A shaft of light breaks into the darkening world of science fiction.

Anyone entering the Arlington Park Hilton in suburban Chicago one weekend last month would have been greeted by an otherworldly sight. Fairy princesses, Jedi warriors, wizards, bug-eyed monsters, sword-wielding knights, and a host of other beings populated the hotel.

It wasn’t the set of George Lucas’s next blockbuster film. It was Windycon X. the Windy City’s tenth annual convention of science fiction and fantasy fans. Displays of Star Trek memorabilia, out-of-print science-fiction classics, and stuffed unicorns attracted about 1,500 fans. In addition to such paraphernalia, the convention included a distinctly Christian dimension. A large exhibit and several presentations focused on the Inklings, a group of Oxford dons and other scholars who gathered for good conversation, and a tale well told some 50 years ago.

Influenced by the works of George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton, Inkling members C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams produced a body of literature that has won a place in the hearts of fantasy and science-fiction lovers. Lewis is known for Space Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia (Macmillan); Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (Ballantine); and Williams for spiritual thrillers such as All Hallows Eve and Greater Trumps (Eerdmans).

The Inklings “Track” at the convention featured an exhibit of these authors’ collected works, first editions, foreign editions, biographies, original artwork and other spin-offs, as well as a series of panel discussions on topics germane to Inklings craft and lore, films, music, and taped interviews with the more famous Inklings. The exhibit also showcased the work of contemporary writers currently carrying on the Inklings tradition in imaginative fiction.

The liveliest panel discussion, and perhaps the best attended, took place when “New Inklings” Harold Myra (Escape From the Twisted Planet, The Choice), Steve Lawhead (Dream Thief, In the Hall of the Dragon King, The Warlords of Nin), John Bibee (The Magic Bicycle), and Tolkien scholar Steve Deyo took the platform to give their views on “Christianity and Science Fiction” before a not-altogether-sympathetic audience.

This animated discussion threw the objectives of its organizers into sharp focus. Much of what takes place at a typical science-fiction/fantasy convention is morally dubious at best. The introduction of the Inklings Track, however, gave concerned Christians the opportunity to witness to a more positive, redeeming presence, and to speak a word of light into what has become a rather dark literary genre.

With the rise among fans of the term “gaming”—which usually refers to some variation of the role-play game Dungeons & Dragons—and the slide of science fiction itself away from hard science toward the realm of the occult (previously inhabited by the horror genre exclusively), non-Christian and even anti-Christian elements now exert a distinct influence. At Windycon X, tarot cards and candles were sold in the huckster’s room alongside Darth Vader posters and Buck Rogers paperbacks; fans sported” “Born-Again Pagan” T-shirts, and black wizard’s robes. One older fan, posed as Satan, dressed in black with devil’s horns sprouting from his head.

For all their paraded quirkiness at Windycon X, the fans are by and large highly literate and intelligent, sharing a variety of world views, including Christian. Thus, the special emphasis on the intense moral vision of the Inklings’ staunchly Christian members affirmed the very best that science fiction and fantasy can aspire to, and attested to the validity of the Christian message.

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