This has been bugging me for a bit, so if you’ll indulge me I’m going to try to work some issues I have with Christian spec-fic out. This is stating that the sky is blue, but there are three groups in the spec-fic fandom.
Writers of course create books, either explicitly Christian or not. I’ll use CBA and ABA as shorthand for the types, even though they may not publish in either.
Critics critique trends in both CBA or ABA fiction, movies, and other media. They tend to focus on theory it seems, like how a book may show Christian values, or how a book’s theology squares with the Bible.
Fans consume works and tend to rank, categorize, and deal with the books themselves. A critic will look at a book from a theoretical point, but a fan will make wikis, fan fiction, lists, or other non-abstract things around a work. All three of these categories can be present in the same person, but one tends to predominate.
The problem is that currently, writers and critics seem to dominate the scene.
Let me put it this way; where is a single site that tells me what new Christian spec-fic books are out, when the release dates are of upcoming ones, reviews them frequently enough to be a useful guide, or publishes short fiction to introduce a person to new authors? Like Tor.com for secular books? We have speculativefaith, which is a good site and tries to do so, but its articles tend to be critical theory or writers expounding on their ideas and works. Specfaith does have writing challenges, and is building a library, but if you look at it, there aren’t that many tools to benefit fans.
Or, for another example, what is the modern Christian spec-fic canon? What would be the top twenty-five books? Could we rattle off five decent books in a particular sub-genre, like hard SF? In what ways are sites helping discoverability: helping people find new authors? These are hypothetical questions, but I notice for all the focus on the reader, sites and the spec-faith scene really seem to be top-driven. Craft, theory, knowing; each of these are three aspects of a site for the three types, but knowing-the database-level knowledge of a genre-seems to be really short in supply.
This convicts me because while I am a writer, I originally intended to interact with Christian spec-faith as a fan. My main goal is to write secular kids fiction, for reasons why I’ll detail in the post after this. However, I’ve been ensnared by the writing bug. I think I could write a decent spec-fic novel, but to be honest, I don’t know if at this point we really need more writers. Between all the small presses, a decent number of books get published. I could add one more, but I think we really need fans more.
We really need to create and unify the infrastructure to benefit fans first. Secular spec-fic has done this in ways most of us have taken for granted:
- Magazines showcase short fiction and review books in a timely manner
- Cons encourage fan-level behavior (cosplay, swag purchasing, trivia, new release teasing)
- Decent point of sale and discoverability mechanisms to enable fans to get the books they see.
- Linking to related fandoms when they match the geek profile.
So I’m agonizing a bit. There’s a saying in some MMOs, “Too many DD, not enough healers.” This means too many people want to do the direct damage to monsters that is flashy and awesome, but few people want to sit back and just juggle screens, heals, and buffs to keep the party alive. Fans are like healers; they keep the genre alive, but don’t always show up on the radar. I’m thinking for myself it’s more important to be a good fan than yet another hopeful Christian writer. I mean, I’ll still write my first aim, but there’s something to be said to interact with a fandom you have no ulterior motive in boosting. I do this in anime, and to be honest, for me Christian spec fic should be the same way.