Shade – November’s CSFF Tour, Day 1

John Olson's ShadeI can’t help but think this tour for John Olson’s Shade (B&H Publishing) will be one of the more interesting tours we’ve had in CSFF this year. As Jason Joyner, CSFF member in good standing (now on sabbatical to help tend to his newborn daughter 😀 ), mentioned in a blog post last August, this book has been touted as a vampireless vampire story.

I hear that designation and my first thought is “horror.” OK, that reaction takes place on several levels—horror, the genre, for one and Horror! a Christian horror story? on another.

The first level. Is Shade indeed a horror story? I’m maybe the worst person to answer this question since I’ve made a point not to read horror. In the past I objected to the idea that Horror as a genre, defined by Wikipedia as that which exists to generate fear, could, in fact, be Christian.

I have yet to find anyone quibble with that conclusion, but many people disagree with the definition. Since it isn’t mine, I have no vested interest in whether it is or is not right. The point for me is that Wikipedia thinks it’s right—Wikipedia, the encyclopedia of the people. In other words, as long as that definition stands on the Wikipedia site, I assume that most people visiting that page aren’t finding the definition inaccurate.

However, Olson begins several sections of Shade with quotes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, quotes that make it clear there is much wrestling with the supernatural in that classic story. Including the quotes makes me think that Olson is tying his story to that same line.

Modern horror writer, and recently professing Catholic convert, Anne Rice said as much about her vampire novels in her statements concerning her journey to faith. Those earlier novels, she said (and now has written in her latest book Called Out of Darkness: A spiritual confession), were part of her exploration of the supernatural and played a big role in her returning to Catholicism. From a statement by Rice posted on her Web site:

I am hardly stating an original idea when I say that such stories are transformative. They invite the reader on a journey which reflects perfectly the formula of Aristotle for great drama: as one reads (or watches the film or play), one feels pity and fear, and eventually experiences catharsis. One is taken to a place, through the literary experience, to which one might not have ever gone on one’s own. I feel strongly that dark stories demand that the audience earn the transformation; they require a certain suffering on the part of the audience as the price of eventual affirmation.

I would like to submit that my vampire novels … are attempting to be transformative stories as well. All these novels involve a strong moral compass. Evil is never glorified in these books; on the contrary, the continuing battle against evil is the subject of the work. The search for the good is the subject of the work.

Then later she says:

For me, the entire body of my earlier work, reflects a movement towards Jesus Christ. In 2002, I consecrated my work to Jesus Christ. This did not involve a denunciation of works that reflected the journey. It was rather a statement that from then on I would write directly for Jesus Christ. I would write works about salvation, as opposed to alienation; I would write books about reconciliation in Christ, rather than books about the struggle for answers in a post World War II seemingly atheistic world.

So where does Shade fit in? Does Dr. Olson’s story about supernatural evil—for clearly, it is that, even though there are no vampires—exist to generate fear, or to wrestle with the forces of evil? Is it a story intended for nothing more than entertainment, or is it attempting a greater goal by entering into the examination of spiritual warfare?

I guess you’ll need to see what others on the CSFF tour think. 😉 (OK, I’ll probably have my say later on, too).

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton(not on the original list posted at CSFF)
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Pam Morrisson (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

“√” indicates I know a blog post is up.

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm  Comments (16)  
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  1. Becky, may I be the first to quibble with your conclusion that “that which exists to generate fear, could [not], in fact, be Christian.” Not at all sure how you can say that. So many Scriptural stories were told as warnings, intended to prick our complacency and rattle our ease. Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt could fit nicely under the category of horror. Or the Rich Man writhing in eternal torment, begging for a single drop of water. Maybe the Nephilim, Noah’s Flood, the Prince of Persia, principalities and powers, Beelzebub, Goliath or a herd of demonized pigs. The Book of Revelations, with its apocalyptic horsemen, global plagues, and cosmological signs is as horrific as anything Stephen King has mustered. And then there’s that inferno “where their worm dieth not” (Mk. 9:44). Or how about Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Dante’s “Inferno”, and Bunyan’s “Giant Despair” and “Doubting Castle.” I could go on.

    I’m not entirely sure how Christians have come to dismiss the horror genre ad hoc, but I’m thinking our purposes would be better served redeeming it, rather than demonizing it.


  2. As always, you did a super-fantastic job, Becky. You provide much fodder for thought, and I especially like your link to some of Olson’s thoughts and Anne Rice.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I didn’t catch the radio program you mentioned, but it is sadly true that the number of orphans in the world is ever increasing — and at an alarming rate.

    May God help us provide for the ones already under our care, and stukk reach more — in spite of the economic crisis.

    Janey —


  3. I also noticed that you posted your review late at night as I did. I guess we’re both night owls.

    Janey –


  4. Mike, good to hear from you. I was going to email you because I had no idea how close you were to the fires. Glad to know you’re still out there stirring up trou… uh, I mean, spurring us to thought. 😉

    Seriously, you do the latter, and I always benefit from our discussions.

    I may be wrong, here, Mike, but I don’t see any of those examples you cite as existing for the sake of generating fear. Fear is a product of the warnings, but the goal is not fear. Fear, as the product, is then the prompt to incite action or obedience or repentance.

    Fear for fear’s sake exists to cause an adrenaline rush. It’s the slasher movie or Jaws (though I never saw either, so I could be wrong) or a trip into Knotts Scary Farm. There is nothing beyond. No greater purpose.

    But what I’ve discovered, in the lines of Dracula Olson quoted, in what Anne Rice says about her vampire novels, is that what has been termed horror may actually be misidentified—or the definition needs to be changed. These supernatural suspense stories do seem to have a greater goal than just to scare someone.

    So can we agree that books meant to scare and do nothing else would be problematic for a Christian? I mean, what would be the redeeming element if there is no redeemer? The light if there is no spark? The good if there is only fear?



  5. Actually, Janey, that’s PM not AM. I wish I posted at night, but I haven’t trained myself to it yet. That radio show I mentioned usually has the same topic and/or guests on for the entire week. I should have mentioned that. Also you can get it online at FamilyLifeToday dot com or org, I forget which.



  6. Me? Trouble? “So can we agree that books meant to scare and do nothing else would be problematic for a Christian?” Sure! The real problem is when we take all “scary” books and categorically brand them as “un-christian” or “un-redemptive.” Face it: CBA “supernatural suspense” is just the Christianized version of horror. Perhaps we should just back off the semantics and call it what it is: Christian horror.


  7. Well, but there’s that Wikipedia definition …

    I suspect the problem goes beyond the Christian community. In reading the article of Anne Rice’s I quoted from, I gather she faced some dismissive reactions because she wrote horror. Until the public decides that horror is more than slasher-type stories, I think it might be wise to use a term that indicates a little more depth.

    Be that as it may, how do you categorize a book that calls itself Christian horror but doesn’t scare you? I mean, is that good writing because the Christian message gives hope, or poor writing because it was supposed to scare you?

    In truth, the two terms, as it stands now, seem incongruous to me.



  8. Becky~

    People who believe in gods, or a god, are open to believing in any sort of supernatural being. You can say that only one god exists, but then what about demons? How many different kinds of demons are there? Can a person REALLY be possessed by a demon?

    How about ghosts? We can say that there are no ghosts, but I betcha (wink) that nine out of ten Christians believe in them.


  9. Sure Portland Mike, people can be possessed by demons. You’re absolutely right—if there is a supernatural world, as many of us know to be the case, based on what the Bible says, then there certainly are evil spirits as well as angels.

    Ghosts is a little different matter. The Bible—that’s my authority, you understand, not some sort of personal experience—makes it clear that our spirits live on after these bodies die. God also said there would be a day when we receive new bodies. But in the meantime, are these spirits free to roam the earth?

    I don’t believe so. The Apostle Paul said things like, Being absent from the body means present with the Lord; and to live is Christ and to die is gain. In other words, Paul believed (and wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that death was a better state for him than life was. And I don’t think he was writing as if he was some special case. For Christians, nothing can be better than to be in God’s presence. I mean, perfect love and eternal significance—what more could we want?

    But for people who have rejected God, could they perhaps be ghosts? Again, I don’t think so. One story Jesus told was of a man condemned to eternal separation from God and he begged Abraham to send someone back from the dead to his family to warn them so they wouldn’t share his same fate. If he could ghost his way around the world, it seems like he could have come up with his own solution of trying to haunt them into turning to God.

    One word of caution, though. In the Old Testament there is an example of a medium calling up the dead prophet Samuel to speak with King Saul, so there is some supernatural power, clearly forbidden, but also real, that could connect the living and the dead.

    I understand why some people would be intrigued by this. Man wants to be the ruler of all, just as Satan does. It must be a real temptation to try to exert power like that. It’s a lie, though. There is no power greater than God’s.



  10. Becky you say, I mean, perfect love and eternal significance—what more could we want?

    “Perfect love?” Is there ‘imperfect’ love? “Eternal significance?” Eternity applied to to human beings is absurd. Nothing in the universe lasts forever.

    King Saul going to the astrologer is a great story. And it proves again that people who believe in gods will believe in anything. I thought the story was especially interesting because the fortune teller does exactly what fortune tellers do today. The fortune teller doesn’t get into trouble and neither does Saul, BUT they were supposed to stone those naughty people I believe.

    The amazing James Randi has had a million dollars ready for anyone who can do any mind reading or psychic anything for decades. Imagine people to this very hour believe that they can really do something! Don’t you think that Sylvia Brown, Uri Geller, or John Edward, psychics who like the limelight like they do would want to win that prize! Imagine the souls that would be brought to Christianity if Benny Hinn would just heal a person following the James Randi rules. That video would be the all time most watched video ever, and would change millions of lives. I wonder why no one has taken that prize?


  11. Hi Becky,

    Great post. I too thought Christian horror was an oxymoron until reading Isolation by Travis Thrasher. Have you read it? Scary as all get out, but with spiritual depth as well. I just posted the review on my blog if you’d like to take a peek :).


  12. Becky,

    Thanks for the little nod there! I did post on Wed, pointing to a few better blogs since I didn’t get to read it, but I’ll be darned if I skip a tour!



  13. Hi, Jennifer. No I haven’t read Isolation. I’ll need to read your review because I’m not big on the scary story. 😉 You do such an excellent job of reviewing, too, so I know I’ll get a real sense of what the book is about.

    Jason, I realized after I wrote that you were taking a break that you, in fact, had NOT opted out of this month’s tour. You are a true loyalist! Thanks so much.



  14. “Perfect love?” Is there ‘imperfect’ love? Portland Mike, I’m so surprised you ask such a thing. What marriage is perfect? What parent loves his or her child perfectly? What child perfectly loves back? What friend loves without some shade of selfishness? What neighbor perfectly loves his neighbor?

    We might succeed part of the time perfectly or most of the time partly, but we fall so far short of loving the way God loves, it’s not funny.

    Greater love has no man than he lays down his life for his friend. You are my friends if you do my commandments. That’s what Jesus said, then he proceeded to lay down his life.

    That kind of sacrificial love is something to anticipate joyfully!



  15. Becky~

    Your comments about love are surprising. Especially the one about “what child loves his parents perfectly?” I think your use of superlatives when talking about your god are extreme. Always the very best most perfect and forever.


  16. Portland Mike, sorry I didn’t get to this comment last week. With the blog tour and all, things sort of got away from me.

    I don’t have kids of my own, but I was a school teacher for years. What’s more, I’m an aunt. I’ve seen wee ones and I’ve seen teens. Kids, by nature, are a selfish breed. There are jokes about this fact—things like, kids come into the world thinking that it revolves around them and spend the rest of their lives finding out it isn’t true. No, kids most definitely do not love perfectly.

    A parent will sacrificially care for a child, getting up at all hours to feed the little bundle of demands and working hard to feed, clothe, house them, even safe for the child’s future. Yet no parent pulls it off perfectly.

    Still, that kind of sacrificial action is a glimpse of what God is like.

    I find it interesting that you think the superlatives of God are extreme. I’ve told you, I’m not the one speaking. I’m repeating what the Bible says about God. On what authority do you say God is less than perfect, eternal, all powerful, and all the rest?

    There is none, obviously. That leaves someone who doesn’t want to submit to God’s authority only one choice—to deny His existence.

    OK, I said “obviously,” but it may not be obvious to everyone. If someone was to dispute the eternal existence of God, for example, that person would have to have been around before God came on the scene, or have the capacity to stay around after all but God disappears. That’s why I said “obviously” because we know of no such being from observation or revelation.

    God is the cause. He is the end.



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