Fantasy Friday the Thirteenth

I suppose there is some poetic congruity in writing about fantasy on a day some people look at through their myopic lenses of superstition. 😀 Of course, in my view, fantasy has nothing to do with superstition and everything to do with truth. That truth is delivered in story form and requires a bit of mining to be uncovered is all the better!

But I’m straying from my intended subject. Some of you may have seen the press release posted at CSFF and at Spec Faith announcing a second Christian fantasy book tour, this one to take place on the West Coast with twice the number of authors. Since I’m on the West Coast and a Christian fantasy writer, I’m excited about this week-long event. Already the media is lining up to cover it.

I have to mention, however, that a discussion in an email group I belong to brought up an issue I think the tour illustrates—fantasy in the CBA is still primarily the property of the young. Of the eight authors participating in the tour, only one can be said to have written primarily with adults in mind. I’m referring to Sharon Hinck in her Sword of Lyric series. Some, to be sure, are marketed to both youth and adults. For example, I’ve found Donita Paul‘s Dragon Chronicle books on both YA and adult shelves, sometimes in the same store.

Perhaps because of Narnia, adults have no qualms reading books marketed for younger readers. And certainly young people have no qualms reading books aimed at adults. I remember being taken aback the first time I saw one of my junior high students reading Tolkien. But why not?

A good fantasy stirs something in all of us. We recognized the good and evil struggle as familiar territory, but it looks so much clearer in a fantasy setting, so we gain perspective, consciously or unconsciously. A good fantasy challenges us to rise to the occasion, to see our existence as part of the larger plan, our role as significant to the gains and losses. We want to be that hero or heroine.

A good fantasy also doesn’t sugarcoat the dangers. There is a White Witch deceiving, dragons hoarding, Black Riders stalking. But in the same vein, a good fantasy points to the fellowship, the sacrificial Lion, the way in and the way further up and further in. These are truths that we recognize, whether eight or eighty-eight.

One writer decrying the paltry number of adult fantasy titles in CBA stores mentioned the lack of subplots in children’s fiction, making those stories less desirable to adults. I suppose this is a valid point. The structure of a children’s book or even a YA might be a little more simplistic. So the question I’m wondering is this. Do CBA fantasies target youth because this is where the buyers are or because the writing suits this audience more?

Well, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up. More fantasy discussion to come, I believe. 😉


  1. I’m not sure I understand the question. I think authors write books with young protagonists and no subplots and the publishers see that they are children’s books and they marktet them to children.

    I don’t think publishers are looking for adult fantasy because the couple titles they have, though good, have never taken off sales-wise. At least that’s what I’ve heard. It seems the children’s fantasies do sell better than the adult fantasies.

    There may be lots of reasons for that–one being there hasn’t been enough adult stuff published and what’s there, no one knows about.


  2. Just wanted to chime in . . . our process for inviting additional authors on the tour was rather organic and prayerful (based on people an author knew well, who shared our vision, etc.) and we did invite several authors who write fantasy or spec-fic for the adult audience…but they weren’t able to participate for various reasons (though some hope to one day in the future).

    And as we solidified a group that DID commit to the tour – we had to stop adding people to keep the size manageable. There ARE many other excellent Christian authors writing spec-fic for adults with varying degrees of sales success.

    Anyway – we’re all excited to meet readers of ALL ages 🙂


  3. Sally, I guess I worded the question the way I did because some publishers have taken the both/and approach. They are not declaring the fantasy they have out as a YA or as an adult book, choosing instead for the market to settle the issue, I think. In those cases, I can’t help but wonder if the writing won’t be the determining factor.

    What’s interesting to me about the fantasy for YA issue is that YA was considered dead in the CBA and fantasy was considered dead, but now they team up and are quite successful.

    It seems some publishers have concluded that YA isn’t dead after all. Hopefully they will discover the same about fantasy. Well, in fact, I think they are.



  4. Sharon, thanks for dropping by and commenting on the process of putting the tour group together. I hadn’t really thought about the number of adult vs. youth writers until this conversation took off on that email group. I am not one of the readers who cares—YA or adult. I just want a good story, well-written. So in some ways I was surprised by the discussion. But I’ve had some bloggers stay out of the YA book tours because they prefer adult books. I’ve had other writers ask why fantasy lovers will read YA fantasy. So I’m trying to figure out what it is that puts a book in one category or the other. Or if that’s even an important question to ask.



  5. I wanted to comment that L.B. Graham’s books, although marketed as YA by his publisher, are really adult in orientation. The first book is almost 600 pages! Enjoyed by the YA market to be sure, but another case where the publisher is slotting the book based on the current situation and not the writing style.

    One of the confusions for me, personally, is when some agents who are open to fantasy are NOT open to YA. ???


  6. Thanks for the clarification, Robert. As to the agent issue, I’m still hunting for an agent interested in fantasy! 😉



  7. Maybe the answer to your original post’s question is simply that younger people are more eager (perhaps even more able?) to lose themselves in the ‘otherness’ of a fantastical world with fantasy characters.

    How many adults do you know out there in the world who sit reading books and watching films whilst constantly rolling their eyes, huffing discontentedly, and muttering “As IF!” every 5 minutes?


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