NaNoWriMo 2021 (September Prep) Inspiration and World-Building

We’re nearly done the first week of September and I figure I should say how I’m doing so far with keeping up with my prep schedule.

I can say that so far it’s going well. Though I should be candid and say that some of the prep was started earlier than scheduled. Some inspirational intake had already taken place throughout August just because I was looking for things to watch that I had excuses for 🙂 And a skeleton plot for this year’s project has been in my mind for a while (though with several bones missing). So this is the time to pin some ideas down.

Speaking of which, my secret Pinterest board is looking pretty full now. I haven’t yet finished going through all of my other, public boards and seeing what to repin for inspiration, so I should finish doing that. And I’ll make the board public once I’m ready to announce the project title – probably in November.

As far as focusing more on inspiration – I’ve got my list right next to my chair where I eat, and I’ve been mindful to watch something on the list while I eat. I generally need to sit for an hour after eating so I take that time to either finish off whatever I’m watching, or play one of the video games that I also have on my list. There is a broad range of both television and video games that feed into the subjects I’m writing on this year, so finding inspiration hasn’t really been a challenge – just finding the time to do it all!

I also took some extra time the past couple of weeks to finalize my working cast. I may have more characters to add down the line, but an essential cast was necessary just to know that I have enough roles filled to move the story.

As far as what I’ve been focusing on the most this past week – major decisions about the world itself – its history, how it currently works, why it works that way.

One thing I still need to figure out is an initial cause. There are a number of major events that occur in this story, but currently in my mind they are unrelated – in the sense that they are caused by different things. So I need to rework that, figure out how the different events can be connected so that there is one initial event that chain-reactions into all the others. Otherwise, too many unrelated catalysts all happening at the sme time can come across as convenient, and pull the audience out of the story. There needs to be a natural flow to everything or else it feels like the author is interfering. So I’ve still got some work to do there.

How about you? Are you doing any NaNoWriMo prep this September? Are you waiting til October to start prep? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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NaNoWriMo 2021 (August Prep) Finalizing the To-Do List

We’re coming upon that time of year again! (Okay, so November is still more than a couple months away but, as I learned last time, my kind of prep needs to start early!)

I actually couldn’t remember if I had decided that prepping needed to begin in September or August. Fortunately, I had last year’s posts to turn to for guidelines. I had a whole (rough) schedule laid out for myself, and it worked well for me for the most part, but I noticed some room for improvement.

I remembered that last time I had begun Inspirational Intake in October and that I found it didn’t give me enough to time for the amount of material I wanted to cover. So I decided to amend the existing plan by starting Inspirational Intake as early as September, continuing through into October if needed, but also using October as a time to re-watch or re-play any material I found to be particularly mood-setting. In other words – September is for the collecting of ideas, and October is for creating the mood/vibe/head-space that I need to maintain throughout November and even while finalizing ideas in late October.

The revised NaNoWriMo Prep plan is as follows…

Last Week of August: Create list of Inspirational Material (and a schedule for September if needed).

September: Begin Inspirational Intake (Movies, TV, Videogames, Music). Begin world-building (grand scale), character list, and basic plot.

First Week of September: Create Pinterest Board (kept private and uncategorized for now).

Second Week of September: Create Musical Playlist.

Last Week of September: Complete Core Cast of Characters.

October-November: Replay of mood-setting material.

First Week of October: Complete World-building (finer details).

Mid-October: Skeleton Plot with basic details for each scene.

Last Week of October: Greater Details for opening scene (or the first scene I plan to write).

November: Write!

Also November: Announce project on Blog. Make Pinterest Board public (but leave it uncategorized – no named characters yet).

After Publication (December-January?): Announce on Blog. Plan Launch Party. Categorize Pins on Pinterest Board.

Although launch parties might still be on hold until I know it’s safe to gather. Or I could do an online launch party. The options are there for me to mull over, and I’ve got quite a few months to think about it!

So for now, the only thing I have to do is finalize a list of inspirational material, and I’ve already got a pretty big list! In fact, there’s a good chance I’ll be going over some of this material and jotting down notes and ideas early, and marking anything I find helpful for mood-setting as something to go back to during October-November. For now, I’m just glad I got this to-do list sorted out ahead of time so that I know what aspects of prep to focus on in each week of the coming months. Come September I should be able to hit the ground running.

What about you? Do you have any pre-NaNoWriMo prep strategies? Share them in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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Soulcalibur 6 Custom Characters – (part 8)

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. All of these pictures however are just interpretations of others’ characters. Enjoy!

(To see some of these custom character creations in action, check out my Youtube channel playlist Soulcalibur VI Custom Character Battles)

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Sora from Kingdom Hearts

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Roll Caskett from Mega Man Legends

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Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil: Village

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Carnage from the Spider-Man comics

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John Cena

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Tsuyu Asui from My Hero Academia

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Robin

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Raven from Teen Titans

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Harley Quinn

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 3)

(part 4)

(part 5)

(part 6)

(part 7)

Soulcalibur 4 Custom Characters

Soulcalibur 5 Custom Characters

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‘Vampires Vs. Dragons’ Quotes

A collection of quotes from my post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel Vampires Vs. Dragons, my NaNoWriMo project that was published last year, and to which this year’s Orcs Vs. Wolves served as a shared-universe follow-up. It took me some time to get a handle on creating book quotes as posters, so I ended up giving Vampires Vs. Dragons the quotes treatment after Orcs Vs. Wolves, but better late than never. As with all of my booksVampires Vs. Dragons is available on Amazon.

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Deep Question #9

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Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian – Part 6: Magic and Mythology

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.

We’ve just about covered every topic by now, but there are a couple of subjects that Christian writers tend to struggle with most frequently when writing speculative fiction, and I’ve saved them both for last.

What about magic?

Christians who are also fans of fantasy tend to fall into two categories when it comes to the use of magic in stories, there are those who see no problem whatsoever, and those who panic at the first sign of anything feeling even remotely occult. Very few find themselves in a balanced place in between. I myself lean very heavily toward panic, and that’s why my advice on this subject is going to be more on the play-it-safe side and perhaps not as balanced as it should be. Keep that in mind and take everything with a grain of salt. I’m coming from a position of greater caution, but I also recognize the importance of proper balance.

The tension between the cautious and the carefree exploded with the rising popularity of the Harry Potter books. It has settled a lot since then but hasn’t entirely gone away, and the simultaneous re-popularization of the Lord of the Rings franchise raised a fair question that we don’t all know how to answer…

Harry Potter is a wizard. Gandalf is a wizard. What’s the difference?

Most Christians on the cautious side (or even the balanced side) will say that the difference is between magic as a make-believe power (Gandalf) and magic as a real-world occult power such as witchcraft (Harry Potter). Gandalf’s powers are endowed to him as a natural result of his being since he is actually a Maya in disguise, a privilege not everyone can access. Harry’s powers are learned through lessons and texts on witchcraft, something anyone can actually do.

There is a defense that can be used, a strategic approach to implying “magic” into your story, even in a real-world context, while getting the panicking Christians off your back, and that’s to avoid direct references to actual occult research. A lot of the Christian outcry over Harry Potter came from the assumption that what was being taught in the books was actual witchcraft.

Having not read the books myself, I cannot give an educated confirmation on that one way or another. I can say that as far as the films I did not see much that set off my own personal alarms (apart from one scene on divination in one of the films). The only question left in my mind as far as the material in the films is the words (or incantations) spoken by characters in order to perform spells. I’ve avoided learning any actual spells myself, so again, I can’t confirm if the spells spoken in Harry Potter are real or made-up incantations.

Which brings us to the specific subject of spoken words. As far as I am aware, there is nothing wrong with making up your own words and having characters speak them out, if you’re using a fictional language made up for your story. The only remaining issue is that some members of your audience may still be uncomfortable. I myself get uncomfortable if I don’t know what language is being spoken or what a character is saying. In Chronomancer, my counter to this issue was to include an appendix at the end that includes language origins and meanings for every fictional word in the book. That way, if a reader was uncomfortable with not knowing what a character had said, they could look it up in the appendix.

Keep in mind that heading to the end for an appendix isn’t an option in films or television, and that some members of your audience may still be uncomfortable with a character chanting something in a foreign language, even if it’s a made-up language, because made-up languages are not always immediately apparent. It’s safe to say though that any incantation-like chants that sound Latin will raise red flags.

Back to the primary subject though – is it okay to have magic in your story if you’re a Christian writer? I would say yes with an Asterix. As long as the type of magic you’re using is purely fantasy-based in nature, and not based on anything resembling witchcraft or other occult powers, then you’re good to go. A big question that arises, and that you’ll have to address for the sake of your Christian readers, is what is the source of the power?

Again, Gandalf was essentially “born” with his power because of the kind of being that he is. The same could be said of elves and other fantasy races. In Chronomancer it is mentioned (or implied?) that magic ability was something bestowed on a few select creatures and individuals in the early days of that world for the purpose of helping to shape it, and that inborn power has been passed on to even previously non-magical races like humans through cross-breeding.

It gets trickier when you make magic into something that can be taught or given to individuals who don’t already have it inborn, because that’s where it gets dangerously close to sorcery. My recommendation would be something like suggesting that magic can be contained in substances like potions, and that characters can gain the potential for it that way, rather than it being something that can be gained purely through study.

It gets especially tricky if your story is set in the real world. In fact, to avoid confusion I would avoid using the term “magic” at all if your story is set in the real world, unless you plan on specifically taking the time to show or explain the distinction between the power being used in your story and real-world witchcraft. Otherwise, I suspect many Christians would start to feel uncomfortable with the content.

What about references to various mythologies?

It’s common for writers of both science fiction and fantasy to make references to old-world mythological figures, particularly from Greco-Roman and Norse mythologies, in order to add meaning to something using names that most educated audience members are familiar with. For example, if I call something “The Eye of the Basilisk” people would generally know that it’s a reference to death, and if I talk about rising like a Phoenix then people generally know that it’s a reference of new life coming out of death.

Where some Christian writers and audiences draw the line though is references to entities which in those mythologies were worshipped as gods. We are told in scripture to not even have such names on our lips (a figure of speech, since the scripture itself mentions many of these entities by name, but the clear implication is that we should not be praising or celebrating these things).

What are referred to as “gods” in these mythologies are what Christians would refer to as idols, and sometimes we would leave it at that and say that these are purely fictional things not even worth talking about. Paul says as much, in part, (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) but he goes a bit deeper (10:19-20) to explain that these things are representations inspired by demons, and that these idols are the demons’ way of being worshipped. This is why God is against it.

There are ways around this issue. If you’re writing fantasy then your own world may have its own completely different set of entities with different levels of power. I think this is okay as long as the entities are not referred to as gods or worshipped as such.

This was Tolkien’s approach when it came to Middle-earth. (Apparently not in his earlier works, because when Christopher Tolkien published them more or less as-is they used the term “gods” even though those terms had been abandoned in his primary works prior to publication.) I think he understood the issues his widely Christian audience would have with such terms and understood how to work around it. This has been my own approach as well.

There are benefits and drawbacks to such an approach. On the one hand, if the things in your story have nicknames based on your own invented mythos, then you don’t have the benefit of the audience knowing right away the meaning behind these names.

On the other hand, more hardcore fans may delve into side information like appendices (if you include them) and look up the meanings for themselves. Seeing that you have an entire mythos built into your fictional world really reels in deep-thinking audiences who are drawn to that kind of depth of world-building, as long as your story is interesting enough to be worth investing in in the first place.

Also, I would say that not all names and creatures in various mythologies are named after the deities of those cultures. I mentioned the Basilisk and Phoenix creatures earlier, neither of which are worshipped, they are simply creatures that inhabit those worlds. If you’re not sure, then I would recommend looking up info on such creatures online, particularly name meanings and etymology, since that can give you an idea of whether or not a creature’s very name is something to be avoided.

You can also stick with Bible references and use popular names from those stories instead of mythologies. Many Biblical names are well-known and have recognizable meanings when mentioned. The risk on that side is accidentally saying something sacrilegious, so be careful to give respect where it’s due.

The End

This is the final post in this series, at least for now. After this I will have covered every topic that comes to my mind at the moment in terms of the aspects of speculative fiction writing that Christians sometimes wrestle with. I am absolutely open to doing more posts along these lines though if more subjects are brought to my attention. Are there any topics you feel I haven’t covered in this series? Leave a comment and let me know – I may do some additional posts in the future. But for now, thanks for checking out this series, and stay safe out there!

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Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian – Part 5: Through Jesus

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.

Today’s subject was touched on a bit in Part 3: Salvation for Other Species, but it’s time to dive deeper into this topic and address the hardest puzzle for many Christian speculative fiction writers when it comes to people living in other worlds.

Do they have a way to God that is not Jesus?

The verse that makes this question an issue in the first place is John 14:7 where Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” A highly contentious verse as it seems to say that nobody is getting into heaven except Christians.

It’s a verse that raises many serious questions, even among traditional Christians like myself who normally feel fine just taking every verse at face value. But looking at the Bible as a whole, this notion of only Christians entering heaven raises an apparent contradiction, for there were many people who lived before the time of Jesus, including the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs. Are we to assume that they didn’t make it because they were born at the wrong time?

Pastors have offered possible solutions to this issue, but most will admit (as I must here as well) that all we can offer is guesses and not provable answers. One thing we do know is that, yes, many people before the time of Jesus will somehow be saved, because this is mentioned in Hebrews 11 (verses 13-16 in specific), saying that they died before receiving what they had hoped for but they saw it from afar. And I think Jesus is somehow involved in the visions these people saw. We can know with greater certainty that Jesus was encountered or at least envisioned by David and Job, even if in a pre-incarnate form. (Psalm 110:1, Job 19:25)

But how does this fit with John 14:7?

While I take this verse very seriously in that Jesus is the only way, the word in this passage that I think may have a broader meaning than most of us realize is the word through.

You see, the Gospel message – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what that all means – presents to people a question – a question I can best try to summarize as “Will you continue to try to earn your way into heaven or will you allow God to carry the burden for you?” It’s a question that is simple enough to be expressed in many different ways but, until you’ve heard the full Gospel message, the full meaning, impact, and practicality of such a question would be lost on most people.

Still, it’s a question that can be asked even if not fully understood, as I myself failed to fully understand it until I’d reached a certain level of maturity, even having been Christian my whole life. My personal suspicion (and the idea that I offer as a context for this writing topic) is that everyone who has ever lived or ever will live is in some way asked this question at some point in their life. Do I know this as a fact? Absolutely not. This is, once again, simply a guess.

It’s also a question simple enough to be rephrased in whatever ways necessary for any aliens or fantasy races who might have similar issues with evil and sin. Stories paralleling the sacrifice of Jesus are particularly popular among Christian fantasy writers. You can see probably the best example of this in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In all of these cases similar themes are expressed in different forms, and they all in some way pose the question I mentioned above, in terms that are often simple enough for children to understand, and certainly the creatures of that very world. So you can already see examples of how it can be re-illustrated for your own story and fantasy worlds.

As I’ve said in an earlier post, I don’t think aliens or fantasy races would struggle with sin and evil the same way humans do, at least in the sense that I don’t think they would be impacted the same way as God’s Image-bearers are impacted.

So a follow-up question is do they even need a saviour in the first place? My answer would be that any ‘fallen’ race would be in need of redemption. Since it is your story and your own hypothetical scenario you’re writing, you can decide for yourself whether you consider a particular species to be fallen or not, but any that have sinned would have fallen short of the glory of God.

Would they need Jesus? I would go back to John 14:7 and say yes, but again, the word through may have a broad meaning, and that can get even broader when writing science fiction or fantasy.

Personally, I would say that whatever solution you have for your fallen races would need to somehow involve the second member of the Trinity. How direct or indirect you are about it depends on your own choice of how subtle or explicit you want your Christian themes to be. You don’t even necessarily need a specific plan in mind, as long as you’ve at least decided that it involves God the Son.

I don’t have specific salvation plans for my own sci-fi or fantasy creatures, I just know that Jesus is involved in whatever salvation plan He has for them (if they were real). I keep being surprised by how broadly God’s grace works, so it’s not even a question in my mind that if all of these creatures suddenly somehow turned out to be real, He would have a salvation plan already in store for them.

We’re almost done this series. For the final post I’ll address a couple of trickier subjects when it comes to content, looking at the use of magic and mythologies in Christian literature…

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Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian – Part 4: Afterlife and Interspecies Families

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.

In the last post, we talked about how different sentient species might struggle with sin and evil in ways different from humans, and what that might mean for those species in the long run. Which leads into some other interesting questions when it comes to non-human characters who are still similar to humans in most regards…

What about the afterlife?

For some fantasy worlds I’ve invented an afterlife as well. For the world of Chronomancer I invented quite a few different places a soul could go depending on species and lifestyle. And since they’re fictional, I could also invent different reasons and qualifications for a soul ending up in one place or another.

Since I tend to view my fictional worlds as a lesser reality, with God’s reality above all, the way I look at it is that wherever souls go in my stories (whether darkness, paradise or somewhere in between) they are only there for as long as those worlds endure. Everything eventually returns to God, and on the day of final judgement, every soul will find itself where God deems it should go.

On the science-fiction spectrum, you may be wondering about aliens. Well, in reality it would be debatable whether or not aliens have souls – and it may depend on the species, or they may have something entirely different that we could only possibly understand as being “soul-like.” But as creatures of your own invention, you can decide for yourself whether they have souls or not.

It would be assumed that if God created these creatures in the first place, then He has a purpose and a home in mind for them somewhere in His new heavens and new earth, so whether purely spirit, purely body, or both together, they would likely have some experience of an afterlife upon death.

As for what measures any individual alien would have to meet in order to be on the heavenly side of that, that’ll depend on how that species struggles with evil and sin and how they deal with it. You can read some thoughts on that in the previous post.

What about half-human cross-breeds?

If humans alone are the image bearers of God, and we have relationships and even children with other races, then are we diluting the image of God? It almost seems a weird question to ask in today’s progressive-oriented world. But it’s a question you may be faced with if aliens or orcs suddenly turned out to be real.

One work around for this, if you don’t even want to address the question, is to just make different species to be relationally incompatible. That’s already pheasible with centaurs and mermaids, but it’s less believable with elves whose only obvious genetic difference is pointy ears.

There’s different ways around this depending on what makes you comfortable. With some races that are actually quite similar to humans, like elves and dwarves, you could make the argument that they are all in fact human, and that they simply have different gene pools. Considering the genetic diversity found within mankind, and how long mankind has been around, and how many ethnic groups have likely (and unfortunately) been wiped out long before recorded history, I would not consider it the least bit strange if there were once humans with pointed ears.

If you do want to go the route of them being entirely different species however, yet still genetically compatible, then consider God choosing different sentient races to represent Him in different ways. If humans are made in God’s image, perhaps elves were made to reflect other aspects of God, maybe something related to sound since elves are often musically oriented. Perhaps dwarves reflect something related to strength.

Since we are dealing with fictional races and hypothetical scenarios, I’m reluctant to imply that any specific race is God’s chosen representative of any particular trait by name. I am only trying to present a general idea. If mankind reflects one aspect of God, and other races reflect others, then interracial coupling would not so much dilute God’s image as it would reflect His traits in new ways.

There is a line however when it comes to aliens or races that come off as significantly animalistic, or at least more beast than man. The Bible is against bestiality. Where to draw the line when it comes to fictitious species is up to you as the writer (if you stretch it too far then just be aware that some of your audience may not be comfortable).

Personally, I would advise against any species that are animal from the waist down, or that have animal faces, since those are the two areas most associated with intimacy.

There is still the paramount question of the role of Jesus in the salvation of other sentient species. A question I touched on in the previous post, but that is also a big enough question to deserve a post of its own, and we’ll dive deeper into that topic next time…

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Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian – Part 3: Salvation for Other Species

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 what it means to be human in inter-planetary and even inter-worldly contexts. But writing as a Christian there is one subject that inevitably comes up, and that many Christian writers struggle with…

Has Jesus been to these other worlds?

As with many of these questions, the answer is up to you as the writer of the story. In trying to keep in line with my own theology, I have to ask the question of whether or not Jesus would have a reason to. As a child, fascinated with the idea of aliens, I often wondered if the Christian view of salvation was something that was also available to aliens since they’re not human but are presumably sentient beings who (I would assume) also struggle with evil.

In my younger years I assumed that, if necessary, Jesus would have also incarnated as each alien race and died for their sins as well, just so that everyone was included. When I was a little older I concluded instead that aliens need only hear about Jesus as a human, because most aliens have a low opinion of humans, and so the idea of God humbling Himself enough to take on such a weak form would have caught the attention of every other race regardless.

Now that I’m even older, the idea of Jesus manifesting as other sentient races feels less comfortable with my doctrine, but that still leaves me with the problem of how aliens or beings in fantasy realms could avoid damnation if they haven’t directly encountered Jesus, which leads into the next question.

Is sin and evil a multiversal problem?

To write epic stories, it is pretty much a given that your world will contain some form of struggle between forces of good and forces of evil. At least from a fictional standpoint, evil itself is a pretty multiversal problem. What might not be multiversal though, is the problem of sin. That may sound confusing. The two words are practically synonymous, but there is a subtle difference.

Evil is wrong action, and so is sin, but evil is an issue of choice whereas sin is an issue of nature. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, not good and sin, but that act of disobedience was sin, and through that, sin entered the world and became a part of mankind.

There’s a reason it was in the form of food, because food becomes a part of you. Even more fitting, it was fruit, which typically bears seeds. The seed of sin has been in mankind since that day. It is the inclination toward evil. It’s a vessel for evil. A kind of corruption or disease. Do you get the picture?

The reason I want to get that distinction across is that it’s possible that evil is a multiversal issue without sin being a multiversal issue. The word ‘sin’ means ‘missing the mark.’ It means ‘imperfection.’ The world as a whole fell into sin when those in charge (mankind) allowed sin to enter.

We know it’s possible for angels to fall from grace and commit acts of evil. There is even a passage referring to angels committing sin (2 Peter: 2:4), but no reference to Jesus dying for the sins of angels. Perhaps God has a different solution when it comes to angels, or maybe only the fallen angels sin and so their fate is already sealed. I don’t think the scriptures go into detail on that. We don’t hear about animals ‘sinning’ even though nature itself is in a fallen state.

But other sentient races, though they still face moral dilemmas, may not necessarily have the same problem with sin as humans do. The reason why is also part of what makes us unique compared to other sentient races. As the uniquely assigned bearers of the image of God, there are very specific things at stake when it comes to our living up to our potential or falling from it.

Other races don’t have this problem. The way that evil became a part of us was also very specific in that it set us up for having generational issues and for sin to become a part of the nature of mankind. This means that we as humans struggle with evil differently, in a unique way, compared to how other sentient races might struggle.

Without struggling with sin, can other races still struggle with evil in relatable ways?

Absolutely. In fact I would argue that most writers have already provided plenty of examples of how to do this in your stories. The idea of generational, inherited sin, from a Judeo-Christian perspective is actually a bit complicated to think about. Most writers provide simpler, more universally understandable examples of evil, such as temptation and old, bad habits.

It might feel a bit preschool, but it’s relatable in a way that is understandable to a broader audience. As long as you’re not writing your evil characters as Moustache-Twirling Villains then you’re okay.

There are plenty of other questions that arise for Christian writers when dealing with the idea of other worlds and other sentient races. Next time we’ll go over the questions of afterlives in these other worlds, and inter-species coupling.

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Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian – Part 2: Writing Humans in Other Worlds

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…

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