ACFW Connections: E. Stephen Burnett

A little while back, I connected with a gentleman I didn’t know I was connected to. If you know Stuart Vaughn Stockon (Starfire, Marcher Lord Press 2009), well…E. Stephen Burnett is part of his posse over at an outlet called Speculative Faith. I met E. Stephen B. another way, via a relative of his who’s a new friend of mine.

E. Stephen B. came to the conference too, and you just gotta meet this dude. It’s highly entertaining and refreshing. The first time I spotted him, it was actually Dave who’d picked him out of the crowd for me. He was crammed into a crowd headed into for one of the general sessions. Now, this dude towers. And as you can see above, I do not.

So I’m lost in the wave of oncoming foot traffic, trying to keep my eyes on the tall guy and snag his attention. I ended up jumping up on my toes and waving both hands in the air, which just barely sufficed to do the job. E. Stephen saw me, and with him came Pastor Worf, whose mild-mannered alter ego is John Otte. John…is even taller. I stood there and blinked for a minute.

Well, the weekend included a variety of entertaining adventures, as well as some great fellowship. As it turns out, E. Stephen B. will make a fine minion, if I can just get him trained to bow and scrape appropriately.

I sent E. Stephen B. a quick three-question quiz before we met in person, and here is the result.

1. Tell me one unorthodox, hilarious, dangerous or otherwise ill-advised incident from your life.

I’ll choose “unorthodox”: meeting a girl I’d first “met” on the internet (the NarniaWeb forum, to be exact) and courting/dating long-range, then after a three-month summer in which she moved closer for the summer, proposing, and marrying her in May 2009. My internet life and real life continue to intertwine …

2. Tell me one really cool side effect of being a writer. Is there a bigger reason for God dumping you into this crazy life?

Anything just might get incorporated into a story: any fact (even learned during small-town newspaper writing), any doctrine, any Christian-cultural oddity, any false teaching, any fascinating person with a quirk that seems necessary to memorialize. As for the bigger reason, I firmly believe He has revealed more of His glory and love to me, in me being a writer; time and any success will further prove if He’ll keep it up.

3. Tell me your thoughts on a key issue in Christian culture today. Your pick of anything. Go.

Christian culture reflects what’s in the churches: taught at pulpits, propagated in programs, disseminated in nonfiction devotionals and other books, and endorsed by myths and half-truths about the Bible. Based on that, I’ve come to conclude that most problems speculative fiction writers have in finding an audience isn’t just the fault of Christian publishers. Lack of good fiction, speculative and otherwise, is because too many Christians simply don’t want it. Over decades they’ve been trained to think that only stories about Amish communities or prairie histories, or now increasingly crime-and-detectives are the most “Christian” and safe kinds of stories. Now, that’s better than “any fiction is an un-Godly lie,” yet still, might we move on?

Though I don’t want to be a reverse-legalist about this (these genres are not intrinsically wrong!), one can argue from Scripture that because of epic His-story, and especially because Christ’s people are destined for a fantastic eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth, speculative fiction best reflects Biblical truths.

So what’s the solution? In general, it’s in both fiction and nonfiction. In fiction, take risks on publishing or reading the more-epic stories that honor God. In nonfiction: show how, Biblically, such stories do honor Him. Clean up churches with love but firmness, and decrease shallow-story preferences by teaching people to rise above shallow-God preferences. So, the surprise secret ingredient? Deep Doctrine Magic.

Very cool concept. I couldn’t agree more, and thank you for putting it so front and centre.

On that note, it looks like I’m the one slated for minionhood…I’m honoured to announce that I’ll be doing a somewhat monthly guest spot for Speculative Faith, where I get to post with a specific focus on writing and/or Christian SF. Details to follow, and it promises to be great fun.

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  1. Esther, so true. :~) We had a good conversation on Friday night which included some theology. Most refreshing.

    Randy, a Facebook friend asked me why I was sitting down in that picture…wait’ll you see Pastor Worf. A demain.

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