Before we get to business, let me apologize for not posting yesterday. There were Internet boo-boos on my end. This morning I was finally able to access the Internet again.
My topic today is something that’s been floating in the back of my mind for quite some time. You may have noticed the “r” word in the title, and I want to warn you two things: I am going to speak my mind, and I am not interested in bigotry.
Here’s the thing. I’m a Roman Catholic, studying literature at a Roman Catholic college. I’m writing a fantasy trilogy with themes that draw from my experience as a Roman Catholic (and a human), and I am inspired by a man who was a much more devout Roman Catholic than I probably ever will be (yes, it’s J.R.R. Tolkien). It took a while, but I have finally decided to embrace the impact of my Catholicism on my storytelling.
Here’s another thing. There are millions of people out there who do not agree with my religion. You, the reader, might be one of them. Do you think I have weakened my storytelling by using my religious worldview to shape it?
I would argue that it is my Catholicism precisely that helped shape the more interesting parts in The Kingdom Trilogy. Writing this trilogy, in fact, has reinforced my belief that religion is worth a shot. Is that vesting too much real-world significance in fictional plot twists? Perhaps. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
One of the most important things that I am exploring with The Kingdom Trilogy is the futility of humanity. I credit much of that to another Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor. When I encountered her stories, which constantly take human designs and smash them against a wall, I saw a powerful witness to real life. Does anything on this earth truly go according to plan? With that in mind, the scope of The Kingdom Trilogy began to change drastically.
For those of you who have read The Quest, you can see signs of this already, although the idea was not yet fully explored then.
Arman thought he had time to think, time to sort through his soul and find the courage to announce his love for Lelana. Then orcs attacked his home, and Menemaeus revealed himself and sent Arman on a wholly different journey. Even then, there was a plan. Arman would warn the countries of Upper Nola about the Nameless One and then come home.
Even that plan was subverted violently. Assassins killed off most of the bodyguard, and threw Corrandar, one of the most well-fortified cities in Upper Nola, into chaos. Arman was forced to flee into the wild for his life. The only reason he is alive at the end of The Quest is because Govorro inexplicably let him live.
The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy) will be much more explicit about these themes. There is only so much I can explain; I don’t want to spoil the important stuff. However, I will say that the countries of Upper Nola are gathered into an alliance against the Nameless One at last. Arman thinks that this marks the end of the politics that he caught brief glimpses of during The Quest. He is terribly, terribly wrong.
The countries that he has helped unite have a history of tension with each other. Some of them fought wars recently enough for their grandparents to have fought it. Working together proves to be difficult. Arman reacts with anger. He thinks that if they all listened to him, things would instantly be simplified. But by the end of the novel, his own judgment proves faulty, and it will cost him a price that will cut him to the core.
Because of his futile judgement, he agrees to a secret deal at the beginning of The Stand which will also reap unintended consequences that will swallow him up. Because of his futile judgement, he underestimates his enemies, both the Nameless One and his political enemies in the Alliance. Because of his futile judgment, he alienates his friends and leaves himself much more alone than he has ever been in the trilogy.
(END OF SPOILER SECTION)
It is in writing about this futility that I am beginning to understand why I have stuck with the Catholic Church as long as I have. This summer, I learned that I cannot depend on myself to do the right thing anymore than Arman can. I also cannot depend on other people, not entirely, because they have problems of their own; Arman hasn’t learned this yet, but he will learn it unforgettably in The Crown.
The only sure guide is something that is not burdened by frailty. Not all of you may agree such a something exists. But who would dispute that no human being is perfect? Are you asking me to depend on the philosophy of a flawed human being? If that’s the best we have, I’ll take it.
But I don’t think that’s the best we have. I think that on some level, what was said in the Bible is true. Thousands of people shed their blood believing it was true. Thousands of people shed other people’s blood believing it was true, but those aren’t the Christians I’m talking about. I’m talking about the real Christians. I’m talking about privileged men like St. Paul who dropped everything to embrace the Gospel, and women like Imaculee Ilibagiza who continued to trust in Catholicism, even after her family was butchered in Rwanda.
Two mellenia of people have witnessed through intellect and sacrifice that there is more truth to the world than the judgments of flawed men like Plato and Bertrand Russell. This truth is that there is a being who is infinitely powerful, infinitely perfect, and infinitely loving. I am willing to take a chance that this being exists.
I believe that religion is plausible. I take my stand in a particular religion, Catholicism, and I’m not leaving it until I find out everything it offers. Until such a time comes, Catholicism will have a mark on my fiction and I’m proud to say it. After all, this is the same stuff that inspired Dante. I can’t be completely on the wrong track.