Last week Stephen Burnett ran an excellent article about Christians pirating ebooks. I wonder if there isn’t another problem we as believers have. Do we enjoy complaining about the lack of Christian speculative fiction, or are we doing what little we can when we see a problem?
I’m thinking first and foremost about Christians who read and enjoy speculative literature. Spec Faith was founded, lo these 15 or so years ago, as a response to editors and agents saying over and over that there was no market for Christian science fiction and fantasy. Of course there’s no market if there’s no one putting out books for people to buy, a group of us asserted. So we determined to help create a thirst for Christian speculative literature.
Fast forward, and we have a very different book environment now. Self-publishing is easier than at any time before, an impressive array of small presses, led by Enclave Publishing, have cropped up to fill a void, some specializing on “clean” speculative stories, and others looking for ones specifically written from a Christian worldview. Add in the fact that some of the traditional Christian publishing houses have decided that there is more market for Christian speculative stories than they thought. On top of this, a number of writers have taken the challenge of writing stories from their Christian worldview and seeking publication from general market houses.
We see all those options represented here at Spec Faith. When we run Fiction Friday excerpts, for example, readers can be introduced to a book published by Tor Teen such as we ran Friday—Stormrise by Jillian Boehme. Or we might put forward a Christian supernatural suspense (with humor) published by a small press (Enclave Publishing) such as we did in Paul Reginer’s Paranormia or a traditional fantasy such as Emily Golus’s Escape to Vindor (Taberah Press). We’ve also featured a self-pubbed award-winner such as Sally Apokedak’s The Button Girl (technically, a Weekday Fiction Fix post) and books such as Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series published by a traditional Christian house (Bethany).
I could give numerous examples of each type of book, brought into being despite the idea that there is no market for speculative fiction among Christian readers.
But to be honest, I wonder if book sales numbers support the idea that yes, Christians do want to read speculative fiction. I know there are more and more books available. I don’t know how well they sell. How many people are eager to learn about new books, especially ones that receive good reviews from a reputable and unbiased source such as Lorehaven Magazine.
Are we willing to support the works we said we wanted? Or are we content with point out how difficult it was to get publishers to see Christians who love speculative stories?
I personally don’t have a lot of money, so I can’t buy all the books I’d like. I don’t have time to read a lot of the books I already have, so there’s that problem, too. But what about award-winning books? Wouldn’t it be important to find out about the books that receive recognition from various well-established sources?
I remember approaching a Christian bookstore worker once, asking why they didn’t have a Christy Award winning book. I mean, ought they not carry the best books, first and foremost?
We readers should ask the same question. Do we buy books just because of author name recognition I personally believe that’s why some authors continue to sell well—readers haven’t heard of the other authors and don’t want to risk putting money down for an unknown. But award winners should not be unknowns. I mean, some set of judges chose that particular book over other books as the best of that year. The best of those books entered, yes, but still, a top book, no matter how you look at it.
But I wonder if we might get stuck defending Christians writing and reading fantasy. We discuss from time to time here at Spec Faith what pastors have got wrong when they stand against speculative writing. We talk about the value of Christian fantasy or the need for Christians to write for the general market or how self-publishing allows Christians to be both Christians and lovers of speculative stories, without apology.
Are we buying those books? Are we following through and putting our money and our time to the thing we claim is important, that has been under-represented?
Not every book, certainly. But some people are passionate about Christians writing for the general market. So have they bought books by Merrie Destafano, R. J. Anderson, N. D. Wright? Have they pre-ordered Stormrise that is debuting next month? I could go on and on with titles and authors.
I don’t know how those books are selling, to be honest. Maybe Christians are getting behind them and making them best sellers and I just haven’t heard about it. I’d like to think that’s the case, and not that we love to complain but aren’t doing some little part, like buying a book now and them, reading and leaving reviews, and telling others about the books of speculative fiction written by Christians that we’ve been reading.