Thursday, June 27, 2013

Write What You Know - Religion

Last Thursday, I wrote about the often repeated advice to new writers that they should write what they know. While I acknowledged that this advice is not always correct, I discussed how each of us has a unique set of knowledge and experiences that can help us distinguish ourselves from others.

I also hinted last time that I have developed in an expertise in an area that I believe has been inadequately dealt with within the science fiction / fantasy genre. And that area is religion.

Let me give you a quick summary of my qualifications to speak on this subject: I grew up in a highly religious home; I earned a Bachelor degree in Religious Education; I have been employed as a religious educator over the past ten years; I earned a Master degree in the Philosophy of Religion; and I have probably read more religious texts and treatises than anyone other than an actual university scholar working in the field. While I'm not sure anyone should ever claim to be an expert on religion, I've at least taken some pretty big steps in that direction.

Now, back to my claim that religion has been inadequately dealt with in the fantasy genre. Some of you might be surprised by such a claim. After all, fantasy novels are chock full of deities and supernatural creatures, who fuel magic, meddle in the world of mortals, and at times even do battle with the heroes themselves. Science fiction, too, certainly deals with religious ideas, although typically it is fairly disdainful of any religious truth claims, given the sharp divide in Western culture between science and religion.

But the fact of the matter is that religion is one of the primal urges of humanity, and one that gives way to a diverse set of beliefs and practices all across the globe, despite the post Enlightenment claims that any decent civilization has advanced far beyond such religious nonsense. Yet, the religions encountered in most fantasy novels has little to no resemblance to much of the religious practices found in the world today, particularly those in Western civilization. Instead, the stereotypical religion of fantasy, where any such trappings exist at all, most often resembles the polytheism of Greek or Roman mythology. My readers, I believe we can do better.

So this is one area in which I believe I can distinguish myself from other fantasy writers, using my own specialty in the field of religion. Now how I plan on doing this, and exactly how I believe my approach will be better than what I have currently seen in the genre, is a post for another day.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. You have my attention as never before! I've become very interested in philosophy in general of late, and the philosophy of religion is one of the branches of philosophy that most interests me (political philosophy being number one by far).

    I'm curious as to who you'd recommend I check out on the subject and who are your personal favorite philosophers of religion. Is it Kierkegaard or Nietzsche or somebody older like St. Thomas Aquinas?

    Cool stuff, looking forward to your plans to inject some much needed philosophy into speculative fiction!