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Fishbowl Jumping

There’s been some talk of fishbowls around here and I thought I’d weigh in.

First of all, I didn’t join the Christian Speculative Fiction Movement in order to get published.

Yep – you heard me right. I have absolutely no sights set on CBA or traditional “Christian Publishers”. I’m not out to be published by them, or targeting to change anything about them. I didn’t come to revolutionize the genre either. I actually don’t care if I’m “accepted” in this niche or not. A part of me has known for a while that my chances are slim – however, not for the same reasons I see many struggling for that recognition.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a list of reasons and technicalities, but suffice it to say, even among a “fringe” group where fellow Spec Fic writers crusade for their right to be accepted, I face the occasional grumblings that I don’t belong here. For the most part I keep quiet and avoid the controversies. It’s ironic in a way, but I am content and happy just to be here.

On the other hand, although I dove into this “fishbowl” as Kat called it, I have no intention of being confined to it.

You see, I’m a jumper.

I always have been. In jr. high I wandered among the social groups – befriending a member and then joining when it suited me and wandering off when I lost interest. I enjoyed my time among them, but felt no need to “belong” to them or be defined by them. Sure, I have a core group of friends that were there for me and knew more of the real me, but those friends came from a variety of paths and social groups.

Maybe it came from being raised partly in a third-world country where I was not only the minority, but my appearance stood out stark in a crowd, pale skin and platinum hair among a sea of darker complexions. I stood out regardless of what I did or didn’t do. I was peculiar, but that was life. You get used to it after a while. I generally don’t expect people to understand me or necessarily accept me.

Until only a couple years ago, I was in Mainstream, with no intention of leaving. I thought my stuff was “mainstream”, just … um, clean. I was part of a critique workshop of “Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi”.  and was eager to help read and review other books of writers in the group. So I started reading. I found myself immersed in a very gritty reality. Several of the books on the list were marked with symbols for graphic/erotic sequences. One was homosexual… and erotic. Another started with being in the head of a psychopathic killer relishing in the feel of blood… and others had the hero sleeping with total strangers. With the last, when I pointed out that it wasn’t smart for a hero to sleep with a certain character who could very well knife him in the back, the author practically accused me of being too young to read the book (ie, she thought I was a teenager as opposed to adult). Call me “sheltered” and “naive” all you want, but I just don’t get into these stories.  Likewise, they often advised me to put more grit and bite into my writing.

It’s not a new thing to me. I’ve been through plenty of college classes and workshops that fantasy, if not all spec fic, was banned. They only wanted “contemporary” or realistic stories. But the stories others brought there and were praised for were realities that are foreign to me. And the stuff I wrote probably seemed to them like fluff. For all their claims that “this is the real world – this is reality” I couldn’t help but silently declare that it’s not “my reality”. I have not had real life run-in with most of the stuff they wrote about. What can I say? I have been greatly sheltered by God and honestly am grateful. I felt very much out of place – as if I was “from Mars” and couldn’t reconcile their view of “reality” to mine.

Since then I spent plenty of time exploring the concept of “reality”, questioning and searching for “pure truth”. I could fill a book with my observations and theories on the topic. I even have a book I started called Reality Crash.

In the end, my opinion is that all of us have our own vision of “reality”, colored by our pasts and our never-ending search for context or the “why”s. As people, we need some sort of framework to link and make sense of all the things going on around us. However, because we are all different, our realities are different and constantly changing as we change. I believe we can learn much from trying to understand other people’s pov.  I also believe that as we are flawed, so are our visions of reality. I don’t trust anyone to declare “reality” to me. It is a process of discovery.

As humans, having some way to quantify the world around us is vital. Attempting to strip away the “reality” would leave the person in chaos. Some people feel personally threatened by someone questioning even a small part of their “reality”. It’s scary.

Those in economics know the value of “ceteris paribus”, Latin for “all things held constant”, even if you know the parameters are severely limited or flawed. Take that away and all things are questions. Up could be up or down, or neither. But “up” and “down” to us isn’t “truth” but only a direction in relation to the earth we stand on. I believe we must have these “realities” to be able to function and be able to learn at a pace that won’t overwhelm us.

Does that mean that I don’t believe in pure Truth? Certainly not. I depend on the concept of absolute, unchanging Truth and am constantly seeking to understand facets of it. But pure Truth can only be gotten from a perfect, all knowing pov – God Himself. I don’t mean man’s interpretations, but God’s word, as direct as possible from His chosen Prophets. I do also believe in personal revelation and gleaning truths from observation and other people as long as each of  the three are carefully weighed against the framework and boundaries given by the Prophets.

I believe that if we seek, God will give us Truth, line upon line. The world also gives us it’s views and we each have been entrusted to sort through the “evidence” and prioritize which sources are most likely to be pure.

In such case, we are all growing at different paces, learning different parts of “Truth” and it’s bound to conflict. Although I don’t accept bundles of “reality” from others, I likewise confess that I have no authority to declare my “reality” as more true than another’s. I’m happy to share the pieces I’ve learned to value and trust – but they are free to reject them.

There is a market for gritty. Because some people are drawn to the gritty – it feels more real. There is a market for fluff because some are desperate for an escape from “reality”. There is a market for the fairytale gloss, because we romantic idealists love the simplicity of an innocent dream or adventure. And there is a market for hybrids, because people are not “one” or the “other”.

So, then why did I come here? I jumped into this fishbowl in order to swim among you, if only for a time. I came to learn from you. As I wrote in my post about my own New Dawn, I want to learn from others who seek creative inspiration from the greatest source of all – God. I came to learn how to be inspired, not confined. In general, the people here are indeed Christians – who sincerely care and help each other. They may not have all the answers or be able to “fix things”, but they try hard to support and encourage each other. I know how precious those qualities are in this world. So I came for fellowship, to bond with those happy to have an odd duck for a friend

I believe that no matter where my writing takes me or ends up, if I seek to learn and grow, always striving to understand God’s Reality a little better, that my life and writing will be blessed. I hope the Universal Truths I’m learning will shine through my writing and hopefully touch the hearts of my readers – whoever they be and whatever “genre” the writing is packaged under. Through the Spirit, Truth itself has the power to resonate across genres, mediums, religions, secular, divisions of science and even cultures.

So I intend to continue learning wherever I am and explore fishbowls where I find things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy, but knowing all the while that in God’s hands, there are worlds without end.

I still have much to learn and many places to go.

Ahh! Free at last!

About Ren Black

Part-time novelist. Weekend artist. Full-time Mother. Ex-poet. Perfectionist by training. Compulsive researcher sporadically. Prone to fits of linguistic commentary Unorthodox Renegade occasionally. Sarcastic by habit... Dreamer Always... Consider Yourself Warned

19 comments on “Fishbowl Jumping

  1. Ren, you just rock. Seriously. You get *exactly* what I was trying to say. That we all have a perspective and books are not one size fits all. That you can have clean, and you can have gritty, and you can have any level in-between–and there are audiences for all of those things.

    And I am right there with you on the “reality” thing. I’ve been through things you have never been through, and vice versa, and those things form our perceptions and dictate what we can connect to. Some people simply don’t connect to “gritty'” and there is nothing wrong with that!

    I can relate to the group-jumping as well, and being here for fellowship. I had fully intended to publish in the secular market, and I have done so with many of my short stories–but I was invited to a Christian critique group where I found fellowship and I have settled somewhere in-between, I think.

    This is a beautiful post. I love it–beginning to end. And you could *not* have picked more perfect pictures to go with it, btw :).

    • Thanks, Kat. And I’m with you – non-Christians don’t read stuff from the “Christian” section. If they know about it, they probably avoid it like the plague.

  2. “I believe that if we seek, God will give us Truth, line upon line.”

    So do I Ren.

    I’m the new guy here-duh-and I’d like to share this truth with you that I gleaned from when the whole Gathering and such was being set-up, discussed.

    You clearly spelled it out here.

    I took you for a maverick. I saw you as a person who sits in the back while others are battling, all the while being the one to turn the tides, so to speak. You know. THAT character.

    If I’m mistaken then so be it. I don’t believe I am.

    I am that “character” in the story.

    I don’t feel I belong with the Spec Fict crowd. As you pointed out, I too, was the type to never need to “belong” to any groups or communities.

    As I grew older this became more apparent to me. First, always first, is God. He made me this way for a reason.
    I share this with you and the reader just to share.

    To tell you we do belong somewhere…and that is anywhere we want.

    • lol Tymothy. I never said I’m not manipulative or scheming.

      I also am rather competitive, but selective about the battles I engage in (subtle or outright). I tend to pick the ones I’m confident I can win. This Christian Genre thing just isn’t one of them.

      In terms of personality types, I’ve been marked as the “crusader” type, so I would be lying to say your impressions are wrong.

      If you are looking to understand me, note that my main characters tend to be facets of me – but I am not them. I expect it’s pretty common for writers. True, I have some really passive characters, but I have some rather aggressive ones too. There’s reasons I’m a jumper.

  3. P.S. God forbid we lose sight of Him and end up like the poor fishy in pic 3. 🙂

  4. A multitude of realities is one of God’s blessings, as is the privilege to interact with any number of them.

    I watched Finding Nemo last night (I love that movie).

    • Thanks jlrowan. I think that being able to switch povs (even ones you don’t agree with) is a vital skill for us writers, so it is indeed a blessing to interact and explore them!

  5. Great words, Ren. Maybe part of what some folks don’t like about Christians who write spec fic is that we’re unpredictable “jumpers” who are willing to wet our feet in many bowls they can only stare at with wide eyes.

    The trick is to cling without compromise to the vision God has given us. If we can do that, then someday we will hear the words “Well done” from the only Audience that really matters.

    • Yep, we chase the “what if?”s all over the place. God give a home base to keep us from losing ourselves in our chase!

      Thanks for your comments, Becky.

  6. good points, ren, and well said. thank you

  7. My Dearest Ren,

    I for one,love your type of writing. Second, as far as jumping,I have been known to do a little of that myself. But everything else aside, I believe you jump looking for a home. (I could be wrong!) The other day I saw a sign that said, “Cowboy Church” and I thought to myself,”That’s it! That’s what people are searching for!”They are searching for a place where people “Get them” For instance a baptist who lives in the city might not understand a baptist who lives in the rural areas. These are two totally different lifestyles. I believe you fell on NAF’S doorstep because you needed to interact with people who were in the same spot in life that you are in. You have become a fixture here and I would miss you if you were to leave.btw I pray you don’t! Hang in there Ren, we love you.

    • Thanks Ma’ Billie,

      But don’t worry about me “leaving” NAF. I’ve chosen them and they’ve knowingly chosen me. They’ve already passed that test and chose to accept me. You better believe I’m a fixture. They ain’t getting rid of me now. I’ve done my time here and the only way I’m leaving is up through Granny Flats as an Alumni.

      I’m looking for a home for my writings, my books, that’s true. However, I’m not sure I’d say I’m looking for a “home” for me. I’m a stranger in a strange land. I have a home above, but here on earth, I don’t believe in finding a home. I believe in creating one.

  8. My take is similar to yours, Ren. It’s not about labels but about honest stories from the heart.

    • Certainly. Labels don’t change what it is or what we are – it’s only there to help others know what to do with it, how it’s relevant to them or how to perceive it. Genre labels help readers to quickly find the stories that are most likely to appeal to their tastes. That’s all.

      Thanks for reading.

  9. Awesome post Ren, appreciated every word, though the discomfort of it is that ever niggling fear that I am becoming too something for almost anywhere. Learning to be a content vagabond may be in my future as well. May your fishbowl stay shiny.

  10. I can tell who the jumpers are. 🙂 This turtle occasionally wonders how she got here and why she isn’t writing for the “bonnet and buggy” crowd. Then fictional heads start flying, bouncing off walls and such, and she remembers why.

  11. […] am the self-proclaimed jumper, an outcast in so many ways that I could never overcome even if I wanted to. Lately I have felt […]

  12. […] I’m a self-proclaimed “Jumper”, I think secretly in my heart I hoped to find a place here in this niche, at least on the fringes. […]

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