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.