Welcome to Expanded SpecFaith Reviews

Blog | | Thursday, March 6, 2014
SpecFaith is growing, and now seeks your Christian reviews for anything speculative.

sidebar_writeyourreviewPreviously SpecFaith encouraged reviews for Christian novels in the SpecFaith Library — that is, Christian speculative fiction.

Now SpecFaith encourages Christian reviews (reviews based on a Christian worldview) of anything speculative.

Christian

When we say Christian we mean:

  • Faithful to Scripture.
  • Faithful to a recognized Christian confession. (For example, this is the SpecFaith staff confession.)
  • Mindful of the grace and truth Jesus Christ modeled for His people.
  • Mindful of all standards of conduct that Jesus Christ commands (Eph. 4: 15-16).

Reviews

Here’s what we’d like to see in reviews (which may be reprints from Amazon, Goodreads, or your own website):

  • Word count of at least 300 words.
  • Written from a uniquely Biblical perspective.
  • Mindful of standards of truth. How did the story’s content, religious elements, and truth claims compare with truth revealed in the Bible?
  • Mindful of standards of beauty. How did the story’s craft, style, and writing compare with standards of artistic excellence?

Anything

By anything we include the following:

  • Novels traditionally published
  • Novels independently/self-published
  • Short-story collections
  • Comic books
  • Motion pictures
  • Television shows
  • Video games
  • Events/conferences
  • Nonfiction books about speculative stories

Speculative

The term speculative covers genres such as:

  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction / space opera
  • Horror
  • Paranormal
  • Alternate history
  • Fairy tales
  • Dystopian/post-apocalyptic
  • Supernatural
  • Magical realism

Further review tips

  • Read existing SpecFaith reviews to see what we’re after.
  • If your review was already published elsewhere, include the link.
  • You might write your review in any style (e.g. mimicking the story’s genre, using puns, examples from the story, comparing or contrasting the item you’re reviewing with others).
  • Write tight. Make it clean and efficient. Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
  • Go deep, but be readable.
  • Be gracious and truthful.
  • Compare/contrast your review subject with Scripture (truth). Compare/contrast it with artistic standards and similar stories (beauty).
  • Glorify God in your praise and constructive criticism.

Why expanded reviews?

Why are we offering reviews for more speculative stories besides Christian ones?

At SpecFaith we believe all beauty and all truth are God’s and therefore worth exploring.

Our Faith Statement says:

We believe God can and does let His truth be echoed in His creation, for all truth is His truth and remains so even if it is found in a story that does not specifically credit Him.

[…] Thanks to God’s creation of man in His image, and His gifts even to those who reject Him, sinful man can sometimes echo some portions of God’s truth.

If you have enjoyed a story or been moved to enjoy God more because of a story, then we invite you to write a review. If you’ve already written one, please share it with us. Help us explore epic stories for God’s glory.

Further up and further in!

Get once-daily email updates for each new Speculative Faith blog column.

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their home near Austin, Texas.

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16 responses

  1. Cool! Glad to see you going in this direction. This should make the review library an even more useful resource!

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  2. Needless to say, I think this is awesome. It’s consistent with SpecFaith’s belief that all truth is God’s truth, it allows SpecFaith reviewers to apply their biblical worldview to the broader genre marketplace, and it shifts the emphasis from potentially-misleading labels (“Christian,” “secular,” etc.) to the truth itself as exhibited by the stories.

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  3. I don’t know about this. Kind of a big step into a new field, and a crowded one at that. 

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  4. Oh good! I read and review lots of books, but because they’re not Christian lit, they never make it here. I’m also writing a paranormal romance with a strong Christian worldview, but I was sighing to myself, well, there’s another book that’ll never be accepted on SpecFaith.

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  5. Is this site into cross-posting? ‘Cause I’m trying to be a good blogger and have somewhat consistent posts on my Blarg, so all my content goes there. And my style is more straightforward review rather than overtly Christian-y, so it might not be a good fit. Also, I cuss, because it’s my Blarg. (And anyone can go look at it by clicking the clicky link on my user name. /shameless self-promotion)

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    • Yes, SpecFaith will accept cross-posts from most anywhere (as long as there’s authorial permission, of course)!  The review-submission form even has a field to populate in that regard.

      As for review style, smarmy Christianese definitely isn’t a prerequisite.  The reader’s honest reaction takes priority over whatever it is that Christendom would expect him or her to say.  That being said, SpecFaith would quickly meld into the background of genre-nerd-blogs were it not for its uniquely Christian perspective on stories.  That’s what sets us apart from the field; that’s what makes us special.  So yes, SpecFaith reviews must venture beyond the “here’s some word-vomit of my gut-level response” stage to grapple at least somewhat with the extent to which a story as a whole reflects objective truth, goodness, and beauty.

      That may sound intimidating, but let me take two seconds to break it down in reverse order.  Assessing a story’s beauty means evaluating its artistic excellence (or lack thereof), internal consistency, and emotional impact.  This is something I think we all do quite naturally, as a story’s beauty usually has a direct influence on whether we enjoy it.  Assessing a story’s goodness means evaluating its content.  What is it that we see happen, and what judgements, if any, does the story pass on what happens within itself?  Traditionally, this assessment has constituted a dealbreaker for many culturally-isolationist Christians, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be addressed with a little more nuance.  Assessing a story’s truth means evaluating its themes, messages, and assumptions about existence.  Is there a God-, Christ-, or Holy Spirit-figure?  If so, what does the story say about him/her/it?  Are there moral absolutes?  If so, what are their implications?  That kinda stuff.

      This isn’t meant to be some kinda exhaustive checklist — the story itself should drive my assessment thereof.  If you read some of the reviews I and others have written for SpecFaith, I hope you don’t get the sense that the stories in question are being shoved through some kind of rigid sieve.  It’s honest reactions that SpecFaith is after.

      As for cussing, SpecFaith is an all-ages-and-maturity-levels venue, so Culturally Frowned-Upon Expletives will need to be removed or replaced (perhaps with Culturally-Smiled-Upon Expletives, goshdarnit!).  Just keep in mind the stipulation that reviews be “mindful of the grace and truth Jesus Christ modeled for His people” (i.e. no ad hominem or mean-spirited attacks), and you should be fine.  EXAMPLE:  Instead of saying “Attack of the Clones proves that George Lucas is a [bleep]ing imbecile and should be put out to pasture,” I could say “Attack of the Clones appears to be a sobering example of the ravages wreaked by complacency on a once-creative mind,” and then follow that statement up with specific examples of what I mean.

      Anyway, I hope this all makes sense, and that you’ll join me in submitting reviews to SpecFaith!

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      • Austin, I am in awe of your ability to say what so many pastors, leaders, and bloggers can not, in such a straightforward, compassionate tone. *applause*

        Also, I think that may be the most poetic examination of the prequel trilogy I have ever read. I would love to see the full review some day.

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  6. Steve Taylor says:

    Such high standards. Maybe I need to go back and edit all of my Amazon reviews before posting here. 

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  7. Update: SpecFaith Library and Review Forms Repaired.

    If during the past month you tried to submit your novel or review to SpecFaith and have been digitally and surreptitiously rejected, our apologies. The submission-form app had simply begun misbehaving. But the app has been to counseling and now repents of its sins.

    We still want to hear about and list your favorite Christian, published, and speculative novels.

    We also want to publish your Christian reviews of anything speculative — even reviews you have written elsewhere.

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  8. I’ve been thinking about this, and I’m still not sure why you’re doing it. You’re adding a tremendous amount of stuff to the library in terms of genre, and I’m not sure what would be achieved. I mean, like video games; there’s the Xbox One, Ps 4, Nintendo WiiU, PS Vita and 3DS, PC, and mobile. That’s just the current gen, and i’m not sure how you could review more than a fraction of them. Given that each game also has to be tackled from a Christian viewpoint you’re not going to be able to be like a Christian metacritic or something. Even granting crowdsourcing.
     
    There’s also issues with content. I’ve done Christian takes on anime on my blog, but they are mostly for anime fans who get that things like fan service and violence happen. A lot of secular works may be analyzed in terms of the faith, but they also are going to be a lot more edgy than the edgiest Christian work. 
     
    I guess I’d just like to hear more about why you chose this. What the aim of this is and how it helps the aim of specfaith. I  understand the story aspect, but I guess a bit more practical. 

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    • Does The Lord of the Rings count as Christian speculative fiction?

      If we’re honest, we’ll admit that no, it does not.

      So then why do we Christians spend so much time discussing it and ignoring the fact that it doesn’t fit within our narrow sub-subgenre?

      Well, because it’s awesome, of course.  And because it’s chock-full of truth, goodness, and beauty.  The fact that we can’t in all honesty slap the “Christian” label on its cover is utterly irrelevant to its power as a magnificent work of art over which I can glorify God.

      So why shouldn’t we discuss it?

      That, I think, is the rationale here.  Nobody sees the SpecFaith Library morphing into some kind of comprehensive database encompassing all media ever created (indeed, I believe the SpecFaith Library proper is still only accepting Christian spec-fic proper).  But this deregulation of reviewee criteria will shift the emphasis away from labels and onto actual substance.  It will clear the intellectual space necessary to examine the works of those subcreators who may not prefer to blurt out their worldview on the back covers of their books.  It will mitigate insularity.  It will put into practice the section of SpecFaith’s faith statement which reads, “We believe God can and does let His truth be echoed in His creation, for all truth is His truth and remains so even if it is found in a story that does not specifically credit Him.  […] Thanks to God’s creation of man in His image, and His gifts even to those who reject Him, sinful man can sometimes echo some portions of God’s truth.”

      Just ’cause we can’t hope to review everything doesn’t mean we should restrict our reviews to an infinitesimal slice of the genre market. After all, our motto is “exploring epic stories for God’s glory,” not “exploring Christian stories.”

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      • Ah, so just the long-form reviews/articles expanded then. I wasn’t sure how they would interact with the library, because the library asks for short reviews and comments too.
         
        See how it goes, I guess.

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      • Yes, the Library is still exclusively for published Christian speculative novels. Future site revisions will reflect that difference between the Library and reviews.

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  9. Reviews are rolling in! Keep them coming. We have three coming next week.

    (Of note: we do require the first and last name of every reviewer. The review form has been amended to reflect that.)

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