One of the great things about attending the Realm Makers conference is that when you say you write fantasy, people grin and say “cool, what kind of fantasy?” and then let you go on about whether you have dragons and magic or not. Because unlike other Christian writers conferences, this one is just for those of us who write speculative fiction.
In the real world, often as not, “I write fantasy” draws blank stares and comments like “what does that mean, exactly?”
While I agree with Randy Streu’s excellent article “All Fiction Is Fantasy,” we also have to admit that fantasy is the label we use to describe works of a special kind. It’s the fiction of mythical lands that don’t exist, of dragons and magic and supernatural events. Contrast that with science fiction, the realm of the future, of outer space, high technology, and alien races.
Speculative Fiction is a handy term that encompasses both, along with all forms of paranormal and supernatural fiction, including alternate history and time travel.
Maybe the line between speculative and, for lack of a better word, nonspeculative fiction is thin and blurry. But we know who we are. At least, we mostly know. Occasionally I meet new writers who aren’t really sure what genre they belong in. I spent half an hour at a conference once with a writer who didn’t know how to pitch her book—or to whom—because she didn’t know the genre. She told me it was in a made-up country—and I said what, like Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or like Genovia in The Princess Diaries?
No, no, neither of those. It was like ancient Europe, but not.
Like The Lord of the Rings?
No, there’s no dragons or magic…
She described the plot to me, and at first I though maybe it was alternate history. Finally I asked her to send me pages, and sure enough, although the opening read like a historical novel, I pretty quickly figured out it was a fantasy novel. In fact, it’s similar my own, which is also set in a fantasyland with no dragons or magic.
So we sometimes can figure out our genre by figuring out what other things we’re like. Other times, we need to talk it through with others who understand. Once we do, it makes talking about our work easier, because we can find other writers doing similar work, and we can recruit them as beta readers or brainstorming partners.
Which is what makes Realm Makers so perfect. As great as the Internet is in joining us together, there is nothing like looking someone in the eyes and discussing your mutual passion. Just as we are continually reminded to read our genre, we are also well advised to talk with others in our genre. Not only for the mutual support of knowing we’re not the only one pursuing a strange goal. But also for the kind of gestalt that can only come from being surrounded by like-minded individuals.
Attending writers conferences is good. Attending a writers conference with people who share your genre is excellent. Attending a writers conference with people who share both your genre and your faith is incomparable. This is the best way we can build each other up.
This year’s Realm Makers takes place May 30-31 in Philadelphia, and registration is open. Only 100 seats are available, so register soon. I’ll be teaching there, along with many talented instructors. If you’re a Christian who writes Speculative Fiction, I hope to see you.
Enter the Realm Makers drawing for fabulous prizes, including a bigger-on-the-inside gift basket loaded with literary goodies!