1. Galadriel says:

    One book that I feel violated this rule was “The  Harbinger.”  The plot was pedantic and it felt like the author wasn’t sure what genre he was writing. The character receives a seal, puzzles out the meaning, meets the prophet, hears the actual meaning, and receives another seal. While it could be inferred that the prophet did this so the narrator would investigate for himself, it stilts the story flow.

    • Keanan Brand says:

      Just a note about The Harbinger: The author is a Messianic rabbi known for his knowledge of Old Testament and prophecy. The book was meant as a way to convey parallels he saw between OT and present day events. It’s not a traditional novel, no, and if I were his editor, I would have suggested a few change, but he might be said to have created a new genre in his attempt to convey truths in a more palatable fashion than a sermon series. It’s not allegory, it’s not suspense or fantasy or SF or anything we could stick a label on. It’s new. Knowing that, I could relax into the story and just let it be.

  2. sherwood smith says:

    Wow, terrific post–will be thinking about this one.

  3. Great article, Rick. Identifying mixing fiction with non-fiction as the problem with preachy fiction is so helpful. It clarifies what too many writers are doing. The idea that their fiction needs to be explained shows the lack of trust in their own storytelling skills and in our Almighty God who will use even our weakness because of His unending strength to draw people to Himself.

    To clarify one point–Mike Duran didn’t qualify his thoughts about theology. Our own Stephen Burnett is the one who differentiated between theology and systematic theology. I’m not sure if Mike, in his response comment, expressed agreement with that understanding or not.

    I’ll also mention, this is the second week in a row that the study covered by the New York Times has been mentioned. I myself have written about those brain studies a couple times. However, there’s been no collaboration on our part. Each of us has written independently of the other.

    Honestly, I don’t see why the findings aren’t bigger news in the Christian writing community. I mean, if as these studies are saying, fiction imprints on the brain in the same way that an actual experience does, how can we not see the ramifications for what we are feeding our minds?


    • R. L. Copple says:

      Thanks, Becky. No, I had no idea anyone else was referring to that study. I don’t recall in Mike’s blog comments who made the point that fiction can’t be expected to fulfill a systematic theology, but I think I recall Mike agreeing with that point in the comments. I think you are right, he didn’t make that distinction in his blog post. I’d have to go back to see. But not containing or unable to contain a systematic theology was a smaller subset of his main premise, that fiction isn’t a good vehicle for communicating theology.
      Which in one sense, I agree. That is, you can’t derive your theology from fiction. It is too interpretive, too prone to the demands of good drama, etc. To get a holistic theology of course we need the Scriptures and good teaching on them. That said, fiction can do what non-fiction can’t, which is to experience the theology and integrate it with life. Like trying on a pair of jeans to see if they fit before you buy them. In that sense, fiction does convey theology in a way that non-fiction can’t. Both have their place and need. Which is why Christians dismissing fiction as merely entertainment are missing the bigger picture. It isn’t necessarily a waste of time.

  4. Great thoughts!  It’s neat to think that as authors we have a unique ability to “feed” truth to our readers – not by sneaking it into our stories like a desperate mom trying to hide the vegetables in the pasta sauce, but by reinventing the dish in a way that surprises and interests readers.  🙂
    I think some Christian fiction authors mistakenly think that if they take the “vegetables” and douse them in enough sauce and chop them small enough, people will eat them up unawares.  But the reality is, the veggies will be found out, and the meal might even be rejected because the reader/eater finds the sneakiness distasteful.
    BUT, a speculative fiction writer is like a chef who throws together a fanciful meal that will be enjoyable in every part – undoubtedly there will be vegetables included, but they will probably (hopefully!) be prepared in such a way as to make them tasty morsels.  Maybe they’re caramelized, with brown sugar or something.  😀  The meal might not be as “healthy” as the one cooked by the desperate mom, but health isn’t always the point.  When one goes to eat food cooked by a chef, the chief concern is happy tastebuds!
    Hehe, that metaphor kind of ran away with me…

  5. […] at the Speculative Faith blog, I posted an article on how fiction affects the brain in the same way real-life experiences do. While non-fiction can transmit information, fiction […]

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