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The Growth Of Christian Speculative Fiction

Spec-fic isn’t dominating the CBA, but we’re headed in the right direction.
| Aug 1, 2016 | 16 comments |
Photo credit: Josh Smith

Photo credit: Josh Smith

I’m two days removed from returning from Realm Makers, the conference of conferences, the gold standard for Christian writers of spec-fic.

In its fourth year, Realm Makers has seen tremendous growth, attracting countless geeky Christian writers who love to roam the broad lands of the strange and awe-inspiring, and let their stories explode with creativity.

Sadly, this passion for all things weird and wonderful has fallen upon the hard ground of the CBA, unable to take root and flourish into the forest it could be.

Why is that? The reasons and debates have been numerous, including Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy. I won’t go into that now.

Coming off the exhilarating high of Realm Makers, hanging out with nearly 200 fellow spec-fic writers, I want to look on the bright side. Perhaps we’re on the edge of a trend, riding the tip of the wave of the next big thing.

Christian spec-fic.

In his Realm Makers follow-up post, Mike Duran summed up this optimism nicely:

One of my big takeaways from the conference is that there’s genuine momentum here. Sure, I could be over-stating this, running on fumes from a long, sleep-deprived weekend. But I don’t think so. It’s not just that a bunch of geeks have another place to congregate. It’s not just that Christian nerds now have a conference where mentioning vampires won’t provoke a nervous side-eye. It’s something… bigger.

I’ll add that at Realm Makers, I met a bunch of young writers. Guess what they’re writing and reading? In conversations I’ve been part of, I’ve heard the same thing—the younger generation loves spec-fic.

We don’t have access to a TARDIS (sadly), so we can’t know what the future holds. However, we can look at the present, and from my vantage, being a lover of spec-fic and having attended Realm Makers three years in a row, I can say that the terms “spec-fic” and “Christian” are no longer diametrically opposed.

Photo credit: Jessi Roberts

Photo credit: Jessi Roberts

What’s even more encouraging is the number of Christian authors churning out quality fantasy and sci-fi.

5 Excellent Authors

Nadine Brandes

The Out of Time Series is one of the best I’ve read—the final book releases in October. Dystopian fiction has descended from its peak, but Nadine has created something special here. Brimming with a creative world and fascinating concepts, infused with the hope so often missing in dystopian stories, and bursting with action, these books are must-reads.

Patrick Carr

I read the first two books in his Staff and Sword Trilogy, and finally got my hands on the final book at the conference. The stories combine fast-paced action with layer upon layer of intrigue, characters you want to follow and learn about, and one of the most original heroes you’ll find.

Jill Williamson

Jill is brilliant, and I say that having only read her fantasy books. I devoured The Blood of Kings Trilogy, which included one of my favorite characters ever and the most painful (in a good way) romance you could wish for. Oh, and a unique fantasy world, an evil prince, and the battle between light and darkness.

Then we have her new series, The Kinsman Chronicles. Easily one of the best fantasy books I’ve read. Complex, unique, a vibrant story world, a cast of believable and relatable characters, and an epic similar to what you’ll find in a Brandon Sanderson fantasy. And that’s only book one.

Andrew Peterson

I haven’t read the acclaimed The Wingfeather Saga yet, but my friends who have absolutely rave about it.

Mary Weber

I read Storm Siren this summer. Not only was it beautifully told, with an original storyline and strong cast of characters, it gave me a punch to the stomach. I’m talking about the diabolically brilliant ending. It will leave you begging for book two.

The list goes on and on. Check out the SpecFaith library for a treasure trove of titles.

Spec-fic isn’t dominating, and it’s unlikely to take the place of Amish fiction anytime soon, but we’re headed in the right direction. We have Christian authors weaving fantastical tales that shed light on life’s most powerful truths while telling darn good stories along the way, even if they don’t specifically target the CBA audience.

That’s something to be excited about.

Do you think spec-fic will continue to grow in the CBA?

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Steve Taylor
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Steve Taylor

The church is a lot smaller then the secular polls make it out to be. I read one the other day that said Georgia has 83% Christians. Anyone living here knows that’s absurd. I rarely find other believers outside of church. I drive 20 minutes to church on a Sunday morning and rarely do I see another car. Not so on the other six days. A biblically based poll came out years ago that said the numbers were about 3-5%. So if that’s true, which I believe it is, then that’s why the spec-fic books don’t sell in the numbers we’d like to see. There’s very few who would be interested.
What we can do is use the books to spred the gospel. Even the books that don’t have a clear message can speak to the hearts of the unbeliever. All we need to do is pay and email Kindle books to co-workers, friends, neighbors and family. Let’s face it, most ebooks run from 99 cents to $5. The top shelf may run $10. Isn’t that worth it to get people interesting in reading great books? We spend that on one coffee at Starbucks. God has given us gifts and tools that we need to use.
I’m also reading Patrick’s trilogy. I’m on the first book and love it.

Thanks for a good post. Wish I could have been there to meat some of you guys.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

Make that “meet”.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Technical question, how did the different polls word their questions? The secular polls most likely didn’t try to distinguish between denominations, while I imagine a “biblically based” poll probably translates into some denominational infighting.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

Secular polls just ask if you’re a Christian. The biblical poll asked biblical questions that all bible believing Christians believe. It had nothing to do with denominations. There are millions out there that think if they’re an American they’re a Christian. Not so.

notleia
Guest
notleia

But you don’t have examples of the specific questions? Okay.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

The poll was done years ago. I don’t have a copy of it. Let me ask you a question: Who spends eternity in the Lake of Fire when they die?

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

No response? I guess that proves my point.

Paul Lee
Member

We’ve all been there and back again, man.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

So what does that mean exactly?

Paul Lee
Member

It means that people who don’t really know each other on the Internet are always arguing about Christianity and what exactly it means to be a Christian in this world, and the fact that many Internet folk are burned out of the circular conversations doesn’t prove your point or anyone’s point.

Though I can’t speak much about what has gone on here on Speculative Faith and in its larger community, I do know that these debates have happened here and on blogs of people who comment here and have written for this site. I also know that notleia has discussed related issues in the past here in comments on Speculative Faith, and all those debates are old and cyclical.

I certainly can’t claim any special right to be here or to know what goes on here, especially since I haven’t been reading or reviewing CSF for a fairly long time. (I have no time. It’s my Christian obligation to try to keep my promises that I made out of sincere intent to do good, and it’s my Christian duty to perform my best for my employer. I have no time for much else, but I remember being struck with a sense of wonder and purpose when I discovered CSF as a teenager. It was one of the first times when I felt other people had a sense that Christian actually meant something deep and real.)

I don’t know anything about you, but I think you’ve suffered much to follow your Christian convictions. You’ve probably been ostracized and rejected and have gone through scarcity and insecurity because of your faithfulness to your belief that the vast majority of people you meet are going to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, and that you can help prevent that fate from befalling them by sharing the Gospel. I admire that. We are all obligated to do what we have to do in order to follow the beliefs that we hold not by choice, but because we authentically have come to believe that they are really true. So, you’re overwhelmed, and you see enemies everywhere, including in communities that are supposed to be safe havens for weary Christians like yourself.

But I’m overwhelmed too, and I’m trying to believe the right things as authentically as possible and to act in accordance with the highest Truth, but I don’t see eye-to-eye with you. We’d likely disagree on plenty of theology (I don’t have the time or the desire to discuss). I can’t speak for notleia but I’m quite sure she would authentically disagree with you as well. So, we’re all weary and burned out, and just because we might not want to continue the incessant (and too often graceless) debate on the Internet doesn’t prove anyone’s point.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

Seems to me you’re very judgmental over someone you don’t know. I’m nit weary nor am I debating anyone. I was asked a question so I responded with an example question. This was very simple. The Bible is God’s Word and Jesus made it very clear few will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and most will spent eternity in He’ll. This is not debatable in the Christian faith however those who are Christian in name only usually disagree with the Gospel and therefore disagree with this basic understanding.
Debating, discussing and sharing the Gospel on the internet is a great way to learn, challenge those who believe and preach to the lost. If you find this old and tiresome then stay off the internet. Angry Birds is a good distraction.

Paul Lee
Member

Oh, I know that I’m very judgmental. My judgments are based on guesses and hunches and are often wrong. I tried to express my judgments clearly and benevolently. (I can’t say why I initially expressed my judgment on your statement that the lack of response proved your point, other than that on the Internet — where I have the ability to gather my thoughts — is basically how I express my beliefs and judgments.)

Also, nothing is simple. Everything is infinitely complex if you really look into it enough. That is the nature of reality, as all the disciplines tell us. Then again, maybe everything is also simple in a completely different sense. I can never and will never understand simplicity. We’re fundamentally alien from each other, you and I, so only God knows anything about how much you or I or both of us is sinning by participating in this conversation and potentially hurting each others’ faith.

No thanks on the Angry Birds, though for all I know it might be a more edifying exercise.

Kirsty
Guest

Seems odd to assume that if someone considers that most people are not Christians he also sees them as his enemies.

Kirsty
Guest

Even a very simple question can make a huge difference in a poll like this, and still not be ‘denominational infighting’.

E.g. if you ask ‘are you a Christian?’, many people will reply ‘yes’. If you ask ‘do you go to church/read the Bible/pray?’ you will get a much smaller number. That’s nothing to do with denomination, but simply ascertaining whether ‘christian’ means more to that person than a cultural category.

You could even simply ask ‘are you a practising or nominal Christian?’

(Of course, I know being a christian is not about doing these things, but it gives a more realistic answer.)

Chris Jager
Guest

Thank you Zachary. Good article. Christian readers of fantasy and spec-fic are out there. We will read those genres even if it isn’t labeled Christian. It is great to be able to share “Christian” spec- fit with my friends and have a great discussion about.

Keep writing, I think it is something that is seeing it’s time come.

Deena Ward Peterson
Member

I’m so excited about the talent in this genre! I love the books you listed, and encourage readers to pick up The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker, The Gifting Trilogy by K.E. Ganshert, Embers by Ronie Kendig, Curio by Evangeline Denmark, Tainted by Morgan Busse. . .have I mentioned just how excited I am about the talent in this genre??