Category Archives: Fantasy Criticism

Did I Do That?

Image result for images of the glass bridge by lee duigon

These remarks may strike some of you as a little weird. But writing fantasy novels does tend to lean a bit in that direction. And there are always readers who are curious about what it’s like to be a writer. So here goes.

I’m editing Bell Mountain No. 11, The Temptation, which means I have to read it attentively. And although I do know I made up the characters that populate my books, it doesn’t feel anymore like I made them up! They feel like real people that I really know.

When I’m actually writing a book, I’m too deeply involved in writing it to respond to what I’ve written. So when I read it, much later, it’s a whole different experience–almost as if someone else wrote the book, not me. I read a passage that gets to me and find myself thinking, “Oh, I didn’t write that! Did I? Could I?” It feels like these characters, places, and events came into print through me and have a real existence that has little or nothing to do with me. As if I were more a chronicler than a creator.

I wonder if other writers feel these things. I know she isn’t, but at the same time I just can’t shed the notion that Gurun (that’s her, pictured above) is a real person who is even now doing things, experiencing things, that I don’t know about.

I believe the people I read about in the “news” are real, don’t I?

“Never heard of ’em,” says Gurun.


‘Martin the Warrior’ (2013)

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After some headaches getting the ol’ computer into gear this morning, I happened to think of this book I’d read some years ago: Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/02/17/martin-the-warrior/

Sometimes I just don’t get it. Like, Mr. Jacques sold 30 million books–no, I don’t get it. His books were adapted as TV shows and even… an opera! I read a couple of them and really, there was nothing much there.

Not that the book was truly awful. But the only thing memorable about it was all those dinner scenes. I didn’t get that, either.


‘The Green Ember’: A Fantasy Fit for Kids to Read

Image result for images of the green ember

Every now and then, in my search for suitable reading matter for children, I turn up gold–like, for instance, The Green Ember, by S.D. Smith.

https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/review-of-the-green-ember-novel

It’s a heroic fantasy featuring rabbits with swords, instead of people. And it’s about faith, hope, family, and self-sacrifice. This puts it miles apart from most of the Young Adult fiction that’s out there; and it’s written well enough for adults to enjoy it, too.

We do need more of this, much more. People of all ages consume huge amounts of “entertainment,” mostly without realizing that this is a passive but very effective form of self-education. We need to consume and digest more faith, more hope, more charity.

More Green Ember, less Spirit Animals.


No, No, Please, No! No ‘Katana-Wielding Scullery Maid’!

Image result for images of ella the slayer

Here she is with her katana. I wonder what school she studied in.

In my continual search for fantasy fiction that edifies instead of just making you dumber, I receive many invitations to review new books. Like Ella the Slayer, billed as “an Edwardian retelling of Cinderella.” Or “Cinderella” meets “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

The premise is, the worldwide 1918 flu epidemic was something more sinister than a germ, and the people who die of the flu come back as zombies who have to be killed all over again, blah-blah. I hate zombies. You seen one zombie, you seen ’em all. Besides which, the Great Flu was only 100 years ago and there are those of us whose families included some of those victims: this is in rather bad taste. In fact, it’s in execrable taste. The publisher ought to get the ducking stool, and the writer a public thrashing.

But allow me to mount my hobby horse–

Ella, the heroine, is described as “a katana-wielding scullery maid.” A lot of those in Edwardian England, were were?

I studied Japanese swordsmanship. I had to study and practice with the wooden sword for five years before I was allowed even to touch a katana–ten pounds of live steel sharpened to a razor edge. This is a serious weapon and I don’t appreciate ignorant wannabes fannying around with it. You could very easily do yourself a major mischief.

No one can say that my own fantasy novels fail to include major female characters who are strong, brave, resourceful, and worthy of admiration. Believe it or not, this effect can be achieved without writing up your female characters as comic-book superheroes with steel bras. I think I hate superheroes even more than zombies. Like, how many cliches can you jam into each chapter?

Why is non-idiotic fantasy so hard to come by?


‘An Open Letter to My Critics’ (2015)

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I re-ran this post once before, but the Fourth of July seems to me a good day for running it again. It hasn’t gotten any less true since I wrote it.

https://leeduigon.com/2013/08/23/an-open-letter-to-my-critics/

Are we oddballs? If we are, it’s the wider society’s loss. I was brought up–by my family, not a village!–to believe that God was always nearby, always watching, always available to hear your prayers: who loves us, who gave His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to save the whole world: to believe with all my heart that this is true. Certainly my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles believed it.

Our country’s founders believed it. Else they wouldn’t have dared defy the British Empire.

More than ever, God’s truth–which is the truth–needs to be put back into our daily lives.

And into our hourly lives would be still better.


‘Not Only Dumb, But Evil’ (2015)

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Some of the stuff you find in Young Adults fiction, it’d make a jackal retch. But the business at hand is always to undermine the family.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/02/28/not-only-dumb-but-evil/

And this isn’t even the really filthy stuff that wins award and gets endorsed by the American Library Assn.


Are We Really Talking ‘Christian Fiction’?

Image result for images of sappy fiction

I’ve decided “Christian fiction” is probably a good label to get rid of. I mean, would “Christian peanut butter” be all that different from ordinary peanut butter?

It seems that when we use that label–the fiction, not the peanut butter–we’re talking about two different things: fiction pitched to a predominantly Christian audience, and fiction written for a Christian purpose.

We don’t want to spread our art so thin that it has no depth, any more than we want to focus so narrowly on a Christian audience–if such a thing actually exists–that we freeze out everybody else. “You really can’t enjoy this book unless you’re a Christian” is not a principle that holds much appeal for me.

If a book is sappy, it’s sappy whether it’s “Christian fiction” or not: it’s sappy.

What about fiction written for a Christian purpose? Well, what would be a Christian purpose? Several spring to mind. Reclaiming cultural ground for Christ’s Kingdom by competing successfully with secular products: and maybe even pushing some of the truly nasty stuff right off the shelves. Introducing readers, who might not have any Christian background, to Christian themes and habits of thought: sort of breaking ground for the Gospel. Exposing dangers and faults in some aspects of the culture that most readers just take for granted, never thinking about it anymore, when really they should be. Thinking about it hard.

“Unknowable” once made a telling remark about a certain kind of “Christian music”–the kind that takes out “baby” and plugs in “Jesus” but otherwise doesn’t change anything: it remains the same old secular stuff, with slightly different words. He put his finger on exactly what I mean.

Let’s compete and let’s win–not by out-heroding Herod, but by offering something better. Much better!

And yes, I do know great secular fiction when I see it, and I try to learn from it, so that such art as I have can more effectively serve Christ’s Kingdom. Besides, who do you think gave those great secular writers their talent?


‘Does It Matter if Christian Fiction is Badly Written?’ (2015)

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I can never quite let go of this issue. Today it makes me ask myself whether “Christian fiction” is different from “fiction written for a Christian audience”–and whether both of those are different from “fiction written for a Christian purpose.”

https://leeduigon.com/2015/07/02/does-it-matter-if-christian-fiction-is-badly-written/

This could lead to a whole new blog post if I’m not careful.


‘How Good Should Your Heroes Be?’ (2016)

Image result for images of the heart of midlothian

The other day I talked about villains, so it’s only fair to give equal time to heroes.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/06/17/how-good-should-your-heroes-be/

Recommended: The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott. A young woman’s fiancee is cast into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and there’s no one to help him–no one but her. Armed only with her faith and with her goodness, she sets out, alone, to do the impossible… Wow!


‘How Bad Should Your Villains Be?’ (2016)

I’ve always heard that most actors enjoy playing villains. It’s kind of fun to write about them, too. Fictional villains, that is. Not real ones.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/06/15/how-bad-should-your-villains-be/

Note to those who really want me to unravel Obann’s glorious past: Some of that will be done in Book No. 11, The Temptation, so please stay tuned.


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