Today is the first day of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour featuring Donita K. Paul‘s young adult fantasy novel, One Realm Beyond. (Note: I received a free review copy from the publisher.)
The cover design by Steve Rawlings is gorgeous and deserves to be shown in a size that highlights its details:
Now, to whet your appetite, here’s the book’s back cover copy:
Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms. But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment—finding a dragon to assist him on his quest—has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone. With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies.
I’ll offer my own review on Tuesday or Wednesday, but today I want to talk generally about speculative fiction as written from a Christian point-of-view.
This month’s Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour comes on the heels of an interesting discussion between Mike Duran and Rebecca Luella Miller about boundaries in Christian speculative fiction (if there are/should be any).
When the topic of boundaries comes up in Christian writing circles, the focus is often on language. It’s fairly well known that CBA publishers are picky about certain words. (I think “friggin’” is okay, but “fricken’” is not.) The CBA audience can be just as picky, as evidenced by the debate over Becky Wade’s book, My Stubborn Heart. (Beware writers, if you use the term “balls” to refer to a male body part, you may ignite a firestorm.)
I’ve gone back and forth over the years when it comes to including expletives in my own fiction, but when it comes to whether or not to include “bad words” in “Christian” fiction…I think there’s an idiom for it…something about missing the forest for the trees.
There is a deeper discussion to be had, and Mike and Rebecca begin to address it in their posts No Zombies Allowed (in Christian Fiction), Reading, Truth, and the Bible, Fiction & Theology, Part 1, and Fiction & Theology, Part 2. I won’t summarize the posts here, but simply wanted to point to them as worthy reads.
I’m becoming more and more disinclined to use “Christian” as an adjective, particularly when the object being described is intended for profit; therefore, I’ve made conscious efforts not to brand Provision Books as a “Christian” speculative fiction publisher. As a Christian who publishes and writes speculative fiction, however, the question of how to most effectively intertwine faith and fiction is still at the forefront of my mind. I do have boundaries when it comes to what I will or won’t write, and what I will or won’t publish. In an interview with Mike Duran, I put it this way:
I’m not necessarily looking for Christian speculative fiction. What I’m looking for is speculative fiction that doesn’t contradict or belittle the Christian worldview… Christians, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists alike share a common human experience that is rich with themes worth exploring in fiction. Whether the author’s exploration takes a track that becomes contradictory to Christianity is subjective, and can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Deciding whether fiction is contrary to Christianity is an artform in itself, and comparing a work of fiction to a standard checklist of do’s and don’ts (such as a list of unapproved words) is ineffective. I wrestle with this issue during every story I read and write, even sometimes wondering if I should be partaking in speculative fiction at all.
To save myself time, I’ll quote myself again. (Sorry folks.) This is a comment I made in response to Mike Duran’s post, No Zombies Allowed (in Christian Fiction).
Yesterday, I had another one of my “uh oh” moments, as I was studying the trending of American Christianity toward mysticism, paganism, and liberalism. I do see this as a major problem, and for a moment I thought, “Am I contributing to the problem by writing and supporting Christian speculative fiction?” It’s not that I think Christian speculative fiction is “bad”, it’s that I question this generations ability to think critically and to discern right from wrong.
Later I ran across an article at TruthKeepers by C.H. Fisher that answered some of my concerns. Some will find C.H. Fisher’s thoughts controversial, as I’m sure he is well aware. In his article Contemplative Spirituality is Not the Mind of Christ, he has this to say:
What is actually occurring in Christianity is an attempt to humanize Christ and God, make them equal with individuals that claim to have risen above their fellow Christians by means of Contemplative Spirituality. The spirituality that they are experiencing is actually from the realm of darkness. In fact, New Age/Emergent leaders are actually promoting and practicing witchcraft. It is witchcraft because it calls on means other than God to conjure up spirits and produce the supernatural.
Notice that Fisher isn’t denying the existence of the spirit world or the supernatural, nor am I. Clearly God is a supernatural being who moves in supernatural ways, sometimes bending his own physical laws to achieve his means. (Parting the Red Sea. Sending angels to Mary and Joseph. Raising Jesus from the Dead.)
To state that Christians, under all conditions, should not portray the supernatural in their fiction is legalistic and misguided; however, I think it is fair to say that Christian writers should be keenly aware of how their characters interact with the supernatural. While not a clear-cut boundary, this is a line I’ve drawn for myself, and how, specifically, I will navigate along the periphery will depend on my Holy Spirit-led powers of discernment. I may not always get it right, but I’ll continue trying.
So, the questions remain. How far can/should Christian writers go? Do we have limitless access to our own imaginations or are there times when we should reel ourselves back in? Should we scale back because of weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in Christ?
These are questions I think all Christians who are fiction writers should be asking, and I’ll be addressing them in my review of Donita K. Paul’s, One Realm Beyond.
To hear what others are saying, check out the following links.
Julie Bihn Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Mike Coville Pauline Creeden Vicky DealSharingAunt Carol Gehringer Rebekah Gyger Janeen Ippolito Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Emileigh Latham Jennette Mbewe Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Nissa Donita K. Paul Audrey Sauble Chawna Schroeder James Somers Jojo Sutis Steve Trower Shane Werlinger Jill Williamson Deborah Wilson