In the span of a few short years, small traditional publishers have begun to make an increasing impact in the arena of Christian speculative fiction. For years, the larger houses left a conspicuous gap in this area, and Marcher Lord Press was the first to take a leap into the void in 2008, with a focus on becoming the “premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction.” In the years since, a number of others have followed, blazing new trails in this genre. And their influence is becoming apparent.
The Carol Awards, announced at the ACFW conference this weekend, underscored this growing impact as König’s Fire from Marcher Lord Press took first place, the second year in a row that an Marcher Lord Press novel has walked off with the award. Similarly, in the Christy Awards, To Darkness Fled and By Darkness Hid from Marcher Lord Press took the award in 2011 and 2010 respectively.
Of note, a number of titles released from Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, and others have also won awards outside Christian spheres, proving their works appeal to a larger audience.
But awards only tell part of the story. It’s noteworthy to me that a number of multi-published authors now publish with small, independent presses. For example, Monster in the Hollows, which I highlighted during last week’s blog tour, released from Rabbit Room Press (the first two titles came from WaterBrook Press, the Christian imprint of Random House). In addition, Marcher Lord Press now publishes author Kathy Tyers, who formerly wrote for Bantam Spectra, Del Ray, and Bethany House. Such stories aren’t uncommon.
In addition, some debut authors are also turning down opportunities with larger, more established houses to work with the independent houses that have vision for and focus on Christian speculative fiction. As Jeff Gerke states, “There is wisdom in mastering and conquering a niche. Focus and exclusivity bring clarity and excellence, as any Olympic athlete or concert musician will tell you.”
I’m thankful that publishing houses like Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, and others that are working to meet the need for Christian speculative fiction. In a short time, their efforts have increased in excellence and impact, and their focus seems to be paying off with success–with readers and writers.
What do you think? Are small presses part of the solution for the lack of quality Christian speculative? Will their success ultimately open more doors for the genre, or does it only serve to solidify the view that Christian speculative fiction is a niche market that can’t expand?