Monday’s Publisher’s Weekly article Christian Fiction Editors Talk Trends focused on — what else? — Women’s Fiction. Statements like the one made by Abingdon’s Barbara Scott — “Romance in any form dominates sales” — sent me scrambling for my Prozac. Thankfully, there was some good news for males who don’t much care for Romance Fiction.
What are the trends in speculative fiction? Are Christian readers more open to edgy speculative fiction than they were a decade ago?
Watson, Tyndale: There is renewed interest in apocalyptic fiction. We’ve seen a significant increase in the Left Behind series in the past 12 months. Movies like 2012 and The Book of Eli play into the theme that has been big in our industry for some time. Joel Rosenberg’s upcoming novel, The Twelfth Imam, will be in this category.
Long, Bethany: Vampires are just a bite of what is basically “horror fiction” being labeled something else. They’re not going to emerge, as in ABA, as their own subculture. But horror stories (edgy, speculative) will continue to thrive.
Brower, Zondervan: Yes, Christian readers are more open to speculative and gritty fiction. However, it is still a very small group of consumers in Christian bookstores, and it’s difficult to market in the general market. The problem with speculative fiction is logistics. Readers who like speculative fiction browse the YA, fantasy, and science fiction sections of the store. Even if they would like a Christian novel, they rarely venture into the religion section of the bookstore.
Marchese, WaterBrook: While it remains a smaller segment of readers, the audience has certainly shifted in its willingness to accept speculative types of storytelling. Our company has a reputation for good speculative fiction because we have seen success in that area and we recognize its potential to explore meaningful spiritual connections.
Several observations / highlights:
“Christian readers are more open to speculative and gritty fiction,” says Sue Brower. Shannon Marchese adds, “the audience has certainly shifted in its willingness to accept speculative types of storytelling.” From a reader and writer of speculative fiction, I don’t think Christians are “more open to speculative themes.” I think the gatekeepers are finally seeing what has always been.
“Horror stories (edgy, speculative) will continue to thrive.” (God bless you, Dave Long!) Okay, I’m not sure about the “thrive” part. But I appreciate Long’s observations elsewhere that the CBA genre of Supernatural Suspense is really Christian Horror. The term horror has been anathema in CBA circles, even though the stories exist there. So it’s good to hear an acquisitions editor spare us the semantics.
“The problem with speculative fiction is logistics,” says Zondervan’s Sue Brower. “Readers who like speculative fiction browse the YA, fantasy, and science fiction sections of the store. Even if they would like a Christian novel, they rarely venture into the religion section of the bookstore.” So why is it that Religion and Romance can coexist, but Religion and SciFi / Fantasy / Horror can’t? (Is it THIS?) I often wonder if this isn’t more indicative of an inherent problem with Christian Fiction — it narrows the audience of any genre — than it is “logistics.” Or does the speculative genre just seem antithetical to Christianity (and Women’s Fiction doesn’t?)?
Anyway, this all leads me to ask why Christian publishers don’t publish more speculative fiction.