54 Comments

The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate

spec fic

There has been a lot of debate lately among Christian Spec-Fic authors about the Christian Spec-Fic market, how it relates to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), the secular market, and the market in general, and how the genre as a whole is failing. There are those who, as Ben Wolf detailed in this post, and Mike Duran discusses here, feel as though the Spec-Fic genre is badly under-represented at the ACFW conference and other similar conferences. The discussions on Facebook that led to these posts, and the following discussions in the comments cover virtually every opinion on the matter. There are those who are all for conferences like Realm Makers and the opportunity it provides for like-minded writers to converge and learn. There are those who go into how much benefit the ACFW provides for writers of all kinds, and those who point out that it’s a business, and businesses go where the money is, and the money isn’t in Christian Spec-Fic. That is one point on which all agree. The market for Christian Spec-Fic is exceedingly small. There are many opinions on why this is, ranging from lack of quality books produced, to lack of interest in Christian Spec-Fic, to people who might be Spec-Fic fans not realizing that they are, to any number of other things. In some ways it’s a chicken/egg sceario: if larger conferences promoted more Spec-Fic, the quality of submissions would get better, but until the quality of submissions gets better and people are looking for more of the same, there’s no market for it. Realm Makers, I think, is a great way to bridge the gap and help Christian Spec-Fic authors find a voice and improve their craft, but I can’t help but wonder if part of the  lack of a market for Christian Spec-Fic is because we’re looking in the wrong places. We’re wanting ACFW to open up and embrace us. We’re wanting Realm Makers to swing wide the doors for a new wave of Christian Speculative Fiction. And while I don’t think those goals are bad, I wonder if that’s the wrong thrust for us. I decided long ago that ACFW was not the place for me. I went to one conference, at which I learned a lot and made a number of really great connections, not the least of which was meeting Ben Wolf, a happenstance that has literally changed my writing career. But I quickly realized that I was on the outskirts of that crowd. The books I write are not “Christian” enough for the Christian market, and yet not smutty enough for the secular market. I’m right smack in the middle of this fringe group of Christian Spec-Fic authors looking for a voice, but the conclusion I have recently begun forming is that there needs to be a third category. Let me explain. Christian Spec-Fic authors love to talk about C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien in Christian Spec-Fic debates. There’s the one side who says, “See! Those books are classics! There IS a market for it!” And then there’s the other side that says, “Those guys wrote for the mainstream market and didn’t even believe in a Christian market!” I was in a Facebook discussion where someone brought up that point, while they were talking about how Christian Spec-Fic is full of bad theology, and this was my response:

Lewis and Tolkein didn’t write for the “Christian” market because there was no such thing in their day. They were Christians who wrote, and of course their faith influenced their writing, just as Hitler’s beliefs influenced his writing, as did Nietzsche’s did his, as Marx’ did his, etc. There was no “Christian market” vs. “secular/mainstream market.” Lewis wrote Christian fiction because he was a Christian who wrote fiction.
That is not the case anymore. Christian fiction has specific parameters, and much of the speculative fiction by Christian authors does not fit into those parameters, so I agree that those authors (myself included) probably should not try to market their work as “Christian fiction.” They are trying to accomplish a different goal than what “Christian fiction” is trying to accomplish.

I’d like to emphasize that last point. We’re trying to accomplish a different goal. Over the last fifty years or so, Christian fiction has become a “thing.” There are certain parameters you have to meet in order to be labeled a “Christian” writer. There are certain story elements that must be included or shunned. There is a very specific set of expectations that a reader has when they pick up a “Christian” novel. And, for the most part, Spec-Fic does not fit into that box. Nor should it. We’re spending so much time debating the confines of ACFW and the Christian market, lamenting the fact that we can’t get our books into Christian bookstores and Christians aren’t reading our stuff, and we want the Christian market to expand. But, as I’m starting to think, what if that’s the wrong approach? Mike Duran quoted an agent who said we’re expecting the ACFW to be something it just isn’t, and I have to say, I completely agree. I think she’s right, and I think we should stop trying to convince them to be something they’re not. See, the thing about Christian Spec-Fic is that it pushes boundaries. It explores the unknown. It asks the hard questions. Many times, the themes of the story are totally contrary to what is expected in the “Christian” market. As it should. But it shouldn’t, then, expect to be accepted by the “Christian” market. The “Christian” market is there for a reason. It meets a specific need, and it does so very well. It has specific guidelines and expectations, and when you walk into a Christian bookstore and pull a book off the shelf, you have a reasonable expectation of the content. And I think that’s exactly the way it should be. I don’t think we, the Christian Spec-Fic crowd, should try to worm our way into that niche. It’s their niche, and they’re doing a great job filling it. We’re a different niche. We’re filling a different need. We’re doing a different thing. We’re writing allegories that are more obscure. We’re looking into the darkness to see what’s there. We’re challenging our theology with unorthodox ideas. We’re writing things purely for the value of having clean entertainment and not always for the spiritual implications. We include things like magic and wormholes and spaceships and monsters, not because we’re heretics, but because they’re fun and they help us explore new worlds. My personal belief is that the reason we can do this is because the Word of God is True, no matter what. It’s strong enough to take on the challenge of unorthodox questions. It’s not going to bend or break under scrutiny. It’s not going to be disproved if we include science, because God created science. Ultimately, it all points back to Him, and exploring science will, ultimately, prove Him, not the other way around. It won’t lead people astray when we include magic, because God created creativity and wonder and miracles and other things we can’t understand. (Assuming, of course, that as we’re writing we’re allowing God’s Truth to shine through us and we’re not intentionally trying to subvert the Gospel.) We don’t always have an overt message. We don’t always have a squeaky-clean story. And we shouldn’t. I think that is why conferences like Realm Makers and publishers like Enclave are so important. Not because ACFW is bad or non-inclusive, but because the doors are opening to a new way of thinking about Christian Spec-Fic. My comment on the above thread helped me to think through what I have been feeling and trying to articulate for a long time. We are Christians. We write fiction. Like Lewis and Tolkien, our faith influences our writing. But we don’t write “Christian fiction”. “Christian fiction” has it’s place, and we have a different place. And that’s okay. Part of the beauty of breaking out of the mold is that we get to decide what our mold looks like and where it’s headed. As plenty of people wiser than I am have continually noted, it’s not an easy path. Finding–or creating–that market is going to require a lot of effort. But once we figure out that our path isn’t the same path as ACFW, I think we’ll have an easier time carving it out of the rocks.

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About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

54 comments on “The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate

  1. yes yes yes

    This is so awesome I’m going to write more about it tomorrow, but yes. We have to break out of the CBA mold. It was never meant for us.

  2. Very thoughtful. Well said, Avily.

  3. Thanks 🙂

  4. I totally understand what you’re talking about. I write epic fantasy and I am a devote Catholic. I have absolutely no doubt that writing fiction is what God has called me to do because whenever I do doubt, He hits me upside the head with a spiritual 2×4 to remind me. That being said, my fantasy doesn’t include allegories or metaphors for Christianity, although my daughter says the book I wrote with my husband that was published in 2012 has Catholicism all through it. Lewis said we don’t need more Christian books, we need more books written by Christians. I write stories with no graphic sex or gore, but I totally play in the fantasy world. I was a member of the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America years ago and a discussion came up about fantasy and the consensus seemed to be that Christians shouldn’t write fantasy because we had an obligation to “write the world as it is.” Not long after, however, horror was considered “okay” because it showed good triumphing over evil. When I asked about the double standard “no one” remembered the other discussion except another Catholic friend who said she never understood that either. When I realized I was going to focus on epic fantasy, I left FHL and have since hesitated to join ACFW for that reason (also sometimes Catholics aren’t totally welcome in such groups). I pray that my work will lead people to (1) see that good books don’t have to have graphic sex, (2) have a few moments of escape from the stresses of their lives, and (3) come to my website or Facebook page and see that my life revolves around God first, my family second and then my writing. Without Him, I couldn’t write what I do.

  5. I’ve been riding the fence between Christian fiction and science fiction for several years and continually have to deal with sci-fi writers who criticize for being too “Christian,” and vice versa. I just have to use the word “fiction” in my own church, and many will raise an eyebrow at me. But that’s not who we write for. I wrote an update on Pilgrim’s Progress set in a dystopian U.S. and had one reader state that she “wouldn’t have picked it up if she had known that it was Christian” (the only thing Christian was the not-so-obvious allegory and the main character using the Bible to pass code). Like Steven Lawhead has said, we just have to tell a good story and who we are and what we believe will come through in our stories.

    And yes, I am in favor of more connection with my Christian spec-fi colleagues. Several of us in the Dallas area are trying to do that as we speak.

    • I think the beauty is that it can cover all ends of the spectrum. There can be good, clean fun. There can be deep allegory. There can be edgy but ultimately uplifting. There can be everything in between. We just have to be careful not to put ourselves in too confining a box.
      You should definitely consider Realm Makers, too. It’s a great conference filled with great people. I’m hoping to get the conference out here on the West end of the country one of these years, so hopefully that will give some people a chance to come who couldn’t make it to St. Louis or Philadelphia.

  6. I personally think it is just a matter of time before we establish our own audience base in Christian Speculative Fiction. It would be very helpful if we were producing movies and games as well as books, but I would like to think that will arrive eventually.

    Or to put things in more personal but hopefully not more offensive terms, I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s only a matter of time before I start selling a TON of my stories. (Is it my fault that Jesus made me awesome?) 😉

  7. Sending you a very awesome high five and fist pound, Avily!

    Paranormal is my genre. After more than a year of trying to land either an agent or a publisher in CBA, I discovered that my manuscript was the “wrong” kind of Christian for CBA (which I found disappointing) – but was also “too” Christian for ABA. Not wanting to give up, I continued my attempts at making inroads within CBA but to no avail. So, I finally took a page out of the Apostle Paul’s playbook and decided to minister to the Gentiles, so to speak. I made a few tweaks to the manuscript and soon received contract offers from two ABA publishers. My novel gets released next month.

    I’m still a member of ACFW because that’s where my heart lies, but I recognize now that I’m on the margins, a fringe member who’s work will never be truly embraced by that organization or its market.

    But as you aptly stated – that’s okay. I’m a Christian who just happens to write fiction that entertains. And there is indeed a market out there for us.

  8. Great post! I agree with most of your points wholeheartedly despite having offered a slightly different vantage point in my own recent blog post: https://flagshipfiction.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/a-new-hope-can-christian-science-fiction-and-fantasy-help-save-the-world/. For the most part, I agree with the notion that we’re not writing traditional “Christian Fiction” at least in the manner it is typically defined. Then again, I’m really not sure if half of the romance novels Christian bookstores love to stock up on are really “Christian Fiction” either, especially if that term is going to exclude science fiction and fantasy. Personally, I believe some (not all) of these Christian romance novels contain just as much “fantasy” as a Christian Spec-Fic novel does! IMHO, this type of “fantasy” has the dangerous potential to create in readers an unrealistic expectation of what their husbands should be like rather than appreciating the loving and God-fearing spouses they’ve been blessed to share life with. The real challenge with Christian Spec-Fic, which you’ve alluded to, is not allowing the label of Christian Spec-Fic, Christian Science Fiction, or Christian Fantasy to prevent us from achieving our dual purpose: providing clean fiction to believers and bringing a message of hope to non-believers. You make a fascinating point. It’s as though the “Christian Fiction” label itself (which Lewis and Tolkien did not have to worry about) is what hurts us from gaining any traction in either market. It’s a difficult concept for me to accept but I cannot dismiss the validity of your observation. The impossibility of satisfying both Christian Fiction and secular Sci Fi & Fantasy markets is what makes our task so arduous. Fortunately, “with God, nothing shall be called impossible.” At the end of the day, we have to trust that The Lord filled us with these crazy thoughts and ideas for a reason. And we must trust that He will reveal the means by which we can elevate the prominence of our platform if and when it is in accordance with His will for us to reach the greater audience that we all know is out there. After all, “if Christ is for us, who then can be against us?”

  9. Yes! After examining all of the fiction I’ve been working on, I realized that none of it will likely sell as Christian fiction (although I’m still submitting everywhere, can’t hurt). It is interesting that Nancy S. Brandt mentioned some Christian writers insisting you “write the world as it is” except that in Christian fiction you don’t see the variety of faiths, perspectives, characters, and lifestyle beliefs that exist in the world. And the world is not all Amish! *ahem* Anyway, it’s freeing to realize that and then just go for polishing up my work and praying and actively seeking that it does find a home somewhere.

    • A few years ago, a fellow member of FHL told me she stopped writing contemporary Christian fiction when she realized that, due to they faith community she was raised it, she had an unrealistic view of physical attraction and given the guidelines some Christian publishers had, it was impossible to accurately show what physically happens when a couple does something as innocent as a kiss or even holding hands. I don’t know if any of this has changed, but the guidelines I read when I thought I was called to write contemporary inspirationals said you couldn’t show any kind of physical awareness of another person. I suppose it was considered too titillating, but doesn’t that paint an unrealistic picture of God creation? Teens who don’t learn that our bodies have natural, perfectly normal and not sinful reactions to kissing can end up thinking there is something wrong with them when their bodies do react. She decided she couldn’t be a party to that kind of irresponsible message. In a way, that is the same with everything being “homogeneous” as far as faith goes. Not all publishers are like that now, I think, but it may mean that we can get our message out via secular media more readily.

  10. Very well said!

  11. Thanks so much for posting this! It’s definitely something I needed to read this week, as I’m trying to decide which road best fits me and my writing. 🙂

  12. Reblogged this on A Word Fitly Written and commented:
    Great insight from Avily Jerome on the Speculative Fiction genre in Christian literature.
    I’m still figuring out my genre … and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fit myself into a single one, but for anyone who is wondering what speculative fiction is, or how it fits in with Christian literature, this is a good read.

  13. Some good points to ponder in this article.
    Interestingly – here in Australia – the ‘christian fiction’ market is so small that it is more open to all kinds of genres including speculative fiction, though historical and contemporary romance still dominate.

    • That’s the case with a LOT of Christian fiction. Amish fiction is HUGE here, and historical romance is right up there.

  14. I write fantasy with a subtle touch of Christian teachings but I have never wanted Seabird or Earthbow characterized as “Christian fiction” much less sitting on a Christian bookstore shelf.

    Why? I used to be an agnostic (not the same atheist!) and I’m an adult convert to Christianity. Back when I was still an agnostic, I would put a book back on the shelf if the cover suggested the book contents were Christian-related. Yes, I was that scared of God’s Word.

    When I began to write, I envisioned my core audience as agnostics who didn’t know what to think and who were a bit tentative to even try to think.God inspired me to write a more overtly Christian book than I had expected but I doubt agnostics would put my books down just because they’re being preached at. (Maybe for other reasons.)

    To the best of my knowledge no agnostics have ever read my books–with the exception of a reviewer to whom my publisher sent a copy. I have two explanations for this.
    First, only a tiny number of people have ever read Seabird or Earthbow, and most of these people are Christian friends or else fellow members of the Lost Genre Guild aka people who write, illustrate or publish any variety of speculative fiction, mostly with some degree of Christian under-pinnings.

    Second reason. My fellow LGG members and my non-LGG Christian friends wrote very nice reviews–that blew my cover. ;-D You know, including “dangerous words” like “inspirational” or worse “Alphesis (who is really Jesus)”. Had I actually been writing for the Christian market, this would have been cool! Not so much for enticing those whom I feel burdened to help.
    I expect to revise both books during 2015. Should I gently suggest friend reviewers try not to publish reviews as if for the Christian market? Can we say awkward?
    Thoughts?

    • Wow, what a great testimony!
      And I can totally understand how that would be a difficult place to be in, especially since they’re giving of their time and effort to review it for you. The one thing you might do is try to make some connections with non-Christian friends, writers or otherwise, and see if they’ll review it for you. You don’t even have to mention the controversy, just ask them if they’d be willing to read/review, and they’ll naturally put it in their own words and it will reflect their experience, just as a Christian reviewer will reflect theirs. Best of luck!

      • Thanks, Avily! That’s actually do-able too. I used to belong to a local writers group, Written Remains. As the only Christian I provided information when asked. Sorry. Wandering. I do that.
        One member, Shannon, loved my first book and posted a review of it on Goodreads. Maybe I can persuade her to post an updated version of her review once the revised edition comes out.
        Thanks again and God bless!

    • Well, you do have to be careful with going “undercover” because that can lead nonreligious readers to complain that they were blindsided. Ah, well. The important thing is to write the story you’ve been given. Please God and not people.

      And thanks for mentioning the Lost Genre Guild. I linked to it in a post ages ago, but it’s definitely a forum NAF readers will feel at home in:
      https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/lost-genre-guild

      • Yes. Agnostics who feel they’ve been blindsided would become even more resistant to the Gospel message. “First, do no harm.” (Socratic Oath)

        I pray that what I write is subtle enough to avoid that pitfall. FWIW, there’s no deus ex machina at the end of my stories nor is than an altar call. (I cringe at in-your-face altar calls. I suspect they rarely serve their intended purpose. The Holy Spirit will provide.)

        But in my case, reviewers keep “blowing my cover” so anyone reading old reviews for Seabird/Earthbow has no reason to complain. ;-P

  15. […] brought The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate to NAF yesterday, and as I started to compose my response, I realized it was a whole other […]

  16. The only way to be taken seriously is to build our own markets. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to build our own audience. The ACFW is pretty much supported by Christian publishers, so if they can’t make money on a genre, we won’t see much of it in the ACFW.

    Once upon a time science fiction and fantasy were considered the unwanted step children of all literature and genre based fiction. People like Clark, Heinlein, Bradbury, and others wrote on the fringes of the “acceptable”. They attracted younger and youngish readers by the droves. Eventually, those of us who grew up with their work moved it into the what most people think of “mainstream”. It will be no different for us.

    • That’s true! F & SF has become so popular, we forget is was once maligned. Maybe the CBA will catch up with the ABA after a few more decades… 😉

    • Agreed, which is why I think it’s important for us to stop trying to be adopted by ACFW. I don’t want to be the red-headed step child, I want to be the awesomely quirky neighbor who comes to visit sometimes but doesn’t rely on the ACFW/CBA for support.
      And, historically, Spec-Fic has always been there, and those who did it well are now considered classics, even though they wouldn’t be thought of as “spec.” Think “A Christmas Carol,” or anything by Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, and so on.

  17. After 20-some years and seven published books, I left traditional publishing in early 2012 for the very reasons cited above. It became harder and harder for marketing to “find a niche” for my writing, stating “how do I sell this”? But that’s the beauty of indie publishing. You do everything, and if it doesn’t sell, you have no one to blame but yourself.

    After all these comments, here are a couple of observations that may (or may not) help:

    1. Even though writing is a solitary task, it never hurts to network. This looks like the good beginning of such a network, along with the sources that Avily has mentioned. Don’t be afraid to connect with each other; after all, we’re not in competition with each other. When one succeeds, we all succeed. I’ve heard that Tolkien created the entire genre (fantasy? sword and sorcery?) where he is found these days. All we need it one good, popular book or series to invent a genre that is well accepted. Look at “teen supernatural romance” these days. Who woulda thunk?
    2. In indie publishing, the most crucial part of marketing are reviews. I am constantly looking for ways to get reviews, because I know in the long run that reviews equate to sales. We can help each other out there as well.
    3. Our differences from traditional Christian fiction are also our strengths. When you start compromising and watering down your writing, you lose your identity. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, even if it takes a while (years?) for people to find you and appreciate you.

    I see my writing that moves up and down a spectrum between pure science fiction and traditional Christian suspense, and everything in between. It may confuse my readers, but it keeps me interested and keeps my writing unpredictable. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one, but there it is.

  18. First of all and this is probably off topic, but I so love the photograph at the top of this post. Very mind expansive.
    I am not fortunately very in depth about this whole subject as I have been writing all my life and have many followers but writing books is a novelty. I can’t help but wonder if a part of the problem has to do with each religion has it’s own specific do’s and don’ts. And with such a variety it to be fair, seems to need to expand the parameters of what is good right and in good taste with Christian Fiction. I am not sure of this, but have noticed this at least.
    Yisraela

  19. […] they just had to go and do it. Avily Jerome (in The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate) and Kristen Steiffel (in Christian SpecFic? Or SpecFic by Christians?) just had to go and touch […]

  20. Good thoughts, Avily. And I’m 100% with you on the wonders of the Realm Makers conference and the encouragement it provides. And that sparked another idea for me: Just imagine… sometime in the future… if the 80+ attendees of RM showed up at a secular con or spec fic writing conference! It might be tough for most of us to do both (attend RM and also some other con) in the same year (finances, travel arrangements, etc), but what if a majority were in agreement that it would be an amazing experience? What if for the 5-year anniversary or 10-year anniversary of RM, we invaded — er, I mean, attended some other con as a group?

    That would be amazing fun. To be somewhere like that, and yet still be surrounded by scores of “our own”. And maybe… depending on which con and how it all turned out… maybe we’d have a big enough presence to have our own panel or workshops or at least get an area so we could meet as a group during the con once or twice?

    Seems like a group of 50 or more would be of respectable enough size to warrant some kind of special treatment (I mean in terms of getting a place to gather together or having a bit of a voice at the con). Sure, we’d have to use that influence wisely and make sure we were adding to the enjoyment of other attendees and not being “the hated Christians who pooped on the party”… but somehow I don’t think that would be hard. 😉

    Yeah… crazy idea, huh? But it could be amazing. I know a number of Christian friends and bunches of friends who were raised in church (even if they don’t currently attend) who might be intrigued by a panel on “spirituality in fiction” or “with great power comes great responsibility” (talking about telling stories that uplift and/or inspire people to be better to their fellow humans vs. stories that demoralize or degrade the social structures that make for healthy society). Or whatever… just dreaming here. 🙂

  21. […] And just last week, Avily Jerome produced one of the most-viewed posts we’ve ever had, examining The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate, a conversation we in the microniche need to […]

  22. Thank you, Avily, for expressing many of my thoughts on this subject. Interesting comments, too. This genre is a tricky one, to be sure. Personally, I’m not interested in writing fiction that fits within the ACFW “box”. I’m excited about forging a “brave new world” here, partnering with others who are producing excellent speculative fiction by writers who are Christian, rather than Christian speculative fiction. Will I find a publisher for my historical fantasy? I don’t know, but if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know!

  23. Realm Makers was an awesome experience, and I’m grateful such an option exists for us weird spec fic geeks.

    This topic has been on my mind a lot. I’ve asked other authors/editors where they see the future of speculative fiction written by Christians (because I agree that we don’t need to label our books as “Christian fiction”). Some think the future is bright, because all the young writers tend toward fantasy, sci-fi, etc., and if they’re writing it, then they’re probably naturally reading it as well, evidenced by the fact that most of the spec fic books that do make it in the Christian market are YA.

    I recently asked a prominent Christian author what his thoughts were, and he replied that the road to success in the CBA is very hard. His view was that marketing is the problem, not demand. Christian readers of sci-fi/fantasy don’t go to Christian bookstores or the Christian section of mainstream stores. They go to the regular sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore. He was also of the opinion that publishing in the general market is more difficult, simply because of the sheer number of quality books. It would be hard for a new author to stand out in any significant way.

    As a bit of a follow-up to that last point, I’ve considered publishing in the general market. Avily, I think you made some great points here but there’s one I’d like to slightly disagree with. You mentioned that your books aren’t “smutty enough for the general market.” While there are a ton of books like that in the general market, I think it’s a misconception that you have to write “dirty” books in order to succeed. I’ve read the first two books in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, which are hugely popular, and neither of them contain anything I would consider smutty or dirty. Maybe a definition of what you meant by your comment would help clarify something I’m missing, but I think you can definitely write a clean book for the general market and have success.

    Given your argument that we need to break out of the mold, where do you see the future of Christian spec fic going? Is there a wider market out there that we haven’t explored yet, or that we don’t know about? Is it larger than the band of geeks who talk about this stuff all the time? Do we try to target the general market at all?

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. It’s definitely something we have to consider going forward.

    • Good point about the use of the word “smutty.” As I was thinking through it, I was thinking mainly of the popularity of books like Game of Thrones which contain quite a bit of sex and profanity, and Fifty Shades of Gray which is all about sex (granted, not spec fic, but still a widely popular book). Yes, you can write a clean book for the general market. But sex plays a huge role in a lot of popular fiction, regardless of genre, and to have a book without it, especially if there’s a romantic subplot, is almost unheard of. Even in YA, sex, or at the very least high sexual tension, is rampant. Think Vampire Diaries, Mortal Instruments, Twilight, and any number of others. You’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful without at least some sexual content. The one major exception is probably Harry Potter.

      As for the future, I think there are plenty of people, especially parents of teens, who would like to have quality, engaging stories available. They read general market because they like the stories, but they’d enjoy it just as much or more if they didn’t have to wade through the sex to get there. I think that’s our market. It’s finding those people and letting them know that another option is available. I would like to see those books on the mainstream bookshelves in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the regular bookstore, but it’s sort of a catch-22. They won’t get on the bookshelves until they start selling well, and they won’t sell as well until they get on the bookshelves. So there’s definitely some marketing work to be done in reaching out to that audience, but I think once we find each other, it will be a snowball effect of people wanting more of good, clean fun.

  24. […] brought to my attention last time two other Human writers, Jerome and Steiffel, who wrote coupled discussions on that strange phenomenon called “Christian […]

  25. […] brought to my attention last time two other Human writers, Jerome and Steiffel, who wrote coupled discussions on that strange phenomenon called “Christian […]

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