For many it is a story that contains sex and/or cussing. While violence is generally accepted, graphic gore would be considered edgy. Horror is also edgy, especially if it contains the aforementioned gore. Another common edgy element is magic or anything smacking of paganism.
The list could go on. The most restrictive Christian publisher, Steeple Hill (an imprint of Harlequin), as late as November of 2009, had a whole list of terms and situations to avoid as too edgy for their audience. Today, while still retaining restrictions, they’ve dropped a lot of that list and have loosened up a bit.
But is this really the definition of edgy Christian fiction?
To answer that, we’ll first define “edgy” in this context.
Daring, provocative, or trend-setting.
American Heritage Dictionary
Daringly innovative; on the cutting edge.
Having a bold, provocative, or unconventional quality.
The above list might be provocative for some Christians and therefore daring and bold for the author and publisher, but trend setting? Innovative? That train left a long time ago in the general market.
There’s the catch. Like last week’s post on conversion scenes, what any one person considers edgy will be subjective based on their experience and beliefs. Consequently, it is the audience in general that determines what is edgy for them. What is edgy for a CBA bookstore patron will be viewed as mild and quaint for a majority of Barnes & Noble patrons. Sometimes for a majority of Christians too.
In last week’s comments, Lyn Perry mentioned the following:
My niece who writes Christian women’s fiction included a damn in her book, an organic expression from a character who was failing in life but eventually got back on the road to restoration. A reviewer marked her book as one star saying there were vulgarities in it!
For that reviewer, having a character say, “damn” in a book is edgy. For many Christians and a host of non-Christians, they wouldn’t even blink.
Yet, there is still a problem. Depending on which side of the edgy fence one sits on, the above definition of edgy Christian fiction paints “edgy” as a negative. When people hear “edgy Christian fiction,” they either see it as more realistic fiction or immorality invading Christian fiction. It is like a tug-of-war between the two camps.
My take? Both sides are focused on the wrong edge.
The above list of edgy issues are primarily edgy to Christians. That is the wrong audience to define edgy Christian fiction that we should strive for. I’ll let Jesus sum it up.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
(Luke 6:22-23 KJV)
We are called to be edgy. Not to fellow Christians, but to the general market. How?
By dealing with issues the general market considers edgy using a Christian worldview in a realistic manner. Issues like rape, adultery, premarital sex, marriage, dating, substance abuse, wife abuse, ministerial abuse, homosexuality, politics, greed, earthly authority, or insert your favorite sin. The list is long.
True, dealing with some of those issues may necessitate being edgy to Christians as well. The point is if we are only edgy to Christians, then we’ve missed the blessing Jesus gave us. If we are only edgy to Christians, then we’ve really played it safe and said little. Cussing and sex is not edgy in the general market.
What truly edgy Christian fiction have you read of late?