1. Tolkien did something very like this when he had Gandalf tell Bilbo at the end of THE HOBBIT that all his “luck” was not luck at all, but part of a greater plan:

    “Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

    I take a similar approach in my own speculative fiction — I try to write in a way that shows there is a greater plan and purpose to what my characters experience over the course of the story, and a benevolent force at work beyond what they themselves can control. Sometimes that Providence is explicitly acknowledged, sometimes it’s only implicit, but it’s always there. And interestingly enough my most blatant statement of that idea, in ULTRAVIOLET, has become one of the passages most quoted by non-Christian as well as Christian readers:

    “I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir of stars, accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase–nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it. I realized then that even though I was a tiny speck in an infinite cosmos, a blip on the timeline of eternity, I was not without purpose. … Nor was I alone.”

  2. There’s a far simpler, less theoretical explanation: the original pioneers of a separate market for Christian fiction were people disenchanted by the secular romance publishers. There were women who wanted to continue to read sweet romances instead of the racy-to-sexy books being published. There was a commercial need that this niche filled. Hence the reason these genres continue to sell. There’s a viable market for these people who truly want these books.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Michelle, thanks for the comment. Would have responded sooner, but had a heavy work day. Left at 8 and didn’t get home till almost 11 pm. Ug. So am finally getting to these.


      I think your explanation answers the “what happened” question, but not the “why” I was addressing. It doesn’t explain why romance blossomed in the Christian market but not spec fic. Surely there were spec fic readers who wanted “cleaner” reads as well. Why didn’t that reflect to some degree the general market like the romance did?


      While I’m not saying the reason I listed is the only one, I believe it is one significant piece of the puzzle.


      • The women I know who want to read clean romances (including my mother) do so in an attempt to continue their reading pleasure while balancing out their desire to be dutiful to God. It’s a conscious decision based on their beliefs.

        May I be blunt? I don’t see anyone on the spec fic side making such a conscious decision, or even really wanting it. I don’t see people saying “I’m going to avoid this type of book because I think it’s a hindrance to my spiritual growth,” or “I’m going to try to read positive, affirming novels in an attempt to become a kinder, more generous person.” Instead, what I see is a lot of grumbling. The attitude is completely different. It’s very self-focused, very “I want MY kind of book, and they (whoever they are) won’t publish it.”

        It’s not just Christian spec fans: witness the same vitriol online when Browncoats talk about FOX. No one is thankful to the execs that take a chance on a show: there is only seething for the ones that failed to make a commercial success (and like it or not Firefly fans, that’s the sad simple truth of the matter). Don’t even get anyone started on the Trek v. Wars debate.

        I do wish we as genre fans could, at times, be a bit kinder to each other, and to the people providing us with the stuff we supposedly like.

        • dmdutcher says:

          Because that used to mean giving up the genre you liked to read entirely. If it weren’t for indie books, there would be no Christian spec fic, and a lot of geek fans had issues with how spec fic in general was roundly condemned by the church. The church lost a LOT of credibility among geeks by being blatantly stupid about things like Dungeons and Dragons or even Star Wars (yes, many churches preached against it too.) They set up a false choice that meant being Christian meant living a certain lifestyle when it came to consuming culture, and it’s only really in the past decade or two that they’ve started to move beyond that.

          So there’s a lot of subtext and history here. Even now if you look at many of the books published, the connotation is that Christian spec fic is for kids; YA and middle grade dominate it. I think C.S. Lewis said it well, too:

          If you attempted, in either case, to suspend your whole intellectual and aesthetic activity, you would only succeed in substituting a worse cultural life for a better. You are not, in fact, going to read nothing, either in the Church or in the line: if you don’t read good books, you will read bad ones. If you don’t go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally. If you reject aesthetic satisfactions, you will fall into sensual satisfactions.

  3. I agree with Michelle that the reason is likely less complicated. I can summarize why romance dominates Christian fiction in three words which sounds a bit condemning on the surface.

    1. Safe
    2. Female
    3. Escapism.

    Mind you, there is safe male escapism as well. But from what I’ve seen, the majority of Christian men find this in nonfiction. The “escapism” comes when the Christian male imagines that he too can be a Big Spiritual Master like the popular Christian leader/author who can answer all your questions and change your life. After all, with some exceptions, it’s not Christian women setting up the current round of Celebrity Pastors.

    • notleia says:

      I would argue that men have plenty of stereotypical escapist fiction, but there’s no real need for a particular Christian market because violence is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely to make it past the Christian gatekeepers than sex is (as was illustrated in the last GoT discussion). Military fiction, including sci-fi military fiction, is a pretty thriving market, not to mention survivalist stuff like disaster and/or dystopian fiction.

    • Stephen, I’m replying more to a general trend right now than your specific words, but my comment was not meant to criticize these original pioneers. In point of fact, I have great respect for them. As I said, they saw a need unmet and filled it, very well.

      That’s why I’m wearied by the constant critique of such presses for publishing books they were originally founded to publish. I’m also tired of critique of such readers, as if the desire for some women (my mother included) to read romances that don’t include sex scenes makes them immature or “bad” readers. Believe me, these women DO face real temptations in their life. If they wish to snatch an hour or two of escapist reading during their limited free time, I for one do not find that wrong.

      In short, I’m all for promoting Christian speculative fiction, but not by criticizing other genres. If we can only bring our interests forward by putting others down, we don’t have anything worth valuing. Envy does not become us.

    • Michelle,

      No worries — or fewer worries. Notice that I applied the same criticism of “escapism” to men who read nonfiction doctrine books with possible “escapist” postures, because I know this is much closer to my own temptations! “No story is safe,” and the only reason I cite the possibility of escapism playing into the popularity of romance novels (or period-drama TV shows, etc.) among Christians is that many Christians wrongly conclude that a certain genre is perfectly safe. Some believe it is “safe” not because romance is free of temptation — it’s not — but because it is closer to what many American Christians do: venerate marriage and especially Family. But these good desires can also be corrupted. They’re not “safe.”

      And I would never, ever suppose that fantasy/sci-fi/whatever is any safer. My argument is that no genre or creative work is safe, and therefore only when we recognize this do we learn to discern and enjoy things, “safe” in Christ alone.

      However, I still think R.L. is onto something here: that romantic fiction in pursuing a more-personal scale of story as opposed to a cosmic or epic scale, a la Scripture, that seems to require deus ex machina conclusions over human free choice. I’m mainly suggesting that most people aren’t even bothering to ask the question. They are simply pursuing Just Books or Just Novels — as in “it’s just a book” or “it’s just a novel.” And to broaden the topic briefly, I suggest that this “just” adjective is not only Biblical questionable for Biblical Christians, but also cheats people out of joy.

      Source: Lifelong familiarity with conservative Christians, including fiction fans, and especially including folks who believe that anything “family friendly” is “safe.”

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Like Michelle, you’re not really answering the “why” question concerning the disparity between romance and spec fic compared between the general and Christian markets, and in this case, you’re addressing the motivation for romance’s dominance among readers. But I don’t think it tells us much about why romance succeeded and spec fic didn’t. You’re answers were:




      So are we suggesting that general market spec fic was free of sex and bad language, unlike romance?  Thus no motivation for Christian spec fic readers to desire “safe” spec fic?




      So are we suggesting that there are no Christian men, or that Christian men like and desire porn with their spec fic, unlike romance readers?




      Spec fic isn’t escapism as much as any other fiction?


      If these are the reasons why romance dominates the Christian market, it doesn’t explain why spec fic puttered out, because it had these same motivations, but never gained a strong foothold in the Christian market.


      Look at it from the other end. The most common reason given why spec fic readers don’t tend to read Christian market spec fic is because of the lack of quality, or a compelling story. Why is that? You don’t often hear Christian romance readers saying that. Why is that?


      I”m suggesting that one of the main reasons for that disparity is the conflict resolution for spec fic doesn’t sync with the Christian worldview as completely as it does for romance. Thus the difficulty in producing compelling story lines that seamlessly integrate with the Christian message in spec fic. Too often it ends up trying to insert a round peg of the Christian message into the square hole of spec fic, whereas most romance has round holes to begin with.


      • Again, I think we’re overthinking. Here’s the thing: a lot of Christian romances aren’t evangelistic in nature. A character may be saved, or someone may draw closer to God, but the plot is not specifically about Christianity: it’s a romance with people who happen to be Christians.


        In spec land most people feel they have to make the Christian message far more prominent: the stakes have to be a grand fight between Satan and God for the souls of All Mankind. There are far fewer stories with people going on an adventure who happen to be Christian (or whatever you’re calling them in your fictional world). I’m not saying yea or nay on this idea (I personally enjoyed Hancock’s Legend of the Guardian King and Walley’s Lamb Among the Stars, which fall into the grand stakes side of things), but it does mean you’re forcing the theology front and center rather than having it hum along in the background.


        Stories that buck this trend are “The Charlatan’s Boy,” Stengl’s Goldstone Woods series, and most of Fred Warren’s short stories. Also, the “Outriders” series by Mackel, which while featuring demon warefare was not primarily about that point but instead used it as a part of an overall adventure story.

        • R. L. Copple says:

          If I’m hearing you right, Michelle, you’re suggesting the reason romances have flourished where spec fic has not is the preachiness factor. Romance doesn’t tend to be preachy, and so didn’t turn off Christian readers.


          I’ve read no Christian romances to date, so I’ll take your word for it. But if so, it is going back to what I said. Why is spec fic preachy while romance is not? Is it not because the Christian message integrates more naturally with romance’s plot goal: the union of two people into one, whereas it doesn’t so well when your goal is to defeat an enemy and beat them by your ability and resources? Any inclusion of Christianity is going to feel more tacked on, even background, to those kinds of plots.


          Not so much over thinking here as simply trying to dig deeper into the why of it. While I could be off base here, logically it makes sense of the issue on a story formation level that provides context as to the whys of your typical answers, which often don’t amount to much more than saying it just happened this way.


          • dmdutcher says:

            But suspense/romantic suspense sells just as well, and it often has plots or subplots about physical actions. I think you’re looking for solutions in the work when the reason why is more external and demographic factors. In the process though you’re kind of dumping on spec fic as incompatible with a Christian tale.

            • R. L. Copple says:

              But it is still at heart a romance, no? It isn’t the presence or lack of physical action, but the end goal of the plot that I see an issue.


              I am pointing out a conflicting point between the Christian message (you can’t save yourself, God will) and the demands of a satisfying protagonist arc in a plot (the protagonist actively resolves the conflict without a deux ex machina solution from God). Romance doesn’t have that built in conflict between its arc (two people falling in love and uniting) and the Faith.


              I offered one way spec fic stories can effectively deal with it, but it is a real conflict that is often the reason why the combining of the two ends up producing a lackluster story that fails to engage when message dominates, or a character arc that doesn’t involve God’s influence and ends up conflicting with the Gospel message as a result. When Christian romance was taking off, Christian spec fic didn’t, in part because the spec fic that was good was sparse. The people who wanted it looked in the general market instead, because the Christian market couldn’t compete, especially during the time Christian romance grew.


              I don’t think it is dumping. It is being realistic. It’s obvious that the romance conflict/resolution is more naturally compatible with the Faith than the traditional spec fic one. Doesn’t mean there isn’t any good Christian spec fic, or it is unChristian to write or read it. Only that it has a hurdle to clear that romance doesn’t in integrating both elements successfully.


              Demographics only explains it to a certain point. It doesn’t explain why spec fic readers who were Christian continued to get their books from the general market, while those who wanted romance made that shift. Demographics is an after-the-fact look, and only explains who provided the motivation for a market, not necessarily why it was or wasn’t motivated for any one market.


              What it tells us is there was a demand for Christian romance, but not Christian spec fic. We know there was a healthy general spec fic market. The demographics doesn’t explain why that market’s readers who were Christian didn’t also make that jump to a Christian market like the romance market.


              My theory is one possible reason for that discrepancy. Another reason, as you pointed out in another thread, is there was a lot more opposition to spec fic among the churches, but not romances. So it was easier to be an open reader of “safe” romances, while spec fic readers had to secretly indulge in their favorite genre. Christian bookstores, often at the mercy of their most legalistic customers, couldn’t freely stock spec fic titles. The few publishing houses who tried to publish it were so message heavy (to justify their existence) that it fell into the dynamic I’ve mentioned: Christian message tacked onto a story format not inherently friendly to telling that message, ending up with preachy story and/or not very engaging characters/plot.


              So Christian spec fic readers continued getting their books from the general market because the Christian market, what little it produced in those days, was much lower quality, save for the occasional outlier. That has changed in recent years to a degree in the Christian market, but more so in the Christian indie publishing market not dependent upon bookstores to sell and make a profit. But it is still a long ways from mimicing the same percentage of the readers in the Christian market for both segments as you see in the general market. So it doesn’t explain it all.


              • dmdutcher says:

                But the action element of suspense romance is the same as the action element of most SF or even fantasy. The backgrounds are different, but whether you’re being chased by assassins and defended by an ex navy-seal, or goblins and by a lost prince of the land doesn’t change the conflict.

                In both cases you have two intertwining plots, one physical and one spiritual. Romance is the same way.

                1. Will he love me? Will he defend me? Physical.

                2. Will he come to Jesus? Spiritual.

                The genre doesn’t change this much. It’s not really more natural for romance over spec fic. All Christian works intertwine the two aspects of plot because all people operate in both spheres of life. Romance might be less violent or action-movieish, but it’s not radically different.

                In terms of plot, it’s a false dichotomy. We have to look to other explanations.

              • R. L. Copple says:

                Not seeing why you say it is a false dichotomy. One type of conflict centers around loving another person, overcoming the obstacles to do so, and uniting as one flesh (on or off screen). That is exactly what the Gospel calls us to do on various levels with God and our neighbor.


                The other focuses on a hero saving the day by defeating an enemy. That requires a man or woman who by their ingenuity and skill defeats that enemy. The moment God comes in and does it for him, as Jesus did for us in the Gospel, it negatively affects the impact of the protagonist’s character arc and lessens the entertainment value. Or if it keeps the protagonist as the hero who saves the day, it lessens God’s impact on the story.


                It is a tightrope the romance story doesn’t have to worry about because God calls us to love one another, and He can’t do that for us without turning us into meaningless puppets.


                If both types of conflict are present, one will tend to be primary. When they are equal, it means you still have the romance angle in that story which syncs more naturally to the Gospel, whether foreground or background.


                At any rate, the presence of action is not the issue. It is the goal of resolving the conflict. Union or defeat. One we’re called to do. One Jesus does for us according to the Gospel. Few spec fic conflicts can successfully show “God is glorified in my weakness” without sacrificing the hero’s journey arc to defeat the bad guys.


                Those that do, tend to get revamped when made into movies (ex.: LOTR).


                At any rate, I see a real difference. I’m feel like you don’t because we’re talking past one another. I agree both types have internal and external conflicts. Those terms pointed at what I was trying to say, but didn’t clearly state it. Rather, it is the expected resolution of those conflicts that differs.


                I suppose a more Gospel oriented resolution to a spec fic story would be if the hero ended up befriending the villain. Interestingly, the resolution of the Lego movie. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers!


        • Fred Warren says:

          Thanks for the endorsement, Michelle. 🙂  I tend to write stories like that because I’d rather see how a character’s Christian faith makes their response to ordinary and extraordinary situations different than to set up some artificial construct to frame a message or moral. People were drawn to the first Christians by the way they lived, not so much by the power of their rhetoric.

          I think romance is effective for some readers because it makes an emotional connection they crave. They want to care about the characters and their problems. Spec fic often gets so wrapped up in the speculative element and problem-solving that it forgets about the human heart and fails to forge that connection with the reader. A lot of the fuss going on right now in the secular science-fiction world between male and female writers and fans springs from this disconnect, and people disagree about the proper balance point between action and relational content, the outer life versus the inner life.

          R.L. makes an excellent observation about the nature of conflict in romance and its focus on relationships. I think the Gospel is for many romance readers The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, and that’s a beautiful perspective, not to be trivialized because some of us might prefer The Greatest Hero’s Journey Ever Told. There’s room for both, and I daresay they’re both necessary.

          • I was going to respond to all the replies, until I saw Fred’s comment, which I’d like to second with a loud resounding yes! This part especially is what I’d like us to remember:

            There’s room for both, and I daresay they’re both necessary.

            • R. L. Copple says:



              In case it isn’t clear, I’m not intending this post to be a bashing of romance. I agree, there is room for both. Some may feel more like I’m bashing spec fic, but that would be a wrong conclusion. That’s mostly what I read and write. But I don’t think an honest evaluation of the pitfalls as well as the positives of either genre is taboo either. When something becomes a “defend at all costs” approach, it becomes unhealthy.


              Too often the one who points out the emperor has no clothes automatically is assumed to be against the emperor, when in fact it is the love for the emperor that motivates the person to point it out so the emperor can put on some clothes and stop embarrassing himself.


              • Fred Warren says:

                I didn’t sense any bashing at all in your article, and I thought your observations on differences in mindset between romance and spec-fic fans were very insightful.  Understanding our audience is a challenging task many writers don’t bother with, and that’s part of our problem as a genre.

                I think the question of why the spec-fic readers never showed up is still open, and it’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, the ensuing discussion tends to devolve from an honest attempt to understand what’s going on into a brainstorming session on how best to fix what’s “wrong” with the benighted Christian readership and/or convert romance readers to spec-fic.

                Again, an excellent article, and I hope to use these ideas to improve my own writing. Thanks.

  4. dmdutcher says:

    Because Christian publishers want to maximize profit, really. Most Christians are women, most heavy fiction readers are women, and romance/historical/suspense target them better than straight thrillers, westerns, or spec fic. Christian publishers seem focused on quick profits, so they doubled-down on targeting them over growing the male market.

    • Jill says:

      I have a really hard time believing most Christians are women.

      • notleia says:

        Well, a majority of the general population are women, so it would be natural that a majority of the Christian population are women. And historically women are more involved with the church community. Around my part of the woods it’s the women’s groups who mostly Get Stuff Done with charities and church decoration and Sunday school curriculum. Ergo, it’s the women who are most likely to go to the Christian bookstore for that stuff, which ties into Dutcher’s point. More women darken the doors –> stock more stuff that women would buy, like Chicken Soup for the Soul and for Grandmas and for Your Cousin Who has Leukemia and for Your Neighbor Whose Cat has Kitty HIV. And thus, capitalism.

      • dmdutcher says:

        60/40% seems the common statistic, sometimes going higher. It pops up enough in different places to make me think its correct. It’s a bare “most,” but once you start slicing it up further, you can get some really skewed numbers to market to. Like if we look at Christy Award winners, it’s honestly something like 80% women.

        The majority wouldn’t be so much an issue if it weren’t compounded by other trends. Like when you fold in the male/female fiction reading gap, it gets worse.

        • Jill says:

          You aren’t actually claiming that church goers=Christians, are you? I have some issue with the 60-40 stat of church goers, too, but I’ll let that slide because I can’t find the census data I read which showed a much narrower gap between male and female church attendance. Of course, it’s true there are more women than men in the U.S., 100:96.7 (in 2010).

          • dmdutcher says:

            I’m not sure I can go either way without running into more difficulties. With a more general approach, its hard to discern whether or not the Christian-identifying is meaningful. Any narrower and I think it’d even be more skewed towards women.

            I think the problem is how on earth we explain the Christian pop culture  is skewed the way it is if we have equal gender parity.

  5. Jill says:

    Most fiction is primarily about relationship conflicts.  Conflict among people, how they relate to each–that’s practically what fiction means. Most fiction contains some elements of romance. But relationship conflict in non-romance books doesn’t primarily use sex as a motif. Books that don’t expressly have a stated or unstated goal of getting a couple together in bed get a blind eye from Christians (not always, but generally). I mean, that is the relationship conflict goal of romance, whether it’s shown or not. I guess the converse goal of romance is to take a couple who are already in bed and get them to fall in love. But whatever–romance still uses sex as a primary motif. Christian fiction simply got a big boost from filling a market niche for clean romance where the sex was an anticipated outcome or hidden behind doors, instead of given as a blow-by-blow. Heh. Sorry about that. If God is a character in a book, he is just part of the relationship conflict. In a traditional Christian sense, he just happens to be the alpha who can’t be defeated.

    • notleia says:

      Wow, you just set off my Red Flag of Nope by calling God an alpha. That term smells too much of dudebro and/or Mark Driscoll.

      • Jill says:

        Well, for a start, I would never use God as a character in any book that I wrote. And for another, I was being slightly sardonically stupid. But Ferguson has a point, too.

        • notleia says:

          I’m very happy you’re being sardonic. I’ve seen too many people use it in earnest (though at this point one person using it unironically is enough to set me off).

      • Mirtika says:

        Yeah, an alpha is not quite the same as THE Alpha.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      I agree, Jill, that all fiction (all good fiction, that is) has relational conflict. But that doesn’t negate the point that for romance, the relationship conflict is essential and primary, sex or no sex. Any external conflict only serves to highlight and move the relationship conflict along.


      Unlike romance, however, most spec fic revolves around conflict resulting from (this is a simplification but gets the point across) “villain threatens to destroy the world but the hero rides in to save the day.” Most spec fic, that external plot is primary, and any relationship conflicts serve to move that plot along. If a space opera focuses on the romantic relationship without an overarching external plot conflict, what you have is a romance set in space, not space opera.


      Or to put it another way, conflict resolution for romance involves the two people falling in love and ending up together. Conflict resolution in most spec fic involves the protagonist defeating the bad guys and saving the day. Which type it is tends to define what category it falls into.

      • Jill says:

        You are just reiterating my point without seeing that you are doing so. This is relational conflict: “Conflict resolution in most spec fic involves the protagonist defeating the bad guys and saving the day.” It is relational conflict that doesn’t involve sex as an inevitability. Hence, it doesn’t automatically “need” a Christian coating put on it. Violence, and especially non visual violence, tends to get a pass from Christian audiences. And as spec fic tends to get at the heart of cosmology and epistemology, it would need more than just a coat of paint to “Christianize” it, anyway. It’s far better (I use this term loosely) and less difficult for Christian publishers to stick with what’s easy and with what’s a guaranteed moneymaker (as romance is the beststelling genre in mainstream, as well).

        • R. L. Copple says:



          I understood what you meant, but apparently I’m not making myself clear. Yes all conflict involves relationships between characters. What I’m referring to by relationship conflict is the conflict between two characters who resolve that conflict by falling in love and coming together. Spec fic tends to be resolved by one character defeating another, not falling in love.


          Thus in spec fic, the relationship conflict serves to move and resolve the external plot goals. In romance, the relationship is the main plot goal.


          But I don’t think the dividing line is sex. Romance tends to have more of that, but spec fic has its share of porn as well.


          But it is the focus of romance to bring people together, which dovetails nicely into the Christian message.


          • Mirtika says:

            Jill hit the bullseye.

            The only reason one would say romance doesn’t have to do with sex is to keep it out of the book for an audience that doesn’t want to see the sex. Romantic/erotic love is about sex. All the other loves are the relationship and no sex. Romantic love is relationship WITH sex. Christians (some) just don’t want to deal with the sex, so the characters are not allowed to exhibit the usual lustiness (like normal humans, ahem), even when not acted upon, and there is no bedroom scene (or backseat or kitchen table or under a tree, either).

            But Jill is right, romance is about a relationship where two folks want to have sex. That’s what makes it different. If they didn’t want to have sex, it would be a friendship novel, or a novel about siblings, or a novel about parents and kids, or a religious journey novel (God/individual)-the other types of love.

            What the Christian Romance reader wants is to pretend folks don’t wanna boff like bunnies. 🙂 But we wouldn’t need all those purity balls, purity rings, sermons on chastity until marriage if we didn’t wanna boink like mad. We do.

            The thing is it’s easy to remove the sex. It’s harder to remove the ideological stuff from fantasy/sci-fi. I guess that’s Rick’s point?

            • dmdutcher says:

              I’m not sure I agree with this.  The sweet romance is a secular sub-genre too, and is about as clean as a Christian novel in terms of sex. I think the main goal of romance is the promotion of an emotional romantic relationship based on monogamy, and then you have varying levels of erotic content. That’s what differs it from erotica, which is all about two people (or more) having sex.

              I’d also point out that near well 100% of Christian spec fiction segregates the ideological stuff quite nicely, to the point where we probably shouldn’t call it speculative. It’s so bad that I can’t think of a single science fiction novel that has an alien race in it, or does anything more than basic space opera.

              Edit: Yes, I can think of some. I meant recently.

              • I fully agree on the aliens, though Fred Warren has a lovely short story on the topic (“Pilgrimage” in December 2010 Other Sheep). I have never understood the theological quibbles regarding extraterrestrial life. Four words: best mission trip ever.

            • R. L. Copple says:

              Yes, Mir, that is an expected outcome of a romantic story is the two become one flesh through a physical union. Or boff if you prefer, whether on “screen” or off. I’m not denying that. And it is an integral part of two people becoming one within the full context of marriage.


              This is a side issue to my main point, and doesn’t change it. My point being is while the conflicts in spec fic is not inherently about two people boffing, there’s plenty of boffing going on, on or off screen, that Christians tempted by such things may equally want to be safe from as much as romance readers. I read one by Heinlein in my high school library that had boffing on and off screen a plenty. (Fear No Evil.) I didn’t finish reading it, as a teen back in the 70s. The only scifi book in the HS library I didn’t finish reading.


              So if what motivated Christian romance was the avoidance of on-screen boffing, the same could have been the case for spec fic, not to mention the high degree of a secular worldview that dominates general scifi. Yet that didn’t translate into Christian spec-fic readers flocking to Christian bookstores and demanding “safe” Christian spec-fic like apparently happened for romance. If that market had been there, Christian publishers would have cashed in on it.


              So we’re back to the question of why it did happen for romance, but not spec fic? I don’t think avoiding boffing scenes or even hinting at them was the key difference, though I can see where it might have played  a role in the desire for safe romance.


  6. HG Ferguson says:

    God through Jesus Christ calls Himself THE Alpha — “I am the Alpha and the Omega” in Revelation 22:13 so you can put your red flag down.

  7. I think one explanation of the trouble spec. has with finding an audience comes from the writing itself. In every genre except speculative, the Trinity is depicted in a factual way (insofar as the author can contrive) even though the story is a work of fiction.

    Not so in spec. Creating an alternative universe usually means creating an allegorical Trinity. Aside from The Chronicles of Narnia, which is pointedly allegorical (Not knocking the stories – I love them), this is a tough sell to the Christian market. I can say with confidence from many of the reviews of my own work that people are acutely uncomfortable with a fictionalized religion in a fictional novel as opposed to a factual religion in a fictional novel.

    I think this is one of the biggest reasons that spec. will continue to have a difficult time building an audience. Not that it can’t, but as much as I would love to see a breakthrough for the genre, it would surprise me.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Patrick, interesting point. I think that would apply more to parts of spec fic than others. Alternate worlds tend to be the domain of fantasy, as well as allegory. SciFi can have alien worlds, but then that would tend to be a cultural difference, not an alternate reality. Humans in SciFi would tend to be real world on religion, as would horror, mystery, thrillers, etc.


      Which if that was the reason, I’d expect we’d only see fantasy suffer. Yet, the reality is out of the spec fic genres, fantasy is the most successful in the Christian market.


      Ironically, in my alternate world fantasy, I don’t use allegorical names for God or Jesus, and the religion is definitely a form of Christianity. One reader commented if I had used allegorical stand ins for God and Christianity, it would have been easier to accept where it veered from her theological expectations.


      So I guess you just can’t win.


    • The Chronicles of Narnia, which is pointedly allegorical

      🙂 You take that back!


  8. [Y]ou’re not really answering the “why” question concerning the disparity between romance and spec fic compared between the general and Christian markets, and in this case, you’re addressing the motivation for romance’s dominance among readers. But I don’t think it tells us much about why romance succeeded and spec fic didn’t [among Christian readers].

    My original comment here, responding to this inquiry from R.L., turned into today’s article: Romantic Fiction Rules Because of ‘Family Christian’ Faith.

    Why do most Christians love romance over fantastical fiction when both can be escapist?

    The answer is found in the default belief of American evangelicals about their “chief end.”

    Is the Gospel about a Good Life today based on healthy marriages and family values?

    Or is the Gospel about an epic story of a Hero Who saves people from evil for His Kingdom?

    How you answer will determine your favorite fiction.

What do you think?