Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Theology and Vampires

Later this month—May 17-19, to be precise—my collection of short stories, Dark Ocean, will be available as a free download through Amazon. A special bonus at the back of the book offers a few chapters from a previous novel, This Side of Death.

This Side of Death is a horror story. It involves vampires. I should probably explain why I like to write theological-type things and also creepy, spooky stories. Both my mother and my wife have their own explanations for my behavior, but I don’t buy into the whole demonic possession thing.

I started writing This Side of Death a few years ago because my grandchildren were reading the Twilight series and trying to convince me that vampires were not evil, but were actually a misunderstood and marginalized race of beings. I set out to show my descendants the truth about the undead.

But the story sort of got away from me and I discovered that it was fertile ground for exploring questions of faith. In This Side of Death, a family has suffered the loss of their husband and father, a good man who died a horrible and violent death. The son, Jay, drifts from anger to disillusionment to a deep sense of responsibility. His sister, Vickie, mostly stays in the anger mode.

They are drawn into a story of violence and horror, seeking to answer the question, What is hell? For them, hell has come to visit them on earth. Vickie declares that God himself should be banished there after what he allowed to happen to their father. A local priest, who keeps appearing at the margins of the family’s life, speaks pastorally to them and offers a way of thinking about life and God that they have not yet considered.

This story will end up being a trilogy. The second book, Morana, should be out this year (if my copyeditor will quit having a life of her own and do what I demand!) and the third is in process. Anglican priests keep popping up in the story, sometimes as key characters. They provide the theological and ethical voices of the stories. In This Side of Death, they offer a perspective on the nature of evil; in Morana they actively confront social injustice that appears in the form of human trafficking, a horror that is orchestrated by—you guessed it—another vampire.

Fiction—especially creepy fiction—is a great way, I believe, to hash out theological ideas. Characters get to wrestle with their doubts and fears in ways that are not always permitted in Christian non-fiction (nevermind that most Christian publishers won’t publish the kind of fictional trash that I write).

The one who used fiction as a theological vehicle better than anyone in the world was Jesus. His parables tell stories that offer characters that walk out the implications of his teachings. The characters don’t always fare well, and sometimes suffer great pain. But the stories make the point, don’t they?

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