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‘Amish Vampires’ on TV: Keep Calm and Carry On

“Amish Vampires in Space” got on TV for 15 seconds. Christian spec-fiction leaders react.
| Mar 13, 2014 | 11 comments |

I know. Mixed messages.Author John Otte may have thought this a throwaway line in yesterday’s column:

We now live in a world where Christian speculative fiction has been on “The Tonight Show.” Govern yourselves appropriately.

Govern yourselves appropriately.

I had to salvage this line from the waste bin and asked a few Christian-speculative-fiction leaders to answer this question: How can Christian-speculative fans best react when, say, books such as Amish Vampires in Space get backhandedly endorsed by TV talk hosts?

First a disclaimer. My own perspective can be summed up in the already-overused British trope: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. If there is a way to do this with Biblical humility, can fans be too-cool-for-school? I’m not sure how else to say this — or how to say it hypocrisy-free, because obviously we’re writing about it on SpecFaith.

Perhaps it’s simple enough to say that we must not put our trust in famous television promotion. Even the really popular stories and genres did not get this way because popular people plugged them. Instead such movements are truly grassroots. And kind of messy.

Speculative stories are better than late-night TV anyhow. Mr. Fallon should be so blessed to have a copy of this creative and published story in his studio. I only hope he reads it.

I can also hope that this good Christian movement — to promote better and more-Biblical stories that capture Scripture’s truth, beauty, and zest for the fantastic — does not go the way of other movements: being sidetracked when its members became too self-aware.

Responses from Christian spec-story leaders

cover_amishvampiresinspaceJeff Gerke, founder of original Amish Vampires in Space publisher Marcher Lord Press: not sure if fluke or cusp of a trend.

I don’t see how additional media exposure (and I’m not sure this is actually on the rise, the Fallon bit perhaps being an anomaly) should change anything. Maybe it’s easier to tell your neighbor about it if you can say, “As seen on TV.”

I’m thrilled for Kerry and AViS! And here’s hoping it starts something special.

Fantasy novelist and Realm Makers conference founder Becky Minor: this is a great opportunity.

I find this whole thing fascinating to watch unfold. I really hope Kerry gets on the radar of industry visioneers because of this “bad press.” (Since we all know, this wasn’t truly that.) There is a great opportunity here for us in the Christian spec-fic world to rally around Kerry and help people who otherwise would never have known about AViS discover that there’s a whole segment of fiction they are missing out on, because it’s usually pigeonholed “inspirational,” the death row of books at a mainstream retailer.

No matter what people say about the cover or the title in terms of personal preferences, if we really look at what Kerry’s done with both, it’s a genius publicity stunt. The great bonus here is that the book beyond the stunt is good!

Our new SpecFaith reviewer Austin Gunderson: Don’t dance in the endzone.

Christian speculative fiction hasn’t arrived. Also, it wasn’t featured on The Tonight Show this Tuesday.

What put a copy of AViS in the hands of Jimmy Fallon had nothing whatsoever to do with its themes, its substance, or even its technical quality. Though I haven’t read the book myself, I can make this snap judgment with complete confidence on the grounds that Jimmy Fallon hasn’t read it, either.

AViS received fifteen seconds of fame on Tuesday for one reason and one reason only: bold marketing. It’s got a title and cover that demand your attention and stick in your memory. It’s provocative. It doesn’t play it safe or imitate a string of predecessors. It defies convention. It fairly leaps out of the box. And looks pretty slick doing so. That’s what’s made it famous, not the fact that it’s Christian spec-fic.

Should we celebrate with Kerry Nietz over his PR coup? Absolutely. But let’s not get cocky. Our subgenre has a long way to go before its own niche publishers will even bring themselves to embrace mavericks like Nietz, let alone before we can claim to have somehow “arrived.”

Splashdown Books founder and publisher Grace Bridges: be a non-preachy fan.

John’s words may be construed as an instruction to remain mild-mannered and calm so as not to put anyone off. But I think “appropriate” behaviour in this case is free to be openly fannish. Be the fandom. Be a geek, show your passion. Just please don’t preach.

Finally, Amish Vampires in Space author himself, Kerry Nietz: have fun with this.

Be encouraging and inclusive. I’ve been following AViS on Twitter since the beginning, and there are so many opportunities there to connect with folks. Sometimes it would be easy to be negative—especially when they are clearly mocking—but I’ve instead tried to laugh along with them. Show them Christians are witty too. Plus, many people don’t know how dominated the CBA is by Amish fiction, so it is a chance to dialog on that too. Be positive. Stay upbeat. As Hugh Howey says, “be a hugger.”

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor of a nonfiction book about parenting and popular culture (title TBA), to release spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Michelle R. Wood

Thank you Stephen, for reminding us that there is no nit so small it doesn’t need to be picked. 🙂 Seriously, though, it was fun and exciting, and that’s about it.
But Jimmy Fallon still needs a T-shirt.

Austin Gunderson

No “Christian spec-fiction leader” here, I’m afraid.  Just a fan with printable opinions.  😉

Kristen Stieffel

Kerry sums it up really well. I’m thrilled to bits for Jeff and Kerry. Fifteen seconds of fame, maybe, but let’s enjoy it for just what it is…our colleague got his book on TV. That alone is worth celebrating, and especially since AViS is up for a Clive Staples Award, I for one am pleased to pull out that “as seen on The Tonight Show” line every time the title comes up. http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/introducing-amish-vampires-in-space/

HG Ferguson
HG Ferguson

And as we all keep calm and carry on, let’s remember to say, with an honest and humble heart:  Thank You, Lord Jesus, for what You have done.

Julie D

Sure , it got on TV because of the headline, but how else would it get on on a comedy show? 

Rebecca LuElla Miller

I don’t think there’s much to be excited about. Not so many years ago, Wayne Batson was on the front page of the Washington Post and days later was interviewed on Fox and Friends. These were much more than comedy exposure, but I don’t know that Christian fantasy–the thrust of both national spots, in light of the Harry Potter phenom–got a significant bounce. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was then that traditional Christian houses started looking for more fantasy. But it certainly didn’t lead to overnight success.


Adam Graham

It does appear that the book’s enjoyed a little mini-bump in sales based on Amazon rankings.  It’s not a big deal in the long run, and won’t make or break the book either way.

R. L. Copple

My take:
Certainly the brief appearance of Amish Vampires in Space will infuse some interest in the book. I can see people thinking, “Really? That’s a real book?” Then going to Amazon to look it up, and out of curiosity, buy it to see just how “bad” it really is (to no doubt be pleasantly surprised that it isn’t). The exposure will be good for the book, Marcher Lord Press (if still associated with the book at all), and speculative fiction written by Christians in general.

While a rising tide lifts all boats, this will likely not be equal. Mainly raising the book, and maybe some of Marcher Lord’s other titles to a degree. But I see a much smaller percent becoming aware of the speculative fiction from Christian market, and then an even smaller percentage off those buying and reading. But hey, I’ll take it and rejoice with Kerry for any success this exposure generates for AViS.

Kerry Nietz

Thanks everyone for the insight. I’m with you: I don’t know what this will mean long term, if anything. I will share that it caused a typical month’s worth of Kindle copies to be sold in a single day, so that’s something. (So much for warning people not to read it. 🙂 )

The chatter both on Facebook and Twitter has been incredible. Really, really cool…and I can’t thank enough those of you who have jumped in with both feet to dialog  about the book. But I’ll try! Thank you, thank you!

If nothing else, this experience is a great example that you never know what will happen next. That’s sort of been the story of AViS from the beginning, really: Hold on tight, because you’re on a rollercoaster.

One thing I’m sure of, though, is that God isn’t surprised by any of it. Nor is he surprised about anything that is happening in your life. So hold on!

Plus, I’ve got a really cool souvenir photo now. My book on the Tonight Show desk. How cool is that?

Thanks, folks!

Matthias M. Hoefler
Matthias M. Hoefler

That’s cool. Makes me smile.