Guest Blogger—Jeff Gerke, Part 2

Yesterday NavPress fiction acquisitions editor Jeff Gerke gave us his personal observations that led him to the conclusion that Christians are reading fantasy. I agree.

You may have missed the information I passed on in one of the comments yesterday. From a May 1, 2006, report of a three-year study from the Barna Group of Ventura, California:

Even a large majority of teenagers from groups that have objected most stridently to the stories of wizards and witchcraft have indulged in this fantasy world [of Harry Potter]. Three-quarters of all church-going teens (77%) and born again Christian teenagers (78%) have seen or read Potter.

My question continues to be, What will those young people read next? Shouldn’t we Christians be grabbing this opportunity to give them what they want, written from a Christian worldview?

This study, by the way, was based on surveys of teens, 13-18 years old, conducted in 2002, 2004, and 2005. That means the 18 year-olds who said they read Potter in 2002 are already 22, and the 13 year olds are 17. So, no, I don’t think Christian fantasy should just target YA. We need to be writing for adults, too, or they will end up ignoring Christian fiction or leaving fiction altogether because there is nothing for them.

But you can read my rants on the subject any day. What you really want to read right now is what else Jeff Gerke had to say on the subject of fantasy.

I do want to go on record as saying, however, that not all opinions expressed are those of the regular blogger. Some of you have read here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction long enough to spot the point with which I disagree. I’ll discuss that a bit more tomorrow along with the beginnings of blog tour posts for T.L. Hines.

And now, Part 2 of Jeff Gerke’s remarks:

Now, about whether or not fantasy is appropriate for Christians to read and/or write. I think it definitely is. I mean, what is spiritual warfare fiction (Peretti, etc.) if not fantasy? Monsters of evil vs. paragons of good. Clash of the titans. Wizards who congress with Evil. Paladins who commune with Good. Fantasy is, in a sense, the perfect vehicle for the elements of Christianity. The Bible is filled with dragons and demons and weird monsters, after all.

It’s also interesting to me that secular fantasy has gotten so spiritual. Almost every new fantasy now has some element of the supernatural. They’re trying to own territory that belongs first to the Christian.

I write fantasy (see chapters from my epic fantasy at Jefferson Scott – News and Information) because, well, because it’s cool, and also because it gives me the opportunity to show Christianity in a new light. When you can strip away the trappings of something people think they know, leaving only the essence, you can begin to truly communicate. When you take away the architecture and the social structures and the stained glass language—the things that people see and immediately dismiss—you can get to the truth.

With my fantasy I want to get rid of words like Bible and Christian and salvation and church and replace them with words that once again have power to the unbeliever. I want to show God not as the pansy or judge people see Him as now but in a more raw way. Like C.S. Lewis did with Aslan, a ferocious lion. People hadn’t thought of Christ like that before. It was so powerful. They encountered Him afresh.

Fantasy is perfect for this purpose because you’re creating a whole new world anyway. People expect newness throughout the story and the world. They welcome it. They embrace it. They’re open to new ideas because they love having their brains engaged with a writer’s vision of another reality. The junk has been pared away and people are willing to try out your visualization of a different world. They’re teachable. Fantasy, therefore, can be the best genre for evangelism and apologetics in our day.

Let me hasten to say, however, that evangelism and apologetics, or any other agenda, should never be our motive for writing any fiction. Agenda-driven fiction stinks. And readers can smell it a mile away. Story is king. If you can write a story people care about, presenting interesting ideas along the way, you can do it. But the story has to come first.

Christian fantasy is the wave of the future in Christian publishing.

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Edited to add: Be sure to read Jeff’s comprehensive answer, Comment #17, to questions left yesterday.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 9:19 am  Comments (19)  
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