As an author of many speculative fiction novels and as a pastor, there are two seemingly opposing forces struggling within me as I work to come up with new ideas in my writing. First, how to come up with exciting fiction that will keep my readers riveted to my story, furiously flipping pages–or these days tapping the page-over buttons on their Kindles and Nooks–well into the wee hours of the morning. Secondly, as a Christian desiring to walk faithfully before the Lord, how to stay within the framework of truth presented in God’s holy word. Can Christian Speculative authors really compete with the kind of energetic fantasy we find in the secular market without violating truth?
Actually, I think we can and that without invoking the seemingly endless varieties of Amish community stories that seem to be out there. At any rate, I thought the best way to illustrate my point would be to give examples from my own writing while giving my reasoning behind the different plot structures.
My first novel, The Chronicles of Soone, is a sci-fi fantasy story written in the Star Wars style. It has various races, warriors with supernatural psychokinetic abilities, high tech weaponry galore, space ships galore, and even inter-dimensional travel. However, the one thing blatantly missing in this story is the presence of “alien” life forms of the George Lucas variety. Why? Well, as a Christian, the Bible leaves no room at all for the existence of aliens like these. The Bible easily establishes the existence of a spiritual realm and a mortal realm. However, alien life forms of the “little-green-man persuasion” are given no inclusion in the creative framework of God.
One might ask, how did you come up with different inhabited planets and the various human races you include in this story? I began with this possibility. What if God, in his omnipotence and omnipresence, chose to create a completely different universe apart from our own? He would, very likely, populate it in a similar manner–creating a race in his own image. Being subject to the possibility of sin, they would–as all created beings have–fall into disobedience and the condemnation of it. God would seek to redeem them and so on. Thus I allowed myself some latitude in technology and history, geography and so on, but I’m still working with spiritual enemies and mortal needs from a Creator God. There’s a lot that can be done with it, and the premise of God creating apart from our universe is totally plausible based on who God is … I don’t believe he did, but it is plausible and that’s what speculative fiction is all about, right?
In this type of story, and many others, allegory is very useful–making comparisons between the “other” humans in the “other” world with our own. However, God is always God, no matter what world we are talking about. This is one of our boundaries that must not be crossed. People change–unless you’re talking about our basic nature to do evil–but God does not change. No matter what world we may dream up, God is the same. Otherwise, we are technically not dealing with “Christian Speculative Fiction” anymore, but something with a view of God like the world views him … not as the scripture does. Many great stories have been written in the allegorical style. The Chronicles of Narnia instantly springs to mind, but there is a never ending flow of others.
My second example takes a different route: that of placing Christian characters into fantastic real world situations. We can stay home for this one–we don’t need to build other worlds to explore. We just need a thrilling adventure right here on good ole Earth into which we can place Christian characters and watch how they handle these unique, often overwhelming, circumstances. Hallowed Be Thy Name is based on a Jekyll and Hyde type of plot, only modernized, focusing on genetic research. Trenton Hallowed has developed a genetic mutagen hoping to speed up man’s supposed evolution. Instead, he has strengthened man’s primal ferocity and his mutagen is causing terrible physical changes as well as rendering him a psychotic murderer. Jonathan Hallowed is a believer and a relative to this geneticist. In the process of the story, Jonathan is dosed with the mutagen as well and finds himself strengthened by it, but because his body’s metabolism speeds up out of control, he is also racing toward death.
Jonathan is a Christian character facing fantastic circumstances. The speculative fiction is there, but without the need for allegory. Jonathan has choices to make just like we all do and he makes those choices based upon his faith in Jesus Christ. In this type of setting we can see the thought process we all go through before the watching world. Only the circumstances are amped up to the extreme. God is still God and the scripture stands without being violated.
My last example takes its plot directly from the pages of scripture. By using unfulfilled prophecy, such as we find in the book of Revelation, we can come up with a lot of interesting plot points even though we are working within a more limited framework–prophecy itself. For example, in my novel, Perdition’s Gate, I chose the Great Tribulation as my setting, but I didn’t want to copy the Left Behind series. Therefore, since the timing is unknown to us, I set tribulation period in 2094. It’s still a seven year tribulation as the Bible teaches, but with an advanced date I had liberty to make up a lot of preceding history and reframe the world during that time, whereas Left Behind used what we know today. I literally had 80 years of time between now and my setting to have all sorts of events taking place, new technologies invented, etc., that I could then use in my story!
Another way that I chose to stay out of Left Behind territory was my hero. The character is actually a special ops agent working unknowingly for Antichrist. Through the course of events, this character is forced to come to terms with the truth about events happening around him, his own lost condition and the prophecies coming to pass in the world. He goes from a lost man to saved, along the way asking the same questions lost people ask and receiving the sound wisdom of scripture in answer.
These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. There are many ways for Christian authors to work within the framework of our faith in order to tell awesome stories that lost and saved alike can be thrilled by while at the same time offering nuggets of spiritual truth that feed the soul. While the publishing industry has relegated this sub-genre to the corner and limited access, we as writers don’t have to be as limited as we might suppose. And with an ever-widening portal into publishing through the increasingly popular ebook market, the possibilities appear more favorable than ever.
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James Somers‘s writing career began with the sci-fi action novel The Chronicles of Soone: Heir to the King published by Variance Publishing/Breakneck Books. He has since published the sequel, The Chronicles of Soone: Rise of Lucin as well as two new action-thrillers: Perdition’s Gate and Hallowed Be Thy Name. He has several other novels in progress in both the thriller and young adult fantasy genres.
In addition to writing, James serves as the pastor of Ozone Baptist Church in Rockwood, Tennessee, and also works in Knoxville as a surgical technologist. He is married and has five children.
He may be reached for interviews or discussion at jamessremos at yahoo dot com