Religion is often a defining characteristic of a culture. Fantasy fiction authors can use theology as a point of conflict between characters, as motivation for the protagonist or antagonist, or to add to the richness and depth of the world they have built. Limiting the inclusion of theology to passing references is a squandered opportunity.
Robin Hobbs is guilty of both in her epic fantasy Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies. Religion appears to be an afterthought in the former, while it serves as an integral part of one of the characters in the latter. Read more
Polytheism is common in fantasy fiction, likely due to its roots in the mythology of cultures that worshiped a pantheon of gods. Not all fantasy worlds include deities (or spirituality, for that matter), and those that do have their own unique twists. This series will look at the use of gods and religion in fantasy fiction I’ve read and written.
I recently finished Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series. One of the defining traits of the setting is its religion. Most of the inhabitants of the world worship the Five Gods (one culture considers the fifth god, the Bastard, to be the king of demons and not a true deity). The other four deities–Father, Mother, Son and Daughter–represent the four seasons: winter, summer, fall and spring, respectively. They are also associated with certain virtues and professions. Typical fare for pagan-influenced dogma.
Bujold’s Five Gods distinguish themselves from generic polytheism through the religious rituals performed by their faithful, in the organization of their followers, in the way the gods interact with the world, and the fate of souls after death. Read more
Today is the last day of the May 2008 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, featuring the Mindflights webzine. The editors’ vision for Mindflights is to provide quality science fiction and fantasy stories that respect “traditional values and Christian principles.” However, their submission guidelines reveal they aren’t interested in “works that appear to function mainly as a Sunday School lesson or modified sermon.”
Religion in fantasy fiction can be a difficult subject for any writer. It’s too easy to become preachy, whether you’re for or against. However, avoiding religion eliminates a wide range of themes and motivations that add wonderful complexity and depth to a fantasy world and the characters that inhabit it. Read more