Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The LDS Fiction Debate

There is lots of discussion over the last few days about LDS fiction and what is acceptable and unacceptable under that label. Being the highly opinionated person I am, of course I had to weigh in.

There is a whole range of church activity and levels of testimony. There are people in the church who use bad language. There are those in the church who push modesty in dress as far as they can. I know people who accept church callings when they are convenient and even then give the bishop stipulations on their acceptance. There are LDS writers who write for the national market and put explicit sex scenes in their work. I’m not here to pass judgment on them. We all have to live with our own conscience and we will all have to answer to our choices someday.

But when we write under the umbrella of LDS fiction, shouldn’t we try to use powerful words and ideas rather than appeal to people’s baser instincts? Shouldn’t we as LDS people strive to write fiction that is powerful and life changing without bowing to the standards of the rest of the world?

I don’t think that means we leave out possible offensive content. Some people do swear, abuse and sexual indiscretions happen, and there are many other terrible things taking place around us. But I have read many books where these things are dealt with in a tasteful and powerful manner. I don’t need to have every detail of every event spelled out for me.

At the same time, I don’t want to return to the days of what my mother used to call “sappy” LDS books. You know, the ones where everyone is converted by the end of the story and all the problems are answered by using enough prayer and love. The real world just doesn’t always work that way. So where does that line get drawn? Different people will be offended by different things and no writer or publisher will ever be able to please everyone.

For me it comes down to the impression I want to leave with my readers. I want my LDS readers to feel comfortable reading my work, knowing that I try not to put things in my books that would offend the average member of the LDS church. I want my non-LDS readers to have a good story to read and if they find out I am LDS, I want them to be able to match the writing in my stories with the standards and public image the church has.

I believe work under the LDS fiction umbrella should be held to a higher standard. I think on some level the work should portray LDS values – whether through the actions of the characters or the way sensitive subject matter is dealt with. If LDS writers want to write books that push the boundaries and are “edgy”, they should try publishing nationally. Orson Scott Card is a good example of this. He writes what he wants. He is LDS. And he has offended some LDS people with his writing. At the same time, he never claimed to write LDS fiction.

So what do you think? As a writer or a reader, what do you look for in books and where should the line be drawn for offensive material in an “LDS” book?


Annette Lyon said...

I just wrote out a giant comment but decided maybe I should make a post of it myself. :)

Making a long story short, when it comes to what I read and write, I'm with you, but the issue is a bit more complex than that, with no easy answers.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

It certainly is a hugely complex matter, and I don't think there is an answer that will please everyone.

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