Is Christian Spec-Fic Too Restricted?

Last month, we talked about the place or lack thereof for language, violence, and sex in Christian fiction. Mike Duran was our source for that post, and now Mike says he has “learned of another fictional archetype that is, apparently, off-limits for mainstream Christian fiction — zombies.”

The reason is that a Christian worldview doesn’t allow for the undead. Since zombies can’t exist, then fictional zombies shouldn’t be in our stories.

Mike says, “Forcing fiction to neatly fit your theology is a losing proposition… at least, if creative storytelling is your aim.”

I agree with Mike. I wonder what imaginative cliches Christian fiction readers/publishers accept as normal but are just as unChristian (in worldview terms) as zombies and other creatures of the dead?

  1. God’s plan of prosperity for us?
  2. No one ever goes to Hell?
  3. Homosexuals as demon possessed?
  4. Hateful people repenting on the turn of a dime?

What do you think?

Other reading: Loren Eaton’s post on this question, “Is it legitimate to discover joy in works primarily intended to arouse fear?”

7 thoughts on “Is Christian Spec-Fic Too Restricted?”

  1. If we first eliminate zombies for the above reasons, then we’d better eliminate many other things. Oh wait, look at row after row of bonnet-and-buggy fiction at your local Christian book store…

    As a writer (and a writer of horror and dark fantasy), I obviously don’t think any monsters or archetypes should be off limits. That isn’t too say I agree with a whatever goes attitude. If what is written doesn’t glorify God, then the result isn’t Christian fiction. It might be “fiction written by a Christian,” but that’s different.

    My wife and I were discussing this some time back. We agreed that if we could take a story of substantive length and ask the question ‘how would this be different if a nonChristian wrote it?’ and the answer was “in significant ways no matter how much text was different,” then it qualified as Christian fiction (not just fiction written by a Christian). That means it might only be a line or two of the text that differed, but it would be a major difference.

    She gave the example of Peretti’s The Oath, which is probably the only horror novel she has ever read. She said, once she figured out the symbolism, that a nonChristian writer couldn’t have pulled it off. I agree with her.

    One of my favorite examples of a Christian writer in the secular market is Timothy Zahn. His villains are so real to me because he thinks of them from a Christian world view. They are broken, flawed, and selfish. And his heroes often struggle against pride.

    There are genres where I cannot write. One of them is slasher/gore. A forum I’m part of has a monthly fiction draft where we pull in characters from other works. Halloween 2012, the topic was “Cabin in the Woods.” Each writer would pick a location, 5 victims, and five monsters, one a day and once selected no other writer could use them. The commissioner would then announce to each writer which monster to use, and the end result was going to be a slasher story. I had to withdraw as I couldn’t glorify God in such a celebration of murder and death.

    I’m pretty big umbrella under what other Christians can write, even though we divide over theology and doctrine. I am Pentecostal. That doesn’t stop me one bit from enjoying books by cessationists. However, there are some parts of theology that a Christian writer should not cross.

    For example, if they present as true the belief that Jesus was a man and not God in the flesh then it is not a Christian work. Or deny the Trinity (those are two biggies that come to mind right away). Obviously, there can be characters who think this, but it should not be an underpinning of the work.

  2. Thanks, Frank. I hope your work is selling well. I don’t know how to approach this from a business perspective. As an artist, if the work drives at a biblical theme, then it’s a Christian work, but that doesn’t mean it will sell enough to English-speaking Christians. Perhaps the business problem is the ministry angle of the Christian publisher. He wants to reach the world for Christ through books. What Christian publisher wants to tell great stories that drive at Christian themes, even if subtly? Is that publisher making a profit?

  3. I don’t really understand how undead cannot fit with a Christian worldview. Ezekiel’s vision seems to be of something along those lines and something happened with the witch of Endor. I know people explain away both those passages, but I find it moderately shocking that people would censure in FICTION what appears in the inspired word of God.

    Then again, that may explain why my circle of Christian fiction writers is shrinking as I grow older. Hurry up and churn out some books Lars, you’re one of the few people whose stuff I’ll still buy.

  4. Eric,

    The blurb from my book:

    Derke is a blessed man and a prophet. But in the course of one day, everything he loves is stripped from him: his wife, his family, and his faith. Sunk in his own loss and grief, he turns to the only one who seems to have all the answers—a dark-robed sorceress who introduces him to black magic. Even as Derke loses more of his humanity and descends into evil, not all of his friends have given up on him, especially not his old friend Father Phaeus and his new friend Syantere’.

    From a tranquil village in Aviterr, to deep inside Undeadwood, to a bright and shining elven city, Derke seeks meaning in the midst of loss. All the while, the world’s oldest vampire desires to awaken a monstrous race that will remake the world in his own image. To ensure the world has a future, Derke and Syantere’ must overcome their pasts and find their purpose.

    Vampires, undead, monsters, black magic, and Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones is explicitly quoted. Here on Amazon. If you’re interested but unsure, we can talk about an electronic review copy. fluke030 at yahoo dot com. Offer is open to others as well.

  5. @Frank, I hope I was clear my frustration was with the publishers, not the authors, and certainly not you in particular.

    Despite my position, personally, I’m pretty burned out on the monster genre for now. At $3.50, it’s within my “give it a try” price point, so I bought it, but it’ll be a while before I get around to reading it. Frankly, I’ve been burned by some Christian publishers lately, so you’ll need to dig yourself out of a hole to win me over. Not your fault, sorry.

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