Christian speculative fiction has a low bar on quality to get published compared to the general market.
Publishers distributing to CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) bookstores are said to be more concerned about whether a book contains no cussing, sex, and drinking; and that it contain Bible quotes, stereotypical perfect Christian, and a Gospel presentation in some form, than they are about the quality of the plot, believability, and descriptive writing.
As Rebecca LuElla Miller has pointed out on more than one occasion, there are several quality speculative fiction titles in the CBA that would counter the above argument. I don’t doubt she is right, and I’ve not read as widely among CBA titles to agree or disagree with integrity. The few I’ve read fall into two categories.
I’ve read the first book in Donita K. Paul’s Dragon Keeper series, DragonSpell. I’d rank that high on the quality meter. I also read a book, I don’t remember the title but I believe it was published by Bethany, touted as a good example of CBA science fiction. I lasted about five chapters waiting for something to happen before giving up. That, and the Christianity felt too tacked onto the characters.
Before you read on, if you missed my article last week on my definition of Christian fiction, you may want to do so now in order to know what I’m referring to by the term.
The CBA is no longer the only Christian market.
The advent of Print on Demand, ebooks, and internet retail has opened the door for books unable to be published through CBA channels. In some cases, this has brought quality Christian fiction to readers that otherwise would have remained hidden in publisher and agent slush piles. It has also brought a slew of low quality work that would have been rejected at most publishing houses.
But this is a growing market. More and more, Christian speculative fiction readers are discovering the great choices available to them.
Marcher Lord Press, publishing Christian speculative fiction, proved the viability of this non-CBA market by the fact that Jeff Gerke, the owner, was able to sell it to a leading Christian literary agent, Steve Laube, on January 1, 2014.
Whether through small presses like Splashdown Books or via self-publishing, the Christian market has expanded in recent years beyond the gardened walls of the CBA.
I want to hear from non-writer readers what they believe is quality Christian speculative fiction.
I know, I know. Writers are readers too. The bulk of us are. However, because we are writers, we pay attention to things a reader may not care about. We can easily get “thrown out of the story” over the slightest error, especially if it is our pet issue. Because we are readers who write, we often view the quality of a story from within that literary bubble.
This is a chance, if we get enough input, for readers outside the writing bubble to gift us with their expectations, whether we are published by a traditional Christian publisher or outside the CBA channel.
I’m not suggesting that writers don’t respond at all, but let us know you are one and let’s give non-writer readers a chance to define what is quality Christian fiction for them. First, let’s get one issue off the table.
Readers expect to be able to read the story!
I believe most everyone, writers and non-writer readers will consider the following a basic must have in quality: Don’t Moon People your story.
What do I mean by that? I’ll let one of the many fake 5-star reviews for the book explain it.
Moon People has reshaped my literary perceptions. After reading the heroic story of Captain David Braymer, 1st Science Officer of the space ship USS Lunar Base One, I feel as if I have been unbound from the restraints put in place by a dozen English teachers. “Amazing”, I said to myself, when I realized the linguistic flexibility that comes from releasing character speech from its quotation marks. There is a certain joy that comes with exercising the freedom to end a sentence on any punctuation, even a comma. Question marks needn’t be for interrogative statements! Must we bind every interjection to an exclamation point?
For a sample, try reading the blurb of Moon People 2 without getting a headache. Writers, don’t do this to your readers, or you may find you have very few left. We should strive to have the least typos, grammar mistakes, and distracting formatting possible.
With that quality benchmark as a given, now we writers want to know: what do the readers say? What says to you, “This is quality fiction,” in the Christian speculative fiction market?