Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Stories We'd Like to See More Of

As our Kickstarter nears its end, we've put up some posts about the kinds of stories we don't want (or see too often). We thought maybe we should also talk a little about what we'd like to see more of.

So, if you're looking for ideas, here are some themes, sub-genres, and perspectives that don't show up in our submissions inbox quite as often, and where it might be easier to write a great story that stands out from all the others:

1.  Horror. We published maybe 4 stories (out of 20) that could be categorized as horror, and would have been open to including more, but we didn't get a lot that we both really liked. However, neither of us is especially fond of common horror tropes like vampires, zombies, Cthulhu Mythos, etc. Also, horror seems to be a genre where it's especially tempting to portray characters who disagree with your politics as monsters. Don't do that.

2.  Secondary world fantasy. This is actually the favorite sub-genre of both editors, but the Christian focus is often a difficult fit for fantasy set in alternate worlds. We only published 2 stories that could fall into this category. The problem is that, in this area, we tend to see either Pseudo-Medieval Europe with an actual Christian church, or Narnia pastiche (with an omnipotent Emperor / Ancient One / Creator, and some kind of animal Jesus). We don't really mind European-inspired secondary world fantasy, but it's going to be easier to stand out from the crowd with a less overused setting. (And if you really love medieval Europe, we'd probably be more interested in a well-researched historical fantasy set in an actual time and place.) Don't be afraid to be a bit heretical when creating your imaginary religion (Narnia is, after all--where's the 3rd person of the Trinity?). However, there does need to be some Christian connection, even if it's just through exploration of popular Christian themes such as forgiveness, redemption, self-sacrifice, the nature of the soul, the character of God. Also, we see a lot of secondary world fantasy about patriarchal monotheists oppressing the noble, egalitarian, environmentally-conscious polytheists, and we're honestly kind of bored by it. (Though we're not especially interested in the reverse, either, with noble monotheists persecuted by evil polytheists--in general, try to avoid "this culture is the good guys and this other one the villains".)

3.  Stories about encounters with the unfathomable mysteries of the divine. Especially stories that don't try to explain everything. Donald has written that "There's a tendency in Christian fiction to write theophanies as if they're altar calls. I would have liked to see more of the strangeness, fear, and bewilderment found in the theophanies you read about in the Bible. They are warnings, commands, prophecies. Even Paul's road-to-Damascus calling was more challenge than instruction. He needed other people to explain to him what he was supposed to do about it."

4.  Stories about Christians who aren't (only) American, Canadian, or western European. Christianity is a global faith, and we'd like to do a better job of representing that. We would love to see more stories about Christians in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean; and about Christians who live in the West but also have strong connections to another culture (including African-Americans and pre-European indigenous cultures of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand). We do want authentic, well-researched fiction. Just as we're not interested in stories about Christians where it seems that the author doesn't really understand or know much about the aspect of Christianity that they're describing (very common in stories about missionaries, BTW), we don't want shallow portrayals of cultures from around the world. If you're writing about a culture that isn't part of your own heritage, make sure you really do know what you're talking about.

Our Kickstarter is now 52% funded, but we only have 4 days left, so we still need to get a lot more people on board for this anthology to happen. If you're interested in the kinds of stories we've been talking about, please consider backing us, and help us get the word out to others!

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