LDS fiction market growing, authors say

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    By REBECCA SHAW

    “Writing for an LDS Market” and its challenges were addressed on Saturday as part of BYU’s 15th annual symposium on science fiction and fantasy.

    “Life, the Universe and Everything,” one of the largest academic events on the joint theme, was held Thursday through Saturday in the Museum of Art, Harris Fine Arts Center and Talmage Building.

    Many authors and professionals shared expertise and insight linked to imaginative tales. One panel discussion of authors from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deemed “all fiction is fantasy.”

    “Mormon literature as a reality may be fantasy as well,” said Kristen Randle, owner of Provo’s Rosewood Recording Studio and an author.

    Randle and other noted LDS fiction authors, Benson Parkinson, Susan Evans McCloud and Thom Duncan, shed light on the growing market steered to LDS audiences. Valerie Holladay, an editor for Covenant Books, led the colloquium.

    A lively hour of discussion stemmed from the panel authors’ speculation. Panel authors’ personal experiences guided younger writers. Despite divergent views, all opinions were respectfully acknowledged.

    Panel authors said honest writers write what is in their soul. True satisfaction comes when “who you are” is expressed through you, Randle said.

    Randle said the LDS market has grown from an infant stage to a “viable cultural institution in music and literature.” Many LDS authors now turn to the genre because “they share the same context” with the readers.

    Parkinson, a writer and professor at Weber State University, said an LDS market mollifies explanation of a story’s emotional foundation. Furthermore, LDS ethnic fiction does not appeal to the national market unless LDS authors can “bring their world to it.”

    Randle spoke of “gospelisms” and “American Mormonisms” in literature. “Gospelisms” are based on an LDS author’s value system, like assessment of right and wrong. Cultural details, or “Mormonisms” are part of LDS social structure.

    “In specifically LDS books, `American Mormonisms’ become the cultural venue,” Randle said. “Books from an LDS perspective contain `-isms’s’, but only as an interpretive undertone during events.”

    Non-denominational audiences are also hindered by the need for prefaces in traditionally LDS books. Parkinson said some LDS authors would rather just “absorb what the world has and hope to make it good.”

    However, LDS novels must still uphold the author’s conscience and responsibility to the LDS church. Panel authors also said LDS people in the arts should be able to balance “contributing to the kingdom and providing for their families.”

    Parkinson said his plots are missionary efforts, but “follow limitations in LDS novels with appropriateness.”