Is Fantasy A Christian Genre? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 7 2011 @ 3:40pm

This post ruffled the feathers of many readers. One writes:

If you are going to link to something as utterly wrong-headed as D.G. Myers's argument, at least take the time to read the many comments beneath refuting it and link to some of them as well. Has Myers actually read any fantasy literature aside from Lewis, Tolkien and Rowling? I doubt it. And I seriously doubt any Christian would want to claim George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Firecurrently the world’s most successful fantasy series – as their own. In Martin’s books, no good deed goes unpunished and mercy and pity are seen to lead only to catastrophe.

Or, in the realm of children’s classics, how about Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence, which explicitly draws on Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, not the Bible, for inspiration? Or Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, which has its roots in the haunting dream logic of the Welsh Mabinogion. I could go on and on, but what’s the point? Anyone who’s read any fantasy literature of the last 40 years knows how ludicrous Myers’ thesis is.

Another writes:

Certainly it is possible to make a stronger case that science fiction isn’t based on religion with great authors like Asimov and Author C. Clark, who were atheists.  They also wrote stories involving explicit parallel universes, as well as the implicit kind that Tolkien and others wrote about.


Fantasy does not require a spiritual assumption, but rather a literary assumption of powers that can be manipulated by non-mechanistic techniques, and of a world that defies complete human comprehension. Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is anti-theist, at the very least.


Myers's post references a Weingrad essay written in Spring 2010 that was eviscerated all over the Internet. In fact, the Atlantic compiled some of those eviscerations and Weingrad took it upon himself to respond with a much narrower claim (which also included lots of "yeah, I read that Jewish fantasy work, but I didn't like it" remarks). So a little more research at the beginning might have shown you that Myers doesn't have the factual basis that he thinks he does. (The fact that Myers associates fantasy with children's lit should tip one off that he's speaking from a very limited set of knowledge. Not even Tolkien considered himself a writer of children's literature.)


I read the Myers piece and the Weingrad essay that inspired the article.  I agree with their writings, which resonate strongly with my Jewish (emphasis on –ish) identity. I think its worth mentioning George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, which incidentally is the only fantasy series that I have ever enjoyed.  I do not know Mr. Martin’s faith, but his writings address many of the Jewish critiques raised of fantasy. Knights are selfish murderers on horseback.  Mythical creatures and magic exist, but are less fact than fiction. I find the most compelling character of the series to be Daenarys Targayen and Jon Snow: both high-born exiles who struggle with the just application of that power with the imperative to improve the lot of the dispossessed persons who follow them.  They seek to create a just way of life to make life better for everyone. The theme of creating a better life though a reasonable system of law is a central theme of Judaism, as I understand it.