The Next Big Thing

Christian writers are often accused of being tone-deaf on popular culture, behind the times, and generally out of touch. Well, I’m here to help.
on May 3, 2011 · No comments

Christian writers are often accused of being tone-deaf on popular culture, behind the times, and generally out of touch. We take years to catch on to ideas that used to be paradigm-busters but are now hopelessly passé.

Fear not! I’m here to tell you about a trend that is, if not red-hot, at least respectably warm: The Literary Mash-Up.

The basic idea is to take two dissimilar forms of literature and mix them together, sort of like getting peanut butter on your chocolate. Or chocolate in your peanut butter. Now, I seem to remember Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press talking about an “Amish Vampires in Space” novel, but that doesn’t count–it’s more than just crossing genres, it has to be based on a work with some literary gravitas. Stories like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina have rocketed to the top of the bestseller charts. People love ’em.

So, why haven’t we yet seen a good Christian Spec-Fic mash-up yet? The simplest answer is that we haven’t noticed this opportunity, and even worse, none of us will think to do one for another ten years yet if the idea isn’t gently brought to everyone’s attention. It’s almost like we’re tone-deaf on popular culture or something.

Well, I’m here to help. I’ll provide a few ideas based on a body of work we’re all familiar with, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, then we can all set to work writing our bestsellers.

Kings and Queens of Narnia…Forever!

Thrill to the breathtaking adventures of the Pevensie siblings as they battle the forces of evil during Narnia’s Golden Age! Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy gallop into action from the towering fortress of Cair Paravel under the watchful eye of their mysterious mentor, Aslan, the Immortal Lion. With uncanny powers of Greatness, Gentleness, Justice and Valiant…ness, they fight alongside Narnians both mundane and mythical in their neverending struggle against the White, Green, Purple, and Chartreuse Witches of Lantern Waste. Feel the roar!

The Twilit Lands

Jill Pole was a misfit–a shy, solitary girl, mercilessly tormented by bullies at school. She spent her afternoons weeping alone, her tears falling heedlessly onto the cold stone wall behind the gymnasium. Now, a twist of fate will draw her through a magical gateway into Narnia, a strange land of vast, primeval woodlands bordering an endless sea. Far to the north, an enchanted prince suffers in silence, underground, wandering in caverns deep beneath the mountains, where phosphorescent moss creates a gloomy, unending twilight. Can Jill break the curse and bring her pale, lonely prince back into the sunlight, or will she sacrifice everything to join him for eternity…in the Twilit Lands?

Digory Kirke and the Magician’s Rings

Young Digory Kirke is in dire straits–his mother is dying and he’s under the care of his abusive Uncle Andrew, who dabbles in the Dark Arts. In a desperate bid for freedom, Digory steals Andrew’s magic rings and enlists his friend Polly Plummer in a journey across time and space to find a cure for his mother’s illness. He takes a wrong turn in the Wood Between the Worlds and awakens a monstrous witch, “She Who Must Not Be Awakened,” who relentlessly pursues him to the newborn land of Narnia. Digory and Polly will need all their courage (and a winged horse!) to defeat the witch, save Narnia from her corrupting power, and bring home a rare and wonderful fruit that contains the secret of eternal life.

*Note: Technically, you can’t mash two young-adult magical fantasy adventure stories. It’s like mixing peanut butter with peanut butter.

My Desert Prince

Forbidden love! Dark, dangerous, dashing Rabadash of Calormen aims for the conflicted heart of Narnia’s elegant Queen Susan. Can Rab’s offer of lavish wealth and an ivory tower commanding the windswept dunes of Calormen melt her icy defenses, or will courtly intrigue erupt into the ravaging flames of war, separating them for all time? Their fate rests upon the shoulders of a ragged orphan charging across the desert on a stolen horse–and carrying a message that may change their world forever.

Left Behind: The Shack

These are the last days of Narnia. War rages as the forces of a counterfeit Aslan and the demon-worshipping hordes of Calormen converge on the handful of faithful Narnians who remain. A small community of dwarves huddles in an abandoned shack and waits for the end, fighting desperately to resist the diabolical voices whispering through the walls, claiming to be Aslan, baiting them with promises of a paradise that awaits them outside the shack, luring them to what they know must be certain death. Will they recognize the true Aslan when he appears to judge Narnia and create the world anew, or will they be…left behind?

**Another Note: C.S. Lewis’ stories can’t legally be used as the foundation of a literary mash-up because they aren’t in the public domain…yet. Personally, the idea of spending a lot of quality time with British lawyers gives me hives. I suppose you could float the idea to Douglas Gresham if you’re really determined to try.

Fred was born in Tacoma, Washington, but spent most of his formative years in California, where his parents pastored a couple of small churches. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a bomber navigator, flight-test navigator, and military educator. He retired from the Air Force in 2007, and now works as a government contractor in eastern Kansas, providing computer simulation support for Army training.Fred has been married for 25 years to the girl who should have been his high school sweetheart, and has three kids, three dogs, and a mortgage. When he's not writing or reading, he enjoys running, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, and playing around with computers.Writing has always been a big part of his life, but he kept it mostly private until a few years ago, when it occurred to him that if he was ever going to get published, he needed to get serious about it. Since then, he's written more than twenty short stories that have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, and a novel, The Muse, that debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, which was a finalist for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year in the speculative genre. Speculative fiction is his first love, but he writes the occasional bit of non-fiction or poetry, just to keep things interesting.
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  1. Galadriel says:

    That…oh my…I know that was meant to be a spoof, but it made me break out in literary hives. Just…no…

  2. Young Digory Kirke is in dire straits–his mother is dying and he’s under the care of his abusive Uncle Andrew, who dabbles in the Dark Arts. […]

    Fred: you had better pray the Narnia screenwriters don’t find that. My guess is they’ve probably already thought up that “adaptation” of The Magician’s Nephew for the forthcoming film.

    “And thank you so much for bringing that up. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?”

  3. Morgan Busse says:

    LOL! Fred, I just love your posts 🙂

  4. John Weaver says:

    lol. that’s great!

  5. Tsk, tsk, Fred, the traditional publishing world is only catching up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: online fanfiction writers (and probably their magazine-bound predecessors) have been doing mashups for years. They’re called crossovers. has a whole subdomain devoted to them. You name it, they’ve got it (including, I kid you not, a Narnia/High School musical crossover).

    Seriously, though, they’re not all bad either. Just like fan fiction at large, you have to dig through the drek to find the good stuff; hmm, that quest could really describe all fiction. In full disclosure, I’ve dabbled in this genre myself. Like good fanfiction of the solitary nature, so long as the story does not bend the characters and underlying motifs of the source material like a pretzel merely to suit author vanity, I’m good with a creative fusion of two stories.

    Plus, there’s always parody. And we’ve already said we’re OK with parody, right? 😉

    • Fred Warren says:

      Alas, it seems I’m already behind the times, out of touch, tone-deaf to popular culture. *Sigh* You look away for a second, and everybody’s using cordless phones…

    • Michelle: I am, anyway, though with some reservations, and of course the views expressed in my own columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Speculative Faith, its management or its nonexistent advertisers. 😀

  6. Kaci Hill says:

    Not to be confused with Last of the Marshwiggles, The Taming of the Mouse, Much Ado About Wardrobes, or A Wizard for All Seasons. 0=)

    Oddly enough, your Horse and His Boy kinda helped me out. I never liked that one as much because it bothered me it didn’t fit with the rest of the series.

    • Fred Warren says:

      Kaci: Yeah, I had a similar reaction the first time I read it, back in high school. HHB is almost a stand-alone, though it provides some background on the Calormene culture that is helpful in LB. I enjoy the way it’s filled with gentle illustrations of God’s presence (and Aslan is *present* through almost the entire story, though nobody realizes it until later), including one of my favorite portrayals of the Trinity.

      • Kaci Hill says:

        Oh, I definitely appreciate it more now. But when I first tried I was probably a fourth or fifth grader–didn’t really become a Narnia fan before jr. high or high school.

        And as you say, the subtle working of Aslan is amazing. 0=)

  7. Well, Fred, this is not real stories unless we have giant Japanese robots as equalizers. If the kids from Narnia can pilot them, this will bring instant fandom.

What do you think?