It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Christian Fiction Anymore Deborah Bryan Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library email@example.com http://www.librarything.com/profile_reviews.php?view=debs4jc
Graph from American Piety in the 21st Century, Baylor Institute for the Studies of Religion
Inspirational Fiction Gentle Reads Religious or Spiritual Fiction Christian Fiction
“Christian fiction makes you feel good about God; inspirational fiction just makes you feel good.”~ Denise Stinson
A Genre’s Past: 1978: Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly • Appeals strongly to Women • Historical Romance that shows traditional values • Setting evokes a nostalgic feeling of a warm, safe, traditional, environment • ”Happy Ending”, good clearly wins. • Adheres to the “CBA Code”
CBA Code: Example Tyndale Fiction Content Policy As a conservative Christian publisher, Tyndale House has policies that pertain to the use of sexual content, violence, and profanity. Suspense stories sometimes involve some type of violence. Tyndale fiction, however, should encourage a respect for the value of life. Readers should feel uncomfortable with the results of violence in a story, not by the violence itself. In other words, readers do not need to see the violence to understand and lament its impact. Moreover, violence and its effects should be answered by the hope of Christ and redemption. We will not accept gratuitous violence in our fiction. If used, violent content must be integral to the story and used infrequently. Here is a case where we encourage writers to break a rule of fiction writing—tell, don’t show. And remember, less is more. Tyndale does not allow the use of profanity or the taking of God’s name in vain. Tyndale considers the use of profanity inappropriate and believes that such language tends to offend and alienate the very readership that Tyndale seeks. While many Christian stories have characters that are romantically attracted to each other, they must at the same time uphold the principles of Biblical sexual purity. Along with physical attraction, healthy Christian dating relationships should also involve spiritual, intellectual and emotional attractions.
A Genre Changes1986: Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness • Opened up the genre to new subgenres, such as spiritual warfare, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and apocalyptic • -While the tone is anything but safe, warm and gentle, there is still a strong theme of good vs. evil—and Good always wins • -Depictions of sinful behavior is OK, but with the message that negative consequences follow these actions.
A Genre Gets Noticed: 1995: Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind • Prophetic fiction comes to the forefront, and breaks out onto the bestseller lists. • A well known Pastor/Teacher teams up with a Fiction writer to create a novel that illustrates his or her teachings. • Branding: Left Behind becomes it’s own brand name and spins off into many, many related products. Other examples: Women of Faith, Thomas Kincaid, etc.
A Genre goes Mainstream:1996, Jan Karon’s At Home In Mitford • Karon starts with a Christian Publisher, but then gets signed by a Mainstream publishing house • Mainstream publishers start to form their own “Christian” imprints (or buy Christian publishing houses). • Christian fiction starts to appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart, Hastings, and other mainline bookstores.
Current Trends • Embracing new formats • Boundary pushing • Seeking a more literary voice • Starting to see some multi-cultural viewpoints • Growing male readership • A growth of more subgenres
Christian Fiction: Awareness Tools • Publishing house catalogs and newsletters • Baker and Taylor’s “Spirit” • The standard review magazines: Library Journal, Booklist, Publishers Weekly. They will sometimes have columns on Christian fiction, special issues, and cover it in their fiction reviews. Look at the publishers as well as carefully reading the review to which will clue you in on the Christian fiction. • Christianity Today—Often has book reviews, they have a website; www.christianitytoday.com that combines content from them and from their sister publications like Today’s Christian Woman, several book reviews can be found on this site. • Romantic Times has a section on Inspirational romance; VOYA also occasionally reviews Christian fiction. • Christian Radio Stations may do author interviews