the magic is simply THERE and your character can use it.  My instinct also says that you can get away with a lot more in a complete fantasy world than you can in something that purports to be set in this one.

As a writer, I've included a lot of stuff in my fantasy novels that some individuals might object to on religious grounds, but as a Christian, I'm comfortable with having written in, in part because of the balance of how real things seem and what kind of magical rules I'm playing by.  If I'm writing something with the intent of really blurring the lines between fantasy and reality and making it seem like what I'm writing COULD be real, then I try to be cognizant of that fact and how readers might respond.  In GOLDEN, the mystical elements are actually pretty mild- one of the girls can see auras; there's a person who can still other people's powers.  Throughout the series, the powers tend more towards psychic than magical, and when I'm writing something that is supposed to seem real, that's what I prefer.  I don't feel like anyone is going to read Golden and try to use it as a how to manual for seeing auras- the nature of the powers I use sort of precludes that.  

TATTOO was a very different story- as is the sequel.  There's a lot more traditionally "magical" elements- spells, greek gods, an emphasis on certain times of year as points of power, etc. But at the same time, the worldbuilding in Tattoo is such an over the top, fantastical mish mash (let's just say the phrase "evil fairy princess who wants to take over the world" is used... more than once) that I don't think anyone is going to look at the supernatural elements in the book and think, even for a second, that it's a realistic depiction of any kind of actual metaphysical possibility.  There are definitely some belief systems that might share some surface similarities with certain aspects of the magical system I used, but the book is not in ANY way meant as an accurate representation of those beliefs or any other- and I don't think anyone reading it would assume it was.

Anyway, long and babbly, and I'm not sure how helpful it was, but there it is.  
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 09:15 AM
Yes, Jen, actually very helpful...because "you're from around here."

Thank you very much. It gives me a lot to think about, and also points out some other hot buttons I wasn't aware of.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JetGirl on May 17, 2007, 10:34 AM
I am also a Christian who writes fantasy, and I tend to get annoyed with Christians who try to say so much of fantasy is somehow evil.  Most of the people who get hung up on Harry Potter haven't even bothered to read it, in my experience.  Waving magic wands and saying some words and making stuff happen.....suuuuuuure, that sounds believeable.  That happens in real life all the time.   It's so obviously an instruction manual for being a real witch.  ::)

I'm not sure I have ever read a fantasy novel that handled the magic in a way that bothered me.  I am actually a big fan of Buffy.  Sure, Willow was supposedly a witch, but none of that was supposed to be REAL.  It's a fantasy.  There aren't really vampires either.  It's fiction.  It's fun.  (Come on, I mean, Angel got turned into a -puppet- at one point.  Soooo scary and evil.)  To me, the modern books and shows are no different than the old myths, which I also love.  I was raised in a Christian house, and no one ever tried to keep me from reading that stuff.

I do worry sometimes about how some of the people I know will react to the magic in my books.  I always use some form of elemental magic, which could make people more prone to accuse me of putting wiccan stuff in my books.  But I don't.  I don't think people can actually control the elements, so it's fantasy to me.  And most of my friends are Christians and are huge SF and fantasy (and even horror) fans.

Part of me wants to advise you to be careful because I know all too well what kind of crazy notions a lot of Christians have about fantasy.  But on the other hand, we have such great fantasy stories written by Christians--C. S. Lewis (who was already mentioned), Tolkien, Madeline L'Engle, and Stephen Lawhead.  Fantasy is a great escape to a place that doesn't exist.  I don't see the harm in it, and I hesitate to tell anyone to water down what could be a great story, just because they were afraid of offending someone or causing a controversy.  We live in an age of people getting offended about EVERYTHING.  Maybe they all just need to learn to cope.  :D

You never really know what people are going to freak out about, so I don't know if you can truly prepare to avoid it.  My advice?  Just write what you love.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on May 17, 2007, 10:43 AM
Just for the record (because I can't bear the idea of anyone thinking I don't like Buffy), it's my all-time favorite show.  And oddly enough, I know plenty of people who are "against" Harry Potter, but who enjoyed Buffy and Charmed- which just goes to show that as much as I try to make sense of what it is that might alienate potential readers, sometimes, I just can't see the pattern. 

One thing that sort of gave me pause about Buffy, though, was how they explicitly identified Willow as Wiccan- I think they were trying to give her powers some "real life" grounding, but in the world they built, that wasn't entirely necessary- and it's not like they ACCURATELY portrayed Wicca (insofar as I've been able to tell), which makes me wonder why they bothered with the label at all.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on May 17, 2007, 11:20 AM
I too was raised in a very traditional Christian home -- except that my parents, especially my dad, believed that books were the basis of expanding our minds.  So they encouraged me to read anything and everything -- and they talked with me about any books that were 'questionable.'

But when I was teaching in a 'Christian' school, I had a parent object to THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE because of the witch in the title.  She'd never read it and had no idea that C.S. Lewis was a Christian (yeah, you can bet I listened to her opinions about things!).  I had friends growing up who wouldn't read fairy tales (I still have a couple friends like that) -- but I would say, overall, it's what Jen said:  Any mention of witches or spells or anything that can be associated with 'evil' will turn such Christians off.  No one on my mom's side of the family will read Harry POtter -- they're all convinced there's evil in the books.  ::)

I write lots of fantasy (okay, only fantasy), but I do steer away from anything dealing with spirits and the afterlife and such -- more because I generally don't write dark things (and often those are more aligned with darker, edgier stories) than because I'm worried about offending anyone (like my own family).  One thing that even my parents objected to was Ouji boards and anything having to do with demons or possession.  They no longer worry about that (nor do I), but that's also not something I would write about...personally.

however, I read Jengt's book, which deals with possession, and I liked it.  So when it's done well...:)

Your books are so witty and wry, Kay, I can't imagine anyone complaining...but then, who would've thunk they'd complain about Lewis?
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 11:38 AM
I guess there is such variation, there is no way of knowing. I just thought maybe there were "guidelines." I reckon not. : )

But this is a very interesting conversation.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AooH on May 17, 2007, 12:11 PM
Here's another Christian fantasy writer who loves Buffy, Angel, and Supernatural...

If there are concerns about what people are going to think of magic in your books, Kay, always remember you can't please all of the people all of the time. (Heck, sometimes you can't please any of the people any of the time.)  There are so many different beliefs, from denomination to denomination, and often times within a single church.  If you have convictions against magic, live by them, but if you don't, then don't worry about it.  It is easier to not talk about these things with certain people, though.  (which is why I use a pen-name...)

I use magic in my books- two kinds. One is an inborn ability- basically it's like supernatural appendages.  The other tends to be God or demon derived.
I tend to focus more on the first type of magic, and when I use the second type it usually augments the first- the person has an ability, and then is worked through by the Deity or demon to further a greater purpose.  I almost never use incantational magic- it just never made sense to me that saying words in a certain way or in a certain language can make anything happen. (Sorry Sam and Dean...  the Latin- meh.)
Either way, though, it's fantasy. It isn't real.
I do have relatives in the other camp though.  They are honestly afraid that magic in books can somehow teach kids to use magic.  They don't understand the difference between the pretend magic in most fantasy novels and the real magic the Bible condemns, which is rooted in rebellion.
I don't care how many times my kids say the magic words in the Harry Potter books, they aren't going to be able to fly a broom, make light come out of the end of a stick, or cause something pain by saying Crucio, because it isn't really magic.  And the kids know it isn't real, too.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JetGirl on May 17, 2007, 12:21 PM
Exactly, AooH.  You are spot-on with what I was saying.  :)  I totally agree.

Alas, if only fantasy worlds could be real....then there would be a -real- Spike *swoon*.....but I digress.......:D
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ohmylorelei on May 17, 2007, 01:07 PM
Wow, this is not something I've ever thought of... coming from a Jewish background.  I can't think of anything more full of magic than the Judeo-Christian tradition. Dybbuks and Angels and Heaven and Hell and Purgatory.  Golems and Kabbalah. Words that shift around magically to reveal powers and so much superstition.  Icons and Virgin Birth and reincarnation and posession and... and... and...

I guess I don't understand the problem.  But I'm glad you posted this here. I want to think about it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RJ_Anderson on May 17, 2007, 01:17 PM
This seems to be my day for linking to old essays... I wrote a two-part series about why I as a Christian have no problem with the HP books on my blog, here (http://rjanderson.blogspot.com/2003_04_01_rjanderson_archive.html#92021057) and here (http://rjanderson.blogspot.com/2003_04_01_rjanderson_archive.html#92169218).

I feel uncomfortable with magic or extraordinary powers which are presented as something anyone can learn, which call on gods, demons or spirits, or depend on sacrifices and rituals; I don't feel uncomfortable with magic which comes from within the user, like a super-ability that you're either born with or you aren't and which can be called on at a moment's notice. The former seems to me much too similar to the kind of magic condemned in the Bible; whereas the latter is pure fantasy.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Alison on May 17, 2007, 01:33 PM
My guess is that this board is probably not going to give you the cross-section of responses you'd need for this question, because it's a board mainly populated by writers who, Christian or not, tend to be very thoughtful, open to imagination, and passionate about fiction, and generally don't have as many issues with those things!

I also think there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I don't even know what people in my own church would think, even my friends. One woman in my church (also a children's writer & SCBWI member) just told me recently, "Oh, I was just thinking of your son the other day because we are reading Harry Potter and he looks so much like Harry!" But when I once told a different friend at church (a community theater actress and occasional writer herself) that people always said my son looked like Harry Potter, she got a look of horror on her face and said, "Oh no!" Most people I know seem okay with Narnia, but for some people I think it's just because C.S. Lewis was grandfathered in... If it came out now they probably wouldn't all like it.

I think there are Christians at all points of the spectrum, but for those who really have trouble with the concepts of magic and fantasy, then they won't accept it however mildly you present it. For some, the amount of acceptable magic will always be none, but those people probably aren't reading a lot of fiction books anyway, or if they are they are mainly reading classics or books that come from Christian presses. For instance, I know a lot of people who homeschool to ensure that their kids will get a good education, but I also know some people (the minority) who homeschool seemingly because they are terrified of their children having any influence from the outside world. But those people probably wouldn't even buy your yak book without checking it out first!

I will admit that I was leery myself when HP first came out & I heard all the buzz about a book concerning a school of witchcraft. I had no plans to read it & wasn't thrilled with that subject. Then one Christmas, we were at my SIL's house and her then-teenagers enthusiastically suggested I read it. We were there a few days without much else to do, so I agreed to try the first book, and ended up liking it so much I read books 1 & 2 while we were there, then rushed out to buy book 3 (the newest at that time) as soon as I got home! Most positive Christian commentary I've read about HP focuses on the fact that the magic in it (other than the Divination class) is largely practical, almost like a mathematical formula, rather than dealing with summoning spirits or demons or anything like that.

I'm sure many people I know wouldn't watch Buffy, but two people I know who love Buffy are my ex-boyfriend, who is a Lutheran pastor, and my brother, who was once the president of Baptist Student Ministries at Baylor! (But he also likes South Park, so I don't suspect he's representative...)

For myself, I'm more open in my reading choices, but I wouldn't personally write about vampires or demons or especially things like summoning the spirit world (especially having had some bad experiences in those areas in my pre-Christian days!), but I've got some silly magic in things I've written--like a girl getting a magical wishing object and suddenly being transported somewhere else. I know some Christians would even be uncomfortable with that, though, and I am sure I couldn't get it published in a Christian magazine. I think most mainstream Christian publications and publishers stick to the conservative side to avoid offending anyone, though they are certainly not all equally conservative. You just can't please everyone, though.

We recently saw Meet the Robinsons, a G-rated movie with no bad words in it, and afterwards I was reading reviews on some Christian sites. Most were positive, but then a few parents commented on the sites that they were horrified the site had recommended a movie where kids displayed bad attitudes, or said "Stupid" or fought with each other, and one family had actually walked out in disgust! I can only assume that family doesn't watch a lot of movies or read a lot of books!

I also think a lot of people are inconsistent in these areas. They may reject HP for being about witchcraft, but not think twice about magical elements in a favorite kids' movie or TV show. So I don't know of any "rules," but you might see if you can find a Christian publisher's writer's guidelines about magical elements, if any publisher has such guidelines, because I'm sure they'd give you an idea what is commonly expected or acceptable.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Frezedriedelvis on May 17, 2007, 01:52 PM
I've having issues with this topic too.  I'm writing a PB that has a couple of witches in it.  I had someone critique it for me and she thinks that some terms I use in the MS: coven, sabbath, demons, and the other word for 'the underworld' (as in the place, not the expletive) are potentially offensive or inappropriate.  I've written out everything but coven.  A group of witches is a coven, it just is.  Having one witch ask another if she can join her 'witch club' just sounds lame.  Being an atheist myself, I have a hard time telling what people will be upset by, because nothing really bothers me.  I'm also a natural antagonist, so censoring myself is an exercise in frustration.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Joni on May 17, 2007, 01:56 PM
I had a parent object to THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE because of the witch in the title.  She'd never read it and had no idea that C.S. Lewis was a Christian

I have a niece and nephew at a very conservative Christian school. In my experience with that, and any other "objections" I have EVER heard on religious grounds, the objector has never once actually read the book. They're going on often-faulty, knee-jerk assumptions.

You know what happens when you assume. The Christian objection to a very obviously Christian analogy is a perfect example. I'd feel a lot better about this kind of "parental concern" if those I knew who have showed it actually bothered to read, or even flip through, the books.

I would not give this issue time of mind. It's not just that the answer literally varies from person to person, as the responses here illustrate. Unlike an objection to violence, sexuality, drug glorification, etc., you can't anticipate or write for or revise for irrationality. And I'm with ohmylorelei -- anyone who has actually read the Bible (or Torah) and other documents of the J/C tradition knows that the tradition itself is full of supernatural elements FAR beyond "God is in charge of good miracles and magic is demonic and never the twain shall intermingle or be wielded by humans."
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JetGirl on May 17, 2007, 02:01 PM
Alison--that was a great answer.  And I had to reply to you because your sig has my favorite quote!  :)

I would definitely draw the line at any real conjuring or demons or possession.  That kind of stuff gives me the willies!  But having said that, I did watch Constantine (okay, part of it I only listened to and stared at the floor :) ) and I have been watching the Dresden files....but those aren't things I'd let children watch.

I think part of the issue here may not be that the adult Christians are so paranoid, at least in some cases.  They might be willing to read/watch some things that they consider taboo for their kids.  There is something to be said for sheltering kids at first as you try to give them a sense of what is morally right, and give them a context for all of this fantasy stuff so that they understand what it is and what it's not when they start watching or reading it themselves.  So some of it may just be concern about exposing kids to stuff they may not yet be prepared to place in the proper perspective.

But some of those people -are- just plain overreacting.....:)

And yes, people should do themselves a favor as parents and actually -read- or -watch- the stuff they are concerned about and then evaluate it instead of arbitrarily telling their kid it's bad!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 02:36 PM
Thanks guys. This is a good conversation. I'd try to make myself more clear, but I can't really, without going into things that I'd rather not share in a public forum. As a children's book writer who visits area schools, I'm trying really hard not to "step" in something.

I realize I can't please everyone, but I was just wondering if there was some consensus, some line...so my stories would be accessible to children whose parents might object to a lot of young fantasy currently out there.

Based on the responses here and on personal experience, I guess there is no "one" answer. But several of you have pointed out areas I wouldn't have thought of. And most importantly you have shown me the reasoning behind why you feel the way you do.

I'm really not trying to pick on anyone or single anyone out, so if anyone does have strong feelings about magic in stories..I'd love to hear from you. I'm not judgemental, just curious, and trying to understand the viewpoints of others.


There is obviously a strong Christian influence in my sons' school.  One son came home with a mother's day  project covered in stickers --- crosses, fish, and other Christian symbols. Christian books are read and Christian music played in the classroom. Teachers share Christian testimony. This is a public school, although, I've heard other schools in the district aren't this way. But then it's very common for me to walk into a retail store and hear Christian music playing in the background. Our city newspaper includes a daily prayer on the front page.

I'm writing all this very tenatively in fear of being misunderstood. And no, I'm not complaining about the school, they treat my children well, but it's been an adjustment.

I'm not writing for the Christian market, I'm writing for the mainstream market, but I'd like to write secular fantasy that is acceptable to the more conservative Christian. I do not want to alienate that part of the population...so I was wondering if there were any rules.

But looks like there ain't no rules. :)

And I probably made NO sense. :)

Allison, great suggestions about checking the guidelines.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 02:46 PM
Again, I didn't open this topic so people could say that people who object to magic are wrong or irrational or whatever...I'm trying to understand who objects to what and why...and would really love to hear from people who do have concerns about magic in books.

Some of you might think I should just ask the people here. Hey, I come from the rival football team state....that makes me suspect enough...I can't go around asking questions too. :)

I thank all of you who have stayed on topic and told me that you are Christian and what elements of fantasy you do and do not have a problem with.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 03:11 PM
Ohmy, I agree that the Judeo-Christian tradition is full of magic, which is one reason I don't understand some objections either, but I'm trying to.

For the record, I am a Christian, but from a denomination which is not well known in my current neck of the woods. When people ask me what church I go to and I tell them, the usual response is "What's that?" or "Never heard of it." I'm nothing radical. Just a Lutheran. :)

And ohhhhhhhhh, I hope I'm not going to regret starting this thread. :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on May 17, 2007, 03:22 PM
Pickles, I think this thread is fine.  In fact, I find it interesting to read it and see the kinds of responses you're getting.

Another observation I wanted to make is that there's a big difference between what I'll read and what I'll write.  I'll read anything, but there are certain things I won't write about.  Sometimes, for me, it's just a matter of terminology.  I wouldn't feel comfortable using the word "demon" in something- though I might make up a species of evil supernatural creature and just call it something else.  Likewise, although I enjoy adult books like "An Angel for Emily," I've tried and decided I didn't feel comfortable with trying to write about fictional angels- though I have no corresponding problems with, for instance, cupids or the Grim Reaper. 

Anyway, I'm really glad you started this topic.  It's a good thing to discuss, and I think it's interesting, no matter what perspective you're coming from.  I also think that this board is such a respectful place, that even though people might bristle at anything that's even in the ballpark of censorship, we can still talk about things like this in a very respectful way. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Donna on May 17, 2007, 03:29 PM
Pickles,

I PM'd you.   :yup

Joy,
Donna
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: luckydog on May 17, 2007, 03:34 PM
Hi Kay,

Have to weigh in here - as a librarian and believer. People challenge books in our library for all sorts of reasons - some I consider valid, others I don't. Each time I have to recognize that the other person does feel there is validity to their challenge. If I feel they are misinformed, I try to inform them. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. We have actually taken books off the shelves when we felt the complaint was valid. BTW, we never had a "valid" complaint on a book concerning magic, only on ones with sex. (Our school is Catholic, PK-8th).

I think what you're going to have to decide is whether you are comfortable with what you are writing. Do you glorify elements in your books that would encourage children to pursue unhealthy/dangerous habits? If you can answer questions like that to your own satisfaction, then you can't be too concerned about the local climate. There will always be someone, somewhere who might find an objection to your writing.

There may also be a time when you lose a customer/school visit because of something you write, but everyone who puts a story down on paper (magical elements or not) runs that risk. Objections are highly personal. Let me give you one example.

A lady wrote a book that put Jesus and Santa Claus as contemporaries, children who grew up together. She explained Christmas, and the associated Christmas traditions, as a result of Santa Claus deciding to give Jesus a birthday party. She contacted me and wanted to make a presentation in our library. She couldn't understand my objection to the mixing of what our school's professed faith holds as fact with the myth that is Santa Claus (albeit a myth based in fact). We had to agree to disagree. She lost a market in this case, but she believes in her book and continues to find other outlets to market it.

Sorry for the long ramble. In the end, be true to your writing :)

Donna
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AooH on May 17, 2007, 04:20 PM
I think a big distinction between magic and miracle is that magic is man-initiated, whereas miracles are God-initiated.  God has to first give man the power to do these things, or do them Himself (The works of Jesus and the apostles- miracles performed by God and man) to be considered a miracle and not magic. 
Magic as we think of it today, however, often brings with it a sense of illusion, which Christians feel is deceit, and since deceit does not come from God, in whom there is not untruth, it cannot be good. There are also counterfeit miracles, such as Pharaoh's priests used when facing Moses- God's power was shown to be higher than theirs. (And we see counterfeit miracles on TV everyday, sigh.)   Other magic tries to delve into secrets God has not granted man to know- summoning spirits of the dead, and trying to read the future without being given a true vision or prophecy from God Himself.  These are absolutely considered sin, and are spoken against in the Law and in the New Testament.
Most of the magic I see in kids' fantasy novels is none of these above, however there are still, and always will be, objections.  A lot of people are very, very practical minded, and the distinctions I've mentioned above don't occur to them- magic is simply magic.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AnnH on May 17, 2007, 04:48 PM
... A lot of people are very, very practical minded, and the distinctions I've mentioned above don't occur to them- magic is simply magic.

 

That's  me!   :D

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on May 17, 2007, 05:08 PM
Another interesting distinction is the line between the supernatural and magic.  There are plenty of things that are supernatural, but aren't really magical.  Most people don't consider, for instance, unicorns to be evil, even though they're considered fantastical.  I also think that if you try to give something a science fictiony spin at all, people are less likely to have a problem with the supernatural.  For example, while some people might balk at someone who has supernatural powers that imply a mystical root, they might be less likely to object to someone who has super powers in the comic book sense of the word.  So something like HEROES, where the characters have tons of powers that also appear in tons of other fantasy works, might not be objectionable even to people who are against all "magic," because it's got an X-men thing going on- the powers are the direct result of genetic mutations.  So even though people are doing things that seem very magical, there's no magic in the show.  Same goes for super heroes like spider man, who get their powers as the result of exposure to radiation or something like that.  You can do almost anything, but if it doesn't actually have a mystical basis (no matter how "magical" aspects might seem), then you might not run into as many naysayers.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: 1846 on May 17, 2007, 06:11 PM
Here's another twist.  A number of years ago, there was a very controversial situation in a nearby school district when a first grade teacher drew the ire of parents for her decision to use the book Witches by Roal Dahl fora read aloud.  Many of the same arguments were raised at the time, about witchcraft and magic.  There is, however, yet another element to that story which also drew criticism.  The little boy in the story is transformed into a mouse at then end, and a mouse he remains.  (True, in the movie he was changed back into a boy, but not in the book.)  There were some complaints that this magical species demotion of a human character was an offensive twist.

This was an instance where I thought the complaints were correct, but for the wrong reasons.  I'm not a big fan of Roald Dahl to begin with, and I felt that Witches started out a delightful story but that went flat very quickly.  (Which is what I think of most of Dahl's books.)  It seemed to me that the teacher's claims that her students enjoyed and understood the story was a difficult sell.  I just don't feel this book was appropriate for first graders.  Unfortunately, the age appropriateness of the material got lost in the censorship issue.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AnnH on May 17, 2007, 07:54 PM
Are witches always connected with satanism?  I've read about wiccans, who I understood to be people who thought they were witches (or wannabes anyway), and there was no mention of satanism.

I remember reading about fairies and magic etc. as a kid and certainly understanding that it was all "just pretend."
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 08:07 PM
No, I don't think witches are connected with Satanism. Although, there are those who will say anything that is NOT Christian, IS Satanic. As I understand Wicca is a pagan, Earth religion that does not recongize the Christian concept of Satan.

I'm sure somebody around here knows more about it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 08:34 PM
It gets sticky. All depends on your definition of Satanism. So some people would say "yes," and some would say "no."

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AooH on May 17, 2007, 09:55 PM
Yeah, that is a yes and no issue.  The usual Christian theological view is that anything not Christian (and some things that claim to be Christian) are actually "satanic." However, satanic doesn't mean that it carries the whole Marilyn Manson thing with it, or that it even recognizes Satan at all. It simply means that it isn't aligned with Christianity.  So wiccans would usually say they absolutely are NOT satanists/satanic and will often say they don't even believe in Satan, and certainly wouldn't serve him if they did.  They look to the old gods and goddesses of different cultural groups- Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse very often.  Satanists, oth, often make it a point to try to break the Mosaic Laws in defiance of God, more than to align themselves with Satan, though it all boils down to the same thing (and are generally nerdy, lonely teens who chicken out of all the rituals before they actually get them going.  Yeah, guess who my friends were in HS.)
Anyway, it all depends on which side of the window you are standing on.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 17, 2007, 10:09 PM
I thought this link explained things well

http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_sata.htm
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pam on May 17, 2007, 10:31 PM
Here's what the Bible has to say about it (witches/sorcery):

"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord..."Deuteronomy 16:22 (This is a tenet of Jewish law).

"The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual imimorality, impurity and dabauchery, idolatry and witchcraft;  hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage...) Gal 5:19-20a


There are more scripture references, but this is where the thinking comes from--as a Christian, I would never practice witchcraft/sorcery but I do write fantasy. Those worlds are different from my own and use a power from an imaginary source.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cia on May 17, 2007, 10:41 PM
Thanks for that site, Kay. It looks like a good resource.

I've actually run into problems once or twice in critique groups where very conservative Christian members obviously had a bias against work that included anything that hinted at "magic." (I have a short article on that very subject coming up in a future issue of Once Upon a Time, as a matter of fact.) It's difficult to please everybody.

Hope this made sense. It's late...and I should really be in bed! :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Joni on May 18, 2007, 12:50 AM
Thanks for the chapter and verse, Pam, that was useful.

I didn't mean to imply earlier that anybody who had issues with magic/fantasy elements was necessarily irrational -- just that it was irrational to object to something based on assumptions and labels and hearsay without checking out the content itself (as in the C.S. Lewis example).

Which leads to, I think, one additional layer of complexity in this issue:

For example, the Harry Potter books are a true good vs. evil story, and I find them to be quite moral. 

To me, theme and allegory and other "deep content" seem more important than the "trappings" of a story. Many, many stories boil down to good against evil, and in our culture, at least, good almost always wins. The "how we tell it" part that makes every story unique -- whether it's a contemporary story or historical fiction or science fiction -- or fantasy -- seems less important than the book's underlying messages about the human condition. This is the part that seems sometimes overlooked whenever issues of "objections" to books (or other media) are raised. A forests/trees conunudrum...?

If the theme is moral, can the trappings be anything but moral? Is there an ends justifying means, or vice versa, issue? Would a book with a pessimistic or nihilistic theme or message be okay as long as it didn't use magic (or sex or fill in the blank) to tell that story? Hmm.

I guess one thing I'm asking is -- would magic be acceptable (to those who might otherwise take issue) in a story where only the bad guys had magic, and they lost in the end anyway? Or can magic be God-given, and if so does it have to be explicitly attributed to be okay? Or is it the depiction of magic at all that's the problem? (Or "different people, different answers" on all this, too?)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 18, 2007, 04:52 AM
--as a Christian, I would never practice witchcraft/sorcery but I do write fantasy. Those worlds are different from my own and use a power from an imaginary source.

Good. This makes perfect sense of it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 18, 2007, 05:00 AM
Joni,

It's okay...I just wanted people to feel comfortable speaking up here. I really wanted to know and understand.

I live in a community which is at least 70% (probably more like 90%) conservative Christian, I don't want to step on toes, and I want my writing to appeal to these children. I was hoping there was some simple set of "rules," but I see not. :)  Even though I'm not quite the right religion and definitely not the right football team, I've found that my published author status bridges the gap...and well I don't want to screw that up. :)

But this is a fascinating discussion, and I've learned enough to keep me out of a few poo piles I might have inadvertently stepped into.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 18, 2007, 07:34 AM
Joni, you brought up some great questions.

Donna, excellent point.

This has been a great conversation. Okay, so I'm glad I brought it up, afterall. :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AooH on May 18, 2007, 09:08 AM

*I guess one thing I'm asking is -- would magic be acceptable (to those who might otherwise take issue) in a story where only the bad guys had magic, and they lost in the end anyway? Or can magic be God-given, and if so does it have to be explicitly attributed to be okay? Or is it the depiction of magic at all that's the problem?

Probably depends on how it is handled, but I have a feeling there would be those who would still object.  I do know Christians who will not even read/let their kids read Tolkien and Lewis, even knowing they were Christians themselves and the stories are based on a basically Christian worldview. In Lewis, the only magic users are the bad guys- the kids never use magic that I can think of, and Aslan being a picture of Christ, what he does is miraculous, not magical. In Tolkien's writing  it is very clear from the Silmarillion that Gandalf and the other wizards are actually  angelic-type helpers rather than men who have studied the arcane- none of the other MCs use magic in the trilogy, except for Frodo who uses the ring, but actually he's more being used by it (an elegant picture of sin and addictions) .
I think some of it can boil down to taste, too.  Not everyone enjoys fantasy *gasp*.  Sometimes it is easy to look at something we don't like, and then find reasons why it's bad, and not second check those reasons, as they have served us well.  I do this, I know, with other things, though I do try very hard to not do that.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Stef on May 18, 2007, 09:17 AM
Pickles, I pm'ed you, too.  Good post, Aooh.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: cdb on May 18, 2007, 09:45 AM


          This is interesting, but it basically boils down to your audience. Who do you want your audience to be? Are you afraid that you will "turn" people off if you write about something they don't want to read? At first, I thought, perhaps, this would 'open up a can or worms', but the conversation is benign, yet does it prove anything or change what you want to write? Writing what you love is the best advice I've heard because no matter how good this conversation is on this board, it won't change the public's perception and you are guaranteed to offend some people by including references of witches, magic, etc.
    The converse is true, also. For instance, I have written a lovely picture book dealing with death that makes reference to an afterlife and in the writing  community alone I have been warned to be very careful who I sub it to because of the Christian slant it contains. I posted this story some time ago on the SCBWI exchange and much to my surprise, I received many personal messages through email from people who had opinions, one way or the other. One person even mentioned on the board that that particular aspect was "off putting" to him. Basically, my feeling is, that's ok. I can't please all and don't desire to try. I write what is in my heart to write, some people will like it, others won't. I certainly don't like everything I read.

Hope my ramblings haven't gone too far off topic.

Carole
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AnnH on May 18, 2007, 09:53 AM
I wonder if MacBeth is banned from some high schools?  Not only does it have a lot of gore, but there are those three witches.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RJ_Anderson on May 18, 2007, 10:14 AM
I agree heartily with cdb -- no matter what you write or how you write it, there are going to be some people who are dissatisfied, perhaps even offended. Sure, you can try to avoid giving offense by writing only about Mom and baseball and apple pie, but then some people will dislike your book because they had bad Moms or once got hit by a baseball or are allergic to apples. :)

As a Christian who is part of a quite conservative congregation, I've heard friends and acquaintances speak disparagingly about Harry Potter, certain Disney movies, and other stories containing magical and fantastical elements; I also know numerous people who prefer their children not to read any books that weren't published by a select group of "Christian" publishers. Those particular people will very likely not understand how I can write fantasy with a clear conscience, and frankly I hope they won't try to read any of my books because they will most likely just be confused and upset by them. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if some atheist or agnostic readers (certainly not all, but perhaps a few) are irritated by the spiritual elements in my writing. So I really don't think there's any way to avoid stepping on somebody's toes. The question I tend to ask myself is not "Will this offend somebody?" but rather, "Will this give any needless offense?"
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 18, 2007, 11:00 AM
I realize I can't please all the people, I'm trying to offend the least number possible. And I thought there was some consensus...but I see there is not.

Also, when I speak of "community," I'm not speaking for my whole city or state, but basically the five mile radius in which I hang out.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: cdb on May 18, 2007, 11:26 AM


          Just another thought on a personal note.

         As Christians, my husband and I, raised our first son from a much stricter posture than our second son who was eight years younger. Part of that had to do with our personal growth as Christians. For instance, I probably would not have allowed my oldest to read Harry Potter because of certain emphasis I was placing on particular teachings and how I was processing that at that time. With my second son, I would have been in a "different" place in my walk, so I would have probably read it to him. (I speak in past tense because the oldest is now 31 and HP wasn't around then)...anyway, my point is, even Christians grow and change and see things depending on "where they are in their walk".  I personally, would not want to cause a 'brother" to stumble, but I've learned that I am not a 'mind reader' nor do I know "how" others will perceive what I write. I know my intent, but can't always second guess the impact. I guess I'm just trying to say that some people who may not like what you write today, may be a fan tomorrow. And you're right, there is no consensus, there are just perspectives.

Carole
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RebeccaL-G on May 18, 2007, 07:54 PM
Interesting topic, Pickles.
I'm married to a Baptist minister and studied for the ministry myself before ultimately deciding to take up teaching instead.  My experience has been that views on the subject vary from person to person and within specific denominations.  My daughter and I are huge Harry Potter fans & have volunteered at our local bookstore to help with the last two book releases and I can't begin to tell you how many people have expressed shock (and some outrage) that we would be "involved in such things."  Of course, I'm a writer and a reading teacher, so I'm a big supporter of a reader's right to choose and am not afraid to speak up about my views. 

My daughter became interested in HP when book 4 was released to so much publicity and kids were shown on the news lined up outside the bookstore in town waiting for the book.  There was a good deal of controversy when #4 came out about Christianity and the book.  My daughter came to me and asked about the book and what I thought--did I think it would be okay to read or did I think it was a bad book?  I told her that was a decision she could make for herself.  We talked about the fact that she had chosen herself to have certain beliefs and those beliefs would act as her own moral compass allowing her to determine for herself if something was in opposition to her faith & if so she could just put it down and stop reading.  We drove down to the book store the next day and she browsed through the books and decided to try one.  She choose to start with book one.  That evening when she went to bed and left it on the coffee table who do you think stayed up until 3am reading it?  I was so hooked!

For me, I don't find the generic idea of witches or magic in literature offensive--it's fiction!  I know alot of people however, who find any mention of the word "witch" to be questionable.  I once had a puzzle rejected by a well-known kid's magazine that had bought several previous puzzles from me because it made reference to the word witch in the punchline once you solved the puzzle (totally dumb and corny line--nothing questionable).  I got back a note that said they "don't accept anything dealing with witchcraft." 

For me one of the dividers between what is acceptable and not (for me personally) is probably genre & purpose.  I have no problem reading fictional pieces, especially fantasy and fairy tales, where I would expect to read about witches, fairies and magic, as long as it's not dark or disturbing.  I have started some fantasy books and put them down soon after as I found them too dark in theme for me.  I would not be interested in reading non-fiction works about the actual practice of witchcraft, paganism or the occult or fictional stories where the characters practice these beliefs.  I don't have a problem with these titles being on the shelf--I just wouldn't choose to read them. 
Rebecca
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 18, 2007, 08:02 PM
Cool perspective, Rebecca.

The word "witch" is on my first page - the scrotum effect.  My mc is raised by a witch, but the witches in my story are more healers or herbalists who dabble in a bit of folk magic. The witch describes herself as a "healer" and a "magic woman."
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: MandyT on May 28, 2007, 10:22 PM
I'm not a big fan of Roald Dahl to begin with, and I felt that Witches started out a delightful story but that went flat very quickly.  (Which is what I think of most of Dahl's books.)  It seemed to me that the teacher's claims that her students enjoyed and understood the story was a difficult sell.  I just don't feel this book was appropriate for first graders.  Unfortunately, the age appropriateness of the material got lost in the censorship issue.


I would have to disagree... I am a lifelong Roald Dahl fan.  I have been reading his books since the first grade, and my open little mind was even more swept away by them then.  This may sound not believable, but I promise, I was reading fluently well before I started Kindergarten.  I adored Dahl's books, and understood them perfectly.  Witches gave me those scared/thrilled/enthralled shivers every time I read it.  I completely respect your opinion, but what I'm getting at is, I think age appropriateness can be just as relative an opinion as what should be censored or not.  Which could start a whole other thread. haha...  :) 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lenzi on May 29, 2007, 09:53 AM
I work in a Christian bookstore, and there are quite a few fantasy books for sale there that have magical elements. For instance, The Door Within kids' series by Wayne Thomas Batson (a conservative Christian relative who doesn't like HP bought this for my daughter) is about a boy who travels between worlds via three ancient scrolls. There are magical creatures, magical foods, and magical objects with various powers, and evil forces.

We also offer books that instruct people on how to drive out demons or how to harness certain powers through prayers or fasting or speaking in unknown languages. Also for sale are magical talismans (necklaces of the saints worn for protection) and magic bread and juice (communion sets). We sell magic oil for annointing purposes, and most popular are the many versions of our most expensive book, an ancient collection of magical stories and rituals that remains one of the best sellers to this very day.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on May 29, 2007, 01:41 PM
"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord..."Deuteronomy 16:22 (This is a tenet of Jewish law).

So for those who mentioned this as an objection, what is your position on ghost stories? 

My forthcoming novel features a young, church-going woman who uses folk magic to banish a ghost who's been haunting her family for generations.  I was prepared for objections to the folk magic (or "witchcraft," as some may read it)... but it never ocurred to me that people might be troubled by the ghost!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: 1846 on May 29, 2007, 02:53 PM
IThis may sound not believable, but I promise, I was reading fluently well before I started Kindergarten.

Oh, it's totally believable to me.  I was reading at that age, too, and in second grade I discovered my dad's college music history text books in the bookcase and started reading them, beginning a lifelong interest in that subject.  Many kids that age can be excellent readers and should be challenged on much higher levels.


I adored Dahl's books, and understood them perfectly.  Witches gave me those scared/thrilled/enthralled shivers every time I read it.  I completely respect your opinion, but what I'm getting at is, I think age appropriateness can be just as relative an opinion as what should be censored or not.  Which could start a whole other thread. haha...  :) 

I agree that there are children who could easiy read and understand this book at the first grade level.  But this teacher was using it as a read aloud for the whole class, and that's where I take exception to the choice.  I think the humor is far too sophisticated and the story far too complex for the average first grade student.  I would say the same thing about Charlotte's Web for general use at that age.  Certainly the exceptional, or even the merely above average student at that age could handle the book, but I don't like the idea of such a challenging work being used for everyone.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Alison on May 29, 2007, 04:24 PM
So for those who mentioned this as an objection, what is your position on ghost stories? 

My forthcoming novel features a young, church-going woman who uses folk magic to banish a ghost who's been haunting her family for generations.  I was prepared for objections to the folk magic (or "witchcraft," as some may read it)... but it never ocurred to me that people might be troubled by the ghost!

I don't mind ghost stories, but I know some people who would. If one believes that after death, people live eternally in Heaven (or somewhere hotter...), then it's hard to figure out how ghosts would fit in. Maybe the Catholic view of Purgatory would allow for ghosts? However, in the Bible, the disciples originally think Jesus is a ghost when they see him walking on the water, and he says (in Luke 24:39): "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." So Jesus didn't deny the existence of ghosts--he just said he wasn't one! Odd. But a lot of Christians might be leery of ghost stories, since they either don't fit into their theology, or might be seen as evil spirits.

And Lenzi, I take it you work in a Catholic or otherwise high-church-friendly bookstore, because I suspect many people in Pickles' neck of the woods, who don't even know what a Lutheran church is (?!), would be just as upset by saint necklaces as by Harry Potter. Most "low churches" (Baptist, charismatic, or general evangelical) don't do saints or even really sacraments--the communion is generally seen as strictly symbolic in many of those traditions. (Also, you may think of it as all being magic, but if Pickles truly wants to make her work palatable to the people around her, she needs to keep their definitions of magic in mind, and they obviously don't think of it that way. Although I tend to think that any Christians who seem stymied by Lutheranism when Martin Luther was one of the most famous Christians in history are probably not going to be thinking too subtly about these issues.)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 29, 2007, 05:52 PM
Errrrr...it's feeling sticky in here. :)

Well said Alison. And also well said, Lenzi. I see what you're saying.

Being Catholic is not really a good thing in my hood. And Lutheranism is a bit too close to Catholicism for some people's comfort.  I have been quizzed more than once, in what I percieved as a suspicious way, as to how close to a Catholic I am. Yes Lutherans are "high" church and by that I mean, we are liturgical and our services are full of formal ritual. Our pastor wears a robe and collar. I moved from an area that was largely Catholic and Lutheran to one which is....not.

I've lived in a similar setting before in a different state, but I don't think it bothered me as much because that was "home." Back then, I was asked if Lutherans were a "cult." But I had family and friends around and I didn't feel like a foreigner. I was raised Methodist, and became Lutheran as an adult when I moved to a military town. There tends to be more diversity in military towns.

Basically, for those who are lost in this conversation, some Christians do not consider Catholics to be Christian. And that's as far as I'm going to go.

There is also a misconception that Lutherans worship Martin Luther.  The name "Lutherans" was a derogatory term used during the Protestant Reformation and it just stuck.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: MandyT on May 29, 2007, 08:21 PM
I agree that there are children who could easiy read and understand this book at the first grade level.  But this teacher was using it as a read aloud for the whole class, and that's where I take exception to the choice.  I think the humor is far too sophisticated and the story far too complex for the average first grade student.  I would say the same thing about Charlotte's Web for general use at that age.  Certainly the exceptional, or even the merely above average student at that age could handle the book, but I don't like the idea of such a challenging work being used for everyone.

I can definitely see your point there.  Trying to remember books that were read aloud in my own first grade classroom I can remember choices more along the lines of "Little House in the Big Woods"- which are of interest to children of all ability levels, and not too sophisticated for "average" six year olds.  It is important that in a classroom setting no child is made to feel "stupid".  I should have thought more deeply about that before posting.  I guess we all have our "me" blinders on sometimes! : :hug1: <---- "blinders" lol
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lenzi on May 29, 2007, 10:38 PM
And Lenzi, I take it you work in a Catholic or otherwise high-church-friendly bookstore, because I suspect many people in Pickles' neck of the woods, who don't even know what a Lutheran church is (?!), would be just as upset by saint necklaces as by Harry Potter.

Our largest section of books (aside from Bibles and fiction) is "Charismatic Interest," but we do have Catholic items and books as well. It's a diverse area, and we get a diverse group of Christians who shop there. But I imagine the selection is the same everywhere--it's a national chain, "Family Christian Stores"....

Someone quoted a verse in Deuteronomy (I think that verse may be in chapter 18, not 16?), but divination was done in Israel. And condoned in the Bible. Jacob used magic to prosper. Moses used it big time. Gideon used divination. Jonathon and his armor bearer interpreted an omen. It was "good" magic. "Bad" magic was the kind that was condemned--malicious or illegal (done outside of the priests' or kings' authority.) I'd argue that good magic is still being done in modern Christianity (and that Christianity itself is a very magical thing), we just prefer not to call it that nowadays, for some reason. It's kind of odd (and obviously very interesting to me--sorry for the tangent  :) )


Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Donna on May 30, 2007, 07:02 AM
I work in a Christian bookstore, and there are quite a few fantasy books for sale there that have magical elements. For instance, The Door Within kids' series by Wayne Thomas Batson (a conservative Christian relative who doesn't like HP bought this for my daughter) is about a boy who travels between worlds via three ancient scrolls. There are magical creatures, magical foods, and magical objects with various powers, and evil forces.

We also offer books that instruct people on how to drive out demons or how to harness certain powers through prayers or fasting or speaking in unknown languages. Also for sale are magical talismans (necklaces of the saints worn for protection) and magic bread and juice (communion sets). We sell magic oil for annointing purposes, and most popular are the many versions of our most expensive book, an ancient collection of magical stories and rituals that remains one of the best sellers to this very day.


There is a difference in "magic" and the Power of God. Hands down. One is true Power --- "magic" is imitation. Kind of like the slogan, "I can't believe it's not Butter". It looks very similar -- but it still isn't the "REAL" thing. :)  (probably not the best analogy, but it'll have to work for now)  For example:  Moses' staff was changed to a snake by the Power of God -- not magic -- and it swallowed up the snakes created by the Pharoah's magicians.

I am a follower of Christ (who still can't grasp the enormity of His sacrifice and Love for me -- but I'm thankful!) I KNOW that my prayers are answered by God -- NOT magic. If I speak tongues, have a prayer language, participate in communion, pray for the sick, have faith that moves mountains (I'm still praying for that kind of faith!) and speak with all knowledge -- but if I don't have LOVE (God's love) -- then none of it matters. (based on the Love Chapter from I Corinthians).  That's why I've been hesitant to post much to this topic. I don't want to say anything that is not said "in love". I do, however, disagree with calling the Word of God a "magic" book and the miracles contained there as such --and so I've said my peace. :)   :girl

One more thing -- I don't know anything about "talismans", but I do wear a cross. NOT for protection (The Lord is my protection) but as a personal reminder of what Christ did for me.

Just my two cents. . .So, forgive me for staying off topic, too.   O0

Hugs,
Donna  :hug1:
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Stef on May 30, 2007, 08:28 AM
I do, however, disagree with calling the Word of God a "magic" book and the miracles contained there as such

I agree with Donna.  If God's word, the Bible, was *really* only a magic book, there would be a whole heck of a lot more people trying to tap into Jesus, the free power source.  Anyone here is welcome to give His power a whirl.  Works for me.   :yup     
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lenzi on May 30, 2007, 09:10 AM
Using the word "magic" to talk about the power of god is not a put down or an incorrect use of the word. This Wikipedia article may shed a little light on the term when used to discuss religion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_and_religion
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Donna on May 30, 2007, 09:20 AM
That depends on your acceptance of the author's definition and understanding of history and biblical truths.

Yes, I read the article. I still don't agree.

But that is what this discussion is about, yes? The original question was to find how folks feel about magic and fantasy elements. I think we've given plenty of points to ponder.

Peace,
Donna
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lenzi on May 30, 2007, 09:27 AM
True.  :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 30, 2007, 02:55 PM
Lenzi, I understand what you're saying.

I appreciate everyone's input, including those who have PMed and I haven't responded to yet....getting there.

This conversation has helped me shape my stories as well as the role my faith plays in them. I do consider my writing ability a gift from God, and do not wish to dishonor Him in the way that I use it. I would like my stories to be accessible to as many children as possible. I wanted to avoid any obvious mine fields.

When I was asked if Epiphany was a Jewish custom, I realized I had moved into foreign territory. I've done a lot of examining of my own beliefs and customs, because I'm often caught in "duh?" spots .
when people ask.

I realize this has been a sticky topic, and I appreciate everyone's help.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on May 30, 2007, 03:08 PM
It is fascinating, isn't it?  But it certainly reminds me of why I write 'straight' fantasy (in other worlds) rather than trying to deal with all this :)  I have too many relatives on all sides of the fence to not insult someone (sigh).  but I've loved reading and pondering everything here!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 30, 2007, 06:07 PM
We attended a Ukrainian Orthodox Church when we lived in Florida. And my husband first became interested in Eastern Orthodox when he lived in OKC about 18 years ago. Yep, and I had people ask me if the Orthodox were Christians. Nice to hear from you Lee. We should talk. :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: 1846 on May 31, 2007, 10:33 AM
About 25 years ago, my parents and I became involved with a small but growing fundamentalist congretation that became more and more controlling of what it's members should read, think, etc.  Of course the usual prohibitions against magical references in literature and entertainment choices were in place.  Secular holidays such as Halloween and even New Year's Eve were replaced with Halelujah parties.  Children's literature prohibitions of course included fairy tales, the works of Judy Blume, and extended even to Cricket Magazine.  Wearing glasses, not speaking in tongues, and reading the wrong materials were all signs of lack of faith.  It became a very scary, cultlike experience.  At one point my family as well as several others abruptly pulled away.  I am now very wary of those who would transfer their own rules onto others in matters where there is no explicit scriptural insturction.  One's faith walk is a very personal thing, and the committments one makes to it are individual and personal.  If a person feels they dishonor their faith by reading Harry Potter, then so be it, but they can not make that decision for others.  I have strong objections to anyone attempting to redefine Christianity in an exclusionary way that sets themselves apart from the mainstream and defines faith in the terms of their own narrow perspective.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on May 31, 2007, 02:03 PM
Interesting.

I find that objections to magic seem to cross denominational lines.  And that even denominational lines are fuzzy.

It's been very enlightening and interesting to get so many different perspectives on this issue.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on June 02, 2007, 06:23 PM
Wow...wow. Just wow. I don't know anything about this at all. I figure if people don't want to read my books then they won't. And probably many people won't. (grin)
But what really made me chime in may be more tangental than you like, Kay! My apologies if that's true. You already know what I'm like from other boards! (hee-hee)
1846, they really thought WEARING GLASSES was a sign of lack of faith?! I wouldn't know where the light was coming from if I ever DID see the light (which looks rather unlikely) if I didn't have mine on! I have about a six-inch range of vision without them! Good grief. That, in my opinion, is going way too far. It's boggling my mind!
And back on topic...I like the idea of magic. My mother, a former nun, knew a woman who was apparently a "white witch," or Wiccan. They seemed to get along pretty well. (grin) I'm not Christian. I doubt I ever will be, BUT I have no objection to other people going that route. My favorite quote on this matter is "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Nothing like good old Rush. (grin) So I figure as far as books are concerned, I choose to write mine my way. And other people can choose to pick on me or whatever. The worst that'll happen is I might take it too personally and start crying or something. (grin)
Kay, do your thing. And if all else fails...move to another state! (hee-hee) Kidding, I'm kidding...

AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on June 02, 2007, 07:13 PM
Hi Amy.....

I'm not trying to please my neighbors.....it's more general than that....having moved into a different cultural climate I'm more aware of differences.

Tired...not making sense....

Yes...I'll be in another state by the time I have another book come out.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on June 02, 2007, 07:15 PM
The original question or at least the intent of it was:

If you object to magic/fantasy in children's lit on a religious basis, what do you base this on? where do you draw the line?

As I've said before this has helped me define my own parameters better.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: olmue on June 02, 2007, 11:37 PM
Interesting.

I find that objections to magic seem to cross denominational lines.  And that even denominational lines are fuzzy.

Yes. Dress your children as the Gryffindor Quidditch team for Halloween and bring them to a B&N story hour trick or treat in South Carolina. Watch people of various churches back away slowly, whispering to each other about the satantism in Harry Potter. Bring your same kids in the same costumes to a church-sponsored trunk or treat a few hours later. See four separate families dressed up in Harry Potter themes. All of these people are Christians. Scratch your head and wonder at the very, very different ways the human mind can intepret the same exact thing.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on June 04, 2007, 08:41 PM
LOL!

Yep.

I think that story nails it for sure.

Well, okay so there's no "formula" here, but it's helped me understand my own position better.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: gretchenlaskas on June 06, 2007, 06:35 AM
Pickles,

I'm another who grew up in a fundamentalist household, and I can say with some certainty that there are no rules.  My parents wouldn't let us watch THE FACTS OF LIFE because of the title but our pastor's children could watch THE LOVE BOAT.  Books have weird individual standards like that too.  Both C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle have been routinely derided in certain circles, despite being both Christian and thoughtful.  There will ALWAYS be someone who objects, not because of something that you do in particular, but because they have based their life on being "objective."

The good news is, given that you live in a conservative Christian community, you might be surprised how many people will support you should anything ever come to pass.  And ten bucks says you won't be able to guarantee who those people will be right now!

Good luck,
Gretchen
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on June 06, 2007, 08:01 AM
Thanks Gretchen.

Well, I probably won't be living here when and if the books come out. They are still in progress, and we will be moving again in two years, probably. But living here has given me insight into other beliefs, and I wanted to reach these kids without offending them. But I see...there are no rules, not even vague, generally fuzzy ones.

But I appreciate everyone's input.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on June 06, 2007, 06:31 PM
I'll admit that my little neck of the woods is unique for a variety of reasons, and it's not representative of the greater city or even other parts of the state. It has its own personality just like other sections of the city.

I had mentioned this before, and thanks Lee for bringing it up.  When I refer to my community, I'm not talking about the entire city or state.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: HB on June 10, 2007, 07:50 AM
Ok, so this is a little off topic for Pickles' purposes but for anyone else reading this thread wondering what types of religious landmines they might accidentally stumble across here goes:

Martial arts and yoga are considered innappropriate for Christians in some circles because they originally came out of Eastern religions. I have a character who does yoga in one of my stories. I guess she wouldn't go over well in Pickles' community. And my kickboxing video makes me a sinner.  :devil:

You also can't escape trouble by writing non-fiction. And I don't just mean writing about evolution. I was doing research for an article on caves I wrote a few years ago. Turns out stalagtites cause big controversy. Can't have 100,000 year old pointy rocks on a 6000 year old planet. Same issues with the Grand Canyon.

But like others have said on this thread, no matter what you write, you're going to tick someone off, so all you can do is write the stories that are in your heart.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: W. L. Decker on June 10, 2007, 08:48 AM
Lenzi, I understand what you're saying.

I appreciate everyone's input, including those who have PMed and I haven't responded to yet....getting there.

This conversation has helped me shape my stories as well as the role my faith plays in them. I do consider my writing ability a gift from God, and do not wish to dishonor Him in the way that I use it. I would like my stories to be accessible to as many children as possible. I wanted to avoid any obvious mine fields.

When I was asked if Epiphany was a Jewish custom, I realized I had moved into foreign territory. I've done a lot of examining of my own beliefs and customs, because I'm often caught in "duh?" spots .
when people ask.

I realize this has been a sticky topic, and I appreciate everyone's help.

Well, here's my 2 cents, (laugh) and I wasn't even going to offer that much, but I couldn't resist. After writing for the Christian Booksellers's Association I found out that I could not please them enough. After writing for the ABA I found that my book was not acceptable to them as well. In the end, I realize I wrote that book for God, for my daughter, for me, and for any child who's parents will allow them to read it -- some Christian, some not. It's controversial within both groups which I find laughable. It's such a simple story, I just don't understand why it could cause such an uproar in certain circles. For instance, I shared the book with an online Lyme Disease community because one of the main characters has Lyme Disease and was misdiagnosed as having ADHD. This DOES happen. I've researched it, I also have Lyme. But because the thread throughout the book was also about a little girl who had to learn her bible verse or she wouldn't be allowed to sing (her favorite thing to do) at her church cantata people were offended. Because, the book contained the Bible verse. In laymen's terms the bible verse really says, "Treat others the way you'd want to be treated, the way God would want you to" which I would think any parent would want their child to learn. No matter what God they serve. But, to my amazement a simple, silly, sweet, informational, fiction book caused me more problems to get published and read. But those who finally read it saw it was no threat to any religion.

So in essence, write what you want to write for the reasons you need to write it or NOT. ;D
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on June 10, 2007, 10:24 AM
We love the Harry Potter series in our home, but my husb's bro & wife decided against them for their family, although they sent us the Focus on the Family CDs of the Narnia series and ADORE the Shrek series. And my dearest Christian friend that I have in town loves the Narnia series and Lord of Rings, but had a problem with Harry Potter (which she & her husb. couldn't bring themselves to read).

So, Pickles, I would say there ARE basic rules for fantasy that is accepted the majority. MOST Christians don't have any problem (as pointed out earlier) with fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, or Jack and the Beanstalk, or Cinderella or the Wizard of Oz, not to mention the Narnia series. If you make transform things and people by magic (like a pumpkin and mice into a coach and coachmen), or take people to magical places like the Munchkinland and Oz, you're in familiar fairy tale territory.

There are two major controversies with Harry Potter. One is that Harry Potter challenges/defies authority, which is a topic I'm not going to pursue in this thread. The other is that Harry Potter and his peers are being taught witchcraft. Even though people understand that the witchcraft is make-believe, they don't like the premise that it's ACCEPTABLE to be taught a form of witchcraft.

The reason for this is that the Bible forbids witchcraft and sorcery.

IMHO this is intended to keep people away from (1) hocus-pocus idiocy to exploit the gullible, much like so-called psychics making a quick buck today (2) mind-altering substances or drugs and (3) any kind of paranormal activity linked to demons or evil. In Harry Potter, the witchcraft is useful and not intended to exploit the gullible; people don't get high on drugs; students are taught DEFENSE against the dark arts (evil). So, in my view, the magic taught in Hogwarts is NOT at all like the sorcery that is condemned in the Bible. 

King Saul was severely punished for seeing a witch to conjure up the dead prophet Samuel for his advice. Conjuring a dead spirit was wucjed, but KEEP IN MIND, that when Jesus conversed with Elijah and Moses (what we call the Transfiguration) that this supernatural event was considered blessed and divine.

I take a lot of inspiration from Madeleine L'Engle as in the book "Madeleine L'Engel: Herself". She loves that the Bible mentions unicorns and sea monsters, and records visions of fantastical creatures like dragons and winged creatures. So she puts them into her stories. She has offended some people for being too religious and others for her treatment of fantasy. But since the Bible is full of stories of the supernatural (not just angels and demons), why shouldn't we write about them?   
 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Melissa on June 10, 2007, 12:58 PM
No, I don't think witches are connected with Satanism. Although, there are those who will say anything that is NOT Christian, IS Satanic. As I understand Wicca is a pagan, Earth religion that does not recongize the Christian concept of Satan.

I'm sure somebody around here knows more about it.


Just reading thru this thread--interesting discussion, btw--and realized no one replied to the Wiccan remark.  Wicca is NOT at all like Satanism.  I have a number of Wiccan friends *pauses* actually, most of my closest friends are some variety of pagan (as am I).   The best way I can explain Wicca is that it feels a bit like some of the Eastern faiths--think Taoism's peacefulness and acceptance, think Hinduism's sense of karma, and actually, think New Testament Christianity's statement of not judging.  Wicca is very accepting, peace-based, & life affirming.  It doesn't uphold a specific gender or class over others. It strives for respectful interaction with the earth and all the earth's inhabitants.

The persona of Satan has iconographic similarities with the Horned Man (whose iconography along with some Greco-Roman images like Pan & Satyrs, arguably, were imported into Satan's pictoral representation by early artists).   But iconography and creed are far apart.  Wicca is not all akin to Satanism. Satanism--which is a relatively "new" religion all things considered--is about selfish ideals.  Wicca (and most so-called pagan faiths) are old and about as polar opposite of Satanism as it can get.

 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on June 10, 2007, 04:42 PM
YOGA is bad? Ai-yi-yi. That's insane. I mean, to me, that's insane. Of course I wouldn't want to offend anyone. (hee-hee)
And Melisssa--great definition. You go, girl! (grin)
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: KristyO on June 11, 2007, 06:08 AM
Pickles -

I've heard it explained that having the good guys do magic is not okay - while having the bad guys do magic is more acceptable.   Apparently one of the big objections to HP is that the non-magical people in the first book are portrayed as bad.  I actually heard someone say that the books were about an ungrateful child who was taken in by an aunt and uncle who tried to protect him from becoming involved in witchcraft.  Think they read the book?  :) 

Kristy
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: mswatkins on June 11, 2007, 07:14 AM
This is an interesting topic, seeing as I enjoy fantasy and am a Christian as well. 

Personally I  don't care.  It's a book, it's a story, but some folks are a bit nutso about it.  Harry Potter is the big one right now and has been for a while.  Many conservative Christians don't like it becaue it's openly displaying witchcraft and the Bible speaks strongly against this.  People brewing things for bringing back the dead (or spirits, actually), or cursing each other to death or unbearable pain...  It seems to scare a lot of folks who believe it's making witchcraft too appealing to children, who may want to try it.

Then you have the fantasy series Chronicles of Narnia, where Aslan is God, or a God like being, and Christians love this  fantasy series.  It's in Christian bookstores all over the country.  This has loads of magic in it, all performed by Aslan himself.

Go figure.  I just ignore them and write and read what I want. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on June 11, 2007, 09:32 AM
Pickles, I'm coming late to this, but I'll share some scattered thoughts.

First, for context, I'm a believing, active Christian, raised (baptized and confirmed) Lutheran (LCA) (waves hello), involved with InterVarsity, a fairly conservative college group, attended an American Baptist Church for a few years, then Episcopal, and now I'm Roman Catholic. I don't believe in not reading books because of content, or advising others to do so, but I understand where some very conservative folks are coming from.

I love well-written fantasy. One of the many reasons I love fantasy is that it often takes me out of this world to see things in a different light. Some of my favorite fantasy gives me a glimpse of heaven, or more like a feeling of it. LOTR and Narnia would be high on that list. In Lewis' nonfiction, he talks about this - that the Christian story is like your favorite story, except it's true. The 3rd LOTR movie inserted an extra scene, where Gandalf is talking to Pippin, telling him about the far country, and I think it fits with the underlying premise, tone, feeling, of the books. They have an underlying world-view that is consistent with Christianity.

That's one of the things I look for, the worldview. Pullman's trilogy does not have this. In fact, he's openly antagonistic to Christianity, and even though I love the books in some ways, and let my then-9-yo read them (and we discussed them), they just make me spitting mad to read, so I don't re-read them, as I normally would a favorite book.

Books that are set in this world are much more problematic when it comes to dealing with fantasy/Christianity. Harry Potter skirts the issue entirely. Christmas is there, but it's entirely secular. I'm okay with that. But really HP has an underlying worldview that is consistent with Christianity, which is why MOST Christians are fine with them. There is good and evil. People have to decide which side they're on. There is Truth. HP is in no way a relativistic - i.e., current secular thinking - book; she sets her worldview as being opposed to Voldemort's (which is straight out of Nietzsche, where he says something in Book 1 like  - there is no good or evil, only power and those who aren't afraid to use it). The "witchcraft" in HP bothers me not one whit; it doesn't even feel like witchcraft. In the context of the book, it certainly is not evil or anywhere allied with that; it is simply a tool.

I get bugged when a fantasy that is set in this world, or partly so, references Christianity in a dismissive way (or worse). Pullman's among the worst. Susan Cooper's series is mostly fine with me, but in one place she mentions a priest who is clueless about the real powers in this world, or something like that. Fly By Night, which I like very much for various reasons, is also, in places, dismissive of faith in general (I started a thread on that if you want to see more of my thoughts there). Even A Wrinkle in Time, which I love for lots of reasons - and I like other stuff by L'Engle, irritates me a bit because at one point she places Jesus as equivalent to other thinkers.

One recent book that I think handles this whole question very well is Wizard Heir by Cinda Chima. She has all kinds of magic elements, wizards, etc. placed in this world. She mostly sidesteps the religion question, but she does a couple of things I like. She mentions religion 4 times (I think). She mentions that the mc, Seph attended mass with his foster mother growing up (who is seen as a good person). The foster mother is devout, but won't let the priest do an exorcism when things happen around Seph that are, um, strange.  It mentions the mc finding comfort in Latin masses. It has a brief exchange between 2 characters, where it states clearly that the whole wizard thing is NOT a religion, and it's compatible with Catholocism or other religions. And at the very end, it mentions the mc and others attending Christmas Mass. So she just very subtlely injects a neutral to positive view of religion and makes it clear that the magic in the book isn't religion, and is not a substitute for it. Simple.

On a different note, I agree with Jen that there are all kinds of stuff I would read, but not necessarily that I would write. I think as writers we have to tell the truth. That's a tricky statement. How do you write a book set in this world, that involves fantasy elements, which by their nature deal with the nature of reality, truth, things not seen, etc. and not deal with religion? If you're a person of faith, that is. I love, love, love HP, but I don't think I could refer to Christmas in a completely secular way, because that's denying truth. On the other hand, I'm not trying to write a Christian fantasy.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jan Fields on June 12, 2007, 09:03 AM
Forgive me for wandering further afield with this discussion, but I find Pullman's whole approach to religion to be fascinating. Most people who object to Christianity don't actually have a problem with God (other than to think God isn't real and the notion of a supreme being is silly) -- for most, the objection to Christianity has to do with the behavior of those professing to be Christians. So, the problem is inherently in people -- to most. Many times it boils down to abuse of power and that a lot of power in the hands of people is inherently dangerous.

Pullman, on the other hand, doesn't have a problem with power or even people holding power -- he actually has a problem with the whole concept of God. Pullman's work reflects a view that the construct of God or Higher Power is inherently evil and dangerous. So the problem isn't people, it's God. That means he doesn't JUST dislike Christianity, but would have a similar feeling about any diety based religion. He mostly uses Christianity as the metaphor because he knows more about it than he does...say Islam or any other diety based religion.  Pullman doesn't appear to have a problem with the existance of the supernatural, as long as it's in service to humans, which he appears to see as equal (albeit different) than any supernatural creatures because the power of humans is in will.

Anyway...that really has nothing to do with how Christians feel about fantasy, since Pullman would turn purple and pop a vein to be called a Christian...but I just wanted to say it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on June 12, 2007, 11:29 AM
Kristy O. - The objection to H.P. b/c of its "bad" portrayal of muggles who tried to keep him from witchcraft is a new one on me. I think good characters CAN use magic, but they generally use it for the benefit of others, e.g. Glinda the Good Witch of Oz and the Fairy Godmother of Cinderella. Bad characters tend to use magic for their own selfish ends.

Melissa - I know zip about Wicca; thanks for enlightening me.

I admit there's several other things on this thread I'm not acquainted with. I've never watched Charmed or Buffy; never read Pullman's trilogy (yet). I read the first few pages and realized it was going to be a long journey, so I haven't started. Bear in mind that I struggled to finish Inkheart! Right now I'm in the middle of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Airborn by K. Oppel is next on my list.

Cynthia - you asked how do you write a book about fantasy elements in this world and deal/not deal with the religious aspects of it? Good question and one I've thought a lot about too. Remember, unless you are strictly dealing with paranormal entities that you believe are real and active in-this-world (e.g. angels), you are actually creating a parallel world. This is a world that is looks like our real one except that it also includes your special magical entities and powers. So you can decide the things that would still be significant in your parallel world. The Green Knowe series I read and loved as a child, set in England, has the M.C., for example, going to Christmas mass and seeing the statue St. Christopher come to life to attend it. That scene fit in seamlessly with the world that L.M. Boston created, and I think that's the key. Whatever religious and spiritual elements you add should fit your world and fit the characters. I haven't read the book you mentioned, Wizard Heir, but I'm intrigued.

I like what you had to say about a world view. I know what you mean. Because I attended the recent SCBWI conference in New England with Bruce Coville as speaker, I read several Coville books. The ending for his "Nina Tanleven" ghost mystery trilogy, The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed concerns a ghost, a gifted painter, who is tormented from his memories of WWI. When he is reunited with his loved ones, he is at last able to add the scenes of a "place of peace" to complete his mural of mainly bloody battle scenes. The book then goes on to end as follows:

Wiping away my tears, I watched with joy as he led Phoebe and Alida to the place of peace he had finally been able to create. As the artist and his daughers stepped into the painting, the colors began to fade. Within moments the vision of peace had disappeared, gone with [the soldier-ghost] Cornelius and his daughters.
But I know it's there, waiting beyond the battle.
The place of peace.
Over there.

That ending brought me goosebumps. This book tapped into my own world view about a place of peace after death, and uplifted me. That gave me something to strive for in my own writing.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Krystal on June 13, 2007, 12:28 AM
I agree with Donna's eloquent response posted on page two of this thread.

I must admit, this topic prompted me to consider my own WIP that has anthropomorphic characters that some find off-putting because of the element of fantasy. As I began to wonder if I was being displeasing to God, he blessed me with no less than half a dozen signs, letting me know that I should continue with this story, which is about to undergo its final revision!

Kisses and wishes,  :-*

Krystal
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: DerekJ on June 13, 2007, 01:11 AM
On most of the Fundamentalist objections to Oz and Harry Potter, there's an amusing scene in the (surprisingly balanced) documentary "H*ll House"--
Where otherwise rather reasonable local Bible-Belt volunteers trying to create the annual Fundamentalist church-based "Halloween warning" haunted-houses for the local teens every October want to write in a scene about "Teens lured into Satanism through role-playing fantasy games like Magic: the Gathering"
There's just one slight problem--One of the two people has never heard of it, and doesn't know how to spell it:   "So, is it 'Magic', and then 'The Gathering'?"..."No, it's one title, 'Magic', colon, 'The Gathering', that's the name."

I always pick that scene as a perfect illustration of how church complaints against high-profile fantasy aren't always as ingenuous as they look--
The strictest "franchise" churches are always careful to enforce being "separate" from pop culture by portraying pop-culture as Evil...Mainly, among other reasons, that members won't venture out into the wider world and see that it's not as bad a place as it looks and that it probably won't blow up tomorrow.
So, the highest-profile targets always singled out are mass-marketed names that parents wouldn't know but their kids might hear at school--And parents are given the warnings about the "lurking evil" deceptive and alluring franchises such as Disney, Pokemon, Harry Potter, hit movies, or even the Internet might possess   :devil: , and why it's better to keep your kids on nice, approved VeggieTales.
Never anything as detailed as Donna's post, of course, but one push in the right direction, and a hundred followers who now take this dictum seriously assume there must be some detailed, carefully thought-out reason for it...After all, why wouldn't there be?

(Had a friend of my parents visiting one time, who was thoroughly versed on the Fundamentalist line, and confessed she had no idea what happened in the HP books, but, well, they were doing magic!--
When I explained that in the story, it was just a matter of birth, and that wizards were wizards and muggles were muggles, her response was pretty much "...Oh." as the idea had never occurred to her, but still didn't rush to look up the story anyway.)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on June 13, 2007, 03:21 PM
Oh man, Derek, that Satan-is-a-roleplayer thing always gets me. My husband is a total gamer geek. Every Thursday he does role-playing. It's just his thing. I've been married to him for ten years and I'm pretty convinced at this point that the man is NOT evil. (grin) Wierd, yes, but in our house that's a compliment! Actually, gaming probably helps him understand the fantasy I write.
And hazelnut, I couldn't finish Inkheart either. It had a cool premise and truly awesome cover art but it just couldn't pull me in. So it's not just you or anything. (grin)
Sorry about going all tangental...
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on June 13, 2007, 04:31 PM
Lee, I'm not Catholic but your priest sounds way cool. (grin!)
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on June 14, 2007, 10:08 AM
Lee, ditto what Amy said.

I love what you said - we were revolutionary to get here, but now . . . [no defying authority allowed].

That is SO-O-O true.

Any human authority who will not subject themselves to true accountability or being questioned is not worthy of being a leader. Trustworthy people know they are fallible and subject to getting things wrong and appreciate feedback, incl. other viewpoints.

Small wonder than some of the religious leaders who seal their flocks off from any kind of other influence start to act mentally disturbed - like David Koresh, Jim Jones, and others.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: lizlane on June 15, 2007, 11:13 AM
"You say you want a revolution? Well, we all want to change the world." 

But Jesus actually did.  Not only was he the first religious critic and dissenter, but even the way we measure time changed because of Him.  Controversy followed Jesus like the plague did rats.  If you are Christian, I would suggest you're not fully Christian until you accept Jesus' call to social activism.  He instructs us to care for the poor and afflicted.  He calls us to stand against all forms of abuse and declare to world what is good and right based on two simple tenets.  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  We are to be salt and light to the world.  And thanks to the T.V. show "How Clean is Your House," I've learned that salt is an effective, non-toxic abrasive.

If you are persecuted because you took a stand, then count yourself as blessed.  I wrote my book in response to the Christian community's condemnation of Harry Potter.  I read the first book.  I didn't become a fan (gasp!).  I wanted to do a better job.  J.K. wanted to entertain.  She crafted a story that successfully did that, capturing the imagination of children.  Yet it made me sick to think that kids were going to be raised without the benefit of the magical.  God instilled the magical into the human heart.  That's why sunrises and sunsets still cause people to pause.  Nothing in our world is material.  It's all supernatural.  The problem with Wiccans is that they worship the creation versus the Creator.  But their hearts are drawn to the inherent beauty God crafted into the design.

For those of you who have fallen in love, is there a more magical time? I would propose that love is the original magic, in all it's many forms.  God gave the human mind imagination that we might contemplate life on higher levels, that we might grasp truths of the Creator we couldn't otherwise acheive without asking the question, "What if?"

Even today's world is born of that very question.  "What if there is life on other plantets?"  That question led to the technological revolution that has resulted in the world we know today.  Newton asked "What if?" So did Pasteur, Plato and Einstein.  If they hadn't we wouldn't have democracy or milk that stays fresh.  I'm suggesting that we as humans participate in the magic of the Creator every time our "What if" questions results in the creation of something new.

To get caught up in the trap, blaming myths and the archetypal figures in fairy tale for the invitation to sin is one of the most ludicrous perversions Satan ever achieved.  We are called by Christ to think independently, outside the given box, outside the confines of other men.  To isolate our children from any source that would challenge them to entertain the "What if" question is a great disservice to society and creates exactly the sheep-like mentality needed for an "Anti-Christ" to seize control and lead people blindly into destruction.  Or some politician from Texas.

Write what you wish.  Write what you must!  Where would we be if Luther hadn't picked up his pen, some nails and a hammer?  Oh yeah.  Stuck in the Dark Ages.  History is always written by the victor.  I learned that in school.  But that was when we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day and opened our day with prayer. 

Some Christian factions love to cry "Persecution!"  Others will live it.  And if God wills, I'm sure I'm going to take some heat for my manuscript but I live to please Him, not others.  Long live FAIRYTALES!

The Dragon will be slain in the end and we all will live happily ever after!

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on June 15, 2007, 05:52 PM
Well, my own falling in love was rather awkward, actually. I think that's why I write romance in so much of my stuff. I want to tell a better story than mine! Or at least a more graceful one. (grin)
But your point is well taken!
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: lizlane on June 17, 2007, 01:12 PM
If you only knew how many toads I had to kiss! :dr  Sometimes my husband acts toad-like but a few lashes from my magic wand gets him back into line!  :dr Sigh.  If only it were that simple!  Then my house would be spotless and I'd get flowers every day!

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: olmue on June 18, 2007, 07:55 AM
I couldn't help thinking of this thread while helping out at my son's first grade alphabet festival today (to celebrate learning to read this year). They started out with a well-known children's story about a little witch, and went on with a number of activities based around the story (including gathering twigs and making their own broomsticks). It occurs to me that one of my son's first words in German, thanks to this class, was "Hexe," which means "witch." This is in a country where religion classes are mandatory at public schools, and where there are state religions. Stories about little witches and class preparation for confirmation or whatever peacefully coexist in my town. Maybe you should be publishing in Germany?
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: lizlane on June 18, 2007, 08:15 AM
That's ironic.  The place that was once the site of so many book burnings!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: olmue on June 18, 2007, 08:48 AM
Uh, yeah. Our local market square does have a plaque marking that "books were burned here" (right in front of the university).

Obviously, witches aren't considered suspect (or at least, not in the past 400 years...)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on July 07, 2007, 10:40 AM
This is off the main topic of this thread, but has to do with some of my comments earlier about how to handle religion in a fantasy. I started a thread on Alfred Kropp and the Seal of Solomon in the Books Section. It is a fantasy set in our world, and definitely incorporates religion. For anybody who is interested in this subject, I highly recommend it. I can't stop thinking about it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: pixydust on July 13, 2007, 04:08 PM
What a very interesting thread. Lost of great thoughts.

Coming in late, but just have to say, it's so great to see how well a thread like this can go when you get people with open minds and hearts together. I'm a Christian breaking 'the rules' myself. I worked for three years in the Christian Booksellers Association pitching my work. But in the end I realized I just didn't fit in that box. Neither did my newest ms--about a girl who's half faerie--vampire faerie to be exact. Can you imagine pitching that to a Christian publisher? You should have seen some of the looks I got from editors. One of them even used me as an exaple in his workshop. LOL! I think my agent was releaved when I chose not to renew the contract--she said CBA wasn't ready for me yet.

I'm sorry for people who can't see past their own prejudice. They really miss out on all the fun. ;D

Here's a link you may be interested in, Pickles.

http://specfaith.ritersbloc.com/2007/04/12/opening-a-magic-can-of-worms.aspx

It was a discusion of the same sort, from a more strict POV.

I wish you the best with your work!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sarah_create on July 14, 2007, 05:38 AM
I missed the start of this thread, because I was on vacation.  It is interesting to hear everyone's viewpoints.
I wonder what in my fantasy is going to offend readers.  I never had considered that it could be offensive, but when I reread it, I am sure I'll find something, especially after reading everyone's comments.
I am Christian and I am sure my beliefs are in some way, subconsciously, reflected in my writing. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on July 14, 2007, 06:06 AM
Pixy, I checked out the link, but the gray print makes it very difficult to read. I've been reading too much slush.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: SDG on July 19, 2007, 03:25 PM
As a Catholic film critic and culture commentator, I wrote an essay a few years back on religious objections to magic and magic in literature that has had some influence in the developing discussion. It's called "Harry Potter vs. Gandalf," and it's available (http://decentfilms.com/sections/articles/magic.html) at my website, Decent Films.

(FWIW, my own literary projects include a fantasy novel for children with magic and a proposal for an adult vampire story. At the same time, as a Catholic I agree with the historic Christian objection to attempted magic in the real world.)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: lizlane on July 20, 2007, 07:34 AM
Pixy and Steve,
Thanks for the great links!  I especially enjoyed your opinions Steve and the discussion of the seven hedges.  As a writer sharing the very concerns you voice, I like the way you think.  I have a private question for you, so I'll email you.

For any of you who haven't read the article linked above, as a writer of fantasy you should!  It was well-written and wonderfully insightful.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ohmylorelei on September 21, 2007, 07:50 PM
Wicca has nothing to do with Satan, not based on anything you'll find in a real/legit source (I'm sure some dumb teenager out there has a myspace page that indcates otherwise, but you can find a blog to support any ill-informed idea).  Although I personally think most of the Wiccans I've talked to are a little silly (too much crushed velvet and incense for my tastes) Wicca is simply a nature faith, a pagan set of rituals and beliefs, an old religion brought back, tree worshipping and stuff. Think of the Greek gods and you're nearer the truth. Do people who object to Wicca or magic mind the Greek myths being taught?  Bearing in mind that NONE of the books we're talking about are religious texts/instruction/resource materials?

In the end, for me, this is about free speech.  I have to say I'm uncomfortable catering in any way as a writer to what I'd consider an exclusive (majority) dogma. Especially one so mininformed.  I'm a pluralist, and I believe in a pantheon of faiths, if not a pantheon of gods... whatever I may believe personally (I'm Jewish), I plan to expose my kids to just about everything that's out there.  The idea that I'd limit myself as an artist, to flatter a base instinct like fear... I find that upsetting.

Sorry guys, I don't mean to pull out the strong langauge. But as a non-Christian, I found this thread upsetting tonight.  Christianity supercedes my faith. Devout fundamentalist Christianity has led to pogroms. Corporate Christianity has led to crass commericalism.  BUT I'd still argue that it belongs in books, as books should explore every aspect of culture.

When someone objects to magic in fantasy, and suggests that authors who want to be read should avoid magic to please the Christian culture... I find myself wondering how the Christians would feel if they found themselves a religious minority, and their faith unmarketable.

Magic is not Wicca. But even if it were... Wicca is just another faith.

And neither is Satanic, but if someone can manage to write a good book with elements of satanism in it... well, bring it on!  I'm not into limits on reading. Not ever. 

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pam on September 21, 2007, 09:02 PM
Hey, C.S. Lewis has already written a book from a demon's perspective called The Screwtape Letters. If you haven't read it, it's a MUST READ!

http://www.amazon.com/Screwtape-Letters-Gift-C-Lewis/dp/0060652896/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-2459608-1181729?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190433516&sr=8-1



Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on September 21, 2007, 10:09 PM
When someone objects to magic in fantasy, and suggests that authors who want to be read should avoid magic to please the Christian culture... I find myself wondering how the Christians would feel if they found themselves a religious minority, and their faith unmarketable.

I'm not sure that anyone on this thread is suggesting that magic is unmarketable on a broader scale- at most, there's been discussion about specific niches to which fantasy is unmarketable, but I don't think the niches discussed reach anything NEAR a majority or a representation of American culture.  If we're talking about majorities and minorities, then I'd even go as far as to say that Christians who do object to magic in fiction are almost definitely ALREADY a minority in this country.  I don't have statistics, but I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that there are a lot more people in America who don't object to fantasy on religious grounds than there are people who do.  Look at Rowling's sales figures!  HP is a poster child for books that some people object to because of the magical elements it contains, but I don't think anyone on this board would suggest that people objecting to it means its not marketable- or that the HP objectors have a majority over the non-objectors.

Fantasy pervades our culture- look at the movies that come out each year.  Look at the number of supernatural shows on television.  Look at the MG and YA books that hit bestseller lists.  Look at publisher's lunch!  Someone on another thread was complaining that all of the big deals in kids' publishing seem to go to fantasy books.  Fantasy is hot.  Magic is hot.  The market isn't pandering to people who object to fantasy elements; if anything, it's the opposite.  When you talk about people who object to magic in fantasy, you're talking about a sometimes very vocal minority.  This thread was started because someone wanted to know more about that minority and how they COULD appeal to them, not because the dominant culture objects to fantasy and market pressures force authors to eliminate magical elements. 

I know a handful of people (three, maybe?) who object to Harry Potter on religious grounds.  I know hundreds who don't.  I know exactly two people who don't celebrate Halloween in any way, on religious grounds- I know tons and tons of people who do.  I just can't believe that objection to these things is a 'majority forcing its beliefs on the minority' thing, because in this case, I really do think the minority IS the people who are objecting.  There are probably pockets of the US where this is not true- it might not be the minority at a given school or in a given town, but overall, I think you'll see this trend. 

Now, taking off my debater hat, and putting on my moderator hat, I'd like to back lorelai up on something- and that's this- this thread is a great place to discuss and answer questions, but please, please, PLEASE keep in mind that our country- and this board- includes people of all kinds of faiths.  This is not the place to be bashing anyone's religion- so answer the question asked, but please make every effort to be mindful and respectful of our differences in every way you can!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: CheezWeezil on September 21, 2007, 11:45 PM
Witchcraft is something I shy away from in books and in movie.  The type that is usually associated with things evil.

But... and it's a big but... I loved Harry Potter.  The magic in HP somehow seemed different.  The wizards and witches had so many good spells, although the bad guys had some rather nasty stuff.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on October 12, 2007, 07:47 AM
Wow, what a thread I started.

This has been a great conversation.

First, I wanted to once again clarify that my intent is starting this thread was to see if there were any  errr...guidelines...absolutes...whatevers...to what people did or did not object to. I do live in an area where the majority of people I meet object to certain magical elements in literature. I wanted to be inclusive if possible. I wanted to write the kind of fantasy these kids would be allowed to read.

But through this thread I've found out that is impossible.  My own wip which caused me to ask all these questions is gaining more shape and form, and this conversation has helped me make some decisions.

So some might object to my story, and some might not. Right now, the biggest objection I've heard is the use of the word "arse." :P

Thanks for all the insight and differing opinions.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on October 14, 2007, 10:35 AM
Just ask'em if they think "a$$" would work better!! "Arse" is the more polite way to say it, I'd think. Although personally I think anyone who objects to a word like that is a...well, you know...three-letter word for donkey. (hee-hee)

AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on October 14, 2007, 05:00 PM
Scholastic asked me to remove "arse" from my book, citing that it was too risque (profane/crude/whatever) for their book clubs and fairs.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on October 14, 2007, 05:19 PM
Wow, well "arse" was in my very first sentence, but it's probably going to be buried further in or perhaps removed. I don't know how important the line will be anymore.

But the original first line was

It was nearly time for the coronation, but Princess Bennie had her arm halfway up a cow's arse...again.

The story is being told from the pov of the Princess's servant, and that's how she talks. But we'll see what ends up cut before the final version goes in.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: 1846 on October 14, 2007, 06:04 PM
Scholastic asked me to remove "arse" from my book, citing that it was too risque (profane/crude/whatever) for their book clubs and fairs.

Okay, I've simply got to read more carefully.  (Maybe I finally need those reading glasses specifically made for use at computers.)  I've just spent the last ten minutes desperately trying to figure out what on earth was wrong with the word "arise."  Is there some special significance I've missed out on all these years?  Oh, wait.  It's  .....  Duh.  Back to my hole.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Pickles on October 14, 2007, 08:06 PM
LOL! Thanks. I needed that giggle.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on October 15, 2007, 08:19 AM
So Elisabeth, did you remove the "offensive" word? You said they asked, but did you agree? Just curious. (grin)
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on October 15, 2007, 01:57 PM
I did.  And I actually talked about this in the "Swearing in YA" thread, since I thought people should be aware that it can come down to more than a matter of personal taste or integrity (if you recall the thread, many posts spoke about representing real behavior, etc).  My contract included placement in the Scholastic book clubs and fairs--and (for this particular title) that was important to me.  It was more important to me to have the book reach an audience through a book order, than to hang on to a few curse words.  If you like, I was contractually obligated not to swear.  And that was fine (irksome, but agreeable).

My WIP, though... I dunno what's going to happen there. (shrug)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on October 15, 2007, 03:14 PM
Good to know! I don't even consider "arse" to be swearing. Coarse, yes, swearing, no. (grin) I can see where the Scholastic contract would be more important than a few words here and there, as long as the major flavor of the book is preserved. And it'll be beyond cool to have a book at the Scholastic Book Fair during the Fall Carnival at my kids school that is written by someone I know!! (grin)
But I better get back on-topic,  before Kay kicks my...(ahem) butt. (hee-hee!)
AMY
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: cdb on October 15, 2007, 03:31 PM

          I don't think I had ever heard the term (word) "arse" before in my life until I read Angela's Ashes.
 I had to read it (your first line) twice, to make sure I knew what I was reading. Then, the visual came. Yeah, it will offend some people, others it won't, but it sure does grab attention, in my opinion.


          Carole
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Steve on October 15, 2007, 03:50 PM
This goes without saying but the range of Christians is rather broad.
Many read and liked Harry Potter ... and many others would not read it.  And so on.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Stef on October 16, 2007, 11:47 AM
But the original first line was
It was nearly time for the coronation, but Princess Bennie had her arm halfway up a cow's arse...again.

There are lines very like this in most of James Herriot's All Things Bright and Beautiful veterinarian books.  While they aren't children's books, it goes to show that people in certain parts of the world and certain occupations talk this way--Yorkshire, England in his case.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Donna Farley on February 27, 2008, 02:55 PM
I see I've arrived on a fairly long-running thread, so I don't want to repeat things others have already covered. However, looking through I seem to find that no-one has mentioned John Granger's books about Harry Potter. (his site is http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com) 

Granger (who like me is an Eastern Orthodox Christian) argues that there is a difference in the kind of magic used in Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia over against the kind of magic used in some other fantasies. Here's an excerpt from a review I did of _Looking for God in Harry Potter_:

"But what about the magic? Before reading the Harry Potter books, Granger was highly protective of his children's minds and souls. He did not own a television, and would have no truck with anything occult. None of that changed after his discovery of Rowling's books as Christian literature. Unplugged from so much of popular culture, Granger did not know of the anti-Harry attitudes in some Christian circles until after he had read the books, and was somewhat taken aback to learn of what he calls the "sound and fury in the popular media and coming from many pulpits." To bring a little sanity amid that sound and fury, the opening chapter of his book deals with the fictional use of magic as a symbol for a spiritual worldview, opposed to the materialism that surrounds us daily, and with the difference between "invocational" and "incantational" magic.

"Invocational" magic is that practiced by real pagans, wiccans, Satanists and others in the world even today, in which spiritual powers—i.e. demons—are called upon. The magic in Harry Potter, however, Granger demonstrates, is not invocational, but (like that in the Narnia Chronicles and Lord of the Rings) incantational: magic in a literary medium that symbolically "sings along" with the universe of which God is the all-wise and all-loving Creator." (*please note here that I am not saying pagans or Wiccans = Satanists-- just that 'invocational' magic is part of their practices--DF)

For your consideration ;-)  It's true magic remains problematic for a.) the CBA and b.) some evangelicals that may buy non-CBA books. However, it's worth noting that by no means all evangelicals are anti- fantasy fiction. See the following article about HP at Christianity Today (I think probably the largest and most influential evangelical Christian publication):

http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/redeemingharrypotter.html
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: circe68 on May 11, 2008, 10:00 AM
I am a "Christian Conservative", and I also happen to adore the entire Harry Potter series. I understand that it is simply fiction. Actually, it is remarkably good fiction, with a winning message of goodness. But I don't  just read "Christian" books.  As long as the book is not overflowing with language that would make a sailor blush or orgies, I'm usuallly game to read it. I'm sure I'm quite naive, but I believe that to write for children means to capture and emphasize all that is wonderful and magic, be it with nature, science, fantasy, etc....Don't hold back your writing because  of the worry that use of magic may offend some people. No matter what you write, you're bound to offend someone, be it a critic or a bishop. Write what you love.

P.S. I apologize for any offense the above rant may give. If so, please take a number..... :lol
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on May 11, 2008, 01:36 PM
Since the thread has been bumped, I thought it might be interesting to share a review that CURSE recieved this week:

http://www.thelionscall.com/articles/reviews.cfm
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: mswatkins on May 11, 2008, 05:50 PM
When you look at th Bible as a mythical source it is full of fantastic stories.  People with hair that makes them a great warrior, magic swords, talking bushes, not to mention the parting of the Red Sea, how fantastic is that?   

Many Christians (I myself am a Christian) see magic as witchcraft and any glorification of that is taboo.  I don't buy into that one bit.  Reading about someone who can move a piece of furniture with a magic stick isn't exactly realistic.

A friend who once said to me, "The difference between magic and a miracle is Church approval."   I see a lot of truth in that statement. 

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on May 12, 2008, 05:24 AM
Something to keep in mind...the kind of magic portrayed in Harry Potter is NOTHING like what the Bible speaks against.  It is talking about Pagan religions, for one.  But also the word that is translated as "sorcerer" in scripture really means something closer to a false prophet.  The Bible isn't talking about someone who conjures up spells...but does "arts" associated with idolatry.  It also refers to someone who might be referred to as an alchemist, of sorts....using drugs, etc.

The problem, as I see it, with HP is that it kind of blurs the lines to Christian kids as to what scripture is talking about.  Sure, the kids know it is all fiction...but when they read scripture and it speaks against witchcraft and sorcery, you might lead them to a place of now saying it is okay to question and even ignore parts of the Bible. 

As such, I think it is important for your children to be old enough to understand the distinction...and then your job, as their parent, to  make sure they understand it.  If you, as a parent, can't explain why it is okay for HP but not in the Bible, then perhaps you should rethink allowing them to read it until you can explain it yourself. 

I think HP is great literature.  I love it. It is full of religious symbolism (something I blogged about some time ago, in fact).  But we haven't yet let our kids read it. There is plenty else out there that doesn't introduce such confusions.  When they are a bit older, yes.  But not yet.

A problem with the quote mswatkins gave from the friend?  When you read scripture, you aren't talking about Church approval...but God's word.  God speaks out against witchcraft, etc.  It isn't a matter of the church approving or not.  God set the standard.  This is different from cases where those within the church DO set rules, etc., outside the mandates of scripture. 

Where the gray line is, in the case of HP, is NOT whether the Bible is okay with witchcraft or not...that is 100%...it is if what the HP books portrays is, in fact, the kind of witchcraft that the Bible is talking about.  I contend it is not.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: mswatkins on May 12, 2008, 02:04 PM
Ryan - That's very true.  The Bible does say that, but it's when the Church gets involved that things get messy.  I have loads of problems with many Christians, and many Churches, but I have no problem with God.  There is a difference and you nailed with the Church rules comment. 

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Anne Marie on May 12, 2008, 05:09 PM
Stepping in with my administrator hat on--

So far, so good, folks; but as always when we're talking religion, please make sure to play nice.

Anne Marie
Board Administrator
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: DonnaE on May 12, 2008, 07:20 PM
Um, yah. I started to chime in, but thought better of it. Thanks for the affirmation I should probably stay out of this one! :)

Hugs,
Donna
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Nora on May 12, 2008, 08:29 PM
I have taught in Christian schools. The objection to magic comes from two passages in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:6-8   He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Revelation 22:14-16  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Whizbee on June 08, 2008, 05:23 PM
I've heard the comment that violence in classic cartoons is okay for kids because it's of a variety that's impossible for a child to emulate--like dropping a safe on someone's head. As a Christian, I tend to follow this idea in my writing. The fantastical/magical elements that I use are those that aren't related to real-life magic/sorcery/witchcraft and aren't, IMO, dangerous to emulate. Seems like that's what a lot of people are saying in this thread.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Theo on June 08, 2008, 07:38 PM
First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Stef on June 09, 2008, 05:33 AM
First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?

The difference between grace and magic is in to whom you are appealing.  I respectfully disagree that prayer is an incantation or a ritualistic deed.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Verla Kay on June 09, 2008, 06:19 AM
 :cop2 Putting on my moderator hat for a moment...

I'd just like to stick my nose in at this point and remind everyone how sensitive this subject is... and to thank you all for keeping the discussion to the issues and for not letting personalities get into it. You are all wonderful!

And just for the record, it's perfectly okay for a thread to wander off in directions other than where the first poster of the thread meant it to go. The person who starts a thread is not at all responsible for where it ends up and as long as it stays within the good taste and fair play guidelines of this message board, it doesn't matter where it goes. This has been an interesting discussion! :moose

Verla Kay (taking off my moderator hat, now)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on June 09, 2008, 01:01 PM
First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?

Grace isn't something someone invokes or requests, but is, instead, something given freely and undeserving.  Grace has absolutely nothing to do with anything I do or say or don't do or don't say.  If it did, it would cease to be grace.

If, by saying, it is evoked by incantation or deeds you are talking about prayer and words, that isn't correct either.  Prayer is seen as a means of communicating with God.  While some try to use prayer to "barter" with God, that isn't the purpose.  The purpose is to humble oneself and bring your fears, feelings, trials, triumphs, everything to God. In any case, prayer isn't, again, like magic. 

Fundamentally, the issue against magic is because, first and foremost, the Bible speaks against it.  Why?  It doesn't go into it fully.  But fundamentally, I think it has to do with calling upon powers beyond the natural in a way that is outside God's will. And from the perspective of Christianity, anything that is supernatural that is not from God must be of Satan, even if not explicitly called so by the person invoking that magic.  (In other words, a person may not even BELIEVE in Satan, but from the perspective of Christianity, anything done "magically" would have to haven granted by Satan and his spiritual forces in the world. 

I'm not sure if that was clear enough to explain the difference.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lastel on July 09, 2008, 02:18 PM
Something to keep in mind...the kind of magic portrayed in Harry Potter is NOTHING like what the Bible speaks against.  It is talking about Pagan religions, for one. 

Speaking as a Pagan I can say emphatically that no, it is not. Not in the least bit. :P However, I agree with a lot of what you said. Children, whether they are Christian or not, need to be old enough to understand before reading something like this. I personally love this series, but I will not allow my children to read the books (granted my oldest is 6 and couldn't read some of it anyway) or view any of the movies past number three because the series takes a darker turn after that. The war, the deaths, etc. i feel the movies are very harmless fun until Number 4.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lastel on July 09, 2008, 02:32 PM
Beyond the Harry Potter element, I am starting my first MG novel (hopefully to become a series, but we'll see how the first few drafts go.) and I actually intend to use elements of Wicca and Pagaism in my story. And yes, Wicca and Paganism are similar, but not the same thing. Think Catholics and Christians. Same, yet very differant. Also I will note that Paganism is in no way related to Satanism like so many are led to believe.

Rather than shy away from and avoid controversy I am just going to ignore it and put it out there. I personally do not care what people think about any elements of faith I put into a book. My story is a work of pure fiction. The people in it are not following some evil cult. They will not be depicted as doing religious devotions. They are just following a life style that teaches harmony with self, others, and the world around them. I do not see anything harmful in that at all.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ccory on July 09, 2008, 04:53 PM
For what it's worth, my fundamentalist Christian brother (his family home schools because of objections to public school) is completely hooked and into The Lord of the Rings.  His children have read the books and watched the movies repeatedly. No big surprise there, I guess, given the stature in Christian circles of J.R.R. Tolkein.  My only observation is this: the very same elements that are found objectionable in the Harry Potter series are found acceptable in Tolkein's trilogy. . . .the difference, it seems, is the perceived Christian message in the latter.  Of course, the Chronicles of Narnia has plenty of magic, too.

Good luck with your work.

Carolyn
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on July 09, 2008, 08:05 PM
Carolyn:

Not to be argumentative, but the comparison to Lord of the Rings isn't quite right.  Lord of the Rings doesn't "glorify" (as some might say) magic.  It doesn't encourage it.  It doesn't celebrate it in any fashion, unlike Harry Potter.  Magic is, primarily, portrayed in a negative light.  The exception being Gandalf, who is portrayed in an almost angelic, even Messianic light.  In that regard, it isn't meant to symbolize magic, but the supernatural...that is, except Tolkien would deny Gandalf is a Messiah figure.  Still, the "magic" he uses is quite restrained.  So, the "only difference" isn't, as you say, the perceived Christian message.  Actually, there is more Christian message in Harry Potter than there is in Lord of the Rings, since Tolkien didn't set out to tell any kind of allegory. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Whizbee on July 09, 2008, 10:08 PM
... since Tolkien didn't set out to tell any kind of allegory. 

Is it okay if I tangent for a moment?

I know LotR isn't supposed to be a straight allegory, but I've heard it said that Tolkien, instead of using only one of his characters to be a Christ figure, used all of his "good" characters to portray a different Christ-like characteristic--Aragorn is the rightful king, Gandalf is powerful/magical, Frodo is innocent, etc.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: olmue on July 09, 2008, 10:38 PM
I find the fundamentalist Christian dichotomy between LOTR and HP interesting (and inexplicable). Overt Christian elements abound in HP (um, forest scene, anyone?), much more so than in LOTR. Sure, Gandalf "comes back," but that's only one element of the story, and not the main element, either. And Frodo basically sacrifices himself to get rid of this ring, but in the end, he's not actually the one who does it (hope that doesn't spoil it for anyone, but if you don't know how it ends after it's been out 40 years, I can't help you!) I don't mind my kids reading either series, although I draw the line at watching the films at #4 for HP (my kids are young, and there are some dark/creepy elements at the end there!). The films of LOTR, IMO, are way too creepy and violent for kids. (Although I must say they are excellently done, and for the right audience, they are perfect.)

Anyway, I have always wondered why LOTR is so much more acceptable. I guess some people think magic is glorified in HP and not in LOTR (to which I don't agree--I find they both operate under their respective systems of magic within the story). Maybe because Tolkein was very open about his Christian beliefs, whereas Rowling tends to be more private about hers? Maybe because LOTR is 40+ years old, and HP is current? I don't know. But I find that whether you're going for just a wonderful reading experience or reading experience + deep Christian overtones, you kind of have to include the full British trio--Tolkein, Lewis, and yes, Rowling.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on July 10, 2008, 11:10 PM
Maybe b/c Harry Potter is about *kids?*  Add in all the defiance of authority there, and one can see why it starts to bother some parents.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: olmue on July 10, 2008, 11:52 PM
Hm, maybe so. (If so, I must be a weirdo--I'd rather my kids recognize what's right and wrong and have the courage to do what's right, even when so-called authority figures are the ones in the wrong, than blindly following someone like Umbridge, just because she's an adult/government person/teacher.) DH thinks maybe the good/evil dichotomy is more clear-cut in LOTR as well, whereas in HP, part of the point is that everyone's got a mix of good and bad in them, and you can't judge people (although the choices you make ultimately determine what kind of person you are/which side you end up on). A much more sophisticated way of approaching the whole thing, if you ask me.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RJ_Anderson on July 11, 2008, 05:39 AM
Oh, but it's not, it's not (re the good-evil dichotomy being more obvious in LotR). The House of Denethor makes that quite clear, I think -- also Frodo's struggle against the overwhelming temptation of the Ring. Sure, Sauron and his henchmen are obvious baddies, but then so are Voldemort and his followers. And if Gollum isn't a mixed-up character with both horrible and wrenchingly human qualities, I don't know who is.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Christye on July 11, 2008, 06:30 AM
Hi!  This is a good question.  I'm interested in reading the other replies.

I'm in an odd place.  I am , what most people would call "a conservative Christian" but I don't hold to the "no magic" in fiction side of the spectrum.  As a matter of fact, I mostly write fantasy. 

The people who I know who are opposed to magic in fantasy feel that things such as magic, dragons and the like are associated with "evil"  And hey, if they are uncomfortable with it, they don't have to read it.  To each his own.  It's their way of wanting to keep their minds and hearts pure and good.  That's something I can respct.

I also want to keep my heart and mind pure and filled with good, not evil, but for me, magic in fantasy literature doesn't do that for me.  It does the opposite.  It helps me contemplate allegorize and think through real life challenges in an abstract way.  It helps me work things out in my mind, especially in the spiritual sense. 

So, I think it mostly comes from a perspective on how it effects a persons thinking.  Though I don't hold this view and I write fantasy, I respect their viewpoint.  I also think that perhaps most do not understand that fantasy literature can be a way of working out and thinking through tough issues in an abstract way.

hope that helps

Christy
http://ChristysCreativeSpace.blogspot.com
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RJ_Anderson on July 12, 2008, 08:50 AM
Beautifully said, Christy -- and that's coming from someone who is in that very same "odd place" you describe. I feel the same way: my father is a full-time preacher and we belong to a church that takes the Bible very seriously as the Word of God, yet I grew up hearing my father read Lewis and Tolkien out loud to our family, and reading fairy tales and mythology by the cartload for myself. So I was absolutely flummoxed when I first encountered the attitude that Christians shouldn't read fantasy and that fairy-tale magic was the same as the occult. I respect the consciences of those who feel that way and wouldn't try to force them to read things they are uncomfortable with; but at the same time, I totally disagree.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Donna Farley on July 12, 2008, 12:56 PM
Re: Lord of the Rings, there is a great book called _SECRET FIRE_, which talks about the religious content of Tolkien's Middle Earth. I'm pasting in a blog post I did about this, but if you want the links you can get them at my blog here:
http://storyspell.blogspot.com/2007/02/light-in-darkness.html (ftp://http://storyspell.blogspot.com/2007/02/light-in-darkness.html)


In my first entry in this blog, I noted that stories that refresh the spirit are not always all sweetness and light. Some people think that darkness makes the light brighter-- but really, it is only that our perception is altered. Daylight we generally take for granted; just as we take food for granted until we fast to the point when we can actually feel our hunger again. As for darkness, however-- we can take it for eight hours or so in our own beds; but let an unexpected blackout fall and we become anxious until we can find the flashlight and turn its comforting beam on.

In pre-Edison times, the moon had a significance for people, especially travellers, that we postmoderns simply cannot fathom. When my elder daughter was about a year old, her father and I showed her a bright rising moon out the kitchen widow one night. She gasped and cried out "DA MOON!", instantly smitten, and we suddenly understood how the ancients fell into worshipping the lamp of the night. A light that shines in the darkness arrests our attention with its beauty and scatters the evil things of night.

Galadriel's phial plays this vital role in The Lord of the Rings. This book, perhaps the most influential fiction of the 20th Century, is a rich, deep lode of refreshment for the spirit, and this will surely not be the last time I blog about it. But it is, in many places, a very dark book indeed, and the darkness is at its deepest in Shelob's lair. And this is just where the light of Eärendil's star, caught in Galadriel's phial, shines out to wound the nightmare spider.

There is much more to the story of Eärendil, and I haven't room for more than a little here. The tale is to be found in the Silmarillion, Tolkien's pre-history/mythology of Middle Earth. A partial summary, from Stratford Caldecott's Secret Fire: The Spiritual Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien:

"....Eärendil is permitted to plead before the Valar on behalf of all the free peoples of Middle-earth. His plea is answered, and the Valar descend upon Middle-earth in a war of wrath that destroys the power of [the personification of evil in Middle-earth ] Morgoth. The Silmaril is set upon the brow of the immortal Eärendil as he sails the darkness of space in a silver ship fasioned for him by the Valar. "

Further exploration of Caldecott's excellent study reveals the seed of Eärendil in the work of Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf's "Crist":

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended!
Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
above the middle-earth sent unto men!

In the Book of Lost Tales, we find Tolkien's own song to the Morning Star:

"Earendel arose where the shadow flows
at Ocean's silent brim;
through mouth of night as a ray of light
where the shores are sheer and dim
he launched his bark like a silver spark from the last and lonely sand...."

"It is in this form," Caldecott concludes, "as a beam of light from the Morning and Evening Star, captured in a crystal phial, that the same light much later comes to Fodo as a gift from...Galadriel." This is the light that shines for our hobbit heroes as "A light when all other lights go out."

Light runs like a bright thread through the often-dark history of Middle-earth, as it does in so many of the great stories of our darkened universe.
Posted by matushkadonna at 9:29 AM 

[is this too long to post on a discussion thread? I've made the opposite mistake of just directing people to my blog before]
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 19, 2008, 10:06 AM
Quote
Since the thread has been bumped, I thought it might be interesting to share a review that CURSE recieved this week:

http://www.thelionscall.com/articles/reviews.cfm

Elizabeth, I couldn't respond to the review until I'd read the book, but I have to say I'm puzzled by some of the things the reviewer is saying. I had to wonder, did she READ the book, or just skim through parts of it willy nilly?

As for me, I got totally absorbed in your story and its world, and what would happen next and what would Charlotte DO? I had to stay up late to finish!

Spoiler Alert on "A Curse as Dark as Gold"
The reviewer was obviously very offended by occult elements used in the story, but she totally MISSED the whole point that the main character, Charlotte, was trying to GET RID of superstitions and occult objects. For example, she tried to paint over the hex sign repeatedly. She was very reluctant to get involved with Jack Spinner at all, but did so because her sister, Rosie, was desperate to give him a try. Having a moral problem with Rosie's use of magic is one thing, but lumping Rosie and Charlotte together was not fair. Also, the way she resolves the situation at the end is done with a finality so that she will never NEED to use any "magic" again.

The reviewer also "judged" Charlotte for lying to her husband. Charlotte was trying NOT to lie, but she wasn't ready to tell him the truth. Her lies mainly consisted of trying to have him think things were okay and under control, which is how their relationship started to begin with. Lots and lots of women try to paint a rosier picture of life to their lovers than what actually exists. Anyways, the good news is that she learns the value of trusting him at the end. Isn't that partly why we read stories? A character has a flaw that she's blind to and finally learns to change and grow?

The reviewer then "judged" Charlotte's husband for leaving them. Excuse me? His job was in another town, and given the frustrations he was feeling at home, he decided to stay away at his job longer (indefinitely). He did NOT truly leave his wife and child; he still remained husband and father and came back immediately the next time he was sent for (near the end of the story). His faithful love for his wife and child is powerfully shown at that time.

And finally, a REAL reader would know that when Charlotte asked Jack Spinner for more time, she was certainly not wrestling over what choice to make: shall I give him the mill or give him my child? Are you kidding me? Of course, Charlotte would not choose the mill over her child. She asked for the extra time to see if she could figure out a way to save BOTH. And she finally took a first step in getting to the root of problem, the curse itself, by asking Biddy Tom about how to get rid of a curse. And then she set about doing it. She wasn't just committed to saving her son and the mill; she was committed to saving any other sons that she or her sister would bear ... and their daughters' sons ... for all time. Isn't that the greatest values of Christianity: sacrifice and redemption? And in addition, trust and mercy and forgiveness, beautifully demonstrated at the end, not just by the main character, but by Randall and others!

The reviewer DID say the romance in the story was sweet and it was. At least she got something of the story, but she missed an awful lot.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on July 20, 2008, 01:29 PM
Wow.  Hazelnut, you are my hero. :werd
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 21, 2008, 06:13 AM
ECB, you're welcome. Every book deserves book reviews that portray it accurately and non-superficially, and your book really deserved MUCH better in that review. And just for the record, I'd have given it five stars. * * * * *
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lenzi on July 21, 2008, 12:28 PM
Nice, Hazelnut!

(You might want to add a spoiler alert to your post for the folks who haven't read CURSE yet.)   :D
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 21, 2008, 04:36 PM
Quote
(You might want to add a spoiler alert to your post for the folks who haven't read CURSE yet.)   

Done!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on January 08, 2010, 02:15 PM
Oh, dear. My extreme nerdy-ness is about to show.

Humans did not use magic in TLOTR. The wizards Sauron, Gandalf and (my favorite) Radagast, were Maiar—of the same order as the Valar, but with less power. (Mailar and Valar are angelic powers that went into the world to complete its development after it was sung into being.)

From Tolkein's Notes on W.H. Auden's reveuw of The Return of the King (pages 238-244 of 'The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien') speaking of Sauron: "But he went further than human tyrants in pride and lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.  In the Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about 'freedom', though that is naturally involved. It is about God, His sole right to divine honour."

TLOTR was, in Tolkien's words, ""a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

Without a good understanding of the Catholic faith, you will miss so much cool stuff  in TLOTR.

But it will still be a good story.  :moose

eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sary on January 08, 2010, 06:15 PM
Wow.  I just read this whole thread, and obviously I'm quite late to it, but I found it very relevant.

The reason it's relevant to me is because the novel I'm just finishing up is from the point of view of a child whose family is Pagan. There is nothing fantasy/magical in this novel -- at least not in the Harry Potter sense.  The child does spells and uses divination tools, but in the same way a Christian child might use prayer. It's part of her religion.

Given that the magic in my novel is "real" witchcraft, how much of an uphill battle is it likely to be getting this book out there?
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: rab on January 08, 2010, 07:14 PM
Auntybooks, you are totally speaking my language! After LOTR itself, my next favorite book is Tolkien's letters--LOTR nerds unite! (Of course, if you haven't studied Old English and Old Norse, you're missing out on a whole different set of cool stuff.)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on January 08, 2010, 07:33 PM
Ah! Rab!!! Exactly so! I yearn mightily for a writers group who knows what 'mythopoeia' is, perhaps have even read the poem 'Mythopoeia'!  *And* I see that you have books based on Beowulf...a story that figures greatly into my next project.  How do you feel about George MacDonald?

eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: DonnaE on January 08, 2010, 07:40 PM
*butting in for a moment...*

George M. ROCKS! :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Bernell Spicer on January 08, 2010, 09:14 PM
Ooh, ooh, I wanna join! We can be the new Inklings! Have any of you read Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories?" Great stuff.  And I LOVE "Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics." A lot to learn there about writing and the serious nature of dragon tales.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on January 12, 2010, 10:54 PM
Sary, I loved Harry Potter, precisely because it wasn't real religion. Wiccans don't really ride brooms. The HP books were fantasy.

I probably won't read your book with a child who grows up in a pagan home, but I don't see why you'd have any trouble publishing it and gaining a readership. I know a lot of pagans. Yes, Christians--some Christians will object to what you write. I may even be one of them. I think if someone publishes something and puts in the public arena, we should discuss it. I think books were meant to be discussed. Other Christians may go so far as to try to ban books--I hate that. I think we should all say what we want and let the readers decide who is right. But all the discussion and even the book banning attempts won't hurt you if you've written a good book. Controversy usually drives up sales.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on January 15, 2010, 01:55 PM
I've always been drawn to the darker, dirtier side of things, though I do still love some time in the sun.  In my book, which I'm foisting upon others at the moment, has a lot of traditional magic in it: the ritualistic kind.  Things where blood is used, names are important, and so on.  Part of it takes place in Israel and deals with a fallen angel who is cited in the Book of Enoch.  The Book of Enoch isn't regarded as canon by any church (except a small one in Africa somewhere), but still, it invokes Biblical places, names, and histories.  I've also got a murderous little demon running around, a golem with part of the name of God, and a large number of warlocks, wizards, monsters, ghosts, and elemental spirits.  One guy talks about wanting to become like God himself.

Point being, I'm going to [word censored] some folks off if this book ever sees the light of day.  And I don't care.  What I mean is that it's impossible to please everyone, so I'm not going to try.  Somebody will be offended that I have a fallen angel, or that I have somebody engaging in a blood ritual, or maybe even that there's a little bit of sexual tension between my teenage characters.  Don't give a damn.  I write what I want and if it makes people angry so be it.

More in line with what this all is about, I think that generally mythologies from ancient cultures are always a safe bet.  I never hear anybody kicking up a storm over Percy Jackson.  Any magic you have where it's innate to the person (like, they're born with it, have no choice) that's a safe bet as well.  Generic magic, like shooting pretty lights on command and saying funny words is a step into risky territory but still mostly neutral ground.  You start making people excited when they call upon the power of anything besides themselves or the holy spirit.  Magic objects that have power inside of them are basically just the magical equivalent of guns or bombs or microwaves and I have rarely heard anybody getting their knickers in a twist over those.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on January 15, 2010, 04:40 PM
Go Justin! Your book sounds awesome. (Grin)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on January 15, 2010, 05:12 PM
Aw, thank you!
I just want to add that I'm not doing this to intentionally tick off any religiously conservative folks.  My parents were that way, back in the day ("Halloween is the devil's holiday!  No candy for you!"  "Aw, Mom...." :( ), only that any concerns somebody may have about my material based on any system of personal beliefs do not concern me.  I write to write, whatever that may be, and do not put up a boundary for myself.  If I see something as fitting, or being real or in the spirit of a story, I will write that, even if it happens to offend some people.
Still, like any writer, I'd rather they enjoy my stories instead of getting angry about them.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: pixydust on February 02, 2010, 07:56 PM
*waves hi to Sally* Hey You!  :cookiemonster

"Halloween is the devil's holiday!  No candy for you!"  "Aw, Mom...." :( 

LOL...sounds like my life growing up! Ah, memories...  :mob As a consiquence I am crazy about trick or treating with my kids. I'm not sure who has more fun--me or them. :)

 I write to write, whatever that may be, and do not put up a boundary for myself.  If I see something as fitting, or being real or in the spirit of a story, I will write that, even if it happens to offend some people.
I SO second this!

I understand why some Christians feel the need to hold back but I just find it harms my story if I worry about sensoring myself as I write it.

I can't do the ritual stuff, though, in my own work. I've had too many real experiances with demons and blood power in reality to stomach it in my entertainment yet--too close to home. But I think it has it's place--people need to know what's out there. And I do love a good episode of Supernatural or Buffy. :) I think the cheese factor helps there, though.

I write edgy. I just do. But I still struggled a little with my recent ms cause it has fallen angels in it. I‘ve never written anything that might conflict with standard theology before and these are not your typical angels. Plus, the setting is post-apocalyptic and urban and dark and my mc is a drug addict assassin…lol. Needless to say, she’s not a real moral person. But she’s real. I know if Christians read my book with the idea that it’s written by a Christian they will have certain expectations, and I’m pretty sure most of them will be shocked and unhappy with my outcomes.

But we have to remember that writing is an art--an expression. And I am of the mind that there are many things that are beautiful that we miss out on cause it’s not Christian enough. Or it has magic in it. Or it’s not blue on Tuesday. Wherever we got these rules, I have no idea. I was pretty sure we’d been set free…
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: chasing my tail on February 03, 2010, 03:12 AM
I admit that after reading through this thread, I'm terrified for my manuscript. I have witches, witch hunters, an evil vicar and a summoning ceremony. Yikes!

But, at the same time, it's a retelling of an old Irish witch story -- the vicar tricks the devil 3 times, then gets his just-deserts in the end. How do you retell that kind of tale without including some religion/theology (hey, it's the devil and a vicar!).

Of course, I've told it from a different point of view -- a girl in the service of said evil-vicar who gets caught up in the black magic. But she's redeemed in the end. Will that count?

Will some people read the opening page and shout "Blasphemer!" my way and refuse to read the rest? Yeah probably. *sigh*

Still, I think it's a good story.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sary on February 03, 2010, 03:16 AM
Will some people read the opening page and shout "Blasphemer!" my way and refuse to read the rest? Yeah probably. *sigh*

Still, I think it's a good story.

It sounds like a GREAT story!!

Hey, the first page in my WIP begins with, "Ember's Spell Journal" and directions on how to do a spell for revenge.  I hope those who object don't smash their fingers in their haste to slam the book shut after reading that page!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: chasing my tail on February 03, 2010, 04:46 AM
Sary, I think all good books should start with a spell of some sort!  :hug  :smile
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on February 03, 2010, 05:55 AM
Debi--sounds Irish to me! (grin) I'd read it in an heartbeat.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: pixydust on February 03, 2010, 08:12 AM
Irish lore is my chocolate! Yum!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Marissa Doyle on February 03, 2010, 08:36 AM
Will some people read the opening page and shout "Blasphemer!" my way and refuse to read the rest? Yeah probably. *sigh*

Yes, probably indeed--I write magic and I know am not read by people with objections to magic in fiction.  But I look at it this way--not every book is right for every person anyway, so...well, whatever!  :) (need shrugging emoticon!)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: MysteryRobin on February 03, 2010, 09:34 AM
I'm a Christian and I love fantasy and really, REALLY love Harry Potter. I personally don't care for books that make evil look good, whether in fantasy or real life. And as a Christian I do believe in evil. So I personally don't read, and won't allow my daughter to read books with demons as friends or heroes. I'd read books with demons in therm (The Screwtape Letters comes to mind), so long as they're not presented sympathetically.  But I'm also not a big fan of contemporary books with lots of destructive behavior with no consequences.

Also - kinda appalled that someone objected to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe...
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ecb on February 03, 2010, 01:54 PM
I love it when this thread pops up again! :D

I know that before CURSE came out, I was definitely concerned with how it would be received.  I live in a pretty conservative community, so I try to be pretty sensitive to my readers (and neighbors).

I will say that in TWO YEARS, with a fair amount of national press and daily Google alerts... that that "Lion's Call" review was the closest CURSE has come to anyone objecting to the content.

I find myself constantly surprised by this, but even my most conservative Christian friends all say, "My kids know the difference between fantasy and reality."

In fact, I just came back from a two-day school/library visit to a community that's 80% Amish, and the librarian (who self-identified as a conservative Christian, and whose husband is a minister) said she didn't have problems with the content, and didn't anticipate objections from her patrons, either. 

All this to say... I think it's definitely politic of us to respect our readers, but perhaps not necessary to worry overmuch. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on February 04, 2010, 07:32 AM
Pixie! I'm so glad to see you here. You invited me over and by the time I got here, you were gone. :)

Quote
I understand why some Christians feel the need to hold back but I just find it harms my story if I worry about sensoring myself as I write it.

The thing that really freed me up, was one year my son got a little crazy with the Internet and I cut off service for eighteen months. I started writing a book then that I had no intention of publishing or of showing to my online Christian fiction writer type friends. I didn't care if the characters were Christians. I just wrote. It's the best thing I've done so far.

But it ended up being, I think, a book with a lot of strong Christian pictures in it. I put thought into the theme and into what kind of unconscious messages I would be sending to readers. I am a Christian first and a writer second and I'll burn my work before I'll put out something that I think will harm someone or teach false things about God. But I see no need to write crappy books full of unrealistic characters who pray their way out of trouble and always speak respectfully to adults just because they're Christians.

Still I was told by a CBA agent and a CBA editor at a conference that it couldn't be published in the CBA because of the sex (the agent said--it didn't really have any sex in it. It just talked about it.) and because the god in the book was not like the real God so the readers would level a charge of new age religion (that was from the editor) . DOH It's a fantasy. There was nothing new age about it.

But I didn't submit to the CBA because I am hoping to be published in the ABA I don't want to be known as a Christian writer. I just want to tell good stories. Yes, i want them to reflect my beliefs but I don't think we need to preach the gospel in every book we write.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on February 04, 2010, 07:34 AM
ecb, I'm ashamed to say I haven't read Curse yet. I keep meaning to. I just have so many books stacked up waiting for reviews I have a hard time finding time to read for pleasure any more.

It must be a good book if it's published by Arthur. Gee, I need to take a vacation and get some fun reading in.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: pixydust on February 04, 2010, 03:03 PM
Quote
But I didn't submit to the CBA because I am hoping to be published in the ABA I don't want to be known as a Christian writer. I just want to tell good stories. Yes, i want them to reflect my beliefs but I don't think we need to preach the gospel in every book we write.
Amen Sally!!! That's exactly how I feel.

I missed you at SCBWI last year! Maybe this is our year! :) Are you thinking of Mt. Hermon at all? I don't know why, but I think I might go. Just a good place to regroup and rest my writer's soul--especially since I don't care what they think about me and my work this time. :D Becky might be going and they're having Jeff Gerke do a Sci-fi/Fantasy morning track. Not sure I can resist that....lol
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on February 04, 2010, 03:15 PM
I do not mind being known as Christian writer. If the likes of Walter Wangrin Jr., Catherine Patterson, Flannery O'Conner, Madeleine L'Egle and J.R.R. Tolkien I can be open, even transparent about it, so can I.  :moose

eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on February 06, 2010, 11:59 AM
Pixie, I'd love to go to Mount Hermon. It's probably my favorite conference. I lived at Mount Hermon--11 and a half Mound Avenue, up behind the post office--when I was eight. So when I go back can get under those trees it is such a treat for me. Plus, I love the people there. If I were on the West Coast I think I'd gove every year.

But I'm not going to make it this year. I'm going to a local SCBWI conference this month in Atlanta and I may try for the SCBWI LA this year, though that is hardly soul-feeding--no nature to soak up in those expensive LA hotels. I may do Chautauqua this year and another founders workshop. I went to one this fall and LOVED it. Oh, man, it was so good. Mine was with Stephen Roxburgh and I loved everything about it.

How to choose? They are all good for various reasons. Becky and I keep saying one year we're going to do a writer's workshop on a train. Wouldn't that be fun? One that goes across the Rockies or something. With an editor or agent to do a class every night and writing time every day?

If only I were rich. I like the conferences and being the groupie better than the actual writing, I think. :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on February 06, 2010, 12:10 PM
Aunty, I don't mind being known as a Christian and I don't mind being known as a writer, but being known as a Christian writer means, to a lot of people, that you are writing Christian books. And what is a Christian book, exactly?

There are a lot of wonderful writers who are Christians. But none of the ones you mentioned are writing for the CBA. When I say I don't want to be known as a Christian writer, I mean I don't want, necessarily to be a CBA writer. I have a lot of friends published in the CBA and they are writing wonderful books. So I'm not saying the quality is lacking in the CBA. I'm just saying I don't want my books, if I'm ever so fortunate as to be published, to be stuck in the Christian fiction section of the book stores. You don't find the authors you mentioned in that section of the store.

And I want my worldview and my stories to engage readers in the world. I don't want to just talk to other Christians. I want to talk to girls from all backgrounds. I want to be as widely read as L'Engle. I doubt most of the people on this board have heard of Bryan Davis or Jonathan Rogers or Melody Carlson or Robin Jones Gunn even though these writers are popular in the CBA children's world. They are stuck in the Christian section of the book stores, if they have any presence at all. Mostly they aren't even carried in Borders of B and N.

So, I just want to write good books and I want to be in the same section of the store that Meyer and Hale are in. They are Mormon and everyone knows it but there is not a special Mormon section of the bookstore for them to die in.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on February 06, 2010, 01:57 PM
I can agree about not being a CBA writer. They do get my kickers in a twist.

eab  :yup
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RJ_Anderson on February 06, 2010, 04:47 PM
What sally said, with knobs on. Even as a young teenager I knew I wanted to be a Christian who wrote great fantasy novels, not to write watered-down, super-sanitized fantasy that would fit "the Christian market". C.S. Lewis attributed much of his eventual conversion to the "fragrance of holiness" he found in George MacDonald's Phantastes, a book which I read as a teenager and in which I couldn't see much that was overtly Christian at all. Which is a far cry from the belief that a "really Christian" novel will have a conversion scene at the end and/or an obvious moral lesson about How Christians Should Behave.

Things are changing in the Christian market now, but that only makes me wonder why those novels aren't being published for everyone to read, instead of being marketed almost exclusively to people who walk into a Christian bookstore.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on February 06, 2010, 05:49 PM
Yeah. I just refuse to let the CBA own the word "Chrisitan".  :moose

eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: MysteryRobin on February 08, 2010, 08:39 AM
Everything AuntyB said - DITTO! :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: pixydust on February 08, 2010, 12:50 PM
The whole idea of what Sally, AuntyB, and R.J. are talking about has always frustrated me. Why do we feel like we have to be "Christian" writers, instead of just writers? I would think our beliefs would be inherent to what we produce, but it certainly shouldn't limit us to a box of orthodoxy. I think I see spec writers who are believers realize this more readily than a CBA writer who writes what I guess you would call "normal" CBA fiction. We're already out of the box. There's really no getting away from it....LOL... I am a follower of Christ but I don't write for other believers. Maybe I can shine a light in the darkness, and hopefully show a little piece of the truth through a character's journey.

Still, I will say, that I find a sort of elegance to the way a CBA writer can direct their words to the church. I know my words to them wouldn't be received, and so I give them to the world, instead. It's loads harder to get through to people who think they've found the truth than to those who know they're lost. So, kudos to those in the CBA. Peter tried it and did well. Paul found the church too hard-headed. I think I'm with Paul...lol
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Joanna on February 08, 2010, 12:53 PM
Everything AuntyB said - DITTO! :)

Dittoing the ditto!  :yup
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on February 08, 2010, 03:13 PM
Well, yeah, Aunty, you are right. Christian is way bigger than CBA.

I've just been hanging in CBA groups so long that I have let the two bleed together.

RJ I've never read your books. I'm happy to discover them and look forward to reading them.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sdficklin on March 31, 2010, 12:31 PM
How do you feel about the books like Percy Jackson that deal with urban Mythologies? I've noticed that they aren't listed in my church book catalogue even thouth the Rangers Apprentince books are.  I'm just wondering how other people feel about it.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on April 01, 2010, 10:09 AM
I read the first Percy Jackson book, but was, quite frankly, not taken with it. It had nothing to do with my Christianity or the mythology, but simply because I just didn't feel connected to the characters.

Having said that, while I would allow my children to read the Percy Jackson books, I would likely use it as an opportunity to teach about Greek myths.  I would also talk about how even Greek mythology appears to have a slight grounding in the bible...that is, in Genesis, when it speaks of the Nephilim, and the old Heroes of Renown.  I wouldn't be surprised if many of the Greek stories are exaggerations of actual events. 

But the idea that there are gods other than the One and True God is discussion worthy.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on April 01, 2010, 01:49 PM
I don't know if I've written this on here before, but Ryan's comment made me remember it. My son, age 7, likes Dieney's take on Hercules and has been interested in the first Percy Jackson book. Because of this, he came up to me one day and asked "what god is God the god of?" As an agnostic, my answer was simple--"Uuuhhmmmmm..." (grin)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on April 01, 2010, 09:40 PM
I'm with Ryan on the Percy Jackson books. I didn't ever read one--I only got half-way through the first one. It had nothing to do with mythology. It had to do with my not caring about Percy at all.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on April 01, 2010, 09:42 PM
Amy, God says he's the God above all gods.

The question my kids ask is "who made God?"
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Amy Spitzley on April 02, 2010, 07:01 AM
Yeah, that's a pretty tricky one too, isn't it? (grin) My husband, who is an anal British agnostic geek-type, gets this same kid going on the whole universe/multiverse thing. It's enough to make my head spin!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: sally_apokedak on April 02, 2010, 12:14 PM
Yikes. I've never even heard of the multiverse. My head would be spinning. I try not to think about how big the universe is. It freaks me out.

On another note, this thread coming up again reminded me that I wanted to tell everyone over here to read RJ Anderson's Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter book. I bought it when she said something on this thread a couple of months ago and then I let it sit because, frankly, I'm not into faery books. I finally read it and LOVED it. Can't wait for the next one. Even the guys on the blog tour I was on, really liked it, though they said they had to take the cover off so no one knew what they were reading. LOL  It is really a good book.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: buglady5 on April 02, 2010, 06:10 PM
I'm with Ryan on the Percy Jackson books, too.  I read the first book to my kids, and hated the writing.  I thought the battle scenes were totally blah, the characters underdeveloped, and felt no connection to the characters or the plot.  Anyway, if I remember correctly, the question about God as opposed to "gods" does come up with Percy himself in the first book.  But it felt to me as if Riordan was expecting that, and just slid in a brief explanation to satisfy the naysayers.  In the book, I think it's Grover who basically "explains" to Percy that both the gods and THE God exist.  Felt too neatly packaged and out of place in the book for my taste.

buglady
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on April 03, 2010, 09:45 AM
Quote
The question my kids ask is "who made God?"

That's an excellent question, one that is raised on the biologos website (created by Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and former head of the human genome project), which includes the following:

In many faiths, God’s origin is straightforward. Christian doctrine teaches that God is eternal and thus had no beginning. The Psalms speak clearly about God’s eternal nature, affirming, but never defending God’s existence:

“Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” (Ps. 90:2)

“For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.” (Ps. 90:4)

These verses, and many others like them, highlight the complexity of God’s relation to time. Theologians have debated the relationship of God to time for centuries and no doubt will continue to do so. It is a question that we probably cannot answer. In one thoughtful response, God is the creator of time itself, and thus exists outside of time seeing all of history at once . . . although many fervent believers in God reject the argument about God’s timelessness because even timeless beings need explanations for their existence. But if God is the creator of all things, and yet also requires cause, we face an infinite regress of causes. The only way to avoid this infinite regress problem is to state — as Christian theology has always done — that God is the first cause and is entirely self existent, meaning the reason for God’s existence is contained within the very definition of God.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on April 03, 2010, 10:18 AM
Quote
Anyway, if I remember correctly, the question about God as opposed to "gods" does come up with Percy himself in the first book.  But it felt to me as if Riordan was expecting that, and just slid in a brief explanation to satisfy the naysayers.  In the book, I think it's Grover who basically "explains" to Percy that both the gods and THE God exist.  Felt too neatly packaged and out of place in the book for my taste.
 

As you said it comes up very briefly, only it's Chiron who breaks the news to Percy in chapter 5 of The Lightning Thief as follows:

Chiron: What you may not know is that great powers are at work in your life. Gods--the forces you call Greek gods--are very much alive.

Percy (after staring around the table and watching Grover help himself to a Diet Coke can): Wait. You're telling me there's such a thing as God.

Chiron: Well, now. God--capital G, God. That's a different matter altogether. We shan't deal with the metaphysical.

Percy: Metaphysical? But you were just talking about--

Chiron: Gods, plural, as in great beings that control the forces of nature and human endeavors: the immortal gods of Olympus. That's a smaller matter.

Percy: Smaller?

Chiron: Yes, quite. The gods we discussed in Latin class.

Percy: Zeus. Hera. Apollo. You mean them. (Thunder rumbles in the distance.)

Mr. D: Young man, I would really be less casual about throwing those names around, if I were you.

So yes, the topic of "God" was mentioned briefly and not all that satisfactorily, but I think Riordan was trying to explain how their role in the books. He doesn't try to make his Olympian gods into holy deities to be worshipped and praised as we would in churches/synagogues; rather (aside from giving the gods food to become burnt offerings), these gods are generally merely honored like we would important authority figures. For the record, I thought Rick Riordan did an amazing job introducing Greek gods in a creative way, and imbuing them with lots of personality. Also, one of my sons enthusiastically read all of the books at home on his own time, and that's saying something for a kid who doesn't read much fiction.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on June 16, 2010, 12:30 AM
Riordan's new book series, the Kane Chronicles, came out recently, and he makes an allusion to his Percy Jackson series in the book, implying that in Riordan's 'verse, all religions are true.  The Egyptian gods exist in the same world as the Greek pantheon, and both are equally real.  So the Christian God capital 'G' is real too.  That's not a cop-out.  tons of authors, very talented authors, have done the same thing.  Neil Gaiman pops into my head immediately with his book "American Gods" and his "Sandman" comic series.  The distinction between the gods and God usually comes in the sense that gods are usually based around humanity.  They squabble with each other, they have jealousy, human forms, rivalries, love affairs, etc; while God on the other hand is usually viewed as distant, unknowable, invisible, and beyond human understanding in every regard (though no less benevolent, loving, and so on because of that).

Plus, Riordan's stuff is solidly middle grade.  I wouldn't expect a deep weaving of Christian belief systems interwoven with Greek mythology, especially if it's going to detract from the story.  Percy's about the Greek pantheon, focus on that.  Kane chronicles are about Egypt, focus on that, etc.  Now if he suddenly starts throwing around a lot of Judeo-Christian stuff, then yeah, I'm going to want more than just a hand wave. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Marissa Doyle on June 16, 2010, 05:13 AM
Sometimes reasoning doesn't come into it, however.  I recently got a letter from a girl whom I'd guess is about 14 taking me to task for having Celtic goddesses manifest themselves in one of my YA historical fantasies because they could not exist in a world where "God" also existed--it had to be one or the other.  No, I had not at all referred to the judeo-christian god in the story (set in 19th century Ireland).  At least she liked the book otherwise.  :)  I wrote back and gently explained that this was fiction...haven't heard back from her so I don't know if that bothered her or not.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on June 16, 2010, 02:19 PM
That was really nice of you.  I would've sent a Nietzsche quote or something.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Marissa Doyle on June 17, 2010, 07:09 AM
Heh.  I couldn't do that to a girl who'd put horse stickers on her letter (it was via snail mail), even though she'd sent me a stack of biblical verses to look up in support of her viewpoint.  I just hope it helped her begin to see that there's a big world out there, and not all of it follows the rules she's familiar with...and that it's all right if it doesn't.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Beth S on July 08, 2010, 12:56 AM
Hi everyone,

I have a question I'd like some imput on. At the very beginning of this thread Jen said something about how what she will read is very different to what she will write - and the latter excludes demons and possession and the like. I'm interested in hearing from Christian writers on how they draw the line in what they write.

I've been brainstorming my new book, and my original intention was to write a ghost story in which the ghost/s re-enact their particular tragic love story through humans in the story, who have to escape the 're-enactment' in order to survive. (I'm hoping this makes sense -- for Buffy watchers, think the episode "I Only Have Eyes For You"). It's only recently occurred to me that this could be problematic for some Christian readers.

As a Christian writer I'm trying to find that 'line' in my own writing, and I'm interested in hearing about how other writers determine what they will or will not write about.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on July 08, 2010, 07:15 AM
Beth:

There are many forms of fiction, and as a Christian, it should be impossible to separate ourselves as writers from our commitment to the Great Commission.  Now, I'm not suggesting that our work needs to be evangelical, but I think we cannot write something that goes against the gospel message.

Having said that, fiction serves different purposes.  Look at Tokien's writings.  He created an entire world that included ghosts and magic and evil, etc.  Yet, fundamentally, his story was still a reflection of his Christianity.  It reflected truths of humanity, the spiritual world, even the world itself, all through a completely fake world he built himself. 

Similar for the Narnia books, which were more allegorical. Such books allow a writer to explore spiritual themes within the "safety" of fantasy.

Then there is fiction that is really little more than pure entertainment.  It is within this form that I think it is easy for Christians to veer into somewhat dangerous waters.  Not because it is pure entertainment, but because writing such pure entertainment brings a false sense of it "being okay because it's just fiction".  I'm always reminded of the verse that says it would better for me to be thrown into the river with a millstone around my neck than to lead someone astray.  So, I wouldn't want my fiction to do that.

I have a personal story in that regard.  I wrote a short story, science fantasy (involving superheroes) that went too far into seeming to accept other beliefs.  I didn't recognize it that way at first, and was merely providing a "source of powers" to the characters based on mythology.  But it was a fellow Christian writer whom I respect who critiqued my story and basically called me out on the carpet about it, saying that it was essentially granting power that belongs to God to "gods".  Hm.  He was absolutely right.  So, I ended up rewriting the story entirely from a different angle.  I still had superheroes, but it no longer pointed ANYONE away from God.  (It also didn't make any mention of God, since it wasn't intended to be a religious story in any way).  The story was much better for it, and it was truth to my faith.  I was able to publish the story in Aoife's Kiss as a result.

I believe words have power.  I believe even fiction influences.  If it didn't, why would so many people write fiction meant to explore topics and expose kids to ideas they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to?  Writers like to believe that children will think for themselves.  And for the most part that's true.  But I also don't want to stand before God and have to explain why my words convinced a subset of people to walk a path other than one that is consistent with the gospel.  In that regard, I feel Christian writers have an obligation to "write with care".  My fiction is not evangelical in nature.  In fact, the truth is, most "Christian fiction" I read I really don't like.  Yet, we can write "secular fiction" that ultimately glorifies God, or in the very least, does not deny his glory.

I can't answer your specific case of writing a ghost story.  It depends.  It depends on if your story is in any way allegorical or not.  But if the story does little more than to propagate the idea that ghosts exists as the embodiment of souls who haven't "crossed over"...this is inconsistent with scripture, and it would raise concerns for me. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on July 08, 2010, 05:31 PM
I'm a Christian.  Shocking I know.  My relationship with faith has been...odd.  Brainwashing, bigotry, hypocrisy, sexual deviancy, money laundering, intolerance, racism, hatred, and guilt by the truckload were things I've experienced at the various churches I've attended.  I've also gotten a first had view at real love, salvation, devotion that still makes me teary eyed, the best of humanity, and a few minor miracles.  It's been really up and down and all around.  So for me it's like, I'm just sort of "with the band," if you will.  I believe and I'm a supporter, but I stay on the fringe.  So with that in mind, here's my hard and fast rule for writing: if it fits, makes sense, and works in the context of the story, it goes in.  If not, it goes out.  That rule keeps me from writing anything gratuitous, but again, if it fits, it goes in.  

I do my best to remain invisible as an author.  You should not be able to see me, my beliefs, or anything to do with me.  This is about the story, and the characters, and what they believe, not me, not my parents, not my friends.  If a character is evil, I'm going to write them as evil.  If there's a demon or something around, they're going to do demony type stuff.  Even if something steps on my own toes, if it makes me go "Whoa this is pretty bad," but I know it belongs there, that it makes sense for that character to be doing or saying this uneasy thing, in it goes.  

To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the story.  Look at Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy.  It was a great series until the end.  I don't have anything wrong with a fictional universe where God and the Church are the bad guys.  What ruined it for me was near the end, when it was like Lyra and the other characters disappeared and there's just Philip Pullman, up on his soapbox raging against the machine.  All the work, the set up, the world building gone because one ol' Brit needed to vent about his anti-religion stance.  Way to sink a great series Phil!  His message could have remained the same, he just needed to make himself invisible.

If you can do that while sticking to your principles, awesome.  But if ol' lady Jones starts shaking her finger at you because you've got some foreign pantheon or a magic ritual, or whatever in your book, and said thing makes sense in the context of the story, forget her.

I'll finish with this: there's this documentary called "Jesus Camp."  I'm not going to get in deep to it, but there's this one scene where this nice young lady is practicing her dance moves.  She says something akin to "I have to remember to only dance for Jesus, and not just dance."  Something like that, I'm ad-libbing.  I just wanted to shake her and go No kid!  You've got a gift!  Don't shut it away or only bring it out on Sundays or whatever.  Dance to whatever beat you can find and go for it.  Same thing for writing.  Not everything you write has to be Church-approved.  Just write, if it works, keep it, if it doesn't toss it.  If it isn't in the scripture, hey that's why it's called fiction and why you're not trying to pass it off to an editor as the new gospel. 

Okay I'm done.  
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on July 08, 2010, 06:39 PM
Beth, I'm not sure there is a "line." Even your own individual line. As Ryan said, it depends. On your story, on why elements are there - a whole lot of things. What might be ok in one story - ghosts, for instance - wouldn't be ok in another.

Justin, I get what you're saying about if it fits, it's in. I think we're in very dangerous territory when we try to self-censor something out. But I don't buy what I sometimes sense people saying (not necessarily you Justin, just leads me in that direction) that their characters do what they want and the author has no control. As if the author isn't present. Because we are present, even if we try to be invisible. That's what an author's voice is. Why do you even have a certain character in the first place? How did you pick events/plot? Even if we aren't heavy-handed or preachy, we still have themes that tend to surface. The themes will and should bubble up out of the story (not the other way around, or at least not consciously), but I firmly believe that the story we write and the themes that bubble up are intimately connected to who we are as a writer and what we believe.

Sometimes I like to look at extremes to see how something would play out. For example, would I have an extreme, lynching racist as a main character, tell it from their point of view, and have the entire outcome vindicate their beliefs? From a delusional racist point of view, that might the "truth" from their point of view; that might be how the character would play things out. I would be following that character. But how could I write that? Why would I write that - even take that premise and character? That wouldn't be truth for me.

And I believe that ultimately we have to write truth. As Ryan points out, Tolkien was writing truth, even though the particulars weren't true. Some things might sound non-Christian - like the ghosts who helped out the good guys - but the whole thing was surely from a Christian world view. I think that might be my favorite kind of story; one that isn't "Christian" (some of those are dreadful, I think in large part because the writer is trying to stuff a giant squid into a shoebox) but is nevertheless consistent with a Christian world view.

And as a reader, we need to be open to all kinds of stories, because we can learn from and have fun with all kinds of stories written by people with all kinds of world views. That is not to say you agree with all those world views, or would write the same story, just that you can take something away as a reader. And not judge the writer.

Couple misc. thoughts: Justin, I like the dancing analogy. I'll just add one thought to that. The girl could dance in a way that had nothing directly related to Jesus, and yet it would be for Jesus simply because dancing is joy and therefore is a gift from the creator. But if the dancing turned to strip dancing at a gentleman's club, then it would be disconnected; it would no longer be joy for her and the gift would have been twisted. And if she didn't think that, if she thought it was still joy, then perhaps a re-formation of her moral thinking would be in order.

And I TOTALLY agree that Pullman lost me at the end. All that, and it was a soapbox indeed. Of course, because it's a soapbox that I disagree with made me even madder, but I think I would have been displeased even if he were preaching something I agreed with. And as confirmation that he blew it, as you say, the characters disappeared. Did you notice that the ONLY cardboard character in that book was the priest? Even the harpies were well rounded. This is quite often a problem with explicitly Christian stories (in reverse of course), but nobody beats Pullman for proselytizing.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on July 08, 2010, 06:46 PM
Author presence is one thing.  Butting into a narrative to deliver a heavy-handed message that is out of character is quite another.  there's style, which is great!  Then there's using a narrative as a soap box, which isn't.  The author should maintain control while remaining unseen.

Cynthia: I'm with you on your addition to my dancing example.  As long as you're not writing stuff that Crowley would look at and go "Yeah all right!" i think you're gonna be okay. 

I'm going to bring up an example from an actual book series: the Dresden Files.  The gist of these books is that one Harry Dresden, is a practicing wizard listed in the yellow pages in Chicago (and yes, this particular wizard named Harry came out before that other Harry).  Harry is very much into magic.  He's got a spirit of intellect living in a skull in his basement, he says magic words and calls on forces that are described as worldly or natural.  definitely not God type stuff.  There's another character named Michael, a devout Christian who wields a sword that has one of the three nails from the Cross in its blade.  Michael is devout but never preachy.  He lets Harry know that he doesn't approve of him using magic, but doesn't do it in a mean or judgmental way.  Jim Butcher, the author, writes Michael as an excellent character who is a believable Christian.  He also writes Harry as a believable wizard and practitioner of magic who isn't on friendly terms with God.  The point is, both characters are great, well-written, and real.  they're both good guys, despite the fact that they have different philosophies that don't always agree, and sometimes even conflict with each other.

But Butcher gives them both equal treatment, whereas a lesser author in the same situation would paint Michael as a Bible-Thumping fascist (is said author were atheist or a pagan) or Harry as a Satan-loving morally bankrupt hedonist or something (if they were more conservatively religious).  But I can't tell which Jim Butcher is.  Maybe he's neither.  I can see his style but I can't see HIM.

I know I'm rambling. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 08, 2010, 07:20 PM
Interesting discussion! I think the main thing is that how you set up your story premise, conclusion, and so on, is going to ultimately be what you perceive as true and authentic as manifested in the context of your story.
 
The person who spoke so wisely on this topic is Madeleine L'Engle, who herself loved to write about space travel and unicorns an mitochondria. There's a wonderful compilation of her thoughts in a book I love Madeleine L'Engle: Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life. Here are three excerpts:

p. 77 A STORY IS BORN
In A Wrinkle in Time, you have my discovery of the new sciences of higher math, my struggles against limiting God, my struggle to work out a viable theology ... and of course, my foremost interest in writing a good story ... The theology is down deep. It's not there unless you look for it. And that's where I think it should be in stories. It should not hang below your skirt like a slip.

p. 145 STORY IS REVELATORY
Your point of view as a human being is going to come over in your work whether you know it or not. There's no way you can hide it. So if you are a Christian, your work is going to be Christian ... If you are someone who cares about human beings, that's going to come over in your work. If you are indifferent to the fate of other people, that's also going to show ... Sometimes in nonfiction you can hide yourself behind statistics and facts, but in fiction you are writing story, and story is relevatory.

p. 316 STORY GIVES US COURAGE
That love which cannot be destroyed has been the central core of stories since stories were first told or chanted around the campfires at night. Sometimes that love is shown by what we human creatures do to hurt it. We learn about love by being shown the abuses of love in Anna Karenina, or The Brothers Karamazov, or King Lear ... it takes a firm grounding in the love of God for a writer to go into the darkest depths of the human heart ... Love does not triumph easily or without pain, but story gives us the courage to endure the pain.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on July 08, 2010, 07:23 PM
Great quotes Hazel.  :yup
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on July 08, 2010, 07:35 PM
I love the Dresden files. One, they're fun. But they're also fascinating to me from the religious point of view. You're right, can't tell exactly what Jim Butcher believes, though I'm pretty sure it's not anti-Christian. Michael is interesting because he is a well-rounded character with flaws, but he so absolutely good. He is the only truly good character in there, but he isn't cardboard. He makes decisions that not everyone would agree with - like when he is talking with Dresden about Lasciel and that if Dresden is consumed by a demon that Michael will kill him. And just when we think Michael might be a little harsh there, Dresden agrees with him, because of course there are things worse than death.

And Dresden! You have to love him (well I do). No one would ever accuse him of being goody two shoes, yet he is definitely good too. And Butcher's treatment of sexual desire - again, Dresden can be lustful, crude even, and yet he's waiting for a long-term relationship, even while he's kicking himself for it. And then his vampire brother...

At heart, those 2 characters have much more in common than not.

I'm just fascinated by how Butcher has these very explicit Christian elements, and yet you would never call this a Christian novel - not even close. But it seems to me that the deepest places in these books whisper of faith. And though he probably goes places I wouldn't go by myself as a writer, I love following along his ride.

For YA, a set of books that I also find very interesting in the elements of religion (I may have even mentioned them before much earlier in this thread; apologies if I did), though not as ambiguous, is the Alfred Kropp series by Rick Yancey. Especially the middle book Seal of Solomon. His treatment of demons and angels there is very interesting. My favorite scene was with the angel; it had me crying just because there was so much true there. Not much God talk, but there all the same.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on July 08, 2010, 07:43 PM
Yes, great quotes. It's been quite awhile since I've read that book; have to get hold of that again. I heard her speak once in a small setting and she was wonderful, as is her fiction. I love the line about the slip.

Part of why I'm so interested in the Dresden Files or the Alfred Kropp books, is when an author has specific religious elements - especially Christian - in a novel. I have no idea how to do that without having my slip dragging the floor. Hidden, subtle, like L'Engle does, seems easier (not to say that what she achieved was easy, not at all).
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Betsy on July 08, 2010, 08:27 PM
I just saw this thread.

Sally--It's a good idea to stretch your mind every once in awhile.  As a writer of three astronomy books, I can tell you that the size of the universe is truly mind boggling.  Even this doesn't really show you the extent, but it's a start:

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap100120.html

1.  In our Milky Way Galaxy, there are between 100 and 400 billion stars.  (Picture your bathtub filled with sugar. Now count each grain.  That's one billion.) And how many galaxies just like ours are out there?  Well, we can see 100 billion galaxies with our most powerful telescopes.  So how many stars does that make?  Many more than there are grains of sand on all the beaches and in all the deserts on Earth.  

2.  How many galaxies are out there altogether, that is galaxies that are too far away for us to see?  If astronomers turn their telescopes to a dark piece of space, about the same size of the moon, they can see 100,000 galaxies--all invisible to the naked eye. Astronomers have estimated that the size of what we can see compared to all the stars and galaxies in the invisible and distant part of the universe has about the same ratio as that of a proton to the visible universe.

3.  And ours may be just one of trillions of universes.

Astronomers are absolutely certain of No. 1, less certain about the exact numbers in No. 2, and No. 3 is still a theory--but one that many first rate astronomers subscribe to.

I don't know about you, but it gives me a whole new respect for God.  Makes you wonder why He's lavished so much attention on our little speck of dust...

Ellen Jackson, author
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on July 08, 2010, 09:03 PM
One of the things I love most about Madeliene L'Engle is her conviction that when we write, our hearts are revealed.  I completely believe that.  I see it in my own writing -- I see it in every book I pick up.  I think sometimes things we don't even realize are inside us can appear in our writing.  Even if someone never mentions God or any kind of faith, if their characters and the circumstances they endure show an overall theme of love and care and good, then God (Life, Light) is revealed. 

P.S.  I got to meet Jim Butcher at a conference a couple years ago, and he is a wonderfully irreverant and humble person.  He likes people, humanity, those things which make us individual and yet a collective being.  (At least, that's the very strong impression he gave off.)  At the very least, he knows how to respect those around him and appreciate their thoughts and ideas, even if different from his.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: JustinDono on July 08, 2010, 10:17 PM
So if I just wrote a story about a tentacled elder-gd on the fringes of space then, that's what's in my heart?  :ahh
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on July 09, 2010, 05:14 AM
So if I just wrote a story about a tentacled elder-gd on the fringes of space then, that's what's in my heart?  :ahh

There's nothing wrong with that. As I said, writing for pure entertainment is fine.  BUT, as the author, we have choices, as was stated.  If those choices direct someone AWAY from God, we will be held accountable for that according to the Bible.  That doesn't mean our stories need to proselytize in any way.  In fact, I prefer they don't.  That's the point of a Christian's life, our roles as parents, friends, neighbors, etc.  I don't believe "Christian fiction" will bring someone to Christ.  None of my stories are preachy.  Some of them have "lessons" in them, in that the characters learn something about themselves that, perhaps, the reader might recognize as well.  But ultimately it is about the story and the character's journey.  Still, I can't help but make that a reflection of my beliefs in some fashion.  In my first novel I wrote, I have evil characters.  But I was sure to paint those evil characters with motivations that give the reader a sense of compassion.  Why?  Because I think most people in this world who are "evil" or "do evil" are ultimately victims as well...victims of, perhaps, abuse or neglect, or a myriad of other maladies in this world.  Such experiences form a person's belief system.  And so those who do evil are not inherently evil, but driven to that evil because of their life's experiences.  

So, my evil characters in my stories are a reflection of my world view.   Adam and Eve first sinned, after all, because the Serpent tempted and lied to them.  They become victims.

I also have flawed main characters.  Because as much as I profess to be a Christian, even moreso I recognize that I NEED to be a Christian because I'm a miserable wretch and need a savior.  Just ask my kids if I'm flawed!  (On second though...don't!)  So, again, my stories are a reflection of my worldview. Yet my first book was not the LEAST bit religious or spiritual in nature.  In dealt with kids who had mental powers.  

My second novel actually touched on religious matters.  The ending of the story could be interpreted in three ways, and as the author, I made it intentionally that way.  I had three characters who ultimately provided those interpretations, but I left it to the reader to decide which one (if, in fact, it was only one) was the case.  One of those characters was a minister who presented the possibility that God was the one who directed things to this end.  Then there were characters who felt it was the "magic" of Dream Pool (the title of the novel was "The Dream Pool") alone. Then there were a few characters who felt it was nothing but coincidence and luck.  All three were presented as valid positions.  My goal wasn't to convince a reader to believe it was God, but simply to present viewpoints that may not necessarily have been considered.  And in fact, such a position is still reflective of my own worldview...because sometimes I find it difficult to discern what things are truly of God, what things are truly of our own making, and what things are the influence of Satan on this world.  Sometimes it can be hard to know which is which until after the fact, and we can convince ourselves something is of God that isn't, or vice versa.  

So, again, our personal worldview shows up in our writing.  Sometimes intentionally so, other times no so intentionally.  C.S. Lewis make an explicit allegory to the gospel message.  Tolkien didn't.  (In fact, he was quoted as saying he despised allegories!)  But both wrote stories that were reflections of their Christian worldviews.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: AuntyBooks on July 09, 2010, 10:09 AM
C.S. Lewis would spin in his grave at the thought of Narnia being called an allegory, and Tolkien regarded TLOTR as a religious and Catholic work.

“If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality, however, he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all." C.S. Lewis (letter to Mrs. Hook)

All fiction springs from the question "What if?" And, as writers, our answer to that question is deeply rooted in our world view. This was true of both Lewis and Tolkien. Emphasis mine:

Lewis:  “Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; **that element pushed itself in of its own accord.**

Tolkien: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; **unconsciously so at first**, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. **For the religious element is absorbed into the story** and the symbolism.”  Tolkien's Letters (the Catholic symbolism in TLOR is stunning, elegant and rich, btw)

Lewis and Tolkein’s own worldviews came out in the stories they told, though they only realized it on revision.  I believe this is because (sorry Justin) no creator can be invisible in their creation. What is in our minds and hearts is the stuff we use to spin our stories.

Which is no excuse for soppy, sloppy ‘Christian’ writing, which doesn’t tell the truth about the world but 'tickles the ears' of those who would be the gatekeepers of Christian thought. A writer’s job is to tell the truth through fiction—even when it offends.

Here is a thought provoking essay on that subject by Flannery O’Conner: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9118

I wish I had time to write more – I am passionate about this subject.

☺ eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 09, 2010, 11:00 AM
Quote
I've been brainstorming my new book, and my original intention was to write a ghost story in which the ghost/s re-enact their particular tragic love story through humans in the story, who have to escape the 're-enactment' in order to survive.

This morning I woke up remembering a Vivian Vande Velde book I'd read several years ago that sounds sort of like this concept, except instead of a tragic love story, the "haunting" event is a tragic incident involving pre-Civil War slaves attempting to cross the Erie Canal to obtain freedom in Canada: There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around. I thought it was handled very well (as usual; she's a very gifted fantasy writer.) I highly recommend it.

Quote
Picture your bathtub filled with sugar. Now count each grain.  That's one billion.

Awesome! It IS mind-boggling just to think about. I salute astronomers who can wrap their minds around this!

EAB, thanks for sharing the essay from Flannery O'Conner. I love how she said the following:
There is a great tendency today to want everybody to write just the way everybody else does, to see and to show the same things in the same way to the same middling audience. But the writer, in order best to use the talents he has been given, has to write at his own intellectual level. For him to do anything else is to bury his talents.
...
The fact is that if the writer's attention is on producing a work of art, a work that is good in itself, he is going to take great pains to control every excess, everything that does not contribute to this central meaning and design. He cannot indulge in sentimentality, in propagandizing, or in pornography and create a work of art, for all these things are excesses. They call attention to themselves and distract from the work as a whole. The fiction writer has to make a whole world believable by making every part and aspect of it believable.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on July 09, 2010, 11:04 AM
Great quotes, Eab (I've read them before, but had forgotten).  Even a story which appears to be purely entertainment shares something of the author's heart (if nothing more than that they value entertainment, laughter, etc). ;)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Beth S on July 09, 2010, 02:38 PM
Just poking my head in to say thanks for all your responses - I've read and enjoyed them all.

I don't have time to write a detailed response at the moment (about to head off to work!), but thanks for the interesting discussion.

And thanks for the book suggestion, Hazelnut. I'll definately go find it. It sounds fascinating.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: mbwest1220 on July 09, 2010, 07:53 PM
Beth, in my opinion the line is yours to choose, but you must be sure to define it well.

For example, my current WIP involves lots of Christian history and symbolism as I am a devout Christian, but the story holds very dear to fantasy elements that some may view as magical. But my intention is to show that God gives each of us such unique gifts that we have to utilize in order to be the change we expect or hope for in the world. I show this by clearly illustrating my MC's purpose (which is protector to Earth's gate to Heaven). I  had no issues in having my MC have "powers" b/c they were given to him by God himself. We are each given gifts - talents, athleticism, intellect, etc. I also feel this is the defining trait of HP and why it should not be an issue for Christians to read. The wizards/witches in that book were born that way. It also makes a great distinction between proper magic and dark magic and why one is good and the other bad. And at some point, explanations and definitions have to be the responsibility of the parent. I agree with what Ryan said many posts ago - if you cannot properly answer the questions that can arise by your children reading these books then don't let them read them. It's as simple as that.

But back to the "line" issue, in my first draft I wrote of my MC bringing his love back to life (ala Matrix) and immediately shook my head and revised that back out because, to me, that crossed the line on my beliefs and what I would want children to know and understand. So you have to choose the line for yourself and make sure it is true to your beliefs and what you hope readers will see in your work. Good luck with it! Being Christian is a wonderful privilege, not something intended to thwart you.
Title: breakfast with George...
Post by: AuntyBooks on July 10, 2010, 09:43 AM
MacDonald, that is. Who wrote about ghosts and werewolves (among other frightful and delightful things) and was the writer who "baptized the imaginations" of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Tolkien, Charles Williams....and many lesser writers. Like me.  :yup

In fact, this morning I was reading in the excellent "Baptized Imagination: The Theology of George MacDonald" when I came upon this sentence: "A man's own nature must lie at the heart of all he does."

And then, "In its deepest sense, the truth is is a condition of heart, soul, mind and strength towards God and towards our fellow -- not an utterance not even a right form of words; and therefore such truth coming forth in words is, in a sense, the person that speaks."

If as a Christian your *very nature* has been tuned to the heart of the Creator, then that speaks into the stories you write whether they are stories about ghosties, ghoulies, or creatures even more hideous. Like Bible salesmen who steal wooden legs.  :smile

eab
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lill on July 10, 2010, 10:09 AM

If as a Christian your *very nature* has been tuned to the heart of the Creator, then that speaks into the stories you write whether they are stories about ghosties, ghoulies, or creatures even more hideous. Like Bible salesmen who steal wooden legs.  :smile

eab


Ooooh .. a Flannery O'Connor reference.  I went to college at her alma mater. Visited her grave many times. (I hung out a lot at Memory Hill Cemetery since it was just a couple of blocks from my dorm) Walked past her mother's house in town nearly every day. Have been to Andalusia a time or two.

 I started this thread about a year after I moved into a very conservative anti-Catholic Christian community. Yes, some of you may find the previous statement an oxymoron ... but it's an accurate description. I don't live there anymore. But my whole perspective on this thing has changed greatly since I opened this topic.

I consider my gift/talent of writing to be God given, and I feel it's my duty/obligation/calling to use that gift to make a difference. Not so much in evangelizing .... or proselytizing .... but in just making good use of it ... most of us here were avid readers as children and we all can relate to what books meant to us ... and I figure that's what I'm supposed to do. I can't please everybody, and I've learned that no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it.

Flannery herself was not well thought of in her own home town of Milledgeville, GA. Townsfolk wondered why she couldn't write "nice stories."  When one of my professors, an O'Connor scholar, first arrived at the college she was shocked to find how Flannery's papers were stored at the library ... if my memory serves right .. they were in a box under a sink down in the basement. Things have changed a lot since then. When I attended the college (it's been -- ahem -- a while) there was a small O'Connor reading room. I haven't been back to the campus since Reagan was president, so I can't tell you what's there now.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on July 10, 2010, 12:22 PM
George MacDonald is probably my favorite 'spiritual' writer.  I have his sermons and many of his fiction works -- along with a couple of compilations.  His open-hearted, open-minded philsophies on life (and the Creator of Life) have greatly shaped my own thinking.

'no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it' -- boy, isn't that the truth?  :)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Cynthia on July 10, 2010, 05:14 PM
eab, thanks for the quotes and link to Flannery O'Connor (I really like that website, by the way, and didn't realize that particular piece was there). She hits so many points so well - not just for Christians, but for every writer.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Beth S on July 10, 2010, 07:59 PM
I asked my dad's advice (he's a writer and a Christian as well) and he agreed with you guys that our morals and beliefs are inevitably revealed in what we write - and to insert them consciously creates the Pullman-soapbox effect. He also said something similar to Ryan about our stories reflecting the truths we hold as fundamental, whether they are about ghosts or witches or superheroes or any other kind of paranormal creature. He thought my story idea did this in the way it illustrated the eternal consequences of our actions here on earth.

I think as writers, fantasy and magic are an amazing tool we can use to illustrate our beliefs and world views without preaching or proselytizing.

So thanks, everyone, for participating in this discussion. Your answers have really helped me to work through these issues and come to some conclusions, and not just about this particular story, but about how God can use my gifts as a writer to further his purpose.

It's all pretty exciting!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lunchbox on July 10, 2010, 11:58 PM
I asked my dad's advice (he's a writer and a Christian as well) and he agreed with you guys that our morals and beliefs are inevitably revealed in what we write - and to insert them consciously creates the Pullman-soapbox effect. He also said something similar to Ryan about our stories reflecting the truths we hold as fundamental, whether they are about ghosts or witches or superheroes or any other kind of paranormal creature. He thought my story idea did this in the way it illustrated the eternal consequences of our actions here on earth.

I think as writers, fantasy and magic are an amazing tool we can use to illustrate our beliefs and world views without preaching or proselytizing.

So thanks, everyone, for participating in this discussion. Your answers have really helped me to work through these issues and come to some conclusions, and not just about this particular story, but about how God can use my gifts as a writer to further his purpose.

It's all pretty exciting!

I second that.  I'm not so sure anyone who has read my published work will gain any strong insights into my beliefs (Latter-Day Saints, a.k.a. Mormon), but I do try to avoid writing anything I wouldn't want my kids or any other young people to read.  I believe I have a gift that I am under divine obligation to develop into a useful talent.  Our church leaders have often counseled us to read, in addition to the scriptures, "many good books,"  and "out of the best books."  There is a lot of great literature out there, especially among the classics, that will uplift and edify the reader without preaching any doctrine other than the triumph of good over evil and the positive and negative consequences of personal choice.  In fact, C.S. Lewis is often quoted over the pulpit in Mormon congregations, because he did such a great job of illustrating gospel principles in his fiction.  I hope that as I get better at writing, that kids will be motivated to make wise choices and aspire to be better.  The characters in my books, though mostly silly, all have personal flaws that they must overcome in order to learn and solve their problems.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Jen on July 11, 2010, 01:37 PM
Hi everyone,

I have a question I'd like some imput on. At the very beginning of this thread Jen said something about how what she will read is very different to what she will write - and the latter excludes demons and possession and the like. I'm interested in hearing from Christian writers on how they draw the line in what they write.

It's funny looking back and thinking about how these things change over time, because I don't think I'd consider myself to have any hard and fast lines (though I'm not sure I did three years ago either, though it may have come across that way at the time).  In any case, nowadays, I don't really think there's anything that I would *want* to write that I would actively choose not to for religious reasons, but there are lots of things that I probably just wouldn't be drawn to write in the first place (which I think is true of every writer, whether you bring religion into the equation or not).  Oddly enough, I think I'd naturally veer more away from writing fantasy that IS compatible with/draws from the supernatural aspects of my religion than stuff that's not.  I could probably write demons, but I'd bet that if I did, my "demons" would be a lot more like "synonym for monster" than "minion of heck" (or to put it in television terms, more Buffy than Supernatural season 5).  But this isn't any kind of conscious choice- it's something I actually have to take a step back to analyze, because if I'm not comfortable writing something, I wouldn't get very far in writing it in the first place.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: hazelnut on July 11, 2010, 04:28 PM
Quote
I can't please everybody, and I've learned that no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it.

True! Some people are just going to object to virtually anything that is fantasy. I recall reading about the controversy of E. B. White's STUART LITTLE, over the little talking mouse born to a family (in the movie version, he's adopted). Why get so hot and bothered over something just because it can't happen in real life? Who cares, it made a great story!

Quote
Flannery herself was not well thought of in her own home town of Milledgeville, GA. Townsfolk wondered why she couldn't write "nice stories."  When one of my professors, an O'Connor scholar, first arrived at the college she was shocked to find how Flannery's papers were stored at the library ... if my memory serves right .. they were in a box under a sink down in the basement.

How sad! I had no idea.

Quote
... there are lots of things that I probably just wouldn't be drawn to write in the first place (which I think is true of every writer, whether you bring religion into the equation or not).

This is true for me, too. There's a lot of things I don't have the PASSION for writing about, that have nothing to do with my faith. Also, I avoid writing things that I think has been done to death. Originality is very important to me. I think we all have our reasons FOR writing what we do, and reasons for NOT writing about other things.

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: DonnaE on July 11, 2010, 07:09 PM
A friend of mine quoted this today...

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed. -- G.K. Chesterton

Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: RyanBruner on July 12, 2010, 06:13 AM
'no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it' -- boy, isn't that the truth?  :)

Oh, I totally disagree with that...

;)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: andracill on July 12, 2010, 02:24 PM
Haha ;)
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Woods on January 26, 2012, 06:25 PM
Found this interesting thread. It got me thinking and wondering about the "magic" in my manuscript. The "magic" in my story is based on science. Is that okay?

Sorry if the question sounds out of the blue! I'm just curious. . .
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: amberturner on February 09, 2012, 05:30 PM
Just a writer who's a Christian poking my head in here to see if any of you have read a book called GOD OF THE FAIRY TALE?

It's a fascinating study of common fairy tales (to include more modern stories as well) and how each represents some very basic innate spiritual longings for the magic that comes from God. It's begun with a fascinating story of Lewis and Tolkien and their discussions.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Helen on April 17, 2012, 05:35 AM
Just saw this, but will put on my "read" list.....
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Helen on April 17, 2012, 07:48 AM
So...this proves that God's timing is not our own. ( And when I write in the wee hours of the night, I don't read dates well)....hee hee ho ho  :ram
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: iwriteforkids on October 10, 2012, 09:21 PM
Hoping to keep this topic afloat, since I've written a middle grade fantasy for the christian market.  No magic in mine, but lots of creepies, including a banshee.  I just found this topic too, and haven't read through it yet, but this is a question that comes up frequently.  In inspy, fantasy is called "speculative."  They're just not warming up to it with any kind of haste but fantasy is big in secular and it's drawing christian kids to those books.  Problem is, a lot of those books also carry other messages that pull kids off the path.  Anyone else out there writing speculative?
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Lill on October 10, 2012, 11:38 PM
By "inspy" do you mean inspirational?

I would think that inclusion of any type of supernatural creature -- including banshees -- would be iffy for a Christian market. Ghosts and stuff would be problematic, I think. But then again, I neither read nor write fiction specifically meant for a Christian market.

I began this thread oh so many years ago --- and I no longer have the same concerns -- I no longer live in the same community either. :) At the time I started this thread, I was suffering from massive cultural shell shock, having moved from a diverse community to an extremely conservative one.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: ButterflyGirl on October 11, 2012, 05:54 AM
My upper middle grade has an older important character who goes to church and encourages forgiveness and other biblical principles. There are magical elements, ancient spells...and the mc sprouts wings. It's not a "Christian" book -- non-believers will not be annoyed by "preaching," but believers will feel encouraged. The ms is currently under consideration by a couple of agents. 
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: Helen on October 13, 2012, 07:56 AM
Just lightly perused the topic here, but as far as classics go, Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are examples of integrating spells, witches, goblins, orcs,  warlocks, etc. The key is that good triumphs evil.  The 'other worldly' elements really have little power...like the Emperor's new clothes....it's present, but can be overcome (or disrobed so to speak).
And, yes, kids are attracted to secular books like this. There are several aisles at our local big name bookstore. I think that presenting a moral compass is important...in a winsome way.
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: KatieC on October 15, 2012, 03:15 PM
Hoping to keep this topic afloat, since I've written a middle grade fantasy for the christian market.  No magic in mine, but lots of creepies, including a banshee.  I just found this topic too, and haven't read through it yet, but this is a question that comes up frequently.  In inspy, fantasy is called "speculative."  They're just not warming up to it with any kind of haste but fantasy is big in secular and it's drawing christian kids to those books.  Problem is, a lot of those books also carry other messages that pull kids off the path.  Anyone else out there writing speculative?


Hi Iwrite,

I write YA speculative fiction aimed at the inspirational market. It is a tough sell, yes. Period. Still, if done right it could be picked up. Good luck!
Title: Re: Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements
Post by: iwriteforkids on October 28, 2012, 03:18 PM
I was suffering from massive cultural shell shock...

I'm going through that now, but apparently, in the opposite direction.  I have no problem with diversity--it's the speed and degree of 'erosion' I've seen just in the last 20 years.  Doesn't help that I'm pretty socially isolated and when you have no one to talk to during those bleak times, you sink into that 'dark night of the soul.'  Maybe it's just late-onset mid-life crisis, but when you said "massive cultural shell-shock," I just think that nailed it right on the head.

I think we have a problem we (writers and the market in general) are not really dealing with.  Kids are interested in books with these fantastic elements.  Christian fiction is squeezing them out in drips and dribbles.  The secular market is putting out these kinds of books at the speed of sound but there seems to be no line they won't cross.   Between the two, there's a vast crevasse. 

When good overcomes evil in secular fantasy, it's only at the very end, and in the process, they (the writers) have focused entirely on the dark elements and even glorified and glamorized them.   A book is not evil because it has a witch in it.  It comes down to what that witch does, and when a book has nothing good to express or moral to teach, it doesn't even need a witch in order to do lots and lots of damage.

In my opinion, we pay way too much attention to individual elements and that's why some good books with Christian messages ably expressed don't make it onto the shelves.  Bad writing will do that too, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot with that general mentality.  A lot of kid's books published in the CBA are stuck in the "Goofus and Gallant" level and though parents may snatch them up, their kids aren't cracking them open to read more than the first page or two.