Wednesday, May 20, 2009

About God...

I'm a guest on a Momlist at Cerridwenchat today and posted two excerpts of my book. Surprise! God got a solid mention in both.

I've come to realize that I mention God at least once in an important way in all my books. In my Three Worlds series, of which TOUCH OF DANGER is the first volume, I have fun in that I only capitalize the "g" when people are actually talking to God and not taking His/Her/Its name in vain. "G--d---" is merely a generic curse and shouldn't have to shoulder a capital "g." God probably wouldn't like the cap in such a position.

But does mentioning God in fantasy/sf bother readers? As a reader, I'm bothered when H/S/I doesn't appear in, say, historicals. I mean, these people lived in times when science did not even BEGIN to claim it had the answers to anything. Death could occur at God's whim at any moment. You could be walking down the street and somebody could drop dead next to you because...why? Maybe God didn't like him. Maybe he'd sinned too much. Maybe a witch had cursed him. Maybe he'd kept cats (spawns of Satan). Maybe God was testing his kin. Maybe he'd sold his soul to the devil and the devil had come for payment. Maybe he was just a bad person. Only the good die young, you know.

People in such circumstances MUST have been exceedingly God-conscious, shouldn't they? Then why don't more historicals utilize this? (My one does, thank you very much.)

As for modern angel-devil tales, of which there are so many, I'm usually confused by the interior continuity of such. I also wonder why, in a universe where such a (usually) Roman Catholic God is in power, why He doesn't have more power than He does. Why is He cautious about confronting evil? God's the Biggest Kahuna. He ranks far, FAR above any Satan/devil. When God rolls the dice, there's no question as to who's going to win.

Sure, there are ways to spin this into a good yarn and there are a lot of good yarns out there. But the vast majority leaves me shrugging my shoulders at the plotholes and world building.

When one invokes God there's a huge chance of insulting a reader's beliefs, I know, but f/sf should stretch comfort boundaries. Imho. Take Londo, one of the heroes in my Three Worlds series. He's got serious God issues that eventually he will resolve. My other heroes, Lina and Jae, have New Age ways of looking at the Big Guy/Gal/Entity that don't jibe with established religion.

Personally, I don't believe in religion; I believe in spirituality. But I ask you: is this a dangerous idea to insert into one's fiction, for fear of turning off readers?


Anonymous said...

I think that when you start thinking about what you can't put in books because it might turn off readers, you're getting on a slippery slope. I mean, EVERYTHING turns off SOMEONE, right? Mostly, I just tell myself to shut up and write what I want to write, and hope that enough people will like it that I'll sell it.

Virginia Kantra said...

My own beliefs are such a huge part of my world view, a huge part of my voice, that I can't imagine deliberately cutting them out.

My fantasy world building in the Children of the Sea books is grounded solidly in Christian/Catholic mythology. The themes of what it means to be truly human, of the importance of choice and the power of love, recur in different ways in every book. Hey, the original Little Mermaid was about her search for a soul.

That doesn't mean I think authors should preach or adhere rigidly to doctrine(a dear priest friend did point out that the "First Creation" in my books is technically a heresy) or that every character has to model the author's beliefs.

But ultimately you need to write what you know, and your religious world view - whatever it may be - is part of what you know.

Richard said...

Any writer needs to decide if delicate thin-skinned readers are the audience she (or he) wants to cultivate. Once you give the easily offended an inch, they'll just complain it wasn't a centimeter. (What are you, some kind of cultural imperialist who refuses to acknowledge that other systems of measurement exist?)

Sometimes readers and authors can be pleasantly surprised by a challenging thought. I myself am very atheist, but one of my favorite writers is a chap who wrote under the name Cordwainer Smith and whose science fiction is extremely and overtly Christian. Reading his stories enabled me to see the world through his eyes and understand the beauty of his faith as he saw it. I didn't have to share that faith to get his feelings about it. By the same token, I know devout Christians who love the fantasy of Philip Pullman...and what he has to say about religion in those stories is pretty unsparing. But his vision of the world and the strength of his writing still come through to people who are all about religion. If either of these guys had censored themselves for fear of what readers might accept, readers all over the world would have been criminally deprived.