Why would anyone identify himself or herself as a Christian writer of speculative fiction? Is it because Christian writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror simply want to associate with other Christians who write these genres (sort of like a social club), without any expectation that their personal faith would change the stories they write? Or do speculative fiction writers who self-identify as “Christian” (like I do) mean they will write the same sorts of things that other speculative fiction writers produce, minus a “naughty list” of things they think should be excluded (such as graphic sex and/or violence, profanity, witchcraft, etc)? Or is there a positive meaning of being a “Christian writer of speculative fiction”–“positive” as in we intend to break new ground, to approach topics that the world around us isn’t interested in–or to approach them in a fresh way? This post suggests the soon-to-be-released Beatitudes and Woes anthology offers what I hope will become a model for the type of groundbreaking I’m talking about.
Beatitudes and Woes is built around an inherently simple but innovative idea. Imagine famous sayings that Jesus used, which unlike many of his principles don’t come already illustrated with a story (in a parable). Imagine making those sayings the foundation for a set of stories. An anthology of tales linked to well-known passages of Scripture–that seems truly groundbreaking to me, because if anyone has done that particular idea before, I haven’t heard of it. (Though of course many, many stories have been inspired by the Bible in various other ways.)
It’s a simple concept, but brilliant. Of the “why didn’t anyone think of doing this before?” kind of thing. Also, not my idea. CW Briar came up with this notion and posted it on the Realm Makers Consortium Facebook page. A lot of people were immediately excited, including me.
Before I knew it, I found myself having volunteered to collect all these writings from a diverse group of authors who volunteered to participate, edit their tales, and put it all together into this anthology. I had no way of knowing how much I was biting off when I committed to this project, nor how busy I would be with matters not related to the stories around the time submissions started rolling in. It’s 13 stories after all, since there are 9 beatitudes or “blessed are” statements Jesus made in Matthew 5 and four woes (as in “woe to those who”) in Luke 6. (You just can’t process 13 stories in only a few minutes…well, I can’t, anyway.)
I hoped to get finished much earlier than what has actually happened–that is, we’ll be doing a book release party on Saturday July 13th on Facebook (the date matching the number of authors), with announcements to be posted various places, including the Realm Makers Consortium page. But I’d originally shot for March.
I wound up over-promising on what I was able to do, embarrassing myself, but it also was true that two authors who had initially volunteered dropped out for reasons I don’t need to go into detail about here. I appreciate them having sent stories in the first place but it took some time to get replacement stories written and edited. Thanks so much to Randy Streu and Parker J. Cole stepping in to provide those replacements.
When I mentioned a “diverse group of authors” above, I wasn’t really talking about diversity of ethnicity or gender (though 8 of the authors are women and 1 is African American), but rather diversity of writing experience, writing style, and focus. Though I was as surprised by parallels among the stories as I was by unique features. Beatitudes and Woes has a comedic superhero story, two tales of outer space adventure (with a third being outer space horror), two examples of intense religious/ethnic persecution, two stories featuring island societies (and one featuring a desert people in their own kind of oasis-island), an extraterrestrial courtroom drama and a post-apocalyptic detective story, a Hunger Games-style tribal competition, and a quest to slay a dragon.
Only a few of the stories have straight-out happy endings that sometimes it seems Christian authors are addicted to. Even when the protagonist triumphs, it usually costs something, at the very least, anguish and grief. But a number of the stories end with the protagonist still a prisoner either literally or of circumstances–or with the worst thing the main character could imagine happening having taken place.
And there’s self-sacrifice, too, plenty of it. But there’s also the guilt-ridden act of selfishly sacrificing others. Not all of the most important characters make it out of their stories alive.
It’s really been a great experience putting these stories together. Some of these tales will rattle around my brain for years to come. Some of them really do make the Bible verses that inspired them take on new meaning for me.
Yes, I said “some”–yes it’s true some of the stories affected me more than others. I suspect the same thing will happen with you if you experience the blessing of reading this book. Though the ones that affect you the most may not be the same as the ones that I will always remember. I think this anthology has that kind of diverse mix–one that will have a positive impact on a wide variety of people, but in differing ways for different people.
Please note that I’d like to make special mention of Cindy Koepp, who volunteered to help me edit and get this book finished and is helping promote it. I’m also grateful for Mary Campagna Findley, who made a great cover, and the extra work Parker J Cole and Rachel Kimberly Hastings have done to promote this book in addition to being authors. (And as always, I grateful for the amazing support from Tabatha Catalan Guerrero de Perry, my wife.)
Of course, now that Beatitudes and Woes is about to be released, it may be that many books after it will link verses to an anthology of short stories as a way to make a uniquely Christian approach to writing speculative fiction. I hope so.
If so, Beatitudes and Woes will have paved the way for that kind of anthology. Preparing the way for others to follow. Groundbreaking.
Readers of this post, do you have any questions about the anthology? Any comments? I’d be happy to answer or respond.