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Why 2019 Could Be an Epic Year for Christian Fantastical Fiction

Last year’s growth at Speculative Faith, Lorehaven, Realm Makers and many Christian-fantasy portals gives us cause to celebrate.
| Jan 1, 2019 | 2 comments |

This year proved quite the boom season for fans of Christian fantastical fiction, and we here at Speculative Faith have been thrilled to take part in this journey.

And for me personally, I look back and wonder if God may finally be providentially arranging many, many more readers who will embrace and take joy in unique fantastical novels made by (and sometimes for) biblical Christian readers.

Here’s why I draw this exciting conclusion.

Speculative Faith has grown fourfold!

Based on our website numbers alone, more readers are resonating with Speculative Faith’s mission to explore truth and fantasy for God’s glory:

In 2018, Speculative Faith more than quadrupled our outreach.

We had four times more readers and page views than those totals in 2017.

Of course, this doesn’t compare to a general-interest Christian ministry site. For those, readership extends into the millions, and their page views are even higher.

But for a comparatively “niche” site staffed solely by volunteers, it’s amazing.

Speculative Faith: Exploring truth and fantasy for God's glory

Since 2006.

For my part, I only wrote about thirty articles for Speculative Faith in 2018. (Most of those articles focused on the spinoff project where I’m editor in chief, the free, quarterly Lorehaven Magazine.) That means our big draws have been:

Not to mention our dozens of stellar guest voices. This year, we featured many new authors writing on Fridays and occasionally Tuesdays. We found these creative folks thanks to their books that we positively reviewed at Lorehaven Magazine.

In the fall, we added custom advertisements for each SpecFaith regular writer.

As site webmaster, I’ve continued to hone the website’s best layout yet, which we debuted in summer 2017 when SpecFaith and Lorehaven joined the same system.

In 2019, this creative work could reach even more readers. Please pray that it does!

Lorehaven Magazine is finding fans.

We closed the year with our four inaugural issues of Lorehaven Magazine.

Our mission: to serve Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres.

Subscriptions are free, online, and ad-supported!

We featured the magazine last year at the incomparable annual Realm Makers event, hosted in 2018 at the Sharaton Westport Chalet in St. Louis, Missouri.

We’ll return to the same venue this July for Realm Makers 2019!

This year, we plan more conferences that are geared toward Christian readers and fans. These are the fans—many of them young, some of them homeschooled—who will embrace Christian fantastical fiction in coming generations.

Watch this space for news about Lorehaven Magazine. Soon we will announce our first contest, partnering with the publisher of our recent reviewed novel. And although every Lorehaven issue is free (with a free online subscription), we’re also making our spring 2018 issue completely public this month.

Realm Makers is training more Christian creators.

You can’t get great Christian-made novels, and build joyous fans for them, without events and professional development to train these stories’ authors.

For Christian fantasy writers, the best resource for their trade is Realm Makers.

That goes whether you’re writing for fun, or have bigger, professional aspirations.

In 2017, Realm Makers jumped from its usual venues of university campuses (alternating in St. Louis and Villanova) to its first resort in Reno, Nevada. Last year this Christian-run conference for fantasy writers returned to St. Louis for its best venue yet: the charming and almost fantasy-themed Sheraton Westport Chalet.

Attendance at Realm Makers has increased each year.

So has attention from top creatives past and present, such as keynote speakers Thomas Locke (2016), Ted Dekker (2017), and Mary Weber (2018).

Realm Makers 2019

If you’re a Christian who loves fantasy, and/or fantasy writing, join us this July 18–20, 2019, in St. Louis for Realm Makers 7.0!

This year’s keynote speaker will be the bestselling novelist Brent Weeks.

They’ll have folks like Ted Baehr—yes, MovieGuide’s Ted Baehr—on faculty.

Local, indie bookstores are coming back.

Several news stories earlier this year remarked upon this trend: that while big-box booksellers suffer (thanks to Amazon), indie bookstores are bucking this trend.

Here’s a November update on the trend from CBS News:

According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent bookstores fell by approximately 40 percent between the mid-90s and 2009. They have recovered some of those closures, and this year, sales are up more than five percent over a year ago.

The localism movement has been a driving force. Customers are increasingly spending in their neighborhood stores.

This is fantastic news for book fans (and authors).

It’s also news that churches and Christian groups, ought to see as opportunity.

Pastors? Christian benefactors? Small business owners? This is your time.

Step up, step right up, and start a small bookstore in your town.

Not your gramma’s “Christian bookstore.” Instead, start an Inklings-type bookstore. Make great coffee. Make better conversation. Offer fiction and nonfiction on loan, to buy, or to print on demand—books not about sentimentalism or “Churchian” culture, but about the great themes of Scripture and the historic Church.

What a great way to help your community and to share the fantastical Gospel.

More people are seeing social media in perspective.

Social media, especially Facebook, did not have a banner year in 2018.

Skip all the political talk and just note that younger people (sometimes called “Generation Z”) don’t think Facebook is “cool” anymore. On a personal note, each of my siblings has a Facebook account, but I’m likely the heaviest user of the platform (mostly for SpecFaith/Lorehaven purposes). You can draw a line between siblings age 23 and below, and none of them often use Facebook.

Anecdotally I wonder if people have simply begun to see Facebook in perspective.

Yester-decade, the platform was all new and shiny. It was going to teach the world to scroll in perfect harmony. Today, the luster has dulled. We see the gift in better perspective—not an idol, but a plain glass reflecting humanity and all its flaws.

Mind you, I won’t jump ship on Facebook. In fact, this year I made my profile public. Stop by, say hello, pass your friend request. It’s still a great means to other ends.

But—to other ends. Like real-life conferences, church membership, and friendship.

As this continues, more people will be intentional about limiting their idle Facebook scroll time. They’ll find apps, habits, and other people to help them use their time more wisely, with or without screen devices. They may even read … books.

The Netflix-style bubble of always-on TV seems to be straining.

I haven’t seen this commented upon, but I’ve long wondered whether the reported slowdown in book sales is related to the growth of streaming media.

Anecdotally, this would make sense. Yesterday, I could only browse the internet at home, but I could take my books anywhere. Today, I can take my phone with me everywhere. On this phone, I can read and watch TV, and in places with WiFi (I still don’t have unlimited 4G), I too frequently drift to the YouTube and Netflix apps.

Fortunately, this may be changing. I am seeing more articles about the expected “peak” of today’s supposed “golden age” of TV streaming dramas. As with social media, their novelty may be dulling. In my personal case, my wife and I dropped several TV shows in 2018. (These include several of the seemingly endless, and increasingly Sexualityism religion–juked, superhero dramas.) Thanks in part to our Lorehaven work, we read many, many more books, including physical copies.

If others feel similar disillusionment, they will, again, return to reading more books.

Still, we’re getting more Christian-made fantasy adapted for TV.

Amazon is still making a multimillion-dollar Lord of the Rings–based fantasy drama.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)And this year, Netflix even announced it will make feature films and miniseries based on C. S. Lewis’s famed The Chronicles of Narnia series. (The announcement came with the blessing of C. S. Lewis’s faithful fan and stepson Douglas Gresham.)

Among newer authors, we just heard last month that The CW is making a series based on Christian novelist Tosca Lee’s book The Progeny.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if, this year, we hear a similar announcement from novelist Thomas Locke, last seen in the winter 2018 cover story of Lorehaven:

Thomas Locke

Novelist Thomas Locke

Locke said he will continue to pursue this goal of moral storytelling, whether in sci-fi like Enclave, or in his other stories that have attracted the attention of TV producers. This February, Locke visits Los Angeles to discuss two adaptations moving forward.

“My primary focus is to create entertainment that is competitive with what is out there in the mainstream, in terms of the character structure, the writing style, and the dramatic action,” Locke said. “At the same time, I want to maintain a sense of moral connection to the Scriptures and to that sense of a higher calling.”

No matter the author (classic or contemporary), and no matter the “explicitness” of his/her faith, these adaptations will only serve to remind us that the best Christian-made fantastical stories will, with God’s blessing, make inroads in our culture.

Lastly: I’m launching my own web portal.

With all this news, and this expected growth, I’m going to need a bigger blog.

I believe I’ll need more space than my Tuesdays at Speculative Faith, or my quarterly Captain’s Log at Lorehaven Magazine.

Enter EStephenBurnett.com.

EStephenBurnett.comSubtitle: EXPLORING STORIES BIBLICALLY.

This site is yet another neighbor in the Lorehaven network, along with Speculative Faith. This will be my author portal. I’ll share updates about Lorehaven and my other projects. I’ll also share shorter articles about current events and Christian fantasy.

My first article reflects my first Captain’s Log for the spring 2018 Lorehaven issue.

How about you?

If you’re here, you’re a fan (to some degree) of biblical truth and fantastical fiction.

As a fan, what do you eagerly expect in 2019?

If you’re also a writer, about what are you most excited?

How can we pray for your pursuit of Jesus and his gifts of stories this year?

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor of a nonfiction book about parenting and popular culture (title TBA), to release spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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notleia
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notleia

Oh, that’s why you’ve been more distant lately. You’re cheating on us with another blog 😛

Travis Chapman
Member

I’m excited for the chance to hear more and more different takes on old tropes. As more writers get into the game, the storytelling will continue to get better and find new ways to make significant impacts on our culture (at least here in the US). Even with folks still cutting their teeth in the digital boom, there are more maturing authors and the next C.S Lewis or Tolkien or whoever is out there!