Yesterday I asked Christian-fantasy advocates to Purge the Stereotype of ‘Geek’ Readers.
By that I don’t mean “alienate the alien advocates” or “banish fantasy fans from the land.”
I mean: If we think our favorite kinds of stories have only limited appeal to those who say, “I’m a geek,” we’re missing the transcendent appeal of fantasy (and other) stories — appeal that is rooted in human nature, and for Christians, roots in the epic Story of Scripture itself.
Of course there’s more to say about this. And of course this is inspired by the Marcher Lord Press sale and all the conversations afterward. Is this good? Is this bad? Will MLP’s stories and marketing change? How much? You’re not going to go all “CBA” on us, are you?
But I suggest that in one sense, readers and fans should not actually bother at all about helping particular books, The Speculative Genre, or any particular publisher(s).
And by “readers and fans,” for now I leave author/agent/industry questions completely out of it. As I said yesterday, I’m thinking more about conversations with friends at your local church, among your friends, in the workplace and abroad, and online. I’m convinced this is where the true action lies. Forget this, and you forget our roots: the grassroots.
Here are some do/don’t thoughts on how to help, not an Industry or Movement, but people.
1. DON’T promote stories for their genre or genre parts.
How well it was said in yesterday’s comments that it’s a mistake to promote fantasy/sci-fi because of certain parts — parts such as magic devices, sleek spaceships, or strange lands.
People don’t sell new cars by saying: “Under the hood it has the highest quality coolant hose!” They either stress its features that may actually appeal to you, or even better, put it on TV, all shiny and performing driverless stunts on a closed course (do not attempt).
For those seeking similar stories by professing Christian authors, we do have SpecFaith Library BookTags.1 But if I had my way, fans would eliminate from informal classification — I don’t speak of designations at the Library or bookstores, or within the industry — most references to genre.
I might even eliminate the descriptive term speculative. Speculating isn’t the story’s point. I’d instead call them journey stories, or quest stories. Quest stories has the scent of fantasy but implies more than fantasy.
2. DO enjoy and promote stories for their heroes and journeys.
If I’m on my game and raving about, say, The Avengers, I may mention the acting and effects and such. But more likely I’ll discuss fun heroes such as Tony Stark or Captain America.
And if I’m on my game and praising a new novel I’ve been reading, I shan’t even mention the genre elements, fantasy worlds, strange names, enviable sci-fi tech, or alternate history. Instead I’ll say: “It’s an amazing story about [Character Name], who above all else wants [goal], but [inciting event] happens, forcing him to join with [other Character Name(s)] and oppose [adversary] with one mission: [mission].”
That’s it. That’s the hero and journey. Everything after that is just color filling in the lines.
By the way, I capitalized Character Name for a reason. Don’t let’s talk about common nouns such as young orphans, teen sons of space smugglers, peasant girls, and galactic rangers-in-training. Name them. First and (if applicable) last name. If the author did his job, that person should seem almost as real to you as a close personal friend. So tell their full names. Frodo Baggins. Edmund Pevensie. Luke Skywalker. Harry Potter.
Thus this column’s title. I want to help not things but people, both fictitious and real.
(Next time: more do/don’t quest-story challenges, and thoughts in response to your thoughts.)