Friday, January 02, 2015

An interview with John C. Wright

A Castalia House blogger interviews the leading Castalia House author at Castalia House:
Q: Your conversion story from atheism to Christianity is remarkable.  Some critics have been surprised to discover which of your books were written as a Christian, and which were written as an atheist.  You have said that in each case you simply followed the internal logic of the story to its conclusion.  How much has your faith influenced your fiction, if at all?

A: This is a very difficult question, because my firm resolution when first I converted was to simply tell stories to entertain.

I am often annoyed by stories that preach, even when they preach a sermon with which I wholly agree, such as Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I was an atheist when I read it, a full-throat anti-Christian zealous in my love of godlessness, and even I could not stand the obtrusive excrescence of the preaching in that miserable book.

Now that I am in the other camp of the endless war between light and darkness, I confess I am still nonplussed and unamused by preaching disguised as entertainment, whether it supports my side or not. The idea of ‘Christian entertainment’ is a sound one, as long as it is entertaining as well as being Christian. There is an odor of self satisfied smugness and piety which is as repellant as the musk of a skunk clinging to much Christian entries into the literary world, which one never finds in older works, such as Milton or Dante, and never in the works of masters even in so humble as genre as science fiction. I challenge anyone to find anything nakedly and blandly pious or preachy in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, R.A. Lafferty, Gene Wolfe or Tim Powers, but there is clearly a spiritual dimension to all their works.

So I vowed a great vow never to let my personal feelings creep into my books, but merely to tell a tale for the sake of the tale, keeping faith with my readers. I am not their teacher, nor their preacher, nor their father confessor, and I have no duty to instruct them, and no qualifications to do so, no more than the jester in a King’s court has the authority to criticize the laws and policies of the King. My customers are my kings, and my job is to do pratfalls and take pies to the face to amuse them.

In the space of a single hour my great vow was overthrown when a reader, practically in tears, so deeply and thoughtfully praised the vision of spiritual reality presented in one of my short stories, the wholesomeness of the moral atmosphere portrayed there, that the reader likened it to a man trapped on some alien world of chlorine gas and sulfurous clouds being allowed to step on the fair, green fields of Earth for a single breath of wholesome, springtime air.

The reader was talking about my Christian faith, and the strength and firmness and clarity it lent to my writing. If I can wax lyrical about Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage, as I did in THE GOLDEN AGE, then surely I can wax lyrical about truth, virtue, and beauty.

The king is sad, and the jester needs to bring him comfort, for I know tales of a country where these sad things do not reign, but a king kindlier and mightier than any mortal king. As a jester, I owe it to my kings here on Earth and the King of Kings in heaven not to hide or waste my talents.
You'll definitely want to read the whole thing. And afterwards, if you happen to find yourself still failing to be in possession of excellent books by the interviewee such as THE GOLDEN AGE, AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND, ONE BRIGHT STAR TO GUIDE THEM, and THE BOOK OF FEASTS & SEASONS, I find it impossible to imagine that you will not want to swiftly rectify the situation.

It's an excellent interview with a fascinating author. Scooter did an excellent job of formulating much deeper questions than one generally sees in the SF genre, in addition to demonstrating that he was actually very familiar with the author's material.

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Anonymous Eowyn January 02, 2015 9:18 AM  

Almost finished with The Book of Feasts and Seasons. It's been such a joy to read; I'd almost forgotten what sci-fi/fantasy feels like without endless anti-God preaching.

Anonymous Giuseppe January 02, 2015 10:10 AM  

There is an odor of self satisfied smugness and piety which is as repellant as the musk of a skunk clinging to much Christian entries into the literary world

And this is why John C. Wright is an outstanding thinker. I would really love getting Vox, Mr. Wright, Nate and maybe a few others, all at the same table, supply them with wine and margaritas (tea for Mr. Wright) and then ask them questions about Christianity. And probably life in general. And that I think of it... Who wants to help me start a kickstart campaign to fund such a meeting? Come on ilk! Let's see if we can actually herd cats! I'm in Europe and so is Vox so I figure a ticket for Mr. Wright plus hotel would be about the size of it.

Anonymous Jeromus January 02, 2015 10:32 AM  

I definitely second picking up Golden Age or Awake in the Night Land. They are great reads!

Blogger Mekadave January 02, 2015 10:59 AM  

Great interview! Awake in the Night Land and City Beyond Time are two of the best things I've ever read. Looking forward to getting the rest!

Anonymous x January 02, 2015 11:06 AM  

DINOSAUR BEACH by Keith Laumer....

...worth getting?

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 January 02, 2015 11:07 AM  

You know its funny: most of the scifi stuff I read while growing up was absolute preachy garbage. From stories about how love is a lie to stories about how cloning meant immortality, it was just absolutely ridiculous. I got the sense that most scifi writers were miserable people trying to create worlds where they would fit in.

I think that is why when VD's fiasco with SFWA came to light, I was not at all surprised. If anything, those losers were just second-generation posers of the original morlocks.

I am glad to see that there are people who are trying to just tell a good story.

Blogger Hammer6 Actual January 02, 2015 12:32 PM  

Having had a season in life where I worked more than read, it seems I gladly missed a generation of dreck. Mr Wright has concisely identified the divide between churchian twaddle and great authors who were also followers of Christ.

Their work was infused with Christ rather than over-written in simplistic, garish crayon.

Blogger tweell January 02, 2015 12:51 PM  

Giuseppe, for your kickstarter, how about the first reward being access to the recording of this meeting, a much higher support level to be present (but not talking) and the highest support level to be able to ask ONE question.
This would have to provide these people with adequate compensation for their time and travel. If your kickstarter gets overfunded, would you start asking additional luminaries?

Anonymous Giuseppe January 02, 2015 3:16 PM  

I was assuming a recording would be part of it for anyone who contributed. And if it got overfunded, yeah, i'd have to think whi. Maybe St. Bleau, Nate, Josh,... Dunno...suggestions?

Blogger LP 999/Eliza January 02, 2015 11:58 PM  

Wow, someone grand did come out of Ohio. I stand corrected! Great interview from our Right Wright, prayers to son number #2.

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