“I’ve been coming to Montserrat for a few years now. On one early visit I actually arrived and realized I had returned before the last time I was here! From Brother Lazarus’ point of view, we had not yet had the previous visit.” She gave a little laugh. “That was a real mind bender. In the end, I had to go away again because it was all just too weird.” – The Spirit Well, pg. 322
Last week I posted that I was thinking about why Christian speculative fiction is called weird. I also wrote that the question could be somewhat answered by The Spirit Well, and then I said I would hold that thought for the blog tour.
So here goes.
The “weird” label is not wholly imposed on Christian speculative fiction. Some in our crowd would dispute it, but some embrace it. If they embrace it as the American colonists embraced the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, that’s more than I can say.
If you were to browse through a Christian fiction section, the scattered sci-fi / fantasy novels might seem strange amidst all the historical fiction, prairie romance, and mystery novels. If you were a Christian SF fan, you might feel a little strange.
But I think there are reasons that go beyond the Christian market and Christian fiction. The “weird” label is broadly given to speculative fiction; the secular version receives it, too. I grant you, popular acclaim was awarded to fantasy such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and to sci-fi such as Star Wars and Star Trek. Yet …
How often, in popular culture, does the loner or the weirdo have an interest in speculative works? It’s standard for the geek to be a sci-fi fan – even of a mainstream success like Star Wars. If someone says that you’re at the Star Trek convention of life, it’s no compliment.
To give a full explanation of this is beyond my intent. The endless conspiracy theories surrounding Roswell, Area 51, and the Bermuda Triangle probably have something to do with it.
And that leads us to another reason. These strange ideas are the sort of thing you would find in speculative fiction. They’re the sort of thing you do find in speculative fiction. To this day sci-fi writers enthusiastically take up all of those conspiracy theories. When the beliefs of the tinfoil-hat crowd are fodder for your genre, maybe it is a little weird.
The Twilight Zone was weird. The premise of Metamorphosis – a guy gets transmuted into a giant cockroach – is definitely weird. Selling away your shadow or tears or laugh or voice is also on the odd side of things.
Even The Spirit Well – which isn’t weird as the genre goes – is chock-full of experiences any human would consider bizarre. If you or I ever clomped through the Stone Ages, or walked into a canyon in Arizona and found ourselves in Damascus seventy years ago, we would write home about it – unless we were worried about being brought in for examination.
What I’m getting at is this: One of the reasons speculative fiction – Christian and otherwise – is called weird is that it is weird. Not in a pejorative sense, but simply in the sense of being out of the ordinary. Whether we dream of enchanted woods or strange planets, whether it’s Elves or time-travelers or talking animals that we meet in our stories – it’s all different, all outside the bounds of the world we know. And that’s the point, isn’t it?