Thursday, November 6, 2008

Christian Faiths and NOT Writing Just What You Know

I've had some interesting comments on Rob's and my latest anthology, Leaps of Faith. This is a collection of 14 stories of Christian science fiction. While I didn't fully itemize each faith represented, there are Anglican, Catholic and Christian stories and one Old Testament Biblical.

However, I've gotten a couple of comments to the effect that Leaps is a Catholic exclusive book. "written by Catholic writers" "a Catholic anthology" "I'm not Catholic but I enjoyed it." And the one that, frankly, insults the non-Catholic Christian contributors, the Christian publisher and my husband and me: "My only problem with this anthology is that uncomfortable feeling that the Catholics are the only people of God."

I'm not going to argue that here--you can check out the reviews on Amazon to see what people think about the mix of Christian and Catholic themes. What I want to talk about today is the ironic fact that many of the "Catholic" stories in Leaps--and some in Infinite Space, Infinite God, for that matter--were written by non-Catholics. In fact, we never asked anyone their denomination when we read the stories, and sometimes have been surprised ourselves to find out who practices what faith.

I'm always ticked at how that amazes and even scandalizes some people, even fellow writers. We think nothing of a housewife writing a detective novel or a computer technician writing a chick lit. Guys write romance with female protagonists while women write military sci-fi with predominantly male characters. Yet a person writes honestly about a particular faith, and people immediately assume the author practices that faith. Why is that?

I'm sure some people believe that to do anything different is to blaspheme in some way. I don't agree. To me, writing the faith that is right for the story is staying true to the creative talent God gave me. As long as I'm not glorifying a heresy or encouraging a sin, I feel safe in exploring other ideas, whether it's an atheist being pursued by a vampire or nuns living in outer space.

So what about writing what you know? I think writers that limit themselves to that do not go very far. There's such a wealth of adventure out there, some of which we will never know about first-hand. But we learn. I don't know asteroid mining--but I'm learning about it as I write Discovery. I didn't know Norse mythology until I started writing Live and Let Fly--and as I learned more, I had to change the story. That's what I love about writing. That's why I do it, even when I don't make the big bucks or get yet another rejection letter.

One person e-mailed me that he believed I preferred Catholic stories because that's what I'm more "comfortable" with. That's not true, not for me, not for a lot of writers I know. I'll stick with me, however. First off, I don't read a lot of Catholic fiction. (Yes, my fellow Guildies, I have not yet read Chesterson or Flannery O'Connor. They're on my list.) I read about wizards and aliens and serial killers and all kinds of non-comfortable things. I've written a story about a psychic teen who was mentally tortured. I've tortured one of my favorite characters while her best friend was forced to watch, and I have a scene for an upcoming book where the main character has to fight off a rapist. Think these were comfortable? Not at all, but they were disturbingly interesting to write and necessary to the story.

If I were to write what I "know" and what is "comfortable," I'd be putting out stories about how my kid didn't want to wear his jacket in the blizzard. That's about as much angst as I get in my life and believe me, I like it that way!

So it is with writing faith--not all my stories are Catholic. In one trilogy, the alien planet is Deist, and the other has its own odd mix of faith. They each had their own salvation stories, too. My Faerie world has what is called a Catholic Church, but "catholic" means "universal" and while it's similar to the Roman Catholic, there are enough differences that it is a unique religious organization. I could have (and maybe should have) called it the Faerie Church; I'm betting I take some heat from both Catholics and non-Catholics for it as time goes on. But if I do, I know it's because I've written a convincing world.

I'm starting to ramble here, but my point is that writers with real talent do not need to be limited by their current knowledge or beliefs. Imagination can take us to many exciting--and sometimes uncomfortable--worlds, and writing talent can help us share those worlds convincingly with others.

That's what the writers of Leaps of Faith and Infinite Space, Infinite God did. That's why I'm proud to have edited these anthologies.


1 comment:

TWCP Authors said...

Well said, Karina.

I can imagine that it takes a great amount of creativity and courage for an author to step outside her comfort zone -- though there is certainly nothing wrong with remaining inside!

In my opinion good Christian fiction does not promote one doctrine over another, however, it needs to be respectful of Christian values.

Catholic characters and/ or motifs no more suggest superiority than does a main character who is the minister of a small town Pentecostal church (just as Harry Potter books do not promote witchcraft and magic).

c