Friday, April 27, 2012

An Uncertain Future?

This past week I was invited to speak at the Online Apologetics Conference of Athanatos Ministries . I presented my apologetic talk “CSI Golgotha: A Forensic Analysis of the Death of Jesus of Nazareth” and followed that up on Saturday with “Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics”. I was surprised by some of the negative and the positive responses to both presentations. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the careful attention Anthony Horvath, the founder of the ministry, placed on the importance of the intersection of faith and literature.
We had great conversations about the importance of story as a method of propagating the truth of Christianity. There were in depth talks about Chesterton and Lewis and Charles William and Dorothy Sayers. There were deeply moving talks about truth and how we should convey truth to a godless, postmodern world. I was particularly proud of being able to talk about us, the authors of Charisma Media and to talk about our publisher.
Recently while in the Orlando, Florida area, I had the opportunity to sit down with Adrienne Gaines, my representative with Charisma and then to have a great conversation with Debbie Marrie. I’ve been in publishing now for over 10 years and the graciousness, the openness, the familiarity and sense of community I experienced in that small conference room was breathtaking. We truly are blessed to be a part of a great organization! And then, on Sunday morning at my book signing, Althea Thompson, the publicity coordinator for Charisma drove across town just to come by and have a chat with me. I was stunned.
Why am I going on about this? After listening to over a dozen writers and authors speak about the condition of the Christian publishing machine out there, I think we have much to be thankful for. Mike Duran in one of his recent post  lamented over the poor understanding many of the major publishers have towards Christian speculative fiction as evidenced by the listings of the publishers who will be at this year’s ACFW conference. 
What is the future of such speculative fiction? Are we a flash in the pan? In my presentation, I talked about the challenges of positioning speculative fiction in our brick and mortar Christian book stores. Where do you put such books? How would a potential reader find such books? And, the even greater challenge for Christian speculative fiction as well as more mainstream Christian fiction is the physical location of our books in the back corner of brick and mortar secular book stores. It would seem we must continue to work hard at social media and marketing to sell most of our books through our online presence.
At this conference, most of the participants were stunned to learn there were books available that actually included some elements of a defense of the Christian faith. Books such as Matt Mikalatos’ “Night of the Living Dead Christian”. Or, Stephen Lawhead’s book “The Skin Map”. I mentioned Mike Duran’s book, “The Resurrection” as well as my own book, “The 13th Demon”. A very powerful story that is literally brimming with apologetic discussion is Bill Meyer’s book, “The God Hater”. I may have managed to raise the awareness of our books among the 35 to 40 participants of the conference. But, it is an uphill battle. We all have participated in discussions about our challenges in getting our books out there to secular and Christian readers. I don’t know what the answers will be. It seems we have to continue to pound away with our blogs, Facebook pages, speaking engagements, and Twitter feeds to keep raising the awareness of our books. What do you think? How are you facing this challenge?


Beth Shriver said...

Bruce, it sounds like you had a very fruitful time while you were away.One thing that bothers me about our profession is the lack of time together with those we work with, so it was nice you got to do that. As for as the genre of books that sell, we are pretty much at the readers mercy, but when it all comes down to it I'm grateful to be writing just for the love of it:)

Bruce Hennigan said...

Thank you Beth for your kind comments. I do wish we had some way for all of the Charisma authors to meet and spend some brief time in "community". I know that word is overused at times, but community among Christian artists is SO important.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Bruce,
Great post! I wish I had some answers but I don't. There probably would be some kind of major uprising on one side or the other but I've always wondered what would happen if we just shelved all books, ABA or CBA on the same shelves.

There's probably all kinds of legitimate arguments not do this. Probably because someone would buy a Christian Fiction novel, spec. fiction or other and say hey, this isn't what I bargained for. But isn't that why we read covers, and back covers, and first pages?

There's a guy that works at one of the bookstores I go to and he knows me from Cincinnati's Books by the Banks. He shelves my books in with the typical romance novels because he says, "You're book will sell here but not back there." They keep all the Christian Fiction in the back of the store.

I'm so glad you got to meet with some of the gang from Charisma. I loved meeting Debbie Marrie a couple years ago at the Blue Ridge Conference.

I don't think spec. fiction is a flash in the pan, but I do think we need to think out of the box. :)

Bruce Hennigan said...

Thanks Jillian for the encouragement. My good friend, Mark Sutton (co-author of our book on depression) lives in the Orlando area and does a good bit of traveling. He confessed to me a few months ago that he had sinned. Now, this man was my former pastor, now retired. Every time he visits a book store, he finds my book, "The 13th Demon" and moves all of the copies to the thriller section of the store!
I forgave him.