CSFF Blog Tour: DKA, Day 2; Edginess

Thanks to Todd, Jason, and Frank for the great comments about free web-zines. I think I’m convinced—the existence of these venues is not just good for readers, but for writers as well.

That Dragons, Knights, and Angels, the October CSFF Blog Tour featured web-zine, is good for readers seems like a given, but I don’t want to brush that point aside too lightly.

Do you like a good science fiction or fantasy stories, such as ET, Star Wars, or Narnia? Then consider reading the stories published at DKA, because their expressed purpose, as stated in the submission guidelines, is to examine the merits of a work first as SF or fantasy.

Do you want stories that build you up without being preachy, that make you better for having read them? Then consider reading DKA because the editors look for stories that “entertain, uplift, and enlighten.”

Especially for those of you who are Christian SFFan’ers (my version of a science fiction and/or fantasy aficionado) but you a) have run out of novels in the genre and don’t want to go back to the secular stuff; or b) you don’t have time to sit with a novel, then the stories and poems at DKA are for you.

BTW, we have a wonderful group of bloggers participating in the tour this month. Special feature today is Rachel Marks, who is posting an interview with DKA managing editor, Selena Thomason.

Ah, but what about this “edgy” issue?

One line from the DKA submission guidelines touched one of my sore spots: “DKA is open to edgy stories that explore the fullness of life.”

I have developed quite a resistence to the notion that Christians should write “edgy” fiction, primarily because I think Christians use the word to mean one thing when the world uses it to mean something quite different. This redefining of terms with a Christian slant is, in my opinion, more of the “Christianese” that fiction writers are so often accused of.

It’s apparent to me by the next qualifying sentences that DKA’s “edgy” would, in all likelihood, be considered “mild” by the world:

However, sexual content, profanity, and other elements that would be considered offensive to the general Christian community must be handled with great care and be essential to the story.  Profanity can almost always be omitted, suggested, or implied.  Sexual content can almost always be removed or referred to, rather than explicitly stated.

Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way in disagreement with DKA’s standards. I am, however, objecting to the idea that these stories would qualify as “edgy” unless the word is specificially defined in Christian terms.

Why do we want to use such a word? Why do we want to write to the edge? Or at least make people think we are writing to the edge?

Which brings up the question, To the edge of what?

I think the world answers that as, the edge of what is the norm of society. That would be society that accepts divorce as a standard option to solve an unhappy marriage, believes that a woman’s choice to kill her baby should be a legally-protected right, that two men should be granted marital status if they so choose. Society that rages against young American men dying in Iraq but is silent about the young men dying on the streets of every inner city across the land. This is the society that laughs at pornography and nudity on TV and has an underground child porn industry along with a child prostitution industry that rivals the drug trade. What is the edge of this society?

I suggest it is not the same as the edge to which DKA is referring. In many ways, from what I have read on some Christian writer forums, I think this Christian version of edge actually means the edge of Christian society—where safe sex means monogamous sex, and even that is only alluded to. Again, I’m not disagreeing with this standard. I believe in this standard, in fact, because I think it squares with Scripture.

What I object to is calling a story edgy because it deals with what is part of normal society—society beyond the ideal or even the existent, imperfect Christian community, but nevertheless well within the range of our greater culture. I think the world would laugh at the notion that such a story is “edgy.”

If they’re going to laugh, let it be because of our belief in Christ, our belief in redemption through His shed blood, and our hope for His return because of His resurrection, not because of a mistaken view of the world around us.

– – –

Check out what other participants on the CSFF Tour are saying about DKA:

  • Jim Black
  • Jackie Castle
  • Valerie Comer
  • Frank Creed
  • Chris Deanne
  • Kameron M. Franklin
  • Beth Goddard
  • Todd Michael Greene
  • Leathel Grody
  • Karen Hancock
  • Elliot Hanowski
  • Katie Hart
  • Sherrie Hibbs
  • Joleen Howell
  • Jason Joyner
  • Karen and at Karen’s myspace
  • Oliver King
  • Tina Kulesa
  • Lost Genre Guild
  • Kevin Lucia
  • Rachel Marks
  • Shannon McNear
  • Caleb Newell
  • John Otte
  • Cheryl Russel
  • Mirtika Schultz
  • Stuart Stockton
  • Steve Trower
  • Speculative Faith
  • Published in: on October 31, 2006 at 12:33 pm  Comments (23)  

    23 Comments

    1. That’s an interesting take on it. And a good question. I tend to write more on the edge, and I always feels it’s the edge of “acceptable Christian behavior” not of the world’s. I feel Christians should think and feel deeper. We hardly skim the surface of most issues because we’re afraid of who we’ll offend. But we need to keep digging deeper, and make people feel the core of the issue. We need to scare, horrify, and break hearts. It’s how we should feel about these things. It’s how God feels.

      I was bummed when I had to edit out and rewrite parts of “Sorrow’s Shroud” for DKA. But I understood where they were coming from, and I really felt like that was where the story was meant to go. So, I prayed about it and addressed the issues. I do feel the story lost some of it’s “edge”, but I think it kept the core of the issues I was addressing strong. And that’s the really important thing.

      Bla-bla-bla…. 🙂

      Like

    2. I think you’re too touchy about “edgy”. Jesus would have been described as an edgy sort of guy–what with denoucning the status quo and “churchy” leadership, what with whipping those he had an issue with, what with letting pariahs touch him physically, what with hanging out with disreputable folks and not batting an eye at sitting alone at a well with a trampy woman and, basically, calling her a trampy liar. 🙂

      If the same Jesus can write histories where people get chopped into pieces and a heroic Jew can cut off the excess bits from enemy penises, and a woman can play a harlot to seduce a Patriarch…then I think we got lots of room for edgy in modern Christian fiction.

      I may put in some foreskin harvesting in my novel. 😀

      Mir

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    3. See, Mir, this is what I’m talking about—this Christian twisting of the definition.

      Naming body parts isn’t shocking to the world. That’s only “edgy” to a certain segment of the Christian community. Frankly I find it weighs in with a lot of the junior high humor I was used to as a teacher.

      What the WORLD views as “edgy” is off the charts. It is stuff that Jesus would not have His name associated with because He, after all, is sinless.

      All the stuff you cite as things He did are true and He did them with right motives, a pure heart, with perfect judgment. If the culture of His day would have thought Him edgy, it’s more a reflection on our culture and how far it has fallen that NONE of those things would appear to the world as edgy if they happened in 2006. Maybe if He took a whip to some carnal “pastor” it would make the news. Maybe not. But telling a woman she was a liar? No.

      And He didn’t call her names. He stated facts about her that would have seemed a little edgy because after all He knew all about her life. What she was trying to hide, He exposed. But insult her? No, He didn’t do that.

      Talking to her was edgy in that day. Not today. Not in the world. They would think nothing of it.

      Christians are the only ones who want to write cuss words, then boast about how edgy they’re being. 😀

      Becky

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    4. Rachel, I agree that we need to dig deeper into most issues, but I just don’t think that qualifies as edgy—not as people outside the Christian community define “edgy.”

      Would be interesting to see both versions of your story. As it is, only you know which is the stronger.

      Becky

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    5. I think I can see what Becky is trying to say about “edgy”. It seems to have become a catchphrase in the CBA for authors trying to say “we’re not your grandma’s prarie romance Christian fiction”. Meaning, it falls outside of the traditional format of CBA. But I think Becky’s point is: The world will have a different idea of edgy, and it may not meet their expectations. Basically edgy has a different meaning for those of us who understand CBA and those who are just looking for something to read. Maybe we need to invent a word?

      *We’re open for barkle stories…*

      Ah, never mind on that.

      Jason

      PS: Wasn’t it Chris Mikesell who was going to write the “prarie romance gone horribly wrong?”

      PSS: Mir, I love you, but I don’t know if I’ll be reading any foreskin harvesting parts o_O! The Bible’s edgy enough for me 😉

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    6. I beg to differ. There are more than one Christian publishers who would not allow body parts. Steeple Hill won’t let you use “breasts” or kiss passionately, much less have sexual thoughts.

      Try having a husband say to his wife, “Honey, you’ve got the prettiest vulva in the world.” See how that goes with the editor. :-/

      We are prissy about body parts.

      Mir

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    7. well, isn’t that special? :O

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    8. Chris is channeling the church lady! 🙂
      Mir

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    9. Although, Becky, you could say that what’s normal is what “should be,” and, as a result, the lack of base humor is “normal.”

      Yes, that was stretching it, and yes, I’m teasing. 0=)

      Mir–Try getting shot down for a character saying “godforsaken.” Nevermind the woman was scared to death her friend would hurt himself before she could get to his apartment.

      My parents and I watched The Unit last night. Pretty good show, I think, and I’m a growing fan of Dennis Haysbert. I like how it shows the men doing their thing and what the women do. Fascinating how they work as a team and individually.

      Anyway. They go through this whole episode trying to find a man who wrote a final love letter, never delivered, and died. They find him, the girl, and his best friend.

      At the very end, we find out the woman wasn’t his wife, and that the “best friend” was the intended recipient of the letter. The two men lived homosexual lives in secret.

      The show is usually so serious and NOT like that that I couldn’t help smirking. It was kind of base and morbidly funny at the same time.

      All that to say, I’d hardly consider that especially normal, and I’d hardly call it edgy either. Truth be told, I don’t know what “edgy” for the non-Christians would be, because usually what they mean is “pushes the conservative, traditional boundaries.”

      In other words, sin.

      But when I think “edgy,” all I mean is something like when I read Ted Dekker’s Showdown. One word: Twisted.

      In other words, conceptually, the thing is outside the boundaries of traditional writing (movies, music, whatever). Or it means I walked away tasting blood in my mouth, but that’s another story. And yes, that happened. The Matrix (the first one) was crazy. Its sequels either bored or repelled me.

      I think we’d agree that simply showing people doing things they shouldn’t and we wouldn’t, by themselves, aren’t edgy. Moulin Rouge was about a prostitute. Of course they’re going to think, do, and say certain things. Anything less would be laughable.

      So I guess that’s my question. Is there a difference between showing things for how they are and simply being morally base?

      Or rather, do you have to be in the gutter to be “edgy”?

      I’m speaking generally, btw, not specifically with regards to ABA or CBA. A thing is either good or it isn’t, and I can’t call a thing morally reprehensible edgy for strictly that reason anymore than I call a thing morally…well, righteous simply means “keeping the law,” so I’ll use it for now…just because the characters don’t do anything wrong.

      Like

    10. Oh, and Pixy — I did read Sorrow’s Shroud months ago and said on DKA that I loved it. Makes me curious what you had to change, though I might could guess. Maybe. People surprise me sometimes.

      Umm…Back to work for the gold.

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    11. The world will have a different idea of edgy, and it may not meet their expectations. Basically edgy has a different meaning for those of us who understand CBA and those who are just looking for something to read.

      That’s what I’m saying exactly, Jason.

      And Mir your baudy example proves my point. The CBA won’t publish “body part fiction” but the world uses body parts in prime time, network TV sit coms. So when a Christian stands up and says, “I’m writing edgy fiction. I used the word ‘ass’ in my opening line,” guess what the world does with that? They laugh. They think we are ridiculous.

      We are not writing edgy fiction if we write about adultery, divorce, abortion, even homosexuality. Sad as it is true, these are mainstream.

      Unless we look at “normal” the way Kaci suggested. 😉

      As to whether or not realistic and morally base are synonymous—good question.

      Becky

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    12. Mir, I gotta tell you about this one—illustrates what this fixation with “edgy” does, I think. Also illustrates the other side of the issue—an abnormal adherence to “clean” writing. I’ve got an Advance Readers Copy of two different books, so these might change (we can hope). In my opinion, both need to.

      In one, the writer describes a baby nursing and the sense of peace, of connectedness as the infant rests his hand against the mother’s chest. Uh, hello. Like we don’t KNOW where a baby nurses??? Hahah.

      The other one is no better, though. In this one something has the character scared (I think—I don’t remember the set up in this one as well), so the author describes her heart in her breast. Uh, I don’t THINK so. Maybe an anatomy class is in order? (But we have to be edgy and get the B word in there). Hahah

      Becky

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    13. Actually, I am talking about the CBA, cause that’s where I target my writing. There is no such thing as edgy in the ABA, as Becky says.

      But in the arena I focus on, reality is whitewashed for prudery’s sake. The words breast, penis, vulva, and anus are not dirty words. God created those body parts. They function.

      As an old married matron, I happen to still feel sexual desire and praise my husband’s male attributes with daily praise. Legs, buttocks, scrotum, nipples, eyes, ears, nostrils..they’re all fair game.

      What bothers me is the oft-discussed “taboo words” of Christian fiction. It borders on the ludicrious, and that’s because it caters to the most prudish element of Christianity. It’s like writing adult books must be at the “clean” level of writing for 7-year olds. And, yes, that bugs me, because it makes life look downright silly in some cases.

      This is why I rarely read Christian romances. I simply do not believe a man and woman can fall madly in love and not have to fight off the temptations of the flesh. I do not believe a woman and man will want to marry and have kids, but not have the electricity and wildness of desire. It rings hollow and false to me.

      While I do not want gynecological exams sex scenes, the very fact that we holler and run from passionate kissing and even marital bedroom scenes period–as opposed to weighing the appropriateness of discussions and actions for each work–says we’re really trying to keep the box too narrow.

      I don’t want edgy to mean dirty. I want edgy to mean..we’re becoming more human. We’re pushing the edges to get to a more realistic, even more Biblical place of seeing humans and human interactions and daily struggle closer to what it really is.

      Sometimes, that may mean the grit of the gutter. Sometimes, that may mean the utter poetry and elevation of marital bliss. Sometimes, it may just mean not having your protagonists be all shiny and impeccable, cause, news flash, that’s not the world I live in.

      Mir

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    14. Mir,

      I don’t think we’ve ever been in doubt what you mean. 😉

      It seems however you still are not catching what I’m getting at. I object to CBA publishers, or DKA, in this case, using the term “edgy” to mean out of the normal CBA box when that word means something completely different to the culture at large. That is Christian-ese, pure and simple. That is appropriating a word to mean something within the church community that it only means there and nowhere else.

      The very people who make the biggest deal about NOT using Christian-ese are often the very ones insisting on “edgy,” which looks like “vanilla” to the world.

      BTW, about your body parts comments. I don’t really want to know what a man and wife say to one another in the privacy of their bedroom, unless it has something to do with the story. And it doesn’t make me feel like I’m a voyeur.

      Last week, I read a book that handled the subject really well, I think. I never felt like it was too much, never felt like something was missing.

      Becky

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    15. It’s not Christianese if the context is Christian, and the context is Christian.

      This is not a site aimed at mainly non-believers. Neither is my blog. Neither is DKA. Certainly not ACFW or the CBA.

      So, when we use the term edgy amongst ourselves, it has a meaning to US. And it’s properly used.

      I don’t see really why this is a big deal, ya know? We’re Christians discussing Christian fiction, so we use a term with a Christian context. Simple to me.

      Mir

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    16. Precisely, if it has SOMETING TO DO with the characters/plot/story.

      But many voices say NEVER no matter what. And that is prudery.

      We write about things people say privately to one another about hopes, fears, sins. But about THIS we go all mum. That’s silly.

      Mir

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    17. It’s [the term “edgy”] not Christianese if the context is Christian, and the context is Christian.

      This is not a site aimed at mainly non-believers. Neither is my blog. Neither is DKA. Certainly not ACFW or the CBA.

      So, when we use the term edgy amongst ourselves, it has a meaning to US. And it’s properly used.

      We have a difference of opinion here. I don’t see any writing put out on the internet as being in “a Christian context.” Presumably anyone can click onto DKA and find their guidelines.

      But I am not trying to single out DKA. It’s Christian WRITERS who continually say they want to write “edgy” fiction. When pinned down, those same writers make it clear they do not actually mean edgy the way the world means the term. And that, after all, seems to be the definition of Christian-ese—a word understood only by Christians in the way it is used.

      I also don’t see what’s wrong with “prudish” writing. Doubtful if anyone will say, Boy I wish I could have read more sex scenes. Or lines naming private body parts.

      Becky

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    18. Ay-yi-yi (not sure if I spelled that correctly)

      VERY intrigueing discussion. I can see merits to both sides. I’ve spent years frustrated that we can’t write REALITY in the CBA. . .everything has to be straight-laced. Sadly, though, what I’m seeing now promoted as “edgy” is not necessarily REALITY from a Christian worldview, but an attempt at “shock-value.”

      Yes, I think it’s important that we be allowed to write truth. But is it so wrong to have a standard to both live and write by? Aren’t we about being holy? I’m beginning to think that possibly our desire to publish “edgy” Christian fiction is simply a reflection of our culture at large and of our compromise as Christians.

      But hey, I’m not one to debate this issue. Peace to you!

      Beth

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    19. Beth, wonderful comments. You brought this discussion to the point it should be. Thank you.

      Becky

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    20. Except that reading something is not the same as doing something. We read about killings and lies, but that doesn’t make us killers and liars when we do so.

      Why is the non-sin of feeling normal desires taboo, but the sins of murder, vanity, lying and etc not-taboo. It’s an expression of a preset prudishness. 🙂

      Mir

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    21. Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. . wondering that exact thing. I’ve never considered that before. All I can conclude is that say I’m reading about a character committing a murder. . .do I close the book and still have the deisre to commit a murder? Not usually. LOL

      BUT can I read a pink porn novel and come away unscathed? NO. . and I personally equate it to pornography for women . .emotions—like pornographic pictures for men. Of course, this is an EXTREME example. But it does cause me to give thought to what i’m writing. . .what impact do I want to have? do I want to produce sinful lust in a person? Or do I want to glorify God in a heartfelt and thought provoking way.

      It’s a HUGE responsibility.

      I guess I’m a prude:)
      Beth

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    22. I agree with you, Beth. I can read about a murder—like I do in the newspaper—and feel no anger in my heart. I can feel sadness and a desire for justice or for means to create a safer community. None of that causes me, the reader, to sin.

      Swearing? I think those words and after reading very much, I find myself thinking the words even when I’m away from the book.

      And the sex. I’m a prude, too. I think there are some things that should be conducted in privacy, and sex is one of those things. Partly because watching sex produces erotic feelings. Why else do people watch porn? Not for the plot lines or character development, I dare say. 😀

      In reading explicit descriptions of things meant to stay between a husband and wife, I would feel the same way.

      That being said, I want to make it clear, I am NOT suggesting that authors pretend a husband and wife are not having sex. But to suggest that the “fade to black” type of allusion is somehow weak or inadequate is shortsighted. Many, many writers and critics will say that the earlier Hollywood productions were much more artistic BECAUSE of the restrictions they were under.

      When can we say that about Christian fiction?

      Becky

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    23. […] buzz word in Christian fiction. I frequently scoffed (or railed or ranted — take your pick ) at the term because those using it seemed oblivious to what the world considers […]

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