Christian fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read, but until I started writing my own novel, I never realized how tricky it can be to handle religion in a fantasy context. Would the people of a fantasy world approach religion the same way we do? If not, how far can their religious practices stray from what we’re familiar with before they can no longer be identified as Christian?
I’ve seen authors handle this dilemma in a number of different ways. First, there’s allegory, like C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia or Beast by Chawna Schroeder. Some take a more generalized approach of light versus dark, such as the Unblemished trilogy by Sara Ella. Several authors have crafted new religions with beliefs and practices that closely mirror Christianity—for example, the Books of the Infinite by R.J. Larson or Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel. Others, including the Life After series by Julie Hall, take on subjects like the afterlife or spiritual warfare. I love seeing authors’ creativity in utilizing these and other strategies for integrating their faith into the fantasy worlds they create.
When I worked through my storyline for Common, an essential component was a group of nuns who had such close union with God it sometimes allowed them to draw on His power. While the book takes place in a fantasy world, the development of an entirely new religion wasn’t relevant enough to justify detailed explanations of new belief structures and customs. So when the need arose, I stuck with familiar practices such as church services and funeral rites.
But Common is a fantasy, and keeping the religion exactly the same as modern Christianity didn’t quite produce the effect I was hoping for. I struck a balance by having my characters worship the same God as the Christians of our world but call Him by a different name. After much consideration, I decided on “the Luminate”—a name that brings to mind radiance and wisdom and connects with the many other references to light in my fantasy kingdoms.
My hope is that using “the Luminate” will add to the fantasy feel of my story and allow my protagonist’s faith journey to be meaningful to all readers, perhaps even those who might otherwise steer clear of Christian fiction.
What are some of your favorite ways authors have handled faith in the fantasy genre?
An avid reader since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. She writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of romance, and her debut novel, Common, released on February 14th. A Midwestern girl through and through, Laurie currently lives in Minnesota and is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter. Find out more about Laurie and her writing by visiting www.laurielucking.com.