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Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements

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RyanBruner

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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.
#181 - April 01, 2010, 10:09 AM

Amy Spitzley

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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)
#182 - April 01, 2010, 01:49 PM

sally_apokedak

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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.
#183 - April 01, 2010, 09:40 PM

sally_apokedak

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Amy, God says he's the God above all gods.

The question my kids ask is "who made God?"
#184 - April 01, 2010, 09:42 PM

Amy Spitzley

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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!
#185 - April 02, 2010, 07:01 AM

sally_apokedak

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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.
#186 - April 02, 2010, 12:14 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
#187 - April 02, 2010, 06:10 PM

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.

#188 - April 03, 2010, 09:45 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.
#189 - April 03, 2010, 10:18 AM
« Last Edit: April 03, 2010, 10:19 AM by hazelnut »

JustinDono

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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. 
#190 - June 16, 2010, 12:30 AM

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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.
#191 - June 16, 2010, 05:13 AM
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JustinDono

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That was really nice of you.  I would've sent a Nietzsche quote or something.
#192 - June 16, 2010, 02:19 PM

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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.
#193 - June 17, 2010, 07:09 AM
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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.
#194 - July 08, 2010, 12:56 AM

RyanBruner

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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. 
#195 - July 08, 2010, 07:15 AM
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 08:25 AM by Mike Jung »

JustinDono

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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.  
#196 - July 08, 2010, 05:31 PM
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 05:33 PM by JustinDono »

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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.
#197 - July 08, 2010, 06:39 PM
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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. 
#198 - July 08, 2010, 06:46 PM
« Last Edit: July 08, 2010, 06:55 PM by JustinDono »

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.

#199 - July 08, 2010, 07:20 PM

JustinDono

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Great quotes Hazel.  :yup
#200 - July 08, 2010, 07:23 PM

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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.
#201 - July 08, 2010, 07:35 PM
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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).
#202 - July 08, 2010, 07:43 PM
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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

#203 - July 08, 2010, 08:27 PM
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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.
#204 - July 08, 2010, 09:03 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

JustinDono

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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
#205 - July 08, 2010, 10:17 PM

RyanBruner

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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.
#206 - July 09, 2010, 05:14 AM
« Last Edit: July 09, 2010, 05:16 AM by RyanBruner »

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
#207 - July 09, 2010, 10:09 AM
« Last Edit: July 09, 2010, 01:55 PM by Auntybooks »

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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.

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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.
#208 - July 09, 2010, 11:00 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
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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). ;)
#209 - July 09, 2010, 11:04 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

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.
#210 - July 09, 2010, 02:38 PM

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