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)  

19 Comments

  1. Amen.

    That’s all I have to say.

    Amen.

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  2. Just found this blog, have only read two posts, and I’m already hooked. And oh my heavens, YES, can we please get some more fantasy into CBA?! And sci-fi–if we can do fiction we can most certainly do sci-fi. We need a Christian William Gibson to step up to the plate. (And a publisher to give him a chance!)

    Jeff, you’re the bomb.

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  3. Jeff said: Christian fantasy is the wave of the future in Christian publishing.

    That is very exciting!! I wonder…how does it measure up for stories that are more like space operas (Kathy Tyers’ style) and less fantasy? Anyone know? My recent SF/F stories don’t involve creatures in that sense, so that leaves me wondering…

    Thanks, Jeff, for this interview. And thank you for hosting this Rebecca. 😀

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  4. Preach it, brother!

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  5. From Jeff’s lips to Jehovah’s ear is all I gotta say. 🙂

    That whole “remove the trappings, leave the essence” thing is what I’m trying to do, and it’s not easy. As all of you trying to do it know, no doubt. 🙂

    Thanks, Jeff.

    Mir

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  6. Rebecca, Sharon, thanks for the feedback. (I just may have to twist Jeff’s arm and see if we can’t have him back in a few months! 🙂 )

    Alison, I tried to leave a comment at your site but wordpress (which I love!) didn’t recognize me. Anyway, I infer from one of your posts you too are in SoCal! Kewl! Or hot, as the case may be. 😉 Anyway, thanks for your kind comments about the blog. I’m glad to find another supportive spec fic fan.

    Ronie, I agree—hearing an editor say that fantasy is the wave of the future in Christian publishing is like seeing the sky lighten in the east after a sleepless night.

    I also like Jeff’s reminder to pray about the various parts of this process. After all, as God chooses, we will see changes.

    Becky

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  7. Since God is the PRIME MOVER (mover of hearts and ways), prayer is definitely a *vital* part of this process. I told Shannon a while back that I felt the SF/F market was “pregnant,” and I still hold firm to that position. There are just too many solid, Christian authors writing in this genre for this to be going nowhere.

    Y’all…they’ve been saying the SF/F were going to take over the world eventually LOL, let’s do it!! 😀

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  8. Greets, folks.

    I was clicking on the wrong link and so my big reply today went to yesterday’s blog comments. Be sure to check that out. If it raises any new questions, post them to today’s entry and I’ll see if I can answer them.

    Hi, Alison, Ronie, and Sharon!

    Jeff

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  9. Wow. Thanks, Becky and Jeff, for thinking and writing and posting all this good stuff. Insightful, encouraging, and inspiring. Makes me want to start working on the grown-up fantasy I’ve been mulling over for years.

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  10. As some of you may know because I’ve talked about it on my blog, Sunday forty churches got together for a day of praise and worship in the Rogue Valley. I’ve been hearing so much coming out of that about the spiritual side–the warfare–the battle between good and evil. And of course, my writer’s mind just grabs onto that. I echo what Jeff said earlier: “Fantasy, therefore, can be the best genre for evangelism and apologetics in our day.”

    Although I struggle — as all of us Christian fantasy writers do–because I want to be published and science fiction or fantasy hasn’t been the greatest path to that in the Christian market, I believe that God has big plans for this genre!

    Okay, sorry if I got a little carried away there.

    Beth.

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  11. 🙂 Feel free to get carried away any time, Beth.

    Jeff, thanks for your gracious offer to answer questions. You did such a fantastic job yesterday fielding our questions. I really appreciate the extra time you put into this.

    I suspect that what you said today resonates with all of the SFF writers, so we have more “Hear, hear” kinds of comments by way of response. Of course, I have my one point of disagreement—not a question, really— which I will elaborate upon tomorrow. 😉

    Becky

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  12. Fantasy can get at big T Truth in a way other genres can’t, you’re right Beth (and Jeff and others). I always go back to Book of the Dun Cow. Some incredibly disturbing stuff in that book – suffering, events that couldn’t fly in any other genre (smashing eggs before they’re laid, for one). But there it is, bringing to life Truth through the lives of roosters and hens.

    Kids are jumping off the sofa (just how kid #2 broke his collarbone), so can’t go on, but I’m blogging on this issue as well.

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  13. Hey Jeff!
    Great to see you hear. When you described this phenomenon at Mt. Hermon, it made perfect sense. I too believe it’s just a matter of time. We have some great Christian fantasty and sci-fi writers waiting to bust in. (Or as Ronie’s analogy proves, give birth.)

    Thanks, Becky, for hosting Jeff. Wonderful stuff here.

    Jeff, thanks for sharing your wisdom. Much appreciated.

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  14. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your fantasy blog tour. It was great fun. You guys are wonderful.

    Now everyone mark your calendars for May 15, 2007, the projected street date for Sharon Hinck’s first fantasy, “The Restorer.”

    Jeff

    P.S. And I wouldn’t complain if some of you checked out my novels, either. [grin] http://www.jeffersonscott.com

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  15. Rebecca, I agree with you about fantasy getting to Truth, as you probably surmise if you’ve read today’s post.

    Dineen, thanks for stopping by and giving your feedback. Nice to “see a familiar face.” 🙂

    Becky

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  16. Jeff, this has been such an awesome addition to the fantasy discussion. Thanks for giving your time so generously.

    Becky

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  17. I’m overwhelmed by all that I have read here since coming back from my vacation (was I only gone a week? Things have sure been hopping here in the meanwhile!). Jeff, thank you immensely for this interview and the insights you have provided. Don’t know if you’re still reading comments here, but if you are, do you accept direct queries or do you prefer writers to come through agents (nearly wrote angels, lol). **Going off to think…

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  18. Hey, Val, we missed you!

    Yep, we had a lot of fantasy hopping this past week. I guess that’s why I’m scaling back a little. I need some time myself to regroup before we gear up for the CSFF Blog Tour in July.

    Hope you had a good time on vacation.

    I don’t think Jeff is still reading comments. I could be wrong, but I got that impression when we last exchanged e-mails. And I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question. I’m guessing there’s probably a guidelines page at the NavPress web site.

    Becky

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  19. […] idea that Christians don’t want to read speculative fiction is archaic. In a post four years ago, I quoted from a Barna Group of Ventura California study that surveyed teenagers […]

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