f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Getting Specific

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Getting Specific

CBA fiction is great.

CBA fiction is awful.

These seem to be the most popular viewpoints in much of the online discussion on the state of Christian fiction. Neither ends up being all that helpful to us because, it’s becoming clear, CBA fiction is too diverse and broad to classify as anything in general.

At one point you could argue fairly convincingly that CBA fiction was only for female readers. If you browse shelves, those days are obviously gone.

Not too long ago you could be reasonably assured that the gospel message would appear in CBA fiction. Now a growing percentage of books tackle Christian and faith themes, often without explicit evangelical language.

Ten years ago, we had half the number of house publishing fiction that we have today, and so the scope and breadth of the books arriving in the market was far less.

There are still some valid generalizations to be made about our industry.

1. Content restrictions are still in place, though the specifics of these seem to be morphing and changing.

2. Fiction authors writing tend to be racially homogenous; the readership is often seen in the same way.

I’m wary about making any generalizations about craft however, because it seems to do no good. We’re unhappy talking about “good writing” and “bad writing,” even though I think at some level we all agree that there are objective standards. Not every novel, after all, by a Christian writer should be published.

This is where I think we need to leave the realm of the general and move into specifics. We need to become like first-year-medical students. Anatomy, to this point, has always been in textbooks or with skeletons. Now is the time we need to head to the slab and find a body to dissect.

So that’s what we’re going to do. At some point in the weeks upcoming, Mark Bertrand and I are going to take scalpel and magnifying glass to a CBA novel. (Mark has his MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston giving him definable skill in this area.) The point isn’t to tear apart this novel for kicks but to learn from it. If it, in some small way, is representative of CBA fiction, are there pitfalls and problems in this book that can be diagnostic in approaching other CBA novels.

I’ll let you know the book on Friday. And the part you can play in our discussions.

(Tomorrow we’ll talk a little more in-depth about critical analysis—essentially the attempt to learn through deconstruction.)