This is an article I wrote for the Holy Worlds website, and I thought I should finally post it here, updated a bit.
Keep in mind that although I directly speak about fantasy novels—being a published author of a fantasy series—what I say applies equally to other genres of fiction and to other art forms.
So here it is:
What is Christian Fantasy?
A Definition and a Challenge
As I endeavor to define what is meant by the term “Christian fantasy”, the task reminds me of angling for catfish. When I was a kid in Minnesota, my brother caught a catfish, and I was amazed at its foot long, very thick girth. But that did not prepare me for catfish Missouri style. In Missouri, they don’t fish for catfish, they noodle for catfish.
Now noodling is, to say it mildly, a very personal way to catch a fish. What you do is this. You find yourself a stream, climb down into the water, find a hole in the bank, and stick your bare arm in it up to the shoulder. Now, mind, you’ve no idea what’s in the hole. Down here, it could be a poisonous snake or a snapping turtle!
What you are hoping for is that the hole is actually the mouth of a catfish. If so, you grab the inside of the fish, and pull the fish out. And we’re not talking little, teensy, tap-dancing, foot long catfish here. They can be 100 pound, four foot monsters that can actually eat your arm. Well, at least you’ve got it by the, you know, gills and guts, so I guess you win. Anyway, I’ve seen pictures of these fish and, needless to say, I’ve never been tempted to go noodling.
So that’s my first impression of trying to define Christian Fantasy: it’s far bigger than I can imagine, and I’m going to have to wrestle it out of its hole to get it into the light of day.