Christian readers demand more science fiction books. Why won't Christian publishers listen?

Illustration for article titled Christian readers demand more science fiction books. Why wont Christian publishers listen?

Science fiction is a natural fit for Christian readers — especially dystopian novels which usually depict a world without religion, argues one writer. But Christian bookstores and publishers are reluctant to cater to this market. What gives?

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There's been an interesting discussion about science fiction in the Christian blogosphere over the weekend. First of all, over at Revelife, Stephanie P writes a blog post titled, "Science Fiction Goes with the Christian Life." She explains:

Dystopia is a type of science fiction where the author depicts a future world where the government is set up to make everything "perfect," but is actually horribly repressive. The dystopias like "1984," "Brave New World" and "Fahrenheit 451" all show us a world that takes the ideas we prize to an extreme to show where they go wrong... Dystopias show us a world without religion, where man is the measure of everything and man-made happiness has come to supplant true happiness. Moral frameworks are out of the picture, and everything is decided by the governing body.

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So it's too bad that speculative fiction is under-represented at Christian bookstores, as writer Mike Duran points out at Novel Journey:

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Christian who reads speculative fiction (supernatural, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) is the lack of speculative titles available in Christian bookstores. It is routinely estimated that 75-80% of all Christian novels are some form of romance, which leaves the other quarter-of-a-percent to duke it out for the remaining space. But apart from the two big names — Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti — spec titles are a rarity in Christian bookstores.

While many groups have formed (independent presses, blog tours, message boards, crit groups, etc.) aimed at addressing this disparity, the bottom line remains: Christians who like speculative fiction are forced to find their "fix" outside the Christian market.

At Duran's own personal blog, he elaborates a bit more about this. (And reveals that one of the fastest growing Christian book categories, crowding out everything else, is "Amish lit and Amish romance." Who knew?) Writes Duran:

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?

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Actually, I'm left wondering if this huge market for "Amish lit" comes from just Amish people, or regular Christians who just want to fantasize about being Amish?

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DISCUSSION

I tend to avoid "Christian" works because they tend to have nothing but Christians in them. No Muslims, no wiccans, no Buddhists, unless they're either evil or there to be shown the error of their ways. It's not a terribly complex worldview, and it's annoying if it's not what you're looking for. Like picking up a sci-fi book and finding out that it's really thinly-veiled romantic fantasy.

That said, I see nothing wrong with more Christians writing stuff for a Christian audience. Go go gadget monotheistic religious sci-fi! As long as it's properly labeled so I never ever ever have to touch it and it doesn't take away from the section that has the non-Christian sci-fi.

Now, if a sci-fi book wants to deal with *religion*, then that's a different beast altogether. That becomes interesting, because religion is a part of humanity, and sci-fi is about the future of us. How will religion play a part in interacting with our future? I like those books.

So, upshot is I see a distinction between Christian sci-fi and sci-fi dealing with Christians.