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Move Over, Harry, Christian Fantasy is Back

posted by jmcgee

Whether using dragons, firefish or sword-wielding soccer
moms, writers in the emerging category of Christian fantasy fiction are
clamoring for a spot in the marketplace.
Fantasy fiction in general commands a large following and copious
real estate in bookstores. But while Web sites and Christian writing
conferences brim with writers working on Christian fantasy, publishers
mostly are just starting to open to these new books.
The books may carry overt references to Jesus and Scripture — or
simply an understated Christian perspective with clean content, positive
role models, and unambiguous depictions of good and evil in the style of
C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. Writers and fans use the term “Christian
speculative fiction” to include fantasy, science fiction or anything
other-worldly.
To raise awareness of Christian fantasy and promote his books, Bryan
Davis has spoken to 30,000 kids at public and private schools in the
last year — including 112 talks in two months, and 12 in one day.
Davis, a father of seven, writes the “Oracles of Fire,” “Dragons in
Our Midst” and forthcoming “Echoes from the Edge” series, all for youth
audiences; his newest book, “Enoch’s Ghost,” in the Oracles series, was
released June 15.
This month, he and three other authors will try to jump-start
interest in Christian fantasy with a nine-day road trip: the Fantastic 4
Fantasy Fiction Tour, stopping at bookstores, churches and home school
groups in the East and Southeast.
“There’s probably a lot of the Christian community that doesn’t even
trust us,” said Davis, who works to counter associations with Satanic or
shadowy influences. He also offers Christian readers guidelines for
choosing fantasy books.
“One of the main things to look for is whether or not the author has
a clear delineation of good and evil,” he said.
Another obstacle for Christian fantasy writers, according to Jeff
Gerke, a fantasy-loving freelance editor who writes novels under the
pseudonym Jefferson Scott, is that the Christian publishing industry has
yet to get behind the genre in a major way. Gerke says there are plenty
of readers and writers of Christian speculative fiction out there, but
the Christian presses mostly target evangelical, white women readers –
who don’t tend to be fantasy enthusiasts.
Popular Christian fiction stars Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
(co-authors of the “Left Behind” series), Frank Peretti (“This Present
Darkness”) and Ted Dekker (“Thr3e”) command front-table display in
bookstores, but their success has created little demand from Christian
publishers for writers working on similar themes, Gerke said.
For Christian writers who think mainstream presses might be an
option, “It’s a very crowded area, and there’s debate about whether if
you write for a secular publisher are you able to be as Christian as you
want to be.”
Still, a few new releases include notable Christian fantasy
offerings.
From Harvest House, George Bryan Polivka’s “The Legend of the
Firefish” and “The Hand That Bears the Sword” contain overt Christian
themes; its hero is a failed seminarian struggling with his faith.
Polivka said his work is not typical fantasy. “In fact, there’s no magic
in it. There are lots of movements of God — miracles that happen at
just the right moment.”
Sharon Hinck’s “The Restorer,” first in a “Sword of Lyric” series
aimed at women, is told through the voice of Susan Mitchell, a mother of
four who is disenchanted with her ordinary life and wants to be like the
biblical Deborah. Then Mitchell is dropped into an alternate world where
people think she might be a Restorer, someone “with gifts to defeat our
enemies and turn the people’s hearts back to the Verses,” the books
says.
The same publisher, NavPress, also released Tosca Lee’s “Demon: A
Memoir.” And July brings “DragonFire,” the latest in Donita K. Paul’s
“DragonKeeper Chronicles” youth series.
Ginia Hairston, a vice president for Random House’s WaterBrook
division, said “there is a God type figure (in Paul’s books) but he is
not referred to as God. There are evil characters that certainly are not
referred to as demons.”
In September, WaterBrook plans to release “Auralia’s Colors,” first
in Jeffrey Overstreet’s “The Auralia Thread” series, and next March will
publish Christian singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson’s “Lost Jewels of
the Island King.”
Davis, the “Oracles of Fire” author, believes the proliferation of
writers working on Christian fantasy serves as a barometer of the supply
of readers hungry for it. The power of the fantasy genre, he said, is
its ability to create situations for heroism.
“Fantasy opens up the kind of vision,” he said, “to be able to see
beyond where we are.”


Juli Cragg Hilliard
RNS



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