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R. L. Copple's Blog

Is It Christian Fiction?

I’m shamelessly using author Mike Duran’s post on this topic to launch into a more expanded thought about the subject. He discusses the issues surrounding how to address a question of “Is this Christian Fiction?”

His answer is it depends on what you mean by “Christian Fiction”? After all, there are those stories which are obviously targeting a Christian market, and those which are not. But in between those two are stories with some underlying Christian themes, but the stories themselves are not overtly so. Sometimes the Christian themes in them are themes that most people would identify with, and so not exclusively “Christian” even though perhaps the author writing the story is Christian and has that ethos in mind.

The problem evolves when a story in that in-between stage makes its appearance on the public scene. Because it is in that gray area, different people are going to identify it as to whether it is Christian or not, based on their own experience or sensitivity to the issues. And what sometimes happens are those who are sensitive to the issue, at the first hint or mention of anything Christian sounding, are going to label it as a book trying to “trick” people into reading “Christian propaganda.”

I’ve not had to deal with this a whole lot, as of yet. Mainly because most of my two published books have been sold on the Internet, not in a brick and mortar bookstore. No one has had to figure out where to shelve my books. If one reads my blurb, while I don’t come right out and say, “This is Christian Fiction,” it is pretty obvious that it deals with God as a character in the story, though an unseen one. The main character is clearly a Christian, as is his family and the culture he is in.

I’ve had it happen before, but am still surprised if someone doesn’t get that this is Christian fiction. I shouldn’t have to spell it out to them. So why don’t I? You want to know why I don’t put the following in my blurb:

Warning: This book contains explicit Christian messages and images. Your life could be vastly improved by reading this book. Unhinged joy could result if this story is not consumed in moderation. Buy at your own risk.

It’s simple. Some people have preconceived ideas about what Christian Fiction is, and I would rather my work be judged on its own merit. So how I approach this subject is based on content. If someone were to ask me if a book of mine was Christian Fiction, I would respond that my book deals with…and list out what the story is about. Then go on to tell them what’s in the book, both the Christian elements and the other things, like the basic plot. Then if they think it is Christian Fiction based on that, so be it. If they don’t, then so be it.

But if I state my subjective opinion, or try to avoid the label explicitly, when they, if they, read it, they may think I lied to them if their subjective opinion is different. But by focusing on the content, it allows the person to decide. If the story sounds interesting enough, they may not care that it has Christian characters and themes to it. As long as the story is good.

And I have some books, which I hope will come out in the next couple of years, which don’t have anything to do with religion. Maybe one can pick up on some generic “good” themes, but the label “Christian Fiction” wouldn’t fit them at all, despite the fact that I am a Christian and have written what most would consider Christian Fiction.

In all cases, my opinion is to let the content do the talking. I avoid the label “Christian Fiction” from my end only because I don’t want to short-change the reader by them assuming what my story is like based on what they’ve heard is “Christian Fiction.” And because there are elements to my stories that some Christians wouldn’t care for as well, they might not call it “Christian.” Because “Christian” isn’t one homogeneous group.

My brother took my first book, Infinite Realities, and let some Muslims friends read it. Guess what? He said they liked it. Despite the fact it was obviously Christian, they didn’t feel I preached at them. Would they like my expanded book coming out, hopefully soon? Maybe not. But the point is, they liked it even though they are not Christian.

Some Christians will like my stuff, some won’t. Some who are not Christian will like it, and some won’t. Why should I cut one or the other group off by saying, “This is only for Christians”?

To me, that’s what it comes down to. I naturally want the biggest exposure, and I know some have preconceived ideas what anything labeled “Christian Fiction” is. I’d rather it be judged on the content, so I’ll let them decide by telling them what the book is about, without avoiding the Christian elements in it. That makes the most sense to me.

What about you? How do you judge whether something is Christian Fiction or not?

About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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2 Responses to Is It Christian Fiction?

  1. Sue Dent says:

    “Christian Fiction” is a label used to denote targeted fiction put out by publishers affiliated with the Christian Booksellers Association. Because they use this label to denote their work it causes GREAT confusion whenever anyone else uses it. Christian is a broad label and was never intended to point to a targeted market. CBA is a trade association set up in 1950 for publishers to join should they want to provide targeted fiction to the then Baptist Bookstore customers. Baptist bookstores later changed their names to “Christian” bookstores but still only provide targeted fiction. It’s sad when a targeted group is allowed to misuse a label the way CBA does and ECPA a group of CBA affiliated publishers but such is life.

  2. Rick says:

    A lot of that is true, Sue. But I suspect that the average reader out there, especially someone browsing the B&N shelves, when they come across the aisle labeled “Christian Fiction” (assuming they have such an aisle), won’t think “CBA” or anything. They may have never been to a Baptist bookstore, let alone any Christian bookstore.

    But what they will think is, “This is fiction for Christians,” and potentially conclude one of the two things: “I’m not a Christian, so no sense in me reading any of this,” or “I can’t stand Christian Fiction because the one book I read back in 1988 was so horrible…” So if my fantasy gets shelved there instead of with the generic fantasies, it might attract a larger Christian audience, but some non-Christians may easily never take a look at it. If you’ve written one of those in-between books, you may want non-Christians to read and enjoy it.

    But I would have little control over all that. Rather, Mike and and what I’m discussing is how would you answer the question, “Is your book Christian Fiction?” It’s a loaded question that carries a lot of baggage, some of it negative. Thus why I would focus on the content and let the reader/listener decide rather than just saying, “Yes, it is,” or “No, not really.”

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