My Newswithviews Column, March 11 (‘History and… Fantasy’)

My new “Bell Mountain” book, The Wind from Heaven, ought to be coming out sometime this spring. But between now and then there’s a lot of nooze to cover: sort of like wading through a pestilential swamp.

So this week I’ve written about my books.

History… and Fantasy

Sometimes, by the end of the day, all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. The monsters are out there, ravaging our country. But you don’t win battles that way, and you certainly don’t win wars: and like it or not, we are in a war with Far Left Crazy–a war for the survival of our country, our freedom, and our way of life. They mean to take it all away from us.

Just now it seems we have nothing left but our prayers. They’ve nullified our votes, censored us off the social media. But if all we have is our prayers, then let’s use them. Pray often! Pray hard!

When I Discovered Fantasy…

2 Pellucidar books by Edgar Rice Burroughs - Ace F-158 F-280 | eBay

I was 13 years old when a friend lent me his copy of Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs–adventures in the inside-out world of the hollow earth, complete with dinosaurs and monsters–and it blew me away. I had no idea there were books like this! I couldn’t get enough of them. Happily for me, ERB wrote dozens of books. I’ve still got ’em (paperback price: 35 cents!), and I still read ’em from time to time.

Burroughs introduced me to other worlds, pure fantasy, anything goes. Just like Tarzan went to Pellucidar once.

But then in high school, sophomore year, I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, and oh, brother! This took fantasy fiction a notch higher. I find it bordering on the impossible, to describe how much I enjoyed it. I spent the next ten or twelve years of my life trying to write a fantasy like Tolkien’s. What the heck, everybody else seemed to be doing it–you never saw so many unsatisfying imitations published.

I learned an awful lot about writing by reading and re-reading Burroughs and Tolkien. I also learned to give up trying to imitate them, and just write like myself: took more than a few years to learn how to do that, too. The end result is my Bell Mountain series.

I envy those of you, out there, who’ll someday discover top-flight fantasy, as I did, and just go to town on it. I know reading isn’t as fashionable as it once was. But as much as I love movies, there’s nothing better than a roaring good book. No special effects genius, no cast of actors, no director can ever quite match what that special book can do with your imagination.

Does it serve God? Does it give God the glory? I’d say that depends on what the reader does with it. Tolkien was a devout Christian, and I’m sure he hoped his books would do that. Just as I’m sure that for many readers, they did.

Finished!

137,854 Fireworks Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

With a prayer, and with a cold wind blowing in my face, I have finished writing Behold! And if this book’s climax is as good as I dare hope–well, kowabunga!

I’m reminded of an essay (or was it a letter?) by Tolkien, in which he described a conversation he had with a stranger about The Lord of the Rings–who said to him, “You don’t think you wrote all that all by yourself, do you?” It was just the sort of thing, said Tolkien, that Gandalf would have said–and he left it at that.

I thank the Lord of All for giving me this book to write, and pray my work will be fruitful in His service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

‘Tolkien Was Deeper Than I Thought’ (2013)

See the source image

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)

See the source image

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.

‘My favorite Authors’ (2011)

Image result for images of the chessmen of mars

Note the cover price–50 cents!

I can’t believe I left Walter R. Brooks off this list. His Freddy the Pig books are among my all-time favorites. Who else would have written about celebrity spiders?

My Favorite Authors

I know, I know–none of these has ever been called Serious Mainstream Literature. You’d never catch Tolstoy writing about celebrity spiders; and Jane Austen wasn’t big on lost cities inhabited by maniacs.

But these are the authors I’ve learned from, and these are the authors whose works I love–and return to again and again.

What is ‘Christian Fantasy’?

See the source image

Too much of what is labeled “Christian fantasy” is only “Christian” on the outside. But then you can say that of some churches, too. And people.

What is ‘Christian Fantasy’?

Just as it’s possible for a politician who supports and publicly funds abortion to say “I’m a good Catholic!”, any publisher can call any book a Christian novel. Sayin’ so don’t make it so.

 

‘After Lewis and Tolkien’ (Comes Me?)

Image result for images of bell mountain by lee duigon

Jon Dykstra of Reformed Perspective Magazine did a fine job of welding several of my blog posts, and my answers to his questions, into an article about Christian fantasy.

After Lewis and Tolkien

I was especially gratified when he told me how his children loved Bell Mountain as he read it to them. They called it simply “Jack and Ellayne.” I think they were five or six years old at the time–way under the age of the target audience. But I’ve heard this a lot, over the years–mostly from adults.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article and I was very pleasantly surprised to find it available online.

‘Review of Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur’ (2013)

See the source image

King Arthur–whether he was ever really a king or not–eludes historical precision. But for some  fifteen hundred years he was, after the Bible itself, the story, the earthly representative, of Christendom. That he has been almost forgotten, just in the past 50 years, shouts from the housetops the poverty of our culture.

Review of Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur

J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem, published posthumously by his son, is about Arthur’s fall, and the ruin of his kingdom.

My book review is about the great things that Arthur accomplished, and how his life changed the world for the better.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”

‘Hobbits, Orcs Colonize New Jersey’ (2014)

See the source image

Actually, the Orcs aren’t so much interested in colonizing as they are in tailgating and honking at you to drive faster–especially when you’re stopped at a red light. When they’re not doing that, they’re operating leaf blowers.

Hobbits, Orcs Colonize New Jersey

But what I really wanted to do with this post, back in 2014, was to call attention to what was then my newest Bell Mountain book, the seventh in the series, The Glass Bridge. I still marvel at the way artist Kirk DouPonce brought Gurun to life.

I find it very hard to remember she’s not a real person. And sometimes I don’t bother trying.