The Other World

Christian Fantasy God Writing

As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, I feel fantasy as a genre is uniquely positioned to convey spiritual realities. So I read with interest some of CS Lewis’s thoughts on the subject. In his essay “On Stories,” Lewis delves into of the craft of story and how we relate to and interact with the tales we read. In the midst of this essay, he uses author David Lindsey as an example in his discussion on imagination and world creation:

“Unaided by any special skill or even any sound taste in language, the author leads us up a stair of unpredictables…he builds whole worlds of imagery and passion, any one of which would have served another writer for a whole book, only to pull each of them to pieces and pour scorn on it. The physical dangers, which are plentiful, here count for nothing: it is we ourselves and the author who walk through a world of spiritual dangers which makes them seem trivial…he is the first writer to discover what ‘other planets’ are good for in fiction. No merely physical strangeness or spatial distance will realize that idea of otherness which is what we are trying to grasp in a story about voyaging through space: you must go into another dimension. To construct plausible and moving ‘other worlds’ you must draw on the only real ‘other world’ we know, that of the spirit.”

Lewis hits on a number of topics in this passage, but the one I find most interesting is his hypothesis that to create vivid fictive worlds, we must drawn from spiritual realities. Do you agree? Disagree?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image credit: Ian Agrimis

Comments

  • Mary
    March 8, 2011 - 10:34 pm · Reply

    This is such a broad topic, it’s hard to share my thoughts in a little comment box. If we had a couple of recliners and six or seven hours, why we might be in business.
    As for your question, I agree 100%. The spiritual reality of our world has to carry over into the fictional worlds we create in our fantasy writing or those worlds simply aren’t believable (for me anyway, and probably for most Christian readers/writers). Even if said spiritual realities manifest themselves a bit differently in our fictional worlds than they do in the real world, they still have to be there. The human mind was created within a context of certain realities; if those realities aren’t present, even in an entirely fictional world, it’s going to be much harder–maybe even impossible–to really connect to the spirituality of that story.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 9, 2011 - 2:40 pm · Reply

      I agree there’s much to be discussed here–maybe we will get the chance to chat about this and other fantasy topics in person if we both make it to the ACFW conference this year? I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, despite the constraints of the online format!

      Honestly, I think the reason The Chronicles of Narnia have such enduring popularity is that Lewis managed to capture spiritual realities in an evocative, engaging fashion that pulled readers into his world and gave it a sense of realism despite talking animals and the like. Even those who aren’t Christians respond to it, so I tend to believe that there’s something about drawing from the realities of ‘the other world’ that engages people regardless of their beliefs. Even fantasy works that don’t come from a Christian worldview frequently capture elements of the spiritual realm in some form.

      I agree with you that those spiritual realities don’t have to look just like they do in our world–they just have to be present in some form in the foundation of the fictive world, to convey that sense of emotional connection. To borrow another Lewis example, Till We Have Faces powerfully conveyed spiritual truth while working in the framework of Greek mythology. It’s pretty fascinating how it all works…and one of the reasons I enjoy fantasy so much!

  • Hannah Silverman
    May 12, 2014 - 1:32 pm · Reply

    I 100 percent agree with your idea. However, I’m confused when you said to create vivid fictual world we must be drawn from our spirit realities. I kinda confused about that statement.

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