Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Content Quandary

In my review yesterday, I questioned what seemed to me the lack of depth in Offworld.

This is not the first novel I’ve question about this in my mind. It will probably not be the last. But Offworld brought to the surface all the questions that have bubbling underneath it all.

What role should content and theme play in a Christian novel?

I don’t know the answer. I doubt there is just one answer. But lately I’ve finished more and more Christian speculative books slightly dissatisfied.

Oh, the content is clean. It conforms to the Bible and the fingerprints of God are usually very evident. And more often than not, the story is entertaining.

But is that enough?

I’m not advocating preachiness. I don’t like to be hit over the head with theology like the author is swinging Samwise’s frying pan. Nor does every book need to be the same. Some need to border on preachiness. Some need a very light touch.

What I’m concerned with is balance and trends.

Shouldn’t most Christian books fall somewhere between the extremes? Isn’t there a way to weave in deep spiritual truth without being preachy? Can’t we combine a well-told, riveting tale while leaving the reader something to chew on after finishing the book?

No, I’m not saying that Offworld fails in all these points. It isn’t devoid of spiritual truth or thematic material. Yet when I finished it, like several other novels these past few months, I craved something more.

Maybe it’s a misconception on my part. I thought one of the main points for Christian speculative fiction was ability to explore God and His Word in a new and fresh light with a freedom and openness rarely accessible to other genres. I do know my favorite novels do this.

Am I just weird for wanting this, for questioning its absence?


Rachel Starr Thomson said...

I wonder if the lack isn't so much in preachiness or overt treatment of religious themes as it is in depth. Jeffrey Overstreet, for example, wasn't overtly Christian -- but he was deep, and I had a lot to chew on after I finished his books. Ditto Tolkien, to reference a master.

Dona Watson said...

I have other friends who ask the same question as you and I suppose the answer depends on what you want from the book. I think it's ok to want a novel that explores God and his precepts. I also think there's room in the market for other stories that simply reflect a Christian worldview. I understand, however, the frustration that can come with finding out the book you're reading isn't what you thought it was. I think this issue you raise is something the publishers themselves are trying to work out. There seem to have been a lot of people asking for books that are not "preachy," as can sometimes occur with the first category I mention above. It should be interesting to see where the market goes.

Rachel Rossano said...

I haven't read much Christian speculative fiction. To be honest, I haven't read much Christian fiction of late. However, I was intrigued by your post on this topic.

I find, in the little Christian fiction I have read, that Christian authors sometimes miss something in their writing that the secular authors more commonly capture on the page. I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly what it is. Sometimes I wonder if in their effort to put God into a book they forget that He should already be there.

As an author, I try to present the Lord in my work much as He manifests himself in real life. He is active, mysterious yet knowable, consistant with scripture, and sovereign. That is what I am looking for in a Christian work of fiction.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I don't think it's accidental that several of us on the tour wrote about the place of Christian content in Christian speculative fiction. I probably took the hardest line in my post at Spec Faith.

Elsewhere, I've gone so far as to say publishers should start a line of "clean fiction" to complement their line of Christian fiction, because a lot of work, even that called Christian worldview fiction, seems lacking in depth.