Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Genre--Speculative Fiction

Today I’d like to talk about a much-underserved genre in the CBA, that genre being speculative fiction. That may sound odd coming from me, as my first three published novels were firmly in the “suspense/thriller” camp. But with the sale of my latest, a science fiction novel called The Radiance, to a secular house, I now find myself on a little bit of uncertain ground.

That’s not so stay the story itself is unsound--I think it's one of the best things I've written--but having to take it to a general market house was … unexpected. You see, in the CBA there are really only two publishers that have much to do at all with science fiction or fantasy, the first being Realms, and the other, Marcher Lord Press. Both of these houses are solid, well thought-of, and their authors have garnered numerous awards. But still, why only two, especially when the general market is fair to bursting with publishers actively seeking not only these two genres, but subsets of them as well: horror, urban horror, steampunk, cyberpunk, and more?

The charge has been leveled by some the CBA as an entity is unfriendly to works that could be considered outside the norm. Is that charge true or false? My honest answer would be it’s true, but changing.

I think the main reason for this ongoing struggle is CBA novels must contain, in whatever small measure, a Christian element; general market works, of course, aren’t under such constraints. That’s not to say many of the works published there don’t have agendas of their own, because they do, be they humanism, New Age claptrap, psychic phenomena, or what have you. But the CBA requires that problemactical faith element, and some houses require it to be displayed in the work more openly than others.

For some writers that causes an issue, because which side of the line the Christian scribe comes down on depends in large part as to how critical to their story that faith element is. If it’s utterly germane, and to excise it would fundamentally alter the tale, then the CBA is the logical choice. On the other hand if a Christian wants to write stories without this faith element—while staying true to their own walk with the Lord—they may want to consider the general market.

So the question: for those of you who read (or write) fantasy, SF, horror, or any of the others I mentioned, which side of the line claims your allegiance? General market, or CBA?
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7 comments:

  1. I have a spec fic manuscript (I consider it a thriller, but it does have a slight sci fi element) and have been conflicting advice. One person told me to rid it of the overtly Christian element and market to the ABA. Another person told me to keep the Christian element in. Another person (and these are all agents, editors, etc.) told me no Christian publisher would touch it. Right now, I'm confused. I wish more Christian publishers would consider this type of work. (Of course I do!)

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  2. Port Yonder Press is another publisher that takes fantasy manuscripts. They're looking for cross-over fiction--family-friendly, but not Christian. Of course, there are limits to what PYP will publish, but I believe they're more relaxed than some of the other publishers.

    There are so many "don'ts" in Christian fantasy, it's no small wonder the authors choose to go outside the CBA. I don't write it, but I'm learning to enjoy it--especially urban.

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  3. Neither side of the line claims my allegiance. :-)

    I've made two key decisions over the past six months. The first was to turn back to writing science fiction, which is a love I left behind a long, long time ago. Some stories will contain Christian elements, some won't...and again it goes back to your point about whether faith issues are germane to the story or not.

    The second decision was to stop querying agents/editors and to go it alone, primarily due to the explosion of distribution options and e-books. I think in time I'll find my audience and they'll find me.

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  4. I'm still waffling back and forth on this. My ultimate goal would be to weave the faith element into my story like Tolkien did, to where it's so integral to the storyworld that no one would question it. *sigh* That's a looong way away...

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  5. I've delved in speculative fiction with my forthcoming fantasy Dreamlander (and many more yet-to-be-written ideas). I don't write for the CBA market, but I find the rabid interest of the niche readers to be exciting. The very lack you've discussed in the post has only whetted the appetites of many Christian speculative readers.

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  6. My overriding heart's desire to write sci-fi and fantasy is to fashion an entertaining, adventurous, and highly readable story that's full of Gospel faith. In fact, if the faith elements were to be removed, it could not be the same story! I strive to become the best author I can be, yet not compromise my beliefs.

    What drives me in this direction is my frustration with secular writers in this genre whose meaning can be interpreted in different ways. Star Wars, for instance, has "the Force," which could apply to New Age as much as Christianity. Or Hindi, or Buddhist, or Ba'hai, or any of a number of belief systems.

    I wanted to say up front: This is what I believe, and this is what drives my story, none of the other stuff. I feel God's call too strongly to do otherwise. I've been careful to avoid "preachiness," but I didn't want God to be reinterpreted into inferior doctrines.

    I don't go with CBA, not because I don't share their basic beliefs, but because they tend to be too strict. I want to show the world as it is, but clearly delineate between it and committed faith.

    ~ VT

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  7. I think it is very important to show a Christian character in a main stream story. Usually Christianity isn't mentioned unless the character is a fraud or some kind of villain. I would like to see characters who are Christian, decent (not perfect) and somewhat likeable. Of course, that's just my humble point of view. Ultimately, you have to write the story God plants in you, and follow that story where ever it leads.

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