Bridging the Gap with Speculative Fiction

I have an internet evangelist friend who calls it "the old story about the old story." Ninety percent of Christian websites (or Christian books, magazines or music) are designed for other Christians. Even those who believe they are creating 'evangelistic' sites use church slang and Christian cliches assuming the reader understands. Others are so overt and obvious that the non-believer just turns off and surfs away.

Speculative Fiction has the potential of being a bridge strategy to open the door to consideration of spiritual things in a secular culture. Readers of speculative fiction already have to suspend some level of disbelief. They have to accept things such as faster than light travel, time warps, magic, alternate worlds, demons and monsters as part of the landscape of speculative literature.

Likewise, speculative fiction traditionally has created a good versus evil dynamic. Gene Roddenberry considered much of Star Trek to be a modern day morality play. That Christians have avoided these genres is a sad thing since the door is already open a crack and it may be enough to begin a conversation about spiritual things.

Of course, Christian speculative fiction writers must be careful to keep the fiction seeker-friendly. To do this we must do three things:

1. Avoid Church Jargon and Insider Writing. Christians speak their own language. We say the sinner will feel conviction then he will repent and let Jesus come into his heart. You realize how strange that sounds to someone without a foundation in Christian doctrine. And, if you are writing science fiction, do you think they will be using the same jargon a thousand years from now? Likewise, we must not assume that the reader knows the stories of the Bible. When making reference to Biblical events assume the reader is hearing about it for the first time.

2. Be Subtle. Nobody likes to be hit over the head with a heavy-handed message. Stories are stories and not sermons. The unbeliever particularly will visit your website to be entertained or challenged. However, he will not visit to be preached at. Let the message emerge naturally from the character and the plot in such a way that the reader can work it out for himself or herself.

3. Tell a good story. It seems amazing to me that some people miss this basic idea. The story must be entertaining, it must hold the readers attention, and it must surprise the reader in a rational way. This means creating strong multi-dimensional, complex characters that your reader can identify with. It means crafting a plot that flows naturally from the interactions of your characters. Conversions must come as the result of an ongoing process and be foreshadowed in subtle ways so the reader can say, "Oh, yes, that makes sense now." Write a story that is not just as good, but better than anything in the secular market. They must respect you as a writer before they will respect your message.

I may sound like a broken record in my posts about this. Maybe that's because it is something God is dealing with me about. Its good to entertain Christians. It's better to disciple them through fiction. But it's even better if we can help fulfill the great commission and go into all the world with speculative fiction as a means for beginning a process that can lead to salvation.