Where do you draw the line? Speculative fiction vs Biblical speculative fiction.

((Okay, it was Chad's day, but he was tied up))

Speculative fiction, by definition, isn't based in "reality." Biblical Spec-Fic is simply an effort to ground these tales of fantasy, alternate realities, etc. in a Biblical light. And while every author's "purpose" is slightly different (some like to evangelize, some simply want to entertain while keeping things "acceptable" to the Christian audience, some want to reaffirm or lift up those already rooted in their faith, etc), I can't help but wondering exactly where one draws the line. Not that I'm one to teeter on the edge and keep glancing over the line into dangerous waters, but I could certainly be accused of my share of risky ventures.

I write supernatural thrillers (what most in the general market would call horror). So, my line is going to be a little bit different than your line. I'm curious to know, where do you draw the line between what you would call Biblical and what you would say is not...

There are a lot of "Christian" authors out there in the general market that aren't writing Christian novels. That doesn't mean that they aren't Christian-friendly, but they aren't writing stories for the CBA market. Now, while I think that's great and am glad they're getting paid to write, doing what they love, etc, the only thing that separates many of those stories from the rest of the fiction on the shelves is a simple lack of profanity, gratuitous violence, sex, drug use, etc. etc. So, would you clump any of their writings in with "Biblical" spec fic? Or does that cross your line?

For me, writing "horror," there are a lot of lines that could be crossed. How many cults have some kind of sexual ritual? How many "demons" that Hollywood unleashes are out just dying to curse, drink, and fornicate away their freedom before some holy-roller sends them back to hell? How many cheesy horror flicks have cliched teenagers running around naked so everyone watching knows who is going to die first? And then, how far do you go in showing the "dark" side of things? How much of some pagan ritual is too much to show before it could be a lure to draw kids into witchcraft? How many supernatural powers can you give the "bad" guys before you are making them "cool"? Etc. Etc.

When the day is done, when I put the laptop away and head off to bed, what makes my day's work any different from those folks out there in the general market? Why am I submitting my scary stories (that I just KNOW rival the scares of Mr. King or Mr. Koontz or Mr. Craven...) to an ABA agent instead of gunning for the big paychecks?

The answer is quite simple. About 2000 years ago, Christ dragged a line in the sand on His way to Calvary. If you want to see it, stop by the websites of anyone on this blog rotation and look deep.

So, where do you draw your line?


Anonymous said...

This is a topic I've thought a lot about as well, and I think it extends to any form of art when you compare the "secular" and "Christian" versions that make up those art forms, whether books, music, movies, etc. For me, there is almost a reverse line which I try to avoid, and it is also a line I see a lot of Christian writers sprint across--by writing a fantasy or science fiction world that is simply a thin allegory of the Gospel story and salvation experience...where the title of "God" is replaced by some obscure Old Testament title, and the characters are on some kind of "salvation journey." Yes, there are some great stories out there that parallel this and there will always be an exception to cliche. But I personally feel if I set out to write the next great allegory, it would feel like a cheap preaching attempt and not actually writing a good story with true values, true humanity, and the potential for true redemption.

chrisd said...

I guess that I am unclear about what you are saying, Dan.

Are you saying that Christian authors who write for a secular market and keep things cleaned up are not writing Christian fiction, but a cleaned up version of secular fiction?

And are we saying that only books with a salvation type message are Christian books?

D-"There are a lot of "Christian" authors out there in the general market that aren't writing Christian novels. That doesn't mean that they aren't Christian-friendly, but they aren't writing stories for the CBA market."

So if Christians write something not for a CBA market, does that mean that mean they aren't Christian enough?

Is this what you are asking?

Sorry. Could you clarify for me? Thanks.

Daniel I Weaver said...

No, Chris, that's not exactly what I meant. Basically, when you sit down and write your story, you are making a conscious decision as to what "message" or purpose you hope to achieve. Everyone's first purpose should be to write great fiction, but everyone has a different goal. Are you trying to save souls, are you simply trying to entertain, are you trying to subtly plant a seed? etc.

My question is really, for you, where do you draw the line between what you would call "Christian" and not. There's nothing wrong with a Christian author writing a book for the CBA that doesn't evangelize or plant seeds, etc, but does that make the work "Christian" just because the author is? What makes the difference for you?

Anonymous said...

I think your 'draw a line' idea might be confusing people. Normally, when you draw a line somewhere you are saying one side is good and one side is bad. What I think you are trying to get at is how to define 'Christian Fiction.' One story is and one story isn't. I don't think you mean to say that fiction written by Christians that is Christian friendly is on the 'bad' side of a line, just on the 'other' side of a line. Correct?

Grace Bridges said...

Dan, I'm glad you asked this question. I don't really know the answer, but I have asked myself this quite often too - not as a writer, but as a reader. Having read a number of books in the "Christian horror" category, I have come to the conclusion that these are to be "handled with care" and certainly not put in the hands of readers who are prone to nightmares - certainly not for kids, even bookworm kids like I was. Though you keep on saying it could "scare the Jesus into you". All power to you and every success in getting through to people who like getting scared. But please be careful. Don't overdo it. Getting scared into Jesus could either be a rather unfortunate start to a Christian walk, or it could be the flame to the cannon wick for someone who will go far in the faith. So handle with prayer, handle with proper care, and God will use all that you do. Thank you for bringing up this issue.

Frank Creed said...

It's already been said. Call it audience. We can write for adults or for a broader readership. What most children see now would have given us all nightmares at age twenty. If you can bring the Gospel to a young adult who's been desensitized through violence or horror, the nigtmares are already there.

Anonymous said...

I think the line is between me and Jesus and, should it come to it one day, the editor/publisher.

I don't like lines drawn, because, inevitably, this leads to Pharisaical sort of legalism. "You can have a kiss, but not a bared breast. You can have holding hands, but no tongue kissing. You can kill someone, but very little blood. You can't kill children. blah blah."

Well, I think writers should deal in real life. We do lust, kill, rape, and do terrible tihngs to children. We also self-sacrifice, pray, give to the poor, and protect children. Life is dark and light, and not just light. At least, our life. In the future, when Christ's Kingdom is in full force and the flawed ages pass away, then there will be only good, only light, only perfect understanding.

Now, we live in a filthy bedraggled world with filthy bedraggled people--even people who head up Evangelical organizations have nasty bones in their closets, even ministers boink their assitants, even mothers who claim to know God murder their kids. So, to leave real humanity out of stories is to lie. It is not truth.

I hope wherever that line is is not so close to one's toes that one can't walk. :)

Mir<--wants Christian fiction without the fake facade, if I can get it. :D