Simon Pegg, a famous science fiction and genre actor/writer/etc. and prominent nerd, recently caught some flack for some comments he made to the Radio Times regarding science fiction, specifically as a self-infantilization of the adult population, which you can google yourself if you’d like, or find better summarized and clarified here (NSFW language, fyi), on his personal blog. When I heard about the initial comments (before reading his clarification, which then made sense), I was in the midst of deep thoughts regarding a friend’s aversion to science fiction, and as someone who in addition to being a Simon Pegg fan has to fight the “No, science fiction is important” battle on a frequent basis, I must say I was grieved. That’s not to say that all science fiction is amazing, but coming directly on the heels of seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, I was especially disappointed, since the film stands as a perfect example of the reason science fiction exists. Thematically and cinematically beautiful, when the credits started to roll, I found myself spiritually satisfied. Now I don’t mean that to say that Mad Max fills the place of God, but there is a sense that God is in things that are done with excellence, and well, even if none of the people involved in that film are Christians, deep does call to deep, and when people tell stories that point to and search and talk about the true things in life, there is satisfaction in that.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
There have been times in my life where I think I’ve felt guilty for liking the things that I like. Science fiction, action movies, videos games, etc. If I was a better Christian, I’ll think, I wouldn’t like these so much. I’d be more sensitive to the violence, wouldn’t like dark heroes (even though, technically speaking, all Christians are dark heroes). But I do read dark Batman comics, and I do like big chase scenes and car flips.
And here’s something God’s just taught me.
Some people are meant for action, and seeing the fantastic is not a bad thing.
See, the problem is that the people that I (and probably others) sometimes see as the “best Christians” are often the ones with the strictest standards. They don’t watch violent movies, they don’t read comics, and they typically don’t like genre fiction, or at least not most of it. I compare myself to these people and the standards that they/God have set for themselves, and then feel bad when I don’t sync up. But this is not how we are meant to live, and on pretty much all levels, it’s really unhealthy. Romans 14 discusses just such a problem in fact, and in light of that passage I would almost think that I’m lucky to have the freedom to be a carnivore, as it were.
The other day I was reading Rakkety Tam, a Redwall novel by Brian Jacques. The creatures of Redwall Abbey were talking about the hares of the Long Patrol, an army from the mountain fortress of Salamandastron, and how while they themselves were peaceful creatures, the hares were creatures of war. They couldn’t fathom taking up arms themselves, but were so thankful for the Long Patrol, who are born fighters with war in their blood.
I’ve read about the eye needing the foot many a time (1 Corinthians 12), but I think this was the first time that I really felt it on a heart level, partly because it’s one of the first times I think I’ve ever seen an eye being verbally thankful for the presence of a foot (not that people aren’t thankful for me or don’t express it or that I know what qualifies a foot from an eye, but just the way it was phrased from a story vs. teaching perspective caught my attention).
And watching Mad Max, wishing that others could see it in the way that I see it, the beauty amidst the carnage, I realized liking science fiction and fantasy to the depth that I do is not a bad thing, but a gift. Seeing beauty where others see only action, Spirit instead of frivolity, these are wonderful qualities, a gift for seeing light and redemption where others see only darkness. And while that’s not to say all science fiction/fantasy/superhero/genre fiction is done well, I would also say that it might be the only place where some people see God at all, and especially on such a vast scope. After all, where else do we see epic battles of good vs. evil, communities forced to stand lest the entire world fall? This is in fact the Christian reality, the spiritual battle we wage every day, and as another friend of mine recently said on the topic, genre fiction is one of the few places our culture even admits to the potential for this other world to exist, the presence of a spiritual reality.
While I’ve rarely felt bad socially for being a nerd, I have felt bad spiritually. Thank God that He has shown me the beauty of being a trench fighter, a foot, a Long Patrol hare. I do see the world in shades of wonder, see potential for the fantastic across the mundane. Such is the fount from which I draw inspiration, the world from which my books come. And while I don’t fault others for not being the same (what hypocrisy that would be), am not even bothered that not everyone (not anyone perhaps) who reads this will give science fiction a chance (and perhaps shouldn’t, if that’s where they need to be), I won’t be ashamed of what God’s put in me, the gifts that I’ve been blessed with.
I am his beautiful daughter, a warrior princess, and yes, I am a nerd.