Friday, December 21, 2007

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet's "AURALIA'S COLORS" is a delightful fantasy novel where four great Houses have forgotten their distant past and connection to one another. In particular, House Abascar has banished color from their daily lives at the behest of a jealous queen. The lives of the people have lost all joy, celebration, meaning. The Wintering of House Abascar threatens to bring down the kingdom itself.

Then a mysterious, young orphan girl begins to harness the colors of the Expanse into wonderous gifts which have a power all their own. Auralia's Colors may be the salvation of this House or its very undoing!

I thoroughly enjoyed "Auralia's Colors." Overstreet's prose is as lyrical as poetry. There are some unconventional literary things going on, but unless you are a literary pharisee, it's nothing that should detract from the story. I would highly recommend the novel, but there is a question that arises for me having read it and one I would love to have discussion over.

"Where is the Christianity in Auralia's Colors?"
I've honestly searched for the allegory, the veiled references to faith, redemption, Christ, God, even the basic good versus evil, and I've not found them. This prompts me to wondering: does Christian Fiction need to be Christian? I'd love opinions on it!
In the meantime, get Auralia's Colors for yourself, it's a wonderful story!


S. J. Deal said...

I'm currently reading Auralia's Colors and am about halfway done with it. Can't say I've seen anything overtly Christian yet.

Does Christian Fiction need to be Christian?

I wouldn't like to see a Christian book promote ungodly things, but I wouldn't say it has to be overtly Christian either, or even really fall within what we would call a "Christian" story. I mean, sometimes I find amazing spiritual insights from books that are not Christian. I call them accidents because most likely the author did not put them there with a Christian intention. I can't remember exactly what it was but there was something in Eragon that made me say "Wow, that reminds me of such and such in Christianity." I do not believe that book is a Christian book nor it's author a Christian. (I could be wrong of course, I never can find anything on what it's author believes, so it's just a guess based on what he does positively promote in his writings.) I haven't really spotted anything in Auralia's Colors that says that it is a Christian book, so despite being written by a Christian I wouldn't classify it as a Christian book. (So far, I'm not done yet.)

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James Somers said...

Just an add-on here...I've requested the opinion of Mr. Overstreet by email and after a month i've not heard word one as to why this Christian Published novel doesn't contain even the slightest innuendo of Christianity to it...another add: Borders stocks this book in the regular sci-fi / fantasy section NOT the Christian section despite the publisher. Hmm...interesting.

Fantasythyme said...

Auralia's Colors seemed more of an allegory than direct reference to the Christian faith. His use of colors, and 'honor stripes' as rewards, struck me as a comment on outside trappings deterring us from our search for God, or the Keeper in the book. When we become so caught up in having the right colors, or enough colors, we fail to care for those around us.

Valerie Comer said...

I'm so thankful to NOT find allegory all the time. Not everything in life is allegorical, nor should it be.

There are themes that cause people to think about holiness--such as Auralia's Colors themes of selfishness verus giving.

As for not hearing from Jeffrey Overstreet, I had a similar problem with an email to him that got lost (I'd followed the email link on his webpage), but I left a comment on his blog and he got back to me directly. I'll have an interview up tomorrow!

James Somers said...

my thought regarding being a Christian and a writer is: when I stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, I don't want my writing to be one of those items that had no value to the Lord which will result in a loss of reward I could have had. That would amount to wasted time on my part and a failure to serve him...ultimately equaling shame on my part. I think its difficult to compare a secular writer and a christian writer for this exact reason. Our lives are not to be about US...but lived for HIM...right?

James Somers said...

Personally as far as Auralia is concerned: I found that even comparing the Keeper to God was an vast stretch...I mean your really pulling that one out of your hat...not nearly so easy to apply as say: Aslan.

Gene Curtis said...

I have to disagree. One never knows what seed planted will cause the bit of introspection that sparks a fire for Christ.

Christopher Hopper said...

James, thanks for the post and the thought provoking question. (First off, love your blog. Where do you pastor? I'm the Teen & College Pastor for New Life Christian Church, Watertown, NY).

I think that the very fact that "we create as God creates" is one of the most powerful displays of the Lord's wisdom, and an allegory in and of itself. Why we feel the need to further create a double-allegory just so that we "feel" like we're not selling out is sad.

I once heard a completely secular artist say, "If you need to explain it, then you've missed the point." Often times we need to let art stand as it is; beautiful and self-explanatory. If someone intentionally wants to create an allegory, wonderful. But if someone feels that they are not truly a "Christian artist" because they don't put some link in there, whether ignorant or young, I feel they've missed the point of creativity: that the work itself innately reflects its creator.

Must run...


Kait said...

Aslan is much easier to relate to Christ because he was modeled after Christ. With Narnia being a fairly strong allegory, it's hard to compare it to Auralia's Colors.

I think that there are Christian truths in AC, but there isn't really "Christ" in it per se. I don't really think that there needs to be a strong reference to Christ for it to be a Christian book (case in point - tons of music is labeled "Christian", even though there is very little or no mention of God in it).

James Somers said...

good points all!

I'm not sure just being creative covers it though...many things are created that do not glorify God.

There is a big risk of watering down the message we carry to the point that there is no longer any message. God's truth is still absolute and so is the way to salvation--we may point in all directions but only one leads to eternal life:)

CH--I pastor Grace Baptist Church in Harriman, TN. There's also a link to my radio broadcast for anyone interested--sidebar link (sundays 1-1:30)

I appreciate the good discussion on this subject.


hrh said...

Hi James:

Good post with a thought-provoking question, so here are my thoughts:

Yes, Auralia's Colors is a Christian book because it reflects the Christian worldview of its author.

At the same time, yes, I agree with Amazon categorizing it as science fiction/fantasy because that's what it is - a brilliant fantasy story for unbelievers that can draw them in. And that contains Christian truths for those with eyes to see.

Yes, it is less allegorical than Lewis' Narnia, but it is moreso than Tolkien's Ring.

As a Christian I found the descriptions of the Keeper to be very Godlike - if one's God is the one of the Burning Bush or the Whirlwind or the God who, any time He makes an appearance in the Bible, causes people to drop down flat as if dead in awe of the Presence. Indeed the God who would not show His face to Moses because Moses would die if he, in his fallen humanity, looked upon the Face of God.

I think for many American churchgoing Christians their God is too cozy, too "Jesus is my friend" and not enough "Jesus is the Creator of the Universe, and in Him is everything that has breath."

Remember, Jesus called Himself the cornerstone, and even those who fell on Him would be damaged but not consumed. But woe to those on whom the Cornerstone falls. There's danger here - even for believers. Take up your cross, Jesus says. In this life you will have troubles, and moreso if you follow Me.

I also love Auralia's constant notion that she was forgetting something, that she was missing something about where she was from and who she was. And that it is revealed to her that indeed everyone in the Expanse has "forgotten" who they are and where they come from.

As a Christian, I find that to be a blatantly allegorical representation of "this is not my home, we are sojourners and pilgrims here" to paraphrase Paul. The fact that they don't remember identifies them as "unChristian" if you will. But they are seeking.

And Auralia may be a John the Baptist figure sent to prepare the way?

Don't know about that. We'll have to see in further books ...

Karenee said...

Perhaps your question is similar to asking if we are acting Christ-like even when we aren't actively preaching the salvation message, word-for-word with footnotes?

Auralia's Colors, as a story, by its perspective, and from its core, is Christ-like. As I read, I discovered that the author was a Christian in attitude and I thought it was a secular book when I bought it. This is not to say it's a flawless book or Scripture, but I think Christ worked in Jeffrey's mind, heart, and spirit as he wrote it.

The thing about Christ's light is that it shines in spite of us. For those who know Him, the light is clearly His. For those who don't know Him, the light is either fearful or alluring as the Spirit works in their heart.

Everything we do, say, and write reflects our relationship to Christ sourced in His relationship with us, and that is the definition of Christian art--to me.

Pixy said...

Hey James! Thought-provoking post.

I think I may have to disagree with you a little here, though. I don't think you're asking the right question. Should Christian Fiction glorify Christ? Absolutely! But what glorifies Christ?

You say you want to be sure your work points to Christ--that's wonderful. But you can't make a prophet an evangelist or an intercessor a prophet. We all have our roll to play--and I think that goes for us as Christian writers as well.

Is Jeffrey's story meant to point to God? I'm sure it is. But what if God's purpose isn't to have the story point to Him, but Jeffrey's life instead. Jeff has an open door most of us will never have. I have faith God has spoken to him and that he's listening. And I think Waterbrook was very smart to pick him up.

Also, I've found more truth and more of God in some secular books I've read than in CBA. As Artists we shouldn't be afraid to explore new ground. And what better way to do that than in fantasy? :D

I think we miss the point when we say that God's only message is Christ. Yes, I know that's His ULTIMATE message, but we didn't come to Christ through someone showing us the picture of him with the lamb on his shoulder. Something beyond drew us in, slowly and seductively. We need to be cunning as serpents and gentle as doves if we're going to help draw this world to Him who saved us. I believe that's why art is so important--we can do what the pastors and missionaries can't do. We can pierce the heart with our images and words. Christ can show us truth through our stories and we can show it to others through our work. We can prepare the ground, we can plant a seed no on else can plant. The rest is in His hands.

nissa-amas-katoj said...

Just coming through while visiting all the blogs on the CSFF blog tour. I don't think there needs to be explicitly Christian content in every novel written by a Christian. J. R. R. Tolkien was a very devout Catholic Christian, and yet in Lord of the Rings there were no preachy moments or overt Christianity. Many who enjoy those books wouldn't have if they had such content.
I do like books with Christian content, yet after years of reading secular authors it's just good to read a book without any Christian-bashing in it.

God bless you,

Roheryn said...

I've not read the book yet, so I really can't say much on the subject...

but I can say this, when I went to my local Borders to pick it up today, it was in the Christian section... so mayhaps tis just the Borders itself as to where they stock Auralia's Colors

Robert Treskillard said...

Even though I didn't find direct references to God or Christ, etc., I thought that I felt them there underpinning the story. However, I was confused by an interview I read with Jeffrey Overstreet where he says that the Keeper is *not* God in the story, so I didn't know quite how to take that. It makes God even *more* remote and mysterious, I would say.

I'm thankful that in the King Arthur stories that I am writing that Christian faith is an expected part of the story, so that makes it a lot easier and "less preachy" than it would be taken otherwise. If I didn't have that freedom, it would take a lot of thought and prayer to figure out how to do it.

James Somers said...

robert--I'm glad you point that statement by overstreet out--that he says the Keeper is "NOT" God in the story goes with my own understanding of the descriptions just didn't seem to take on a God like role in the story for me.

However...these are all very good points. As I said, I loved the story and intend to continue with the series, but it did make me wonder.

It may come down to this at the end...a christian viewing the world through the eyes of faith might very well see Christ in every noble, creative or "good" thing...and see our enemy or our own corruption from sin in everything else--while those who view the world apart from saving faith will simply not see HIM no matter what.

This is probably best illustrated by the pharisees who looked upon God in the flesh and yet they could not SEE HIM:)

In the end, this question is only meant to get you thinking ;)