Why the Genre is "Lost"? Part 2 of the LGG Tour Wrap-Up

During the three-day CSFF tour of the Lost Genre Guild, I was pleased to see so many positive responses to the guild and its mission. Grace has done a fine job of highlighting these responses in her "Blogger Buzz on the LGG" and "Quotable Quotes"

I'd like to take a couple of quotes:
Terri Main responded to Keanan Brand's post on Adventures in Fiction by saying,
[The LGG] has also been an inspiration to Christian writers who's stories didn't always fit into the Christian romance or contemporary "mainstream" fiction of traditional Christian publishing.

Genie (aka Steve Rice) noted at his blog Back to the Mountains,
So it's accurate to say that the status quo hinders new writers. The Lost Genre Guild helps new writers get noticed and read, even though it isn't a publisher itself.

For our curious readers, the Lost Genre Guild also promotes and represents authors whose novels do not fit into the big Christian publishers' mold (or is that "molt"? see Ansric's post "Deep Enough, Let's Try to Get Back Out").

To again quote Frank Creed:
Major Christian publishing houses have experimented with trials in the young adult fantasy market and signed a handful of authors. (Unfortunately, the major houses have yet to venture further-the adult fantasy market remains largely untapped.) The independent houses are taking the lead, and the risks, to get good Christian speculative fiction to readers but their efforts are blocked in several ways.

Horror, disguised on Christian bookshelves with spiritual thriller or chiller labels, has been accepted since the late 1980s with Frank Peretti's first novels. T.L. Hines and Ted Dekker carry on today with their supernatural thrillers.

That leaves science fiction. Thought Probes: Philosophy Through Science Fiction Literature, a college textbook, describes sci-fi as "the handmaiden of worldviews." For over a decade, Christian sci-fi authors have seized this opportunity as the perfect vehicle for the Christian worldview. The genre, alas, remains virtually nonexistent in Christian bookstores.

Christendom has always been suspicious of and slow to accept new things. Science fiction, horror and fantasy stories of faith have long been marginalized by believers. Not just believers who once said that rock music was of the Devil and could never glorify God, but even by actual genre fans. (
Christian Spec-Fic in the Publishing Industry, July 2008)

While it is apparent, and understandable, that many Christian readers and lovers of our genre don't know about the state of the publishing industry where spec-fic is concerned, writers know this all to well. It is one reason why they approach independent and small publishing houses or even self-publish. The Big Christian houses won't touch what they write.

Rebecca Miller, in her post on Speculative Faith, hits the nail on the head: "My thinking has been that many writers have grown frustrated with waiting for changes in Christian publishing."

However, she goes on to wonder, "I'm not sure why those writers haven't pursued publication with general market presses. Maybe they have, with no success."

It could well be the lack of facial expression and voice intonation that comes with internet correspondance, but I would like to address these statements as I interpreted them.

Dear readers, please do not ever assume that all the best in Christian fiction comes solely from the large Christian publishing houses.

Yes, there are some mainstream publishers now taking on Christian fiction in their imprints, but these places primarily market to the Christian Booksellers Association-affliated bookstores. Point is that whether they are Christian or General market publishers, they will still not readily offer some types of fiction (same old, different name).

And, there are excellent offerings from the small traditional houses, the independent traditional houses and from self-publishers. It is from these places that you will find that which the big boys won't touch and it has nothing to do with quality.

How do I know this, you might ask?

Well, first of all, look around your local bookstore, whether Christian or Barnes & Noble. Do you see Christian sci-fi? Have you ever seen the label Christian horror? I am here to say that these subgenres do exist but not in great numbers nor are they published by the big houses.

Consider these comments:
Jeff Gerke who wrote and worked for Strang Communications, NavPress, and Multnomah said,
"After twelve years of beating my head against the wall, it dawned on me that the entire CBA fiction industry is set up to service a demographic that is not interested in speculative fiction. Nothing against the CBA or that wonderful demographic. But no matter what I tried, so long as this was the demographic those publishers reached, Christian speculative fiction would never become a beloved genre." ("One-of-a-Kind Christian Publishing Company," May 2008)

An acquisitions editor for a major Christian publishing house responded to a post on a popular speculative fiction group blog. The editor publicly stated that more genre fiction would be published if only submitted manuscripts were of a higher-quality. His message was: go out and learn the craft.

Just a few months after the interview, a guild member spoke with the same editor on the phone. The editor (who asked that his name be kept private) admitted that of the five or six excellent science fiction projects that had been pitched to the company's board, all were rejected outright; not because of quality, but simply because they were sci-fi.

Another editor for a different "large" press made this statement:
The ECPA [Evangelical Christian Publishers Association] houses will never publish a book about vampires, or should I say, that contains the word "vampire."

I'd say that these are good enough reasons for novelists of adult fantasy (not the XXX variety!), horror and science fiction (respectful of Christian beliefs) to bypass the big boys. For anyone to suggest these writers should have more patience and wait for large press publication (or that they've been turned down from, as if their work didn't have the quality necessary) is naive, in my opinion.

Christian readers of speculative fiction: look to the small presses as well as the larger ones for your reading selections. And, please read further than the publisher labels.


Frank Creed said...

The major Christian houses, most of which are owned by the Random Houses of the world, want book buyers to believe that they are the end-all for books. As corporations, their goal is not to minister or even print literature, but to profit.
The naive people are those who think the publishing industry has not changed--is still run by the same gatekeepers.
CBA publishers won't sink their teeth into adult spec-fic until Indies have success with the niche.



SherryT said...

I just wanted to say that this blog entry plus Frank's comment, describes the reality of the situation quite lucidly.
I was particularly taken by the admission by an anonymous editor that spec Fic were rejected by CBA-associated publishers publicly because of quality but private -- within the pitch meetings -- because of their genre.

This has -got- to play serious mind-games with Speculative Fiction authors who believe that they are producing inferior work, because the pros in the field insinuate that that is the reason that their submissions are rejected.
Doing this to fellow human beings, giving false impressions for an action, isn't very compassionate or charitable.

Frank Creed said...

Well said!
Those banging their head against Christian imprint doors try other options. There's many talented writers who want to get published, and small publishers who want to profit. Our genre is a niche that the free-market is taking from Christian houses because of past business decisions.


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