On the one hand are the agents and editors who flatly say that Speculative Fiction DOES NOT SELL in the CBA. It’s an experiment that is over, they opine. The demand just isn’t there. Blah. Blah. Blah.
And then this from Allen Arnold, Senior Vice-President and Fiction Publisher at Thomas Nelson. In a recent blog post entitled Supernatural Fiction — The Next Big Wave? Arnold writes:
…let’s focus on a type of novel that I believe is gaining heat – and will only gain more in the coming years. Supernatural Fiction.
True – this may not be an “official” genre but I believe it’s an apt descriptor for many future best-selling novels. In recent Focus Groups and in-depth research, we continue to hear buzz about this desire from the most passionate Christian Fiction fans. In fact, there’s currently more buzz than best-sellers in this area…but not for long!
…Thomas Nelson Fiction is drawn to these stories. We don’t want to ride this wave or trend. As one of the world’s largest publishing houses, we aim to fuel this coming wave. (emphasis mine)
This is encouraging… I think.
My apologies to Mr. Arnold, but Supernatural Fiction has been hot for a long time, not just among Christian writers and readers, but in pop culture at large. Every year, stories with supernatural elements — be it ghosts, angels, time travel, vampires, alternate history, or wizardry — are at the top of the box office and best-seller lists. Paranormal Romance, Post-apocalyptic, Magic Realism, and Urban Fantasy are some of the hottest genres in fiction. (Just peruse Goodreads Reader’s Choice Awards for 2011.) And of the Top 50 Highest Grossing Films of 2011 (as compiled by Box Office Mojo), easily 1/3 of them contain supernatural and speculative elements.
I know, I’m mingling genres a little bit. But the point is: Christian publishers have always seemed to be either (1) Down on the real popularity of Supernatural Fiction among its audience, or (2) Way behind the trend.
Which is why I’m confused about TN’s new-found excitement.
There’s a reason why Marcher Lord Press has taken off, even landing some Christy awards and nominations. Sites like Speculative Faith and groups like the Lost Genre Guild, have become watering holes for thirsty spec-loving believers. Small presses like AMG and Splashdown Books have sought to fill the void. Ezines like Residential Aliens, RayGun Revival, Mindflights, and Fear and Trembling, have all been birthed with one eye to those faith-filled spec-lovers.
So, yeah, I’m encouraged by Allen Arnold’s assessment and Thomas Nelson’s desire to “fuel this coming wave” of Supernatural Fiction. But the fact is, there’s been a lot of us out here waiting for the big dogs to see this for a long time.
Which leads me to ask, Can someone give me a straight answer? Is Supernatural Fiction marketable to Christians and the CBA or not?