Be forewarned: I am about to get up on my soap box and rant.
I had another topic planned for this week (which should have been LAST week's post, postponed by someone blowing her data allowance for the month a whole week early and that same someone being too lazy to haul off to the library), but I changed my mind when I got the Christian Book Distributors catalog in the mail. Because it reminded me of my recent trip to the book store which ended, sadly, in heartbreak and tragedy.
So, here's my story, and I shall try not to burst into inconsolable tears here, because it is not pretty. A few weeks ago, I went to Barnes and Noble to do some browsing. "Browsing" in Savannah-speech is more a "pick up six, and maybe put one back--no, wait, I will get that one, too." Anyway, I went to the Christian section and found two racks of Christian fiction. One of the racks was entirely filled with Amish stories. Entirely. Top to bottom, side to side. The other rack contained everything else (everything else being historical fiction, primarily westerns, a couple of Ted Dekker titles, and a few detective stories and political what-ifs that, honestly, just didn't grab me with their originality...or, rather, lack thereof.) At this point, I noticed something.
That something being the SELECTION.
It was awful.
I walked out without a single book (because I already owned both Dekker titles).
And then, a few days later, I got the CBD catelog and I thought: oooh! Christmas in January! I'll only get one or two or ten. Sadly, no.
Fifteen pages of Amish fiction. Just as many pages of historical fiction. A spattering of mysteries and modern stories. One page devoted to fantasy. ONE, ALREADY-SKIMMED-OVER-IT-AND-HOLY-SMOKES-IS-IT-GONE-ALREADY, PAGE!!
Yes, I am crying now.
I have nothing against Amish literature. I live in Amish country: I love the culture and the people. I have nothing but fond memories of my Plain neighbors from when I was a child. Sanctuary and The Shunning sit on my shelf. But not the 2,000 copy-cat titles that came tumbling after.
What has happened to our creativity and appreciation for new and exciting stories? It's like we've decided "Okay, this is good and appropriate literature" and sure that's all been done (a lot) but let's hammer away at it, beating the proverbial dead horse we used to call good Christian literature. Are we just writing copy-cat stories because it sold then, so it must sell now?
Again, I don't have anything against Amish literature or historical fiction. I have plenty of each on my own shelf...ahem. Shelves. Er. Personal library. Whatever. The point is, that isn't ALL I have. But it seems like that's all that's out there.
And that's sad. Super sad.
What am I supposed to buy for my hubby? There is almost nothing out there for men. My husband is an avid reader. He is extremely intelligent. He devours commentaries and theology books like he devours candy. He likes deep, thought-provoking themes, with good action and a bit of mush-a-mush for that sentimental streak I adore. He gets almost as starry-eyed over allegory as he does over me (almost, but not quite). He loves Tolkein and Lewis, Lawhead and Terry Brooks. I recently introduced him to The Goldstone Wood series and am waiting for his review on them. But you don't find this kind of stuff on the shelves...you have to go digging around on the internet and, even then, without much success.
Somebody commented once on my penchant for writing "dark" stories. My heroes are not good people, not always. Yes, you are going to find an occasional dragon or creeper running around trying to eat people. At the time, I didn't have an answer for them. Now I do. I write dark stories because, at their heart, they mean something. Most of us don't live in a world where we can just walk on over to the Amish neighbor and swap apple pie recipes (although I literally could). Most of us live in a world where we lose our jobs, and our loved ones, and our self respect, and our faith in God. We watch our loved ones suffer everyday. We see them bullied, and abused and neglected. Then we pick up the pieces and ask the hard questions. The why's. And the how comes. And the why me's. And, hopefully, the why did I ever doubt You's. I write dark stories because I believe God's love shines brighter in the hard times. I write dark stories because my husband enjoys reading them, and I can't find much of anything else to give him that isn't riddled with sex and excessive gore. He could care less about the apple pie unless he is the one actually eating it.
Honestly, I think we writers need to broaden our horizons if we're ever to compete with secular literature. Because when I can't find books in the Christian section...I haul my starving little self over to the teen best sellers and pick up The Hunger Games or Divergent. I would love to find some of these kinds of stories by Christian authors. Some good dystopian and fantasy stories that end with a positive theme and not depression, drugs and death. Are there any of these on the Christian bestsellers? Besides Karen Hancock's The Arena, which is pure and simple genius. I've read it a dozen times and will read it a dozen times more.What do we have to offer our kids that can actually compete with The Hunger Games?
The sad fact, folks, is not much.
One of the reasons I love fantasy and science fiction is because it gives me an opportunity to do something that's never been done before, or at the very least, not done very much. Not The-Shunning-done-ten-times-over. (I'm sorry, I just can't get past those FIFTEEN pages of Plain stories).
It's time to step up our game. We live in 2015 not the 1900's. Let's write like it.