To kick off September’s CSFF Blog Tour, I had the privilege of interviewing Bill Bader, who, along with his wife Cheryl, founded our featured web site, Edenstar Books and Games.
RLM: Since you and Cheryl created and maintain a web site dedicated to Christian science fiction and fantasy, I can only assume the genre holds some allure for you. What first got you interested in speculative fiction?
BB: Tough question! Probably it was my passionate interest in astronomy. Science fiction took me places that regular stories couldn’t. I liked its outlandish, weird, unconventional nature whether serious or humorous. Socially I felt like an outsider, so I may have identified with the genre because it often dealt with misfits, aliens, and other oddballs. Part of the pleasure, too, is that much of it attempts to predict scientific, social, political, and other developments. Finally, a lot of it is just plain ol’ escapist fun!
I lost interest because I saw a lot of us-and-them mentality in the local sci fi fan group (many call non-fans “mundanes,” or boring people. It’s not universal, though). I also saw antagonism towards Christians and Christianity. Again, not a lot, but enough to be exasperating. Shock for the sake of shock crept in, and that quickly wore thin.
CSFF has all the elements that drew me to sci fi originally, but doesn’t have the negatives that alienated (sorry — couldn’t resist!) me. There’s an amazing amount of well-written CSFF that keeps me busy. I feel as if I’ve rejoined a party that’s better than I’d ever hoped.
RLM: What prompted you and Cheryl to do something so time-consuming as establishing and maintaining Edenstar?
BB: We like CSFF and know that others do. Since it’s so hard to find, we consolidated the available information so we could have a kind of check list that could also generate a bit of income! But if we’d known how demanding it is, we might have thought twice. Too late now.
RLM: What do you hope or believe is possible for Christian SFF and where do you see the genre now?
BB: I hope it can continue to grow as more Christian publishers take the risks of producing something that believers might find controversial. Sci fi has always been relegated to a small niche, and CSFF is a niche within a niche. But it can express truth in ways that mainstream Christian fiction can’t. That’s one of its greatest strengths, IMHO.
Much CSFF is published by smaller houses and never reaches bookstores. Fortunately, the Internet (which sci fi never predicted) has allowed us to learn of, list, and read some amazingly good books we never would have heard of otherwise. The numbers of reviews displayed for these books show that others are finding them as well. So there’s hope for growth and influence.
RLM: I know your wife Cheryl writes fantasy. What can you tell me about her book The Maker’s Pool?
BB: The Maker’s Pool is the story of three kids who pass through a mysterious green door into the land of Mojuku, one that’s as technologically advanced as ours. However, in Mojuku’s world, Tellamond, the Fall never happened. It’s a world without sin. In fact, the people don’t even grasp the concept. The people there have a close relationship with the Maker, living hundreds of years before going to their permanent home with the Maker’s Father. However, three invaders are poised to bring corruption into Tellamond by trying to tempt the natives into violating the one Law: do not swim in the Maker’s Pool.
Mitch, his sister Tanya, and his best friend Kevin are there to alert the Mojukans of the danger heading toward them. But the three have some learning to do themselves. Obedience, humility, and faith aren’t their strengths. But unless they grow and learn, their mission will not succeed.
Subjectively, I think it’s a wonderful book that more than holds its own. I’m frustrated because I think it’s a lot better than other juvenile fiction I’ve read, and I’d love to see The Maker’s Pool get the publication and recognition I think it deserves.
Objectively, it’s well plotted and paced. The characters are plausible, especially the Maker. A Christ figure is tricky to depict, and I think Cheryl did so really well. The humor works, the cliffhangers work, and the story is thought provoking without being preachy. I look forward to more about Kevin, Mitch, Tanya, Mr. Peabody, and the Maker himself.
RLM: How do you answer the critics of fantasy who believe Christians should not involve themselves in stories with talking animals or magic or strange powers?
BB: I’d start by asking why they object. Assuming the stories don’t get into biblically forbidden areas, I don’t see a problem. Talking animals, strange powers, and other fantasy elements can attract an audience to Christian teaching in a way that’s more palatable to them. For example, Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings from a Christian point of view but never mentioned Christ. However he includes such Christian concepts as friendship, generosity, hospitality, faith, sacrifice, temptation, atonement, suffering, resurrection—and more. Again, the books teach without preaching, as if they’re a very extended series of parables. Likewise, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia included many “suspect” elements, but they do what Lewis intended, which was to plant spiritual seeds in his readers’ minds.
RLM: Thanks so much, Bill. All that’s left now is for readers to see what the other CSFF blog participants (see list below) have to say and to check out Edenstar for themselves.