Recently I posted an open letter to readers of Christian fantasy over at Facebook. The article centers on what readers can do to promote the books they like with the ultimate goal to send a message to publishers to put out more.
A day or two later I posted a somewhat snarky comment about blog posts that promote their own work. Both have generated a bit of discussion.
Add in John Olson’s recent post here at Spec Faith about creating a community of Christian speculative writers and then Bruce Hennigan’s article Friday with Pete Peterson about Hutchmoot, and it seems we’re talking about relating to writers and their work — or not.
I had one friend tell me point blank he didn’t feel it was his job to promote others writing Christian fiction.
Maybe it’s not. Not his job or anybody else’s job other than authors and their own teams. But then I wonder, what does this idea of “community” mean?
For the Inklings that Bruce mentioned in his article, it meant frequent physical meetings, feedback about their writing, discussion of ideas, encouragement to become better. I’ve long thought how ideal that atmosphere must have been.
Hutchmoot sounds similar but different. It’s physical but not frequent. It’s much larger than the Inklings and doesn’t seem designed to offer feedback about individual projects.
Neither of them seems concerned with promotion.
In contrast, John Olson’s ideas seemed centered on marketing. A group like the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour (for the sake of full disclosure, I’m involved in the administration of CSFF), is set up primarily for promotion, though exchanging ideas has become more and more a key of successful tours.
Add in fans — readers who love an author’s work, who engage one another in forums or post book reviews (generally of the five-star variety) on blogs and at Amazon. One person referred to these people as shills for the publisher. Often writers, editors, or agents have a group of fans that become regular visitors at their sites whose comments rarely diverge from a “you’re the best” theme.
I imagine that response is encouraging, but is gathering a fan base or an entourage what it means to develop a community?
How are we Christians to handle this side of writing? Are we to support — and promote — every other Christian speculative writer for no other reason than that they are Christian and are writing in the genre that we love?
Are we to ignore others and go about cultivating our own platform, our own fan base? Or is this call to community a Third Thing we should explore more?
And if the Third Thing is something we think is worth pursuing, will it isolate Christian speculative fiction in a niche where “us four and no more” will find what we want to read plus listening ears to our complaints against everyone else in the industry?
Here’s what I’m wondering: are we Christian speculative writers reading the work of other Christians? Are we telling anybody about the good books we find? Are we giving honest feedback in some forum or group or online site that encourages writers to improve?
Or is my friend right and it really isn’t my job to promote other Christian writers?
What do you think — is a greater community of Christian readers and writers interested in Speculative Fiction something desirable? And if so, what should it look like?
For additional thoughts on this subject, see “Writing Lone Wolves Or Inkling-like Writing Communities”