I greatly dislike most of what goes by the term Christian fiction today. It is like most of what is on the Hallmark Channel – within 5 minutes I can tell you the plot and give away the entire ending. [Now that I have turned off all of my female readership...] But the point is – it’s predictable, not real, and often preachy.
What happened to Christians who wrote fiction? Dostoevsky, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton to name a few well known ones. Even Christian themes in books like Frankenstein (though Shelley was said to be a pantheist) and the (gasp!) Harry Potter series. There are very few modern authors that I read today – though Joel Rosenberg writes in a very different style that I enjoy. I avoid even the common authors such as Peretti and the whole Left Behind series (bored me by book 3).
So when I reconnected with a friend from years ago and found out he was a published author, I had to pick up his stuff and read it. Maurice and I were at the same church right out of college, and we pushed the limits of our faith – challenging thinking, late night debates at Denny’s, getting in trouble for thinking outside the Christian box that our church preached. I can look back on those days and see how God used them to develop me into who I am today. So I read…
Horror. From a Christian. Dealing with demons and sexual situations. Co-writing with a professed atheist. Edited an anthology of short stories with non-Christian themes. King Arthur set in modern day inner city with magic and trolls and drugs and racy situations.
But I found plot. Authenticity. Character development. Creativity. And it made me think.
Now understand, I grew up watching horror movies, reading fantasy and sci-fi, and still do today. If you follow my blog, you know I read extensively, and not always books from authors with whom I agree.
And I also challenge readers to get up out of their comfort zone and engage. And here is a man who is doing just that. In ways that only Maurice can.
The Knights of Breton Court is an urban fantasy set in Indianapolis. I wouldn’t tell you to give it to just anybody to read, as it does have violence, language, and sexual situations in it. But it portrays real life on the streets. And if you want to engage real people, will you do it best through a sanitized story of love and escape from the street life, or is it more effective with an honest story about characters with faults, struggling to survive, with real language, and a faith that runs through the story (even if not overtly Christian)?
As I thought about this, I realized that the Bible that I read is not a sanitized story. It has demons, violence, sexual situations, characters with major faults, and even language (though our translators sanitize it for us). Even the main character is double-crossed and killed. [And just so Maurice doesn't get a big head, I wouldn't say his writings equate with Scripture on any level!]
But Maurice is a fiction writer who is a Christian. He actively engages those he gets the chance to write with or meet. In his foreword to Orgy of Souls, he writes “”I was asked in an interview once whether or not my religion kept me from writing about certain things. In general it doesn’t because I think anything can be written about, and it’s the skill of the writer that crafts the story told….sometimes exploring faith can be messy.” And his co-author Wrath James White (a professed atheist) comments in the afterword about the mutual respect that they have for each other.
That is what we are called to do. Maurice is the Sinister Minister engaging others that God has placed around him in the world of horror and fiction. And doing it well. There is no screaming and closed ears – but listening and working together.
My definition of Christian fiction? A story written by a Christian, done with excellence and honesty. Maurice’s works may not be for everybody, but he satisfies that definition.
For more about Maurice, his writings, and how he engages others on faith, check out his blog.