Yes, I’m unashamedly riffing off of Becky’s Most Excellent Title of a few weeks ago. (AND borrowing a Mir phrase. I’m so unoriginal … but hey, there’s nothing new under the sun.)
The discussion du jour on one of my Christian SF/F fanlists is what we consider “must-reads” on the Christian side of the genre. The point was made that what goes for good writing for secular side goes for Christians, too, and so the list of must-reads was expanded to include more than what’s been put out by the CBA.
To longtime fans of the genre, I’m sure this seems a no-brainer. Christian fans of SF/F are often quite a different lot from the average “Christian reader,” though.
I do not intend that as an insult to either side. I’ve been on both sides myself—first a teenager who dived heedlessly into whatever tickled my fancy, then gradually becoming aware that I didn’t like how I felt inside after reading certain stories. Eventually, I nearly stopped reading fiction altogether because the need of my life was not being met by anything I read at the time. When I made my foray back into fiction, it was cautiously, because I was still very sensitive spiritually, and I chose mostly Christian fiction to read because of the content of much secular work. But by that time, I’d learned enough to realize that some people really do have more tolerance for “unwanted” elements. I’m one of those impressionable types who, if I read too much profanity, I find that it starts permeating my thinking, and then my speech. My husband, on the other hand, despite years in the military and a varied diet of both secular and Christian authors, does not have my propensity to salty language—even when he’s furious.
So, I shouldn’t have found it surprising, when I made my foray into the Christian fen community (their collective term for SF/F fans), that so many people were more fond of “secular” SF/F, and less of the “Christian” variety. But I did. Even more surprising, though, was to find that many contemporary authors being published on the secular side are believers, and that their stories are thus infused with solid moral if not openly Christian themes. Where were these people when I was originally into the genre?
I’ve done a lot of thinking, though, about why longtime fans of the genre aren’t fond of CBA SF/F. I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be some who, for various reasons, use how “clean” a work is as their first criteria for what they read. Some of these would argue that all Christians should hold this as their primary criteria. But I have come to see the value of looking for the redemptive in pieces that some might not choose to read (or view, in the case of film), because of certain content.
So where do we draw the line between secular fiction that may contain objectionable material, but is still good fiction, and the stuff that is truly trash? I’m afraid that answer is going to be different for everyone. Sounds like a cop-out, perhaps, but there is Scriptural evidence that God will send some of His people where He forbids others to go.
And there is plenty of Scriptural precedent for taking things of the world—even works of art dedicated to idolatry—and using it to convince people of God’s truth. More on that next time.