My books aren’t about conversion. Far from it. I’ve never had readers mark my stuff as “preachy”. However, there is certainly religion. I have what I would call “true believers” in my fantasy series. They believe in the true God I have created for their world. I even have true prophets who do miracles in God’s name.
On the other hand, I also have stuff that some Christian readers have expressed concern over. From occultish type rituals to outright human sacrifice, I’ve created a diverse spectrum of good, evil and “grays” in my world and books. I even have a wicked priest who has dreams of the future, sort of like a false prophet with a legit supernatural gift.
But in the end, it doesn’t seem to be so much an issue of what is put into the book that caused concern, as it was the way I portrayed or dealt with it. Or rather, the feeling that I failed to address the evil head on.
I’ve thought a lot about this concern and my writing. My only answer is that I’m not trying to write books to convert people to Christianity. That is not why I have a true God for my world.
The truth is that even though I write fantasy, I strive to mimic what I see in the real world around me. My goal is to create a land, cultures, people and even a God who fundamentally abide by the same principles I see in reality.
Note, this is me writing about how I have chosen to deal with these controversial issues, based on my own beliefs. I believe that each of us must decide for ourselves how we deal with such concerns. Religion is a very personal and emotional arena with people extremely passionate about where lines are drawn. I am not preaching. I just want share and hope that it might help others who might feel trapped by the same issues.
Why I put Religion in my fantasy worlds in the first place.
When I first started writing, I think I think I agreed with the sentiment that I didn’t want to deal with religion in my stories. I just wanted to create fun adventure stories, but as I kept writing, I found it unrealistic and pretty much impossible for me. Why?
It’s part of who I am. Just like how Tolkien didn’t intend religion to be in his stories, but yet it came through anyways, when you write, principles and beliefs that are a fundamental part of us naturally weave their way into the undercurrents of our stories.
It’s part of human nature. Throughout the history of the world, people have sought to understand the supernatural and the divine. We seek to find purpose in what happens. We crave something to explain what we don’t understand and sometimes something to blame when things out of mans’ control goes wrong. Most cultures I have studied either sought out a religion/deity or created one (or many gods). Someone or something to believe in, to justify, to turn to in situations they didn’t understand or control.
How can I create realistic cultures without religion? Or realistic characters that have never contemplated a Creator? True, they do exist and can be created, but in the end, characters and cultures without religion of some sort are rare.
Blending Magic, Science and Natural Law.
Years ago, if someone asked me about some magic element in my story I probably would have explained, “That’s just how it is.” I mean, it was enchanted and thus did whatever I created it to do, right?
Well, then I married a scientist and hobby physicist. That answer soon became unacceptable if I wanted his feedback.
My world may have magic and other special elements that do not exist on earth, but he expects me to have a logical theory of how it works. He and I worked together to overhaul the magic system in my world. We devised “magical” properties akin to radiation which lead to the creation of “Plutanium“.
Most of it will never make it into the books, but I do indeed have scientific-based rationales for enchantment from Ularis’s sword that breaks other swords with tone vibrations, to the glowing pillar deemed by the people as the “source of magic” and even including a type of immortality based on blood purification and a forced bond between the spirit and body. We decided to have magic imitate ocean tides in that they are pulled by the moon.
Do I claim to understand all natural laws and how things interact? No. But by my own studies and experiences I have come to respect forces in nature. God is over all, but my personal belief is that more often than not He uses natural laws to accomplish His miracles. The events seem to defy science because He understands those natural forces far beyond our comprehension.
However, likewise, I believe that Satan understands at least more than we about said forces. I believe that he will do all he can to twist those naturally existing forces/laws to his own evil purposes. For instance, the moon and sun are God’s creations and God saw that they were good. However, how many cultures have worshiped them and turned to sin and evil because of it? The moon particularly is often used as a symbol of witchcraft and evil.
But in the end, does being used by evil make them evil?
Unfortunately, in my efforts to create a natural order in my world just about anything I use seems to also have some sort of cult tie.
In the end, like the question of religion, I see natural forces and laws as a part of the world around me. They are powerful elements in reality as I see it and as I believe it to be. If I strip them out, either of them, I would feel my world and stories lacking. The simplification might avoid readers misconstruing or missing the real reasons behind them. However, to me, it feels like the difference of a black and white movie verses high definition tv.
There are some wonderful and powerful stories that have been done that way, on the screen and on the page. I for one love creating the depths and diversity of color.
This post grew larger than I expected, but as I said, this is something that was brought up to me as a serious concern and I have thought long and hard about it. So, I decided to divide it in half. Next time I’ll talk about characters from believers to antis and my decisions in how I portray God in my stories.
Again, as a reminder, this is simply how I have chosen to create my stories. Have you faced similar concerns in your writing, particularly as a Christian or choosing what market to write for? Pleases share!