David N. Alderman wrote:Edgy Christian Speculative Fiction is pretty much science fiction/fantasy/horror/supernatural or any other type of related fiction, with Christian themes (prevalent or minor), and edgy (read as realistic) content - such as sexual content, violence, cursing, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc, etc, etc.
I have nothing against good, clean Christian fiction. However, there are many non-Christians out there who would not be opposed to reading Christian fiction if it was a bit more - realistic. Not so sterilized. Not necessarily carrying an agenda hidden between its covers.
I hear variations on this argument a lot. Let me offer a different perspective on this issue. It seems to me that the real issue is the pervasive and overwhelming tendency of "Christian" fiction to proselytize in the pages of its story in place of using effective storytelling techniques. Believe it or not this is as off-putting to the Christian reader as to the non-Christian. This includes things like mandatory conversion of protagonists and demonization of the secular. These things are too often handled as author's fiat instead of being a natural extension of the characters or story. Readers are not, in fact, reacting to the presence of preaching or conversion, but to a failure of storytelling technique.
To see this issue handled correctly, read:
--"Prophet" by Frank Perretti
--"The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" by CS Lewis
--"The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan (same issue, different religion)
The second part of this argument involves the presence or absence of "realistic" content, specifically: sexual content, cursing, drinking, smoking, drugs, gambling, and violence.
People often use the word "realistic" when what they mean is "graphic". Much fiction uses levels of violence, cursing, and sexual content that is completely out of proportion to "real life", but is seen as desirable because it is used to artificially escalate tension in the story, providing the reader with a puerile, vicarious thrill. The violence, sexual promiscuity, and vulgarity of your average cable primetime show scarcely resembles the "real world" it portrays. The same goes for literature. Introducing these elements into "Christian" fiction serves only to make the material less desirable to the target audience. Once again, the issue is not one of content, but of presentation. Well-written fiction does not need to involve graphic portrayals of violence, descriptive sexual acts, or vulgarity to portray an edgy, gritty, bleak world.
To see edgy, disturbing, violent fiction without these elements, read:
--"Three" by Ted Dekker
--"Final Judgement", Don Pendleton's The Executioner, by Phil Elmore (uncredited ghost writer)
--"Deathworld" by Harry Harrison
--"Hell and Gone" by Henry Brown
Romance fiction in particular is seen as needing to contain elements of sex and the portrayal of sexual activity. Harlequin is the undisputed leading seller of romance fiction in the world. Their best selling lines are the historical, suspense, and inspirational lines, followed closely by their supernatural line. The editors at Harlequin strictly control the type and amount of harsh language and descriptions of sexual encounters in their books. The Christian (inspirational) line in particular has strict rules on the conduct and behavior of the lead characters. The result is fiction of consistent high quality and dependable sales. Yes, this is a personal confession - I read Harlequin romance novels. And enjoy them. So there.
In conclusion, I understand the frustration with poorly written, preachy fiction, and the desire for escalation of tension appropriate to the genre. But are you truly just wishing for more blood, guts, sex, and cursing in your "Christian" fiction? What then would differentiate it as distinctly "Christian" and seperate from secular fiction? Or do you actually desire well-written fiction that reinforces a Christian world-view?
I would argue that well-written Christian fiction:
1) should never include crude vulgarity, blasphemy, or abusive language
2) can acknowledge immoral activity without endorsing or condemning it
3) can incorporate violence without graphically portraying it
4) can incorporate sexual activity without graphically protraying it
5) is made specifically "Christian" through the exploration of a Christian character and the endorsement of his worldview, or through a cosmological portrayal consistent with and endorsing of the Biblical record
None of these things are required in order to make fiction involving, gripping, edgy, or realistic. Many of these things detract from the quality of fiction in general and the ability of the consumer to enjoy it.