Last Friday author Eric Wilson created a flurry of responses on his Facebook Wall and spawned at least two blog entries about it that I am aware of (not including this one) because of a blog entry he put on his site.
According to Mike Duran, in an entry he put here, he confirmed what I was surmising from the entry, but that no one was talking about on Eric’s Wall until I asked it and wasn’t replied to, and that is Eric Wilson is stopping his writing of fiction for the Christian market through the CBA and similar channels. In the comments section of Mike’s entry, Eric commented a few times and he didn’t dissuade people from this, so it must be true.
As a person who has been reading Eric’s books for the past almost two years now and has been immensely enjoying them, and has even likened him to the next step in things after Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, I am deeply saddened that it has come to this for him. I do hope that he can find a way to do more books, and even if he has to do them in the mainstream market as some other authors have done, I wish him the best on things.
But with this, and the points he brings up in his entry, what does that have to say for those of us still unpublished that are on the fringe of things when it comes to what is called “Christian fiction”? This directly affects those of us among this joint blog as well as those who we seek to encourage with it.
We see publishers like Marcher Lord Press and Splashdown Books coming on the scene and rejoice at the chance of publication, yet are even these publishers reaching who the authors want to reach? Sales are being made, award nominations are occurring, and even awards are being won, but is the readership expanding? Is the content being accepted? Are the people outside of the ones who really, really, really like this sort of thing even taking notice? If the industry is still so stringent that it causes someone like Eric Wilson to step away, what’s going to happen when a very controversial book comes on the scene through an independent publisher?
I know with conversations I’ve had with some of the authors in this joint blog that they keep running into obstacles even among the places we would think we’d have a better shot at things at. Diane’s rejection from Jeff, even with explanation, for I Am Ocilla. Keven’s ongoing quest to find the right place to publish Winter, a book that just doesn’t fit with the “norm” for Christian publishing. And the others on here such as myself that struggle to even finish the damn novel that we’re trying to write. We’re tickled that Paul found a publisher with Grace, and I certainly wish him the best from it, but until we really get focused and make an impact as a group of people, I’m not sure how well these small presses are going to do in the long run to change things. My fear is that even if they don’t get bought out later by the bigger companies, that the “peer pressure” of acceptance with the CBA market will occur and more and more items will wind up leaning more towards the way of the CBA instead of the edgy way that they should lean.
I commented something on one of Mike Duran’s entries on his own blog which is not the same as the above link, and I’ll reiterate it here:
Why is it that we even have to live in fear of the CBA anyway? Why does IT have to be the standard? Our standard is JESUS and THE BIBLE. The Living Word of God and The Written Word of God. Our standard is the Word. If we truly believe this, then why don’t we just throw off the shackles of what worked in the past, and get rid of the old wineskins, and put this new wine into new wineskins. We have at least two publishers of P.O.D. that I’ve mentioned. Why not more? I know that there are some others out there trying to get going, and some that deal with other things than just Christian stuff. And why not have new bookstores – online and physical – that people can go into that is tailored to this? That’s what I’ve been trying to work toward for over two years now with Beyond the Charts and have had the website live for almost a full year now. I recently had to close down the online store part leaving the blog and the message board active mainly because of all the hassles I’ve had with the shopping cart and losing an unknown number of potential orders. I intend to reopen it sometime around the beginning of the year next year. But until then, I want to do more to work on toward that reopening.
This isn’t the entry I’ll announce something, but I do have something I’ll be announcing soon that goes with the spirit of what I’m saying here.
So, if we can have online stores and physical stores, and new publishing companies, and whatnot, why can’t we just concentrate on stopping the money going to the CBA and redirecting our funds to these newer models, and why not start something that can bring the change we all desire? I hear so many excuses from people all the time about this, but if WE don’t make the change, how can you seriously expect others to? Change is happening right now, and what we decide on will determine if that change is for the good as things move at a greater rate toward what we all want, or for the bad if we do as little as possible and it either fizzles out or gets sucked in by what we don’t like. This isn’t about US vs. THEM, but rather US letting THEM continue on the path that they’ve chosen and are adherent to, and US choosing not to go the same path as THEM, and wishing THEM the best as they continue on it, for our path involves swords and laser pistols and ghosts and stronger themes with darker characters, and theirs doesn’t.
And that’s okay.
But what’s NOT okay is if we let our direction be determined by the ones who are clearly not going the same way that we are going. It doesn’t mean we aren’t brothers and sisters in the Lord, but just as you don’t see Charles Stanley entering the local goth clubs of Atlanta, you do see other people entering them – if you take the time to notice – and doing inner ministry that way. Can the hand tell the liver how to operate? The hand can be washed with soap and water and stay looking nice and clean, while the liver has to stay in a dark place and do dirty deeds, yet both are essential to the function of a healthy body.
In Eric’s entry, he mentions the waves of Christian music history. I’ll take things a step further for you. In the late eighties/early nineties there was a movement of harder edge stuff that was harder than even Stryper (which I’m sure most of you remember, as well as the controversy that seemed to always follow them). A label called Frontline started a sub-label called Intense Records and started producing bands with a thrash sound, goth sound, “death” metal sound that was later dubbed “life” metal, and other harder bands of the same kind. Certain names come to mind that you can Google if you wish: Mortification, Tourniquet, Deliverance, and others. But one band that I’ve always admired was Saviour Machine.
Saviour Machine is the band project of Eric Clayton, and he wore white theatrical make-up on his head and dark clothes (with later performances occasionally donning a white garment) and sang with a deep voice. After producing one album and being given what amounted to the red carpet treatment, they were put on tour with another band I shall not name in this entry, but the facts are out there if you wish to look them up. They were opening for this band and they were a five piece band opening for a three piece band. Things were getting rocky anyway on the tour as people were leaving the concerts when the acts changed, and by the time they arrived to a certain city up north, things weren’t going to get any better. A certain “Christian” organization that was sponsoring the concert, literally pulled the plug on Eric and the band while they were starting another song, and while Eric tried hard to keep the crowd calm, with no active mic he wasn’t heard by many and a near riot started. After being taken off stage, the band saw the lead singer of the other band being “forced” to apologize for the first band or else they couldn’t play either. After being handed money, Eric and his band were pretty much booted out.
The rest of the tour didn’t happen, and because of a special contract Eric had formed with Frontline, they HAD to produce another album for the band, but they didn’t give them good conditions to do it with. Once the album was done, some other things happened to let them keep recording outside of the U.S., and that’s another story from there. You can get a copy of The Collective Journals of Eric Clayton if you want to read more about what happened by visiting the Saviour Machine website and ordering. Limited quantities are left, so if you think you want one, I suggest ordering now. The language does get rough sometimes with it, so know that. Suffice it to say that Eric Clayton is a real champion of the Faith for all he’s gone through.
The point of that story is that edgy stuff has never worked in the “establishment”, whether that’s churches, record labels, or the CBA. They may let some things go, but when it gets really challenging, they don’t want to touch it. In my own life I know this, because I just don’t care what people think of me, I’ll defend the Gospel of Jesus, and if I am wrong, I can receive correction, but when I’m right, I’ll not back down. Unfortunately, this means that some churches don’t want me back. Some churches haven’t gone that far, but it’s clear that if I am to be at their church, I have to do things their way, which unfortunately isn’t God’s way and I have a real problem with having to choose someone else over Him that died for me. In other areas they may be right on target, but when they aren’t being reasonable and expect me to bend over to them, I don’t have to be told I’m being kicked out, I just leave.
This has of course caused me to not have a regular church home over the years, yet my relationship with God is stronger for it. It’s like a shirt that Jay Bakker’s Revolution ministry once had “Jesus died for you, not Christianity” or something similar.
Maybe you’ll read this and it will just seem like a pointless rant of a rebellious person to you. Guess what? I don’t care. I’m just tired of seeing the Body of Christ crucify their own for stepping outside the so-called “norm” of things to actually reach a lost and dying world with the message of Jesus. I am so heart broken that Eric Wilson feels that he can’t operate any more within the current Christian market of novels. This is a shame and a travesty and SHOULD NOT be taking place! We should be more open than that!
Let’s make a change! Let’s keep bringing more and more small publishers out there! Let’s open new doors with new stores to sell the books and music that we know are also of God and not restrict them to an area where you have to really be searching to find them! Let’s include any mainstream things that we have liked in the past that God has used to tell us something as well! Let’s not be afraid to mingle with the World as we are “in the World, but not of it”!
If we don’t do this now, then when?
You now know the stories of two Eric’s, one was rejected by the establishment for his lyrics and artistic ways of performing on stage, the other is walking away because his own prose and artistic ways of handling a novel has been stifled by the establishment. And then my own story of things I’ve had to deal with when it came to those that sort of cause the establishment to be in existence to begin with and support it in all ways no matter who it hurts. How many more have to endure pain and suffering at the hands of our brothers before action is taken?