Ever eager to acquire fodder for my still-kinda-new Kindle, I recently downloaded a free read titled Scream. (You all probably know horror is my second fictional love.) The novel sounded promising. I didn't bother searching for reviews because, hell, it was free.
After downloading it, I did check its reviews. The book wasn't criticized for its premise or its bad craftsmanship. (From what little I read of Scream, the author's style was workmanlike and inoffensive, and the story's opening provided a solid hook.) Rather, the publisher was criticized -- for not informing readers upfront that this was CHRISTIAN fiction.
Whoopsie. But who would've guessed? It's classified as a horror novel, for crying out loud, and the cover clearly signals that.
When I saw one Goodreads commenter complain that the book "went born-again" halfway through, I decided to delete it from my Kindle. Evangelical testimony, regardless of the guise it's wearing, tends to trigger my gag reflex.
Still, this experience got me thinking.
First, I wondered if publishers should slap some sort of descriptive tag on "inspirational" fiction. (I hate that term, by the way. In my world, all good fiction is inspirational. And dogmatic fiction is rarely good.) Doing so makes sense. Many readers find such content objectionable, just as many readers find erotic or violent content objectionable. Granted, it's usually easy to steer clear of the inspie stuff -- either the blurb or the name of the house or imprint will alert you to it -- but, obviously, readers are sometimes fooled. Free or not, I would've been royally pissed if I'd invested any time in reading this book, only to discover it was a "Jesus Saves" tract.
What do you think? Would an alert be appropriate?
Then I started fretting a little over how my next release will be received. Religious faith is an integral part of A Hole in God's Pocket. What drove me to write the book (in addition to my lifelong fascination with human belief systems) was something I'd read online a while back, an opinion piece by a queer guy who lamented how the issue of spirituality was usually overlooked in queer fiction.
So I considered the difference between Christian manifestos disguised as fiction (the Left Behind series, for example) and religious faith as a theme in fiction. Although I still haven't breathed a sigh of relief, the difference quickly became apparent. The aim of evangelical writers is, essentially, to proselytize. Spreading the Word is part and parcel of their raison d'etre. But the rest of us, whether it's Marie Sexton or Andrew Grey or Shelter Somerset or authors of "literary" GLBTQ stories, aren't ideologues. We're simply trying to examine a significant and often troubling issue that shouldn't be ignored.