Theme Guidelines Details

This page offers a fuller explanation of what we're looking for, expanding on the requirements of the theme.


Theme Guidelines

  • We are looking for speculative stories that meaningfully engage with Christianity.
  • Your story doesn't need to teach a moral or cleave closely to an approved theological position. 
  • Your story doesn't need to be pro-Christian. We're unlikely to publish anything that insults us, but we do want to read stories that challenge us. Having said that, there are tropes we see too often in stories critical of Christian faith and tradition: evil preachers, theocratic dystopias, Christians abandoning their faith because something inexplicable happened, crazy Christians trying to bring about the apocalypse by doing something in Israel, an unambiguously evil God. Any of these will be a hard sell.
  • There are tropes we see too often on the pro-Christian side, too. Stories where the plot resolution hinges on one or more characters becoming Christian, apocalypse stories based on a literal reading of Revelation, rapture stories, spiritual warfare with angels and demons as characters, retold Bible stories, allegory, theocratic utopias, anything that reads like C. S. Lewis fanfic. You'd have to do a very unique take on one of these to get anything other than a quick rejection.
  • We both like stories with complex and interesting characters. Donald prefers stories that have a fast-paced plot with plenty of twists, Kristin likes stories with elegant prose and a compelling emotional arc. Either of us can veto a story.
  • Save the preaching for church. We're more interested in the questions than the answers, the challenges than the solutions. If your story contains theological explication, you're doing it wrong.
  • Avoid one-dimensional villains. We shouldn't be able to spot the villain by his politics or religion. Making sure he (or she) has a real, human motivation goes a long way toward making the antagonist real.
  • Speaking of politics, Donald is an American conservative and Kristin is a Canadian liberal. Remember what we said about veto power? You can write about politics, but we'll be most impressed by the stories that leave us with some uncertainty about yours.
  • Feel free to use sex, violence, and profanity as needed. All three appear in the Bible, after all. But make sure they actually improve your story, that you're not just throwing them in to make your work seem edgier.
  • We're especially interested in stories that show us Christians from cultures beyond those of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. Unfortunately, we can only consider stories submitted in English.

Examples

Since this is the first time we're doing this, we can't point you to a previous anthology for the stuff we want, but here are a few stories, authors, and publications that are either exactly, or very close, to what we're looking for.  Note that some of these are novels and that not all of them are genre, so consider these more guides to the sort of themes we're looking for, not the format--please don't send us novels.

  • Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
  • "The Warrior" by Jim Butcher
  • Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
  • Coach's Midnight Diner -- This anthology of Christian speculative fiction is very close to what we're trying to do. Some of our favorite stories:
    • "Flowers for Shelley" by Greg Mitchell (from Volume 2)
    • "In R'lyeh, Jesus Walks" by Chris Mikesell (from Volume 1)
  • Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations -- Edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon.  We're focusing more specifically on the Christian faith with our project, and looking for bright, hopeful stories as well as dark, but some of these would fit. Favorites include:
    • "Ghosts of New York" by Jennifer Pelland
    • "You Dream" by Ekaterina Sedia
  • Third Order Magazine -- Again, they accept stories about all faiths, but are otherwise very similar to what we're looking for.
  • Flannery O'Connor
  • Madeleine L'Engle
  • Frederick Buechner
  • "Blue Fire" by Bruce McAllister (F&SF, 2010)
  • "Second Person, Present Tense" by Daryl Gregory (Asimov's, 2005)
  • "And Spare Not the Flock" by Margaret Ronald (Realms of Fantasy, 2008)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Residential Aliens -- A  magazine of Christian speculative fiction, now defunct. We especially liked the following:
    • "Transcendence" by Dave Gudeman (from the first anthology)