Qualms over writing fantasy

ever hear of a whackjob named aleister crowley? he was involved in many traditions of magic - occultism, ceremonial magic, satanism, sex magic, and some say human sacrifice (but some say that was just sensationalism)

writing fantasy is my passion, but i’m faced with the worry that readers will read my stuff and go researching “real-world” magic a la crowley and kill someone; or have sex irresponsibly and abort the child; or read or buy his books and thus give his **** attention (or whoever succeeded him money)…it feels like this worry is invalid, but i don’t KNOW that is. thoughts?

i expect to hear “it’s not your fault, it’s not your sin, etc” but if those things happen it’s bad nonetheless

If you do not uphold evil in your writing you cannot control every single person’s response to your work.

In fact such a view might reflect a tendency toward scrupulous thought (I tend toward that problem myself).

I may consider (fill-in-the-blank-book/movie/show) a work of great Christian morality, or at the very least, a reflection of natural law, but I can’t stop people from reading into the work what is not there, or believing those works support SSA, true evil, ‘real’ magic as opposed to make-believe magic, and so on.

Don’t worry. Does that mean people should not write murder-mysteries because someone might use the ideas in the book to try to really murder people? There are lots of examples of this.

I wouldn’t worry at all. It’s fiction, and fiction is great.

There’s the question of what you mean by Fantasy. Faeries, unicorns, dragons? Magical kingdoms? Can you be a bit more specific? That way, it will be easier to advise you. Can you compare your work to anyone currently out there?

God bless,

Could you just write Christian fantasy, like C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, etc. ? I think it’s understood from the context of such stories that their “magic” is of an entirely fictional kind that’s often used as a substitute for technology.

What that lunatic Crowley presents as “magic” is the mental concoctions of an amoral, anti-religious madman. Its a far cry from the magic associated with the Fantasy genre, I assure you. In fact, Crowley’s occultism has more parallels with the so-called “dark” or “forbidden” arts in fantasy fiction than their concept of magic as a whole.

This is a great topic and one, as a struggling author, have wondered about, myself.

I think one place to draw some inspiration from is the example of Dean Koontz, who is a practicing Catholic and does nothing to glorify evil of any sort in his works and instead explores/promotes themes of goodness and the ability of good to prevail over evil. This is important to me, as I tend to feel most comfortable writing in the horror/thriller genre and don’t want to engage in writing which creates a sense of despair. An opposite example is the writing of Steven King, for example, which is often pervaded with a sense of darkness and lost hope, in spite of the window dressing of “good” – the ending of The Stand, even though it is pitched as a victory of good over evil, really changes nothing and evil still endures.

Brother Odd, for example, was one of the best treatments of Catholicism in popular literature I’ve run across. Personally, when I sit down to write, I usually pray that what I write will be to the service of God and not to anything else, and I’ve been struck with surprise at how fast and easily the words come when I do that.

As far as the issue of magic and fantasy as a whole goes, I think it depends very much on the person who is experiencing it. Vin Diesel, talking about his teenage experiences with Dungeons and Dragons mentioned that it was somewhat of a reflective mirror, a tool of self-exploration. If anything, I think this is very accurate – when I played D&D in the past or computer RPGs these days, I have always picked a paladin as a character of choice. I have known people who have picked “chaotic evil” types to play, but this also seems to reflect a frustrated desire for power or grandiosity that they will never experience in their personal lives. (instead of being humble enough to understand that God loves us all, but we’re not God) Therefore, the game itself became a way to project one’s personal views and attitudes, as well as to act out what can’t necessarily be done in real life, in essence a very neutral endeavor which becomes what you make of it.

Translating this into fantasy literature, I think it’s a two part process of the creation of the fiction and the interpretation, construction of the fiction in the mind. People, within reason, will get what they want out of the work if it’s there to have. So, a work which emphasizes the victory of good over evil, and the wielding of power by entities which are clearly not human, such as Lord of the Rings, is probably not going to appeal much to a person who is of an occult/evil mindset and desires to find things which will validate their views. On the other hand, a work which lacks any kind of moral clarity will probably give people who’re morally ambiguous some role models or behaviors which they can identify with. The danger comes from works which are well-written, but contain very sympathetic portrayals of characters that are anti-heroes or morally problematic in their actions, such as Tyrion Lannister in the Song of Fire and Ice series. If it happens that these characters use magic, then people may naturally feel the urge to look for other ways to form connections to the growing archetype in their mind.

I think you can satisfy your conscience, serve God and still keep writing fantasy simply by making sure your villains are not portrayed as likable, sympathetic in spite of their evil, victorious, etc. If your characters do use magic, I think the treatment of it by having obstacles in use, a price that goes with it, things which do not make it seem necessarily wondrous, are good notions to have.


I think an author’s approach to writing is the key. Koontz does say he never glamourizes evil.

I read a recent article in Writer’s Digest by an editor who said an immediate turn-off in a story was anything written from the murderer’s point of view, since he said he had no desire to be in such a dark place. Not long ago, I was stuck someplace with nothing to read and someone had a “Dexter” novel. (of course, it started off featuring a priest as a serial killer…) Within ten pages, I put the book down again and chose boredom instead, agreeing wholeheartedly with that editor…

If Fantasy was good enough for devout Christians like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, George MacDonald, Madeleine L’Engle and Dean Koontz, it should be good enough for you to write. Like others said—as long as it does not glorify evil and dark practices, it is Ok.:wink:

I agree with you about the Dexter books. And the series. Good example of the Perverse Moral Relativism pervading our society today.
Another example is Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris’s novels (and movie versions).:blush:

Agreed. I do find it worthy of comment that the general trend in the media has been to glamorize the villain and turn the hero into a cardboard cutout (if he even warrants much of a mention). One good book on writing I read recently was “The Writer’s Journey,” which applied Jung’s hero thesis to popular culture and media. While, obviously, Jung is problematic for Catholics, the general recognition of heroic themes, as well as good examples in the media, are a refreshing contrast to the trend to exalt “cool” villains.

That sounds familiar… I probably have it on my shelf.

Being an artist or writer is a dangerous occupation because you are held to account for every single bad influence you put into the work.

This is of course, just like speaking, but writing creates something more permanent before a widespread audience that persists for who knows how long?

The more sinful you are of course, the more blind you will be towards exactly how you are badly influencing people.

I’m reminded of a story of a soul in purgatory, a painter who in his life had painted a single bad painting that enticed people to impurity, under the pretense that it was ‘art’ apparently glorifying ‘the human body’ or some such thing.

He had repented doing it, so he was not condemned to Hell for it, but he was condemned to purgatory for as long as the painting existed… . Which could have been for a very, very, very long time.

He only escaped, because he was permitted to communicate to a person and tell of his plight, and that person convinced the painting’s owner to dispose of it.

Of course this was just one single painting, not uncountable books.

The saints give us an example in how dangerous the occupation is by how hesitant they are to write at all except under obedience, in other words, by force and Godly obligation.

Sounds somewhat suspect and perhaps tending a bit toward the scrupulous.

Where did this story originate? Is there a link you could provide?

I maintain that if your intentions are honorable you can not be held responsible for how some nut case will react to your story or art.

The classic painters (Da Vinci, Michaelangelo) painted nudes.

You cannot write about good versus evil without depicting evil.

‘But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.’

Matthew 12:36

I believe the Holy Scriptures make it rather clear. If you read enough accounts of particular judgements, these too do so.

Some of the ‘classic’ artists and their nudes were covered up or destroyed by some popes, uncovered by others… in other words… the holier popes took more care – but none of them canonized these folks… and the Council of Trent complained about and condemned the problems in religious art that enticed people and commanded reform in this area… in other words… even religious art is not safe. You have to look at principles… The bottom line principle is: if you create ‘art’ that will harm the average person, young or old, in some moral fashion… entice some impure passion, misguide to some sin or other – you are responsible for that. Period.

You can find the story I quoted in Fr. F.X. Schouppe’s book ‘Purgatory’, which is available from Tan Books, and also in etext form. In it all the people who had been harmed by the painting accused the soul and gave evidence against it, in its judgement.

This is how souls are judged, by all that they do.

"Alas ! " replied he, " it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls.

“In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalise any one.”

Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed “I beg of you,” he added, “go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him!”

I do not believe that what you quoted is at all the official position of the CCC and the Magisterium on writing fiction.

By your standard you would condemn everything from LOTR to the Screwtape Letters to the Father Brown Mysteries to most of the non-encyclical writings of the Popes…

You can give a MAGISTERIAL, CCC link to your original statement, or is it just an anecdote?

Again, this does not appear to be the teaching of the Magisterium.

We are not required to believe in private revelation. The Magisterium requires no such thing. The Church itself teaches no such thing as ‘you will remain in Purgatory as long as your (offensive to whoever’s telling the story) work remains on Earth.’

Certain stories or pictures may upset you. But you can’t support that stance with official Church teachings, and not private revelation OR private interpretation.

I’m not sure exactly what you are conflicted about.

I certainly don’t think that it’s as widespread a condemnation as you have put forth.

We are to render an account for our deeds, exactly, and all the harm they do. That is the constant teaching of the Church.

Every action of ours has moral weight. It is judged entirely.

**The 9 Ways We Participate in Others’ Sins
By counsel
By command
By consent
By provocation
By praise or flattery
By concealment
By partaking
By silence
By defense of the ill done

You seem to council someone whose work you do not know NOT to write for fear that some unstable person will act in sin from reading it.

You council caution against writing anything not ‘directed by God.’

You cite sources that are neither the CCC nor the Magisterium speaking. You are citing private revelation and private interpretation.

I do not believe tthat you have stated the Magisterial position or teaching on producing works of art.

Simple as that.

It’s seems to me that this is an area where personal responsibility must be strongly considered. If a company manufactures a power tool and in good faith designs in appropriate safety features, is it reasonable for them to be sued by a person who willfully bypasses the safety features & hurts themselves?

I think the same thing applies to morals in art & literature. It is one thing to depict an immoral act (such as adultry) as “cool”, sending a message to the reader that there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s quite another thing to depict an immoral act as being a bad thing. If a morally corrupt reader twists the writing & enjoys it in a perverse way, it is his responsibility, not the author’s. Even Sacred Scripture can be misinterpreted & twisted into totally unintended meanings.

We live in a culture where people are taught that nothing is their fault. We need to stop blaming others for our own actions.

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