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In Defense of the Speculative

The fiction that I’m drawn to is almost exclusively in the speculative realm: science fiction and fantasy. It’s what I write as well, and I’ve found that this comes with a bit of subconscious embarrassment. Sci-fi/fantasy has some stereotypes attached to it that can carry it somehow into the second (or third?) tier of “serious” writing.

Of course, at the center of many stereotypes is a nut of truth. Those writing/reading in more mainstream genres like mystery or political thriller or literary fiction don’t regularly attend conventions where everyone dresses up like an elf or stormtrooper. Can you imagine LitCon 2019 where all the participants show up dressed as divorced single moms enduring the difficulties of daily life? Or like Jack Ryan? Or like…I don’t really know. What’s literary fiction even about anyway?

So sometimes when people ask me what I write or what I like to read, I find myself shrugging my shoulders and averting my eyes to respond “science fiction and fantasy” when really it would seem more respectful to be writing about the troubled inner musings of a middle-aged businessman trapped in a 21st century family…or something.

Speculative fiction, after all, is just made up, right? It’s all very pretend, like a child’s daydream which we should really grow out of by the time we hit high school (and certainly by the time our children hit high school!). Serious people stay grounded in the real world with real life situations and people who are more-or-less like we are. Mysteries really happen. So do family troubles and rags to riches stories and political intrigue and coming of age.

Starships and hobbits do not happen.

But I am struck sometimes – usually in the middle of a powerful worship song – at how the speculative can stir my hearts in the direction of Truth.

Consider lyrics like this: “Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you. Every heart longing for our King, we sing, ‘Even so come.'” (Passion, “Even So Come”). I find that the power and emotion and heart-thrill of  Aragorn and Arwen far better represent the image of this song than any “Joe meets Sally” romance. I find the power of longing for a King specifically stirring (no one longs for a prime minister or senator to come legislating their way to the rescue).

Or how about an example from film: I find Neo’s revelation at the end of The Matrix to far better represent Christ than, for example, Jason Borne. Jason Borne is the best among peers (and pretty stinking cool, too!), but Neo is something else. Something superior to all that came before or after. His character demonstrates real power and glory and not just the best humanity can offer.

I find that the very things in fantasy/science fiction that stir my heart to wonder are truly fulfilled only in the Truth of Scripture. King Peter and Queen Susan will never ride the White House lawn to deliver us from evil. No wand will ever give its true-hearted bearer the power to actually defend the good. Superman will never fly to the rescue.

But Christ will. All those things and more. And though I freely admit that I have a hard time connecting the right emotions to theology, perhaps the glory and desire that is sparked by Aslan and Bilbo and Luke Skywalker can help me direct those expectations towards their true fulfillment. If they can serve as that bridge, then their value is great indeed.

So I’m going to keep reading sci-fi-fi/fantasy (and writing it too). Maybe you should give it a try as well. You never know….

2 thoughts on “In Defense of the Speculative

  1. I think that the days of confining our worship to the very vanilla hymn or the picture of a staid, upright Christian person, afraid to “let loose” feelings inside for fear of being thought badly of are over. At least I hope they are. I for one found that type of worship to be not my type at all, but very confining and judgmental. I also think that is why the church of old is dying out in my opinion since it is not meeting the needs of the people. However, that is another subject entirely. Of course, each person comes to God in his own way. But I defy anyone to find me a Bible verse that says we should not sing out loud, dance with joy, shout His name and tell the world we adore our King. So if “speculative fiction” stirs your heart and turns your thoughts to the miracle that is God, I say what is wrong with that.
    And, I must admit to you, nephew, that I am a big fantasy fan myself. I love the Hobbit and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Great stuff. Don’t we see God in many things?
    So read and write on. I’m one proud auntie.

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