The problem with post-Christian fantasy authors is that their works are inherently flat. Not being able to conceive of protagonists that are truly good, they settle for whoever happens to catch the spotlight. Not being able to conceive of monstrosities that can threaten the soul, they rely on gore, psychosis, and/or the demonization of their political opponents. Their worlds are predicated on there being neither good nor evil, so there can be nor significant thrill should the “sorta kinda good-ish” guys triumph.
They can’t imagine heroes and are contemptuous of anyone that does. It wouldn’t be so bad really, but they act like they are artistic geniuses when the contort their stories in such a way as to produce losers and goofballs that can somehow manage to save the day when the day doesn’t really deserve to be saved in the first place. You have to roll things back a long way to get to some stories that are altogether untouched by this sort of diminishment. But gosh is it worth it. And the extreme contrasts are exactly what make it work.
Check out this top rank physician that is downright mortified when he is offered a little something “extra” if he’d only go out of his way to make sure his new charge will receive only the best medical care possible:
‘Ricori,’ I said, ‘you and I live in different worlds, therefore I answer you politely, although I find it difficult. I will do all in my power to find out what is the matter with your friend and to cure him. I would do that if he and you were paupers. I am interested in him only as a problem which challenges me as a physician. But I am not interested in you in the slightest. Nor in your money. Nor in your offer. Consider it definitely rejected. Do you thoroughly understand that?’
Meanwhile, the scary mob boss character…? You know the action is serious because he’s the one that’s frightened:
I have many enemies, Dr. Lowell. Peters was my right hand. If it was one of these enemies who struck him, he did it to weaken me. Or, perhaps, because he had not the opportunity to strike at me. I look at Peters, and for the first time in my life I, Ricori—am afraid. I have no wish to be the next, I have no wish to look into hell!
Even more astonishing for the average contemporary reader, this competent, tough, and efficient “kingpin” type is at the point where only the Almighty can really do anything for him:
He gripped my hand, then opened the door of the room. Another pair of the efficient-appearing retainers were awaiting him at the threshold. They swung in before and behind him. As he walked away, I saw that he was crossing himself vigorously.
This is what verve looks like.
A post-Christian author would struggle with all of this. He wouldn’t believe in integrity as being an objective thing, so the idea of establishing a scientist’s credibility in this way is outside of their repertoire. The invocation of faith here is not done in order to highlight the notion that boring, conventional, bourgeois religious values are cringe-worthy, naive, and often hypocritical. No, this element is here to enhance the suspense. The clinical skepticism of the doctor is in contrast to the faith of the mob boss. But these two elements are also in harmony– and both work together to establish just how weird and frightening every aspect of the situation really is.
This sort of cogency was the norm before about 1940, but it has gotten increasingly scarce since then. Authors that are just too darned “smart” to believe in anything really pay for it. In the service of their grim ideals (or the lack thereof, really), they waste valuable story beats establishing the fact that all of their characters have feet of clay. And rather than focus on telling a good story, they continually distract themselves because they always have an eye on the audience, thinking of how they can score points on whatever their hobby horse is this decade.
It’s tiresome, really. And every page wasted on such nonsense is necessarily going to focused on the temporal rather than the timeless.
It’s not so much that Christian authors and post-Christian authors have different aesthetics. It would be nice if we could judge them each according to their own standards, but that just isn’t possible. Post-Christian authors are in fact contemptuous if the very concept of an aesthetic. On a fundamental level, it truly offends them. So the sort of things that they think make them superior to everyone that came before them turns out to cripple them artistically.
They simply can’t compete with the sort of creators they sneer at.
Are you sick of garbage fiction about garbage characters…? Try reading something before 1980 instead! It’s only recently that medieval Christians in fantasy were portrayed as stupidly as they are now. In fact… real fantasy is inherently Christian. Learn more about writers like Lord Dunsany and Poul Anderson and how they contrast with authors like Michael Moorcock: read my book! Available now in hardcover!