One of the reasons The Lord Of The Rings was such a successful movie series was because of the advancements in technology. Orcs on screen looked sufficiently similar to the orcs of our imagination, created by the words J. R. R. Tolkien wrote. Same with wraith wrights and Nazgguls the Balrog and Gollum.
While “Christian,” Tolkien’s story came alive on the big screen because general market movies makers brought it to life. They had the financial backing and the technical expertise to do the story justice.
Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures attempted the same thing with the Narnia stories. They weren’t as successful, but the fault lay in the way they changed the stories, not in their use of technology to create Narnia, with Timnus the Faun, Mr and Mrs. Beaver, and of course Aslan himself.
In part because of the success of these classic fantasy works, Christian fantasy—and all of Christian speculative fiction, in reality—received a boost. Books by Karen Hancock, Bryan Davis, Donita Paul, Jill Williamson, Patrick Carr, and many more have sold well and earned their authors repeat contracts with traditional publishers.
In addition, as small publishing companies such as Marcher Lord Press (now, Enclave Publishing), took advantage of digital technology and began to proliferate, more and more Christian authors made their works available through the avenue of self-publishing, better known today as indie publishing.
Realm Makers, the conference for speculative writers with a faith bent, has continued to grow and to receive more and more attention from agents and publishers, showing that speculative writers are not few and far between and that publishers realize there’s a genre out there they need to include in their catalogue. Even traditional Christian writing conferences such as Mount Hermon, the Orange County Christian Writers’ Conference, and now the new SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference are featuring continuing sessions and/or workshops for speculative writers.
In short, speculative fiction by Christians is not uncommon. Readers can find stories about dragons and wizards, about characters trying to survive in a dystopian world, about a clone who escapes the laboratory, about the people in a new fairy world, about space captains, about space aliens, about vampires, about . . . well, just about anything speculative you can imagine.
But how will these stories make it to the big screen? Will they?
So far, Christian movies are notoriously low budget. How could a Christian movie include a dragon effectively without drifting into the high rent district where the big boy movie makers play? Is it possible?
Andrew Peterson, author of the Wingfeather Saga, is making an attempt to break movies with an animated version of his story. It’s a great start, and I’m really looking forward to what the creatives he’s working with will put out, but I can’t help but wonder, will Christian speculative movies always be animated? Are they simply too expensive because of the special effects and the need to create non-human characters, that they’ll never catch on?
I don’t think there’s a question that they’d catch on with viewers. I’m pretty sure thousands of people, who have not read the books, will fall in love with the Wingfeather children and their story. They are far more lovable than Harry Potter, and the world has richness that will pull people in. Not magic per se, but power. There’s intrigue, danger, mystery, sacrifice, even redemption—somewhat akin to that which Edmund experienced in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, but with far more lasting consequences.
The Wingfeather animated movie put out by the group Andrew Peterson is working with, will be wonderful, but I can’t help but wonder when we’ll see a “real life” version of a Christian speculative story.
Will Space Drifters by Paul Regnier (Enclave Publishing), with all its outer space and alien planet adventures, ever make it to the big screen? Or what about Tom Pawlick’s mysterious, creepy supernatural suspense, Vanish? Or Donita Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles?
I could go on and on naming titles that would have movie potential but might never receive consideration because they could not be produced as low budget films. Christian movies are slowly growing up. They have improved their script and, as I saw for myself when I went to I’m Not Ashamed, they’ve improved their acting. But what about the worldbuilding? What about the special effects, what about the computer generated characters? Will we ever see Christians investing enough in movie making that they can produce a quality speculative movie?
I’ll never say never. I actually think some Christian with deep pockets and with a vision for the light Christian speculative fiction can bring to the dark world of our society, could actually invest in such a movie now. Will it happen? Maybe some day. I’m hoping that Peterson’s animated film will be the start.
I’m not holding out for the general market to pick up another fantasy, simply because none has sold well enough to convince them that the endeavor would be profitable. Which leaves the fledgling Christian movie making companies—those of the low budget films.
What’s the answer? I think writers need to keep writing quality Christian speculative fiction, readers need to buy those books, and movie goers need to clamor for more movies like The Lord Of The Rings. (“We want another one, just like the other one . . . only different!”)
What’s your take on the possibility of Christian speculative fiction finding a place in the movie industry? What books would you like to see made into a movie?