Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why I Wrote Quest for Celestia


Quest for Celestia


When I was in college and became a Christian, someone ended up handing me a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that John Bunyan wrote while he was serving a twelve-year prison sentence for preaching the Gospel without permission.

From a literary perspective, his book was a groundbreaking achievement—it was one of the first (if not the first) novel-length allegories ever printed, and according to some scholars, for more than two hundred years it was the second-best selling book in the world, trailing only the Bible.

Even though I’m not typically a fan of “the classics,” I read it and it really impacted me. I’m no theologian, but the narrative-based look at the Christian life connected with me in a way no sermon ever had. The story made sense not just to my mind, but to my storyteller’s heart.

However, honestly, the book is hard to get through. With its archaic language, heavy-handed moralizing, and blatantly obvious allegorical lessons, it’s almost inaccessible to modern readers.

So, a few years ago when I was exploring writing a fantasy novel for teens, I decided to reimagine John Bunyan’s tale, not through the eyes of a preacher, but through the eyes of a storyteller.

As a stand-alone fantasy adventure story, Quest for Celestia takes readers on an epic journey through a land of giants, dragons, danger and deception. While John Bunyan’s themes, images, and fragments of thought have certainly found their way into this story, it’s not just a retelling of his allegory, it’s a completely new vision of the quest he tried to encapsulate in his tale.

Stories live only as long as they’re retold or remembered. I hope Quest for Celestia will introduce a whole new generation to the fantastical, mythic story that spans the ages, the story that John Bunyan was imprisoned for telling to the world.

4 comments:

CourtneyBrynn said...

Even though I’m not typically a fan of “the classics,”

This is my favorite line of the whole thing. I was majoring in English and couldn't force myself to get into "the classics"and always referred to myself as an "English major fraud."

Nice to know I'm in good company...

Anonymous said...

Since you have written that you do not outline your stories, was it hard following John Bunyan's story line?

Steven James said...

Good question about outlining! I studied Bunyan's story and used the broad framework from it. It wasn't my normal way of shaping a story but for this one, my goal was to honor the original so I needed to weave in the aspects of it that fit my narrative.

Iftekhar Ahmed said...

I must appreciate the way you have expressed your feelings through your blog!
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