It Doesn't Mean That

I remember sitting across the desk from a V.P. of a Christian company. "You'll have to sign this." I scanned the list of things they expected me to live by if I accepted the job. No smoking, no use of alcohol, no playing cards...

"Does this mean I can't play pinochle with my grandparents?"

"No, it doesn't mean that."

"It needs to say what it means," I said. It bothered me to agree with something if I didn't really know the rule maker's expectation.

Lists of rules and regulations abound among the Christian realm. Some are biblically based, others are not. It's a matter of man trying to control man's behavior instead of trusting God to do His part.

It's no different in the writing world. Some people who claim The Chronicles of Narnia as Christian classics, today want Christian writers to follow a list of do's and don'ts. Don't include magic, fantasy or elements of Science Fiction that cross...cross what? Man-made rules that say Do Not Enter? What about that wardrobe? Without the magic wardrobe no man would tread one foot in the magical realm known affectionately as Narnia.

In Speculative Fiction today, the rapidly changing Christian element is not a matter of conforming to the world's expectations (which would be following man-made rules). Instead, it's Christian authors following the imaginative path the Rule Maker lays out in a regenerated imagination.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Col. 2:8).


Writer Father


Math is the best example of logic. It uses definite formulas and constant values.

My school is forty-eight kilometres away from our house. But you use miles. So you divide it by 1.609 and find out that forty-eight kilometres is almost thirty miles. It is always 1.609 if you compare mile and kilometer. Just like with a circle which is always 360 degrees no matter how small or how big it is.

So let’s do a simple math problem. Divide five to five thousand. Logic says that the answer is 0.001. But there was one instance when the answer to that was 5000 plus the number of women and children present plus twelve basketfuls leftover.


Only if you don’t believe that Jesus did feed five thousand men and uncounted number of women and children, with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. The Bible says that after all those people ate and were satisfied, the disciples picked up the leftover broken pieces and gathered twelve basketfuls.

As a child, I read the Bible for the stories. I would open the Bible to Genesis and be amazed at the thought that animals could be created with just a few words. And then I’d skip the part when God punished Adam, Eve and the snake—too depressing for a five-year-old.

I’d read on and read about Noah. When I got better with my math, I counted a hundred years span between the time when God said to Noah that He’d clean the earth and the time when He shut the ark’s door. Talking about long-suffering.

In Genesis chapter 11, I found out why all these other languages exist. So now, I have to learn English just so you can understand me. Pride is a very bad thing. We must be very careful lest God confuse the places of our body parts and turn our noses upside down. We’d be forever blinking because of the air coming out our nose holes.

Talking donkey, the familiar spirit of a prophet showing itself to an Endor witch and a king, a prophet taken up to heaven by a chariot of fire, dead man coming back to life because he was thrown into a cave that kept the bones of a prophet, a man inside a big fish’s stomach for three days and three nights, common people speaking other languages without learning them in school—the Bible is full of extraordinary stories.

Psalm 139:16 (KJV) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

God has a book and He wrote you in it.

2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

May we all walk after our writer Father’s path while being taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness in developing and honing our writing skill.

God is the greatest writer of all time. Because of His words, lives are changed.

Lessons from Facing the Giants

For those who haven’t heard, Facing the Giants is a Christian film that has done exceptionally well in a limited release. The movie tells the story of a Christian High School football coach, who after six losing seasons is at the end of his rope; his finances are in a mess, and he and his wife are struggling with infertility.

It’s an inspirational story of a team and a man turning around. It’s a movie with an inspiring message that challenges Christians to face their own giants.

What does this have to do with Christian Speculative Fiction? I think the movie and its production can provide guidance to us.

The story behind the movie is amazing in that you consider that it was shot on a $100,000 budget, using one camera, and starring members of the Actor/Producer/Writer Alex Kendrick’s church. Yet somehow, it’s ended up in 400 + theaters across America and has already grossed nearly 30 times its budget. The movie itself was a departure from the End Times movies of more recent years. Does this movie have something to say to us? You bet.

1) Our Purpose

The movie asks a powerful question. Kendrick’s character Coach Grant Taylor asks his team what their purpose. When a player responds that the goal is to win football game, the coach responds that’s too small a purpose. He proposed that the team’s new philosophy will be honor God in all they do: on the field and off, saying, “If we win, we praise him; if we lose, we praise him.”

If our purpose is to be published or even to make money writing, we’ve missed the point. A lot of people have written books and made millions, only to be forgotten. As a poet once wrote, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last.”

If our purpose is first to honor God with our writing and everything else we do, regardless of happens, we won’t fail.

2) Our Faith

The failure of Coach Taylor’s team, like that many real life high school teams, was not due to a lack of talent, but an attitude of defeat. I’ve had those job interviews where I went in sure I wouldn’t get the job and sure enough, I didn’t get it.

When you go out mentally defeated and focused on how bad you see the results being, your prophecies of failure are almost certain to be fulfilled.

Coach Taylor got his team’s focus off of the teams they were playing, off of their fear and inadequacy, and on glorifying God. God doesn’t ask that we always have great success, but rather on giving God our best.
Colossians 3:23, 24 says:
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men, knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
It’s not talking about church work. It’s talking about everything in our lives.
Why are so many pieces of Christian Fiction of low quality? We’ve all read books and wondered, how were these ever published? Some get published because an author knows that they can get away with it in the Christian market. We should never try and get by in our writing, but rather do this as unto God.
3) Leave It All on the Field
In the final game, Coach Grant encourages his team to play so that they can say years later that they held nothing back. Facing a team with more than 80 players and them having less than 30, players would have to squeeze every ounce of energy to hope of succeeding. In giving their all for God, they fought beyond what they thought was possible.
Related to the idea of doing things unto God is to hold nothing back in your writing. Think of the best way to set the scene, the best way for the plot to go. Pour yourself into your writing so that at the end of the day, whether you’re published or not, you can say you held nothing back. You made your best effort.
I think of my own writing and the movie challenged me on this point. I have a novel that I’ve been working on for four years and as best I can tell, it’s done. I’ve cut 14,000 words. I’ve re-written half the story out of first person and into third person, but I still haven’t submitted. Why not?

I could make a bunch of excuses, but the truth is that I’ve been afraid. Afraid that after all I’d done, it still wasn’t good enough. Afraid of the piece I’ve worked the hardest on being rejected. Yet, I too have got to leave everything on the field. I too have to face my giant. So, God helping me, I’m going to get this novel submitted by the 1st of December and if it’s accepted, I’ll praise him, and if it’s rejected, I’ll praise him.
4) Community

Watching the closing credits of Facing the Giants, I was stunned by the sheer number of people credited, nearly all volunteers. What had happened? Hundreds of people came together from across the church and the community to make the movie happen.
Too often, we have the image of the writer as the iconoclastic loner. Yet, the best things come from community of some sort and the success of our work will depends on friends, family, church members, our fellow writers, in short community.

It’s a biblical thing. The church is described as a “body.” A body is not a hand jiggling in the air proclaiming it’s a wonderful hand, but rather the hand doing it’s part as a member of the body. So, thus in our efforts we must pray for God to move His Church and fellow believers to support and encourage us.

5) Follow the Vision God has given you.
Kendrick, when he filmed the movie, faced skepticism from industry professionals. You don’t film movies using one camera, amateur actors, amateur crew, and end up with a movie that ends up in theaters. You don’t even sell many DVDs that way.
Yet, Kendrick practiced what he preached about doing his absolute best and a dedication for excellence, and the result was success because he kept firm with the vision God had given Him.
Oftentimes, the idea of biblical Speculative fiction will earn a sharp rebuke. Authors will be told it can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Yet, if you can make a movie that touches the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people, and you can make a movie that in the face of the heartbreak in Lancaster is requested by community leaders in a time of citywide grief, then what can we say for mocking and discouragement?

Nehemiah, when he rebuilt the Walls of Jerusalem, faced opposition. First, they mocked them, then they threatened violence. When at last, the work looked to be prevailing, they called for Nehemiah to leave the work he’d begun and come to the Valley of Ono. Nehemiah responded, “I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
So, we too, like modern day Nehemiahs, must keep at our work. Despite attempts to mock, ridicule, or intimidate, we have to keep our focus and our faith. We all have our giants to face, but if we are faithful and put our faith in the Lord, He will guide our steps and lead our efforts in the paths we must follow.


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.


Beyond What If

by Andrea J. Graham

The boiled down definition of speculative fiction is this is the genre that asks, “What if?” That’s the question that draws me to this genre, as I ask it far often than most would deem necessary; Discover Your Strengths labels this tendency that drives my loved ones up the wall Strategy.

Still, many have wondered how, “What if…” fits with the Christian faith. After all, what’s the point in asking, “What if Jesus was born in the year 3000 AD?” He wasn’t, after all, right? Or, Heaven forbid, “What if Jesus was really fathered by Joseph?”

The latter is the sort of question I hope no Christian author would even think of asking in their work. Speculation that departs from scripture, especially such a fundamental doctrine, would be irresponsible at best. Likewise, as ambassadors of Christ, we have a responsibility before God to represent His character as accurately as possible in all we do, including our fiction. That is why we must always seek a fuller understanding of Who He is, as revealed in scripture, since our understanding will be taught in our fiction whether we intend to do so or not.

Here on Earth, we might get away with misrepresenting Him, but we will have to answer to God. As such, biblical speculative fiction does not ask questions of this sort.

For the other type of question, the point actually isn’t, what if Jesus was born a thousand years from now? Of course he wasn’t. The point would be to copy-cat Eli, in order to present the gospel to a different audience, in a form they can more easily relate to.

On that same token, one could just as easily keep Jesus born when he was, and have an alien prophet like unto John the Baptist born in an alien star system, to point to Christ by modeling for his (or her) people what Christ did for all those created in the image of God. One need not actually believe that, as the bible doesn’t specifically cover the possibility of aliens and it’s difficult to argue from silence that something doesn’t exist. Regardless, such a tact would still portray the ministry of Christ in a sci-fi setting without changing history, although, alternative history can be a valid tact as well.

To go back to the whether aliens exist question, that very doubt is why I would wish to write such a story. “What if…” is fine and grand, it provides many wonderful questions, but for many of us, the question often takes a different form: “Has God created other races on other planets in His Image? If so, to what degree are they human? Do they suffer from our fall, or did they fall themselves? Is it possible an unfallen race exists somewhere? Is that the reason for the space rubbish nay-sayers claim make intergalactic travel at the speeds necessary to reach them in one lifetime impossible? What would happen if man found a way around that problem? If they are also fallen, would Christ’s sacrifice on earth atone for their sins, or would God find some other way to save them? If so, what? If the former, how would He choose to reveal the gospel?

Granted, some of these questions do have a what if behind them. After all, the subject is aliens, which may or may not exist. But less so are questions about our own future, especially when we extrapolate out based on God’s character. As fascinating the what ifs on things like aliens are, just as often, this is the realm the questions I ask in my fiction often fall into. For instance, in a short story currently under consideration for inclusion in Light at the Edge of Darkness, “Frozen Generation,” I began by asking myself, “If the humanity of unborn children, and subsequently their rights, are wholly dependant upon the mother’s choice, and we had the technology to bring them to term artificially, why wouldn’t society treat these ‘non-persons’ as property, use them for spare parts, or any other evil man can dream of?”

That is the real power of our genre. In any other genre, the theme would become overbearing and I would find myself merely preaching to the choir. Not necessarily a bad thing; in general, my focus is discipleship, not evangelism. Still, by asking questions rather than simply giving answers, I allow readers the freedom to answer the questions however they choose.

This approach has certain risks, namely how a reader interprets a story, or, what they draw out of it, will depend on how they answer the questions presented. In “Frozen Generation,” for instance, one might answer my question with, “because that would be greedy and unethical” and simply see a story where technology is abused in a world ruled by Mammon. Others might focus on the question of what ethical standard would prohibit this in a secular society and ignore what current issues such practices might have evolved out of.

Still others will read “Frozen Generation” purely for their pleasure and ignore such questions altogether, but the seed nevertheless will have been planted. That is the true power of the what-if genre. Such a person would not have even picked up the story if I had taken the direct approach, but rather feel like I had wielded a bible like a hammer. This also makes the what-if treatment quite biblical. Did not Jesus follow the rabbinical tradition of answering questions with questions? Is this not more likely to get readers of various persuasions thinking on the issues presented and regardless provide a wider window for God to use to draw people to Himself?