Writing Gods w/ Mary-Jean Harris

Wrestling with Gods, Tesser­acts 18

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

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.

Mary-Jean is the author of Aizai the For­got­ten. To learn more, vis­it www.thesoulwanderers.blogspot.ca/

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.

Thanks, Mary-Jean!