Friday, June 12, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Speculative Fiction

What in the world is Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday? Well if you read this post, you'll find out!

Today's Topic
I am always interested in how Christians feel about speculative fiction. It seems to me that evangelical Christians generally (NOT ALWAYS) like to look things in very black and white terms and have everything grounded in reality. Speculative fiction by definition is not grounded in reality as we know it.

According to wikipedia, "speculative fiction is a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world in various important ways. In these contexts, it generally overlaps one or more of the following: science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history."

How do you feel about speculative fiction in general and specifically how do you feel about Christian speculative fiction? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you see to Christian speculative fiction?

My Thoughts
I find that a great deal of Christian speculative fiction deals with spiritual warfare. I'm going to be honest here and say that is probably my least favorite kind of Christian fiction.

This may seem strange to my readers since I enjoy vampire stories, werewolf tales, and other clearly fictional things. But for some reason, fictionalizing spiritual warfare has never worked for me. It bothers me to have all these weird manifestations and kinds of demons and then try to make it all realistic by battling it with prayer. It's not that I don't think there are demons...there's that I think some circles of Christianity have sensationalized it a great deal and almost given this kind of spiritual warfare it's own throne. I remember being at a friend's house and they told me about a book and some stories in it, and some demons that could shapeshift humans, etc. I was freaked out, and started to do some research. It didn't take long to uncover that this book was a complete fraud. Yet, all these well-meaning people believed it and opened up their lives to that kind of fear.

I think it's hard to have an overtly Christian story in that kind of speculative fiction. I think you could still tell, for example, a powerful beautiful and redemptive vampire story without ever naming Jesus. But once you decide to bring Jesus into it, the vampires pretty much have to be demons for it to work and then you have this fake sort of realistic demon and it all falls apart.

So anyway....other than that, I really like speculative fiction, but I think it's a genre that still needs growth in the Christian market.

Your Turn


Anonymous said...

this is a fascinating question Amy! It was also interesting to think about :)

Jen said...

Huh, this actually touches on something I've been thinking about for a while. Though I'm coming at it from a different pov being more Agnostic than anything else. I think I want to write a post of my own - I'm just worried that I'll end up stepping on toes no matter how careful I am.

One thing though - I think I need clearification about what you mean by Spiritual Warfare before I start saying anything about it. Does it mean the battle between good and evil but on a individual level - as in a person needs to decide what side they are on?

Unknown said...

When I think Christian speculative fiction, what comes to mind are Kathy Tyers's FIREBIRD trilogy and Karen Hancock's books. Those are my favorites...though Peretti and Dekker would certainly fall in that category as well.

Renee (BlacknGoldGirlsBookSpot) said...

I just posted my response on my blog. Thank you for the great question!

Janet said...

Interesting stuff. I can understand the reticence Christians feel when seeing magic used as a metaphor for God's power, for instance, although I think C.S. Lewis pulled it off pretty well.

So I asked myself, what if there were a story where magic was pretty much as it is in the real world - morally impure? What makes it impure? And what if a wizard had his own crisis of faith and felt obliged to turn his back on it?

So I wrote it. :o)

On the other hand, the term speculative fiction, as you've pointed out, casts a pretty wide net, and I think there's lots of room for Christians to play in there without ever having to distort their faith or call evil good. Yes, there have been some rather childish or ham-handed attempts, but that is a reflection of a lack of sophistication, not a necessary characteristic of the genre itself.

I think it's an area that's maturing, and we can expect to see better things as the years go by. I also think that it is a market that can only get bigger. It has been so neglected, and Christians who love it are necessarily reading secular stuff (not that I think that is a terrible thing) and I'm sure most of them would be open to quality Christian writing in the field. Stay tuned.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I enjoy speculative fiction and I know my father does too. Speculative christian fiction does tend to freak me out more than secular speculative fiction though.

Talismans said...


Becca said...

I love dystopian fiction but other than that I have not been too big on speculative fiction. Sometimes a ghost story will intrigue me, but not very often. I don't know that I have read any Christian speculative fiction. I can't say I have really read a lot of Christian fiction, actually, but I think it is because those I have read have been too over-the-top or sappy for me.

I was really fascinated by your comment that evangelical Christians are "grounded in reality". While I do agree they think in black and white terms in my experience, I have never met one that I thought was grounded in reality. My reaction was more that they had never experience a moment with reality. I know you grew up in an evangelical environment, so I'd love it if you could explain that a little more for me if you can.

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