Yes! Another blog discussion on the boundaries of Christian/CBA fiction!
Seriously, this has been dragged around the virtual block more than a few times. If you're late to the party and want to catch up, I hinted about this subject, then talked some more about it, based off the new Robin Parrish novel Nightmare, and intertwined this subject with a review of a new, gritty police procedural Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand.
Nightmare is a book best categorized by the term "paranormal suspense," while Back on Murder is a very real-to-life crime novel. How do these two relate with each other and pushing the boundaries of Christian fiction?
The CBA market (fiction carried by Christian book stores for the uninitiated) is a growth market for the publishing industry. In the 1990's it was mostly historical fiction, romance, or historical romance, with the Left Behind series thrown in for good measure. Oh, and this guy Frank Peretti had some spiritual warfare novels that were a hit.
In the 2000's CBA has grown to hold pretty much any genre of fiction: suspense, science fiction, fantasy, chick-lit, horror, romance, contemporary, historical. For some reason Amish stories are a particular favorite, but we won't go there today. Still, there are questions about what gets published under the (nebulous) banner of CBA fiction. Nightmare got great reviews from a recent blog tour for its writing and suspense, but a few people questioned the subject of ghosts and how they were handled in the book (I'm currently reading Nightmare and will go in detail on it later).
How far will CBA fiction go? I think it will go where the market allows, being a business. I don't expect it to cross into subjects like erotica or new age topics that don't measure up with the Bible. Slowly publishers seem okay with the "grey areas", but this market still skews mostly to the Evangelical Christian reader.
Does Nightmare push the boundaries? Perhaps. Should it? Maybe. Maybe it should be published in the "secular" book market (the ABA is the umbrella term for publishers who don't produce books with mainly Christian book stores in mind. Basically most of the publishing world...). I think Robin's book could go either way. Maybe its place is in a larger field to play in. Then again, there is a much bigger market out there, and perhaps it would not find an audience with so many choices available (not for poor quality, but sheer numbers of other books).
How about Back on Murder as far as pushing boundaries? My friend Nicole didn't think it did. Maybe not in a controversial way. I feel like it does in the fact that I haven't read a book like it in CBA fiction (then again, straight crime/police procedural novels aren't my first choice). I think it could stand in ABA fiction as it is - especially compared to the garbage that James Patterson writes.
Some books are more or less written for the CBA market. There is a valid place for this market, but it has struggled with self-imposed rules and (mostly undeserved) image problems of being inferior quality. I see certain writers with their feet firmly planted in the CBA market. Others like Tosca Lee, Gina Holmes, Mark Bertrand, and Tim Downs have written stories that could crossover, in my opinion, quite easily to the ABA market, due to the quality and way that faith is handled. Why do we not see these more prominently in Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc?
CBA fiction is growing in a good way, and I'm happy to see it. I just wonder if some books still aren't better off in a different pond...
What say you?