Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ooh-kay...this is one of the strangest things I've ever heard...

When we read this in the Rockford Register Star this morning:

"You want to check out a strange corner of the Internet? Try these guys: A Finnish choir of shouting men. Their rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' absolutely must be heard."

My 101QFL cohostDarren Marlar and I couldn't resist following the link. What we found there is undoubtedly one of the weirdest things I've ever heard in my life.

All I can say is...wow. Strange!

B.J. Hoff is shutting down her blog

I'm very sad to report that one of my favorite authors, B.J. Hoff, has decided to shut down her blog, Grace Notes. As an aspiring writer, the blog had quickly become one of my favorites. B.J. possesses a wealth of practical knowledge as a talented and seasoned published writer of Christian fiction, and she was being generous enough to impart this knowledge in her blog.

However, B.J. posted something about Christian fiction the other day that touched off some controversy in the comments section of her blog, and she feels it unwittingly became a venue for some things she never intended:

"...because I’ve never believed internet discussion boards or blogs are the optimal venues for complaints or criticism–especially those of a harsh, strident nature, I’ve hoped to maintain a certain restraint on Grace Notes that would keep it from becoming merely a place to rant.

"Please understand that I concede anyone’s right to criticize whatever they please. But I do think there’s a proper place and medium for that sort of thing, and this web log isn’t the place."

B.J. believes the discussion caused the blog to veer off its intended course, which was to "be a forum for writers and aspiring writers, focusing on craft and only on craft."

It's the blogosphere's loss, and the loss of people like myself who derived great benefit from the wise counsel of a veteran writer of fiction.

I would love to see B.J. write a book about writing at some point. Who knows, maybe that will happen sometime down the road.

In the meantime, she continues to write quality Christian fiction. I recently finished Jubilee, the third in her American Anthem series, and I enjoyed it immensely.

And now, I sound off about Christian fiction...

I have to disagree with people who believe Christian fiction is characterized by shallow tripe written by inferior writers.

No doubt, that stuff is out there...but it's certainly NOT the stuff I'm reading. As one who has read Christian fiction since childhood, I have watched the medium grow and mature in quality and excellence.

I would have to ask those who are decrying the state of Christian fiction today, and making blanket generalizations about it, just exactly what have you read lately?

Come back and talk to me about Christian fiction's inferiority after you've read at least one recent (I stress recent because a few of these authors have improved greatly in quality and content since their early days of writing) book by the following authors:

~Jane Kirkpatrick
~Francine Rivers
`Liz Curtis Higgs
~B.J. Hoff
~Linda Hall
~Lisa Samson
~Angela Hunt
~Nancy Moser

And that's just a handful of the wonderful authors I could mention. Until you've read a decent sampling of these and other fine Christian fiction authors, you have no credibility when you complain about the state of Christian fiction today.

Yes, I'm sure there is tripe out there, and I'm sure there are negative aspects to the Christian fiction industry.

But the bottom line is...if you love to read fiction, and you want fiction that's going to enhance your Christian life and benefit your heart and soul...there's plenty of good stuff out there.


Dianne said...

"Ugh" to the music and "sniff" to the end of BJ's short-lived blog. And I'm in total agreement with you about Christian fiction. I read more non-fiction than fiction these day, but used to devour the stuff when I was younger and still sneak a read when I can. Some favorites of mine: Michael Phillips and Robin Lee Hatcher. Hey, no one forces anyone to read this stuff so if someone doesn't like it, let them read (or write) something else. There's lots of room in Christian fiction.

Scott McClare said...

Just listened to the audio on the Finnish shouting choir site. You're right. That was . . . interesting.

Jeri said...

Sorry to hear that BJ Hoff is shutting down her blog (I wonder if she considered the option of shutting down *comments* and keeping the blog). I posted twice and left it there.

My most recent Christian read was PERPETUA by Amy Peterson, a young writer who will mature into a tremendous contributor to Christian historical fiction, if the Lord so leads. I'm not trying to advertise on your blog, but Here is a review of her book.As for thinking much of Christian fiction is tripe, here I raise my hand. I posted my specific doctrinal objections on Hoff's site, but I didn't check back to see replies. I have read Jamie Turner's fiction and consider it both literary and substantial in its import (and entertaining, in spite of the fact that there are no spaceships or killer robots).

However, I've also been to the CBA convention, and I think it's a carnival of foolishness. Many kind and good people are there (a fact I did stress with Ms. Hoff), but it is also the center of the merchandising of Christianity, and that is very dangerous.

The great counter charge to the writers you mention is the LEFT BEHIND series, which has trivialized and merchandised the Lord's return and turned it into a (badly written) adventure. Though popular, the series has created confusion about what Christianity is and has shifted focus from the heart of our faith to a skewed emphasis on current events and prophecy for the sake of prophecy. Yet the heart of all propehcy is Jesus Christ, not the Rapture.

The only body that can police the CBA is the CBA, and they have not done so adequately. So while there are good books and good writers in the CBA, the CBA is also an entity whose purpose for existence is sales, and they have sold merchandise that has indeed trivialized our faith.

They have made Christian fiction itself largely feminine, and white middle class. They know who they have to target to get sales, and that targeting leaves out a lot of people. A Christian view of fiction has to proactively serve ALL Christians.

I listed my three doctrinal problems that I have with much of Christian fiction, so I'll spare you the rest of that sermon.

On the other hand, Ms. Hoff may have acted prematurely, and I hope she will reconsider. I *WISH* I could generate so much discussion on a blog. Perhaps the sight of such passionate views should not have intimidated her but rather encouraged her to sort and categorize the types of objections she's getting. When I was there, nobody was objecting to HER fiction, so it wasn't personal as far as I saw.

As her blog is entitled "a search for a Christian worldview" (or somethng similar to that), she may want to reconsider. The search for any lasting model is going to involve passionate ideas at difference with each other. The search to view events and circumstances with unflinching self honesty involves pain, soul searching, and hearing heartfelt complaints and criticisms from people who are thoroughly unhappy with the way things are.

Nobody ever built a model of what will work without having to face what hasn't worked. What she has viewed as something painful and destructive may have been the beginning of the very thing she was looking for: a tearing down of old structures so that she and her readers could find points of agreement on how to build a Christian worldview.

I regret any pain or personal distress that Ms. Hoff suffered, but in the light of a new day she may want to re-think. She IS a professional writer, and she HAS touched a sensitive core that attracted a lot of responses.

As I mentioned on her blog, Christian writing has to be about IDEAS. Well, here is a world of ideas for her, all flying very fast in all directions. Make the most of it. If she can pry people away from television and video games to discuss ideas, she has accomplished a very good work. I HOPE she will produce a book (any book) that generates as much discussion and flurry of thought as her blog has done in the last week. But if she had any motive at all in starting her blog as a means of gaining readership and creating a voice among Christians, she should really think about re-starting that blog and letting the discussion run its course.

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