Friday, May 19, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour Day Two (or Five...)

Today is the last day of the Christian Fantasy Blog Tour. At least officially. For the month of May. In 2006. Rebecca Miller's blog is the starting point, if you're interested in blog hopping. The featured site is Focus on Christian Fantasy. Some of the links from yesterday's post (just below this one) are bloggers doing daily posts on the subject; others have been just popping in and out.

Two new additions that I know of are:

Bedford Review of Christian Fiction
Writing from the Edge

Christian fantasy are words that many people wouldn't put in the same sentence, but why not? I think they go together beautifully.

Karen Hancock, published author of several great Christian fantasies, has this to say about the combination.

Beth Goddard tackles the idea of magic head on. So does Rebecca Miller.

As far as I'm concerned, the question of magic was something I spent awhile working through when I began desiring to write fantasy from a Christian worldview. I have no desire to emulate Tolkien or Lewis. Great stories, but not the end-all and be-all of fantasy.

Does magic exist in today's world? And if I'm writing fantasy, does it matter if it exists here and now? I know my created world doesn't! Why can't it have different rules? But who is to say that magic doesn't exist? What *is* magic? (I look at that list of questions and decide that I am not qualified to answer any of them...)

The best place to look for guidelines is the Bible itself. Folks, some mighty strange stuff happened in biblical times by anyone's standards. We have the magicians in Pharaoh's court during the Ten Plagues (during the time Moses was asking Pharaoh to release his Jewish slaves) copying most of the miracles that Moses and Aaron performed (Exodus 7-11). There is a talking donkey (Numbers 22:21-39). There is a magician following the Philip the evangelist around (Acts 9:8-13), apparently perfectly capable of amazing those around him.

So, then, what is a miracle? I think--simplistically--that miracles are extra-ordinary things done by God, often through people but sometimes directly. And magic is extra-ordinary things done by...not God. Not God. Does that make them wrong, evil? I think that *not of God* still leaves two options: of nature and of Satan. You could argue that nature, being created by God, would not be a separate category but fall into the miracles point of view. Go ahead, argue it. I'm willing to listen!

In some secular fantasy novels magic is portrayed as a liquid, much like water in rivers and lakes. In those stories (and others) magic is portrayed as amoral; that is, neither good nor evil. It simply exists and can be used for either purpose. In our current world, I don't believe this type of magic exists, but I fail to see why it can't work in a made-up world. Like anything else in a novel, it shouldn't just be there for flavoring but because it is actually a part of the plot.

Magic that uses the power of Satan is real. In North America, we don't see a lot of overt activity of this nature. Not so in remote areas of the world, where demon activity is quite visible (to hear the stories of missionaries to those places.)

So, my understanding is that there are three types of extra-ordinary means of accomplishing things. They are literally Good, Bad, and Indifferent. I think any and all of these may be used by a writer of Christian fantasy. The main thing to keep in mind is that the power of God is stronger than the other powers.

In my soon to-be-revised fantasy novel Marks of Repentance I did not portray the use of amoral magic. There are miracles, clearly performed by Azhvah (the One True God of the land), and there is magic, clearly linked to the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations. Will I use that criteria and only that criteria again, writing in a different world? (Obviously any new stories set in Azhvah's universe will have the same guidelines!) I'm not sure. I've started worldbuilding on an unrelated project currently titled Puppet Prince that is very very (did I mention VERY?) loosely based on Old Testament Judaism at the time of the Babylonian exile. I'll be making decisions on the magic system over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!


Elliot said...

Makes sense to me!

I think sometimes too God tweaks things so that magic ends up glorifying Him and doing good - like when Balaam got set to pronounced a curse on Israel and then wound up pronouncing a blessing instead. That kind of thing. He's tricky that way.

Valerie Comer said...

LOL. Good point.