It’s bad enough that Christian publishers are unsure what to do with speculative fiction writers. But must we compound this by acting like outsiders?
The first ever Christian writers conference I attended back in 2006 had a workshop for speculative fiction writers. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed to be in it. Why? Not only did it seem a tad cliquish and groupie-ish, next to the cerebral, visionary sci-fi and fantasy writers I’d come to love, these folks seemed liked goofballs.
And it didn’t help that some of them were wearing costumes.
Yes, I know that conventions and conferences draw out the nerds. And there’s nothing wrong with wearing a toga or brandishing a foam sword to the banquet. If dressing up like C3PO and rolling out the British accent is your thing, go for it. Also, I realize that spec writers dwell in a sort of perpetual Neverland, seeing the world through a unique prism of imagination that Historical Romance authors would run, shrieking from, with petticoat girded appropriately. Yeah, I get all that.
But being that Christian speculative fiction writers already seem out of place in the industry, it doesn’t help our cause to act so… out of place.
So, for the record…
I’m not part of the Us and Them crowd. Dear Christian speculative fiction writers: No one’s against us. The ACFW is not against us. Christian publishers are not against us. Heck, most of the editors and agents I know actively read speculative fiction titles! So posturing ourselves as being the industry whipping boy, as though there’s some conspiracy against us, isn’t accurate and doesn’t help us. Is there an awkward, maybe even antagonistic, relationship between spec writers and the CBA “majority”? Maybe. But framing the lack of spec-fic representation as conspiratorial is… epic fantasy.
I am not a fanboy for Jeff Gerke. Listen, Jeff is a wonderful guy. I’ve met him in person, corresponded online, interviewed him, been interviewed by him, attended one of his workshops, applauded his efforts at Marcher Lord Press, and benefited from his influence in the Christian publishing industry. Jeff Gerke is doing a great job promoting speculative fiction in the Christian market. But what’s with the Gerke groupies? Listening to some Christian spec writers, you’d think the guy had been to Mount Sinai (or Mt. Doom) and descended with the 10 Commandments for Speculative Fiction Writers. Listen, I’m cool with giving up the love for Jeff Gerke. But what’s going on in Christian publishing has to be bigger than one guy and one guy’s publishing house.
I am not putting on Spock ears, carrying a light sabre, or dressing up like Gandalf. Call me a fuddy-duddy, a wet blanket. Go ahead. But when you can point out Christian spec authors in the crowd because they’re attired like the Hulk or the Mad Hatter, Houston, we have a problem. I’m excited about the genre we write in. But in an industry that’s already struggling to attach viability to the spec genre, does wearing a costume benefit us?
All that to say, I wonder if more intellectual rigor and less silliness and groupiness would help our cause. Of course, let’s have fun. Unfurl your colors. Represent! But creating antagonists where there are none makes us look bad. As does dressing up like wanna-be ComicCon attendees. So maybe it’s time we hung up the ‘ol Spock ears, huh?