(Note: the Resurrection series will resume next week with the final part, Resurrection, part 4: Creation Will Rise.)
Some themes, phrases, or single words in story descriptions make me instantly shut down.
This happens regardless of author, length, publication, or pleasing cover images. All those can be great or the story by itself wonderfully written. In fact, it’s arguably unfair for me to have these kinds of shutdown standards. With such stigmas, I could miss a great story.
Yet I still have story shutdowns, and so do you.
Here I’m summarizing some, not to complain, but to challenge you to challenge me. Maybe some of these are unfair shutdowns. Tell me if you think so. Or maybe you’d agree and have more of your own shutdowns to offer, also to be respectfully challenged. Let’s begin now:
I am sick enough of Satan in real life. In fiction he’s almost as rampant. In fact, one can make a strong Biblical case for Beelzebub’s physical limitations in real life, yet in fiction he has attained seeming omnipresence. He broods in Hell, he fathers children, he possesses people, he’s altogether not nice. But consider this, Satan-exploring folks: not even Frank Peretti, kingpin of the original spiritual-warfare thriller, thought to involve the Horned Prince of Horror in his stories. Maybe we should resist those Devil tropes.
- Lost orphan princes.
One day I hope to read a story in which the foundling Chosen One child turns out to be the long-lost son or daughter of — a middle-aged couple from the village across the kingdom. And that lost child, in a stunning plot twist, turns out to be the long-lost heir of — a small farm with two adjunct barns and a blacksmith shop. Any author who can make that into a great and God-exalting story would have my respect.
Once upon a time your columnist had an inspiring idea: why not attempt an epic fantasy series set in the pre-Flood age, when mankind — contrary to perception — had all kinds of amazing Biblical-steampunk-style devices, plus dinosaurs? This is a very cool concept, yes, but several great storytellers have already done it. But I did not know that until one day my sister found and withdrew Flight to Eden by Douglas Hirt from a Christian-store shelf. (Later I enjoyed this Biblical fantasy romp and its two followups.)
So I can’t fault that concept. Rather Christian fantasy’s near-constant emphasis of the Nephilim makes me shut down. Folks, delving into highly speculative possibilities such as human/demon sexual relations, giant hybrid creatures, and ultimately seeming to blame Satan for human sin just doesn’t do it for me. Not since Flight to Eden, anyway.
Especially when the Nephilim mentioned in Gen. 6:4 could be nothing more than a name for the equivalent of the Mafia — a human group with great physical strength and fame.
Evil demons having relations with victim humans is Biblically questionable, based more on myths about incubi than actual Scripture. Second, it makes Christians sound like little more than guests on late-night conspiracy-centered radio, or potential targets of a meme that mocks a certain History Channel program host. We can get our “whooo, it’s supernatural” X-Files-fashion jollies in other ways.
- (Related) Aliens are actually demons(!).
Been there, speculated on this. Yes, this is vital to know; yes, Christians must be armed with apologetics to take on the occult and religious nature of many aliens-and-UFO cults and personal religions. But enough with the copious amounts of fiction designed to prove this possibility. Let’s move on.
- “… In the tradition of C.S. Lewis.”
There is only one C.S. Lewis, and he does not share power. If he did, a modern Christian novelist would be the last to know. So perhaps we ought not put that boast atop books. It’s like saying, “Here is an actual Christian fantasy novel! Very rare in these parts!” Currently more than 500 such novels are listed in the Speculative Faith Library. Rumors of these stories’ rarity have been greatly exaggerated.
I really hate having to include this one, particularly because as of this writing the Speculative Faith Library includes approximately 47,000 titles with the BookTag dragons. But what can I say? Books that include dragons are fine — that’s almost a staple of fantasy genres — but I’m not attracted to books whose central selling point seems to be “Look! Dragons!” Of course, many of them aren’t intended for me. Plenty of middle-grade or even teen readers may still be attracted by “Look! Dragons!”
- Really horrible front covers.
Sure, I might read a self-published novel. But if the cover is made of a generic stock-image photo that’s been un-proportionately enlarged to the point of pixelation, underneath the novel’s title in an orange ultra-beveled PowerPoint 97 font face, then I’m sorry, I’m already sure an author/reader relationship won’t work.
What shutdown factors, fairly or unfairly, put you off reading a particular book or author?