Which is why I thought I better write something down.
In this article, I want to address one central reason for why fantasy is not evil.
One of the first things people say against fantasy is that it is not true. I've heard it all but said that fantasy is no more than a lie that is sold to the public. I simply find this far too harsh an accusation. There is an important distinction to make here: just because something isn't real doesn't mean it isn't true. For instance, there are two categories of truth I want to bring up. One is factual truth - something you can see, hear, and prove. The other is a true principle. For instance, it is a fact that if someone stops breathing, they are dead. You can see this. You can hear it in the silence. You can touch it, analyse it, and scientifically prove it. On the other hand, Descartes' famous line "I think, therefore I am" is a principle of truth. It isn't something that you can see, and it's hard to scientifically verify. Nevertheless, it is something that can be explained in speech. It is an idea that we are able to grasp, think through, and come to a conclusion on. If we use logic, we will be able to see that is true.
It is naive to say that just because fantasy isn't real, it must be a lie. Fantasy is not something factual. This is quite obvious. But the good fantasy fiction stories that are worth their salt convey a principle of truth. They convey an idea that is told through story and that can be logically thought through, until it leads to the truth. When we explain a principle of truth to someone, and they are finding it difficult to grasp or see fully, we may liken it to something they are familiar with. A scientist explaining neurology to a computer technician may liken the brain to a computer. We use metaphors and images to help others understand what we mean. The metaphors and images are not lies. Neither are they designed to confuse someone's reality. Instead, they are used to make a concept clear.
When Jesus was teaching His disciples in the Bible, He said: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). This was a tough concept for the disciples. It was commonly accepted in Jesus' day that a rich man was blessed by God, therefore he was rich. Rich men were seen as exceptionally righteous, and they were thought to be among the first to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said this was a wrong idea. The disciples didn't understand. Sure, maybe the rich men weren't among the first then. But surely, it was still easier for them to get into the kingdom of heaven than most people. Jesus said no. To show them how hard it was, He used the above metaphor - something which is quite impossible! He picked two things the disciples were familiar with, and he placed them both in an unheard of situation. And He did it to make a point.
And that, I believe, is fantasy.
Here's the main reason I believe that fantasy is not immoral as a genre: it is merely an extended figure of speech, metaphor, simile, or use of imagery. We would hardly accuse someone of being involved in the occult when they use an unusual but vivid metaphor. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happens. I'm Christian, and I would never for one minute want it otherwise. However, I have struggled when I've encountered people who are so condemning of the genre I write in.
If we think about it, fantasy authors merely take a few concepts people are familiar with, and they place them in an unusual situation to make a point. Take Harry Potter for instance. The main thrust of that series, I think, is that we can overcome incredible evil through love; love is our greatest weapon against insurmountable monstrosities. That is the principle of truth, if you like, in this series. I don't think it was a conscious choice of Rowling's, to write a story about wizards. She instinctively picked the medium she felt would best convey the point she was trying to get across. The magic in the Harry Potter series makes the odds seem even more impossible for Harry than they would in an ordinary situation. (It was also a great advantage for Rowling to do this, because she was not amazingly familiar with today's war technology; so she could not tell the story from that angle. Magic made her able to raise the stakes without involving her in immense and unnecessary research that not everyone could relate to.) Magic also functions much the same as electricity in our own realities: unlike the occult, it is not inherently immoral or dangerous. It is a neutral force that can be harnessed for good and bad. It's simply a metaphor - and as such, it is not really magic. It is a picture for people's resources and abilities, so it is naive to take it at face value. The name magic means little in that situation, and besides which, the force itself is not even the main point of the series. Therefore, Bible verses like Deuteronomy 18:10 ("Let no one be found among you ... who practises divination or sorcery ... who engages in witchcraft") would be improperly applied to the Harry Potter series. That's not real magic. It's a picture of something completely different.
You're probably wondering what on earth in Harry Potter is familiar to us. There's actually more than you think. We're familiar with motorbikes, snakes, castles, schools, and even the idea of dinosaurs. Rowling takes concepts such as these and mixes them up in improbable situations. We can visualise dragons because we've seen pictures, movies, and skeletons of dinosaurs. Even magic is familiar, because it's not the occult stuff radicals will tell you about - otherwise your average kid wouldn't get it. It's not dissimilar to electricity, technology, gadgets, or inventions that exist today.
Now, if people read fantasy with the understanding that the fantasy is not the whole point, but merely a vehicle for making it, it shouldn't confuse people's realities at all. I haven't met anyone who's still waiting for their letter from Hogwarts. Nor have I seen anyone trying the Wingardium Leviosa spell - which is really just innocent Latin from Rowling's school days.
Now if you're anti-fantasy, you might be thinking at this point: "Fine. The fantasy isn't the point, it's the vehicle. But why do we need it at all?"
Why did Jesus bring up the camel and the needle? He felt it was the best way of saying what He needed to say - the best way to explain the principle of truth He wanted to get across.
Let me make a proposition to you: the best fantasy fiction authors wrote fantasy by accident. Why? Because they were way more focused on the story. They wrote it as a fantasy because they felt it was the only way to say what they needed to say. They certainly felt it was the most effective way.
Sometimes a dramatic metaphor is needed to get a big point across fully.
Fantasy stories seldom deal with small issues. I haven't read many that were mainly concerned with peer pressure, getting a boyfriend, or getting used to a new next door neighbour. Sure, these can be side issues in a fantasy fiction story. But they're not the crux. There's a reason Jesus often told a parable when He was preaching to people. There's a reason Nathan the prophet came with a story to David. How else could he make the king understand he had murdered someone and stolen another man's wife? Also, there's a reason Revelation is told in pictures. These are huge concepts to get across.
All this said, I admit there can be bad fantasy fiction books, just as there can be bad books of any genre. But when determining whether it is immoral, we should look at the message of the story first - and its incidentals should come second.
So let's go easier on fantasy fiction authors. Let's stop accusing the picture without looking at the message it communicates. Doing anything else, I'm afraid, completely misses the point.