Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Dark Knight.

No! this post isn't about Batman. Or, at least, not just about Batman. It's about a certain type of character, and although it is related closely to the antihero, this sort of character is not villainous in anyway. It may be dark, brooding, perhaps introverted, but it stands as a bastion of moral purity in a hive of scum and villainy.

No, it's still not about Batman.

So, the question is, may a christian make the brooding, dark-knightesque, protector, sort-of-hero? Is that a legitimate enterprise for christian fiction? Think of this sort of character for a moment. He's the pinnacle of virtue in a city and acts as it's guardian; and this is all well and good, but then he takes the law into his own hands! The nerve! He has to resort to desperate measures against villains. He lives in a dark world and, as such, adopts a dark mindset. Is this really something christians should fill their head with?

Alright--maybe this is about Batman. Just a little.

I've heard a lot of christians say this ideal is overly dark. The idea of a lone protector against a vast sea of writhing evil is a sad, depressing feeling, they say, and one that christians should stay away from.  I think, perhaps, these Christians are suffering from the cult of happyology. As if christianity should shun heavy, weighty things and stick to that which is light and optimistic!

This stands in opposition of what the Bible has to say: think for a moment on the Judges, they were lone protectors who often had to enforce justice with a firm hand, weren't they? Think of Jeremiah, who utterly opposed all his authorities, of the plagues of Egypt and Ecclesiastes. The Bible can be dark--very dark. We don't like to think about it, but that's the way it is.

Which brings us back to Batman again. I think as long as your Batman (or Batman-like-character) is upholding the law of God, and as long as he realizes that everything does not depend on him, then I see  no problem pitting your character against the world. The world can be a dark place. Sometimes there's only one brave person to stand against it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thoughts on Positive Thinking

Happy Arcadia - Konstantin Makovsky

There's a certain stream in secular society that seems to have found it's way into christian literature and christian culture at large. It's the child of the Romantic movement, the sister of Postmodernism, and stems from all the cultural upheaval that took place in the mid 19th century. The best name I have heard for it, is the 'cult of Happyology'.

This movement has had many forms: it was there in the occult movement of the 19th century, the hippie movement of the 60s, the weird cults of the 80s, the modern self help movement, the prosperity gospel, and so many more!  But they all boil down to one basic motto. Think happy thoughts! Think happy thoughts, and the world will get better! It will! Because, if all that reality boils down to is your personal experience, then the core of reality is centered in your thoughts, and if those thoughts affect reality, then the best way to change it is to think happy ones.

This changed our mindset dramatically. We now view 'positive' words as inherently good and 'negative' ones as inherently bad, regardless of whether or not they are actually true. Praise becomes something inherently good, and criticism something inherently bad.  That's why every child needs a trophy. That's why if we don't have anything nice to say, we shouldn't say anything at all.

However, this sort of thought has no place in christian writing. If you look to Holy Scriptures (which I think all christians agree is the ultimate piece of christian writing), you will not find this blissful, uber-happiness that you find in some 'christian' literature (Pollyana anyone?). You won't find that the most faithful characters overcome their struggles through thinking 'positive thoughts'(Job wasn't positive, and look how he turned out). That's not to say we don't need to write about hope, but God should be the source of that hope, not the cult of positivity. Happyology should have no place in our novel.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


The Tragedy - Pablo Picasso

I was asked to write a post on tragedy by a friend. This honestly, is a harder one to write. Cause it's rather personal to me, and I'm sure it's personal to many of my readership. Even if you have never really experienced personal tragedy it's a difficult subject to talk to to others about.

So what does define a tragedy? I think, when most people think of a a tragedy they imagine that it's a story where everyone dies in the end. However, I think this definition is somewhat misleading. It's possible to have most of the main characters die and still end the novel in a bittersweet manner. Conversely, it's also possible to have everyone live, and yet live in such a desolate state that tragedy is the only word for it.

So what makes a tragedy a tragedy? Tragedy is the lack of a happy ending. When things don't end well we call it a tragedy. It's not to do with the moral state of the characters, but rather the state of the character as the novel leaves off. This is why tragedy is often confused with death.

I think however, the way we view the death of a character as a pure tragedy is part of our empiricist culture. To an empiricist death is the ultimate evil, because death steals away the senses. And since the empiricist thinks that life lies in the senses, death seems to them to be a preternatural terror. The ending of all things. That's what we covered in the story of the Epic of Gilgamesh post.

To the Christian death can be a tragedy but it depends on the context. When the main character dies and goes to heaven, like Jean Valjean does in Les Mis, I would be loathe to classify it as a tragedy. Eternity with God is a wonderful thing. Loss though... that's a different story. And I think that's a different post. It will take more emotional energy to write about that then I am willing to spend right now. But suffice to say for now, loss is tragedy... because we have to go through life without someone. Meaningless death is also tragedy... because of what awaits afterward.

Life can also be tragic as well as death. If you leave your characters in a miserable situation at the end, even if they still are alive, that can in some ways be worse then just simply killing them. The real tragedy I think is a person who has to live on and on in loveless situation.

"Do not pity the dead Harry, pity the living. And above all those who live without love." 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Doctrine and Writing.

So I write about Muses, and right after I posted I wonder if that title sounded pagan. It probably did.

So this time I'm winning back some Holy Points and going to write about doctrine.

So caveat here, I know in my readership there is a lot of denominational variation. Among like.... all three of you who regularly keep up with this blog. Which is quite an amount of doctrinal diversity for so small a sampling. I'm a Presbyterian, which means I'm an evil Calvinist/Predestination person. I believe in Sovereignty of God, baptizing infants and drinking alcohol. So now that you know where I stand lets talk about the controversial issues of doctrine and how it applies to writing.

Now, we all hold differing theological persuasions. Here is where things get tricky. How do we remain faithful to our doctrinal commitments while making our work accessible to other Christians who don't necessarily hold to the same commitments? Well here's where a bit of grace and a bit of wisdom come in.

Well I think there are two basic rules for writing about doctrine in your story. The first is, don't worry about offending anyone. Alright this rule seems a bit odd. Well not perhaps odd from a Calvinist, but normally we do think it's polite to try not to offend people when we put our doctrine into our works. Nothing could be further then what God intends for us. Honestly if you believe your doctrine is true, and it is good representation of the Absolute Truth of God, then of course you should publicize it. I'm not saying you have to push your doctrine in people's faces. But you do, as a Christian, have a duty to represent absolute Truth. Don't feel like you have to hide your doctrinal stance when you write. You really can't divorce yourself from your Theology. Don't try too.

On the other side of the spectrum. When you're putting something in your novel that is a contentious issue among other believers, please don't demonize the believers who hold to the opposing doctrine. Be polite, and courteous, while still holding to Absolute Truth. After all, if someone wrote an amazing Christian novel, but slammed your views/church, and represented what you believe as some infernal distortion, you might feel a bit hurt too. Take the time to understand the doctrine you are refuting. Remember that there are true believers among their number. And some of them are smarter then you.

On the whole, good rule of thumb when it comes to bringing doctrine into writing is, hold to truth and be humble. Humble Orthodoxy. Has a nice ring to it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Come oh Muses!

Back in the old days, the Ancient Greeks used to believe in these creatures called Muses. They were these amazingly convenient creatures that basically existed to put ideas into peoples heads. That way whenever a writer suffered from a writers block or a astrologer suffered from an astrology block (I'm sure that happened!), he could just call upon a Muse and voila! Instant idea. Of course that's any artist's dream. If only it were a matter of calling Muses to give us creativity.

So how do we get ideas for what to write about? Like really? Well lets start from the beginning. What do we do when we reach a metal block. Well most often this goes like this, instead of trying to find ideas, we just contemplate our blank mental state, perhaps go back mentally to times when we had inspiration... trying to draw on that. When that doesn't work we often end up surfing the internet or raiding the fridge. Hoping that inspiration will strike us sometimes. Pity we can't summon any Muses. 

But honestly we as Christians have something even better then the Muses don't we? Even if the Muses were real, and really did exist they being finite creatures could only give one person inspiration at a time. We're not limited by dependence on such whimsical beings. Nor do we have to depend on ourselves entirely. We have the Holy Spirit! Did it ever occur to you that you can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration as you write, not just when you go through your day to day life but when you write as well?

It seems a bit weird, and no I'm not saying we should write by being possessed by God. Or that the Holy Spirit will give us a vision of our complete outline if we pray to Him. But I'm fairly positive that He will help us. I'm not saying that it will get us past the writers block. There's no guarantee in the Bible that God will do that (though doesn't every writer wish there was?). However I think I can safely guarantee that if you approach the Holy Spirit in prayer and ask him to guide your mind, you will experience results. Not that this means that you can abdicate the responsibility of thinking. You still have to think to make your novel work. But with God guiding your thoughts, we truly due have a Muse to rival all other Muses. The Third person in the Trinity.

Sounds pretty good to me. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Amazing love. How can it be?

Exaltation of the Cross: Heraclius enters Jerusalem with the Cross - Piero della Francesca

It is impossible to write a great Christian Novel without love.

Now let me be clear, it is quite possible to write a great novel without love. Plenty of the great ancient and great modern writers wrote phenomenal works of fiction without including love in it. If you read Homer's Iliad or Hesiod's Theogony, you'll be hard pressed to find any love. At least of the non-sexual kind. The same goes for the works of Moderns such as Hemingway or Conrad.

You can make a great work of fiction without love. Your characters can be realistic, your imagery vivid and your themes fascinating. But it still won't be a work of Christian literature without bringing love into it in some way. This is because love is one of the central themes of Scriptures. All of Scripture points towards the love of God.

Or judgement.

Hm, I may want to backtrack on what I was just saying. It seems there is a lot of judgement in scriptures. So if there's judgement in scriptures how is that love? Well the fact is God's judgement actually cannot be separated from the subject of love. The Judgement of God is upon humanity for their failure to love. That same judgement is only appeased by the Love of Christ. In that way works of judgement are inextricably tied the concept of love.

Love is one of those elements at the core of Christian thought. One whereby God is made known. You don't have to make your work explicitly Christian. But you do have to put in the Christian concept of love, the sacrificial agapean kind in order for it to be a Christian work.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Happy Barbarians

Hospitality of Barbarians to Pilgrims - Gustave Dore

One of the standard inhabitants of or fantasy/sci-fi worlds, are the barbarians. Usually they're a proud warrior race, perhaps slightly more in tune with nature. Not exactly sharp on the intellectual scale of things, but brave and courageous. They have a tendency to show up at the final battle and suddenly turn the tide in the good guys favour. Or perhaps they are the good guys, pitted against some usually some more sophisticated and evil nation.

Okay, I'm going to say here, I think we in the twenty first century romanticize the barbarian too much.  And to a certain extent that's a product of our technologicalicalization (is that even a word?). Right now we're surrounded by technology, and it makes life complicated. Cars have to be fueled, oiled, cleaned and cared for, computers have to have anti virus software, drives licences expire, the internal revenue service much be satisfied and so on. So we long for a simpler time when all we had to worry about was farming the crops and strength in arms.

This stands in vivid contrast to the portrayal of 'primitive peoples' that ran rampant 50's. Back then we were confident in the power of technology, and we looked down on those stupid, illiterate savages who seemed to us to be enslaved to superstition. We had science and they had not, and since were were convinced that knowledge equaled moral superiority, we were sure we were superior then those barbarians that lived back in ancient days.

Both these ideals, 'the noble savage' and the 'barbaric savage' make the same mistake. They both assume that technology fundamentally changes human nature, As if technology somehow made humans better people or worse people. No. People are still people. No matter what power is in their hands. Our lives are complicated, not because technology is complicated but because human natures are complicated. Science doesn't make us more moral. Neither does ignorance. We as Christians should avoid both romanticizing and marginalizing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Treatise on Law.

Modern Galilee. And Nevertheless It Moves - Honore Daumier

"An unjust law is no law at all,"-  St. Augustine

For some reason, in the our fiction novel, our heroes aren't exactly the most law abiding type. They'll steal cars (or horses) to outrun the bad guys, they'll take justice into their own hands and lets not even go into trespassing laws. That's what we've been brought up with. The idea that when the bad guys start fighting, we can do anything we need to do, lie, cheat, steal, take up the sword, in order to stop them. 

So here's the question. What is a hero allowed to do in order to stop a villain? On one hand, the guy who obeys every single traffic law, even when the villains are after him, is possibly going to die of stupidity. On the other side of the coin, we would do well to head Neitzche's warning that he who fights monster must take care not to become a monster himself. If the hero acts in every way like the villain in order to take him down/ What differentiates him from the villain? 

I think the answer to this, is that the heroes always follow moral law. Sometimes they follow moral law higher then the civil law that surrounds them. The laws of God trump the laws of man, and the laws God themselves work according to certain order of operations. The value of human life more valuable than the value of human property laws. Otherwise our characters will find themselves in the situation of being unable to fulfill their responsibilities towards their God or their loved ones, because they are being forced to obey minor laws.

However, this doesn't mean our heroes are free to ignore law. They simply have a priority of which laws to follow..That's what differentiates them. The villain does not obey law, or at least, he doesn't obey God's. The hero, to one extent or another is bound to obey God's law. And Christ reminds us that his commandments are not burdensome. They make room for moral complexities. But they don't free us to do whatever we want.

In conclusion, our characters always do have to obey the law. Not necessarily man's law, but always God's. His law comes first in all situations. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Draconic Eternity

In the dragon cave  - Andrei Ryabushkin

I've recently heard it said, that because the dragon is used as a symbol for Satan, that means that writers should never attempt to portray dragons in a positive light. It's an interesting argument and a little bit more nuanced then it sounds at first. The argument isn't that animals such as snakes, lions and wolves have to be evil because they are represented as such in the Bible, but rather that the concept of a dragon, in and of itself was a form that was made by Satan. If this is true, then it would make sense that one could never portray a dragon in any way that could be considered 'good'.

Of course, here we're getting into highly theoretical and not very practical theology. It's pretty much one step above discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. However it's been what I've been discussing these days with a friend of mine, and since it involves two of my passions. Theology and Dragons!

So, to counter this incredibly unpractical but interesting claim, I am going to make my own incredibly impractical but interesting claim.

There are dragons in heaven.

Now before you pick up stones and proceed to throw them at me let's take a moment and study the topic in the book of Isaiah. In this book we have the Seraphim. Now, it should be noted that the word Seraphim in Hebrew appears several other places in scriptures. It appears in Numbers and Deuteronomy. All and all the word 'Seraphim' appears seven times in the old testament. And it always means the same thing. Snake.

And not only just a Snake, but a 'firey serpent'. The word Seraphim is used when God smites the Israelites with a plague of poisonous snakes. Every time except in Isaiah 6 it s used a synonym for 'serpent'. Not to mention the fact that they have wings. In fact there is no evidence to suggest that the Seraphim are not dragons. In fact every serious source who has studied to topic of the Seraphim has come to the conclusion that they are dragons.

Can't wait to meet them in heaven.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Power Source.

Moonlight and Light - Leon Spilliaert

I had an interesting experience today. I took about ten minutes out of my busy college life, snuck into the local woods and took a deep breath to pray. I love where I am at Patrick Henry College, don't get me wrong. But sometimes it does seem like an endless list of things that need to be done and doing. Sometimes you need a rest. Let yourself cool down a bit. Get some perspective on things.

Novels work basically like that. Every novel has a different specific energy level that it requires of it's readers. Some novels are intense and work the reader up and get them excited. Others relax the reader and bring their emotional level down. Both serve a purpose, and both contribute to Godly edification.

The writing at a high energy level is what you might call 'serious' work. It's not designed to entertain, at least not primarily, it's designed to educate. All Quiet on the Western Front would be one example, anything by George Orwell would be another.Just looking through my books shelf I find that I really don't have many other example at hand.  I guess I don't like novels that require a lot of emotional energy. I tend to find that there's enough pain in life as there is. But these novels have a place. They help tackle the tougher issues. Pain, War, Disease, Confusion. Those sort of things. For some reason these novels tend to win Newberry awards.

The writing at low energy levels would include really non serious works. Comic books would be low energy level. Other works such as Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl would be other examples. Now when I say 'non-serious' this isn't to disparage these works. Personally I'm glad that not every work of fiction is on deep and painful experiences. Sometimes we need a break. Life is full of hardships. And personally, though my life experiences has caused me to be more grateful for high energy literature, they also have caused me to appreciate the escapism the non serious works brings. God intends rest for us. And we should rejoice in that.

A caveat to finish up here. Most works of fictions can't easily be classified as 'high energy' or 'low energy'. Most are somewhat of a mix. In reality most novels tend to fall somewhere between high and low. Most of the books we read  tend to be somewhere between Lord of the Flies and Superman vs the Avengers. I personally prefer my works to be a mix of silly and serious. That's what I like to read and that's what I like to write.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Not-So-Deathless One.

Babylon Fallen - Gustave Dore

So I read the Epic of Gilgamesh today. It was not exactly the most optimistic of books. The books subject is the life of an incredible Sumerian hero. He has 'succeeded' in every modern definition of the word. He's rich, he's powerful, he's handsome and respected by both gods and man. He is the essence of a worldly victory. He's the greatest of the great. He only has one problem.

He dies.

He doesn't really want to die. He's afraid of death. He even goes as far to journey to the land of the gods to find he flower or immortality. But through a cruel twist of fate, even that evades him. And so Gilgamesh dies. All his great actions and worldly success are turned to dust. Not exactly the pick me up of the day.

But it brought up a good point, and one that really applies to our writing. We really have to be careful about how much confidence we place in worldly success for our characters. I mean, for all we love torturing our long suffering our long suffering characters, but we care about them.  Most of us like to make sure to give them a happy ending. At the end of the book want them to have defeated the villain, married to the love of their life and in a reasonably stable economic situation. Because we like happy endings.

Now don't worry I'm not going to rant against happy endings. I'm a big sucker for a happy endings. Nothing touches my heart more. But I think we have to be careful as we wrap up the plot, marry off the hero and heroine and write the final happily ever after that we don't make our ending too materialistic. Gilgamesh had everything that could be considered worldly success. But he lost it, because in the end, he died. Because he had nothing beyond this temporal life.

See 'happily ever after' is a wonderful thing, but you won't find it in defeating the villain, in marriage and those sort of things in life. Those are only pictures. Symbols of the day when we will defeat the ultimate villain, when Christ will marry His bride and peace will finally reign. Gilgamesh had the symbols, he defeated villains, had many wives, but none of that brought him happiness because true happiness does not come from those things, but the things that they symbolized.

The practical application of this is that the Christian writer must point towards the ultimate happy ending. Every well written happy ending has a shard of heaven embedded inside. The whispers of greater glory. Heaven, is the end. The happy end. It gives the story meaning and conclusion. Material success will gain us nothing without it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why now do we write?

Night - Mikalojus Ciurlionis

What's the point of writing? I'm not asking that question because I'm depressed or anything. But seriously, stop and think for a moment. What's the point? This isn't an idle question, our Lord desires that we devote everything to Him. Including our writing. If we're going to devote everything to Him, then we need to think about why we are writing in the first place . 

Our first answer might be that it's fun. Unless writing puts us in danger of sin, this is a legitimate answer. God created fun for a reason. It's meant to help us relax; it gives us a different environment to worship in and helps us prepare ourselves to serve Him. But... I don't think the point of writing is that it's fun. I mean yes. Writing can be fun. It's amazingly enjoyable. But that's not why we write. Anyone who has had to slog through that one chapter that they really didn't want to write, knows that writing is not always enjoyable. If we're going to be writers we need a deeper purpose then that. 

Then there's Tolkien's explanation. He believed that in writing we are imitating our Creator by 'creating', or rather 'sub-creating' entire imaginary worlds. And this is true. Just like a child imitates his Daddy by putting on a suit and tie and pretending he's a 'grown-up', we imitate out Father by creating imaginary worlds; just as our Father creates real ones. Tolkien did indeed put his finger on one of the reasons for writing, but not the only reason for writing. Because imitation has it's limitations. A child might put on his Daddy's suite but he's never going to be hired by any major cooperation. 

We cannot create like God can, we are limited to mixing and matching the things that he has placed in this universe. None of our writing is original. It all stems from God's provident creation. This adds a different dimension to writing. Not only do we create worlds ourselves, but we reflect the world that He has created. When God creates, He creates truth. When we create, we reflect the truth that God created in the first place.

So that's the real core of why we write. We don't write in order to create truth, but discover it. Our writing is meant to reflect the pure and absolute truth about the world that God, Himself originally created. Truly we are given a great honour. To be able to write about the creation of the Living God! 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where the Wolfthings are.

Sometimes,on Theology Dragons, you will find articles on empiricism, postmodernism, the history of the Middle Ages. Sometimes, I'm going to explore the angst of our modern society and the need for us to to return to Christ-like standards in creativity. Sometimes on this site, you will find blog posts that are actually mature and thoughtful.

This is not one of the blog posts. This one is on werewolves.

Okay so werewolves are not really a mature topic. They have less theological depth to them then say fairies or vampires. Far less underlying philosophical concepts to explore. But I like werewolves, so you all are going have to suffer me a bit while I rant about them. I mean, you can't get much more awesome then a guy who can actually turn into a wolf! Only thing better then a werewolf is a dragon, and as we have previously established on this blog, dragons are awesome.

Now just because werewolves are not as philosophically deep as fairies or vampires doesn't mean they don't have depth to them. Oh they do. See we've brought up various fantastic races and symbolism before. Vampires are a symbol of sin, Fairies are a symbol of the enigmatic mystery and the Modern Wizard is a symbol of technology and progress. So what are the underlying themes with werewolves?

Alright I've heard it said by a lot of modern literary critics that the werewolf is a symbol of the 'beast within'. Now this sounds really pretty but has anyone stopped to think what the 'beast within' is? That terms sounds nice but it really doesn't describe anything. The werewolf is a human who turns into a wolf, of course it symbolizes the beast within! But what does that even mean?

Well it can be a lot of things. In fact a lot of the differences between various werewolves in fiction can be attributed to different methods authors use to interpret 'the beast within'. It can be used to portray unrestrained sin. In this case the werewolf is not that different from a vampire, both are used to portray an overwhelming carnal blood-lust that humans cannot control no matter how 'good' their original intentions. That's the sort of werewolf you see in those old 1950's horror films. The other main interpretation of 'the beast within' is to represent humans love for nature and wildlife. Since the werewolf is a man who can turn into a wolf, it represents the connection that humans can have with the Lord's Creation. This sort of werewolf is a symbol of man as steward of the earth. It shows in a subtle sort of way his dominance over the rest of the creation the Lord has made.

So those are some of my thoughts on that subject. Werewolves are a interesting topic to deal with, and can either be used to represent sin.. or man's Lordship of creation.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Anti-Hero.

We in the Modern day of the age like the Anti-Hero. The world has become a more cynical place then it used to be, and the Anti-Hero is become more popular for that reason. But truth be told, all generations have liked the antihero.  Captain Nemo and the ominous Count of Monte Cristo kept audiences entertained a long time before the tone of the age turned cynical. Audiences are thrilled by the Anti-Hero, they always were and they always have been.

Why is that? Because I think more than any other character the Anti-Hero shows the state of humanity. Humans are flawed and sinful creatures, but we're not without our virtues. Just like the Anti-Hero we try to do the right thing, but we slip up. We end up causing damage when all we wanted to do was create something good. We wanted justice. Or mercy. But we depended on ourselves rather than something bigger outside it. 

The Anti-Hero is always striving for something good, the Great Gatsby wants perfection, the Count of Monte Cristo and Inspector Javert both desire justice. They want what the heroes want, but the difference is by the methods they achieve it. The hero struggles, but in the end he always depends on something bigger than himself to bring about ultimate victory. The anti-hero is a cynic. He doesn't think there is anyone out there is going to bring about his Vision. He has to accomplish it through his own strength and his own power.

And here's a good place to point out the difference between the classical Anti-Heroes and the modern ones. In modern times we often glorify the anti-hero. We have forgotten God, we've forgotten the fact that goodness exists outside of us. So who do we turn to save us? We turn to the Anti-Hero. Because if goodness comes from within, then the Anti-Hero is right. We need to take goodness into our own hands. The Anti-Hero is the closest we get to God. Contrast this to Javert or Gatsby who end up destroying their lives through their basically cynical worldview.

"I did not come to pray to God, but inform Him I am taking his place" - Edmund Dantes 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Challenge of the Middle Ages.

Stolzenfels Castle, in the background Lahneck Castle - Karl Bodmer

Fantasy writers are often guilty of one very specific sin. Okay not a sin. It's just a mistake on our part. And it's one I've committed in the past. It's really what drove me away from writing medieval fantasy altogether and focusing on more Victorian times. Eventually I came back to writing some Medieval stuff (with my friend Aubrey Hansen whose blog you can check out here But it wasn't until I overcame some of the mental difficulties that I had with writing the Medieval period. 

You see a lot of people getting Medieval times and ancient times confused. Often people think 'medieval times' means knights and castles while Ancient times means robes and sandals. Thought these are things associated with each time they aren't really what drives the core of that era. Medieval Times means more then just the outward symbols that they left behind. Medieval times had a religion, a spirit and deep and complex history that made it what it was. Writing in a world that in the middle ages is not easy! It's far easier to do ancient times. See in Ancient Times civilizations were dominated by one single Tradition. Be that Tradition paganism (as it often was), an Athenian Democracy, Judaism or Zoroastrianism. The world of the ancient times was a simpler world. Which makes them easier to build.

Medieval times however, were complex. It lived in the shadow of the great Roman Empire, and it was constantly striving to achieve a fraction of the glory that had come before. Before its collapse Rome had been the center of military, intellectual and cultural power. But culture had degraded. Power had shifted from the hands of an educated Roman elite to the warring half barbaric tribes of northern Europe that were only kept in check by The Church. There's a desperation in Roman times. Knowledge that they could do better. A semi post-apocalyptic feel to it ... if you will. This desire to go back to the glory of Rome is one of the driving forces of the Middle Ages and acted as a civilizing factor on otherwise barbaric warlord. That's one of the reasons The Church was such a power during that time. It was the glue that held the fragile European society together. Chivalry was an attempt to civilize the barbaric warrior class into a more Classical line of thinking. 

So ... my point is .... writing about medieval times is more then just knights and castles. Now if you want to put Knights and Castles in your fantasy world and ignore the driving factor behind the Middle Ages. Sure. Understand. But if you're looking to create and accurate image of Medieval times you should seriously consider looking into why the Medievals thought like they did. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I like Fairies

Elves and Fairies, illustration for The Tempest - Edmund Dulac

So one slightly lesser known fact of me. I love fairies. Alright at first glance that seems like I might have to r-evaluate my manliness, but hear me out. Fairies are interesting. Now when most people think of 'fairies' they think of Pixie-like, Tinker Bell type faerie that tends to frequent little girls aisle of the toy store. Not exactly a masculine topic.

See, Fairies weren't always the cute winged things. That's a recent development. A sort of clash between Victorian romanticism and Walt Disney. But that's not what they were. Fairies were varied creatures in mythology, some were good and kind, others beautiful and terrible, still others were monstrous and crude, and others were animal-like and bestial. It can include the benign Pixie, but also included Ogres, Elves, Dwarves, Goblins and sometimes even beasts like Unicorns and Dragons. Fairie was a very wide and broad topic. This article is about appreciating them as a masterpiece of imagination.

Why are the Fae so diverse, varied and hard to categorize? Well I have a theory. I'm by no means an academic or an expert on Mythology, Theology, Anthropology and any of the other 'Ologies' that would give you a reason to listen to what I'm saying. But I have opinions by the truckload and I want to take them out somewhere! Trust me at your own risk.

See I believe in ancient times, man was surrounded by a vast world that was uncategorizable and alien. Not only was he surrounded by a mysterious physical world, but also a mysterious spiritual one. Man was surrounded by a lot of things, angels, demons, strange beasts and strange men. Somewhere in there all that got mixed into the concept of Fairie. The Fairie is a masterpiece of imagination that could only be created in the primordial world. It's part Angel, part Demon, part Human and part Animal. It's a hybrid created by ancient human experience. A whirlpool of different ideas.

And that folks is why I like Fairies!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Heresy of Originality.

Surreal - Jimmy Ernst

There's an odd notion in modern literature that the product of imagination has to be original. That it has to be completely and absolutely unlike anything that ever came before it. Most writers seem to take it for granted that to be a really good writer they have to be original. This article is basically about saying this idea is exaggerated at best and at worst, a dangerous idea that the writer should avoid.

Now let me first be clear what I mean by originality. I'm not talking about creativity or imagination here. Now let me take a minute to distinguish the two. Because the two often get confused. People think that being original means being creative when that's not necessarily the case. When people usually criticize a plot for not being original they usually really mean it suffers from a lack of creativity. The author didn't put enough thought or effort into the story.

Often nowadays, intellectual laziness is called 'lack of originality' but this is a dangerous choice of words. Now I realize this is a rather bold claim to make so let me explain to you why.

See Christian thought has no concept of originality. This is true across the board for almost all Churches and denominations. Every group in the Church has ... since time immemorial held that Sacred Truth comes through God given Revelation. From outside the mind. The Christian concept of truth is something outside ourselves, to be discovered and to be trusted in. We can gain deeper access to truth, through study of scriptures and through science. But we don't generate truth. We are receptors of truth. The closest we come to actually generating truth if our actions, and even then our actions are subject to some authority. Either Christ or Sin.

However, secular thought is different. Especially Postmodern thought. The Postmodern sees Truth as something that comes from within. That's why in a Postmodern culture 'Originality' is something to be valued. Taking information from God or Science is seen as inferior to one's own subjective ideas. The Culture doesn't want truth. It wants Originality. Something new and spontaneous. See, secular postmodernism views humans as Gods, it believes they have the power to do something that is restricted only to the Divine. To Create something truly original.

This has no place in Christian thought or Christian writing. Yes we should endeavor to be creative. But our main work is sub-creation and not God-like original Creation. We are just mixing and matching stories and the world around us into different. We're like a child playing with building blocks that Our Father Created. We can mix and match, but the power to create the truly Original is beyond us.

Honestly. The only thing that is original ... is sin.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I feel sorry for the Orcs.

Little goblins - Francisco Goya

There happens to be one trope that annoys me in fiction, particularly in fantasy fiction. It's when you have a race, species or type of sentient creature that is always evil. They don't just have an evil culture, religion or society ... the race is intrinsically evil. There's no hope for redemption for them. There's no hope of love or change. They're just ... evil. All they can ever hope to be is evil. And that's just what they are.

Examples are really too numerous to cite here. There are the Orcs in Middle Earth, the Rats in Redwall and other example. Oftentimes it's not just Orcs, sometimes it's humans too. For instance German soldiers during WW2 are often treated like Orcs to be slaughtered. Now ... don't get me wrong. I love Redwall, World War 2 films and I really love Lord of the Rings. However, treating an entire race or species like they are really always evil is fraught with problems.

Now Tolkien, unlike Brian Jaques or the makers of the old war films realized that this was a problem. He was always looking for a way to theologically set his Orcs 'right'. He theorized that it was possible for an Orc to be redeemed, or tried to ponder various theological explanations for them.

The problem is that the idea of intrinsic evil is rather Unchristian. Evil is due to the fall. In order to be evil the creature or whatever it has to first be good. Evil necessitates a fall. Since our God is good, He would not create a race that was 'always chaotic evil'.  Even the Demons were once created by God as 'very good', and only became evil things once they fell from grace.

But here's the problem with the typical 'Orc'. The Orc is a human without chance of redemption. Total Depravity without Common Grace. No chance is given for the Orc to repent and turn from his sin. There's not chance to repent. To add insult to injury the authors make them horrible leering creatures, ugly in both shape and form. As if it's misshapen form was evident proof of its depravity. The heroes never think twice about killing an Orc. Reason why? Because it's an Orc. As a devout Catholic this always bothered Tolkien. But he never found an explanation that was satisfactory for him.
Worse is when human cultures. Like Nazis, Russian Communists, the KKK or Islamic Terrorists are portrayed this way. It's not that these movements were not evil. They were. But they were filled with humans. Humans with hopes dreams and fears such as we have. Just because their cause was evil doesn't mean we can treat them as inhuman monsters. Here, Tolkien did know what to say, and he used Farimir to voice his opinions "I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed."

So think for a moment about your villains. The little villains who die in droves in your story.  Remember, in most cases ... those folks are humans too.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Destroy the Ring.

The Last Angel - Nicholas Roerich

I was talking with my sister this morning in the kitchen, she was baking bread for her tea party and I was trying to think up ideas for my blog in the same place. She paused for a moment and said, "You know it's odd that Frodo has to destroy the ring. The whole point of the Lord of the Rings isn't just peace. It's destruction. "

I paused for a moment, my first thought was 'yes' and then it was 'no, and then it was 'yes' again. Which pretty much sums up the point of this blog.

The funny thing is that, the point of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is the destruction of evil. In the first the point is the destruction of the dragon and in the second the destruction of an even greater Evil. The purpose of both novels boils down to destroying something. Question is... is that Christian?

Th answer is... yes. Yes it is.

See Christianity is an active Religion. Unlike the Eastern faiths which emphasize apathy and balance, Christianity emphasizes both redemption and judgement. We believe that God has set the absolute laws of What Is, and there is no way around them. Evil either must be changed or it will be destroyed in the end.

This is not to say that it is our job to force Evil to change or to judge it. Both Redemption and Judgement are things which both lie in the hand of our Lord. But in our novels we must remember that Evil cannot be allowed to remain. The Ring must be destroyed. Forces of Darkness vanquished.

Note that this doesn't mean we have to bring every character who isn't a Christian to a bad end. But rather we have to emphasize the point that evil has consequences. As long as we call ourselves Christian our work cannot be apathetic or amoral. We do not have the option of being the unbiased observer. The scientific critic of morality. The author beyond good and evil. We are subject to that paradigm.

It's a little bit of a harsher post then a normally post. A little bit more hellfire and judgement then I usually write. It's quite possible to take judgement too far. To end up like Javert from Les Mis. However it's also important to realize that evil cannot go without being punished. Mercy cannot exist without justice. The two support each other. Good is a singular whole.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Of Dung Ages.

Te Deum After Victory - Gustave Dore

C.S Lewis once said that humans tend to have a habit of 'Chronological Snobbery', that is, they tend to view their own age as the best, most enlightened and wonderful age. All those that preceded it were inhabited by uneducated barbarians who tended to rank on the IQ score only a little bit higher than Eggplants.

The period which suffers from the worst abuse is the Medieval Days. With the exception of Christians (especially Catholics who have a penchant for romanticizing those days) it seems to be the widespread opinion of most writers the Medieval Days were as very dark time, full of ignorance and religious hysteria. This sort of thinking came around at the time of the Enlightenment. Since one of the main tenants of Enlightenment was rejecting Religious thought wholesale, what could be a better target for their criticism then the age of apparent blind faith?

Only the fact is it wasn't. People make a make a mistake when they think that people only began to think in the 1700s and that every area between then and pagan Rome was full of barbarous ignorance. Human intelligence has not risen in that time, and just because we have access to more information than your average medieval peasant would doesn't mean that we've actually become any more adept at dealing with our problems.

And this is the problem with a lot of literature, particularly secular literature that attempts to portray the dark ages as a time of unbridled superstition and ignorance. Humans were no less skeptical, intelligent and curious back in those times, then they are now. If anything they were more so, the whole theme of the middle ages was the attempt to recapture the glory of the Roman Empire, and that included intellectual and philosophical means. Thinkers that still influence us today, such as St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Thomas Aquinas and Sir William of Ockham all came around during the medieval period. Intelligence and philosophical depth were not discouraged at that time. Modern attitudes towards science, philosophy and religion were born during this time.

However, the truth of the matter is, it is not the intelligence of the Medieval Times that offends its Modern critics, but its religiosity. The complete devotion to God that was fairly universal during that time is something entirely alien to the modern mind. That's why secular writers tend to portray the medieval times as times of ignorance. But in doing so they only betray their own.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Modern Wizard.

The Alchemists  - Pietro Longhi

Did you know that the idea of a 'Wizard' someone who gains powers purely through inherited abilities or through some energy force is actually a modern invention? I know. I had no idea either, but the more I read about it the more it makes sense. See before the late 19th Century Religion was considered the central aspect of all societies, and so 'magic', just like 'science' before it, was something that could not be divorced from Religion.

Before the turn of the century, magic was viewed as something inherently religious. Either in a good way or a bad way. Pagans thought that the magic came from their gods. Renaissance Philosophers called upon spirits. Buddhists thought they were tapping into the inner spiritual workings of the universe. Christians took things a step further. According to our beliefs not all spiritual powers are good. Therefore the concept of Witchcraft vs Miracles came into play. However, supernatural power was assumed to come from either the Divine as a miracle, or the diabolical as witchcraft.

So how do we get the Modern Wizard? The guy who throws around lightning bolts and fireballs just because he can? The odd answer is that this Modern Wizard is only distantly related to the concept of Warlocks, Priests or Prophets that existed in times before. This is because the Modern Wizard is divorced from the concept of Religion and the Supernatural entirely. Instead, the Modern Wizard's magic is an energy force that he can control, similar to electricity. How did this concept occur?

Basically the Modern Wizard and the Superhero both came around from the same source. Technology. In the 19th century humanity discovered that they could turn the natural forces to their command. The Modern Wizard and the Superhero are simply the fulfillment of the dream of Technology. Magic in cultures used to be something that could not be distinguished from Religion, but now in our modern mindset it is something that cannot be divorced from Science.

Now it's not that Pagan magic is not something that Christians should not look out for. It's still a dangerous enemy that is alive and well in the New Age and the Occult. However, the Modern Wizard, which includes such characters as Harry Potter, Eragon and whatever Wizards you find in Skyrim. And yet, that tends to make more sense to our modern culture then magic coming from Religion. Why? Because we have been trained, Pavlov style, to expect quick and powerful results from Technology.

Should Christians use the Modern Wizard? Well I'll leave that up to you folks. The Modern Wizard does not represent the Occult, but rather Technology.  I personally think that, within limits the Modern Wizard can show the powers and dangers of Science and Technology rather aptly within a Christian spectrum.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Living in Unparadise.

City Scene - George Luks

Dystopias are very popular these days. Most people seem to want to write some sort of dystopia or other. I'm writing a dystopia, my friends are writing Dystopias, seems like most of the world just swallowed a huge dose of Orwell. Either that or we're all depressed. Or sadistic. Or both.

Dystopia is ancient Greek for, "bad place" elsewhere it has been described as 'a society characterized by human misery'. Basically it's a place where we can take all our character's angst and suffering and turn it up to eleven. And, since all writers are sadists that happens to be something that attracts us.

 Usually, dystopias are written by the politically opinionated. The usual formula is to take a political opinion, usually an opposing political opinion, and take it to an illogical extreme where it's used to create total misery in society. For instance if the writer hates Capitalism, expect the world to be controlled by sinister cooperation and shady bureaucrats. If the writer thinks that Government is the source of all evils, then expect the world to be run in some sort of fascist state.

Thus means the core of dystopia is exploring human sinfulness. Dystopia is there to show where we go wrong. Sometimes the dystopia is shown to be pure evil, such as in 1984, or Fahrenheit 451, where the literature examines the depths of human depravity pure and simple. Other works, such as Bioshock or V for Vendetta, have portrayed ideological extremism as the source of Dystopia. But in every case the dystopia depends vastly on how the author views sin.

This means for us Christians, our view of sin will heavily shape how we will make our dystopias. Unlike many secular ideologies which only see the danger of sin in lying in one or two directions, Christians can see the danger of dystopia in many directions. Unrestrained hedonism is sinful in Christian Thought, but so is blind legalistic religious zealotry. We know that there are many ways that society can go wrong.

In the end though almost all dystopias will come down to this. A society characterized by lack of Love, where hate runs rampant and Christian Affection is squashed. The lack of love is at the core of every Dystopia. We were commanded to Love God and Love Each other. A Dystopia, whether Capitalist or Communist commands the opposite. Fear the gods, and Fear each other.

The advantage the Christians have when they write dystopia is that they are able to offer their audience hope. Seculars have a hard time grasping what went wrong in the dystopia, they know something did go wrong but they don't see where it is. The Christian knows where the answer lies. In sin. And, in human callousness.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writer's Block.

Two Cubes (Demonstrating the Stereometric Method) - Naum Gabo

The time has come to discuss the dreaded enemy of every writer.

The Writer's Block.

Almost every writer shivers in terror when they start to think about the writer's block. It's our bane. Our Doom. Like a chopping block only less pleasant. It's that helplessly blank state of mind that makes one want to hit the keyboard in frustration, give up on writing and go see what's on Netflix. We try Coffee, sleep, jumping jacks, tearing out hair out in frustration and nothing seems to work. No matter what we do we're just.... Stuck. 

No writer likes the writer's block. We want to know how the dang heck we can overcome it. It just seems impossible. This is the post will show you how. Or at least begin to show you how. The fact is there are several kinds of writer's block, and it's important to know which kind you happen to have at the moment. I've identified exactly four kinds of Writer's Block. These are the ones I can identify at the moment. If you can think of a Block I missed let me know in the comment section. 

1: The Delirium Block

Hah! That sounds like some sort of evil magic item. However, the Delirium block may be the easiest to solve out of all writer's block. In this case, the lack of physical energy means your brain can't expend itself on writing anymore. If you have a case of the Delirium Block, the solution is simple, if perhaps not exactly easy. Get rested, eat healthy food, get to bed on time, exercise. All those things your parents told you to do. That way you can come back to your work with a clear mind. If there's a deadline and you need to get it done right now and don't have time to sleep then tea or coffee might be the way to go. 

2: The Inspiration Desert 

This is where you're in perfect health, but for some reason your mind just refuses to be inspired. Ideas don't flow. They're all dried up. This is where I would recommend the writer put down writing for a second and read a book. Preferably a book that is as close to their writing style as possible. Reading is like water for the Inspiration Desert, try reading a chapter or maybe even just a few pages. Always try to read close to the subject you are writing about. Aim for books that are like yours. 

3: The Plot Snag. 

This happens when you write a bit of writing or a plot twist or perhaps a character that doesn't go with the rest of your novel. When this happens you have to identify what went wrong and correct it. This is the block that I personally tend to face the most and also the most involved process. If your plot just feels wrong somehow, take a step back from the computer and identify where it went wrong. Then, focus on that area and try to correct it. 

4: The Anxiety Block 

And then sometimes you write and you are just confronted by a wave of anxiety that just washes away your ideas like so many little sand castles on the beach. This is the most unpleasant of all forms of writer's block because the block is deeply rooted in your emotions. This sort of block is more spiritual than the other forms of blocks, and this is where taking a pause, reading scriptures, praying and turning your mind to the Lord would be good ideas. Also, relaxing can help. Try to do things that make you feel easy. Take deep breaths. This is the block that you always hear famous writers saying 'you have to push through'. And, this is true. If anxiety is what is causing you to stop writing, then taking a break might help, but in the end you have to push through it. Fear in writing works like Fear anywhere else. You have to confront it.

Well that's all on writing blocks for today. Let me know if you have any more ideas about them. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dragon Rider Problems

File:Reggio calabria museo nazionale mosaico da kaulon.jpg

So this is the bit of the blog where we get to talk about Dragon Riders. Yes! Dragon Riders. In all my time as writer I'm not sure I've found a more popular subject. I think at least half of all the writers I know have included a dragon rider at some point in time. Why? Because of the Rule of Cool. Dragon Riders are awesome, even more awesome then superpowers. After all, what's more awesome then slaying a giant scaly beast? Riding it!

But including Dragon Riders can be incredibly problematic in a novel. It's not an easy trope to pull of well, but a lot of people seem to try anyway. It' ridiculously overpowered, and gives the rider pretty much any of the abilities that a dragon has. If the Dragon is sentient this power is doubled. If the Rider does magic (as so often happens) then the power is quadrupled.  The Dragon (and sometimes the magic) makes the rider near invincible in combat situations.

 I'm not going to go into why you shouldn't put Dragon Riders in your novel. There are reasons, yes, but one, I don't think any of you would hear me over the sound of the sheer awesomeness of Dragon Riders and two ... the idea of a Dragon Rider is one that is so awesome it deserves to live on in glory. Just because the Rider trope is hard to pull of doesn't mean you shouldn't pull it off.

So how do you deal with dragon riders? Well for one you can depower them a bit. Making the Dragon non-sentient helps, also making the rider a non magic user helps. This helps to power down the concept of Dragon Rider and helps smooth is out a bit. If Dragons are sentient in your universe though then you are probably better off having the rider be a magic user. The Rider needs some way to be useful. Swords aren't going to help when you're on a massive flying reptile.

But let's assume that you want you dragon sentient, and by necessity you need the Rider to be useful, thus must use magic. How do you power down such sheer awesomeness like that? The answer is actually quite simple. Either make your dragon rider vulnerable to weak villains or make all the other villains Dragon Riders or something equally powerful themselves.

The former is my favorite option. Normally characters evade your average guards, orcs or whatever weak minion is chasing after your hero has difficultly hurting them. Make your Dragon Rider vulnerable to ordinary things, arrows, swords. Whatever weapons are found in your world. Your Dragon's scales don't have to be hard as iron. They could easily be shot down if they fly low enough. Give them real and realistic vulnerabilities. It gives you more opportunities to torture your characters.

The other alternative is to make your enemies as ridiculously overpowered as your hero is. Perhaps more so. This works as well, though it's not my style, it certainly works.

This all of course assumes the dragon rider is a 'good guy'. If the dragon rider in question is evil ... then nevermind anything I just said. Make him as overpowered as you want.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ms. Hansen's challenge.

As some of you may know, I am writing a book with Aubrey Hansen, A summary of which is available here . It's going to involve Knights, Theology and Faeries! Now something exciting has happened. Aubrey has issued a challenge for anyone interested. Two people have a chance at becoming Beta Readers for this novel. Now if that doesn't sound like the sort of thing you are interested in by all means stay away! But if you are the type of person who likes to edit and wants to get a glimpse of a soon-to-be-published work you might want to check this out. You can find it here.

I also want to make a note here who don't know her that Aubrey Hansen is an awesome person, friend and co-writer. You should check out her blog!

Can Evil win?

They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung - Gustave Dore

I have never seen an author, of any of any kind, but especially not a Christian author ever shirk from torturing, killing or otherwise making their characters miserable. By their maniacal laughter it's safe to assume we never mind dumping a little torture on our good characters. It makes them happy ... or at least, it makes us happy and we don't care what they say.

However, when it comes to bad characters it's hard for us to do the inverse. To treat them well and to let them get away with their evil deeds tends to be something we loathe to do. This happens in Christian art especially. We Christians, and not just the most conservative among us, tend to make sure that evil is punished in accordance to the liberality with which it was practiced. This isn't something unique to Christians either, even though the morals are looser in secular fiction, what Seculars consider to be moral is still enforced with the strict moral code unless it's a Modernist/Postmodern drama in which the author is actively trying to point out that morality is irrelevant. 

But do you always need to punish the evil character to show the existence of absolute moral law? This is a difficult question. The answer is No, and Yes. 

The answer is No, because you do not have to have the good guys win and the bad guys lose to show the existence of the moral law. And the answer is yes because Good must always be shown to be ultimately rewarded, even if through pain, fire and loss and evil must be shown to be futile, even if the villain has achieved ultimate victory.

What this means is, yes Evil can win, but ultimately it will be a Pyrrhic Victory. It must be shown to be hollow and empty, where they have sacrificed that which was most human about them. The hero on the other hand may die, but they will die in what Tolkien called 'thorny courage', though the hero went through immense pain and finally died they still did what was right.

It might even possible for Evil to prosper and be happy and for the author still to uphold moral laws. However, this prosperity and happiness must be shown to be temporal while the actions of the good characters must be shown to be eternal. In shot the answer is, yes Evil can win, but it must be punished in the end. And, Good can lose, but it must be given victory in the End.

"The Tyrant dies, his rule ends. The Martyr dies, and his rule begins." - Soren Kirekegaard. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Second Commandment and Writing God.

Head of lioness - Theodore Gericault

"Thou shalt not make any unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the earth above, or that is an earth beneath, or that is in the water underneath the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children of them that hate me.  
                                                                             Exodus 20: 4 -6

I have heard it said before, and I will most likely hear it said again that authors who include God in their writing, such as John Bunyan or C.S Lewis, have violated the second commandment by including God in their work of fiction. It's a serious charge since the Second Commandment, the commandment God issued to the Israelites to prohibit them from idolatry, is a commandment with a promise of vengeance. It is most certainly not a charge to be leveled lightly, but for the sake of argument, but it's a serious charge and should be taken seriously.

Now looking at the Second Commandment, there is nothing distinguish making an image of God and Idolatry. The two are one and the same. The Lord prohibited the Israelites from worshiping images because the image would draw attention to the creature rather than the Creator. So the question is, is an allegorical character in fiction that represents Christ an image of God?

Well look at the verse. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. The whole purpose is the second commandment is to keep the Jews, and later the Christians from worshiping any other Gods from the Holy Trinity. I believe this includes any substitutes, which include, pictures, statues, icons or any other such things, but that's another subject entirely. However does this include subjects such as God in writing?

Not exactly. In the case of Lewis and Bunyan, they do not write about God himself, but instead make an allegorical representation of him. But wait, isn't Aslan supposed to be to truly be God in the world of Narnia? Well sort of. Lewis never intended Aslan to be worshiped. In that sense the Lion is allegorical because an Allegory is meant of be meant to be to be God in of himself, but rather a word picture to describe something of His Character. They are used many times in scriptures, especially in parables to help describe something of God.

This is a helpful tool for Christian writers because otherwise we would have to avoid the subject of God entirely, and give that our faith is naturally expressive and dominant in all aspects of life that would make it hard to point to Him indeed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food, glorious food.

Cook With Food - Frans Snyders

I asked two of my friends what I should write about for my blog, one said I should talk about writing prompts and the other said I should write about food. So here I am ... writing about food. Because food is tasty and scrumptious. We're going to go mostly into describing food. I thought about touching on the topics of Gluttony and Starvation, but those are really more complicated topics that I will tackle at a different point.

So how does one write about food? Well first, describe it! I have never known readers to complain about too many descriptions of food. They want to know what the characters are eating. This is because if a meal is described, but the food isn't, the reader's first thought it 'yes but what did they eat?'. The reader's stomach's want to know what their characters are eating! Perhaps they want to make some of it for themselves after they put the book down.

But doesn't it distract from the story? This is a valid point and sometimes its right. Sometimes you don't want to describe food because there's something else going on that you don't want to distract from. However this is rarely the case because food is generally not being served at a time when there's a lot of action going on. Usually it's devoured during a time where the character is trying to recuperate and relax.

Also describing food can help accent the nature of the situation. Look to the Chronicles of Narnia. The White Witch gives Edmund Turkish Delights, the lavish, over-saccharine nature of the dish helps capture the sweet, stylish, but unhealthy nature of sinful temptation, this is contrasted by the food of the Beavers, which is simple, plain and healthy.

Remember food can be used to communicate meaning and atmosphere, a grilled cheese sandwich brings to mind such concepts as snacks, the middle class and America. By contrast caviar tends to immediately bring wealth to mind. If you put your character in a dungeon, describing their moldy bread and tepid water helps the reader to understand the filthiness of the character's position.

So those are my thoughts on food ... hmm ... I'm getting hungry...