I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about all the garbage that I wrote when I was younger. And make no mistake, all of those writing projects were awful, no two ways about it. None of the stories I wrote were worthy of publication. That didn’t mean I stopped trying. I kept churning out these lamentable novels, never quite sure what to do with them. Even after I discovered the joy of the The Writer’s Market at my local library, I still had no functional clue as to what to do next. God works in mysterious ways, I guess.
For whatever reason, I seemed to take my college and Seminary years off of writing novels. That was when I wrote my stage play that almost made it as dinner theater and my three screenplays. I dabbled in sci fi novellas, but I never really returned to writing novels until my last year at the Seminary. What prompted me, you didn’t ask? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.
Fall quarter my fourth year at the Seminary, I took an elective course entitled The Gospel and C. S. Lewis. This course examined Lewis’s theology, not from his non-fiction writings, but by dissecting his fictional stories. We read approximately half of the Narnia books, two thirds of his Space Trilogy, a smattering of his poems, and Till We Have Faces. It was an excellent class and I’ve written about it before. But it was during this class that I stumbled on my “big idea,” the one that brought me back to novel writing and set me on the course I’m on today. And it all came out of Lewis’s Space Trilogy.
My idea wasn’t inspired by the characters or plots of these stories. Instead, it grew out of a theological question: how would aliens (if they exist) fit into God’s redemptive plan for humanity and all creation?
Lewis answered this question by positing that each planet would experience its own Eden and undergo a time of testing and temptation. Adam and Even messed this up for humanity on Earth, necessitating the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Perelandra, a human being travels to Venus and not only witnesses but participates in that planet’s Edenic testing phase.
It was a fascinating idea, but my mind decided to ask the question, what if Lewis had it backwards? What if, when humanity fell into sin, we dragged the rest of the universe with us? What if a whole bunch of alien races were living idyllic, sin-free lives, only to suddenly find themselves mired in sin and death and all the brokenness that came with it? How would they react? What would they do?
That question kept with me for weeks. Eventually, I felt I had to answer it with a story similar to Lewis’s. Only in my story, an advanced race of aliens, finding themselves suddenly mired in what they called “Chaos,” sent out expeditions to try and find the “Answer to Chaos,” which not only would explain where the evil came from but how to undo it as well. They would infiltrate the alien societies they found (so as not to add to the Chaos rampant on those planets) and see if each species had the Answer. If they did, they would bring the Answer back to their people. If they didn’t, the aliens would keep on looking.
By the time they reached Earth, they had grown sick and tired of the journey, and so rather than look for the Answer, they set themselves up as deities and ruled over the humans with iron fists. Eventually, they were driven away from Earth but they accidentally left one of their number behind. This lone alien blended in with humanity and witnessed a number of Biblical events, all the way up to the death and resurrection of Christ.
Eventually, this alien was found by a Lutheran pastor (because I couldn’t resist slipping at least a little of my life into the story) and they wound up going on a wild adventure, one that was partially based on the Christian sci fi stories I had written in high school.
I loved this idea. I remember that I forced two of my friends to listen to me ramble on about it for forty-five minutes, spilling all the ideas as they came to me. They encouraged me to try and write it. And I did. I spent somewhere around two or three years, pumping out this story into what would eventually become a science fiction trilogy.
But this time, I was bound and determined to submit this…well, somewhere. But where? And how?
Somehow, during this time, I stumbled across an organization that made all the difference for me, namely ACFW (or American Christian Fiction Writers). I decided to attend their national conference and try to sell this crazy story idea to whoever would listen.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to my plans. But that’s the story I’ll share in two weeks, the next time I’m in the Confessional.Author @JohnWOtte shares how he got back to writing Christian fiction. Click To Tweet