Mixed Content: Part 1. Audience and Vocation

There’s a C.S. Lewis quote about the necessity of writers who are Christian as opposed to Christian writers, that has always resonated with me. That sentiment in mind, I want to touch on the idea of “mixed content”, and some of the difficulties of genre fiction writing as a Christian over the course of the next several posts. Author of a single book, drafting my next project, I’m by no means an expert. I can only discuss my experience.

One of the first complaints about “Running Black” is the use of profanity and the depictions of violence, the indictments coming that A. they negate any Christian message; and B. that those things obviously reside in my heart and thus render my faith suspect. Now there’s not much I can do about other people’s opinions, but if you think I didn’t struggle with it, think again. I’ll address the idea of negating later.

Part of my responsibility before God is to walk in the vocations He’s called me to. I use the plural because I’m called as a man, a husband, a father, grandfather, neighbor, glass artisan, and writer, each with their own peculiar boundaries and responsibilities. None of them absolve me from cultivating moral character, but each makes specific demands in the context of pursuing them to the best of my abilities.

Now I believe it was John Stott who said Christians shouldn’t pander to an unbeliever’s intellectual arrogance, but they must cater to their intellectual integrity. My intended audience is those already familiar with military sci-fi and cyberpunk, and one of the cardinal rules of fiction is to “Show, not tell.” I don’t dare classify “RB” as a Christian novel. It’s not, and it was never meant to be one. It’s a straightforward sci-fi run and gun that happens to have Christian characters in it, written by someone with a definite Christian worldview. These Christian characters act and speak – I hope – consistent with their faith, while those who are not, act accordingly as well. The novel’s setting isn’t in the grim darkness of the far future or a galaxy far, far away; it’s grounded in real-world politics, society and technology, and I have populate this realistic, recognizable world with credible characters. That’s part and parcel of the necessity of the story and the vocation of fiction writing.

Given the demands of genre fiction, the setting, and the audience, I think typical readers are more likely to be discomforted by the Christian elements than by occasional bad language or violence in a science fiction action story. That’s all for now. Feel free to comment. Thanks for your time.

Note on self-publishing

It was a tough decision. Seriously.

Perhaps I was premature. Perhaps RB isn’t up to professional standards yet, or -as a first novel –  never will be.  Perhaps I took the easy way out. Last thing I want to be is prima-donna deluded (or is that prima uomo?) and come across as sniveled and sanctimonious. But after 18 months of queries, waiting, lack of communication, editing, wondering, I decided it was time to stop scratching at the door of the traditional gatekeepers and move on.

To be clear, I’m not lifting my leg on agents and publishers. They’re professionals with a tough job, and they don’t owe me a thing. I’ve received very gracious responses from several who took the time to read and comment on my manuscript. Their feedback was invaluable to this first time author.

It’s just that between the slogging and waiting, and the exploding opportunities for self-publishing, I opted to change my course. From Smashwords free services (free ISBN for ebooks… how cool is that?) to Lulu, xLibris, iUniverse, CreateSpace, etc, the field is wide open and I’m sensing the readers are becoming the new gatekeepers. The material, distribution and access is at your fingertips.

Yes, there’s loads of trash to wade through. I’ve winced my way through the opening pages of many stories. (Get an editor, guys) Some will toss “Running Black” on the garbage heap, but that’s not the point. The game has changed, and I think in the midst of all that verbiage, there’s genuine talent that will rise to the surface and be appreciated.

And, I bet dollars to doughnuts if a self-pubbed book starts selling well, a publishing house will overlook their qualms and work something out.

Good Luck.

maybe I shoulda read this first?

Running Black. A first novel

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/21337

I’d love to tell you I had a plan, but it really started as a scene in my head that wouldn’t go away, so I wrote it down. And then wrote another scene, and another, and another, and soon enough I realized a story was spooling out in my head. I completed the first draft almost a year later on Christmas morning, and then the real work began.

I was so stunned that I’d actually completed a novel, I didn’t realize a good book isn’t so much written as it is rewritten. (Thank you, Marc Giller) Queries to agents generated requests for partials and fulls, but at the end of the day, I’d let it out several drafts too early and garnered a (well deserved) collection of nice rejection letters. Now, several revisions later, it was time to kick it out the door and start writing a second novel in earnest.

Two impulses drove the story: one was the conviction that only a spiritual ethic that upholds life as sacred will restrain humanity from becoming inhumane. Lose the preciousness of life and you open the door to contempt and cruelty; commodify people and you’ll end up committing atrocities. Second was the struggle write a standard sci-fi action novel and present genuine Christian themes in an organic way.

I don’t know if I succeeded. The content is certainly ‘mixed” and definitely not for the usual Christian audience. Some will condemn the novel for it’s violence and profanity, others dismiss it as proselytizing  garbage. I made an effort to portray the characters in a realistic manner. They are what they are and it is what it is. I hope my intent and themes come through regardless. More on “Mixed” content later.

All for now. Thanks for reading.