Exploring religion in fiction and how indies can push the envelope

This is a post by Pavarti K Tyler

Religion and literature have long been intertwined.  Some of the best writing and poetry exists within religious texts.  From the poetry of the Bible’s book of Psalms to the lyrical cadence of the Qu’ran’s surahs, the beauty and power of words is one religious writers have honed. But what is the place of religion within works of fiction?

Sci-fi authors have long known that the way to create depth and meaning for their fiction is to layer in religious themes.  From Frank Hubert’s epic classic Dune to Indie Author George Elder’s upcoming release The Genesis Continuum, fictional religion is a necessary component. Through this religious vehicle authors are able to investigate fundamental questions of human existence. Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?

For fiction that deals with real issues of religion in modern day society, there isn’t a good category.  The tag of Religious Fiction takes on the assumption that the content will be compliant with the Religion referenced.  Christian Fiction doesn’t just mean that it’s about Christianity but that it is consistent with the expectations of Christian Readers. Many readers are turned off by the label of Christian Fiction, not because they’re unwilling to read about Christians but because they worry the book will be sanitized to the point of uninteresting (which isn’t necessarily true).

Islamic Fiction is a relatively unknown category, but those who use it to identify their books take the meaning quite seriously.  When a book is coded as Islamic Fiction, the content is expected to be hallal and there for permitted within the confines of Islamic guidelines.

One of the exciting things about Indie books is that rules don’t apply to Indie Authors in the same way they do to traditionally published authors.  We are able to mix genres and create a new market for interstitial content.  It’s an exciting time to write, but even more, it’s an exciting time to read.

Religion is an issue that affects us all deeply.  No matter your personal beliefs, or non-beliefs, almost everyone has an opinion on religion.  Be it the existence of God or the importance of organized worship, something about religious life.  And yet, a book which deals with issues of religion directly is relegated to the abyss of “General Fiction.”

Two Indie books I’ve recently read come to, Bengali Girls Don’t by LA Sherman and Doxology by Brian Holers.  Both deal with the very real role religion plays in the lives of the main character as well as the impact it has on the culture around them, and yet neither would be considered a “religious” book.

As a reader, I’m excited by these conversations.  I’m excited to gain insight into how other people experience their worlds and the role religion plays.  It gives us the opportunity to understand those different from ourselves in a deeper and more intimate way that general fiction allows because those questions of out greater meaning are addressed.

When you can understand what someone else believes, even if you don’t believe it yourself, you are able to connect on a deeper level.  Fiction is one of the only places where we are able to immerse ourselves in the experience of another person or culture.  Perhaps Indie Authors are on to something. Transgressive literature has always challenged the way we think about the world, and Indies have the rare opportunity to write about religion without the constraints of the traditional market.

About this post’s author:

Pavarti K Tyler, Marketing Department DirectorPavarti is a member of the Novel Publicity Team as a PR Campaign Manager. She also provides content editing as a consultant or for her Novel Pub clients. Her unique experience as a dramaturge, both on and off Broadway, has provided her the opportunity to work closely with many playwrights and directors, allowing Pavarti to consider both the literary and audience perspective. Pavarti K Tyler’s novel Two Moons of Sera is a Fantasy/Romance and is being released in a serial format. Her next novel Shadow on the Wall is scheduled for release in early 2012. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.