f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Dude, Where’s My Fiction?

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Dude, Where’s My Fiction?

Yesterday we talked about the fact that if you walk into the fiction section of a Christian bookstore, the majority of the books you see are going to be written by women, for women. Not all certainly, but a good portion. If you exhaust what’s left—often sub-genre works of mystery or spiritual warfare—you’re left with only a smattering of books.

This is very much a chicken-or-egg argument in many people’s minds. Christian men don’t read fiction. But there’s nothing out there for them to read. But there’s nothing out there for them to read because they don’t read fiction. It’s a tedious argument and one that can be proven on both sides. Fiction written for men has tanked. Men read lots of Left Behind, a good deal of Dekker, Oliver North, etc. Who's right?

Well, I don't know. But one solution many people come up with is that there simply needs to be more and better Christian fiction for men. And saying it, doesn’t that seem like a good idea? I guess it can be, but in my experience the execution is almost always lacking.

Many CBA novels are blamed for tacking a spiritual message into a story rather than allowing it to develop as an organic part of the plot. I find this to be doubly the case in “men’s books”—like espionage tales, military books, and murder mysteries. Maybe I’m just seeing the most-frustrating of proposals, but rarely are faith issues intrinsic to the story. They’re rarely an afterthought, but quite often they’re a separate story for which the exciting parts must come to a complete halt.

The one place men’s issues, faith, and fiction all seem to join most neatly is a place I happen to have no interest in visiting—the wonderful world of “issue fiction.” Often these are legal/political thrillers about the godless heathens battling with the righteous remnant for control of our political and moral landscape. My feeling, and this is just personal, is that I’ll get quite enough of that in my presidential election coverage thank-you-very-much and I don’t need it clogging up my novels. You’re welcome to write such books, I’m just not the guy you want to send them to. (dangling preposition alert!)

I guess you can tell I’m not so excited about the whole men’s fiction movement. Part of that is because I haven’t seen a track record of it being done well. Another part is that I see so many bad manuscripts in this arena that I’m hesitant to look at many more. The final part is that it simply doesn’t reflect my reading, interests, or the intentions of this journal.

At it’s heart, men’s CBA Fiction is simply more CBA genre fiction—just on the other side of gender fence, pulling the girls’ pig-tails, telling gross jokes, and snapping towels at each others’ butts. Or something like that.

Don't fret at my lack of interest. Other publishers are making a go of it and doing some work that may interest those with a sweet spot for such books. For those interested: Some well-regarded “men’s” CBA Fiction that I’m aware of includes Sigmund Brouwer’s Sam Keaton westerns, Jefferson Scott’s military books, Robert Whitlow’s legal thrillers, Davis Bunn’s Great Divide, and Athol Dickson’s They Shall See God. You may want to take a look.

Tomorrow we'll talk more about books that seem to take gender out of the equation.