In response to guest author John Olson’s post, “Speculative Marketing: Re-imagining Reality,” I wrote a comment that revealed something about me, something I don’t usually tell the Spec Faith crowd: I don’t feel weird. That in itself makes me weird, however, since many vocal spec faith readers and writers see themselves as a group apart.
I was a “mainstream” reader before I was ever a fantasy reader. To exacerbate matters, I don’t really like science fiction, though like other genres, I find that some titles will captivate me. The upshot is, I often don’t feel like I fit with speculative groups. Yet I write fantasy, so I don’t feel as if I fit with mainstream groups. I truly am weird.
But as I also mentioned in my comment to John’s post, I’ve discovered that I’m not as alone as I thought. There are other fantasy or sci fi lovers who do not feel as if they are outside the mainstream. In fact, they love to read good books. Period.
Then there is the Christian aspect of Christian speculative fiction. Not long ago “Christian fiction” was considered a genre produced exclusively by Christian publishing houses. Times are changing. A growing number of Christian authors feel compelled to write for the general market. Their place in “Christian speculative fiction,” then, is uncertain, at least in some people’s minds.
Perhaps we need two distinct categories — Christian speculative fiction as a genre and Christians who read and write speculative fiction.
Not so long ago, in the article “Imagination And Truth,” I suggested that Christian fiction (of any genre) should be defined as stories that speak the truth about God:
And here is the point that separates Christian fiction, I believe, from all other fiction. Christian fiction speaks the truth about God. Other fiction can speak the truth about morals or the way the world works or what makes a person love or hate or live on the edge. Other fiction might be silent about God. Other fiction might speak a lie (though undoubtedly the author believes that what he’s written is true) about any of these things. Only Christian fiction speaks the truth about God. [Emphasis added this time around 😉 ]
Given that definition, Christian fiction can be found in all kinds of places — in ebooks, books published by traditional Christian publishing houses, self-published books, books put out by general market publishers, books published by small or independent presses.
In addition, a number of Christians are writing about people and society from a Christian worldview. They aren’t actually saying anything about God — not overtly or allegorically, though perhaps obliquely and by implication. Veronica Roth, author of Divergent comes to mind as such a writer. She states on her blog that she is a Christian:
I’m also a graduate of Northwestern University, a Chicago-suburb resident, a Christian, and A Tall Person, among other things.
Besides her blog description, Veronica makes a clear statement of faith on the acknowledgments page in Divergent. Yet her book, I understand, deals with a dystopian society and doesn’t include God. Does she or doesn’t she belong in amongst those identifying with “Christian speculative fiction”?
Certainly that’s for her to decide, but I’d say emphatically she belongs with Christians who love speculative fiction.
I personally would like to see a broader community emerge — one in which readers and writers support and encourage quality speculative fiction wherever we find it.
I have seen great strides made among Christian publishers in the last seven years since Spec Faith 1.0 was first conceived (you’re currently at the 2.0 version). I’ve also seen organizations like the Lost Genre Guild crop up, and small publishers like Marcher Lord Press and Splashdown Books come into being with the intent to make more Christian speculative fiction available.
Somehow our efforts seem scattered, however. Just today I visited the site of a Christian speculative fiction writer I “met” on Facebook. In her sidebar is a list of “Author Friends,” and I didn’t know a one. Perhaps they aren’t all speculative writers, or maybe none of them is. But I frequently happen upon other speculative writers not involved in any of the groups I know.
If for no other reason than to pray for each other, I think it would be great to have a place for Christians who love speculative fiction to “congregate.” I don’t, however, think we need to separate from the mainstream.
Goodness — Veronica Roth’s book debuted at number six on the New York Times bestseller list, which of necessity puts her squarely in the mainstream. Are we to say she doesn’t belong in our little niche of Christian speculative fiction because she’s too popular? Or because she isn’t writing about God? I say, she’s a Christian with a Christian witness writing speculative fiction and those of us who care about our genre should be excited to see her doing what she is doing. We should also be supporting her in prayer, even as we should Jeff Gerke or John Olson or any other Christian who writes or publishes what we want to read.
Possibly getting Christians who love speculative fiction together will prove to be much like herding cats. I’d still like to see us try — I’d like to see a support system of some sort, for readers and writers, for Christians writing Christian speculative fiction and Christians writing speculative fiction. I’d like to see us create a stir for the books that we love and ultimately for the God who makes it possible.