Mike Duran, the blogger behind Decompose, is a contributor to the writer site Novel Journey. Today he posted Part 2 of a panel discussion about speculative fiction. Yes, this was a panel I was part of. Here’s my answer to this question from Mike:
There is much discussion about what distinguishes Christian Fiction from the general market. Is it recurrent “redemptive” themes, the absence of language, God / Christ figures? How explicitly “Christian” must a speculative work be if it is published by ECPA houses? What strictures must a Christian spec author recognize in aiming for the religious market?
My guess is, few of us aim for the religious market. Some do. I assume Sharon Hinck is, with her Sword of Lyric series. In my efforts to find a publisher with an ECPA house, I hoped that the religious market would be a starting point, but that my books would branch out from there.
Speculative fiction lends itself to doing so much more than other genre or literary fiction, in my view. Christian science fiction can explore the ethics and spiritual implications of future technology. Supernatural suspense can explore the interplay between the spiritual and the physical. Fantasy can explore the nature of God, of evil, of good, and man’s capacity to face adversity. So, no, I don’t think Christian fiction requires recurrent redemptive themes, though I don’t see that theme as tired or over done. Any theme can appear to be tired or over done if it is treated the same time after time.
As to how explicitly Christian a speculative work must be for ECPA houses, I think you need to ask someone published by an ECPA house. Or better, ask an editor in an ECPA house.
Language? I hate that question—unless you’re talking about the absence of lyrical language. (LOL) Here’s the thing. If someone is going to submit to a publisher with clear guidelines that say No romance, that writer would be foolish to send in a manuscript with a love scene in the first chapter. Guidelines are guidelines. If a writer doesn’t like the guidelines, they send their work elsewhere. Publishers are free to set whatever guidelines they want, and writers are free to submit within those guidelines. If publishers’ guidelines prohibit the use of swear words or cussing, then a good writer can write around that using suggestion, or if all else fails, by telling.
I find it sad that we writers take up so much time grousing about whether we can or can’t use certain words when we talk very little about how we can more accurately, completely show who God is.
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I hope you take time to read the entire post, with answers from Jeff Gerke (WhereTheMapEnds and Marcher Lord Press) and Frank Creed (Lost Genre Guild and author of Flashpoint) as well. You can also still read Part I if you missed it when it was first posted.