IWSG: Will all our voices still be heard?

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This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Join them here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

The world of writing has changed. If a big publisher doesn’t want to publish your work, not because it’s bad, but because you don’t fit into their image of what a writer should be, think and write about, you have options— you can self-publish. That makes some of us feel that we are utterly free and can publish whatever we like, no matter what our point of view is on such matters as politics and religion. But that freedom may turn out to be quite restricted.

You may know that the publishing world has become more consolidated. Instead of dozens of independent publishers, there are a handful of publishers with dozens of imprints each. Many of these imprints were formerly independent publishers.

Does this matter if you are self-published? It might. Because the firms we use to self-publish— CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords— are also major publishers likely dominated by let’s-all-think-alike progressives. If you are a successful self-published author but don’t fit in to what big publishers have determined is mainstream enough, there is always a chance that someone might decree that  something you have written is ‘hateful’ or ‘extreme.’

Being careful may not help. During my Youthful Marxist Phase I wrote a sarcastic phrase ‘bullets and ballots mean much the same thing.’ The Communist that ran ‘Struggle’ magazine failed to recognize the sarcasm and rejected that poem on the ground that it was far too ‘extreme’ even for full-on Communists. Anyone can run afoul of these accusations, especially those who are independent thinkers.

Some may feel that the solution is to sell out. Be what the big-boy publishers want a writer to be, even if you are self-publishing. Write another me-too commonplace novel even though it’s something you don’t even want to READ much less write. But that seems to me to be just another way to sell your soul.

So, will our voices be heard? I know that there are a lot of people in the publishing world that would not particularly welcome my voice. I am a prolife Catholic Christian, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a chaste-and-loving-it lesbian, and a conservative-libertarian. They won’t know whether to call me a hater or claim to be ‘liberating’ me.

But I have something in me that is not easily silenced. Perhaps it’s just my Asperger’s Syndrome which makes me not know when to shut up. Perhaps it’s just that I want to be myself since I don’t know how to be anyone else. Will anyone hear my voice? If I don’t keep trying, I will never know. I hope that all who read these words will also keep trying, and being true to themselves. Don’t conform, create!

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Poem of the Day

Here’s one of my own poems that seemed appropriate.

msm

the place was full
of fences
to let us know
where to be

fences
meshing
in our minds
to keep us in
main
stream

(c) Nissa Annakindt

from my book ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’, 2010 edition. The title of the poem, ‘msm’ refers to the mainstream media. Just in case you didn’t guess.

If you can read this, it means you have read this post all the way to the bottom. Thanks! Please leave a comment, and, since you were kind enough to read my post, feel free to link to your book (if you have one) and perhaps give a short (1 or 2 sentence) summary of what your book is about.

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The Changing Face of Christian Fiction

JesusOnce upon a time in Western Civilization, nearly all fiction published was Christian fiction. In the sense that the author of said fiction, honestly or otherwise, made a public claim to be a part of the Christian faith. Many fictional works (such as ‘Dracula’) have notable amounts of Christian content.

Things changed to the point that standing apart from Christianity became cool in some circles, and worldly and positively Christian-hostile content began to be a part of mainstream fiction.

In the US, home of so many diverse denominations, there were a number in which ‘reading novels’ became a worldly practice to avoid like dancing, the theater, tobacco and taverns. Once you were ‘saved’ you didn’t do such things.

But Christians, no matter how humble and uneducated, are more likely to be readers (because of the Bible reading thing), and some Christian publishers began to put out wholesome Christian alternatives to worldly fiction.

We tend to see this Christian fiction as coming from an Evangelical/’Fundamentalist’ denominational background, but in my collection of older Christian fiction I have at least 1 Lutheran historical novel set in the time of the Reformation (I have copies in German and English) and a couple of Catholic novels.

Nowadays Christian fiction is more of a thing, especially since the success of the Evangelical ‘Left Behind’ series. And I think it will be an even bigger thing— but not because of anything happening in the Christian fiction world.

I’ve noticed that in novels by secular publishers, hostility towards traditional Christianity is becoming more common. To the point that with one author, who started out a series with a main character who was at least a regular churchgoer, I began to wonder if that author was pressured to include an array of minor ‘born again’ and Christian pastor characters who were intolerant and hateful.

While Christians are still a numerical majority, most Christians have been accustomed to finding a Christian-bashing tone in their entertainment. I myself have been a fan of the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ television series in spite of the fact that Christian characters are portrayed so negatively.

But the problem comes when the Christian author is looking to place fiction with a secular publishing house. I think given the polarization in society at large, the same publishing world that embraced Orson Scott Card even knowing him to be a Mormon would be far less likely today to accept a brilliant Mormon, Evangelical or Catholic writer unless that writer reassured them that they had rejected any portion of their faith that the modern secular world chooses to deem ‘hateful’.

This doesn’t seem like a very economical approach, to risk alienating the Christian majority. But look at the television cable networks who make it crystal clear that if the Christian stars of a popular reality show say something that offends the gay activist minority, the network will side loudly and decisively with the gay activists. They are willing to sacrifice at least some profits for their ideology.

What this may mean though is that some writers who never thought of themselves as people who would write for the specialized Christian fiction markets may feel they have no choice but to do so if they want to be published. In some cases they will have to self-publish if their Christian fiction doesn’t meet the needs of traditional Christian publishers (most of whom are now owned by mega-large secular publishers).

The question, though, is what happens with the readers? Will those Christian readers who currently don’t read any Christian fiction continue that practice as secular fiction allows more Christian-hostile content? Or will more Christians be giving Christian fiction a try? If so, what will the influx of new readers do to the world of Christian fiction?