Ever since the last fantasy book tour, I’ve been thinking about the paradox that is the “Christian Marketplace”. Never heard of it? Me neither – in that form. There’s no real term for what I’m going to discuss today. In Christian fiction we use the term “CBA” which stands for the Christian Booksellers Association. This is the group that is the gatekeeper for Christian publishing, as opposed to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), which is where secular publishing occurs (although the ABA is not exclusive against Christian authors, while the CBA is). The problem with my discussion today is that it goes beyond fiction, thus the term Christian Marketplace.
To me the Christian Marketplace is the sub-culture that has been created for (mainly) Evangelical Christians in entertainment – encompassing music and fiction primarily, but can include movies, TV, video games, and other mediums. I don’t know the history on how Christian fiction became segregated, but I have some understanding regarding contemporary Christian music (CCM).
CCM came about after the Jesus People movement in the late 60’s/early 70’s, when hippies were getting saved, and doing what came natural to them: playing rock and roll. At first artists were on record labels along with regular artists of the day. Unfortunately, these pioneers were in between a rock and a hard place (no pun intended). Their music was too religious for the mainstream labels, but too loud for the general church audience (and a lot different from the black gospel/southern gospel forms that had been around all along).
Specific music labels were created to be a showcase for these artists. Soon there was Christian radio to play this music, with Christian rock festivals, and Christian music magazines. Soon it became a self-sustaining phenomenon, and it the process turned the word Christian into an artificial genre description rather than what the intent of the term may be.
This has been going on for thirty some-odd years for CCM. Like I said, I don’t know when Christian fiction became a sub-category (after C.S. Lewis’ time, thankfully). But I do know it was mainly known for prarie romances and historical fiction until Frank Peretti came along in the late 80’s with his This Present Darkness and subsequent books. This has triggered a slowly burgeoning fiction landscape that has a pretty diverse selection of books at this point.
Whoa, didn’t know this would start with a history lesson. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the CSFF tour from 2 weeks ago. What really got me thinking was a review of Karen Hancock’s book The Light of Eidon on Amazon that was mentioned on Rebecca Grabill’s blog. Check out that review, and I’ll discuss what instigated all of this tomorrow.