Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vampires in Christian Fiction

If you missed the first post, there were very good comments related to vampires and such in Christian fiction. One of the commenters was Sue Dent, who wrote the mentioned Never Ceese novel.

Evangeline noted my objective take on it - thanks. I was trying to present it evenly to see what people came up with before I threw in my own 2 cents. There are a few different facets to this discussion, so I don't think it is a simple "yes it is eviiiiiil" or "no, there's no problem".

Sue brought out the importance of defining what is meant by Christian fiction. I was referring to the notion of the CBA/ECPA. As Sue noted, this is an umbrella group that is responsible for a certain type of "Christian fiction", a type that usually gets ownership of that moniker. It is evangelical and conservative in outlook, and there are certain unwritten rules with these type of rules: no cussing, no sex (unless in marriage, and not on page), and as Sue mentioned, certain literary images like vampires, werewolves, etc., would not be generally welcome. (Oddly enough, you can have mass murderers, super assassins, and a high body count, but that's another post...) "CBA" is almost a brand, but religious or Christian books are not limited to it. Very prominent examples of non-CBA Christian books would be the award-winning Gilead and Peace Like a River, and Sue's novels. So you likely wouldn't find a vampire novel in a Christian bookstore due to the CBA, as Sue mentions.

Evangeline talked about vampires as good objects for symbolism, metaphors, or allegory. This could potentially be a worthy use of the undead in CBA fiction. It would take a compelling author with a bold statement of faith to pull it off, likely.

Carole had interesting, thoughtful insights about the possibility of salvation for vampires, based on whether they were "fallen" men or demons. She also notes that vampires often act as a "bad boy" for the good girl to redeem, which might be a little prejudiced toward the "hot male vampires" LOL.

What are my thoughts? Jumbled as usual. I'll list some out.

1. Regarding the Twilight series specifically, I have finished Twilight and am almost done with New Moon. I share Evangline's concern about the sensualness of the series - even though Meyers keeps the clothes on and the physical touching limited to arms and faces, she still has a gift for romance and sexual tension. I wouldn't want a young daughter of mine to read them. I also don't like that Bella's desire for immortality comes from wanting to become a vampire like Edward, over God's ways.

2. We discussed the Twilight series in a home group/Bible study. A few people automatically didn't like the idea of some many kids reading about vampires and werewolves, considering them evil and demonic, and wondering if Christians should be opening themselves up to such influences. I remember reading Dracula for high school, and my pastor's wife cautioned me to be prayed up for it, as she read it and felt darkness from it. Considering the Twilight series, I told the group I couldn't judge it without reading it for myself.

3. I have experienced evil influence from entertainment before. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with friends around 9th-10th grade. We didn't go for real heavy use of demons (mostly orcs and the like, Lord of the Ring-ish) and we always made our characters religion "Christian" on the player sheet. Still, it got to us. We had a sleep over one night where we got pretty freaked out with some weird stuff going on. I was the first to leave the group, feeling it was a bad situation. After this these good friends turned on me and I had some bad experiences with them. I wouldn't be against any role-playing game, but I would not want my kids to play D&D specifically.

4. I have argued before for freedom for a Christian artist to produce the art they feel they should make. I wouldn't condemn a Christian for using elements that I felt uncomfortable with, but I would use discernment whether it would be something for me to partake in or not.

5. Vampires and other mythological, typically evil creatures should be used carefully, but I think there is room for them to be used in a conscientious manner. I can't help thinking of C.S. Lewis using witches, giants, the Greek god Bacchus, and other pagan-type supernatural events in his stories. A modern master of using the supernatural for a truly Godly end is Stephen Lawhead in many of his books.

6. Are vampires in essence a perversion of the gospel with their life coming from stealing the blood of people, as opposed to the life-giving power of the blood of Christ? This just came to me while writing this post - don't know if I have the answer.

I think that's more than enough to chew on for now. I'll let y'all sink your teeth into it (grooooan).


  1. My vampires and werewolves meet all the criteria that allow Christian's to read without compromising their faith. I didn't write it for the CBA/ECPA market because I didn't know who CBA or ECPA were. Oddly enough I found out about them when their core readers started telling me what a grand story I had. What a great fan base I developed here.

    Vampires and werewolves can be whatever you want them to be. Mine personally aren't good and I don't portray them as such. Readers of CBA and ECPA fiction have picked up my story and agree whole heartedly.

    Readers of the general market and general Christian market have absolutely no problem with vampires and werewolves and dragons and what not in stories written by Christians authors. Those Christians who CBA and ECPA market to however, do. CBA and ECPA will not likely loosen their hold on the subject because they know what their core readers want.

    But then an author such as myself comes along and surprises them. I'm glad I could accommodate!

    There are a few CBA and ECPA authors trying to slide by with stories that allude to vampires and werewolves but they'll most likely never be able to produce stories that appeal to the general Christian market as well. That's fine though. That's why there are Christian authors such as myself.

    God Bless
    Sue Dent

    BTW, kudos on a wonderful blog here!

  2. Hi: It's always so tough...that balance between artistic freedom and the responsibility toward the reader. I had to struggle with this with 2 WIP's I was writing. The first was a story called Daughters of Men. It's about 500 pages and if I do say so myself I had set up a great worldview. But I kept saying to myself, "Am I inviting people to love these doomed demons as great sexual bad boys..with that doomed quality we women all love?" Three editors, one Christian and two secular, have read that WIP and loved it and wanted me to fine-tune it. God has given me no peace about whether I should write it or not. So I will not write it.

    The other is a story about a succubus. In this story, this female demon is plainly evil. She enters people and cause them to become serial rapists. Writing this story is very difficult because she creeps me out. While Daughters of Men made me fear my spending time imagining gorgeous male demons this one was more about me encountering evil. Heck, I believe in demons and the idea of writing and being in the mind of an evil succubus for a sustained time was not bringing peace either. I found myself veering away from the Christian horror I had wanted to something more psychological.

    Don't know what I will do with this story but I totally believe that we writers should hold up a mirror to life but at the same time we Christians should think of whatsover is lovely, good, etc. It's a tough balance. -C

  3. I would like to clarify that my slant toward discussing the CBA and ECPA market whilst discussing vampires in Christian fiction goes back to the fact that it's important to clarify what one is truely talking about. Just saying Christian fiction isn't enough.

    Because the distinction is rarely if ever made, Christian fiction has become synonomous with CBA/ECPA Christian fiction and writers for the general Christian market are lumped in with it.

    These two markets couldn't be more different. I've even had reviews where the reviewer has stated that I've pushed the boundries of Christian fiction. I have not!! Dracula is way more "horror" than my story and it's Christian fiction, written from a Catholic worldview by a Christian.

    The only boundries I've pushed have been for CBA/ECPA Christian fiction, a market I don't write for specifically.

    So I sort of feel like I don't have a dog in the hunt here if ya'll are talking about Christian fiction in regards to CBA/ECPA Christian fiction.

    As I've stated before, there's no problem with the concept of vampires and werewolves and dragons and fairies when writing for the general Christian market which has been around waaaaaaay longer than CBA/ECPA Christian fiction. :)

  4. "I was referring to the notion of the CBA/ECPA. As Sue noted, this is an umbrella group that is responsible for a certain type of "Christian fiction", a type that usually gets ownership of that moniker. It is evangelical and conservative in outlook, and there are certain unwritten rules with these type of rules: no cussing, no sex (unless in marriage, and not on page)"

    Let's clarify a bit here. All CBA/ECPA fiction does not match the above description. In fact, there is only a small division of the overall Christian publishing industry that fits these qualifications for their fiction. Without that distinction you are negating the majority of today's Christian fiction.

    Eric Wilson's new series is about vampires beginning with Field of Blood, the first of the Undead Jerusalem trilogy, and published by prominent CBA publisher Thomas Nelson.

    The heart of the author is the key. What is the motive behind the writing? That goes for any author, any story. We answer to our Lord. If done in uncompromised obedience to Him, then we can stand up for our work in peace.

  5. CBA and ECPA gatekeepers to Christian Fiction (CBA Christian fiction that is.)

    Above is a link which while sort of old, best depicts CBA and ECPA's target audience.

    "Let's clarify a bit here. All CBA/ECPA fiction does not match the above description."

    All CBA/ECPA fiction targets a specific audience and does not serve the general Christian market. Their target market is in fact conservative evangelicals. Not a bad market but that's who they serve. Perhaps some of their books are "edgier" than others CBA puts out, but they still serve that very specific market. And because they use the term Christian Fiction to represent their work it is no longer accurate to simply say Christian fiction when referring to all there is out there for Christians to read.

    The accurate way to address the market, to avoid confusion is the general Christian market and CBA Christian market.

    Eric Wilson is attempting to write a vampire book for the CBA market, yes. If I'm not mistaken, because of the conservative nature of the CBA market, it will be quite edgey but only for the CBA market. Not the general Christian market.

    He writes for Thomas Nelson. One of the largest CBA publishers out there. They will not risk losing core market readers by providing them with anything more than what they expect.

    John Olson's Shade is a fine example of this. It's being pushed as the first vampireless vampire book. And odd marketing stragegy for sure but no if you consider that CBA has yet to embrace using vampires and werewolves and zombies they way they've come to embrace dragons. They absolutely cator to their core market readers of conservative evangelicals.

    No CBA publisher was interested in my work for that very reason. They're response was to go "secular."

    I don't think so. I'm a Christian. So I found a non-affiliated general Christian publisher--twice! God is good.

    Yes, all good stories come from an author's heart and all CBA Christian fiction books serve a core market of conservative evagelicals and not the general Christian market. :)

    And that's actually a fact. The link above explains a good bit more.

  6. Yikes! I just realized I keep repeating myself on some matters. I post in so many places though, I keep forgetting where I say what! LOL

    I would like to say that clarifying the market isn't as important to readers as it is authors. It's incrediably and undeniably important to authors. Otherwise you submit MS's to editors and publishers whose market you don't write for and that's never fun. :)

  7. All I'm saying, Sue, is their target market has expanded. Now maybe to your way of thinking it hasn't expanded to cover what you call the general Christian market, but there are more novels produced today from CBA/ECPA publishers which have no mention of the gospel in them, barely refer to God or prayer, and could be just as comfortable on any secular shelf. I know this because I've read them. Tim Downs' Bug Man series is the most obvious, but there are plenty more. So how those particular novels serve the "conservative evangelical" market I fail to see.

    If you're speaking solely of the market for vampires, etc., then you might check Karen Ball's blog (acquisitions editor for Broadman and Holman) because she's excited about the influx of vampire stories in Christian fiction.

    I'm not writing this to be argumentative at all, Sue. I've just read a ton of fiction by the mainstream CBA/ECPA publishers and some of these novels absolutely do not serve the market you or Jason described.

    And I totally agree that you must know what a publisher is or isn't looking for when you're ready to submit to determine if general market is more suitable for your material.

  8. Gosh! I hope I don't come of as argumentative. For me, debating CBA and ECPA's core market readers really isn't important. They serve who they serve and it isn't the general Christian market.

    CBA and ECPA are allowing more "less" conservative subject matter in a little at a time but that really isn't the point.

    The CBA market and general Christian market are two distinct markets that serve two distinct audiences. When you talk about certain elements pertaining to Christian fiction it is important to say which Christian fiction market you're talking about. At least it is if you want to get posts that apply to the subject.

    One very big heads up to the differences in the market is the fact that Christian bookstores will allow CBA and ECPA published books in without question. They scrutinize and most of the time turn down books written by authors serving the general Christian market. Why? Because affiliated publishers know CBA's core market and must write to protect it. In fact, if they don't, they don't get into Christian bookstores.

    Authors writing for the general Christian market write for an entirely different audience. Oddly enough their work seems to appeal to CBA readers more than CBA books appeal to the general market which is why you're seeing some change in the CBA market.

    But CBA is still a very different and conservative market. They'll tell you that themselves. In fact, that's how I got most of the information I have. :)

    Ahhhh, but this blog was about vampires in CBA Christian Fiction I believe and well, I don't have a dog in that hunt. I only know about writing about vampires and werewolves for the general Christian market. Though I do love, love, love all my CBA readers and fans.

    Ya'll rock!

  9. No, Sue, you aren't coming off as argumentative at all. I was more concerned about my responses.

  10. Anonymous9:39 AM

    I wrote a short story comedic satire about a teenage vampire Henry who would not drink blood. until he meets his grandfather from Transylvania. He coaxes him to try the blood. But when I went to bed I kept hearing the Lord say to me. "Why do you compromise your faith. This kind of writing shames the sacrifice of my blood." Being a Christian Jew I know that we are never to drink blood or eat the blood of an animal. Because it is life. I love to write fiction, but it seems I'am always be lured to the dark fiction because it is fascinating. So it comes down to this do I keep on writing supernatural dark fiction or do I heed the conviction from my conscience and obey the Lord. How can I be a Christian when I am writing about evil, the very thing God said to flee from.

  11. My answer to you is simple. Write the story you want to write. If it bothers you to write about something then don't write about it. Really. It's just that simple. ;)