If you’ve ever asked “why isn’t there more Christian fantasy?” I have another question for you:
What are you a fan of?
That is, which storyteller is your favorite to cite, when you want to tout the virtues of Christian fantasy?
Okay, now take J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis out of the running. Granted, maybe they weren’t your first choice, but let’s face it, that’s kind of like answering “Jesus” in Sunday school.
Is that harsh? Maybe it’s my bias, but it seems like any time we bring up what is great about our genre, we jump straight into a TARDIS and return to the days of old, when there wasn’t even an idea of something being “Christian” fiction. We hold up Lewis and Tolkien with the honor they deserve, as the patriarchs that inspired us to push forward.
But is that all we can do?
Think back to the last 20 or even 30 years. Are there any names that sparked a passion in you to explore the What If? Elwood. Frank Peretti. Stephen Lawhead. Kathy Tyers.
What about the last 10 years? Ted Dekker. Kerry Nietz. Nadine Brandes. Jill Williamson. Tosca Lee. Mike Duran.
Perhaps you know these names, maybe even fans. But are you part of a fandom?
I look at how we engage with mainstream popular culture today. We debate at length the nature of superhero films. We cosplay as Time Lords, elves, and starships. We adorn ourselves in the branding and seek out art and memes that reference the popular works.
Is there a way to bring that level of fandom to our own culture? Granted, it is easier to hit on the high notes that “everyone” knows. I mean, if I say “Don’t blink,” you likely understand the reference. Would the phrase “Empty numbers” hold as much weight? Within our circles, should it?
This really struck me during the Realm Makers 2016 conference, especially the costumes at the awards gala. There were dozens of detailed and well thought out costumes, all celebrating the fun and wonder of speculative fiction. Characters from across popular culture were represented: Kylo Ren, Ashoka, the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors, the TARDIS, even a unicorn druid.
Maybe these stood out because of their ease of recognition. But out of all the costumes I only saw two derived from the pages of the Christian speculative fiction we clamor for. One was an Amish zombie. The other was Reagan Moon.
Perhaps again this touches on why the fandom feels weak to me. Only a few Christian fantasy titles have reached a level of near universal recognition even within our small ranks. But shouldn’t this be an even stronger case for you to celebrate a favorite character or world from Christian speculative fiction? To help expose even more people to the story that inspired you?
I also wonder where the in-depth discussion of Christian speculative fiction is taking place. This may seem ironic, coming from an article on Speculative Faith, but I mean discussion going beyond high concepts and the discussion of general market popular culture. Where are the posts discussing the world-building, characters and theology of recent titles?
I hope that all I have done here is display my ignorance! Please point me to where I can find these discussions and the wonderful fandom. After all, I admit I am the last person to be admonishing anyone about not engaging in our unique culture without first acknowledging that I have failed in this area.
But knowing that I have an issue is the first step, and “knowing is half the battle.” So I have a challenge to lay down, and to accept.
Let’s move beyond the questioning and become champions. You have all read a novel or have experienced a form of fandom for Christian speculative fiction. Celebrate it! Tell us about it below, what captured your imagination? What made you yearn for something more? And what challenged you and made you think about your beliefs in a new way?
These are the discussions that will help drive our fandom forward and help it to grow. And for those of you who love cosplay: I’ll challenge you to seek out a character from the pages of Christian speculative fiction that strikes a chord with you and cosplay that wherever you go. Be an evangelist for our genre that holds Truth at its core and doesn’t just reflect it through a mirror darkly.
Let’s engage in this journey together and be intentional about celebrating that which we profess to love so as to bring others along with us to discover and adventure through these new stories that await us.