Christian Fiction: Fantasy vs. Science Fiction vs. Speculative Fiction
What's the difference?
In a conversation recently, I was asked the difference between my book and those of some other authors. Other than the other authors selling more books than I and being better known, I knew mine to be a work of speculative realm. I went on to explain what I meant by the difference. Christian fiction as a whole deals with biblical truths through story telling; many times blending all three elements. Usually, there is a strong bend toward one central genre with the support of the others.
Fantasy fiction usually deals with other-worlds, creatures, and people with some kind of magical powers and how they interact with our world. In Christian fantasy these other creatures many times are angels, fallen angels, and demons, but not always. Some of the best Christian fantasy classics are works from C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series would be classified as fantasy or fiction with the morals based in, and portraying biblical ideas. Both Lewis and Tolkien believed that such fantasy tales are akin to Jesus’ telling of parables. That is, truths can be taught and passed on to the reader through the use of storytelling. I.e. Aslan and Gandolf are Messiah types; each portraying various attributes of Jesus. The battle of good and evil that sway men are explored and expounded on through the tales of fantasy.
A few of the modern day spinners of fantasy fiction are Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. In his book series The Circle, Dekker weaves an ongoing tale of Thomas Hunter and how he is in and out of various worlds dealing with various creatures and people. Dekker skillfully interlaces in biblical truths throughout. Peretti in The Visitation and This Present Darkness and Dekker in Adam explore the spiritual world and how it affects our present world. Peretti and Dekker both are constantly crossing in and out of all three genres of fantasy, science, and speculative fiction.
So, what is Christian science fiction? Many will regulate science fiction or sci-fi to dealing with outer space, aliens and/or the future, when in fact this is not true. Science interwoven into any tale would fit the genre of science fiction. Back to Frank Peretti, his book Monster is based on science gone wrong, but he artfully brings in a bit of fantasy with the introduction of the Yeti from the Pacific Northwest.
Finally, speculative fiction answers a postulation that usually starts with “If this were true, what would that look like?” and attempts to answer that question with a plausible rendition of a story. Two good examples of this would be my book, Strong Delusion: Book One and Donovan M. Neal’s Third Heaven: Rise of the Fallen Stars. In my book the speculation would be “if the Anti-Christ came from or got his power from the planet Mars, what would that look like?” In the Third Heaven: Rise of the Fallen Stars, Neal explores “the angels in heaven battled each other, what could that have looked like?” Both books claim to have scriptural evidence for their response to the postulation, but only imagination to flesh them out. Notice one is futuristic and the other historical. Neal’s rendition is so realistic it leaves you thinking “yea, it could have happened that way.” Another biblically based futuristic series that would align with speculative fiction is the Left Behind series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Based on what many Christians believe to the account of the last days, both authors bring the reader along as Buck and Rayford live through a believable rendition of the tribulation period.
One last thing
One last caveat: though one could use these loose definitions to determine in what genre a story should be placed, in the end it really is up to the author to decide. You see, they are the ones who have to pick the category in which to file their story should it be published. One could make an argument that the whole lot should be lumped together and called Christian Speculative Science Fiction.