Religion and fantasy

Nat Case ncase at
Mon Jul 23 15:24:25 EDT 2001

Georgia: no offense taken from me, at least! I have thought about 
this some myself, and I think the way you phrased the question 
triggered the response that in a way the question is itself a red 
herring. the relation of one's beliefs to an orthodoxy has little to 
do with ability to create fantasy, or maybe even has an inverse 

Here's what I think:  Everyone has beliefs that can be classified as 
"religious." Some of us have beliefs that follow received teaching 
more-or-less closely, and some of us have beliefs that allow us to 
participate in religious groups (churches, synagogues, covens, etc.) 
even if we are not by nature orthodox. Some have beliefs that by 
their nature put them outside religious communities.

Jones' writing, and indeed most fantasy, has an element of religious 
thought-experiment behind it, some more blatant, some less. Because 
fantasy writers are tinkering with basic cosmological questions, you 
would think they were all deeply agnostic, but this simply isn't so. 
Orson Scott Card and Diane Duane, are, respectively, devoutly Mormon 
and Catholic. Those are two I can think of off the top of my head, 
but I'm sure there are many many others.

I actually think clear religious belief (which can be easier within a 
religious tradition) can be an aid to thinking "outside the box." If 
you're struggling to figure out the basics in the real world, how 
much energy do you have left to figure it out in an alternative world?

But the key in this regard to being a good writer of any kind is (it 
seems to me) less the makeup of one's belief system and more the lack 
of fear about one's beliefs (and lack of fear in general) that let 
you use them in your work unprotected.


>I was interested to see from the alternate identity returns that 
>quite a few of those of us on the list have religious beliefs.
>I was wondering about how this influences the way you read DWJ (and 
>other fantasy). I haven't read anything DWJ has said about whether 
>she is a Christian, but on the evidence of the books I assume she's 
>not: I can't think of any of her books where the worlds she 
>describes have any kind of benevolent, omniscient and immortal 
>supernatural figure wch might be comparable to the Judeo-Christian 
>Do people think that they read fantasy differently if they have 
>religious beliefs? I'm about halfway through one of Charles 
>Williams' fantasy novels, _The Place of the Lion_, wch has the usual 
>good v. evil plot, but as Williams was a convinced Christian the 
>good and evil are in this case the Biblical heaven and hell - very 
>much as in Lewis' _Out of the Silent Planet_ trilogy. I'm finding 
>the book gripping, but I wonder whether my reaction to it would be 
>different if I were a Christian. Or do we put our own views of the 
>world on hold whilst we read fantasy?
>I hope I haven't offended anyone on the list by asking about these 
>matters; I would be very interested in any responses anyone has.
>Express yourself @

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