Flights of Fancy: Enjoying Speculative Fiction and Not Loosing My Soul

Oh friends, the drama.  The tears.  The pearl clutching and hand wringing!  Someone has once again claimed to be both an enjoyer of Harry Potter and a practising Catholic on the internet!

Won’t someone please think of the children!!!

I get tired of this, really tired of this.

Now before I rant further (because I know there’s someone out there who won’t actually read the whole thing before hitting send on their comments).  I believe in evil, I believe there are evil things out there, I believe there are people out there who have had truly horrifying encounters with things better left unsaid.  I believe there are friends and family of mine who have given into temptations of various kinds whether it’s alternative religions or lying or food binging who can not, absolutely can NOT, trust themselves around their temptations.  I can completely understand that there are people who shouldn’t not read certain books or watch certain movies, etc. and I would never ask them to put themselves at risk of temptations they are keenly aware of.  Maybe you can’t be trusted around a pack of Oreo’s or magically based fiction.  That’s okay – I can’t be trusted around Jaegermeister (thank you college).  If this is you; I’ve got your back – we can dish on any other thing together with mutual respect and admiration.

But I have to draw the line at being told that due to one persons experiences that something is bad for everyone.  Something’s are universally bad for us – radiation poisoning, truck stop sushi and most animals that live in Australia for instance – but a good amount of things are more individual.

A good portion of the books on my bookshelf fall into the later category.  Among the classic fiction and the spiritual memoirs, you will find authors like Neil Gaiman, S.M. Stirling, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon and the entire Fables collection by Bill Willingham; and yes, even J.K. Rowling.

We love speculative fiction in this house.  

Speculative fiction you ask, what is that?  Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for any fictional work created out of human imagination and speculation; it houses anything from science fiction and fantasy to horror and post-apocalyptic, time traveling dystopian fiction.  These are works which – no matter the similarities to the real world – do not take place in the world we live in.  Speculative fiction is created solely in terms and boundaries created by the author.  Regular fiction inserts characters who never lived and events that never happened into a world that exists, as it exists right now.  Speculative fiction inserts characters who never lived and events that never happened into a world that has not and will not ever exist.

Sometimes these worlds exist with similar understandings of morality, physics and natural law and sometimes they don’t, rarely they don’t.  The former is often called a “supposal”, in which the author asks the audience to suppose what God or our own morality would look like in a world that looks different; that is the speculative part of it.  The rare book that doesn’t follow the guidelines of a supposal, a book that make’s it’s own reality – moral hierarchy and all – is seen, in this house, as a foil.

We understand in this house that when a work of speculative fiction does not operate in our understanding of good vs. evil or right vs. wrong that these fictional truths or realities only exist within the confines of the page.  We understand that punishment or revenge in a speculative book does not a primer for real life make.  We understand that the within the world of the book there are things, skills and abilities that either do not exist at all in the real world or do not exist as presented.  We understand that what we’re reading is in an exercise in an often entertaining, sometimes disturbing version of imaginative play,

And because we understand these things we enjoy our books, we speculate about motives and endings, delight in world’s that cannot possibly exist in ours and then are able to walk away from it; whole and safe.  We have the ability to suppose, to look at a characters actions in a fantastical situation or what he or she does with their fantastical abilities from the lens of Christian morality.  A fantastical story is always assumed to begin with God and end with God, whether that God is named Eru or Aslan.  Nothing that is moral, just and good in these stories can operate outside of God in these works of supposal.

In fact, there’s more I avoid in the regular fiction section than I’ve ever found to avoid in the fantasy section.  I feel there are works of popular fiction, which exist in entirely in made-up situations in the real world, where more characters get away with immoral actions and questionable personal beliefs.  Books where pretend characters in the real world get away with rape, murder, incest and every kind of despicable evil and are never brought to real justice.  These are the books I prefer to avoid.

So tonight I’ll most likely curl up with a good book that involved magic, fantastic beasts or maybe a planet with too many moons.  I will enjoy it for what is – an entertainment for my mind, a supposal of what this world could be, but isn’t and on Sunday I’ll go to church, and in between now and then I’ll read my book on St. Francis and say my prayers.  Perhaps I’ll even be a little inspired by a speculative character to be a little more humble or have a little more charity.

So there you have it, maybe not the most polished work on the subject, but my honest thoughts.  We can be friends even if our bookshelves don’t look the same.  The things I find inspiring do not have to be universally enjoyed to contain universal truths.  Let me keep my wizards and spaceships, you can keep the Jaegermeister and we’ll all go home still friends.

5 thoughts on “Flights of Fancy: Enjoying Speculative Fiction and Not Loosing My Soul

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  1. Agree! We all have different convictions. side note: The kiddos asked the other day what kind of dangerous animals were in Australia. I summed it up by saying if it has a face and is in Australian it will probably kill you 😉

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