Fantasy Fiction and Our Fantastic Reality (Guest Post by Rachel Starr Thomson)

Book Giveaway Christian Fantasy

Throughout this blog tour I’ve been writing about the ways life and art intersect, and especially how that relates to reading and writing. I’m a firm believer that the true value of art, including fiction and other types of writing, is in how it impacts real life: how it enriches, enhances, and shapes it.

“Aha,” some critics would say, “that puts fantasy out of the realm of responsible reading, because fantasy has nothing to do with real life.” Not so. In fact, at times I suspect fantasy has more to do with real life than much “realistic” fiction does. In particular, it draws out aspects of life which are all too often ignored or underplayed. And in doing so, it sets true reality in sharp relief.

In no other genre, for example, is the phrase “good and evil” so often used, even by writers and publishers who are not in any way Christian. Ambiguity reigns in so much modern fiction; in fantasy, even where grey areas are allowed and characters are rounded instead of caricatured, it’s generally understood that good exists, evil exists, and they are at war. That understanding clears cobwebs from my everyday experience, which tends to get all fogged up.

And because the imagined worlds of fantasy are tweaked versions of our own reality, they offer perspective in ways we might not get it otherwise. We don’t often think of our own lives as heroic journeys, but I’ve been able to come to grips with difficult things in my life—and even to triumph over them—in no small part thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay. I appreciate stars and forests because I learned to think about them from C.S. Lewis. I see potential greatness in children because most hero’s journeys start out in childhood.

In an unexpected twist, my own fantasy books (my trilogy, Worlds Unseen, Burning Light, and Coming Day; plus several others, including Taerith) have created a conversation in my own mind that shapes and enriches my world. My characters had to grapple with realities they couldn’t see and a history that had been kept hidden from them; in the same way, I’ve found myself striving to see past “the veil” in my own spiritual life and understand the origins that shape me—both my origin in Genesis and my second origin in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wrote about people with all kinds of struggles, and many such people have come my way. My reality is informed and influenced by a fictional world and fictional people that I thought I’d created. It turns out that my fantasies only grew out of a much larger reality—one that envelops me every day.

I find, too, that fantasy gives me a gateway for understanding the Bible. Concepts like spiritual warfare, the sword of the Spirit, the role of servanthood, the Creatorness of God, and the reality of the supernatural are easier for me to grasp after I’ve spent some time in fantastic stories—you might say fantasy helps me get real.

We live in a culture that is out of touch with reality in many, many ways. Ironically, fantasy has power to bring us back: to the reality of war, of goodness, of evil, of beauty, and of God.

Rachel Starr Thomson is a freelance writer and editor, a poet/narrator for a traveling arts company, and a homeschool graduate.

She’s passionately creative, and her Seventh World Trilogy–a classic fantasy in the tradition of George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis–is making waves with readers and reviewers alike.

You can learn more about Rachel at www.rachelstarrthomson.com and about her books at www.worldsunseen.com.

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I hope you enjoyed hearing from Rachel and that you’ll let her know what you thought of her post. Rachel is offering the first book of her trilogy for free (in e-book format) here, if you’d like to get a taste of her work. In addition, thanks to her generosity, I have an e-book copy of the second book, Burning Light, to give away.  If you’re interested, just leave a comment on this post (and make sure the email address you put in the email field is valid, so I have a way to contact you if you win).

The Burning Light giveaway will close December 14th (11:59PM EST), and I will contact the winner via email to give instructions for download.

And if you’d like to take a peek at the rest of the blog tour, you can do so at the following sites:
http://www.phylliswheeler.com (Nov 21)
http://www.shannonmcdermott.com (Nov 23, Dec 5)
http://carolkeen.blogspot.com (Nov 26, Dec 2, and Dec 9) http://bluerosesheart.blogspot.com (Nov 28)
http://www.lindsayafranklin.com/blog/ (Nov 30, Dec 7)

Comments

  • Mary Ruth Pursselley
    December 9, 2011 - 10:19 am · Reply

    These are some excellent thoughts, Rachel. You have a beautiful way of communicating your ideas. I agree with your points about fantasy connecting us to reality, too. I’ve felt the same way as you–that my fictional worlds and characters help me better understand the ‘real’ world–but I’m not nearly as good at communicating my thoughts and feelings! Thanks for putting it down so clearly. 🙂

  • Sarah Sawyer
    December 12, 2011 - 4:57 pm · Reply

    Rachel, thank you for a lovely post. I’m in full agreement that often fantasy sheds greater light on truth and reality than so called “realistic” fiction, though that has its own value to offer. Like you, I find that writing and reading of fantastic realms offers a unique opportunity to consider and grapple with spiritual matters–it’s one of the things I greatly appreciate about the genre. Thanks again for taking time to share your thoughts!

  • Small Blonde Hippy
    December 13, 2011 - 8:18 am · Reply

    Hi Rachel (and Sarah)
    A very interesting post. I agree, fantasy often allows us to look at issues that would be difficult to examine in a real world setting. I’ve linked to your post in my blog!
    http:\\elizabethbaxter.blogspot.com

  • TheQuietPen
    December 19, 2011 - 10:21 pm · Reply

    Rachel, you elucidate many of aspects of the heart of fantasy writing in wonderfully clear prose. I plan on filing away a link to this post in to link to it in the future.
    Actually, your note on “good vs. evil” brings up an interesting, and unfortunate, twist in the fantasy genre. With crossover books being so popular, especially with romance, many newer secular fantasy books tend to blur the line between good and evil far more than they used to. Bad=good or bad=misunderstood and sexy and pouty is becoming an annoying trend, especially in mature YA fantasy. Also, I’ve found that there’s a greater emphasis on “machine-made, cookie-cutter” fantasy stories that skim over the depth and great story lines in favor of stock characters and superpowers/magic (I’m not referring to Harry Potter, by the way. Again, I’m more thinking of YA or the fantasy/romance crossovers).

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