Saturday, September 20, 2014

Christian Fantasy: Regaining Lost Ground

As I survey the landscape of both fantasy fiction and Christian readers, I am saddened by a trend happening across the nation. It is not a new trend, but a slide down a slippery slope that has been going on for nearly half a century.  We have all heard the old adage about boiling a frog by putting it in cold water and slowing turning up the heat. A similar fate seems to have overtaken the legacy left by the founders of fantasy fiction. It is the secularization of the genre, and the alienation of Christian readers.

Epic fantasy has its deepest roots dating back hundreds or thousands of years, into ancient myths and legends. But around the time of World War II, two friends produced works that brought myths and legends to life in vivid works of fiction, blended with themes of faith and Christianity.  C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are widely recognized as the fathers of modern, epic fantasy. They were also Christians, with Tolkien actually leading Lewis from agnosticism to faith in Christ. Lewis went on to not only be an amazing fantasy writer, but his theological work, especially in the area of Christian apologetics, was profound.

So with such profoundly faith-based roots in the founding fathers of modern fantasy, and in those who followed closely on their heels, why do we find today the majority of Christian readers retreating from anything resembling fantasy?  While there have been stalwart Christian fantasy authors who have fought the good fight, from Tolkien and Lewis, through Madeline L’Engle, Katherine Kurtz, Frank Peretti, Stephen Lawhea, Ted Dekker, and others, Christians seem to have largely lost their beachhead in fantasy fiction.

A look at the recent top-selling authors in the fantasy genre is all it might take to turn away most Christian readers. Best sellers filled with gratuitous gore and sex, soaked in foul language, and reveling in glorifying sin in all its manifestations are a large reason Christian readers are retreating in droves from a genre that seems to have lost any glimmer of light whatsoever.

But I would urge Christian readers to pause a moment to recognize, all is not lost. There are faithful fantasy and science fiction authors who have not checked their faith at the door in order to sell books to the masses. In addition to the breakout Christian authors mentioned above, there are a plethora of Christian Speculative Fiction authors grinding away in near obscurity, producing great fantasy and science fiction stories that are firmly grounded in their faith.  There are faithful Christian Speculative Fiction review sites, like David Bergsland’s “Reality Calling” ( ) or Peter Younghusband’s “Christian Fiction Review” ( ) who dedicate time and energy to informing Christian readers about wholesome, faith-based fantasy and science fiction stories.  There are many Christian fantasy reader groups on Facebook and Goodreads, like “Why Christian Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books Totally Rule” ( ), “Christian Fiction Gathering” ( ), to help readers connect with faithful authors.

I say all this to make one point crystal clear. If you are a Christian that loves Tolkien and Lewis, don’t despair.  There are many more adventures waiting that do not require you to check your faith at the door or steel yourself for a wade through filth just to get your fantasy fix. If you are willing to search for these authors, I can promise there are thousands of faithful authors desperately looking to connect with YOU!  Remember the story from 1 Kings 19 where Elijah felt like he was the only one in the world that still believed and served God, but God answered and said He had reserved seven thousand to Himself who had not bowed a knee to Baal.  Both Christian authors seeing to connect with readers, and Christian readers despairing of the state of modern fantasy are both crying out like Elijah that they are alone.  Yet I can tell you, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, that if you seek, you will find. 

Readers, there are authors out there who have not bowed their knee, and who are writing for you.  Authors, there are Christians who love fantasy and science fiction, and are desperately seeking faithful reading options. With a little effort, we can find each other and send a message to the publishing industry that Christians have not abandoned this marketplace, but that there are millions of faithful readers out there willing to support faithful authors. When we do that, these publishers currently making their livelihoods off pedaling sin-riddled literature will have to get on board and be a part of turning this industry back to its Christian roots.


  1. David, great post and topic. I totally agree with you! It is great to have this out there with posts like this.

    Can I have your permission to link this to my blog? It will be in the Articles of Interest page.

  2. Thanks, David...

    I think the real problem now is that good Christian speculative fiction has slide underground in large measure. I just finished a really fun story from Blink, which is supposedly Zondervan's hip young books in the genre.

    As usual, the belief structure is barely Old Testament level, though there are certainly hints that it was written by a believer. But it again seems to indicate that true faith is edited out of books by traditional publishers like Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, and the like.

    So, again, we are looking for good resources of vetted books from self-publishers.

  3. I am also a Christian fantasy author, and like you, I don't understand why authors want to give readers "crap" when they can give them truth. We don't need vampires and gore and sex -- readers only know what authors give them. And Christians, like C.S. Lewis and others, have done in the past, need to up the standards. We shouldn't be like the world. And if we are anything like God, we should use the creativity God has given us to write the most spectacular books on Amazon. At least, that's what I'm trying to do. Even if it's for no one else than the audience of one. But I truly believe God will help us to reach readers if we are true to His Word.

  4. I'm happy to report that I am seeing more and more good Christian fantasy, science fiction, and the rest. Peter and I regularly find a book a week or more that is clearly Christian and often very good, even excellent.

    Some are so wonderful that I laugh out loud in joy as I read them. I just finished Guy Stanton III's newest yesterday. It's amazing, as usual.