Thursday, September 6, 2007

Catholic Fiction

I was taking pictures of the library to email to my oldest son when I noticed this interesting juxtaposition, Our Lady of Vladimir right next to the novels of Tim Powers. Some people might think think they make strange shelf-fellows. After all, Wikipedia's article on Tim Powers summarizes Declare (my favorite of his novels) thusly: "...a Cold War espionage thriller which evokes Lovecraftian horror and the Epic of Gilgamesh, involving Kim Philby, djinn and the Ark on Mount Ararat." That probably doesn't fit most people's notion of Catholic fiction, but in this case it certainly fits mine.

Is there such a thing as Catholic fiction, and if so, what is it? This was a frequent topic around our family dinner table, and I think the consensus we finally reached was that Catholic fiction is fiction which takes place in a universe in which Catholicism is objectively true. It isn't necessarily literature that is "nice" or "safe." It may have bad people doing bad things and using bad language. It need not overtly proclaim the author's religious beliefs, though they will be implicit in the work. And only the poorest specimens of Catholic fiction will be thinly fictionalized apologetics. So for my money, Declare qualifies. It's a book in which Catholicism is the underlying physics of the world, so baptism has a real effect on a person's identity and prayer can be surprisingly efficacious.

(By the way, I also think that not every book by a Catholic author is neccessarily a Catholic novel. Tim Powers also wrote Drawing of the Dark which takes place in a universe in which reincarnation is true.)

Catholic fiction is a topic I hope to explore frequently in this blog. In fact, I had originally planned to call my blog "Catholic Fiction," but discovered that there is already a very good blog by that name here. I invite my readers (all two or three of them!) to list in the comments box those books which they think might qualify as Catholic fiction and to explain why.

By the way, interviewed Tim Powers about fantasy, science fiction, and the relationship between literature and faith, here. If you are interested in reading one of his short stories which is overtly Catholic, check out "Through and Through" which was reprinted with permission at Another good interview can be found here at Strange Horizons.

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