Dystopian Christian Fantasy? Is that really a genre?
I sat down ten years ago and started to write a dystopian novel. I didn’t know it at the time. It started with a simple idea; a ‘what if’ question that niggled at the back of my mind. ‘What if we lived in a world where the New Testament had been lost?’ I decided to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) which is every November. The challenge is to write a 50 thousand word novel in 30 days. I had no clear plan, I was ‘pantsing’ it as they say. It never even crossed my mind that I need to pick a genre to write in. I simply wrote when I felt like it, and put it away when I didn’t, until NaNoWriMo 2016 when I decided it was time to get serious and really finish this thing.
That is when the question was asked of me, “What genre is your novel?” Well, I supposed it is Christian Fiction because it had the Bible in it. Post-apocalyptic? For sure, it was set in the future in a world very different from our time. It is set in Alaska and follows a ‘hero’s journey’ arc, so it could be an adventure story. Dystopian, well yes, because without the New Testament you were left with only the law, trying once again to obey it, and failing just like before. Dystopian Christian Fiction though? Was that even a thing?
Dystopian, apocalyptic, adventure, oh my!
I wrestled with the decision. I changed my mind. I researched other books like mine to see where they fit. I changed my mind again. I couldn’t say I was writing a Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, Christian, Alaskan Adventure. Finally, I simply had to decide.
Then came the natural questions that followed the decision. What are dystopian fans expecting? What are Christian fiction fans expecting? What makes this genre different than mainstream dystopian? How will my book be different than George Orwell’s ‘1984′, or Suzanne Collins ‘The Hunger Games‘? What will be the difference that will satisfy both Christian and Dystopian fiction fans?
The difference is hope.
At the end of ‘The Hunger Games’, was Katniss better off than when the book began? Was Society better off? In my opinion the answer to both those questions is ‘no’. Not only was Katniss not better off, but I think she was far worse off than when she began. The thing that will set my book apart is that hope will find its way into the mix. The hope that ‘the Truth that sets you free’ always carries with it. If you think about, don’t we all live in a dystopian world, marred by sin, and dying? The Good News is that one day, those who have put their hope in Jesus Christ, will leave this dystopian world for a perfect, shining city on a hill.
So what is different about Dystopian Christian Fiction? There is Good News in the mix, and that makes all the difference.