Highs and Lows

Fantasy, as a genre, splinters into a gaggle of subgenres, the definitions of which vary from source to source. The two subgenres I'd like to deal with today, through the goggles of this Christian worldview I keep mentioning, are High Fantasy and Low Fantasy.

First, let's start off with a couple of simple definitions, for the sake of beginning the discussion on common ground. Low Fantasy, simply put, is fantasy that takes place in what we all know as the "real world", in real places you can find on a map here on planet earth, or at least put in a general geographic region between real places. High Fantasy, on the other hand, takes place in a wholly invented place, like J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

I, personally, prefer High Fantasy, not only for the experience of being transported to something vastly different than what I find around me in suburban Pennsylvania, but also, because spiritually, I find dealing with a fictional universe less problematic.

There are many popular fantasy series' being written today that take place in discernable "real world" locations, and the reason I struggle with this kind of writing is the fact that people in fantasy typically derive their power from a system of "magic". To choose empowerment from some sort of otherworldly source in a universe where Jesus should be an option for the characters strikes me as too stark a depiction of choosing something ungodly over the Truth of our Universe. When you deal with our world, fictional magic smacks a little of at least ignoring, and at the worst, rejecting Christ and his transfroming power in our lives.

Now, some folks will go so far as to say Low Fantasy novels invite exploration of the occult, but I find that very much of what is written as Low Fantasy (at least what I've read, and I don't spend much time on it, to be honest) uses what I'll refer to as "hokus pokus", which doesn't even faintly resemble true occult. But this topic could easily spin into a whole 'nuther post, so I'll decide at some future daye if I want to tackle that. It will suffice to say that the "magic" employed in most Low Fantasy doesn't bother me so much as the setting it occurs in.

So, why do I find High Fantasy preferable? Again, on the simplest terms, in a fictional setting where there is no Christ for the characters to reject, I can immerse myself in the workings of that universe with fewer nagging, disquieting questions. Now, if that fictional universe incorporates allegorical elements that either directly or indirectly speak of scriptural truth, then mores the better, at least for me.

Having laid out these two contrasting approaches, it occurs to me that there is a third option, which is Low Fantasy that incorporates faith in Christ in its inner workings. I want to make a goal of finding some books that attempt this, simply to see how an author has handled such an idea. I, myself, can't get my head around a book set in otherwise historic anywhere, with the truth of scripture underpinning it, that also throws in Sword and Sorcery elements or mythical creatures. It's certainly something worth exploring.

My preferences aside, the lables "High" and "Low" fantasy, while we might be tempted to label one as Elevated and one Not-So-Inspired, I believe we'd make a grave error in doing so. To me, the greater goal is to take whatever setting you as an author choose and to spin a compelling tale that captivates your readers, leaving them a little different in their hearts than they were when they began the journey through your tale.


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