SF&F Corner: Open Letter to Readers Who Object to Contemporary Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Paranormal Novels at Deseret Book

Note: My new novel Imprints had barely reached store shelves a couple weeks ago when a customer, upon reading the description in the catalog, e-mailed Deseret Book asking them to remove my novel from Deseret Book stores since it was a novel dealing with an “imaginative” or “psychic” element, which in her opinion, though she planned on reading the novel, should not be carried at Deseret Book. This objection prompted me to write an open letter to such readers explaining why everyone who enjoys contemporary sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal, or anyone who believes all genres have value, should not only buy Imprints (shameless plug), but should contact Deseret Book’s publishing division, thank them for publishing a novel in this genre for adults, and urge them to publish and carry more.

Dear Reader:

Thank you for reading my books and for being a supportive reader throughout the years. LDS authors cannot continue to do the work we love without support from readers. I’ve been told of your objection to Deseret Book carrying Imprints, and though I’m surprised at the objection, particularly by the fact that it was made without first reading the novel, I wish to address your concerns by explaining the great importance I feel that Deseret Book not only continues to publish this series, but also seeks to carry other uplifting books in this genre.

First, you should know that the Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain Publishing Board deeply considered the ramifications of publishing this novel, as they do all the books they publish. The process of approval is rigorous. Deseret Book has a wide variety of readers, from people who read only nonfiction doctrinal books to people to enjoy specific types of fiction, and they want to reach and uplift all their customers. Unlike at an LDS Distribution Center, which carries only nonfiction church items, this means carrying a wide variety of novels in the Deseret Book stores.

The fact is that contemporary fantasy/science fiction novels are growing in popularity, thrilling readers of all ages in the national market. In children’s and young adult stories, these books are usually classified as fantasy novels. After careful review and consideration, Desert Book has printed several fantasies for children and young adults through their Shadow Mountain imprint, including Fablehaven, Leven Thumps, and the Hourglass Door.

These books are imaginative and have inspired children to reach new levels in reading. This is a positive thing. The lessons learned of obedience, friendship, and sacrifice are just as strong as if the characters were in normal, everyday situations—stronger, in fact, because children who aren’t otherwise interested in reading are able to connect with these books on a level they have never achieved before. They develop reading and social skills they would not have had they not been exposed to such literature. In actuality, child readers of fantasy and science fiction generally test higher in reading and comprehension skills than their peers who do not read these genres. In addition, the lessons contained in the books are typically very moral, especially in the Shadow Mountain releases.

LDS people are in general big lovers of fantasy and science fiction, and we have produced a rather high percentage of national fantasy/science fiction authors given our number of members. For the adult market, we have authors like Tracy Hickman, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, and Dave Wolverton (Farland). Their work is popular among LDS and national readers alike. We also have authors who write paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Unfortunately, these romance and urban fantasy novels are rife with explicit sex and innuendos that are contrary to LDS teachings. The language and immorality are not acceptable to Deseret Book, so there is nothing available at those stores for LDS women and men and who want to read this genre. These adults have no interest in reading the available young adult fantasy stories with high school themes, but rather yearn for stories about adults dealing with adult issues or going on adult adventures. At present, they have no choice but to read national paranormal novels and skip offending pages—or to stop reading contemporary fantasy and science fiction all together. For some, this would mean to stop reading fiction completely, something I doubt they would choose. Yet continuing to read the national novels Deseret Book can’t carry exposes them to elements they would prefer to avoid.

As a store that caters to all members and who wishes to inspire all kinds of readers to better heights, I feel Deseret Book is doing adult readers a great service by publishing and carrying Imprints. Adults who love a little fantastic or science fiction element in their novels can now read a book without having bad language, explicit sex, and questionable scenes and conclusions assaulting them at regular intervals. To ask Deseret Book to remove Imprints is paramount to saying that those LDS readers seeking uplifting novels in this genre do not matter and that they do not belong in a Deseret Book store. That they should stop reading what entertains them (or maybe only read nonfiction, as many nonfiction readers believe would be better for all of us).

This saddens me deeply, especially after hearing the excited responses from so many readers who have loved the book. Because truthfully, you cannot expect to find novels for adults anywhere except in a Deseret Book. So basically, your recommendation means that there will be nothing for them anywhere because the national market rarely publishes clean contemporary paranormals.

The greatest teacher of all taught in parables. Lessons can and should be found in all types of clean, uplifting fiction. With Imprints, we have been very careful to separate the fantastic/scientific element from any aspect of the gospel. There is no LDS connection, no LDS characters, nothing that should offend readers or weaken testimonies. There is no element of evil or subversiveness. In fact, the novel teaches lessons of enduring, of helping others, dealing with problems, and developing talents even when it is difficult. It is simply a clean, fun, make-believe novel, like all the other clean, fun make-believe (imaginative) novels in the bookstore.

We have great novels imagining entire histories for people in the Book of Mormon, we have novels imagining challenges in pioneer times, imagining the death or illness of a loved one, and now we finally have a novel imagining what it would be like if a character had a make-believe ability. Some would love Desert Book to do away with all fiction, but I feel it is vital to allow readers access to clean, uplifting novels in the genre they enjoy and connect with. Those are parables they understand.

And you never know how much good those books will be for them. The other day at a book signing, I met a grandmother who was never a reader until, recuperating from an illness, she picked up a national YA novel at her daughter’s house and was immersed in what she saw as an exciting contemporary fantasy world. Since then she has eagerly devoured many novels of all genres in the LDS market, spending many enjoyable, even educational hours, but her greatest love remains in the contemporary paranormal (fantasy/science fiction) romance genre, which she can’t find in a clean version. Imprints is not only for my regular readers, but for the many women like her. Deseret Book feels it must take care of the one, giving them an uplifting alternative. This is especially true of our young adults, who are particularly at risk in this day and age.

Authors imagine murders, mysteries, action novels, disasters, love stories, fantasy worlds, scientific advances, and so much more. What a wonderful thing to have different novels for different readers, all faithful members of the Church! Novels that use various imaginary plots not only to entertain but to inspire doing good and helping others.

I’m glad to hear you plan on reading Imprints, and I hope after you do that you will officially withdraw your objection. I hope you will agree that clean novels in this genre will enhance readers’ lives and help them stay on the right path. Keep in mind that if Deseret Book does not fulfill this need, there will be no place at all to buy Imprints or other clean novels in this genre.

Sincerely,

Rachel Ann Nunes

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32 Responses to SF&F Corner: Open Letter to Readers Who Object to Contemporary Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Paranormal Novels at Deseret Book

  1. Very interesting letter! But does Deseret Book really have THAT much a monopoly on LDS books? I know they are the biggest, most powerful LDS publishing industry, but does a book published by someone else really not stand a chance?

    Perhaps it will be when enough LDS people publish outside of Deseret Book that there will come a broader acceptance of new genres. If so, this is the time to do it!

    I haven’t read Imprints yet, but this makes me very interested to read it. Who knows? Maybe DB’s withdrawal of the book will give it more attention than it would have gotten otherwise.

    Of course, I may be bias, since I just got a rejection letter a couple weeks ago from DB. Hmmm… I think I’ll start a group or fan page on Facebook called, "Deseret Book rejected my book!"

    If I do, you’re welcome to join!

    :D

    Chas

  2. Katya says:

    "I’m surprised at the objection, particularly by the fact that it was made without first reading the novel . . ."

    Oh, this is not surprising. Those who make the shrillest objections of this sort are always the ones who haven’t bothered to read the book or see the film in question.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    There is much in this situation that troubles me and I’ll chew on it for a while before really responding. But I would like to make one recommendation. You write that readers "yearn for stories about adults dealing with adult issues or going on adult adventures." Considering the circumstances, perhaps you should eliminate the word "adult" in favor of the word "mature." Especially in the adventures part. I’m just saying. ;)

  4. Moriah Jovan says:

    @katya

    [b]Oh, this is not surprising. Those who make the shrillest objections of this sort are always the ones who haven’t bothered to read the book or see the film in question.[/b]

    *sigh* Discouraging, is what it is. Reminds me of the way [i]Dogma[/i] was protested, and I thought it was one of the most spiritually uplifting movies I’d ever seen.

    @Chas Hathaway

    [b]But does Deseret Book really have THAT much a monopoly on LDS books?[/b]

    For bookstore shelf space, yes, and specialized bookstores in limited geographic areas, to boot! You can order these books from the library or you can get any bookstore to order them, but if you don’t know they exist, how can you order it?

    @Rachel

    As sad as it makes me, it doesn’t surprise me. The first time I read about your novel, I knew people would have issues with it. Since you have no other shelving recourse, it’s doubly discouraging.

    If it *does* get pulled from DB (which I doubt), I’d be happy to offer you space in my storefront.

  5. Lee Allred says:

    Dear Reader,

    Thank you for your expressing your concern about Deseret Book carrying novels on its store shelves with "imaginative" or "psychic" elements.

    As the Scriptures encourage us to do so, "Come, let us reason together."

    Since your complaint concerned the book IMPRINTS by Rachel Ann Nunes and not, say, THE WORK AND THE GLORY series, I assume your use of the term "imaginative" does not mean you object to novels literally having "imaginative" elements — all fiction by definition is imaginative.

    In fact, all fiction, even Christ’s parables in the New Testament, requires both the writer and reader to use their imaginations. Fiction writers tell things that aren’t true, that never happened and possibly never could happen. Readers use their own imagination to picture for themselves details in the stories that don’t exist — the faces of the characters, the furnishing in the room. Both reader and writer are making things up. Telling lies, if you will, but an act of lying that is not evil — else Christ would not have told His parables — but an act of telling that which is not true in order to better explore that which is true — about ourselves, our world, our society, our eternal nature.

    Since it cannot be that you denounce all story-telling, all writers making things up, all fictions inside a work of fiction, if follows then that what you are objecting to is specific things that Sister Nunes makes up in order to tell her story. You object to a "psychic" novel but not other non-psychic novels. You object to fictional lies of a fantastic nature in a story, but not more mundane ones, such as found, say, in THE WORK AND A GLORY.

    Yet, you indicate yourself that you do not object to reading such literature yourself with fantastical elements, but specifically to IMPRINTS being stocked and sold (and perhaps even published) by Deseret Book.

    Clearly then, in your view, a work having fantastical elements is in some way wrong for the shelves of Deseret book.

    You do not fully explain your reasons. I am guessing (but only guessing) from the tone of your complaint that it is a moral issue for you. Using my "imaginative" processes, it appears you feel that it is morally incorrect to sell IMPRINTS at Desert Book because of its fantastical elements.

    I am not sure exactly where such concern comes from, or on what it is based.

    Surely not from the General Authorities. Had they so spoken, I most assuredly would have known about it; I myself write fiction with fantastical elements for the national market. In fact, the very first work of Mormon literature was entitled "A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil." It contained the type of "imaginative" and "psychic" story elements that concern you. The author was a General Authority — Parley P. Pratt himself.

    Nor does such a concern come from the Scriptures. When the apostle Paul was in Athens, he chanced across Mars Hill where all manner of altars to fantasical, "imaginative." imaginary pagan Gods. Afraid that they had perchance left out some god, so as not to offend, the Greeks had erected an altar TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

    These mythological Gods were no more real than the "psychic" elements in Sister Nunes’ novel. What if the apostle Paul had chosen your method to deal with the moral incorrectness of all those pagan altars?

    Luckily for us, he did not. Instead:

    [b][quote] "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

    "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." (Acts 17:22-23)[/quote][/b]

    Paul then gives one of the greatest testimonies of God and Eternal Truth that we have In the entire Scriptures.

    Paul used, as I said earlier, "that which is not true in order to better explore that which is true — about ourselves, our world, our society, our eternal nature." Sister Nunes, too, uses her "imaginative" elements not to deceive her readers, but to use them to explore and ponder real, eternal truths.

    I would encourage that rather than hardening your heart against such books, you ask like the Athenians did Paul: "Thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean," else you appear to others, as Paul told them, "in all things ye are too superstitious."

    A fellow builder of the kingdom,

    Lee Allred

  6. Annette Lyon says:

    Dear Reader,
    Reread what Lee Allred just said. I second it.

  7. Th. says:

    .

    1. Does DB have such a monopoly on the Mormon market? Essentially, yes. Outside DB you’re lucky to sell a few dozen copies in the LDS market.

    2. I’m distracted by the idea that we have to insist that "imaginative" fiction must be a parable. I don’t like that limitation and I hate pandering to people who won’t read about Hobbits because they’re meaning is not as clear as Aslan = Jesus.

    3. What <i>is</i> DB’s role here? I don’t know. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of clean novels in the science fiction, romance, mystery, fantasy and other genres. DB could just carry these books instead of publishing their own. Especially when you consider they’re not exactly rolling in the dough generated by the titles the do in house.

  8. Th. says:

    .

    Ah crap. An embarrassing typo and the wrong markup code. I am an idiot. Thank you for the opportunity to redemonstrate.

  9. Moriah Jovan says:

    [b]It’s not like there aren’t plenty of clean novels in the science fiction, romance, mystery, fantasy and other genres.[/b]

    That gets forgotten a lot.

    (And also, [i]Twilight[/i] is, technically, clean. The way we mean it. And it got pulled, too.)

  10. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I recall sitting across my living room with the bishop’s wife shortly after the church ceased and desisted calling the 3 year old primary class Sunbeams. She argued that it was about time because Smiley Face Sunbeams aren’t true and we don’t want to confuse our children; we want our children to think the church only tells them true things.

    Sometimes the members of this organization exhaust me. FTR, I refuse to agree that fiction must be a "lie" or that it is "not true" because it has not actually happened.

    But Lee, you are my hero for your most excellent response. And Rachel, you have more influence than the majority of us. Keep pushing DB to open some of those windows we are promised will open after doors close. DB has definitely closed too many literary doors, IMO.

  11. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Lee said it perfectly.

    BUT . . . several of you say there are clean contemporary paranormals in the national market, and I’d love to know the names of these books (not YA, please). I’ve spent the last few years reading as many as I can get my hands on, and in the adult (mature) market, I have found very few that could ever be sold at Deseret Book–mostly because of sexual issues, but also violence and themes. Actually, I can’t think of a single one published by a major national publisher that Deseret Book wouldn’t receive hundreds of letters of complaints.

    Even some novels that many might consider clean, Desert Book must reject because of their audience. They have been in the business a long time and look at many angles the average reader wouldn’t consider (i.e. are the couple spending the night alone even though they aren’t doing more than kissing, what about emotional adultery, how do they present homosexuality, family roles, etc.) Please give me some titles. I suspect that books you’ve found might come from smaller presses and might not be widely distributed, or they are for teens. That’s a challenge. If even a few clean contemporary paranormals do exist for adults in the national market, how do LDS readers find them?

    I would also like to add that Deseret Book has no plans to pull Imprints. In fact, last week the novel was the #4 bestseller in their stores. They have given me every support, and I’m content with their response to this complaint. I’m really grateful to them for branching out, and I hope they end up carrying similar novels I know are coming out from other LDS publishers.

  12. Th. says:

    .

    We need to remember that Mormons aren’t the only people anxious about Inpropriety in novels. And as long as there is a market for clean stuff, publishers will provide it. Think, for instance, of the gallons of genre stuff (similar to LDS genre stuff) that Christian publishers pour onto the market. I’m not sure, but I wager that if I didn’t know who wrote Imprints, I wouldn’t be able to guess if the person who wrote it was Methodist or Mormon.

  13. Lee Allred says:

    A few sidebars on the discussion:

    1) During the time I was involved in helping organize the BYU science fiction symposium, there was a concerted effort on the part of a few individuals not unlike Rachel’s "Dear Reader" who took it upon themselves to try to get BYU to cancel the event. Much of my interaction with the University administration the two years I co-chaired the symposium was to either counteract these complaints or pre-empt them.

    I’m not surprised a "Dear Reader" has surfaced concerned about Rachael’s book.

    2) Rachael is spot in her assessment of a dearth of clean contemporary paranormals for LDS readers, and if DB doesn’t publish or at least headline their distribution, I don’t see them happening.

    For the past several years I have been very actively researching the Romance field — even going so far as to attend the RWA annual conference — with an eye of also writing paranormal romances.

    Part of that research was reading a lot of romance novels looking for something close to what I intended to do at the appropriateness level I felt comfortable writing. I have yet to come across a paranormal or a "Sweet Romance" that fit those criteria.

    3) Some very fine, very chaste, very literary paranormal novels exist. They are, alas, not so contemporary, and still do not meet the DB criteria Rachael outlined.

    LINCOLN’S DREAMS by Connie Willis. Connie, who’s won more Nebula and Hugo science fiction awards than any other writer, wrote a very clean paranormal romance story as her first science fiction novel. The two leads never even kiss except a brief goodbye at the end. Even so, the couple, on the run, shares a hotel room for several nights. Very chastely share the room, but still strike out as far as DB is concerned.

    PORTRAIT OF JEANNIE by Robert Nathan. (Look for the 1990s small press reprint with the introductions by sf writers Peter S. Beagle and Sean Stewart.) Nathan is one of the forgotten literary geniuses of the mid-20th Century. Both a gifted stylist and a best-seller. PORTRAIT OF JEANNIE is one of his more famous books (made into a movie with Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones. The novel is a time-travel romance and reads very much like a 1940s Saturday’s Warrior in spots. Even so, there are elements that disqualify it from being a DB book.

    Somewhat light on the paranormal (though too coincidental to be considered just plain "normal" — the paranormal is in the obvious purpose of events) is Charlotte Armstrong’s Edgar-Award winning mystery, A DRAW OF POISON. A very sweet and very clean romance, but the nude art model scene would be a red flag for DB. Wonderfully written.

    – Lee

  14. Lee Allred says:

    One last post on the subject before bedtime. :)

    [quote]What is DB’s role here? I don’t know…[/quote]

    Publishing books. Making money. Discovering product niches not served by others that serve their existing customer base and draw in new customers. Expanding its market.

    Judging from Rachael’s account of her sales position, I gather Deseret Books has done so with IMPRINT. Historically, I think Deseret Book has a very natural role in publishing paranormal romance. Consider:

    • SATURDAY’S WARRIOR is a paranormal romance.

    • The grand-daddy of Mormon literature, ADDED UPON, is a paranormal romance.

    Personally, I find the term "paranormal romance" clunky at best. It doesn’t begin to describe the wide-open possibilities inherent in the field upon proper execution. Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM are a paranormal romances. The musical BRIGADOON is a paranormal romance. As is the ballet SWAN LAKE, as is Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE opera.

    Perhaps a better question might be, what is the AML community’s role here, particularly for those striving for a bettering of Mormon letters?

    Rachael wrote a atypical Mormon book for a faithful Mormon audience published by a Mormon publsiher. The book has somewhat challenging elements to it and as a result has produced a controversy.

    Maybe I’m off-track here, but might I suggest the following? Thus described, the book IMPRINTS is solidly part of the radical Mormon middle.

    I celebrate that Deseret Book published IMPRINTS. I think it’s an opening up of what DB deems as "publishable" for their market. (The fact that it’s succeeding commercially, as Rachael indicated in its sales ranking, is also a good sign.) Rather than squandering DB’s meager resources, the profits from Rachael’s sales may well serve to underwrite further radical middle projects of a less commercial nature. It maight also encourage DB to take more chances.

    Successes like IMPRINTS make what the proponents of the radical middle wish closer to being possible.

  15. Th. says:

    .

    Well, Lee. I was going to wax skeptical about DB’s money-making niche-findery, but I’m so enthused by where you ended up that all I can do is cheer:

    Rah! Rah! Rah!

  16. Many, many mixed feelings here…

    First, on the question many others have already answered, about whether DB is that critical in the Mormon market: Yes. Not as a publisher, but as a bookseller. If DB doesn’t carry it, the other various LDS bookstores probably won’t carry it either. There’s no way any of us have found so far to reach a national Mormon market except through DB. (Pardon my pessimism, but I just found out about a week ago that BYU Magazine pulled Richard Cracroft’s positive review of [i]No Going Back[/i] because the subject matter was too controversial. Not a direct connection to DB, but demonstrating yet again just how limited the means are of getting word out to those might like a book with LDS themes that doesn’t meet DB’s guidelines.)

    Second: I think that to some Mormon readers, paranormal/psychic novels are in a different class from science fiction and fantasy because the "gifts" they explore seem too close to the occult, which the Church teaches against. Sf&f are "safe" because they’re far enough divorced from reality that no one takes them seriously as promoting the occult. (I know some fundamentalists have done so, but it’s a distinctly eccentric response.) But the closer you get to a real-life setting with a few "gifts," as opposed to a completely developed, obviously "other" world, the closer you get to something that seems dangerous to these people. Hence the problem, I suspect. I’m not saying the concern is justified, just that we should do our best to understand where the concern is coming from.

    Third: I have mixed feelings about DB as a venue for "clean," "safe" fiction, with or (especially) without Mormon elements. The fact that it’s a Church-owned business means that there’s always a danger that carrying/not carrying a particular book will be seen as an interpretation of Church standards that carries a certain authority. We may be skeptical here on AML that anyone could take it this way, but I think it easily could be. The fact that it’s good to have such a place doesn’t mean that it’s good for the Church to be the one that does it. I’m reminded of the many stories I’ve heard of bishops who simply dictate that the RS book clubs in their wards should read DB-published books, in order to be "safe." It becomes a default standard.

    The thing that strikes me about Rachel’s appeal is that it contains within it the seeds of the very mindframe that can be used to support banning books such as hers: that is, that DB’s purpose is to be a place where readers can encounter books that won’t offend them. If that’s the case, then all that’s required to ban a book is to find enough potential DB buyers who might be offended by it. The argument that some readers won’t be offended and, indeed, will find great value in it is irrelevant from this perspective.

    The DB standard, as I see it, caters to Mormon confusion about the difference between depicting evil and endorsing it, particularly with its insistence that if the content isn’t appropriate for [i]all [/i]readers, it shouldn’t be available for [i]any [/i]readers. While that doesn’t seem to be the issue with Rachel’s book, still it leaves me highly ambivalent about arguments that are based on application of the DB standard, as Rachel’s seems to be. I worry that in appealing to that standard, we reinforce the mindset that has so far (for example) kept every title published by Zarahemla Books out of most LDS bookstores. DB’s distribution strategies seem to me to be based on such a fundamental flaw that I honestly can’t make myself care on a global level what new insanity they purvey–though on a human level I do hope that Rachel’s book won’t be pulled and will continue to find many appreciative readers.

  17. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    This is a great point, Jonathan: "The thing that strikes me about Rachel’s appeal is that it contains within it the seeds of the very mindframe that can be used to support banning books such as hers: that is, that DB’s purpose is to be a place where readers can encounter books that won’t offend them. If that’s the case, then all that’s required to ban a book is to find enough potential DB buyers who might be offended by it."

    But I don’t think the powers that be would have to find such readers. They could simply imagine them. You know, use those speculative powers they fear.

  18. Moriah Jovan says:

    I don’t think they have to speculate, Lisa. It only takes one, and better if that one needs a good spray with WD-40…

    And oh, I agree with Jonathan 110%.

    Aside, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

    I get the, "This book could’ve been so much better if they’d left the [offensive material] out because it had such a wonderful premise" thing. Sometimes even *I* want a sweet, clean read and even *I* know when [offensive material] is gratuitous.

    But you know what I never hear? I never hear: "This wonderfully premised and sweet book could have been so much better if it had had tons better writing and/or an editor had bled all over it." Oh, but it’s clean! And totally DB appropriate! And no one can complain about the content of THIS book!

    Except me.

    Because I’m about sick of clean==good. It doesn’t.

    I blogged about this last week http://moriahjovan.com/mojo/clean-does-not-equal-good and I’m still not settled with it because I wanted to love the book so much. (Okay, technically it was Bonneville, not DB, but you get the idea.)

    DB et al needs to take a lesson or many from Thomas Nelson et al.

  19. Wm Morris says:

    [quote]Successes like IMPRINTS make what the proponents of the radical middle wish closer to being possible.[/quote]

    I completely agree. I also think that some of what happened at the Whitney Awards was very heartening (and right on).

    Also: I don’t know that obsessing over the "clean" thing is productive. To a certain level all of us have boundaries of what we consider appropriate or not. Work within or close to or away from the DB boundaries. The key — and here is where I agree with MoJo — is to reward craftsmanship and progress that occurs.

  20. I loved [i]Dogma.[/i] And OSC’s [i]Treasure Box[/i] would have been a lot better if it was a lot dirtier (and yet a lot more "Mormon"). Making evil clean is as self-defeating as making good innocuous. If not giving offense is the ultimate objective, then Mormonism itself will cease to exist, because its existence alone offends many.

  21. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    Moriah, I hear this that a story needed better writing and decent editing, but I hear it from educated readers, like the folks here. Not the ones who write letters of complaint to DB.

    And BTW, I’m always surprised that mainstream readers challenge DB, which is church owned, as they do. Am I making a false assumption in thinking that these same folks are the ones who think all that is printed in the Ensign is divinely chosen? Oh that they would make the same assumption in this particular case.

  22. Moriah Jovan says:

    @Lisa

    I had to think about that a minute because while that is TRUE, something’s missing, and then I remembered.

    I have always thought that my mom (TBM extraordinaire) has no interest in LDS fiction at all, although she’s a voracious reader. She finds clean books all the time that she gets from the library. She is not what I would call a "sophisticated reader." I thought she was the kind of reader who only cares about the story, the "clean"ness of its contents, and doesn’t really care about things like good writing.

    Not that she’s not intelligent, but she’s an accountant, not in the least bit artistic, reads for escape, and primarily reads only one genre–mystery–and has no need of quality during her escape time as long as it allows her to escape adequately.

    So I got off on this rant at her and my three aunts sitting around the kitchen table, always having thought my mother just doesn’t KNOW about LDS fiction for one reason or another (mostly because we have no DB-type bookstore here and because she’s not really interested in the internet, although she’ll shop for what she needs there as a last resort if she can’t find it anywhere else).

    And she said (shocked me): "Yeah, that’s why I don’t read LDS fiction. I picked up a few books from my aunt and they were not well written."

    My aunts all agreed.

    So that leads me to believe that the "un"sophisticated but voracious reader who isn’t emotionally invested in quality–but notices it when it’s missing–just doesn’t say anything at all. She whispers with her checkbook and DB never hears. It’s not controversial. It’s not sexy. It’s not worth getting into a steam over.

    Since there were four TBMs in the room who read voraciously and all agreed, I have to also conclude that there’s a huge LDS market segment out there that is just like my mom: "un"sophisticated but voracious TBM readers who can find clean and well written in the national marketplace, and don’t bother with DBish stuff because their experiences have been so bad–but don’t write the letters to say so.

    And the REALLY bad part of it is that it wouldn’t take much extra effort on DB et al’s part to put out quality along with the clean. I’m sure their slush pile (with quality stuff) is as high as any other publisher’s, and–unless their acquisitions editors just don’t recognize good writing or they aren’t interested in whipping good concepts into shape–it would take the same amount of time to select and work on the good stuff as it does the mediocre stuff.

    Unless mediocrity is the goal. I can’t imagine that.

    ***

    Re fiction [not] being a lie: I will argue till my dying day that all fiction is a lie. It reveals truth. It is/can be a metaphor for truth. It can get to the heart of truth faster than nonfiction and in a more entertaining way. But the definition of fiction is that it *did not happen*. Even memoirs are, IMO, of questionable truth.

    I learned this lesson in a heartbreaking way (like, on the order of finding out Santa Claus and the Easter bunny weren’t real–that was traumatic) that the Little House books are *fiction*. I was, maybe, 13 or so. It truly broke my heart.

    So metaphorically I can agree that fiction is truth. But in point of fact, all fiction is a lie, [b]because it did not happen[/b].

    @Rachel

    I have been scouring my paranormal romance boards for clean paranormals and am coming up pretty dry, so I owe you an apology on that. I don’t read paranormals as a rule and the ones I have read are pretty tame by MY standards–and I don’t read urban fantasy.

    But upon reflection, I came to the same conclusion that Jonathan did: putting paranormal/psychic abilities in the context of real, contemporaneous life (and not creating a fantastical new world to metaphorize it) smacks of the occult and the evangelical publishing houses (the ones most likely to publish well-written stuff) aren’t going within 10 feet of that. They won’t even touch sci-fi/fantasy, except for the occasional time travel.

    So now that I’ve been really looking, I’m starting to feel your pain.

  23. Moriah Jovan says:

    Oh, also @Rachel:

    I did find a couple of titles that intrigued me and their heat levels are not indicated to be too high, although I can’t vouch for HOW high.

    Now, these are e-books, so I don’t know if that would stop you:

    http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-drop-418917-141.html

    And this is a search I came up with. Scroll down the page and start with the titles that have one little flame behind them, and go from there:

    http://www.allromanceebooks.com/category140.html?sortBy=heatLevel&page=225

  24. Wm Morris says:

    Flames? They couldn’t have gone with little tiny chili peppers or something?

    I wonder what you would do in the Mormon market. Maybe the opposite — books start with 6 Holy Ghosts and then get 1 knocked off with each level of graphic-ness.

  25. Moriah Jovan says:

    [b]Flames? They couldn’t have gone with little tiny chili peppers or something?[/b]

    Hate the game, not the playah.

    Each storefront has its own cutesy little icons and I know one has chilis, but I can’t remember which one.

    [b]I wonder what you would do in the Mormon market. Maybe the opposite — books start with 6 Holy Ghosts and then get 1 knocked off with each level of graphic-ness.[/b]

    Graphicness as defined by what?

    Remember this? http://b10mediaworx.com/b10mwx/images/Ratings-Rubric.jpg

  26. Thanks for the reading suggestions and the discussion. I find the different opinions very interesting, and I appreciate those of you who participated.

    One thing I did want to add in response to Moriah’s comments about her mother and her aunts is that LDS fiction has come a long, long way in the past ten years. There is LDS genre fiction being published that is every bit as good as the genre fiction in the national market, yet I admit there are still novels that make me cringe when I read them. You have to be careful of what you choose (how to choose good LDS genre novels might make a great subject of another post in any wants to tackle it). With many stories I’ve read, it would only take a bit of editorial direction to make a tighter, more compelling plot, but finding good editors who can work for what LDS publishers can pay is challenging, and the good editors in the market often have too many projects to deal with in depth. This is a continuing problem. I am so grateful for any editorial direction I receive because I know it will make my novel better. (Unfortunately, I’ve learned that many authors do not share this attitude.) I am also always searching for good pre-readers who know a bit about writing to read my novels before I send them in.

    On the other hand, most LDS fiction is of higher quality than national novels being published by several lines of a certain large romance publisher (this same publisher also puts out high quality, well-written romances in other lines). Different books for different readers, I guess.

    Additionally, I find it interesting that though most of us would like Deseret Book to broaden the range of what they publish and carry, we have our own ideas of what that should mean. I want a wider variety of contemporary genre fiction, some would like more literary works, still others crave edgy or controversial Mormon topics, and there are those who make time only for nonfiction. Looking at it from that POV, it really is hard to please everyone.

  27. Th. says:

    .

    I would be happy if they just carried what’s being published. That would be a good start.

  28. Moriah Jovan says:

    Rachel, this one was just posted today (although I can’t vouch for its quality):

    http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-windchance-427286-143.html

  29. Kathleen Woodbury says:

    Rachel (and others), have you tried nationally published paranormal romances by Lynn Kurland? She’s LDS and has presented on the topic of writing clean romances in the national market at past AML conferences.

  30. Laurel Gallegos says:

    I read "Imprints" and really loved it. I have a Kindle and it’s hard to find my favorite LDS authors with books on Kindle, but Rachel’s books are some of the few. I hope in time more LDS authors will have their books available for the Kindle as my bookcases runneth over.

    There is always someone that want to "ban" certain things. There are lots of movies out that I wouldn’t see, but it’s not my right to tell others not to watch them.

    I love the LDS authors because I get so tired of the sex and language from other writers. Keep up the good work!

  31. Becky says:

    [I just spotted this item while on the computer - Becky]

    "Three R’s" a Collector’s Item

    Journalist/historian Dave MacPherson’s controversial book "The Three R’s" names and discusses evangelical leaders who have not only heavily plagiarized others but have even been caught quietly using the forbidden world of the occult in order to defend the pretrib rapture view!
    MacPherson, the world’s authority on the 180-year-old history of the same view which has made millionaires of leading Religious Rightists including Lindsey and LaHaye, has authored the nonfiction bestseller "The Rapture Plot" and many web articles including "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty."
    The plagiarists include J. A. Seiss, E. W. Bullinger, Hal Lindsey, C. C. Carlson, David Jeremiah, Chuck Missler, and even Dallas Seminary professor Merrill Unger!
    "The Three R’s" (packed with many more discoveries than just the plagiarism and occultism) has been out of print for several years and is now a very rare and pricey item. Check out online bookstores and you will find these typical prices for a USED copy of it: Alibris ($33.94), Amazon ($33.94), Amazon UK ($73.08), and Archives Books ($36.93). They also charge several dollars for shipping.
    As the only publisher of this 149-page exposure, we’re glad to announce that we’ve located three small boxes of it. For a $30.00 donation we’ll mail you one free copy – or a limit of two free copies for a $50.00 donation. We’re a nonprofit corporation and our IRS E.I. number is 74-2420939.
    All donors will receive NEW, POSTAGE-PAID, SIGNED (by Dave MacPherson) copies of "The Three R’s" along with a valid tax-deductible receipt. Send checks in US funds to:
    P.O.S.T. Inc., PO Box 333, Beloit, Kansas 67420 USA.

  32. Pingback: Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market | A Motley Vision

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