I suppose first I need to define my terms. Fiction can include short stories available at places like Residential Aliens or Digital Dragon or it can refer to novel-length stories for middle graders, young adults, or adults.
The term speculative includes the various forms of fantasy (urban, epic, dystopian, etc.), science fiction (space opera, techno, cyberpunk, etc.), and supernatural suspense or thriller (terms for types of horror).
Christian as an adjective describing fiction refers to the substance. As a given, Christian speculative fiction is written by a Christian, but not everything written by Christians qualifies as “Christian.” Rather some element of the story needs to be distinctly connected with what it means to be Christian. Perhaps the characters are predominantly Christian. The plot might revolve around something distinctly Christian. Or the themes may relate in a specific way to the Christian faith.
So my question: are you reading Christian speculative fiction?
I’ve been surprised in some of the Christian sci fi or fantasy writer forums and/or email groups I’m in when “what are you reading” comes up. Christian writers aspiring to publish with a Christian publishing house are too often reading anything but Christian speculative fiction.
Furthermore, there seems to be little talk about what author is writing compelling fiction. In other words, there’s little genuine “buzz” being generated.
What’s more, writers don’t seem to be communicating with their readers about what other writers in the genre are producing. I say this because of the latest Clive Staples Award that required voters to read two … just two … of the nominated books. Sadly, a number of ballots were discarded because this stipulation was not met. In addition, the number of voters dropped from the previous year when only one book was required reading.
I’ve heard from time to time the argument that there aren’t really many Christian speculative fiction readers. Rather, our “small” niche is simply vocal.
I’ve not bought into that theory for a multitude of reasons. But I can’t help but wonder — if there are as many Christian readers who love speculative fiction, why hasn’t some book in the genre become a big seller?
Are the really good writers simply bad at promoting their work? Are readers so hardened by the barrage of ads we all endure, that a genuine endorsement falls on deaf ears? Or is the Christian speculative fiction that’s out there missing something that readers are looking for?
What are readers looking for? A compelling character, I’d say, or a compelling place, like Narnia. An attention-holding plot with some unpredictable turns. Is that it?
I’ve read books like that and they haven’t generated buzz.
Does just the right person (whoever that may be) have to start the talk? Perhaps that’s it — besides their quality, the stories that will catch fire must first catch fire with influential talkers.
I wonder what Oprah thinks of Christian speculative fiction. 😆