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Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements

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lizlane

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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!

#91 - June 17, 2007, 01:12 PM

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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?
#92 - June 18, 2007, 07:55 AM

lizlane

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That's ironic.  The place that was once the site of so many book burnings!
#93 - June 18, 2007, 08:15 AM

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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...)
#94 - June 18, 2007, 08:48 AM

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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.
#95 - July 07, 2007, 10:40 AM
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pixydust

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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!
#96 - July 13, 2007, 04:08 PM
« Last Edit: July 13, 2007, 04:18 PM by pixydust »

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. 
#97 - July 14, 2007, 05:38 AM
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Pickles

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Pixy, I checked out the link, but the gray print makes it very difficult to read. I've been reading too much slush.

#98 - July 14, 2007, 06:06 AM

SDG

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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 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.)
#99 - July 19, 2007, 03:25 PM

lizlane

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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.
#100 - July 20, 2007, 07:34 AM

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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. 

#101 - September 21, 2007, 07:50 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



#102 - September 21, 2007, 09:02 PM
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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!
#103 - September 21, 2007, 10:09 PM

CheezWeezil

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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.

#104 - September 21, 2007, 11:45 PM

Pickles

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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.
#105 - October 12, 2007, 07:47 AM

Amy Spitzley

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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
#106 - October 14, 2007, 10:35 AM

ecb

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Scholastic asked me to remove "arse" from my book, citing that it was too risque (profane/crude/whatever) for their book clubs and fairs.
#107 - October 14, 2007, 05:00 PM

Pickles

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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.
#108 - October 14, 2007, 05:19 PM

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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.
#109 - October 14, 2007, 06:04 PM

Pickles

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LOL! Thanks. I needed that giggle.

#110 - October 14, 2007, 08:06 PM

Amy Spitzley

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So Elisabeth, did you remove the "offensive" word? You said they asked, but did you agree? Just curious. (grin)
AMY
#111 - October 15, 2007, 08:19 AM

ecb

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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)
#112 - October 15, 2007, 01:57 PM

Amy Spitzley

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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
#113 - October 15, 2007, 03:14 PM

cdb

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          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
#114 - October 15, 2007, 03:31 PM
« Last Edit: October 15, 2007, 03:34 PM by cdb »

Steve

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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.

#115 - October 15, 2007, 03:50 PM

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.

#116 - October 16, 2007, 11:47 AM
« Last Edit: June 09, 2008, 05:35 AM by Stef »
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Donna Farley

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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
#117 - February 27, 2008, 02:55 PM

circe68

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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
#118 - May 11, 2008, 10:00 AM

ecb

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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
#119 - May 11, 2008, 01:36 PM

mswatkins

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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. 

#120 - May 11, 2008, 05:50 PM

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