In co-ordination with the good folks over at EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing—and as a small part of their online event 18 Days of Tesseracts (September 20 to October 7, more information here)—I hereby present Part One of the new interview series Writing Gods, featuring email chats with a number of the many authors who’ve contributed to EDGE’s newest (and eighteenth[!]) Tesseracts anthology Wrestling with Gods.
Today’s interviewee: Mary-Jean Harris
Mary-Jean Harris writes historical and other-world fantasy stories. She is a student at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo studying theoretical physics. She has travelled to England, Scotland, and Peru, and hopes to travel to many other interesting places.
How did your story, “The Shadows of Gods,” come about?
My story was inspired by Eastern mysticism, in particular, Kundalini. I like to write about the intersection of magic, philosophy, mysticism, and for this anthology, I added some religious elements too. The main character was one that had appeared briefly in a novel I wrote (Aizai the Forgotten) and I wanted to explore a part of his life before the events in the novel.
What is it about “genre” writing that makes it an effective avenue for theological discussions?
This is one of the reasons that I write fantasy, because magic and the supernatural reaches to something beyond the world as we know it, and this naturally connects to religious elements.Genre writing, science fiction and fantasy in particular, are perhaps the best kind of fiction for exploring theological ideas because of they are based on of the fantastic. By “fantastic”, I mean that they are wonder literature, including magic or advanced technology that can closely intersect with religion. Miracles, gods, supernatural powers and other worlds: these are things that not only appear in religions, but form the basis of science fiction and fantasy, in particular, fantasy, because in science fiction, the wonder elements are usually explainable in terms of physics, but fantasy involves immaterial elements that cannot be explained with science as we know it. This is one of the reasons that I write fantasy, because magic and the supernatural reaches to something beyond the world as we know it, and this naturally connects to religious elements.
If there is something beyond this reality, what do you hope happens post-life?
I hope to go to a higher world where magic and higher powers are immanent to the world and we can gain knowledge of the universe and it’s workings. Something of a “philosopher’s heaven”, inspired by the ancient Greeks. A place where we would not be restricted by the confines of the body and can travel between world’s and times.
This is something I am exploring in a series I am writing called The Soul Wanderers, of which my story is a part of.
If it turns out there is one god ruling over all, what’s the one question you’d ask her/him/it?
I would ask the most basic, but also perhaps most profound question: what is the nature of the universe? By this I mean: did the universe have a beginning ? Are there different planes of existence? Is there magic, and if so, is it just a higher form of science? Is there a soul, and does it continue to exist after the death of the body? What is the ultimate nature of matter, and is it somehow connected to spirit (if such a spirit exists)? All these things, and many more, describe the universe we live in. In essence, I’m encompassing countless smaller questions into one, but everything is connected, so I think it’s valid.…though, of course, I’m presupposing part of the answer in the question, but hopefully god (whatever god it might be) wouldn’t mind.