Thanks for checking out this series! If this is the first blog you’re reading on ‘Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian’ then please see my intro on post #1 for context on the reason I’ve put this series together.
Last time we discussed the idea of a multiverse and the possibility of people living in these other worlds, so the subject to jump into next is…
Are humans still unique?
Yes. Humans have the unique characteristic of being made in the image of God. What exactly that means is up for debate (to the best of my knowledge). One parallel I see is that God is a Trinity and we humans are a kind of trinity ourselves (body, soul and spirit but one being) though not the same kind of trinity as God. I assume that humans are the only beings in known creation to have this three-fold nature since angels may have soul and/or spirit but no body, and animals have bodies but not souls or spirits.
Another common interpretation is that God has free will and so do humans, and that is the sense in which we are made in God’s image. However, this position seems to suggest that angels lack the faculty of free will, in which case the rebellion of the fallen angels makes no sense.
When writing a story that contains both humans and other sentient races, whether they be aliens in a space story or mythical creatures in a fantasy tale, one of the features I attribute to humans more than other races is in fact their capacity for free will. Other sentient beings may still have free will, but not at the same measure as humans. It’s what gives mankind the capacity to produce strong leaders, but also makes us potentially more devious, and is the reason many races simply don’t trust us.
What about humans in fantasy worlds?
Although it can be assumed that in most space adventures the human characters are all descended from humans that once lived on earth, and therefore have inherited the same problems we all inherited from Adam & Eve (except probably Star Wars), the same assumption may not make sense when applied to a fantasy world. It depends if your world has its own creation mythos, and what it says about the origin of Man in that world. With some fantasy worlds, you can get away with implying that the first human settlers had traveled there from another realm. You could also assume that what your characters refer to as ‘humans’ are not actually humans but just creatures that are very similar to humans.
You run into a problem if you both suggest that these characters are human in the same way that we are human, and imply that they were created by a being other than God, because then how could they have been made in God’s image and therefore possess one of the most defining traits of being human? It may be useful in such circumstances to take the approach of recreate over create, and suppose that these creative entities are making new people from materials already given to them by another.
You may still run into a question of how to make your human characters relatable if their struggle with evil is not the same as our own struggle with sin, if their ancesters had never eaten from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Since the initial problem of the fruit is disobedience, I find it easy to come up with fantasy-based parralels when needed, to show that these humans faced a similar test and also failed. But depending on when your fantasy story takes place, in relation to events occuring on earth, it’s possible that your humans had traveled into this new fantasy world sometime after Eden, or that they were made using materials from Adam & Eve’s descendants.
Next time we’ll discuss how people of other worlds might deal differently with the issues of sin and evil…
All works of fiction ask ‘what if’ questions. ‘If there was a universe where this was going on, what would happen?’ The same is true whether you’re writing science-fiction or fantasy, or some other genre with hypothetical scenarios. And all ‘what if’ stories assume that the ‘what if’ is something not actually happening in reality, but something that arguably could. So as a Christian who wants to write in the fantasy and science-fiction genres, it is not necessarily required that the stories I write would be able to occur within realities that adhere to my theology and general world-view.
But if I’m asking a ‘what if’ question, and the events of the story don’t flow in a way that I think they actually would, given what I believe about the nature of people and spirituality and other things, then am I being authentic to what I think would actually occur in these scenarios?
There’s a lot of freedom when writing speculative fiction. It’s one of the things about it that draws creative thinkers. We get to explore possibilities, even purely hypothetical ones, without having to disregard our core beliefs. So where each writer stands on this line is a matter of personal balance.
Myself, I try for the most part to keep my works of fiction in accordance with how I believe things actually work in a grander, potentially multiversal scenario that is reality, while also acknowledging that, ultimately, God still gets to do whatever He wants. I like the idea that, if these stories turned out to be real, they could fit together with our reality in a cohesive manner without me having to rework my theology, but if I take that approach then I have to make sure that these stories are adhering to my theology in the first place.
There are other Christian writers who feel the same way I do, and take a similar approach, but it is not without its challenges. In this series I’ll try to address some of the tougher issues I run into when trying to write fantasy and science-fiction stories in a way that doesn’t contradict my personal beliefs.
Now, before we dive deep into any of these topics, there is something I need to confess to you guys about myself, and that is that I personally am somewhat up-tight about this stuff. Sensitivity is a spectrum, and on that spectrum I land hard on the side of being cautious rather than flippant. There’s a couple of things that means for this series.
First, you can be sure that the topics I’ve covered, and the way that I’ve covered them, is coming from a place of an abundance of caution, and there are probably few things worth covering that won’t be addressed in this series (though I am open to ideas for new topics if any come to mind). So if you too land somewhere on the cautious side of the spectrum and just want to make sure you have covered everything that needs covering, then this is probably the series for you.
Second, since sensitivity is a spectrum, and I’m on the extreme end of cautious, it is quite likely that some of these topics did not even need addressing, at least for most audiences. So if you find yourself thinking “does that really even matter?” the answer may be no, at least not for you. And a person’s level of sensitivity is neither right nor wrong, it’s just what it is for that person.
Case in point, say it turns out that aliens are real – does mating with an alien count as bestiality? How many people have asked that question or even thought about it? (Personally, I’d say it depends very heavily on the type of alien. But we’ll go over that subject in detail in a future post. And by “in detail” I mean we’ll discuss the social and spiritual ramifications of it, not draw up a diagram.)
I should also point out that I am well aware that even within Christian circles there are many different doctrinal beliefs about some of the things I’m going to talk about, and I do not mean to diminish any of those beliefs by neglecting to address them here. I can only speak on behalf of my own theological stances.
Now on to it
To start off, the existence of a fantasy world itself implies a universe other than our own (a multiverse) so the first question to address is…
Why would God bother to make a multiverse in the first place?
Considering how creative God is, and how many entire universes have been imagined by some of our best fiction writers alone, it seems a bit limiting to assume that God spent the entirety of His creative juices on just one universe. But that’s not to say that He didn’t still make just one. It’s possible He had countless other ideas and considered them all not worth it. The traditional way of thinking about it, though, is that as God’s children and image-bearers, anything not directly affecting us or under our rule would be unnecessary and therefore must not exist.
I’ll address some of that later, but for now, I would first point out the stars and planets across all of the galaxies in our own universe that we do not have any kind of rulership over and that do not directly affect us (to the best of my knowledge). Also, since we are dealing with hypothetical universes, how do we know that we were not originally destined to rule over these other universes as well before we fell from grace? Perhaps these other universes are still there waiting for us.
But as Rick Warren pointed out in The Purpose-Driven Life – it’s not all about us. Everything exists for God’s pleasure. If it pleases God for something to exist, He will bring it into being.
Who created these worlds?
The easy answer in most cases is God. This answer gets a bit tricky though in fantasy stories where you wish to build a mythos with god-like entities that represent God. This has certainly been done, by very well-known Christian writers, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in particular, with no apparent issues of conscience. I could stop right there, but I press the matter a bit more just because of my own personal level of sensitivity.
The problem is, whenever you have a fictional character representing God, especially in a creator role, you run the risk of said character becoming an idol, even if only a fictional one. And my problem with saying that a character is God is, what if said character does not accurately portray the way that God works, or what His priorities are? Then I’m misrepresenting God.
The way that I personally have chosen to handle this is, whenever a story of mine has a creation mythos, mentioning certain entities by name, I treat them as spiritual entities endowed with the capacity to create (or recreate using already existing materials, in some cases). But they are individual characters that, if real, are themselves created by God. They are neither small ‘g’ gods, nor are they aspects of God, but they are very powerful entities endowed with the ability to create.
A possible protest to this is the argument that only God can create, but hasn’t God endowed mankind with the ability to create as well? We make babies. That is something we do using materials that already exist. Writers create, only in the sense that we are imagining these worlds and putting them on paper. I cannot call them into physical existence. Relatively speaking, who’s to say that the worlds created by these entities are not themselves purely imaginary? And that by reading these books you are not simply looking into the mind of one of one of these entities? We cannot call into existence something that does not exist, only God can do that, but He has endowed us with the ability to make things using materials He has provided us.
In my efforts to avoid any of my fictional entities being viewed as idols, I’ve taken great care to make sure that there are no examples of them being worshipped. People may talk about them. People may even be grateful for something the entity has done, but there are no references of worship. At the very most, depending on how much the book talks about them, these entities may be made to reflect God in terms of character and priorities, to the best of my ability to know how to accurately reflect Him, but I remember that my own perceptions are flawed and that, ultimately, the same could be said of many fictional characters.
Jesus Himself told certain parables where a character was only reflective of certain aspects of God, but not reflective as a whole. Even if a character of mine has a degree of symbolic meaning, I still need to allow them the room to be individuals. I also view all of these beings as answerable to God and therefore surrendered to him (unless they are villainous).
The premise of a multiverse raises many other questions, particularly regarding mankind’s place amidst such a vast plethora of possibilities. I’ll address some more of these topics and how I’ve chosen to handle them in the next post…
A list of songs and instrumental tracks that help capture some of the moments and scenes in Orcs Vs. Wolves. I’ve placed them more or less in chronological order as far as the story goes.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, Mad Max: Fury Road was a big part of the inspiration that originally prompted the invention of this story, and the music from that soundtrack was a helpful mood-setter. AC/DC’s tunes feature pretty prominently in the orc culture as well. I’ve included a few specific tracks in this list.
The Razor’s Edge by AC/DC
Hair Of The Dog by Nazareth
Water from the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack
Dog Fight from The Raid: Redemption soundtrack
Warg-Scouts from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soundtrack
T.N.T. by AC/DC
Figure.09 by Linkin Park
Alive by Sia
Claw Trucks from the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack
Wretches and Kings by Linkin Park
Chapter Doof [Extended Version] from the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack
A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6. As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t. Some of these pictures however are just interpretations of others’ characters. Enjoy!
A collection of quotes from my fantasy novel The Final Power: Chronomancer, which released last fall. Some of these quotes are taken from bits of dialogue within the story itself, and some is lore from the world of Vel Ardon that I had inserted between chapters. The first quote is right before the prologue. As with all of my books, Chronomancer is available on Amazon.
Set in the same post-apocalyptic universe as Vampires Vs. Dragons, Orcs Vs. Wolves continues the Horror vs. Fantasy theme by focusing on a rising conflict between goblins and werewolves in post-apocalyptic Mongolia.
In this tale, goblinkind has dominated Eastern Mongolia, keeping both humans and werewolves as slaves, and increasing their strength by scavenging the remains of human civilization and repurposing them as weapons of war.
The story’s competing protagonists are a pit-fighting werewolf named Niko, and a world-weary bounty hunter orc named Grim who’s been put in charge of Niko’s safe transfer from one owner to another. The transfer does not go smoothly, and soon both find themselves in the middle of a werewolf plot of uprising against their goblin oppressors.
The idea for doing a story focusing on goblin culture in a post-apocalyptic environment is something that first came to me a few years ago upon watching Mad Max: Fury Road and seeing the character, culture, philosophy, and environmental designs of the half-lifes. At the time, I fell in love with the idea, but didn’t have a context for it until I made the decision to do Vampires Vs. Dragons as a NaNo project and that story provided the context I needed. I decided to write these stories as two isolated tales within a shared universe, following a theme of Horror vs Fantasy and pitting the scavenging orc warlords against werewolves.
A caution for my sensitive readers: Given the subject matter, I had to go to grittier corners of my mind to do this tale justice, both in terms of violence and language. I think this is the first novel I’ve done in which the language goes as far as the ‘S’ word in some parts. It was hard to get around that kind of language and have the characters stay in character. But I figure most people looking to read a book about a war between orcs and werewolves are probably going to be okay with the odd S-bomb. I stopped short of stronger words, or having the language be pervasive, because even I wouldn’t want to read that let alone write it.
For those of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of months, this is also the conclusion to my NaNoWriMo 2020 project. Thank you for going on this journey with me from inspiration, to writing, to formatting, and finally to publication. Next steps include promotion, some of which will be on this blog, and my various social mediums.
It’s not quite the quickest that I’ve gone from writing a book to getting it published, but it’s pretty close. Vampires Vs. Dragons came out January 9th of its year. I had hoped to have this one out as early as December, but ran into an unexpected hiccup figuring out how to put the artwork together, and then December got busier as I got further into it.
I’m already gathering some inspirational materials for 2021’s NaNo project, but I won’t start harping about that for a while.
As with Vampires Vs. Dragons, I made the decision to do this as a pure novel-in-a-month challenge with all editing and revision taking place within the same month it is written, with no further changes after December 1st. I’ve stuck with that parameter as far as the main text. I even wanted to finalize the chapter titles before December 1st and not make changes to those either. A formatting issue forced me to shorten one of them so the whole title would fit on one page, but other than that, they’ve stayed the same.
Thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me through this journey and encouraging me onward. This book was a joy to brainstorm, write, and produce, and I hope you enjoy reading it!
A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 6 (and one in 5). As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t.
For these kinds of posts I usually do mostly reinterpretations of other people’s characters. This is the first time I’ve done a custom character post that is entirely original characters from one of my own novels (Chronomancer). For the last one I went back to Soulcalibur 5 just because of a few customization options exclusive to that game that I really felt better captured Princess Zera’s aesthetic. Enjoy!