10/17/2006

The Next Generation

When brainstorming over my October post, I tossed around a number of ideas. Speculative fiction and reliance on the Book of Revelations? Love, sex, speculative fiction: reconciling love, sex and biblical themes? Racism and sexism in fantasy fiction: aliens and new races created for speculative fiction and how they are portrayed? All seemed to be solid ideas, except that I waited until the last minute, so my research and preparation were, uhm, severely lacking at best.

Therefore, this post is going to be short and simple. The theme is, wait for it....Speculative Fiction and the Next Generation: Preparing Our Youth. I told you- not the most literary topic, but I mean well, and isn't that what counts most?

In our current world of instant gratification and emphasized spoon fed entertainment, how do we capture the attention and imagination of our Christian youth to inspire speculative fiction readers and writers. Why, you may ask, does it matter? Well, it has already been demonstrated in prior posts that speculative fiction can and has been utilized to demonstrate good vs evil, right from wrong and teach moral ethics. Similarly, we want to provide diversity in the Christian youth reading and learning materials. Speculative fiction allows the mind to wonder, create and imagine, broadening the literacy skills of our youth. Finally, maybe we can inspire the next J.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis by providing exposure to a bourgeoning genre of which they are unaware.

Below are just a few suggestions, please feel free to offer more.

1. Form a youth group or youth ministry focused on writer training and development. Within this group, develop a speculative fiction youth team of interested writers, providing a structured format to write, critique and recite works.

2. Create Christian speculative fiction for middle reader and young adult age groups. The market for youth speculative fiction certainly exists (your expecting me to mention the easy example of Rowlings here, but I am not) such as D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series. MacHale creates a different world and different adventure in every novel that Pendragon has to overcome. The writing is straightforward, even humorous, without being condescending. Similar to most books in the genre, lessons of ethics and morality are sprinkled under the plot, allowing the reader to come to her own conclusions. Certainly, we can provide similar, if not better stories (no disrespect Mr. MacHale- I loved your Encyclopedia Brown books) for the Christian teen market, or even the regular youth market.

3. Begin a grass roots campaign within our churches and communities encouraging youth participation and exposure to speculative fiction. Now, obviously, I haven't worked out the details of this one yet (remember, I am working on limited=no research here) but it seems to me that maybe starting youth book clubs or reading groups might work.

The books stores are filled with several successful fantasy fiction series, however, I am only aware of a couple of Christian series. Of course, the Christian series are not shelved in the youth section, where they should be. Actually, maybe this should be point 4: placing youth Christian speculative fiction right next to How to be a Wizard, volume 45 in the teen section, instead of hiding it across the store in the adult Christanity section. Anyway, the demand exists, and individually we can make a difference. In our push for acknowledgment and expansion of the genre, we should also proactively prepare and promote the development of the next generation of Christian Spec Fic writers.

9 comments:

Elliot said...

Well, I led a small group at my church for several years, in which we read short stories, watched some movies, and read a novel, all sf/fantasy with Christian themes. It went over pretty well. It was more 20-somethings, but we had some teens.

cyn said...

Aisha,

Great ideas Aisha. As authors we could easily minister this way in our own churches! Elliot mentions above that he has done something along these lines already, so it can be done.

Just imagine, youth groups maintain their focus on Scripture--learning and living--but with a new and interesting vehicle! They could discuss the literature from several angles, learn lessons from it, gain appreciation for the genre and enjoy themselves at the same time! From there, one could take the concept to a higher level, writing groups.

The first Christian spec-fic book sent to me was actually written for young adults. I was so impressed because of the dearth of good YA literature (a fault I place at the feet of publishers who shy away from YA). Young adults need to find a high calibre of Christian fiction on bookshelves, otherwise, they will turn to secular fiction--not that secular fiction is so awful--but so many would be thrilled to find a good Christian sci-fi or horror.

Andrea Graham said...

Great thoughts, though I hope my Heaven's Mark is NOT shelved with the YA books. The follow ups are unabashedly adult novels, but that story follows a fifteen year old slave girl until her twentieth birthday. Thematically, it is an adult novel, though. Many parents would, I suspect, be uncomfortable with their teen reading a story with a teenager who suffers through sexual abuse.

See why I don't fit in anywhere?

Valerie Comer said...

In Chapters stores in Canada, I find Donita K. Paul in the YA section, shelved alphabetically. Likewise with other CBA books. So there are stores who shelve things *right* :P

Elliot said...

I found short stories were good because A) they didn't involve too much reading and B) you could discuss one or two quite thoroughly in a few hours. You could ask - what are the biblical parallels? Literary references? Theological concepts? Historical references? Did you like it or dislike it? Do you think this could ever happen in the future? And so on.

Aisha said...

HI everyone - thanks for your wonderful comments and all your support.

Andrea - I see your point, when I was a teen I read Toni Morrison's Beloved and all Alice Walker's books - way too much info for a young mind. But wait, I was shopping the adult section, so I don't think that counts....

Valerie - I sure wish the US stores would learn something from Canda. I have purchased all Donita Paul's books, in the Christian adult section. Even better, they told me that they didn't carry the books, and I had to locate them for the store clerk!

Elliot - excellent point about short stories, something I hadn't even considered.

Cyn - thanks for seeing the vision. I think it would be inspiring to work with our youth. Just imagine was spec fic that could create!!

Mirtika said...

We lose the culture when we ignore the arts. Kids will always be into the entertainment media--films, music, television, fashion.

When Christians decided films were bad, fashion is frivolous, rock and roll is evil, hip hop is sinful, genre literature was demonic, and television was a soul-killer...we ceded the field. We should have been training our young people to write, compose, paint, sculpt, act, and create BETTER than the rest.

The mantra became clean. The motto became "safe."

Clean and safe rarely produces art, because life is not clean and safe. Humans aren't clean and safe. The Bible isn't clean and safe.It's dangerous and provocative and daring and true and revolutionary.

I wish the moving to be Roaring Lambs had happened in my youth. No, all I had was safe music and a handful of insipid novels offered by my evangelical brethren.

It's nice to see the fire growing in the bellies of young Christians. I hope they rock the culture like nobody's business.

But we older folks need to start encouraging them. Instead of church hot dog picnics and volleyball, maybe we should start having church read-ins and paint-ins and art festivals and literary groups and screenwriting workshops.

Mir

Andrea Graham said...

Agreed, the best way to handle the smutty arts is to refuse to watch the smutt, and pour out our creative gifts in whatever medium God calls us to, or if he doesn't, to, yes, support Christian art. Not artists that label as Christian basically secular work with a few bible allusions tossed in to try to grab our market, no, but we should support our fellow workers God has called to this field, at the very least publicly.

If someone does need rebuked for some reason, we should first pray, then do as the bible says and take them aside and do it in private, or at the very least amongst our own, and definitely not before the whole wide world.

driftwood said...

I only know of one group training kids, teenagers and young adults in dance, music, acting and writing here in the Philippines--Trumpets.

But it is too far from where I live.

How I wish, ok, no, I pray that God would touch someone like you guys to start something like Trumpets somewhere near here, or better yet, in my hometown.

I'm always thankful that God put it in His plan for me to meet all you guys. You've been a blessing to me and I'm learning many things from you.

It's just sad that school schedule is pulling me away from you. But I glued my mind to our yahoogroup, so no worries there. :D