Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Problem

Finding Christian speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy and horror), in my youth was impossible. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy graced the lonely shelf. Every modern genre author credits Lewis as their inspiration for good reason: he's all that genre fans could find.

In the seventies and eighties of my childhood, mom would take me into the local Christian bookstores, and I'd straight-edge for the fiction shelves. After years of only finding Lewis' titles, I stopped looking in Christian stores. My favorite fiction came from secular stores.

I'd given up in the early eighties—about a year before Steven Lawhead's Empyrion was published. After Peretti's Darkness books came out, I hopefully scanned Christian shelves again for a couple more years before abandoning hope. Obviously this was a once per decade event.

A year ago the only Christian spec-fic authors of which I'd ever heard were Lewis, Peretti, Dekker, and arguably, Jenkins. Since then, I've discovered dozens of Christian spec-fic authors on the Web. I formed the Lost Genre Guild in September of 2006, and we've erected a respectable Web infrastructure for the promotion of our favorite fiction. Genre fans, read on for a killer link with more traditionally published titles than you'd ever dreamed existed.

Some spec-fic sub-genres have recently broken the CBA publishing dam. Doors opened for Christian fantasy after the Lord of the Rings films scored at the Box-Office. Genre purists and book-retailers don't lump horror into the genre, but the definition of setting and characters does. The race we call "angels" are supernatural extra-dimensional beings. At some point when nobody was looking, some creative librarian tacked up a "spiritual thrillers" label on the shelf that ought to have read "horror." "Spiritual thrillers" sounds more like Hannibal Lechter sitting across a confessional from Clarisse Starling than fallen angels under the bed, but at least the belief system that inspired The Exorcist is also moving forward. I wonder if The Prophecy series of films, featuring Christopher Walken, didn't also have an effect. And Anne Rice accepting Christ surely looked good to the CBA world.

That leaves one of spec-fic's three main sub-genres still floundering behind the dam: science fiction. I believe there are several reasons for this. There have been no sci-fi cross-over films or popular culture fiction to shoehorn publishers into risking bets on new authors. Many view Christianity and science to be a contradiction in terms. Sci-fi's been such an anti-Christian world-view genre it's no real surprise that mothers dodge children around the aisle.

You've just read introduction to a four part series that will explore the concept of Christian science fiction. Because you're still reading, you get a cookie! The most complete Biblical spec-fic book store I've ever found belongs to Jeff Gerke, AKA novelist Jefferson Scott. Any genre fan will want to see and bookmark this site of Lost Genre novels:

Frank Creed


Anonymous said...

You write:

"Sci-fi's been such an anti-Christian world-view genre it's no real surprise that mothers dodge children around the aisle."

What? Many of the best sci-fi movies have included Christian elements:

The Matrix, Blade Runner, E.T., Star Wars, Children of Men, Star Man, K-Pax, etc.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Take Star Wars for example... At first the people of the Rebel Alliance had only a few followers. And although they lived in the Galactic Empire, they were never really part of it. They believed in and followed the ways of 'the Force,' and were pitted against the evil Emperor and other fallen stars of the Old Republic.

During his duel with Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi brings his light saber to the neutral position, and offers himself as a sacrifice in order to save those he loves. His death momentarily draws the attention of the Imperial troops and allows Princess Leia and her rescuers to escape.

Had it not been for this, the cause of the Alliance would have been lost, and they would have continued to live in fear and bondage. After his death, Kenobi returns in spirit, giving wise counsel and direction to his young disciple, Luke Skywalker.

As King Solomon wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun."

David Buckna

Grace Bridges said...

Reply to comment above: I guess it depends on whether people see stories with such elements as "hope for the secular world" or "dangerous half-truths".

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

For me, it's not about finding Christian symbolism in a mainstream movie, though that happens often enough.

My criteria is: Who wrote it? If the author is a Christian, I'm happy, because I know where they're coming from. Mystical Christian ideas bedded in otherwise godless media will often result in more soul-confusion than anything else for me.

So let's not ask if the glass is half full or half empty. Let's ask who filled it, and where the water came from...

hrh said...

Hi Frank:

You mentioned movies in your post, but I also wanted to bring your attention to a new TV show not yet airing by "Joan of Arcadia" producer Barbara Hall called "Demons" about a modern-day excorcist. Here's the imdb page:

I'm not necessarily endorsing it 'cause nobody's seen it yet, but I love what Hall did with "Joan of Aracadia" and am not totally over my disappointment that she didn't get a Season 3 for that show, which the Season 2 finale set up with a devil character speaking to Joan that gave her advice in addition to the God character. That would have been a great conflict.

Anyhoo, a bit off track here, but a great post engenders thinking, n'est-ce pas?

BTW, I tagged you over at my blog for 8 Random Facts about Yourself if you'd like to play ...

Anonymous said...

Grace is right about this. Jesus said that if you seek, you'll find, and this also has a perverse application: if you look hard enough for something, you'll find it whether it's really there or not.

It is possible to "find" Christian themes in just about anything--I bet I could find them in the VT shooter's rant if I really tried. But even if there are Christian elements, that doesn't automatically excuse the whole. Every heresy has Christian elements; they just make it more credible and dangerous.

For example, why is it good to "live by the ways of the Force," when the Force can be used for evil? The philosophy is roughly dualistic, with the ironic result that the heroes can never achieve or even envision an ultimate triumph for Good. How does God figure into that?

Steve Rice

Gilbert said...

I found some great fiction book reviews. You can also see those reviews in Christian fiction

Anonymous said...

Mormon author and award-winning SF writer Orson Scott Card states in his short story collection Cruel Miracles, "science fiction... is the last American refuge of religious literature.... [which] explores the nature of the universe and discovers the purpose behind it. When we find that purpose, we have found God... the purposer..."