Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CSFFBT: "Merlin's Nightmare" by Robert Treskillard (III)

What day is it? Huh, huh, huh? What? What is it?

That's right, HUMP DAY!  And day three of another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book tour.  This is the wrap up for  Robert Treskillard's novel Merlin's Nightmare.

The first day I talked about technical aspects and yesterday I discussed the Fantasy elements. Today, as (hopefully) a sort of capstone, I'll talk about how the work affected me as a Christian piece.

And now, boys and girls, we jump! Hold hands!

A guideline (not my guideline, I stole it from someone else) for determining the extent of overt display of Christian thought in a work:

If servants of the Enemy were burning those books which promoted a Christian world view, would they put this on the bonfire or not?

On that metric, Merlin's Nightmare is clearly a Christian book.  Our hero and all his allies are sworn to Christ, they attempt to live in service to God, and there are copious examples of prayer.  (This is part of the nice part of playing in older history, when it was taken as a matter of fact that there were demons and Powers at work in the world.  Nearly everyone believed in *something*, because not doing so was, well, that was crazy talk.

Which might lead us to a question of what sort of Christianity?  One might expect that the author would simply use Christianity as practiced by the people of the British Isles at the time of King Arthur.

(Pardon me while I go laugh in the corner.  Sorry.  The "facts" that we know about King Arthur start with a kid pulling a magic sword out of a stone.  This was pre-pre-PRE internets.  We have acres of stuff we don't know about that time.)

So, acknowledging that there are huge holes in the historical record, I think that the author deserves props for using the older forms of Norse/Brit verse - the two part line, the over the top embellishments.  Much of the poetry is quite good.  (Not counting that which is obviously an adaption of Scripture.)  And for writing about a tricky time in the expansion of the Church.

Which touches on a place where the world building breaks down a bit for me.  This isn't just pre-Internet Church, this is pre-Luthur Church as well.  One of the oldest tendencies of the Church as it expanded was to fold in local legends and small miracles within the canopy of the Saints.  I caught mention of just one Saint (Joseph, in reference to the tinsmiths) - but I admit that I might have missed some mentions.

The world of Merlin and Arthur, I think, should have been lousy with Saints.  Which, I admit, might be my Catholic pov coming into play.  I don't now the religious background on the author, and I don't have to - but in this case I think that background fed how the story was presented.

As for the specific Christian elements that I noted:

- Our heroes certainly have a ways to go before being able to pray for their enemies and wish good things for them.

- I appreciated that The Bad Guys were bad not because they were not Christian, but because they chose to do evil things.  The chief danger in making the antagonists not Christian is the chance that it will inform the reader: I think of myself as the Christian, ergo I must be the Good Guy in this story.

 - The power of prayer was shown to be compatible with my experience - less about recipe miracle requests, more about changing the person who prays.

- There is a part of the story where Merlin outright lies, in the face of enemy weapons, but it is treated as though other patients already know.

It seems to me that of the three "parts" to Christian SFF (technical writing, SF (or F) elements, and Christian treatment) that the books picked for the blog tour are generally most solid in terms of Christian element.

I'm not sure how I think about that, entirely, but I think it's a good thing. 


And now we close.

This has been my first CSFFBT in quite a long time.  It was fun.  Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Rebecca Miller for ramrodding it, and to the author Robert Treskillard for being a good sport.  I didn't get to commenting on anyone else's posts (my bad) but will work on that this week.

Might add more later, but am failing asleep now...

Other CSFF Participants’ links for the month of August: 

 Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler


Robert Treskillard said...

Great thoughts, Elizabeth!

On the question of saints, the book takes place a little too early in the history of the British church for Christians to be declared saints ... but that time is coming because the books have two saints walking its pages ... Dybris becomes St. Dybricius, and Garth (Garthwys) becomes St. Kentigern. If you research their hagiographies, you will discover some interesting details related to King Arthur.

On Merlin lying ... I think you mean before Vortigern. Have you read book two yet? If so, then you would know that Merlin was in fact telling the truth (at least half of it), because Arthur did die in that book, but God raised him from the dead.

Thanks again ... it's been a fun tour!

Kerani said...

No sweat at all Robert - thanks for letting us read your story!

v. cool that saints are coming! I myself meant that there were no references to *other* saints - it's early for Brit saints, but not for continental ones, I think.

I am going to stick with 'lying' to describe what Merlin did before Vortigern. He spoke with intent to deceive, rather than remaining silent. I get that there were justifications, but I am still uneasy.

Thanks again for coming to the tour!

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