I don’t have a lot of faith, but fantasy keeps alive what little God gave me.
Each genre has its boundaries, some more stringent and strange than others. Fantasy has plenty of hallmarks—impossible beasts, names with lots of x’s and y’s, swords and magic and so on—but those are no what make the genre so enticing to cynics like me. What draws us to fantasy is the common narrative of overwhelming odds stacked against goodness.
Some people will always see the problems and the pain more clearly than wisdom and solutions. That’s me. I am a glutton for the pain and anger of the world, dismissing hope as trite and inspirational messages as cliché. In my eagerness to see the worst and understand it, I lessen my capacity for seeing that which is best.
There is something good in the world, the fantasy genre says, and it is being stamped out. Crushed. Destroyed by the masses, most of whom are not particularly evil. In fact, for a quality fantasy narrative, simple evil is rare and usually well-hidden behind the smokescreen of evil’s natural-born children. Apathy, selfishness, greed, and pride are mixed up in the same people who sacrifice and love and share.
The mixed-up people have mixed-up options and they make mixed-up decisions, but the best thing about fantasy is that good options aren’t pure ideals or pristine values. The cleanliness of obvious goodness is just another smokescreen for real goodness. Restoring relationships or honor. Telling a truth or giving up the one thing she wanted so that he can have what he needs. Even when people make a mess of its pursuit, we all see for a few hundred pages of relieving clarity what goodness can be.
Redemption is always possible, for any character at any moment. If they choose to break themselves for the sake of that which is good.
When I step away from the pages—reluctantly closing a book about epic battles and return to the muffins I’m baking or the latest job application I’ll never hear back about—the story remains. That which is good remains.
I still don’t know what to do with the pit of worry in my stomach or the fear in my heart or my failures and the mystery of unhappiness. But fantasy stories clarify what I want. I want that which is good, and that goodness, I think, is God.
So, I have a lot of pastors and preachers to thank:
Brian Jacques and Juliet Marillier. Megan Whalen Turner and Brandon Sanderson. Patricia C. Wrede, Patrick Rothfuss, Tamora Pierce, Orson Scott Card, and Sherwood Smith. It’s hard to put into words what these people have done for my faith, but I do love a good challenge. And I need some subject matter.
The game plan: a series of short author and book reviews/love letters to authors. I hope not only to show my admiration, but also share some reading options for you (and in return ask for your suggestions). I don’t enjoy “difficult” books and authors who write them never make my lists: I read page-turners with deep characters written by authors that can create a serious situation that makes you both laugh and cry.