August CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3: Future

Today, I’ll venture into the future of Christian science fiction. But first, let’s set the mood:

Whither Christian science fiction?

It feels strange to speculate about the future of a genre that speculates about the future. Kind of like stepping into the Department of Redundancy Department.

I’ll just toss out a few educated guesses. Yours may be better. Feel free to weigh in.

In the year 2000...er...2015...

What sorts of stories can we expect to see a few years down the road?

More of the same, plus some stories extrapolating from scientific advances (and the ethical questions they raise), cultural changes, and human anxieties emerging today.

  • More apocalyptic dystopias and End-Times novels.
  • Stories about genetic engineering, transhumanism, artificial intelligence, beginning- and end-of-life issues, and stories springing from what we learn about the numerous other solar systems with planets we’re discovering right now.
  • Cultural/civilizational clashes, particularly involving Islam, perhaps using alien societies as allegory.
  • Natural and manmade disasters such as profound climate change, runaway technology, pollution, asteroid impacts, and pandemics as plot elements.

How will new information technologies transform the way we write, publicize, and sell these stories?

We’re already seeing a democratization of the publishing process, where anybody with a computer can create an electronic book and sell it to the whole world without any outside help.

  • Kindles, Nooks, and IPads will continue to proliferate. Short stories and anthologies will be in demand as multitaskers squeeze their reading time into shorter gaps in their schedules
  • Printed books will continue, though I think they’ll increasingly be reserved for major/prestigious works, so actually having a book in print will be a bigger deal. This may be subverted when/if micropublishing technology allows the affordable manufacture of a commercial-quality print book using a device the size of a filing cabinet or thereabouts. Bottom line, there are going to be a lot more books in circulation, and more lousy books than ever before. Here’s a cautionary tale. It’s going to be harder for good young writers to rise above the noise.
  • In the world of Christian sci fi, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that successful small independents like Marcher Lord, et al, will be absorbed by major publishers under a subsidiary imprint (something like Harper-Collins’ line of new/experimental sci fi, Angry Robot Books). Every large corporation needs a Skunk Works or a Pixar to give its innovators a place to play. Publishers are no exception.

How will changes in secular and religious culture impact Christian science fiction?

I would expect the best Christian science fiction to take the lead in speculation on cultural and religious issues, such as the future of:

Family

Sanctity of Life

Evangelism and proselytism

Third World religious movements and leadership

Ecumenism, its promises, pitfalls, and possible limits

Theological controversies and heresies

Who are the emerging talents in the genre who will help define its future?

Obviously, it’s hard to identify emerging talents before they’ve emerged, but…

  • Look for authors who seem to have their finger on the pulse of new ideas and trends, and who alert you to them in their stories.
  • You finish one of their books and want more. Many more.
  • They weave Christian values and faith seamlessly into their story rather than figuratively sticking them on with a hot glue gun.
  • Something I’m seeing in the secular world that I’m sure will soon become more prominent in Christian sci fi is multicultural authors–people with more than one cultural heritage, often writing (very fluently) in English as a second language. They bring a fresh perspective and often deal with issues nobody else is thinking much about.

Okay, time to stop this crazy thing. Hope you’ve had a fun trip through time the past few days. Before you go, please visit the other fine stops on this month’s Tour, listed below.

Next month, we’ll return to the world of the Spider King and the superpowered kids who oppose him in Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hooper’s Venom and Song. Bring your bug spray.

"Jane! Stop this crazy thing!"

Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
George Duncan
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Mike Lynch
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

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8 thoughts on “August CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3: Future

  1. Good point about the proliferation of small-print and short books. As the world pace grows increasingly more busy, readers will have less free time to read.
    Short stories and works may provide a quick solution to the free time constraint, but will it be at the loss of better quality novels that will not be written?

    1. That’s a good question. My instinct is that novelists will continue to focus on novels because it’s what they do, and the time/payback ratio for a novel has always been much better than for a short story.

      Novelists and short story writers dabble in each other’s rice bowls, but I think they tend to stick with the form they prefer.

      Writers like C.M. Kornbluth, William Tenn, and Fredric Brown, for example, wrote a ton of shorts but only a handful of novels. Asimov and Bradbury wrote quite a few short stories, but they tended to fuse them into novels or link them in anthologies that told a much broader story from beginning to end.

      I keep running into young novelists who tell me, “I can’t write short stories. I just don’t understand them.” I have the opposite problem. Novels are much more difficult for me to write than short stories.

      It might just turn out that people will continue to prefer novels, and they’ll just read them in smaller bites.

  2. You’ve made some interesting predictions here, Fred. Many I agree with, but some I hope will not come true (like shorter books and fewer printed editions). Lest I seem like a Luddite, I will say I read e-books and even own a Nook, but I still prefer printed books…especially for my favorites.

    One of the things I appreciate about speculative fiction is its ability to re-frame current issues and timeless truths and by so doing, cause people to gain new perspective. So I certainly hope to see Christians jumping in with excellent craft and seamless integration of faith, as you suggest!

    1. I’m with you on the printed books, Sarah. There’s just something about the feel and the smell of the paper, the light on the pages–the experience is different than electronic reading, and something I enjoy very much.

      Now that you’ve mentioned it, I didn’t take the time to talk about things I’d *like* to see happen in the world of Christian sci fi, but one thing I’d really enjoy is more humor. Everything’s so doggone serious. Oh, there’s a little drizzled in here and there, but I’d love to see a full-blown comedy, something on the order of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but from a Christian worldview.

  3. Ugh. I don’t even want to think about e-books or iReaders. It may be the future, but I don’t have to like it (but I’m a tech guy, so if I get one, I’d probably love it.)

    I love the idea of humor for Christian sci-fi Fred. What we need is to hook you up with Rene Gutteridge. She is the best Christian comedy writer currently, but I don’t suppose sci-fi is her thing. The two of you though…imagine the possibilities!

    Very good look ahead Fred. Appreciate your thoughts as always!

  4. Hey, don’t dis the Moon People. It has a spaceship on the cover!

    Fantastic post. I especially like your predictions on what issues Christian sci-fi writers are likely to “specialize” in, and the insight on multicultural authors as well.

    1. I think the rise of some very talented multicultural writers is very exciting, and it’s not a politically-correct thing–these people are writing some beautiful, fresh stories. Two of my acquaintance are Rochita Loenen Ruiz, a Filipina living in the Netherlands, and Aliette de Bodard, a French/Vietnamese writer, who was recently the runner-up for the SFWA’s Campbell Award for best new spec-fic writer. You can find samples of their work at

      http://rcloenenruiz.wordpress.com/bibliography/ (Rochita’s list of published stories, with links)

      and

      http://aliettedebodard.com/bibliography/ (Aliette’s list of published stories, with links)

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