Category Archives: Fantasy Criticism

‘Tolkien Was Deeper Than I Thought’ (2013)

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Shortly after publication of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien had a very strange experience.

Tolkien Was Deeper Than I Thought

He could only describe it by saying it was like actually meeting one of the characters he thought he’d made up–Gandalf the Grey, the wizard. If you haven’t read the book, trust me: this is not the sort of person anyone encounters in real life.

Once you’re able to see the Christianity in Tolkien’s work, you can’t unsee it.

Everyone who works in Christian fantasy owes him a debt.

‘Devil Wannabe Convicted of Triple Murder; or, Why I Read Tolkien’ (2014)

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I won’t blame you if you don’t click the link embedded in the original post.

Devil Wannabe Convicted of Triple Murder; or, Why I Read Tolkien

There’s a plastic surgeon out there who needs his license taken away, and probably a public flogging, too. Some people really will do anything for money.

So much of our culture resembles a freak show anymore. We have to seek God’s Word and be nourished by it.

We only note these aberrations in the nooze because as servants of Christ’s Kingdom, we need to know the nature of the enemy.

‘What’s It Like to Write?’ (2016)

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It does seem like quite a long time since Jack climbed up the wall of the Palace (Book No. 6).

There aren’t many people who don’t think they could write a book, if only they had the time for it. But what’s it really like, to write a novel?

I would just love to get going on Bell Mountain No. 14, whatever it turns out to be. But the weather hasn’t been playing ball, not at all, and anyway I haven’t yet received whatever the Lord is going to give me to get the story started.

What I don’t get is why there are so many starkly un-imaginative fantasies published. I mean, how many know-it-all elves and invincible female warriors can the reader stand?

And somehow Abbott and Costello Save the Universe never got written…

‘A Tale of Two Hobbits’ (2014)

Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

What do people “know” because they saw it in a movie?

Well, they think they know J.R.R. Tolkien’s story of The Hobbit. But in fact, they don’t.

Had Tolkien been alive when the movie-makers began their assassination of his story, he would have objected strenuously and probably sued them. That bit about the Dwarf and the Invincible Female Elf-Warrior falling passionately in love–that might’ve killed him on the spot. Life is hardly worth living anymore, if they can make up such a monstrosity and successfully blame it on you.

But if you think you’re learning anything from movies–well, you’re not. Not by a long shot.

‘Fictional Characters as Real People’

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It wasn’t easy to find this image. It’s from a movie, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm: Jakob Grimm, deathly ill, is visited by the characters from his fairy tales who need him to get better because they can’t exist without him.

Oh, but they can! They can!

The trick to writing fiction that the reader can believe in is to write about your characters as if they were real people (and about your locations as if they were real places). Bear in mind that all of them have lives that go well beyond the little piece you’re writing about. If they live for you, they’ll live for the reader, too.

One of the things I really enjoy, as a writer, is seeing a character enter a story as a walk-on and then stay in the story, and grow into a major character. Some of your fictional characters can really surprise you–like, I never dreamed, never even suspected, Lord Orth would turn out the way he did.

After I learned how to control a story, I learned I didn’t have to.

Think that over for a while!

‘The Global Warming Fantasy Factory’ (2014)

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The earth is the Lord’s. He created it, He sustains it day by day, and it belongs to Him. He’s not going to sit there sucking His thumb while we sinful human pipsqueaks Destroy The Planet.

People talk about End O’ the World events as if they thought God had no power, no ownership, no sovereignty.

I write fantasy novels. They are clearly labeled as such.

But I fear those fantasies called “public policy” and “science.” And even more I fear God, who can hardly be expected to put up with this forever.


‘A Helpful Hint for Writers’ (2013)

Just the other day Chagadai, the captain of King Ryons’ Ghols, his bodyguard, walked into the Bell Mountain movie I’m going to make someday, when my ship comes in. I recognized him immediately as Burt Kwok, who played Mr. Entwhistle in Last of the Summer Wine.

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This little game helps me to see and write about my fictional characters as if they were real people. I know, I know–movies and TV? You think that’s real? But I’m writing fantasies, not accident reports.

One of these days I’d like to try writing up a character who’s incompetent, foolish, scared of his own shadow, and worth absolutely nothing in a crisis.

On second thought…

‘How Not to Write a Fantasy’ (2013)

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I was not entirely successful in disguising the identity of this author. Oh, well. His errors are still good ones to avoid.

This is a challenging world, and we need our brains in working order. So don’t anesthetize them with bad fantasy. There’s more than enough of that available.

That business with really stupid and incompetent villains always gets my dander up. I mean, sure, evil people can be stupid–but if they were quite as stupid as they’re depicted in one of this guy’s fantasy novels, they’d be no threat to anyone at all.

‘Not Only Dumb, But Evil’ (2015)

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I really do hate those jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks

I’m afraid a lot of the contemporary Young Adults fiction that I read isn’t fit to line a bird cage.

Some of this is just dumb adults cleverly (in their own minds) writing down to young readers. But there’s also stuff out there that’s downright toxic.

Then again, there’s fiction written for adults that’s even worse. You wouldn’t think that would even be possible, but a lot of authors manage it.

The thing to remember is: The fiction we consume in such great quantities is a passive form of self-education. So be careful of what you teach yourself.

‘Stop the Lousy Writing, Please!’ (2015)

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If there’s one thing that’s hard to bear, it’s reading page after page of forced sarcasm and dopey slang in a fantasy novel. Not that it would be all that great in any other kind of novel; but fantasy seems especially prone to it.

Much of this can be blamed on dim-witted adults who think they’re cleverly writing down to teenagers. By “teenager” they mean someone with the intelligence of a radiator hose. They’ve been watching too much television and way too many movies.

It’s hard to beat plain English as a means of communication.

I wish some of these writers would try it sometime.


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