Christians, Let’s Celebrate Our Own Fandoms

If you love recent Christian fantastical novels and want more of them, let’s celebrate our fandoms with articles and cosplay.
on Aug 4, 2016 · 19 comments

If you’ve ever asked “why isn’t there more Christian fantasy?” I have another question for you:

What are you a fan of?

That is, which storyteller is your favorite to cite, when you want to tout the virtues of Christian fantasy?

Okay, now take J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis out of the running. Granted, maybe they weren’t your first choice, but let’s face it, that’s kind of like answering “Jesus” in Sunday school.

Is that harsh? Maybe it’s my bias, but it seems like any time we bring up what is great about our genre, we jump straight into a TARDIS and return to the days of old, when there wasn’t even an idea of something being “Christian” fiction. We hold up Lewis and Tolkien with the honor they deserve, as the patriarchs that inspired us to push forward.

But is that all we can do?

Think back to the last 20 or even 30 years. Are there any names that sparked a passion in you to explore the What If? Elwood. Frank Peretti. Stephen Lawhead. Kathy Tyers.

What about the last 10 years? Ted Dekker. Kerry Nietz. Nadine Brandes. Jill Williamson. Tosca Lee. Mike Duran.

Perhaps you know these names, maybe even fans. But are you part of a fandom?

I look at how we engage with mainstream popular culture today. We debate at length the nature of superhero films. We cosplay as Time Lords, elves, and starships. We adorn ourselves in the branding and seek out art and memes that reference the popular works.

Is there a way to bring that level of fandom to our own culture? Granted, it is easier to hit on the high notes that “everyone” knows.  I mean, if I say “Don’t blink,” you likely understand the reference. Would the phrase “Empty numbers” hold as much weight? Within our circles, should it?

This really struck me during the Realm Makers 2016 conference, especially the costumes at the awards gala. There were dozens of detailed and well thought out costumes, all celebrating the fun and wonder of speculative fiction. Characters from across popular culture were represented: Kylo Ren, Ashoka, the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors, the TARDIS, even a unicorn druid.

Cover designer Kirk DouPonce as Reagan Moon. Courtesy Stuart Stockton

Cover designer Kirk DouPonce as Reagan Moon. Courtesy Stuart Stockton.

Maybe these stood out because of their ease of recognition. But out of all the costumes I only saw two derived from the pages of the Christian speculative fiction we clamor for. One was an Amish zombie. The other was Reagan Moon.

Perhaps again this touches on why the fandom feels weak to me. Only a few Christian fantasy titles have reached a level of near universal recognition even within our small ranks. But shouldn’t this be an even stronger case for you to celebrate a favorite character or world from Christian speculative fiction? To help expose even more people to the story that inspired you?

I also wonder where the in-depth discussion of Christian speculative fiction is taking place. This may seem ironic, coming from an article on Speculative Faith, but I mean discussion going beyond high concepts and the discussion of general market popular culture. Where are the posts discussing the world-building, characters and theology of recent titles?

I hope that all I have done here is display my ignorance! Please point me to where I can find these discussions and the wonderful fandom. After all, I admit I am the last person to be admonishing anyone about not engaging in our unique culture without first acknowledging that I have failed in this area.

But knowing that I have an issue is the first step, and “knowing is half the battle.” So I have a challenge to lay down, and to accept.

Let’s move beyond the questioning and become champions. You have all read a novel or have experienced a form of fandom for Christian speculative fiction. Celebrate it! Tell us about it below, what captured your imagination? What made you yearn for something more? And what challenged you and made you think about your beliefs in a new way?

These are the discussions that will help drive our fandom forward and help it to grow. And for those of you who love cosplay: I’ll challenge you to seek out a character from the pages of Christian speculative fiction that strikes a chord with you and cosplay that wherever you go. Be an evangelist for our genre that holds Truth at its core and doesn’t just reflect it through a mirror darkly.

Let’s engage in this journey together and be intentional about celebrating that which we profess to love so as to bring others along with us to discover and adventure through these new stories that await us.

Stuart Vaughn Stockton is the author of the award winning science fiction novel, Starfire. His exploration into world creation began in Jr. High, when he drew a dinosaur riding a pogo-stick. From there characters, creatures and languages blossomed into the worlds of Galactic Lore, the mythos in which Starfire is set. He lives in the beautiful town of Colorado Springs with his wife and fellow author, Tiffany Amber Stockton. Together they have two incredible children who bring new adventures every day.
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  1. Katie Hart says:

    I wonder if part of the problem is that Christian fiction lacks the visual representation that sparks cosplay popularity. Movies and TV shows, even manga and comic books, all give a clear visual of character’s costumes so that people can easily mimic them, while books only have cover images, which may not even feature a character, and leave the rest to imagination.

    I wonder how many “book only” cosplayers there are at secular conventions? What is the ratio to total attendees?

    Maybe the solution is for more Christian novels to be made into movies!

    • jwilkers says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Katie. There are very few visual representations of Christian spec-fic. Kingstone Comics has a following and recognizable movie and TV characters seem limited to Bibleman, Veggie Tales, and Adventures in Odyssey. One movie that -might- interest cosplayers is Beyond the Mask.

    • This is a great point, Katie. One aspect of cosplay I hadn’t considered, of which I learned today, is that a big part of it for people is the challenge to get their costume as accurate as possible. That can be hard to do if you’re going of the descriptions in a novel unless they are very specific. 🙂

      • Hannah says:

        One thing that can help with visuals for book fandoms is a lot of fan-art….it can then provide the general idea and look for each character, prompting the desire to cosplay. One of the best Christian fantasy bases I’ve seen for artistic visuals is the Tales of Goldstone Wood….so many talented people there!! You can find a lot of it here at the fandom blog–

  2. JJ Johnson says:

    Great post Stuart… I never really thought about it. The first real spec fic in the CBA I read was the circle trilogy. But no, I don’t think I noticed anyone dressing as Thomas Hunter. There are a lot of great characters in our works- I think that being champions of our own worlds isn’t bad and is supportive of the art we create. It’s always cool to see someone dressed as an Amish Zombie, or Regan Moon- Now I have to start rethinking costume ideas for next year at Realm Makers- Thanks.. 🙂

  3. Lauren Beauchamp says:

    The Goldstone Wood books by Anne Elisabeth Stengl have a small, but dedicated fandom — we’re the Imps of Goldstone Wood! There’s a goodreads group that has some interesting discussions. And if you haven’t read these yet, they’re a MUST. The first, Heartless, is okay but the books get continually better and deeper.

  4. I would agree with Katie that it is much harder to cosplay someone/something without seeing a visual representation (given to us by either movies, tv, or an accurate photo on the cover of a book). I know I’ve seen at least one cosplay costume of Nym from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren but that’s only a small representation.

    I suppose, as I think about it more, the market (and therefore the following) is smaller for the Christian Speculative community which lends itself to a smaller representation in all formats. This is definitely unfortunate, but understandable in some sense because Christian culture will always be counter-cultural if we’re following Christ. I too would LOVE to see Christian Spec explode in the market but I’m not sure that will happen. I think growth within the Christian community is possible though, and to some extent, I also think that it will grow and grow well as the word spreads.

    I think your challenge at the end here is the best way to go about spreading the word. It is within the Christian community that, as we uphold one another and tell others about our favorite Christian Spec books, that it will spread. We have to be the voice and maybe even the image (via cosplay) to get the word out about great books.

    Great post!

    • Thanks, Emilie. The cosplay portion may have overshadowed the rest, but my big push here is to try and see how we can celebrate the stories we love through any means possible. Fan art, discussion, cosplay, fan fiction… it could take a lot of forms.

  5. Kessie says:

    *pokes Stuart* Where’s that next Starfire book? I want to know more about that fantastic world, and why the whole dinosaur civilization is still scared of the moon.

    Looking around, I don’t see a lot of fandoms for small secular books, either. The writers at kboards are always wistfully hoping for fanfiction and fan art. The only one I know that’s gotten some has been the Heartstrikers books by Rachel Aaron. And come on–urban fantasy with dragons in human form is just too good. (Shadowrun, anyone?)

    So, is this post a green light to tear apart books we like? I’m always super-analyzing stuff. I just don’t, because I’ll hurt people’s feelings.

    • Kessie,

      Book 2 is currently being written. I AM going to finish it this year! Though I don’t know that you will learn the answer to why the Saurians are scared of outer space just yet. You will learn more about where many Saurn think they come from, and how the events of Starfire play out within those beliefs.

      And the fandom I was thinking of here was a bit more general, perhaps fandom was the wrong word. I meant the collective fandom of Christian Speculative Ficiton. Individual books sadly don’t have huge followings, but if we all join together to share our love of those books with each other, hopefully that will change.

      And this is definitely a green light to tear into MY book (soon to be plural), and I’d love to see it happen with others, hopefully with the authors blessing. It may be painful at times, but I believe it will help strengthen the storytelling and worldbuilding in the long run.

  6. So, I’m going to play “devil’s advocate” here and comment on the remarks regarding the lack of visual representation or inspiration for characters and creatures in the speculative faith fandom.

    All of those characters from the secular fandom that you see were dreamed up or imagined or even created by one individual, and then that visual representation took off. Instead of waiting for someone to design a cover with an accurate image or provide you with the visual, why don’t you step out and create it? Take the description the author provided and create the costume, or the graphics, or the clay models, or the images of those characters from the Christian speculative fiction novels?

    After all, it has to start with someone, right? Why not you?

  7. Paul Lee says:

    That is, which storyteller is your favorite to cite, when you want to tout the virtues of Christian fantasy?

    Nietz—if you mean in the CSF community sense. (And you obviously do.)

    Perhaps you know these names, maybe even fans. But are you part of a fandom?

    No. But I fantasized about going to Realm Makers dressed as Stark from Farscape, because I’m him, in several ways. Fandom shouldn’t be expected from fans. It’s a high threshold for isolated introverts. If I were a better man, I’d be more balanced in mind and spirit, more able to see when and where I can take time off from my obligations in order to enjoy fandom with other fans. But I’m not a better man. I’m overwhelmed and neurotic, and I’m trying my best to make the best world I can help to build by keeping my heavy promises and by doing as good as possible at my job. The thought that I should be spending more time having fun (especially socially) is very burdensome to me. I’m tired, and ashamed that I can’t handle more.

  8. Tamra Wilson says:

    I would love to go as one of Scatha’s Daughters (Goewyn, Gwenlien, and Gofannan) from the Endless Knot. Goewyn actually inspired one of my own characters, so I owe Lawhead a debt.

What do you think?