Friday, December 17, 2010

How Can Good Catholics Read (or Write) "Bad" Fantasy?" Guest Post by Karina Fabian

I'm elated to host author Karina Fabian today as she discusses fantasy. When I returned to the Catholic Church, I didn't stop being me. I still enjoy pizza, motorcycle rides, music, science fiction, and fantasy. Glancing at my bookshelf I see The Catechism of The Catholic Church leaned up against Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Tolkien's Silmarillion standing beside Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know. Saved happily on my computer along with Catholic Answers podcasts, I have the ebook version of Karina Fabian's Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator! Woo-hoo! After her guest post we'll tell you how to get it too- in paperback or an ebook.

Karina Fabian
How Can Good Catholics Read (or Write) "Bad" Fantasy?
By Karina Fabian
As I write this, my kids are watching Lord of the Rings with their father for the who-knows-what-number time.  At the same time, we're all wondering when we'll get the shipment of my latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.  Now don't think I'm in any way comparing myself to the Great JRR Tolkien.  Rather, I'm expressing the range of fantasy that's accepted in our home:  LOTR is lauded for its Christian themes and is proudly claimed by Catholics, while NLZE…  Well, to find a theme or element you can call particularly Christian would require an act of literary yoga. Yet, I don't consider it a threat to anyone's faith to read it--nor to mine to write it.
Sometimes, you get that attitude, though:  that certain fantasy is "bad" because it has nice witches, or because the main character is a scoundrel, or on the extreme, because there isn't a Jesus Saves moral.  Further, the attitude goes, Good Catholics (or Good Christians, to take it further) should never read such bad fantasy.
Personally, I think that's hogwash, and here's why.
First, let's address the "unless Jesus Saves in the end, it's not good" idea.  That's more for what my friend Ken Pick calls "the Christian Fiction! ™" mindset.  Or, to quote Regina Doman, Christian fiction is "safe" fiction thematically because it's a hothouse--a controlled climate meant to protect fragile plants against a hostile outside world.  However, Catholics aren't really "into" hothouses--literally or figuratively--because we understand that we are a part of this world--and that there's nothing wrong with that.  So, Doman says, Catholic fiction is more of a greenhouse, which is a temporary housing for plants, and not as controlled a climate.
I've written for the "greenhouse."  Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II are specifically Catholic, and Leaps of Faith is Christian sci-fi.  I'm working on a very Catholic sci-fi right now.  However, I also write for the general garden, and I and my family definitely read in the garden and out into the woods.  (and now, let's drop the analogy before I get treed!)
Fantasy and science fiction in particular can get pretty controversial.  Of course, the common trope of fantasy is magic and magical beings, and often they are sympathetic and heroic.  Science fiction is often atheistic or anti-faith.  (One reason Rob and I compiled ISIG.)  However, that doesn’t mean they are a threat to those with a strong faith and common sense.
Let's start with common sense.  Common sense tells you, "This is fiction! Not real. Escapist. Fun."  It's the same kind of common sense that allows little boys to play soldier with sticks or little girls to put a pillow in their belly and pretend to be a mommy--or visa-versa.  It's the same thing with fiction:  you can enjoy Harry Potter and maybe wave your wand around and chant bad Latin without really expecting that an owl will come to your window when you're eleven. 
Second, people with a well-grounded faith aren't going to drop their faith because they found a sympathetic character in a novel.  And if a story brings up doubts, then with grace, they'll seek the answers and come away stronger. 
So what can Good Catholics get from "Bad" Fantasy? 
They get a view into another world or another mindset in a safe way, where they can explore and imagine…and put the book away.  They can even put it away to think or if it gets too uncomfortable or insulting.  (I've tossed books that bashed my beliefs.)  Fiction is about getting into other people's heads, empathizing without necessarily sympathizing.  That's one reason why villains are fun to read--but we don't all run out and rob a bank (or build a planet-destroying device with which to hold the world hostage, bwa-ha-ha!  Oops.)  My first "exposure" to a gay relationship was with Mercedes Lackey's Herald Vanyl. He was brilliant, talented, heroic and confused.  He fell in love and loved faithfully until death and beyond.  It was a beautiful story, more beautiful than many romances I've read.  Does that mean I approve of gay marriage?  Of course not.  However, it did let me see the complex, human side of a homosexual relationship. 
Fantasy lets you experience other foreign cultures from the inside.  Sometimes, they are shadows of a real culture. Sometimes, they are totally made up.  Still, it's an exercise for understanding without having to be a force for coercion.
Finally, fantasy lets you play in a safe environment or the imagination.  There's a definition of adventure:  bad things that happen to other people far away.  I don't know about you, but carrying a cursed ring to the volcanic mountains of Mordor is not my idea of a fun time--but what a story! And do I really want to don a plastic hazmat suit and motorcycle helmet and go after zombies with a chainsaw?  I'd be toast in a minute, but I had so much fun writing about it in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.
Before I close, I want to add one thing:  I do draw a line.  There are some aspects of life I think should remain private, so I am personally against erotica.  I also think excessive gore (which you get in movies) is beyond the call of a story.  I also hate stories that preach their POV, whether it's a Jesus Saves/He'll Save You story or an Ayn Rand novel. When the writing becomes gratuitous, then the purpose has changed.
However, if you come across what looks like a great tale of escapism, then by all means, read! Indulge the imagination.  Your common sense and faith will bring you back to reality when you again close the covers and return to the real world.
Thank you Karina. This was an amazing post! :)
**Now, about her fun new book, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator**

The Zombie Apocalypse Meets Reality TV!

By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become and international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money, fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a game of tag. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity?

Get it from the publisher or from Amazon. Available both in paperback and as an ebook.

Also By Author

The Zombie Cookbook: An anthology of zombie stories, poems and recipes sure to satisfy the most discriminating zombie lover's literary palate. "Wokking Dead" follows Neeta and Ted on a job. "My Big, Fat Zombie Wedding" looks at love with the undead.

Other Titles


Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II (Twilight Times)
"Mishmash" in The Book of Tentacles (Sam's Dot)
Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (Swimming Kangaroo)
"DragonEye, PI" in Firestorm of Dragons (DragonMoon)
Infinite Space, Infinite God (Twilight Times)
Leaps of Faith (The Writers Café Press)

Coming in Fall 2011--Mind Over Mind (DragonMoon)

Prayer in Reveille for the Soul (Ligouri)
Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (Tribute)

Learn how to get these titles and find out what else Karina's up to at her site, Fabianspace.

See also the whimsical interview with Neeta Lyffe (Karina Fabian's Character) at my other blog.