I was encouraged to read this AP report from the ICRS in Denver this last week.
The Christian book business, optimistic that a little literary escapism might be an antidote for readers in hard times, is turning to bonnets, buggies and bloodsuckers.
Even as Christian publishing suffers during the recession — one study found net sales for Christian retailers were down almost 11 percent in 2008 — several publishing houses are adding or expanding their fiction lines with both the tame (Amish heroines) and boundary-pushing (Christian vampire lit).
Boundaries indeed! I’m not sure this could be more indicative of both the boundaries, and the pushing of them that’s going on in the Christian publishing industry. Amish fiction and vampire lit represent polar opposites — literally conservative and liberal bookends — of the Christian fiction spectrum. Is it a coincidence that both are expanding?
Even more interesting is this dance concerning how to meld vampire mythology with the Christian worldview.
On Sept. 15, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group will release its take on vampires in “Thirsty,” by Christian chick-lit author Tracey Bateman. Not surprisingly, the marketing material mentions “Twilight,” the hit vampire book series and movie whose abstinence message resonated with many evangelicals.
Bateman’s vampire, Markus, is a character but also a metaphor for demons anyone must overcome, said Shannon Marchese, an editor at WaterBrook Multnomah who sought out Bateman for the project. The object of his obsession, Nina, is a divorced alcoholic dealing with addiction.
“These are themes that work in the Christian life,” Marchese said. “You have to fight to say, ‘Am I going to choose unconditional love and redemption or a life of following obsessions, a life with holes in it?”
Still, challenges exist beyond what to do with dripping fangs (they were edited out). On the theological front, questions lurk about whether a creature both alive and dead has a soul that can be saved.
“I think we can redeem a vampire,” said Bateman, adding that she won’t be a spoiler and disclose her character’s fate. “I don’t think this is a despair too dark to pull out of.”
I’m not sure how one can edit out “dripping fangs” from vampire lit. But what the heck, it’s a start. Perhaps this is the necessary give-and-take that happens whenever Christians start venturing out of the box. I mean, one needn’t worry about Amish fiction ruffling many feathers, right?
But is theology, genre integrity, or conservative sensibilities at the heart of this tension? Really, where do the “questions lurk about whether a creature both alive and dead has a soul that can be saved”? Unless we have agreed that (1) Vampires are real or (2) The evil archetype is untouchable, the questions lurk in the community of Christian readers and publishers, and nowhere else. But if vampires are simply fictional constructs, then why shouldn’t Christian fiction embrace the monster?