Melanie C. Duncan provides a good summary of Christian fiction, describing why the overall genre is growing, and though I don’t write for the genre, her article is helpful if you’re interested in the area. The full review is over at Library Journal.
Christian Fiction: A Born-Again Genre
With its focus on biblical values and traditionally low emphasis on profanity, sex, or violence, Christian fiction (CF) has long been popular with a certain readership, mostly white, female, and coming from an evangelical Protestant background. “I’m not sure I’d describe all of our readers as white women of child-bearing years or [suffering from] empty-nest syndrome,” says Harvest House publicist Aaron Dillon. “But our core demographic does seem to be middle-aged mothers, primarily white. We also have a large contingent of readers who homeschool their children.”
However, Christina Boys, editor for Hachette Book Group’s FaithWords and Center Street imprints, believes the CF audience to be much more diverse than the conservative stereotype held by the secular mainstream. “The core readers are said to be women in their 40s who like novels set in the United States. But there are CF readers who do not fit into this demographic, and there are women in their 40s who like to read about a variety of characters and circumstances different from their own.”
Preaching to the converted?
Often referred to as evangelical fiction to distinguish it from secular fiction, CF is still erroneously pigeonholed by some critics as simplistic storytelling or “gentle reads” that can’t compete with mainstream novels for complexity of plot and character development. Bethany House’s 1979 ground-breaking publication of Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly, which combined an evangelical worldview with a historical romance, filled a niche long ignored by mainstream publishers, and is credited with pioneering modern inspirational fiction. However, the CF publishing industry could not have continued to thrive as it does today by offering a steady diet of bland novels under the guise of religious fiction.
Nor could the genre have expanded if it had followed a strictly fundamentalist path. While its early years were described in John Mort’s Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (2002) as having “preached to the converted” and industry organizations like the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) continue to prescribe guidelines for authors and publishers, today’s target CF audience has become more sophisticated and demographically diverse. There are more male and younger readers joining the fold and a steadily growing African American market.
A faith-based perspective remains at the core of evangelical fiction, but today’s fans are reading these books not just because of the Christian focus. They also love this genre because it quenches their inner thirst for knowledge, spiritual guidance, and, yes, entertainment.
To finish reading Melanie Duncan’s article, click here.
Part of the problem with “Christian” genres of any kind, be it fiction, film or music is that the audience buys it because it is self-proclaimed “Christian” and will therefore lower their standards simply because it has a message that they agree with. Any time we sacrifice a pursuit of truth for a warm feeling quality art goes right out the window.
Sick Boy McCoy, you make a strong point, not to mention the diversity of Christian opinions and the likelihood that even with the label, there may be disagreement. I definitely think that art is expressed through the medium and that the artist naturally brings herself or himself to the art form. I also think that artists differ in terms of valuing faith over art. So the idea of quality will either be strengthened or compromised based upon how the communicator sees either art or faith in relation to the other.
Thanks for the comment.
true, and you see examples of “Christian Fiction” in Father Brown (chesterton) Nine Taylors (Sayers) and anything by Flannery O’Connor that are very “Christian” yet do not sacrifice artistic value.