truly strange Christian fantasy

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truly strange Christian fantasy

Postby Riona » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:34 am

Personally, I get tired of those books with the warrior, the wizard, the thief....

Sometimes I want your fantasy to be just mind-blowingly strange. If you like that too, here's a short list of truly odd things, all of them by Christian writers, in chronological order

http://faculty.uca.edu/jona/texts/rood.htm
This is a link to a translation of the earliest Christian fantasy in English (it was written in Anglo-Saxon, and even though I studied Medieval lit, I can't just read Anglo-Saxon for fun). It's an imagination of what the cross would be thinking if it were sentient. Different times are almost like different planets.

Water Babies, by Reverend Charles Kingsley
A lot of the classic children's books are actually very peculiar--if you've read the originals of Pinocchio and Peter Pan then you know that. This is probably the strangest children's book I ever read, and I was a child when I read it too. It's about a young chimney sweep who (??)dies(??) and ends up transformed into a water baby and what happens to him.

The Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald
You might be familiar with The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, but this book is a lot stranger. A young boy who is dangerously ill becomes able to see the North Wind, a beautiful woman who is possibly also in some sense death.

Sylvie and Bruno (2 books), by Lewis Carroll
Everyone knows Alice In Wonderland is very peculiar, but this is a great sprawling mess, probably not popular because it's hard to figure out who the audience is. There's a lot of elfy-welfy absurdist little kid stuff in it, and a lot of grownup discussions about theology and so on too. But I actually LOVE this book, and I think Christian anime fans might be a good audience, since they are used to having cutseypoo mixed up with the serious stuff. What's it about? Fairy children, and the young lady in our world who kind of is the same person as one of them, and the older guy who is sufficient unhinged from reality that he notices this kind of thing.

The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton
Entering the 20th century, we get something that starts out like a mystery and then goes all surreal. I'm still not sure I entirely understand what the end of this book is doing, but it's different all right.

The Place of the Lion, by Charles Williams
Any book by Williams will blow your mind right out your ears, but this one is my favorite for weird. The Platonic ideals of animals become real and the world is starting to unravel. Williams is NOT for children, even bright ones.

The Man Who Was Magic, by Paul Gallico
Gallico wrote all kind of stuff in the middle of the 20th century. His most famous books are Thomasina (the famous cat book) and the Posieidon Adventure. This book is about a city entirely inhabited by professional magicians (of the stage variety) and the guy who shows up, who can do, you know, magic. Actually one of my favorite Christian books of all time, and perfectly suitable for older children. I was always getting my parents to check it out for me since our library didn't let kids check out books marked adult. But if it were published today I'm sure it would be in the YA section.
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Postby Mouse2010 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:28 am

Riona (post: 1496515) wrote:The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton
Entering the 20th century, we get something that starts out like a mystery and then goes all surreal. I'm still not sure I entirely understand what the end of this book is doing, but it's different all right.


I haven't read all of the books on your list, but the ones I have read, I completely agreed with you, right up until this one. The Man Who Was Thursday may be confusing because it seems to start off as a "straight" thriller/mystery, and then becomes an allegory of sorts. Overall, though, the allegory is no more confusing than one of C.S. Lewis's fantasies. I personally wouldn't put it on a list of strange Christian fantasy. Then again, I may have read so much Chesterton that his style seems normal. Hint: it's never JUST a story. There's always a point he's making.

Riona (post: 1496515) wrote:our library didn't let kids check out books marked adult.


Pardon me while I mumble in outrage a little here. I understand *why* a library would have such a rule. I just think it's . . . foolish. There are a lot of books which were intended for adult audiences but which are perfectly accessible to younger readers, and one of the ways that people expand their reading ability is by tackling things above their reading level. I get that parents should be monitoring what their children read, but there's no need to institutionalize that.
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Postby Riona » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:28 am

Well you gotta remember that this was a LONG time ago...I'd be willing to bet I'm the oldest person on this board. We're talking 60's here, and not the 60's everyone thinks of, the rockandrollfreelove 60's, which didn't really start until about 1965.

Also, if YOU completely understand the point of the Man Who Was Thursday, I wish you would explain it to me! I mean, of course it's kinda allegorical, though as a Medieval Lit person I would argue that it isn't exactly "an allegory", but an allegory of what? We can't have this conversation here, though, until I get Midori to teach me how to do spoiler boxes!

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Postby Rylynn4869 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:50 am

Riona wrote:Sometimes I want your fantasy to be just mind-blowingly strange.


I think the Circle series by Ted Dekker would fit in this category. There are four books--Black, Red, White, and Green (I'm currently reading Red)--they follow a man named Thomas Hunter and every time he goes to sleep, he switches between two different realities. The first reality is our world, and the second reality is basically a world where spiritual things are physical. It's kind of hard to explain, and it definitely gets kind of strange in some parts, but it's a simply fantastic series and I don't think any other author could have pulled off these books.
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Postby Atria35 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:04 pm

Water Babies scared me when I was a kid. Read it once and then never again.

I don't have any that I could contribute, though. I don't read a whole lot of Christian Fiction (there's very little good fiction in the genre!).

However, for something that's really out-there, I would recommend The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil b George Saunders. Reading his work is like reading FLCL the novel. Crazy, random stuff happens. It's also satirical, with points against the media and corporate culture, but it's very subtle and easily overlooked (I didn't notice it until someone pointed it out to me).

^Also, my mom has stries like Riona's. She remembers not being allowed to check out Nancy Drew from her library without parental supervision since it was considered trashy stuff! xD It was the 50's when she was a kid.
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Postby rocklobster » Wed Aug 10, 2011 5:56 pm

what, no mentioning of Madeleine L'Engle? She wrote some really bizarre stuff, too, especially the stuff about the Murry family.
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Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:33 pm

I definitely think you could class The Man Who Was Thursday as strange. It's certainly much stranger than any of C.S. Lewis' writings. I've read it twice and I'm still trying to figure it out.

I would love to know where I can get my hands on Charles Williams novels, they seem to be out of print.
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Postby bigsleepj » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:18 pm

The High House by James Stoddard is a pleasantly freaky work of Christian fantasy, but its out of print so you can probably just find it second hand. It is about a massive house where entire nations can be found in single rooms and where the furniture of some parts may try to eat you. I'm not sure if it is an allegory, but it is written from a Christian world view.
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Postby Mouse2010 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:54 pm

Riona (post: 1496533) wrote:
Also, if YOU completely understand the point of the Man Who Was Thursday, I wish you would explain it to me!


I shouldn't say that I COMPLETELY understand it. It's just that it made way more sense to me than the novels I've read by Charles Williams or George MacDonald. That book by MacDonald about Lilith? I have no freakin' clue what was going on there. No clue at all. Was the man on a drug trip?

But from the very first time I read The Man Who Was Thursday, I had an "aha!" moment at the end when I thought I realized what it was all about. That was more than ten years ago. Now I think it's probably more complicated than my original reading of the novel as a college student. Still, I think there are a couple of major themes that are symbolically expressed in that confusing ending scene. One was the theme of the beauty and thrill of order as opposed to the boringness of anarchy or chaos.

[spoiler] Why are all the detectives dressed as different days of creation at the end of the novel? Because it is about the beauty of the created order, I think, with an emphasis on the "createdness" it.[/spoiler]

So that's one thing that's going on. But the other theme concerns Sunday and the purpose of his wild goose chase.
[spoiler]I know that there are different interpretations of who Sunday is, but I personally do think he becomes a Christ figure at the end of the novel. At the end of the novel, Syme realizes the meaning behind his suffering: it is to allow him to confront Satan and say "We have also suffered." And then, just before he wakes up, Syme asks Sunday "Have you . . . have you ever suffered?" And then he hears a voice say "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"

In other words, the "vision" part of the novel ends just when it appears that Sunday --the peace of God-- might be identical with the suffering Christ. So the whole point of the novel seemed to me, when I first read it, to be about redemptive suffering and the right it gives you to challenge evil. Today, I'd probably emphasize the other things that were going on in the novel more, but I still think that's a lot of what the ending is all about.[/spoiler]

Maybe what I'm saying doesn't actually clarify the confusion, though. All I can say is that to me, this book made much more sense than, say, Water-Babies.

Oh, and I have a book to add to the list: Russell Kirk's The Lord of the Hollow Dark. I picked this up at the library under the mistaken impression that it was a horror book. I had no idea who Russell Kirk was or that he was a Christian author, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a rather odd religious novel, full of literary references. (It helps to have read a lot of T.S. Eliot first.)
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Postby Syreth » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:25 pm

I've heard Lewis wrote some strange ones. In particular, I've heard that his personal favorite work of fiction is a little weird. I feel like I've read too much Lewis, though. I might have to check out some of the others mentioned in this thread.
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Postby bigsleepj » Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:23 am

I did a book study on The Man who was Thursday a few years ago at a now defunct but archived CS Lewis forum. I hope this will help. :) I am a very big fan of the book and put a lot of thought into it over the years (though I've actually let it sit on the shelf these past four years). Even my avatar is meant to represent the character, Doctor Bull.
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Postby Agloval » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:48 am

Syreth (post: 1496644) wrote:I've heard Lewis wrote some strange ones. In particular, I've heard that his personal favorite work of fiction is a little weird.
I found Till We Have Faces and That Hideous Strength pretty wacky... I don't know if they're strange in quite the way I understand Riona is using the word. Till in particular is written in quite plain prose and organised very clearly. I think (and I don't mean that in a derogatory way).
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Postby Maledicte » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:52 pm

I'm surprised The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. hasn't been mentioned yet. Just a cute barnyard animal story, right? Then it gets into Watership Down levels of "What on earth are you doing to these cute animals?!" and then battling crazy demonic monsters...And that's not even counting the sequel, which takes all the heartbreak from the first book and grinds your face into it for 250 pages.

C.S. Lewis was mentioned, I didn't feel Till We Have Faces was as "weird" as, say, Perelandra. But then again, I was young when I read Perelandra, it might not be as strange to me now.
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Postby Mouse2010 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:13 pm

Agloval (post: 1496740) wrote:I found Till We Have Faces and That Hideous Strength pretty wacky...


Ditto this. Since I'm the one who initially compared Lewis to Chesterton, I'll admit that the Narnia books are more straightforward than The Man Who Was Thursday. However, I am not convinced that the Space Trilogy is any less weird than TMWWT, and That Hideous Strength was probably the weirdest of the books.
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Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:26 pm

TMWWT is much stranger than Lewis' works, yes, excluding The Hideous Strength.
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Postby Riona » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:59 pm

I love the High House and the Book of the Dun Cow too. But I don't know if Dun Cow really counts as mind-blowingly strange, because it has this beautiful simplicity. I didn't put Lewis on the list because I figured he's so well known, but it was difficult to decide what to put for MacDonald. Lillith is definitely very odd. I don't think it counts as a spoiler to point out that MacDonald always makes his main supernatural beings female, even if they stand for God or Satan. That's just the way his imagination worked, I guess. I see some things I now have to go and find...

I'm kind of slow replying here because I am in Latvia right now...
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Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:49 pm

I've heard about Lillith and that it's a difficult, if intriguing read. Is this true?
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Postby Riona » Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:37 pm

It depends on what you mean by difficult. The sentences aren't difficult to read (and this can be a factor with MacDonald--some of his "realistic" have most of their dialogue in thick Scots accents). But the book gets surrealistic very fast. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's supposed to be "really" happening in the story and what's a dream or a vision. It's also kind of challenging theologically and spiritually, which MacDonald tends to be. If I were you, I would try some of his short stories first, some of which have been published separately as children's books. Read the Golden Key, or Photgen and Nycteris/teh Day Boy and the Night Girl, or the Light Princess, or the Wise Woman/Double Story (which is one of the most terrifiying things I ever read!) and see what you think about him. Personally I have loved this author since childhood, but then I really like strange fantasy.
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Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:11 pm

Thanks. I don't think I've ever read anything by George MacDonald, I keep confusing him with G.K. Chesteron.
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Postby Rewin » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:54 am

Agloval (post: 1496740) wrote:I found Till We Have Faces pretty wacky.


Having just read Till We Have Faces I totally disagree with this. I thought it was a really intriguing book but very well written and certainly not wacky.

And this thread is making me want to go find some of these books and read them (rather than reading the book I am now, which I've read probably 3 times already). But first on my list is The Screwtape Letters because it's been on my list of things to read for many years.
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