Westmont Magazine The World of Welken
A tradition of telling stories to his children, a penchant for word play and a remarkable imagination helped Greg Spencer write his first novel, “The Welkening: A Three Dimensional Tale” (Howard Publishing, 2004). With this engrossing fantasy, the Westmont communication studies professor demonstrates his ability to relate to readers and listeners of all ages.
The complex plot unfolds in three dimensions, beginning in the hometown of four Oregon teenagers known as misfits and shunned by their peers. These two sets of siblings stick together, and when they get attacked, they suddenly find themselves in a different world: Welken. The characteristics that make them odd at home turn out to be strengths in the strange new dimension. Welken faces potential destruction by a great evil, Morphane the Soul Swallower. The four heroes, Len, Lizbeth, Bennu and Angie, have a special role to play in the struggle against this beast. Throughout their quest, they must learn what it means “to be in Welken and of Welken.”
To their surprise, the Misfits discover vital clues in a children’s book that Len and Angie’s mother is writing. “The New and Improved Adventures of Percival P. Perkins III and Bones Malone” is the third dimension, and it features a cat and dog detective duo.
Greg worked on the novel for 20 years. The tale of Percy and Bones evolved from stories he told his daughters about the comical adventures of their own cat, Percy. When he started to write them down, the four misfits showed up and took him in a different direction. The novel weaves seemingly separate strands together into a single story.
The Spencers adopted Percy because the stray showed persistence in hanging around. Greg learned a lesson from the cat and persisted in seeking a publisher despite 22 rejection letters. “It has been my lifelong dream to write a novel,” he says. In 1992 he published “A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith to College” (Baker Book House). He has also written and spoken about the effect of media on culture.
Using “heavenly imagination,” Greg conceived of Welken as a place between heaven and Earth where good was stronger and bad was worse, where characters became more fully alive.
Welken is an old English word. “Years ago, I learned that Charles Wesley’s first draft of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ was ‘Hark How All the Welkin Rings,’” Greg says. “Instantly I loved the word. It sounds like ‘welcome,’ and I learned that it meant ‘sky,’ ‘the vault of heaven’ or ‘the firmament’ in the Middle Ages.”
Christians reading the book will recognize subtle biblical references and themes. For example, the Misfits confront the horror of evil, see weaknesses become strengths, understand the connectedness of life and recognize that decisions matter. “What we do tells a story of our heart,” Angie says.
In a review for Christian Book Previews, Debbie Wilson wrote, “Bizarre, beguiling, humorous, poignant, exciting, and most of all, fun, Welken may be the next Narnia.”
The wordplay is one of the most delightful aspects of the book. Characters in Welken speak in surprising ways, especially Vida Bering Well and Jacob Canny Sea. When someone gets lost, Vida says, “We’ll columbus him soon enough.” To encourage the misfits she advises, “When life scurvies you, lemonize it.” In the midst of fast-moving events, Jacob cautions, “Wait! Stop! What’s all the ferrari?”
After the Welkening, a cataclysmic reckoning, the Misfits return to their own world wiser and more deeply themselves. As Angie says, “I think we’ll always be connected to Welken. And Welken is closer than we ever realized.”