Friday, June 09, 2006

General Ignorance

Those few links in my last non-fiction post (and here's another for good measure) have highlighted one thing: it appears to be a widely held view that there is very little Christian science fiction available, or that the genre begins and ends with the esteemed Mr Lewis.

If you've been here a few times - and especially if you've checked out the Elliot List - you will know that this is not necessarily the case. However, I think this depends a great deal on your interpretation of what 'Christian fiction' actually means. I had a stab here, and there's a reasonable list of Christian elements here.

Until I began looking a little harder, started this little blog, and encountered the Elliot List, I was guilty of the same kind of ignorance. I had discovered Stephen Lawhead, Chris Walley, and of course CS Lewis - all in Christian bookshops - but was largely ignorant of what Christian elements may exist in secular sf novels. Only a further reading of some of these stories will tell whether (IMHO) they cut it as 'Christian' novels. I suspect that if an author is writing from a Christian worldview, and including an element of spirituality in their tale, the Christian element will be visible to those looking for it.

It is, of course, possible to portray Christianity in a negative light (as in His Dark Materials), or as an integral story element without actually adding anything to the reader's faith (Snow Crash, reviewd here recently, has an integral religious thread, but I would never consider it a Christian novel).

My best guess is that if people want Christian fiction to challenge them and make them grow in their faith, they may be largely restricted to what's in the Christian bookstores (although there will always be exceptions picked up by mainstream publishers) and as far as sf goes, that's a pretty limited choice.

The question is, What do we hope to gain from reading a Christian novel?

I'll leave that one open to the blogosphere.


Mirtika said...

Fabulous links!!! Thanks for re-opening--or rounding-up-- the discussion. :)


Ed Raby, Sr. said...

"What do we hope to gain from reading a Christian novel?"

Every one I have read leaves more of an emotional and passion level awareness that simple Biblical teaching could not cover. For instance in CS Lewis with say the Screwtape Letters would get as much out of it if it was simply a book on how demons work? Doubt it. With that story you not only know CS Lewis' beleifs about it but get a feel for it as well on a deeper and might I say more 'spiritual' level. Story does this and some people get this and some don't. Jesus preached in parables I think with this understanding as well. He pretty much says so in the Parable of the Soils when he gets alone with his disciples to explain it to them. Why do you think people remember the stories of the Bible more than say the prophets. Story is something that grips people.

Great blog -- Blessings.

Carmen Andres said...

Thanks for the links re science fiction/fantasy written by Christians (or at least those familiar with the faith). And good question. I've often had the discussion with a good a friend of mine (a Christian and published author: The Treekeepers, what I consider a solid Christian-worldview young adult fantasy novel published by a secular publishing house). I guess I come up with more questions instead of answers, many of which you already thought of: What makes a novel Christian? The person who writes it or the Truth (biblical worldview) it contains? Does a novel need to be written by a Christian to contain biblical truth? Plenty of the great novels of history contain Truth (as in how Tolkien and Lewis discuss it) but weren't necessarily written by a Christian. I'm often looking for Truth in novels (I recently blogged about Greg Bear and Ben Bova, for example) and am challenged to think about and grow in my faith by novelists who aren't Christian but present a biblical worldview (especially about the effects of sin). So, finally (after all my rambling) what do I want from a novel written by a Christian? I'd want some of the same Truth -- and I don't want a tidy answer in the end. The Christian life isn't tidy and neat, but full of suffering, pain and trouble as much as joy, peace and love. In fact, I recently read that the Christian life is all about being the walkling wounded and perpetually healed (think Johnny Cash). We have victory, but often not the substantial, of-this-world victory. So, I guess I want that portrayed in a Christian novel. Sadly, most Christian novels I've read have too neat of ending or answer, which doesn't reflect most of our experiences--or a world that works the way the Bible says it does. Some novels that have done this well--which have supernatural elements--are Lief Enger's "Peace Like a River" and Wendell Berry's "Hannah Coulter". Enough rambling. Again, thanks for your lists and thought-provoking questions. Blessings.

Elliot said...

"if people want Christian fiction to challenge them and make them grow in their faith..."

I think many of the authors on my list fit the bill for that. Particularly Wolfe, Willis, Smith, Henderson, and even Russell. Of course MacDonald and the Inklings too. And a few of Boucher's stories.

But you'll just have to read 'em and decide for yourself. :-)