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

by Mike Duran · 89 comments

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?

Meg Moseley May 26, 2010 at 6:29 AM

At least in part, I think supernatural fiction is under-represented in Christian bookstores because so many people associate it with the occult. We’re wary of opening ourselves up to evil influences, and rightly so, but does that mean we shouldn’t read the Gospels because of all those stories about demons?

I didn’t think so.

Mike Duran May 26, 2010 at 6:45 AM

That’s a legitimate concern, Meg. I think it’s important to distinguish between a story that involves the occult and one that advocates the occult. One of my favorite examples is the Witch of Endor in I Samuel 28:7-20, wherein a necromancer summons the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel. While this biblical account definitely involves a creepy occult element, it does not endorse it. Most of the Christian supernatural fiction I’ve read takes the same tact. I’d hate to demonize (pun intended) supernatural suspense just because it contains a “Witch of Endor” moment. thanks for your comments!

Meg Moseley May 26, 2010 at 7:19 AM

Exactly. You see the difference between portraying the occult and endorsing it. Some people don’t.

Mike Dellosso May 26, 2010 at 6:58 AM

Hey Mike, great post. Just great. Very thought-provoking. So much so that it inspired me to jot down some thoughts in my own post on my blog.

I think you really nailed it when you brought out how supernatural and paranormal so many of the Bible stories we read over and over again are. We love them, tell our kids about them, and point to them as inspiration teaching us that anything really is possible. So why the disconnect when it comes to fiction? This is something that no doubt will have to be explored further.

XDPaul May 26, 2010 at 7:09 AM

Oh dear. You really didn’t want to ask this, because the answer is simple:

Girls.

Boys like the fire and talking animals, the giants and murder and battles and blood and sacrifice. We get it.

But there is a reason that for every Lion of War series (which I can’t even find at the local Christian store) there are approximately 10.3 hundred jillion women’s series: and at least half (I’m being generous) are filled with what Relevant Magazine has referred to as “emotional pornography” masquerading as “sound (i.e. ‘safe’) scriptural basis.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/features/21488-emotional-pornography

The fact is this: the CBA is very comfortable with junk theology and risking emotional porn in its list, considering it (rightly so, in my opinion) to some degree a necessary “chaff” hopefully to be separated from the good wheat by its consumers.

Yet, Its not a coincidence that we talk about a gap in Christian spec over the past half century – that seemingly coincides with the rise of the CBA whose express original purpose was to create “safe” alternatives to the ABA (which included, apparently the unsafe works of Lewis, Tolkien and Lord Dunsany.

It is worth mentioning that as a kid growing up a zealous anti-Christian, the only reason I even picked up Narnia was because I knew a local youth pastor who had warned his kids away from it as a gateway to the occult.

What the CBA can afford to be restrictive on is the material that falls outside its target audience. In other words, men. If certainly not the sole consumers of scriptural supernaturalism in fiction, men make up the majority of its advance guard. And 90% of the purchases at CBA outlets are…women. This is not a controversial figure.

Thus, men don’t go to Christian stores, because there is little there that speaks to us. Even half the “men’s” non-fiction is stuff targeted for our wives to pick up to “improve” us, and a lot of that has been feminized. We’ll read a book if it makes us smarter or wiser, helps us build something, or advances something measurable…and is marketed that way. We may be interested in “being better fathers,” “walking with Jesus” or “improving our relationship with our wives” but only if that is a subset of a bigger goal, a greater adventure…more adrenaline.

I really don’t want to be misunderstood here: without the CBA, we wouldn’t have some critical, in some cases, life changing, works of fiction and non-fiction. There are great women’s fiction books and series, outstanding non-fiction, vibrant worship music and even, on rare occasions, a small opening for something of interest to men.

But it bears noting that the greatest selling biblical supernatural fiction series of the last thirty years was one I saw at the front of Barnes and Noble and Walden’s long before I ever noticed it, much later, in Christian stores: Left Behind. Spec fic, to succeed, must cross over to where the men are.

Mike Duran May 26, 2010 at 6:17 PM

Terrific comments, XD! And thanks for the link. I dread turning this into a “Battle of the Sexes” type of deal, but I really do believe that the predominance of women consumers is shaping the CBA in potentially dangerous ways. How we can make that point without being inflammatory or appearing chauvinistic is another story. Blessings, my friend!

Mr Pond May 27, 2010 at 2:54 PM

As a newcomer to the site, I’m a little hesitant to jump in here. But let me just question accepted wisdom here–thinking out loud, really.

Is speculative fiction de facto masculine? I don’t think so.

I’m working my way through Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea quartet, and I have to say that she has written one of the most important speculative epics since LOTR–from a decided feminine perspective, if I can use that term. Also, the groundbreaking work of Anne McCaffery springs to mind. Madeline L’Engle created her own sub-genre of speculative fiction–from a blatantly Christian standpoint. Then there’s Joanne Rowling (’nuff said).

At another end of the spectrum, you have Stephanie Meyer and Charlene Harris–essentially (as I understand it) paranormal chick lit that blokey old me ain’t interested in reading.

My point is, some of the best and some of the most popular speculative fiction of the past forty years has come from female, even feminist, authors. It’s less that we need to write ‘manly’ fiction as, I think, we need to shatter our marketing chauvinism and actually write/publish quality literature that will speak to readers of both genders. The way all literature can, and should.

I completely agree with you, XD, when you say that CBA marketers are targeting a sort of ‘safe’ chick lit. And that it’s predominately consumers of that buy CBA books. But I disagree that it’s based on gender, and what women want to read. Gender is not the problem. Gender stereotyping in the marketing and editorial departments is the problem.

Kudos to Crossway, btw, for being willing to risk on a virile futuristic trilogy from an as yet unknown author (not me!).

Mr Pond May 27, 2010 at 2:56 PM

(Oooh, that’s italic. Forgot my backslash…sorry about that!)

Mike Duran May 27, 2010 at 9:02 PM

Thanks for commenting, Mr. Pond. I’m not (nor do I think anyone else in this discussion is) asserting that speculative fiction is essentially “masculine.” I know plenty of women who read and write speculative fiction. The question here is, Why is speculative fiction so under-represented in the CBA? In that, I agree with you that “Gender stereotyping in the marketing and editorial departments” is part of the problem.

Mr Pond May 28, 2010 at 5:13 AM

Thanks, Mike. I suppose the question (in this sub-thread, any rate!) to, what can we do to dismantle gender stereotyping in CBA? I admit I don’t have an obvious solution. Even out of the Christian speculative writers out there–at least the ones getting pushed in the bookstores–very few of that very few strike me as quality speculative.

I think it will take risk–agents and editors being willing to risk something unusual, readership being willing to risk something different. But I really don’t know.

Tim June 12, 2010 at 5:07 PM

This is just the conversation I’ve been looking for! I was just joking earlier about how I despise Amish Romance novels, without having read any, simply because of how they clog the fiction shelves at Christian bookstores.

I want to find quality speculative fiction not written for YA, but I can’t find any. I’d like to read authors in this field to answer some of my own questions about writing Christian SF/Fantasy, so where are they? I’m going to check out the authors posting here to see what you’ve got, because this void needs to be filled, and we may be the ones to do it!

Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy was probably the only one I’ve read, but then his chronicles were YA. Thanks for the link to The Sword, John, that looks like a good one. I’m also looking for Christian Speculative works that are not written in our world. Any suggestions?

Jen V. April 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM

I found this comment very offensive. I’m a girl, and I hate romance. I hate the cutesy little Amish stories that mean absolutely nothing to me. I live in a world where we have to fight every day to get closer to God, where there are evil things inside of each of us trying to keep us from following him, and where God had to turn into a person and die in order to get me to him. My every day is a battle, so why on earth would I want to read a story about a cute little girl in a dress who never has to fight for anything? I want to read about someone battling and overcoming, facing tough decisions, and kicking a whole lot of ass on the way. (Yes, ass–it’s a word that’s used in the KJV Bible =P )

There is a reason that a lot of young women feel isolated by the current Christian culture. Because people, like you, believe that we actually want what the Christian book stores are selling. No, women over 50 want what the Christian book stores are selling. The skater girls, the gamer girls, the sports girls, the women who are going to have careers instead of becoming stay at home moms, or the stay at home future moms who have hardcore attitudes–we’re all left out. Which is why radical feminism is starting to become attractive to us. When Christians stop following the Bible and understanding that the Proverbs 31 woman is called to be STRONG, that a woman is a SOLDIER just as much as a man is (Ephesians)–when we start making women WEAK–that’s when women stop and say, “there’s something wrong with this.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “women” want the sissy bull they’re being sold. There is a certain generation of women that enjoys that, and I don’t begrudge them their happiness. But the rising generation of young women that want to defeat evil in the world instead of sitting by while the men do it–the same generation that created Rock for Life, listens to Demon-Hunter, Skillet, Superchick, and Barlowgirl–is just as tired of “chick-lit” as you are.

Jen V. April 8, 2012 at 8:02 AM

This comment also comes off as kind of harsh, I know = P I just get quite frustrated with being marginalized by mainstream conservative Christianity, and I see women warriors going un-fed by this “sit nice in your chair and start sewing” attitude, so when you blame the Amish lit on “girls” you’re putting me in the same category as my sworn enemies. Not something I appreciate.

J Nell brown November 30, 2013 at 4:37 PM

I absolutely agree with you. Check out my new novel The Omega Journey Blood Moons Whisper. You may enjoy a real dose of spiritual warfare wrapped in human stories. The kindle and nook are available for purchase. The paperback and hardback will be released in three weeks. God Bless

E. Stephen Burnett May 26, 2010 at 8:39 AM

Mike, you make me want to head back to Speculative Faith (from which I went AWOL not long ago, partly because I got married and busier) and write about the reasons all over again.

Some of the reasons may be wrong views about where sin comes from. As Meg noted above, too many Christians often assume in practice if not in belief that evil influences come primarily from outside ourselves, not inside our own hearts (and here we thought it was those darned Secular Humanists who blamed The Environment for man’s mistakes). But this is contrary to Jesus’ words on sin’s origins — in Mark 7, for example, He said it was useless to try barricading one’s self against sin from outside, from food or some other source, because it comes from the heart.

Mike: “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?

Stripped of not only mystery, but the reason why God does anything: for His own glory, to make the story greater and Himself greater.

I think you’re absolutely onto something. The dominance of small-scale stories is a result not just of simple reading preferences, but the dominance of small-scale views of God that do not match the Bible.

I am not saying these people are not Christians, or are “lesser” than Christians who like bigger stories. But I do dare to say that such folks could stand to read all of the Bible with the right view of God as a means to Himself, not God as a means to His gifts.

In the opposite conception, God did not inspire the Word, nor act to save people in order to further His own glory and tell a story to the universe of His own mightiness and steadfast, infinite love — instead, He works as a means to (greater?) ends: our own comfort, romance, safety in communities. This may not be idolatry — but it’s close. And worse than cheapening Christian fiction, it cheapens the Bible and the Gospel story.

More from a column last year (I’m not sure if I’m able to link to it here):

———————————————————————-

I’m not sure what’s so surprising about these kinds of stories attracting evangelical women. (I may get in trouble here.) From what I’ve seen of evangelicaldom, these are the very virtues prized even among women who don’t care for Amish stories. What is surprising about that, I wonder? Perhaps [we could assume] that a more-epic faith — involving a Bible filled with battles, lineages, miracles, special effects, and above all an omnipotent, don’t-mess-with-Him God who loves and yet is holy and wrathful — would naturally lead to more-epic stories, with similar elements, not just Safety-First stories?

I don’t want to knock all the Amish fiction. But the fact that they appeal so much to evangelical women scares me more than vampires. An overemphasis on this is not healthful to Christians.

This is what I mean:

– The stories are steeped in environments, even “mythology,” that are Traditional. That’s a comforting thought. This has been around for a while. Even the stories with newer elements contain familiar elements. You don’t have to fight much to accept it.

– In such stories, the environment is highly structured. You can let yourself go, even let the men handle things. If you were a woman in this story, you need only go with the flow, maybe only worry about raising your children. Yes, there may be problems, but (dare I say it) even those are “safe” in a way, because they are predictable.

– Such stories often contain “bad boys,” either religious or otherwise. Bad boys, to many women, are attractive. They have a strength that real-life “nice guys” often don’t have. They may be bad, but at least they’re powerful. There’s a strange comfort in that — a “comfort” that, unfortunately, leads to so many twisted relationships and enabling of evil abuses by men against women. It’s something I did. At least he’s strong. Maybe he’ll change. There’s a control in being controlled.

Well, isn’t that interesting. All three of those sets of characteristics apply equally to the appeal of legalistic environments and the hunting habits of vampires.

(Now I may really get in trouble.) When it comes to the Amish, I have a different view than many Christians do. Yes, these are just stories about the Amish, and perhaps some of them deal more even-handedly with the good and bad aspects of the lifestyle they practice.

But I know of many people who take the desire for safety, “simple life” and “traditional faith” way too far. They don’t just read stories about the Amish and pine away (which I maintain is itself questionable, when compared with reality and Christ’s commands for His church to engage the unbelieving world for His sake). Instead they want to be almost-Amish. They dress like them. They have the same cloistered views. Some want to live like them. All of the “safety,” and often even less accountability in a Christian community. They want their men to be large and in charge, a dangerous desire for control in being controlled as I said above. In essence, they earnestly desire the conditions that will lead not only to spiritual abuse (sometimes even physical abuse), but to a form of idolatry that puts people, tradition, safety and cloistered living above desires to glorify God and make Him, His Word and His grace the center of our lives.

[… For Christians,] Amish fiction seems at least original. But [. . . we also] had [fantasy] first. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not copying modern trends, they made modern trends. And both did it (albeit in slightly different ways) while glorifying God and echoing His truths.

If more Christian fiction continued to follow in fantasy’s path — and moreover, more Christians grew into epic-level faith that didn’t overvalue safety and “tradition,” but an epic God and His glory — we could legitimately claim that genre as our own. Question: how can we help this?

———————————————————————-

My answer after that lengthy (and mostly e-cycled) commentary: stop seeing God as small-scale, and don’t try to see Him as bigger apart from His own revelation about what He is like and has done. Instead Christians should delve into the depths of Scripture, wrestle with hard truths, supernatural accounts that are real and living and based in reality. Christ-centered sermons can help with this, pointing away from God-as-means-to-you and to God Himself. Even “dry” theology books can help with this.

God is epic. His Word is epic. And Christians should be epic — not just for The Journey or The Mystery, but His glory.

Meg Moseley May 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM

<> Yes! Thank you for putting it so clearly.

Quoting you: “Instead they want to be almost-Amish. They dress like them. They have the same cloistered views. Some want to live like them. All of the “safety,” and often even less accountability in a Christian community. They want their men to be large and in charge, a dangerous desire for control in being controlled as I said above. In essence, they earnestly desire the conditions that will lead not only to spiritual abuse (sometimes even physical abuse), but to a form of idolatry that puts people, tradition, safety and cloistered living above desires to glorify God and make Him, His Word and His grace the center of our lives.”

Yep, and so I wrote a novel about people who try to live a simple, cloistered, “safe” life. Except it’s not safe. It’s suffocation. But don’t get me started on hyperpatriarchy or I’ll derail our train of thought here. I was just so pleased with your whole comment, Stephen.

E. Stephen Burnett May 27, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Thanks for your encouragement, Meg. My own work-in-progress includes a very default-evangelical (of yesteryear, mostly) small church in a Missouri town, which is wracked by scandal … before one of its senior deacons, who is having family problems of his own, begins journeying in his sleep to a certain Other World.

Sometime I’d enjoy hearing about your work-in-progress; I’m fairly accessible at my own site (which is currently very nonfiction focused), and I’m heading over now to have a look at your blog. Biblical balance between Legalism and Libertinism (i.e. no discernment or spiritual guidelines at all) is a heavy theme, and for too long one extreme or the other has been portrayed in Christian fiction without much Christ-centeredness. However, I keep having to remind myself that the solution is not only to try to Fix the Problem but to point to the solution — Christ, the Cross, the Gospel and all its implications for every area of life, including creativity and stories.

Meg Moseley May 27, 2010 at 7:44 AM

I will check out your blog, Stephen. Your WIP sounds interesting. I like novels that dig into the big questions of faith and practice instead of just adding a sprinkling of Christianese to any old plot.

My WIP (still untitled) is coming out from WaterBrook Multnomah next May. It’s about an isolated home-schooling widow who’s trying to escape a cultic church. And it happens to have a little dash of the supernatural. 🙂

E. Stephen Burnett May 27, 2010 at 8:13 AM

It’s very likely you just sold one of your first copies — not only to me, but my own mother-in-law who just happens to be a widow who’s been quite familiar with some cultlike phenomena!

Apparently you don’t need critique help with that project, then! Congratulations, and I look forward to seeing it in stores.

Meg Moseley May 27, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Thanks, Stephen. May 17, 2011, is the release date.

Sorry for the thread highjack, Mike! I’ll be good now.

Nicole May 26, 2010 at 9:05 AM

In publishing it’s still about money. Since the hot books are about Amish life, roll out the multiples in Amish stories. When asked what was selling for a particular publishing house, an editor replied, “It’s still Amish fiction for us.” He sounded weary of it, too.
Why? From my female standpoint and from my passionate Christian standpoint, I have no idea. It’s got be beyond curiosity at this stage. And, yeah, I agree with the men here that SOME females yearn for the simplicity of that life, that structure, whatever. I contend that sin is just as rampant in those legalistic communities as it is in the liberal emergent churches and everything in between. Because human beings live there.
I detest the “paranormal” but love the supernatural. Don’t read fantasy at all. Don’t like it. But that’s just me. I say publish the books for all readers. Let’s face it, the majority of Amish novel readers will not gravitate to Zombie novels. Ain’t gonna happen. I love thrillers, a little horror with strong Biblical concepts (a la Mike Dellosso), and I want/expect the supernatural element. I will not ever read Amish novels. Not for me.
If theology is what we’re measuring here in Christian lit, forget it. Too much conflict. I question the theology of the Amish as much as I question the theology presented in The Shack. So theology can’t be the constructs of the disagreement, at least not logically.
For all you male connoisseurs of “what women want” ;), I guess I’m the exception to some of your musings. BUT I do write romance, raw and real, with guys being guys and women being women with all their flaws. But “emotional pornography”? No. Substance, I hope.

Jay May 26, 2010 at 10:07 AM

I don’t read much Christian supernatural novels, but I think there might be a reluctance to really sign/promote those kinds of authors because a good part of the church is caught up in eschatological fiction (Left Behind, et al). If it’s supernatural it HAS to be be connected to the endtimes — preferably the pre-mil version, please. Anything outside of that smacks of “Hey, that sort of thing isn’t in scripture, why are they writing about it?”

There’s an unspoken standard that says Christian supernatural authors need to stick very close to Biblical accounts of encounters with the supernatural and not “elaborate on the vagaries of the unseen world” read in scripture.

Related: the only Christian supernatural books that I’ve read is C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, which was fantastic — but if someone tried to publish something like that today, it would be soundly rejected.

xdpaul May 26, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Let me be clear: the gender mix of spec-fic in the only market where spec fic is treated as a viable genre instead of a touchy, dangerous subset that doesn’t sell well is blended. This isn’t about what women want or don’t want: it is about what men won’t find in certain bookstores that are quite obviously not designed with their wallet in mind. And, as I’ve said before: that’s okay.

I can find what I like at the weird fiction section of B&N. They have a massive wall with cover facing books to lead me in, just so I don’t miss it, even! Religion-inspired (both Christian and other) books are clearly not excluded from these offerings (Twilight, Forever Richard, etc.) so I simply strongly recommend Christian spec-fic authors to find me in the normal channels, instead of the specialized “safe” zones. I won’t go (unless I’ve been made specially aware, which is an expensive general marketing prospect) into a Family Christian for adventure fiction any more than I would go to Bath & Body Works for cleaning supplies.

xdpaul May 26, 2010 at 10:24 AM

And Jay –

If you liked the Space Trilogy, try A Star Curiously Singing, by Kerry Nietz.

Jay May 26, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Thanks! I will check it out.

Mark May 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM

I certainly agree with Meg’s comment. Part of the problem is that as soon as you include anything supernatural, you open the door to critizism about leading people to the occult. (Really? Someone said that about Narnia? Please give me a break!) I mean, look at the hoopla around Harry Potter, which were clearly fantasy (and a darn good story about the fight between good and evil/love and hate).

I think another issue is that we don’t tend to focus on the supernatural today. I know I don’t. Yes, I believe the stories in the Bible. Yes, I believe that the end times will be pretty supernatural. But I don’t think about much of what is happening around us today is supernatural. I know on one level it is (God keeps the whole world in motion, after all), but I don’t think about Satan being that involved in our daily lives much.

Maybe I need to read Frank Peretti again.

Mike Duran May 26, 2010 at 6:33 PM

Mark, your admission that “we don’t tend to focus on the supernatural today” is at the heart of my point. Whether it’s theological (as in dispensationalism, which sees miracles as part of a passing age) or cultural ( as in being seduced and cradled by a materialistic worldview), I believe your observation is accurate: Western civilization is secularized (i.e., supernaturally-neutered). What’s interesting in all this is that the Bible describes the end-times as a period of great deception, one in which “the very elect will be deceived” (Matt. 24:24). Could our drift away from a supernatural worldview be part of that? Something to think about…

A.J. Walker May 26, 2010 at 10:52 AM

Long time reader (finally) decloaking off your starboard bow.

Thank you, I thought I was the only one who noticed this.

As a Christian fiction writer (looking for beta readers for my first Christian supernatural novel), I would love to say I read extensively in my genre but that would be a lie. I’m a guy who loves sci-fi, action and fantasy (as long as there are no anthropomorphic talking animals, looking at you C.S. Lewis) but modern Christian fiction writers have nothing to say to me.

I don’t read romances and don’t care about life at the turn of the century, the Amish or theoretical “talks/meetings” with God that seem to be nothing more than spiritual navel gazing at best or serious rewriting of Biblical truths at worst. Even the so-called Christian thrillers [to me] are nothing more than regular thrillers with a few passing mentions that somebody is praying for someone and is devoid of foul language and sex. And the Left Behind series? Talk about pedantic story telling.

I regularly peruse the Christian fiction shelf but continually see books written by women, for women about some woman who is having a “crisis of faith” about whether to “fall in love” with the new mechanic in town. Who is this strange man? And why does it make her heart beat so strong in her chest? Can she let go of her past and learn to (trust God and) love again? Geez Louise. I cannot believe that’s the best the Sovereign God of the Universe has to offer!?! Change the time period (Victorian era England, the Amish, WWII, whatever), maybe throw in a fatherless child (wild past, widowhood) and a “mystery” needing to be solved and you’ve got the plot for 95% of contemporary Christian fiction.

Publishers are always complaining that men don’t read but this is the drek we are shoveled on a consistent basis. No wonder we don’t read Christian fiction, there’s nothing there for men (or anyone) who enjoys a good story told well that has “epic”-like qualities from a Biblical world view that have all of the other qualities you so aptly outlined in your post.

I’m still looking for that kind of a book/author and finding none, as “they” say, I wrote the kind of book I would like to read. Maybe once I start the rounds it will fall on deaf ears in the Christian agent/publishing world. I don’t know, I wrote the book I believe the Lord gave me the talent and desire to write. Everything else is in His hands.

(Sorry for ranting but I really enjoy your blog and you touched a nerve (in a good way) for me to be able to vent.)

Keep up the good work 😀

Mike Duran May 26, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Thanks for commenting, A.J. I really appreciate your readership and for plugging along with your story despite the frustrations. Please drop me an email sometime and let me know how your writing journey is going.

Nicole May 26, 2010 at 11:59 AM

A.J., c’mon. I think it’s absolutely perfect that you wrote the book you want to read. You should. But don’t, please, give this blanket condemnation for Christian fiction when you state you rarely read much of it. Yes, you give reasons, but to include this smearing of some excellent authors which you assume don’t write well because of the smattering of fiction you’ve read within the ranks of Christian fiction is just plain unfair.
I don’t blame you for not reading CBA romance or any other genre you don’t prefer, but don’t insist that the majority of fiction is as poor as you described. Quite frankly, that’s just arrogant.

Nicole May 26, 2010 at 12:05 PM

And, Mark, the supernatural is in full swing. Today. Now. It’s never been just a “future” occurrence. Look around. The evidence is clear. In art, in politics, in relationships, everywhere. The demonic overtones present themselves daily. Evil isn’t coincidence. Yeah, Frank Peretti captures it all well.
Jesus delivered people on an almost daily basis. Children and adults. Discernment is part and parcel of Christianity. Recognizing the source. The enemy. Supernatural communication, events, obedience, etc. Third world salvations often include demonic deliverance and take the spirit world for granted. Why don’t we?

Mark May 26, 2010 at 11:50 PM

Just so we’re clear here, I agree with you 100%. I was saying we don’t look at the supernatural in our American Christian culture today as a bad thing, not as something to be proud of, and lumping myself into the same group of people who need to be wacked upside the head.

Kat Heckenbach May 26, 2010 at 12:13 PM

I skipped past every comment before writing this, because I have to say, without seeing the other opinions expressed here, that I agree 100%, completely, and whole-heartedly with every word of your post. Well said. Well, well said! Awesome, Mike. I’m printing this one and putting it in my notebook to remind me when I sit to write just WHY I write what I do.

Thank you!

Keven Newsome May 26, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Finally! I have a little better understanding why I continue to get rejection after rejection from both agents and publishers! Despite glowing peer reviews in abundance and a finalist placement in the MLP Premise contest, I can’t get one single person in the “business” to even ask to read it! It is so frustrating for an author!

Christian Miles May 26, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this article, Mike. I’m printing it off so I can stow it away and read it whenever I need to.

A. J. Walker May 26, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Nicole, I’m sorry you took my comment as a blanket condemnation, it was meant as nothing more than my observation after honestly and earnestly (still) seeking Christian authors that “speak” to me and write the kinds of stories I’d be interested in reading. I never said the writing or authors were bad writers.

Mike was talking about the general Christian publishing industry and why there is a severe lack of other genre representation in Christian publishing.

Obviously the market proves romance and historical fiction is what people (particularly women readers) are interested in because they sell like gangbusters. I wish there’d be more alternatives for men, boys (I have an 8-year-old son) and people who aren’t interested in romance or historical fiction which is the vast majority of what is on the shelves.

I forced myself to read through one of the Narnia books, but talking animals don’t work for me, regardless of how well regarded the author or the series. I’ve read Dekker, Peretti and continue to search for more. I’ll be looking into Mike Dellosso’s books after visiting his blog as well as this Mike’s book upon publication.

But like Mike said, where is the supernatural/speculative Christian fiction? Why is it seeming to be all romances set in some rose colored glasses of yesteryear where the only thing at stake is does girl-get-boy?

S.M. Kirkland May 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with the entire post and some of the opinions expressed here. Spec fic is my second genre of choice when I’m writing. My first is military fiction (you really don’t find many women willing to tackle that genre in a non-romancy way!) .

I loved researching my demonology fiction. Researching and writing in that field will increase your faith in amazing ways. It is spiritual warfare, after all. I don’t think the CBA and (no offense) Amish romancers would really understand that.

On the upside of CBA turning a blind eye to spec fic and focusing only on Amish and “safe” fiction, this enables smaller, indy Christian publishers to have a chance at finding those markets. I hope I haven’t stepped on any toes, that wasn’t my intent. The article was wonderful!

Nicole May 26, 2010 at 2:10 PM

A. J., thanks so much for clarifying your position. For your son, I’d suggest Robert Liparulo’s Dreamhouse Kings Series, some other novels by Bryan Polivka and Wayne Thomas Batson to name a few which are geared toward boys. Have you read Robert Liparulo, Steven James, John Robinson (although John’s novels might be out of print)? If you like thought provoking fiction, Tosca Lee’s Demon . . . a memoir is first class from concept to writing.
Hey, I admitted to writing romance, but even I only occasionally read in this genre anymore because of some of the reasons you gave. I’ve been trying to sell my self-labeled “non-traditonal” romance to CBA publishers with no takers.
I think the niche writers in CBA should have a place in the market, but there seem to be very few risk takers. That’s one reason I so admire Jeff Gerke’s Marcher Lord Press. He acted on the perceived need of getting speculative fiction into the CBA market place. He’s to be commended. I hope he prospers big time.

And, S.M. Kirkland, bring it on. Love military fiction. (Oliver North, Don Brown to name a couple of CBA contributors.)
The CBA gets spiritual warfare. You just have to know what authors to read.

S.M. Kirkland May 26, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Nicole,
My first novel “Higher Honor” is set at a military college, you can read about it at my website http://www.smkirkland.com. I’m working on the second in the series about a once hard core believer and Special Forces officer forced to face his own demons.

My spec-fic work is a short story entitled “Fair Balance” and a novel based on the same characters of a group of young demonologists facing both human and unseen demons. It’s more young adult.

I’d love for you to check out my site =)

Nicole May 26, 2010 at 7:41 PM

Count on it!

Rebecca LuElla Miller May 26, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Mike, if I understand your main point, you’re saying that reality is “This world’s not my home,” but the current trend of Amish fiction is belying that point. That’s a sobering thought.

Becky

E. Stephen Burnett May 27, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Very apt, Becky — and as Randy Alcorn likes to say, “this world (as it is now, under the Curse) is not my home,” because after Christ’s return, Christians are destined to live as resurrected saints in a glorious resurrected and blended New Heavens and New Earth.

I think in some way the Amish fiction does remind readers of that world, what with all the safety and tranquility and traditional emphasis. Any fiction experience, even the mushy romance stuff, can evoke even nanoseconds what C.S. Lewis called sensing the “numinous,” the Other World.

But it’s imbalanced, and the complete picture of the Gospel (including the pending forever defeat of evil) is left unportrayed.

As merely another kind of fantasy, too, the glorification of the Amish leaves out the very real tendency of such groups (whether Amish or patriocentrist, or “emergent” or fundamentalist or whatever) to act as if they’re the only ones doing Christianity right, because they have a unique lifestyle of Christianity-And-Something-Else.

And people say it’s Middle-Earth, Narnia and other worlds that encourage “escapism.” As Tolkien said, the question is what a reader is escaping from, to where he escapes, and why he wants to escape. …

Greg Mitchell May 26, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Amen, Mike! I’ve been believing/saying this for years and it’s great to have it expressed so eloquently.

R. L. Copple May 26, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Well said, Mike. I made some similar comments and points in an article at the back end of my published fantasy novella, which I titled “Why I Write Fantasy as a Christian,” since there seems to be that contingent out there who thinks Christians shouldn’t write such stuff. Then the article ran separately at Residential Alien Magazine:

http://residentialaliens.blogspot.com/2008/12/fantasy-and-christianity.html

Key point here that jives with your thoughts, engaging in fantasy prepares us for the supernatural when God does do it. We won’t dismiss it so easily. And I think its absence does promote a more secular mindset.

Another of my blog post that relate to this topic:

Magic and Sorcery, Are They Evil?
http://blog.rlcopple.com/?p=77

Eric May 27, 2010 at 8:12 AM

Excellent points. I was just re-reading Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett and thinking how unusual it was that one of the best-written supernatural End Times thrillers ever, with very provocative theological issues not to mention hysterical humor, wasn’t written by Christians at all! They’re beating us at our own game (not that I begrudge them)!

Of course J. R. R. Tolkien’s concept of “eucatastrophe,” which he says is at the heart of all true fantasy and myth, is conspicuously borrowed from the Gospel message.

Brandon Barr May 27, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Great post Mike!

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