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Why “Supernatural Fiction” is Under-Represented in Christian Bookstores

su·per·nat·u·ral1: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe;  2: departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature

The Bible is a supernatural book, not only because of how we got it, but because of the universe it frames. Reviving corpses, talking mules, death angels, fiery chariots, demonized swine, tongues and miracles and visions — this is the stuff Christians claim to believe in. However, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a disconnect between the Bible we reverence and the world we actually inhabit.

Case in point: our choice of fiction.

In Perusing the Fiction Aisles, my cyber-friend and now fellow Realms author Mike Dellosso recently lamented the disproportionate amount of Amish and Romance fiction in the Christian bookstores. Where was all the supernatural, paranormal, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy? Mike concludes with a question: “How do you compete with that? How does a horror/suspense writer get his title noticed among the forest of romance and Amish (and Amish romance)?”

Apart from the necessary considerations about markets and marketing that accompany the query, I think there’s one crucial thing we might be missing in this discussion. Could the preponderance of romance and Amish lit be indicative of a dangerous worldview shift amongst Christian readers?

Take for instance this comment, on Mike’s post, from Linda:

“My two cents worth: I love suspense more than romance. However, the suspense/thriller needs to stay Biblical with some romance thrown in. If suspense/thrillers turn paranormal, I’m out of here. And that’s where I see a fair share turning to. I want a suspense novel that teaches me some good spiritual truths, not just page turners. Cut the paranormal and get back to a Scriptural basis that speaks to the heart.” (emphasis mine)

Linda’s opinion is probably representative of a far bigger share of the Christian market than us writers of supernatural / paranormal fiction care to admit. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel it’s indicative of something potentially disturbing. She prefers that “the suspense / thriller… stay Biblical” and writes, “If suspense/thrillers turn paranormal, I’m out of here.”

My question to Christian readers who are turned off by supernatural story elements is this: Do you apply that same preference to the Bible? Heck, the very first book of Scripture contains stories about a talking serpent, an angel with a flaming sword driving sinners from Paradise, an entire city being destroyed by fire and brimstone, plagues of frogs and rivers of blood, sparring magicians, a death angel who slaughters firstborns, and an ocean parted at one man’s word. And that’s just the first book of the Bible! Read on and there’s a story about a witch who conjures the ghost of a prophet, an apostle whose shadow heals the sick, and four apocalyptic horseman who are en route to planet earth. And that’s just scratching the surface. So how can a Christian claim to dislike supernatural / paranormal story elements when the Bible contains so many of those elements?

Which brings me back to my initial observation: Could the preponderance of romance and Amish lit be indicative of a dangerous worldview shift amongst Christian readers — a shift away from a biblical worldview to something sanitized, stripped of mystery, and utterly predictable?

A biblical worldview IS a “supernatural” worldview. And Christians are called to live there. We believe in angels and devils. We believe in signs and wonders. We believe in life after the grave. We speak to God and are spoken to by Him. We believe that one day Jesus Christ will return to earth and set everything right. In short, We believe in a universe that is anything but “natural.”

So why is “supernatural fiction” so under-represented in Christian bookstores?

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{ 89 comments… add one }
  • Patricia Bortz April 25, 2012, 9:44 AM

    This may be the reason I am having a problem. I have written a novel spawned by over two-hundred Bible scriptures, many of them prophecies. In it Satan and his minions clash with Michael and his host, battling for my character’s mortal souls. There is suspense and romance. I have not been able to find an agent, Christian or otherwise, to represent me. One agent said it’s a “good story” and I’m a “good writer” but she couldn’t “connect” with it. What am I to do? (I don’t mean to spout off but I am frustrated.)

  • Susan J. Reinhardt June 1, 2012, 9:02 AM

    As a long-time reader of Christian Speculative Fiction, I’m choosey.

    The commenter you quoted resonates with me, but I think you’ve misinterpreted her words. When I use the term paranormal, I’m talking about the occult, which is expressly forbidden in scripture. Perhaps this more accurately reflects her meaning.

    The Bible does record some occult activity, and it’s accompanied by severe consequences. There is a vast difference between good and evil. I have a problem when the evil is the focus of the book. Evil is real, but God’s power is greater. I want books that lift up His power over the enemy.

  • Eugene Levitzky October 24, 2012, 6:35 AM

    The “supernatural” is simply and ONLY God (the Super) interacting with and within the material or the creature. Supernatural is God’s visible work or presence in the material Created world. Fiction about vampires, werewolves, gnomes, etc. is NOT fiction about the Supernatural but is actually nothing but fiction about the Preternatural — all those things that are NOT God interacting with us or with other parts of the Creation, but those things which are acting on their own (without God) or with the demonic.

    Although Harry Potter is good fiction and interesting, it is not supernatural fiction but preternatural fiction, for all magic (whether supposedly white magic or not) is not supernatural but preternatural, always devolving towards the demonic, towards the rebel angels.

    • R. L. Copple October 24, 2012, 9:21 AM

      That’s a rather propriety definition of “supernatural,” which literally means “beyond or above nature.” Certainly God fits that definition, but so does a lot of other beings and experiences. Not following your logic there, so have a hard time buying into your distinction.

      This also represents a secular way of thinking about God and supernatural occurrences in that evil is given its own source of being apart from God, instead of being a perversion of what God created. If we believe that God created all, then we have to attribute evil as an abuse of what God created, not something inherent in the ability to do one thing or another.

      For instance, when Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians were dueling supernatural abilities, like turning water red with blood and such, was Moses doing miracles or magic? And when the magicians were able to match him, were they doing miracles or magic being they did the exact same thing as Moses…at least up until *God* stopped letting them. So why did God allow them to do what they did and cut it off mid-contest? Why not with the first one? To show the magicians that their ability to do “magic” wasn’t from themselves, wasn’t from their god, wasn’t something they controlled, but was from God Himself. They simply refused to acknowledge it came from God.

      That’s why I’m not following your logic here. It doesn’t make sense to me in what I know of God or the definition of supernatural.

  • Laura K. Cowan February 16, 2013, 5:42 PM

    Thank you for this article. I’m a supernatural fiction writer, and my first novel is already too dark and mystical for Christian publishers to take it on, but too Christian for the mainstream. My subsequent novels go even further down the rabbit hole, and even my friends have a hard time understanding either why I don’t want to write overtly Christian fiction as an evangelistic tool or how art that combines fairy tales and time travel can possibly be okay for a Christian to write. My answer is similar to yours: Christianity is a highly mystical faith, but we have lost our awareness of it in the western world. When I ask the question “What if?” about some way in which the spiritual world works, I think it invites people to engage with their spirituality and the supernatural, and that brings us into a much more active relationship with our faith. But… because I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think and just am inviting them to think about a question for themselves, that’s pretty thin ice for most folks raised in churches or families happy to tell them what to think and do. You know it’s pretty bad when people into the occult are more able to consider your spiritual questions about the world in an open-minded way than Christians who already profess to believe in angels, demons, and teleportation (you missed that one, lol, and isn’t it the weirdest? 🙂 ). Thanks again.

  • Ray Ferguson May 13, 2013, 1:35 PM

    Wow. I’ve never been here before, but my mind is blown in a very nice way. Circuit breakers tripped, fuses fused, electrical panel slagged. I’m a 62 yr old believer, been reading science fiction since about 1963. Love all the comments above. My daughter is a “warrior woman” and God bless you all very much. Please be encouraged!

    I’ll definitely be back here 🙂

  • Eugene Levitzky May 13, 2013, 10:40 PM

    If you are a Christian, a true believer in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then you are a believer in the Supernatural. All Christian fiction is supernatural fiction. The other kind of fiction, which can also be said to be supernatural, such as the works of Peter Straub, Stephen King, and a whole host of horror fiction and fantasy writers, is Dark Supernatural fiction, the kind of stuff that is warned against in the Bible. As Christians, we are engaged in permanent ongoing spiritual warfare in everything we do. We are, as C.S. Lewis pointed, to [paraphrase] “take territory for God.”
    The greatest thing in the World, for those of us who use discernment and who understand that SELF is our greatest enemy, is that we can imbibe both the wheat and the chaff (the Light Supernatural and the Dark Supernatural, the Christian versus the pagan) and spit out the chaff (the Stephen King darkness, the liberal horror writer’s vomit, the new American Paganism/Socialism/Fascism (i.e., Obama and his minions, the Progressives, the Politically Correct demons of our time) and retain the wheat, the good fiction of the Christian supernaturalist.
    If we stick to a Scriptural Vision, a God’s eye view, single-minded vision of everything, we won’t fall into the trap of reading or watching pap, the stuff the Brave New World is trying to cram down our throats. Disengage, come out of her my people. If we believe, for one second, anything the World and the Worldly Spirit throws at us, we are kissing the Darkness, are loving Mammon more than God.

  • David June 16, 2013, 7:34 AM

    Hello all…I am so glad to have found this blog and all the comments. I am writing my first novel (after having started two others years ago) and every comment here has been valuable…..I look forward to seeing more! Thanks!

  • Dawn Wessel June 26, 2014, 2:07 PM

    I have written a number of books about the Bible that might be categorized as supernatural but I have put under non-fiction, because I believe it all happened. My frustration (as others here) is that I can’t seem to find a niche for it. Harper Collins said they thought a ‘specialist’ Christian publisher would be interested, but such don’t exist that publish books like mine about the stranger aspects to the Bible (like the topic of the giants in Genesis Chapter 6).

    It’s frustrating for me to have what I think is some pretty interesting stuff about the Bible but that does not fall into the usual Christian venue.

    If you’re interested you can read for free ‘Missing Pieces of the Bible: Lost Books Fill-in the Blanks The Updated Version’ at authonomy.com (Harper Collins website that allows authors to feature their books).

    I would appreciate any thoughts.

  • Kathy M. Storrie October 11, 2014, 3:49 PM

    I finally found a “Christian Supernatural Fiction” blog site! Thank you Mike Duran! (Maybe we can get the comments going again) I am so excited anyway so I decided to leave a comment before I signed up & read more comments. This is why I am excited: I have written two Christian Romance Supernatural Fiction books. One book was self-published in 2010 and sold only 120 books due to my ignorance but thanks to my judge cousin saving my face a bit. My second novel is finished but this time I’m not publishing it until I find at least 500 TRIBE members. That why I’m here hoping to find at least one or two. You can check out my style of writing on my blog.

    The article by Mike Duran & the few comments I read resignated with my whole heart, soul and spirit. I think Christians are afraid of the supernatural God/Jesus/& Holy Spirit of the Bible kind especially the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not being taught, preached or practiced in the church due to much unbelief associated with fear. I tied teaching the gift of healing in my southern Baptist Sunday School of middle aged women and lost over half my class & eventually all but one. I think the pastor wanted to kick me out but I’ve been a member there long before he was born. lol

    So, I decided to write Christian romance novels to draw in the women with a touch of the supernatural and sneak in one or two gifts of the Spirit before they realize what’s going on. I keep mentioning prayer which is the main thread that keeps them focused so they won’t feel guilty they’re reading something supernatural. You have to stay ahead some way. I think the power of prayer is also under-estimated by many Christians.

    I will probably self-publish again simply because I don’t want a publisher breathing down my neck with all their demands, deadlines, phone calls and travel/speaker expectations, and of course their part of the sales. I did learn a lot online with author/teacher Jeff Goins’ TRIBE WRITERS 8 wk course. It has a life-time membership that includes up-dated teaching, access to the new classes and live calls, no charge.

    Any comments out there or words of wisdom for a novice writer?

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