I’ll continue my series on Motivations and Reactions in my regularly schedule blog later today. But I thought it would be appropriate to take note of an important launch that is happening TODAY.
I went to a talk about a year ago by my buddy John Olson. John showed a list of the Top Ten best-selling novels of all time. I was a bit surprised to see that PILGRIM’S PROGRESS topped the list. I never much liked that book, to be honest. The big surprise to me was that of the other nine books on the list, the overwhelming majority (6 or 7) were in a category that I don’t read much — fantasy. But I’d read all of those on John’s list and loved them all.
John’s point was that there is something in the fantasy genre that is massively appealing to readers. But there’s something very strange about fantasy. Three of the most popular fantasy series of all time are LORD OF THE RINGS, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, and the Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis. All three authors were British authors with a strong background in classics, and all three wrote from a Christian worldview, using well-known Christian themes.
The very strange thing is that Christian publishing in the US has been unable to make fantasy “work” as a genre. Yes, there’ve been isolated successes, but the fact is that Christian fiction is dominated by romance, suspense, and women’s fiction, while fantasy novels are blindingly absent. The quickest way to get a rejection from a Christian publisher is to start out saying, “I’m writing a fantasy…”
You might say, “Who cares? Fantasy is doing pretty darn well in the general market. If Christian readers want to buy fantasy, they can go there.”
This is true, but the whole thing just seems strange. A lot of the young writers I meet these days are writing fantasy. In fact, the MAJORITY of the under-25 Christian writers I meet are writing fantasy. And they all have the same question: Where are they going to get their work published? Something is seriously wrong in the Christian publishing industry.
My friend Jeff Gerke is a huge fan of fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, and as he say, “anything weird.” Jeff is also a very accomplished editor who has worked at three Christian publishing houses and has acquired a number of excellent authors. One of his goals is to bring fantasy fiction home–to create a publishing house that does those “weirdo books” from a Christian worldview (which can be a very broad label, if you remember that it includes Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and a whole lot more).
Today, Jeff is launching the first three books from his publishing house (Marcher Lord Press). He’s giving out some special incentives for people who buy TODAY. So if you like “weird fiction,” check out his first three books: HERO, SECOND CLASS by Mitchell Bonds, SUMMA ELVETICA, by Theodore Beale, and THE PERSONIFID INVASION, by R.E. Bartlett.
You can take a look at them all here: www.MarcherLordPress.com/store
I dropped by Jeff’s online store today to check them out. All three books look seriously weird.
So I bought them all.
Woo-hoo for Jeff! (And congrats, Randy, for winning one of the launch day prizes.) Am I allowed to shamelessly plug the reviews I wrote for two of Marcher Lord’s books: Summa Elvetica and The Personifid Invasion? They’re on BuddyHollywood.com–just search for the titles. They’re good books. The only reason reviews of all 3 books aren’t there is because I haven’t yet finished Hero Second Class.
Ans a big WOO-HOO for Christian spec fic!
Randy sez: LOL, I won a T-shirt, to my great surprise. I had asked Jeff to remove my name from the drawings because I helped him brainstorm his promotion for Launch Day and I didn’t want to benefit from something I helped design. Jeff emailed me today to say that he accidentally left me in the T-shirt drawing, and I won it. I guess I’m OK with that. I’m not sure what the T-shirt looks like, but I guess I’ll find out.
Robert Treskillard says
Great promo, Randy. Thanks from one of those wannabe fantasy authors.
Kudos to Jeff Gerke! I am rooting for the success of his company. This could be a big boost in Christian fiction.
And speaking of your buddy John Olson, his novel Fossil Hunter is amazing! It’s definitely not science fiction, but there is a healthy dose of science reality in there. Terrific book.
Mark Goodyear says
Nice promo for Jeff. He’s got his head on straight about what will sell and what won’t.
My first encounter with Jeff was him telling me that I had a book idea, unfortunately already written, that was unmarketable. Oh well.
Here’s my theory on Christian fantasy. It’s redundant. Tor already publishes great Christian fantasy by Gene Wolfe and others. And Tor is already tapped into the market.
I’m really interested to see if Jeff can legitimize the Print on Demand model. We’re rooting for you Jeff!
Tim Greene says
Randy, thanks for letting me know my competition are most likely younger then me. I find it funny that I am 25 and I am writing fantasy.
Random question, where do you get that J.K. Rowling wrote from a Christian worldview. I love the Harry Potter books, but I never got the impression it was written from that kind of worldview.
Randy sez: Well, you either see the Christian themes or you don’t, but there are many: love, death, sacrifice, redemption, etc. Of course, these themes aren’t unique to Christian thought, but JKR’s handling of the themes is characteristically Christian. I saw hints of all of them already in Book 1, and by Book 4, I thought they were obvious.
JK Rowling made it clear in interviews early on that (a) she is a Christian, and (b) the ending of the series would reflect that. So I made some specific predictions early in the series about what would happen in the end to Harry, Voldemort, and Snape, although I wasn’t sure the exact route JKR would take. All my predictions were correct. And yet she surprised me by the way she did it. That’s great writing.
I’m surprised that you said that J.K. Rowling wrote from a Christian point of view. I thought all her Harry Potter books were about the ocult, so I’ve not read them. Can you give us some specific examples of her Christian world view?
Randy sez: Hi Sylvia. See my response above to Tim’s comment. I don’t like to get too specific, because doing so creates spoilers, and the Potter series is too good to spoil. But if you read any of the reviews of Book 7 (I think the Wall Street Journal review is a prime example), you’ll see that many reviewers were shocked (and some were dismayed) to find Christian themes pervading the final book in the series. JKR even included a couple of Biblical quotations in Book 7. One of these is merely peripheral to the story: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The other is central to the entire series: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death.” (I’m quoting these by memory, so not sure if this is precisely the way JKR quoted them.)
Early in the Potter series, there was quite a to-do in the US about the books, with many conservative Christians attacking the books as tools of the devil, etc. As the series progressed, the outcry became less and less. Presumably this is because more and more Christians began seeing where JK Rowling was going, and they liked it. I know a couple of hundred Christian novelists, including most of those who dominate the best-seller lists. Many of these authors love the Harry Potter series, as I do.
Pam Halter says
I sped over to Marcher Lord’s website yesterday morning and bought the two fantasy books. Wasn’t sure about the sci-fi and I’m on a budget, so I left that one go.
I’m also totally looking forward to getting John Olsen’s “Shade.”
Pam Halter says
Oh yeah, I’m writing fantasy,too, but I haven’t seen 25 in a while. 😉
Andra M. says
Since I write Sci-fi with a Christian slant, finding a publisher/agent has proved a challenge. Super-kudos to Jeff for giving writers like me a chance.
Judging from who donated prizes and the response here, he’s well on his way (as do his authors) to great success.
Thanks also for the ‘minder I need to make my own purchase. Or two.
D.E. Hale says
Well, I hope Marcher Lord Press does really well, so that when I finally get done with mine, I can submit it there.
All three of those novels looked awesome, but I’ll have to wait to get my copies next month. Summa Elvetica looks particularly appealing to me.
Paul D says
Glad to see you giving Jeff some positive press! MLP deserves to wildly succeed!!
Ann Isik says
Well on the Harry Potter thing, the station where Harry boards the Hogwarts Express is in reality the station of Newcastle Upon Tyne – my home town and I have promised myself that next time I’m in Newcastle I’ll go and ask where platform 9 and three quarters is and relish the abuse I’ll get in response. Also, the school was set in part at Alnwick Castle, which I know well, is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, who was at Eton with one of my husband’s colleagues.
Aside from the name dropping, one of the strengths of HP is that it makes children feel empowered, when generally they are made to feel useless and for adults,like me, I feel I can have the adventurous youth I never had. It’s not about the occult. And it got kids back to reading books instead of sitting in front of computers all day ‘killing’ people in computer games.
There’s an element of what seems to be the supernatural in what I’m writing. Maybe it is and maybe it is cutting edge evolution of the species. It won’t class as in your face fantasy or science fiction. Since I set out with it it’s become clear that it was meant to be written to teach me things first, then for publication, if it ever gets good enough. I can’t write to formula. I’m not good enough, I hope!
David Ferretti says
First, I wanted to thank you for answering my question …could my ms be considered a Christian fantasy novel? Your answer was “maybe”. Then you suggested that I contact Jeff Gerke and ask him. I did that and he replied in one day. His answer was that my ms did not fit his definition of a Christian Fantasy novel.
I am not sure what you mean by a Christian worldview novel. My idea of a Christian novel is one lacking profanity and sex. A wholesome book, full of adventure and enjoyed by the entire family. I am a big fan of Tolkien, Rowling’s and Lewes’ books. You also might want to toss in the Indiana Jones novels as they also fall into this category. The only well known Christian theme I can think of for The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter is good battles evil, where good always triumphs. Love, death, sacrifice, and rescue are themes in almost every genre there is.
If the Christian publishing community is lacking this genre, it is because they set their definition–of a Christian fantasy book–too narrow. Do these books need to have a reference of God in every chapter…no, I do not recall this in the Harry Potter books. Does the protagonist need a well-defined moral standing in the community…yes; this is the essence of Christianity. I would love to see Christian fantasy as a genre on the bookshelves. Maybe time will do as it always does and give Christian publishers a time to think and revise their standards.
I am looking for quality fantasy fiction that is also “wholesome” in respect to sexuality & profanity (and not too gory!) for my teenage son. He read The Hobbit in 2nd grade, so it has always been a challenge to find fun reading for him that is not too juvenile or poorly written. I agree with David above that Christian publishers can be too narrow in some respects in defining Christian literature. There needs to be more literature that has a basic Christian worldview and is excellently written. When looking for what our family terms “appropriate” literature, I wish there was a rating type system on books – not to ban them, but to help in discerning what is in them. I have never been able to keep up with reading everything myself just to see if a book was right for my children at the stage they were at. Book reviews are often inadequate in that respect, also.
My son complains that all of the Christian fantasy fiction is just the same old thing with a different author’s name on the book. If anyone has any good fiction suggestions for a teen intellectual who wants to read quality fiction that is not profane or sexualized, I would welcome the input here!