Unable to attend Realm Makers, the first ever Christian speculative fiction conference, I’ve been following with a great deal of interest online. Thanks to our webmaster and weekly contributor, Stephen Burnett, we could follow live Twitter feeds. He also posted an array of conference pictures that spoke volumes about the goings on in St. Louis.
Other conference attendees, such as Morgan Busse, have also begun to report their experiences and to share pictures. From someone on the outside looking in, I’d say the event was a huge success, with all the potential of becoming bigger and better moving forward. I am so happy about that and look forward to the day I’ll be a part of it.
But something has been niggling in the back of my brain–something I’m not comfortable with. I don’t know if it’s a perception I fear or an actual inaccurate belief I want to contradict, but at the heart of my discomfort is the idea that speculative fiction, and Christian speculative more so, is weird. These stories, some believe and others may assume, are for the few, the proud, the niche, and not for everyone.
First, I don’t find that perspective to be true to experience–otherwise speculative fiction, whether in print or on film or via television, would not be so successful in the general market. In addition, I don’t find it to be true philosophically. Let me explain what I’m thinking here.
Both fantasy and horror, or supernatural suspense, if you prefer, are built upon the struggle between good and evil. Science fiction doesn’t stray far from that premise either. I’ve heard mystery writers say the same thing, but not romance writers or historical or contemporary. In other words, speculative fiction centers upon a Biblical truth–a spiritual war exists between God and those rebelling against Him.
This battle is not something assigned to a small group of religious fanatics. The struggle at the heart of speculative fiction is common to humankind. This fact came out for all the world to see last week in a 60 Minutes spot by Lesley Stahl in which she reported the findings of a Yale study involving babies as young as three months old.
The study concluded that humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong and of justice. At the same time we have a built-in propensity to hate. We’re wired, as one of the researchers said, for selfishness and bias.
Something good in people. And something evil.
Surprise, surprise! Lesley Stahl certainly found these results to be revolutionary. The whole “blank slate” concept is completely, scientifically proven to be false.
Of course the findings are absolutely consistent with what the Bible has said about human beings all along. We are created in God’s image, part of what He looked upon and found “very good.” But we are fallen. We have the implant of Adam’s rebellion against God wired into our being.
Good. And evil.
And this is the human condition. It’s why society creates great art and music, builds hospitals and schools, reaches out to help the needy and the suffering while at the same time establishing prisons and police forces, armies and governments, courts and judges.
All of humankind deals with the conflict at the heart of speculative fiction. Why would we ever think our stories are for a niche? Why would we label them as weird or separate ourselves from other readers and other writers?
We are among those who see the world and us humans in it, with clarity. We understand what’s really happening, what we’re all up against. As Christians, we not only see the facts, as the Yale researchers now do, we also understand the cause. In other words, we have the truth–not a truth or a theory or a religious idea.
Truth is universal. It is not for a niche. It is not weird. Consequently, stories that show truth ought not to be considered weird or for a specialty audience. Truth is for everyone. Hence speculative fiction is for everyone.
The sooner we unlock the closet in which we voluntarily reside, the sooner our stories will have the impact Truth should have on our culture.