In fact I’m saying “speculative fiction” is incongruous. Novelists of any strip only “speculate” within the parameters of their belief system, Christians not more so than any others.
If I may, I’d like to run off with this in a different direction. I use the label “speculative fiction” because it’s handy, but privately, I think it’s very, very redundant. Let me tell you a story:
Years ago, someone asked me why I, as a Christian, would write fantasy. In this person’s mind, “real-life” fiction was more honouring to God and had more power to impact people than this made-up stuff I muck about with. I try to give all questions serious, sincere thought, so I wrestled with the question a bit. And then the light dawned:
All fiction is fantasy.
That is, all fiction is speculative–to some extent.
As Becky pointed out, when we tell stories, we tell them through the lenses of our belief systems. In some cases, the things we believe are true; in other cases, they are not. Sometimes we write things we know are not true–like truly heroic, sinless characters who are not God. Such characters are inspiring and comforting and have their place. But they’re fantasy, whether they live in Brooklyn or the Elven world of Allyra.
Nobody–not one single fiction author on this planet–actually writes about the real world. We write about the world we see, or cynically believe in, or wish existed, or hope to create, or what-have-you.
Fantasy–and other “spec” genres–are actually more honest and open about this. People KNOW we are speculating. They get that we are making things up. An author whose story is set in Brooklyn, on the other hand, can make up all kinds of things without anyone noticing–they might make up the idea that adultery can make a person happy, for example, or that lying is a good way to fix things, or that happiness is to be found only in the past or in the “simplicity” of an Amish community.
Speculating in the open the way fantasy and other weird-genre writers do actually puts our worldviews on display in a more obvious manner, because we’re not pretending to be writing “reality.” And because of that, I would answer Mike Duran’s original question like this:
Christian speculative fiction is not an oxymoron because it is not, finally, any different from other forms of fiction. Our worldview will always limit what we write–or give it wings. Christians are as free to speculate as anyone else, and we can do it openly in this crazy genre we all love. Our speculations will cast light in some way on reality, but they needn’t try to BE reality. They can’t be.
Now, whether or not readers will LIKE what we speculate is whole other question. As Kaci Hill recently wrote, we should read like Jesus, with compassion and grace–but I’m not sure most of us do.