Origin of a Species: What’s a Christian?

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid witchraft was a dirty word. And everything was witchcraft. I couldn’t touch anything that had a hint of Dungeons & Dragons to it. No Magic: The Gathering cards. No Multi-User Dimension games (oh, Gemstone III, I barely knew ye). No Altered Beast. No Aardwolf. No Might & Magic. None of it. Nada.

Remember, I was trying to get my hands on some fantasy genre books, and you can’t have a fantasy book without a wizard dropping by. And wizards are boy witches. Or maybe that’s warlocks? No wait, I think warlocks are evil boy witches.klarion

So there I was, eager to get my mitts on some other wordly adventure, and I was locked out. Spaceships and mutantkind were fair game though, thank the Creator. Without those Animorphs and Power Rangers, I don’t know who I’d be.

No Wolverine? No Spidey? I mean Nightcrawler could pass muster, but A) he wasn’t a product of magic and B) he was a priest in training. And I think Gargoyles were allowed because the plotlines were so good and occasionally rooted in Shakespearean lore and modern day tech. Also the voice work was like an alibi for half the Star Trek: TNG cast.

Now that I think about it, if I could sell my dad on a TV show despite its magicky content, I was allowed to watch it. I’m not sure how it works for other beliefs, but I grew up Christian, and when you’re a Christian you don’t need magic because there are miracles. It’s no big secret, but I wrote about Sabien for me. Well me at 12 years old. Okay and me right now too because I frequently toot my own horn when I’m writing.

But the challenge became finding a story that allowed for dragons and gryphons and the like but was Christian-safe.

I know, I know: Narnia. But there’s only like six of those and they aren’t that engaging for a twelve year old. No I take that back, they weren’t that engaging to me at twelve years old. Keep in mind I was neck deep in explosions, space ships, time travel, and alien invasions thanks to the Animorphs. Walking through a wardrobe to meet a talking lion was cool, but the stories weren’t any more detailed than what I heard in Sunday school. And there were a gazillion Animorphs titles!

Lord of the Rings is Christian-friendly, but I hated the Hobbit, and I could NOT get into the Fellowship of the Ring. I read both of them, but they were so droll. Where were the ‘splosions!? How come that guy who can turn into a bear isn’t with them all the time? Why do they keep singing?!

I was up the river Jordan without a paddle.

I got so tired of the whole thing that I eventually stopped reading altogether. I didn’t pick up a book for fun again until the fourth Harry Potter book came out. Well, the first movie was coming out and all the controversy about the book series was on the rise. I wanted to see what the hubbub was all about, so the night before I went to go see Sorcerer’s Stone with some friends, I read it.

I didn’t love it, but I understood why some people did. I didn’t pick up books 2-5 until I happened to see Chamber of Secrets on HBO and ads were everywhere for Order of the Phoenix at Barnes and Noble. I officially didn’t dig HP and Ronny the Bear until Sirius Black and Lupin showed up. Keep in mind now I have a thing for shape-changers.

Now this is all happening parallel to my creation of Sabien’s Quest. I was writing about Zatella dashing through the rain and Sabien meeting Ska while the LOTR movies were being released and HP was entering his visual age. I didn’t go see the LOTR movies for a while because I wanted that first draft to be as original as it could be. Stephanie Meyer has the same thing to say about Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to her credit the Twilight vampires are definitely their own breed.

Now for the record, wicca is a belief, too.

I never got to do Halloween as a kid, and it looked like a blast. Don’t worry, my friends always shared their candy with me the following day(s). Also my birthday is the day after so I drowned my sorrows in cake and presents. Witchcraft, Wizardy, Warlockery, Sorcery and whatever else they teach at Hogwarts is ancient. And it looks like fun.

You know what doesn’t look fun? Wandering the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, or being stuck on a boat with a bunch of smelly animals for 40 days and 40 nights. Surviving an inferno and a lion’s den and crucifixion is awesome, but to survive those situations you have to first be in those situations.

Everybody wants to go to mutant school and wizard school. Who wants to go to Bible school?

And therein lies the rub. If I wanted to pass a fantasy story to my younger self, it had to be Christian-friendly, it had to be positive about his friends, and there had to be werewolves in it. Oh and karate. And oh man a giant dog, but it would have to secretly be his guardian angel. And he has to slay demons like Buffy does.

You get the idea.

I had a thousand story ideas floating around in my head up until I was 15. One day I was standing in line in the cafeteria and the girl in front of me was wearing a shirt that read:

I’m the Christian the Devil warned you about.

The ideas floating in my mind, characters and names and situations, were little iron filaments in my brain. Reading that statement was like someone giving this rod in my brain a magnetic charge. Every single loose idea I’d had floating around for 15 years slammed into this newly active core. I knew it was my “Hasta La Vista, baby” “Yippe-kai-yay” “Who’s the Master?” line. My hero was going to say that, and then fell his demonic foe.

Buddy+Christ-11

Now keep in mind, I named two characters after friends of mine and one celebrity crush. Christianity was my friend. Jesus was my homeboy. But those were my feelings.

Have you heard about the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation cycle? It’s awesome. (I don’t know how anyone who’s ever had to start at a new school could feel differently about it)

I’ve always had more non-Christian friends than Christian friends, more non-black friends than black friends, more gal-friends than guy-friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I would no sooner dishonor those friendships by writing a my-beliefs-are-better story, than I would hack off an arm.

Spoiler alert: that’s the point of the story.

After I read I’m the Christian the Devil warned you about my first thought was How do I get someone to say that? Well first I had to define what The Christian was. Christianity as we think of it wouldn’t exist in a fantasy world no more than someone of African descent could exist in a world with no Africa. So when I redefined Christian for this setting I thought it would be my word for Chosen One(s).

I wanted my Chosen One to be a kung fu monk, and a monk needs to study a religion. Now, the first rule of Write Club is to write what you know. Well I know a few Judeo-Christian stories about bushes on fire and seas parting and whatnot, so I’ll begin there and then move sideways. Technically, and by technically I mean actually, Sabien is a Creationist (another word I borrowed). He believes his world was created by a Creator. That’s a common belief in any world.

Tolkien created an entire language for the elves. And don’t even get me started with Roddenberry. I was WAY too busy (re: lazy) for that. I had Trig to get to and Econ to bomb and The Great Gatsby to power through. So I hijacked some Judo/Christie terms and got my story going.

I’ve been told my story has IRL Christian themes, but I don’t know when being nice to people became an exclusively Christian theme. Kaynai worship the moon. The Woodfein worship the ground beneath their feet. They’re still super nice to each other. Just ask Ei Lata’n.

And by the way, Sabien isn’t the only Christian in the novel.

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me: author@sabiensquest.com