Vision: A Resource for Writers
Websites for Christian Writers of Genre Fiction
By Valerie Comer
Sometimes I feel very alone.
If you think that there is a stigma against science fiction and fantasy books being first class literature in your circle, try it on from a Christian perspective. Many Christians believe this group of genres is anti-Christian, and therefore evil. However, it is quite possible to read (and to write) in these genres within a Christian worldview.
What is Christian sf and fantasy?
Does a Christian worldview make the writing 'preachy', pushing biblical themes down the reader's throat? No, not at all. What is a Christian worldview, then? To write within a Christian worldview means, in my opinion, that at least one character or one segment of society has a belief in one true God who is portrayed as having created the world and is involved in the daily affairs of people. This basis is presented as positive, though not necessarily dwelt upon. Another way of 'defining' Christian worldview, is that of allowing your beliefs to stand as a 'spam filter', and permitting onto paper only the words that are acceptable to your filter. It is a matter of what the writer wishes to promote and encourage with their writing.
Websites for writers
I have spent considerable hours researching this topic on the internet. One of the first websites I discovered is http://www.christian-fandom.org/christian-fandom/. This site is devoted to "the courteous and accurate representation of Christian viewpoints in the science fiction and fantasy community." One of its goals is to share information about existing SF and fantasy that is being done from a Christian perspective in all media (literary, music, art, etc.), and to encourage new artists. There are also recommendations for many novels that the hosts consider morally responsible, while not specifically Christian.
One of the best things about this site is the vast number of links in various categories. These include other Christian writing sites, ezines that cater to this market, and links to interviews with published authors. The interviews are particularly fascinating as they show the specific paths various other writers have taken from random ideas to published novels.
http://christianfantasy.com is a small website, which unfortunately has not been updated for quite some time. Beware of the many pop-up ads on this site. The forums here are quiet. The biggest benefit I found here are some concise goals and definitions for writing in the Christian fantasy, sf, romance, and horror genres. Again, this site has links that lead in new directions.
A much larger site is http://christianfantasy.net, which is dedicated to Christian readers of fantasy, rather than writers of it. It is the home of the Christian Guide to Fantasy, which contributes reviews of books based on three basic criteria: literary style, morality, and suitability for the targeted age group. As always, their opinions are not necessarily everyone's, but perhaps can serve a useful guideline. The forums on this site are quite active. Many further links are available. I learned about a number of published novels here that I had not seen before, enlarging my grasp of what has recently been printed. This site is maintained by Emily Snyder, a published author.
http://xianworldview.com is another interesting website. There are articles, which include book reviews and interviews. Also included is a forum. Although it doesn't look too active at this time (many of the posts were old), some of the archived discussions are very relevant and interesting and/or helpful anyway. This is a site that published author Lars Walker frequents.
Refracted Light can be found at http://www.pax-romana.net/refracted/. Present on this site are two essays (more coming, they say) on the morality of the use of magic in fantasy stories. This author's viewpoint differs somewhat from the position taken by the writer at http://www.christianfantasy.com, as mentioned above.
More information for Christian writers can be found at http://deep-magic.net. The writer's resource section has a number of helpful articles. Best of all, this site boasts active forums for writers.
Another online community for Christian writers is http://christianwriters.com. Their main focus is on a more general, literary style, but they are also open to writers of sf and fantasy. There is a magazine associated with this site, and active forums.
The largest Christian writing site I have come across is http://faithwriters.com, with a listed membership five thousand strong. It is welcoming to writers in all genres, and has a weekly contest that can even net a writer a little extra cash. Because this site boasts the largest membership and the most active forums, it would likely be the fastest place to get specific questions answered.
http://www.billyates.com/cww/links.html contains a comprehensive set of links for Christian writers in everything from newsgroups to publishers and magazines, as well as more general dictionary and grammar links.
http://www.deep-magic.net is also home to a free monthly ezine, Deep Magic, which specializes in morally responsible fantasy and sf. They publish artwork and short stories in fantasy and sf, as well as articles on writing, but it is not a paying market. Deep Magic calls itself the site where minds may safely wander.
The home of SkySong Press is found at http://www.bconnex.net/~skysong/. They publish a semi-annual magazine called Dreams & Visions. This is a paying market; story length is 2-6000 words at $.01 per word. SkySong, which has been in business since 1988, also publishes anthologies, and a few novels.
http://home.quixnet.net/~dshelley/ is the home of Dragons, Knights, and Angels, a magazine of Christian fantasy and sf. This is a paying market for a print magazine that is published quarterly. They buy poetry that fits the theme as well as short stories. The site does not give a specific pricing scale, saying only that compensation varies by publication and length.
http://www.geocities.com/scifieditor/ is the home of the GateWay S-F magazine (Stories of Science and Faith). It is both a webzine and a print magazine, paying $.05 per word, with a maximum of $5.00 per story. They are requesting stories of 850-2500 words.
Many Christian publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts or even queries. Agents are rarely used in this industry, either. How then can you get the attention of those in a position to purchase your work? Writer's Edge seems to give the most likely method of being discovered by these mainstream publishers. Their site is found at http://www.writersedgeservice.com/.
For a non-refundable fee of American $79, Writer's Edge will evaluate your proposal and sample chapters. For those found unacceptable they promise a brief analysis of the writing as it relates to this select market. Those that they feel are professionally presented and have sales potential are listed in their monthly packet that goes out to over 90 Christian publishing houses. At this time, they report that over half of the submissions made to them make the cut and are seen by the various acquisitions editors. From there, the editor will contact the author directly if they are interested in seeing whole or partial manuscripts. Many of the publishers who work with Writer's Edge no longer accept manuscripts from any other source.
http://www.stuartmarket.com/pubmain.htm lists many links to member publishing houses of the CBA, although it is not a conclusive list. As I've already said, most do not accept direct submission, but there is still much useful information to be had by going directly to the individual sites.
Do mainstream Christian houses publish science fiction and fantasy? Not a lot, admittedly. Some high quality work is coming out; unfortunately, many Christians who enjoy these genres gave up on Christian bookstores years ago and thus are not aware of what is currently available. For this reason, sales are not as high as they could be. Demand must be created.
http://www.edenstarbooks.com/ is an Amazon affiliate site specializing in Christian fantasy, science fiction, videos, and games. While I in no way wish to deny these folks the right to make a living in this manner, greater changes in the publishing world will come at the local level, by readers ordering books through their town's Christian bookstore.
One way to put a finger on the pulse of demand is to attend a Christian writer's conference. When I ran a search on this phrase, there were a large amount of hits from all over the world. When you find one in your area, make certain that your genre is acceptable to the organizers before plunking down cash to attend. Because the larger conferences are attended by editors and agents, these can also provide a foot in the door towards publishing. A well-known annual conference at Mount Hermon, California, can be located at http://www.mounthermon.org/writers/.
Who publishes what -- where?
Bethany House publishes Kathy Tyers' Firebird sf series - an excellent read, by the way! They are also home to Thomas Locke's YA series Spectrum Chronicles and to Karen Hancock's fantasy series Legends of the Guardian King, as well as her sf novel Arena.
Emily Snyder's first book, Niamh and the Hermit was published by Arx Publishing, http://www.arxpub.com. Ted Dekker's Black series is published by W Publishing (http://www.wpublishinggroup.com). A Christian children's fantasy series by Jeri Massi has been published by Bob Jones University Press (http://www.bjup.com). Zondervan (http://www.zondervan.com) has published some of Stephen Lawhead's books. Crossways Books (no website found) published Roger Elwood's Angelwalk.
Some Christian novelists have published through more traditional markets. Lars Walker's books are published by Baen. His personal website is http://larswalker.com and contains information about his books, as well as frank comments on his Christian beliefs.
As a side note, I recently had the opportunity to participate in live chat with Kathy Tyers (mentioned above), hosted by the folks at http://omegasf.org. Kathy feels that readers need to support Christian writers of sf and fantasy, in order to help create a greater demand for it. She also mentioned that, in her experience, editors at some publishing houses will still accept queries addressed specifically to them, and that it doesn't hurt to give them a direct contact. The chat transcript is on the site mentioned above. A Kathy Tyers' fan club is located at http://members.aol.com/tzmaverick/private/page6.html.
Possibilities for publishing sf and fantasy stories in the Christian marketplace have never been greater. If this is an area of writing that interests you, your carefully crafted story can win the recognition it deserves, and help to open the doors of acceptability even wider for other writers.