1. Sounds to me like you’re describing a problem born of the same tendencies which prompt many people to join third parties in the American political system. Example: if I’m an ideological idealist and the two major parties seem too diluted or corrupt for my tastes, chances are that, rather than face the daunting prospect of rolling up my sleeves and taking a toilet-brush to the accretion of compromise and sleaze within the political establishment, I’ll throw up my hands and flee to a fringe group that promises “purity.” The problem, of course, is that with purity comes powerlessness. Third parties don’t win elections; they’re too small. In fact, by abandoning the “compromised” major party, I’ve deprived it of my influence and weakened its chances of denying rule to the other major party — the “evil” one. The net result of my “principled” stand is nothing more than total self-marginalization.

    Is it any different in the world of publishing? Christians are too holier-than-thou to associate with “secular” publishing houses, so off they go to start their very own (and then gripe about how secular society ignores them). Christians who want to write speculative fiction notice increasing pushback from the Christian publishers addicted to self-help books and thoroughly besotted by romance novels, so off they go to target their own little sub-niche audience in a dank back-alley of the Christian ghetto.

    And then wonder why they lack industry clout.

    • Austin, I didn’t mean to sound as if I was scolding believers who have chosen a niche. I don’t think there’s one fit for everyone when it comes to writing. I think we need all kinds of stories with a variety of themes, published in any number of ways so we can broaden our reach.

      What I think we need to improve on, however, is how we relate to believers who are doing it differently. We need to move away from a them-against-us mentality–which I realize probably only applies to a few vocal people. But I want to be vocal for the opposite position: let’s support Christian speculative writers, even those who are taking a different path than the one I prefer.

      So how can we?

      That’s my question. How can we start pulling together, even though some of us are pulling with Clydsdales and some with Billy goats and some with sled dogs. There’s no “right” way, I don’t think. But if we ignore each other, go off on our own, we dilute the greatest asset we have–the body of Christ.

      Someone pointed out to me that one reason Twilight became such a big thing was because the Mormons got behind it. Christians, it seems, aren’t getting behind each other in the same way. I’m not saying all Christians should get behind anything waving the name, but Christian speculative writers and readers, it seems to me, ought to be able to find a way of helping each other find the stories they most want to read or to find the audience that most wants to read the stories.

      What are ways we could make that happen?


      • *inclines head slightly in deference to metaphoric excellence, then ponders whether self is a Clydesdale or a sled dog*

        Two suggestions spring to mind. The first is what I was trying to get at in my previous comment: that we subcreating Christians have got to stop employing a “strategy of retreat” whereby we keep abandoning our fortresses the moment they’re attacked, only to reform on successively smaller hills which provide successively diminishing tactical advantage. At some point we’ve got to say “This far and no farther,” quit dividing our forces, and learn to play well with others. I think that, ideally, Christian publishing houses shouldn’t have been created to begin with. But since we’ve gotta work within reality as it currently exists, I think Christian spec-fic authors oughta be doing everything within their power to reform mainline Christian publishing from the inside. Whether that means lobbying the powers that be or revising their own work so it can fit in the swiftly-closing content-door and wedge it open for others behind them, I don’t claim to know. But I know that, whatever it is, it’ll be more effective in the long run than backing farther into a super-special-interest corner of our own making. One cannot bring more readers into the fold whilst only marketing one’s wares inside the sheep-pen.

        My second suggestion isn’t really something I can do anything about: Christians have got to start putting more emphasis on the doctrine of vocation. Pastors need to start reminding their congregations that the call of God on their lives doesn’t begin and end with the Great Commission. Rather, we’re called to do everything, whether in word or deed, for the glory of God. If we Christians approached life with a holistic perspective of glorification — if we picked fruit for the glory of God and invoiced clients for the glory of God and cooked food for the glory of God and watched TV for the glory of God — then we’d start seeing a renaissance in Christian art and Christian art-consumption the likes of which the world hasn’t beheld for 500 years. And Christian spec-fiction would be marginalized no longer because (A) it’d be crafted with loving, exacting excellence, and (B) its readership would actually yearn for excellence to enjoy.

        That’s all I can think of. Either we hold our noses and, for the sake of unity and strength in numbers, work within the compromised confines of the established publishing industry, or we somehow spark a reformation of Christian thought and resurgence of Christian artistic innovation. Anything else seems marginal to me. I mean, if the much-theorized Disconnected Christian Spec-Fic Writers And Readers haven’t already found each other and assuaged their mutually unrequited longing in this age of the Internet, how’s it ever gonna happen?

  2. I can only speak about myself. I’ve seen Christians challenge each other because of a sex scene here or a dance scene there or a bad drunk scene there or too much Arminism there. It’s as if we think we know how to judge another man’s servant. It really is QUITE possible and ultimately very probable that a book with a sex scene might annoy our fellow christians but might lead someone else to God (someone else who doesn’t care about the sex scene or someone who thinks the sex scene shows that christian writers are human or someone who thinks the sex scene was artistically needed.) But as long as Christians presume to think they know what God is doing or what God wants done in gthe world, then we won’t understand each other’s unique task. Each of us will get a name that only God knows…and it seems to me that on earth we should be humble enough to say “It might be that this work is a work God wanted done, but which none other but this person was open to doing.”

  3. Ha! I guess I’d rather have us think we’re all pulling together, not who is pulling to what extent. 😉 I understand your point, though, Austin, but I’m thinking we don’t have to sacrifice our cherished endeavors for the sake of unity. For example, I’m only too aware that the CSFF Blog Tour is limited, so I’ve encouraged others to start blog tours, and they have.

    We can’t all do everything. But I have a problem when I see writers doing nothing for anyone else. I know God may not have put it on their plate to promote others. But seriously, when a writer is doing regular Facebook updates and can’t share another author’s contest or promotion or blog post?

    Phyllis Wheeler, our guest last Friday is an example of someone doing it right, I think. Castle Gate Press is filling a need she and her teammate have identified (small niche), but Phyllis has been a long time member of CSFF (working together with others) and posts regularly. Not to mention that she also reviews any number of other Christian speculative titles.

    Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books is the same–an active member of the Lost Genre Guild and a participant in CSFF as often as she could get books.
    She’s working with others to promote what they’re doing. Lots of others, too. May their tribe increase! 😉

What do you think?