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Re: [eldil] Orthodox Christians and fantasy literature

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  • Steve Hayes
    ... I trried to comment on Lily Parascheva Rowe s blog, but it would not let me, so I m copying her comment here: Thursday, 03 May 2012 18:25 posted by Lily
    Message 1 of 7 , May 7 6:53 PM
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      On 6 May 2012 at 8:00, Steve Hayes wrote:

      > An interesting discussion seems to be developing in the Orthodox blogosphere
      > about whether Orthodox Christians should write, or even read, fantasy
      > literature. They are referring to the works of writers like C.S. Lewis and
      > J.R.R. Tolkien — Christian (though not Orthodox) authors who wrote fantasy
      > fiction.
      >
      > Read about it here:
      > http://wp.me/p3gtp-PN

      I trried to comment on Lily Parascheva Rowe's blog, but it would not let me,
      so I'm copying her comment here:

      Thursday, 03 May 2012 18:25 posted by Lily Parascheva Rowe

      I'm sorry for any confussion here. I'm not in any way condemning the whole
      genre. I wrote this because I've noticed something peculiar. I've talked to
      people who think that because C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are considered founders
      of the genre of fantasy that any and all fantasy must be just awesome. My
      only point was that people should pay attention to the effect that certain
      readings may have on the soul as opposed to simply gobbling them down as
      though they were merely nuetral. In some cases there is nuetrality but there
      are also many times when what is being delivered could be spiritually
      harmful. Twilight may not be technically fantasy but several young people are
      carrying it around at church and telling me it's just like Lewis. Yeah...
      that's a stretch for me. To answer another question, I think parents decide
      what is appropriate for their children. But for sure I wouldn't publish
      something I personally had a problem with. I sure would not have published
      many of the things I find on the "fantasy" bookshelf at the bookstores that
      just looking at the covers and skimming through them you can file them in the
      trash bin. I know this makes me sound hyper critical or some kind of
      fundamentalist but I'm not. I liked Harry Potter for the most part. The Genre
      is blurred. Average people don't even know what belongs in it anymore. It's
      like watching the SciFi channel and seeing wrestling. I respect Fr. Andrew's
      opinion and I might even agree with it. He just thought I was saying
      something a whole lot deeper than what I was really saying. I was just posing
      the question.





      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesstw.tumblr.com/ (follow me on Tumblr)
      Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
      Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
      Fax: 086-548-2525
    • Steve Hayes
      ... [see her blog post at http://tinyurl.com/7yr98d5 ] I think that puts it in a different light, because her original post, to which Fr Andrew Stephen Damick
      Message 2 of 7 , May 7 8:19 PM
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        On 8 May 2012 at 3:53, Steve Hayes wrote:

        > On 6 May 2012 at 8:00, Steve Hayes wrote:

        > > Read about it here:
        > > http://wp.me/p3gtp-PN
        >
        > I trried to comment on Lily Parascheva Rowe's blog, but it would not let me,
        > so I'm copying her comment here:
        >
        > Thursday, 03 May 2012 18:25 posted by Lily Parascheva Rowe
        >
        > I'm sorry for any confussion here. I'm not in any way condemning the whole
        > genre. I wrote this because I've noticed something peculiar. I've talked to
        > people who think that because C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are considered founders
        > of the genre of fantasy that any and all fantasy must be just awesome. My only
        > point was that people should pay attention to the effect that certain readings
        > may have on the soul as opposed to simply gobbling them down as though they
        > were merely nuetral. In some cases there is nuetrality but there are also many
        > times when what is being delivered could be spiritually harmful. Twilight may
        > not be technically fantasy but several young people are carrying it around at
        > church and telling me it's just like Lewis. Yeah... that's a stretch for me.
        > To answer another question, I think parents decide what is appropriate for
        > their children. But for sure I wouldn't publish something I personally had a
        > problem with. I sure would not have published many of the things I find on the
        > "fantasy" bookshelf at the bookstores that just looking at the covers and
        > skimming through them you can file them in the trash bin. I know this makes me
        > sound hyper critical or some kind of fundamentalist but I'm not. I liked Harry
        > Potter for the most part. The Genre is blurred. Average people don't even know
        > what belongs in it anymore. It's like watching the SciFi channel and seeing
        > wrestling. I respect Fr. Andrew's opinion and I might even agree with it. He
        > just thought I was saying something a whole lot deeper than what I was really
        > saying. I was just posing the question.

        [see her blog post at
        http://tinyurl.com/7yr98d5 ]

        I think that puts it in a different light, because her original post, to
        which Fr Andrew Stephen Damick responded, implied that fantasy fiction was
        off limits for Christians, because the church fathers identified fantasy with
        the passions.

        I think Fr Andrew has dealt adequately with that point in his response, and I
        tried to cover the point that she was misdescribing literary genres, giving
        the impression that allegory is good and fantasy is bad. .

        The way she described it in the original post would imply that all fiction
        was to be avoided by Christians, because novels, plays etc are works of the
        imagination, and the imagination is inextricably linked with the passions,
        and should therefore be suppressed.

        The comment quoted above goes some way to clarifying it -- she did not have
        in mind the works of Lewis and Tolkien, but rather works that portray
        creatures like vampires as good.

        This can broaden out the discussion quite a bit.

        I quite recently discovered that there are some people who identify
        themselves as vampires, and even more recently discovered that there are
        people who identify themselves as zombies. But that takes the discussion out
        of the realm of literature, but perhaps I need to make it clear that I am
        talking about literary vampires here, and not about people who identify
        themselves with a vampire subculture.

        It is interesting that most of the myths and legends about vampires originate
        in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, roughly along the line where Orthodoxy and
        Western Christianity meet.

        It is also interesting that the Greek word for vampire -- vrykolakas -- is
        also applied to living persons in that it is colloquially used to refer to
        sexual predators -- rapists and the like.

        I think the best known (and still the best) vampire novel was Bram Stoker's
        "Dracula". I've read it several times, and have found it as enjoyable a read
        the last time as the first, even though it wasn't as scary as it was the
        first time around.

        I tried to read Anne Rice's "Interview with the vampire", one of the more
        recent examples of vampire literature, and found it heavy going. I'd have
        given up halfway through if I hadn't thought that I should be able to say
        that I *had* read one of Anne Rice's books, and was not just condemning them
        without having read them. I found it excruciatingly boring.

        I also read Stephen King's "'salem's lot", where the vampires are portrayed
        as evil, but found it boring and predictable.

        A recent vampire story I did enjoy was "The historian" by Elizabeth Kostova -
        my review here:

        http://khanya.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/at-last-a-good-vampire-story/

        I discovered C.S. Lewis's science fiction in 1959, and Charles Williams the
        following year. I discovered the Narnia stories in 1965, and Tolkien in 1966
        (when I also learned that Tolkien, Williams and Lewis knew each other, and
        that they had a kind of club called the Inklings).

        I read other fantasy stories as well, and loved the early Alan Garner. But it
        seems to me that some of the best fantasy stories were written before the
        genre itself became popular. The Inklings, and Garner, especially, wrote in
        the 1960s and earlier. Most fantasy literature written in the 1970s and later
        seemed inferior. I suspect that a lot of authors of little talent tried to
        cash in on its popularity. I read the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula le Guin, and
        enjoyed it, but not so much on a second reading, and when a fourth, really
        dull book was appended to the trilogy I wondered what I had seen in it the
        first time round.

        I read Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series, which in the publishers'
        hype was billed as the new Tolkien, but it didn't even come close.

        At one point I wondered if only Christians could write good fantasy
        literature, since Williams, Lewis and Tolkien were Christians.

        That theory was shaken when I disovered that some Christians could write
        really bad fantasy literature, such as Stephen Lawhead's "In the hall of the
        dragon king", which was full of cliches, and anomalies that the author did
        not seem to be aware of, such as rivers flowing uphill. In a fantasy world it
        is conveivable that a river might flow uphill by magic, if a wizard cast a
        spell on it or something, but not if they do so in a fit of absence of mind.

        One Stephen King novel that I did enjoy, and which also featured revenants,
        was "Pet Sematery". It also featured the Wendigo, which I knew from the short
        story of that title, by Algernon Blackwood, which I think is one of the best
        short horror stories ever written. You can read it here:

        http://tinyurl.com/ycsvr79

        In the end I suppose I must conclude, as I did in my blog post, that the
        difference between the fantasy literature of the Inklings, and that of most
        other authors, is not that the Inklings were Christians (though they were),
        but rather that they were interested in writing, and had a feel for, true
        myth.

        And that is what is missing in the writings of derivative authors.




        --
        Steve Hayes
        E-mail: shayes@...
        Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
        http://www.goodreads.com/hayesstw
      • Fr Methodios
        It seems to me that Christian literature can include fantasy, but not all fantasy is Christian. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling all wrote Christian fiction in the
        Message 3 of 7 , May 8 6:05 AM
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          It seems to me that Christian literature can include fantasy, but not all fantasy is Christian. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling all wrote Christian fiction in the genre. Twilight is not Christian fiction - no noble task, no sacrifice for others - just I want my "perfect" boyfriend and my perfect "life". The Inklings showed the world that Christian lit can be exciting and not lame, which usually happens when a writer sets out to write a "Christian" story and degenerates into a thinly disguised sermon.

          Sent from my iPhone
        • Richard Lyman
          Entirely agree with Stephen. The latest blog makes much better sense than the first! Agreed, lots of fantasy fiction is trash; but the same applies to any
          Message 4 of 7 , May 8 7:27 AM
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            Entirely agree with Stephen. The latest blog makes much better sense than the first! Agreed, lots of fantasy fiction is trash; but the same applies to any genre whatever! There was of course good fantasy written before the Inklings, and not necessarily Christian; Dunsany is name that leaps to mind. William Morris, too (though his books seldom live up to their glorious titles).
            Richard Sturch.
          • Ahnemann
            Not sure the series qualifies as fantasy or Sci-fi, but what does anyone have to say about Hunger Games? I m about 50 pages into the first book and find it
            Message 5 of 7 , May 8 7:38 AM
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              Not sure the series qualifies as fantasy or Sci-fi, but what does anyone have to say about Hunger Games? I'm about 50 pages into the first book and find it incredibly gruesome. There are some redeeming moments. 
              AJA

              Sent from my iPad

              On May 8, 2012, at 9:05 AM, Fr Methodios <methodios102@...> wrote:

               

              It seems to me that Christian literature can include fantasy, but not all fantasy is Christian. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling all wrote Christian fiction in the genre. Twilight is not Christian fiction - no noble task, no sacrifice for others - just I want my "perfect" boyfriend and my perfect "life". The Inklings showed the world that Christian lit can be exciting and not lame, which usually happens when a writer sets out to write a "Christian" story and degenerates into a thinly disguised sermon.

              Sent from my iPhone

            • Steve Hayes
              ... Agreed - I think that the Inklings not only wrote Christian fantasy, but they wrote *good* Christian fantasy. Some other authors have tried to do that, but
              Message 6 of 7 , May 13 9:57 AM
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                On 8 May 2012 at 8:05, Fr Methodios wrote:

                > It seems to me that Christian literature can include fantasy, but not all
                > fantasy is Christian. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling all wrote Christian fiction in
                > the genre. Twilight is not Christian fiction - no noble task, no sacrifice for
                > others - just I want my "perfect" boyfriend and my perfect "life". The
                > Inklings showed the world that Christian lit can be exciting and not lame,
                > which usually happens when a writer sets out to write a "Christian" story and
                > degenerates into a thinly disguised sermon.

                Agreed - I think that the Inklings not only wrote Christian fantasy, but they
                wrote *good* Christian fantasy. Some other authors have tried to do that, but
                failed.

                --
                Steve Hayes
                E-mail: shayes@...
                Web: http://hayesstw.tumblr.com/ (follow me on Tumblr)
                Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
                Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
                Fax: 086-548-2525
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