I’ve been following recaps of Realm Makers, which has been dubbed as “the first-ever Christian speculative conference.” For the record, I was invited by the founder Becky Minor to participate in the horror panel. My schedule didn’t permit me to attend, though I would have loved to been involved.
Despite the enthusiastic reports, I must say up front that I remain skeptical about the future of Christian speculative fiction.
Writer friend Kat Heckenbach was one of those who expressed great hope for the fledgling conference, going so far as to call it “the birth of a genre.”
From Kat’s piece, My A-ha Moment:
Christian Spec-fic is just being born right now. It’s been developing in a hidden place where so many people aren’t even aware. But it’s coming out! And everything — EVERYTHING — that happened at Realm Makers felt like it had God’s hand on it. God’s blessing.
We ARE honoring Him. We are birthing a genre that God wants out there. I could feel it, all weekend, with every word said, every friendship strengthened, every round of applause.
It’s hard to slight such enthusiasm. Christian spec writers have been voicing their frustration with mainstream religious fiction for the longest. When you consider the popularity of speculative fiction in culture, by comparison, speculative fiction is terribly under-represented among religious publishers. So gathering with other believers who have a vision for writing speculative fiction for the glory of God should be a cause for excitement.
But what is Kat excited about? I mean, what exactly does Realm Makers hope to accomplish that hasn’t yet been attempted? As many Christian publishers admit, if speculative fiction sold all that well, they’d be selling it. But frankly, we’ve been getting mixed messages from industry professionals for a while. So will this attempt change anything? Will Christian speculative fiction suddenly find its audience? Or, has there ever really been much of an audience?
I have suggested before that fundamental problems underlie the Christian speculative fiction genre. Namely that speculation does not jibe with theology. When you have Christians campaigning against books because some character casts a spell or wields a wand, you’re already behind the eight ball. Combine that with the normal CBA strictures of G / PG-rated fare and overt redemptive themes, it seems to me we’re back at square one. Add all the wizards and vortexes you want. In the end, we’re still preaching to the choir. Most of whom like Amish and Romance.
Fantasy writer Morgan Busse, in Realm Makers: What Could Be Next?, seemed a bit more pensive and probing.
I believe Realm Makers now stands at a crossroad. Where will it go next? Will it become another writing conference, or to morph into a true speculative conference?
In my own opinion, there are many venues that teach writing. But there are hardly (if any) venues where those who simply love speculative can attend. Yes, there are cons (Comic Con, Gen Con, Dragon con), but not one specifically geared toward the Christian view. Until now.
That is my personal hope for the future of Realm Makers: a place where Christian speculative fans can gather and enjoy both sci-fi/fantasy and God.
Morgan’s suggestion that Realm Makers morphs into “a true speculative conference” is rather fascinating. What is “a true speculative conference” anyway? And how would “a true [Christian] speculative conference” be any different? To what extent would Christian theology, traditional Christian fiction mores, and hard-core spec fans find common ground?
Really, I don’t think they could.
I totally applaud what Becky Minor and her Realm Makers team is doing. May God bless them, give them vision, and expand the boundaries of their vision. I am absolutely supportive of more Christian writers celebrating sanctified imagination. Amen.
However, if Realm Makers is about simply reproducing CBA-style fiction for speculative readers, I believe we’ve failed. We’re still in the ghetto. The only real “crossroads” Christian speculative fiction is at is whether or not it will remain simply an appendage to the existing Christian fiction industry or will blaze a trail, capture a new audience, and do more than just provide the “Christian alternative” to Neil Gaiman.