1. Alex Mellen says:

    I’m guessing the Amish fiction readers say the same things about us. Our escapism might be a little harder to achieve, considering it usually occurs on other worlds or in the future, but why else do we dress up and attend conventions together? Do Amish novel readers quilt and bake all their own food? I feel like they would describe themselves as more in touch with reality than sci-fi fans.
    One of my concerns with Amish novels is, I have friends who were formerly Amish, and their description of their community was one of twisted beliefs and discrimination against anyone who believed differently. This people group may not be the best role models.

  2. Adam Graham says:

    I would say the point’s a bit of a red herring.
    The argument against Vampire fiction (Christian or otherwise) is that it’s evil in and of itself because it focuses on darkness and evil. Duran’s argument is that Amish fiction could be evil based on what some members of the target audience use it. 
    Many things could be that are perfectly fine in small doses from fishing and hunting to using cosmetics become evil when done to excess or used in the wrong way. Thus I think if I were fans of Amish fiction, I would consider the whole comparison to be over the top.

  3. Ben Avery says:

    One idea would be for people of both “fandoms” to actually read books from the other and then judge.

    Seriously, I clicked on this expecting an actual article, with some actual informed points, not a five year old quote from someone who admits to never having even read one of the books he’s denouncing.

    How would I respond? The same way I already do to people who would judge the stuff I AM into: “Try it before you judge it based on stereotypes.”

  4. Fred Warren says:

    “Your stories are the devil’s handiwork!”
    “No, YOUR stories are the devil’s handiwork!”

    Please, just…stop.

    • Amen, Fred.

      Yet I think Mike doesn’t intent to say “your stories are the devil’s handiwork” in return. (I see few people saying this about spec stories anyway; more often they ask the far more benign, and difficult to answer, what’s the point?) His main point seems to be that no genre is so “comfortable” or wholesome that it is untouchable by sin.

      • Fred Warren says:

        Yet I think Mike doesn’t intent to say “your stories are the devil’s handiwork” in return. (I see few people saying this about spec stories anyway; more often they ask the far more benign, and difficult to answer, what’s the point?)

        Perhaps he doesn’t, but he went there first with the rhetorical declaration, buttressed with a proof text so we all know what the right answer is–an inflammatory message, directed at an easy target, with, in my opinion, discount ammunition. There are better ways to open a conversation. As you note, there hasn’t been similar incoming fire from the Amish constituency. Where’s the beef?

        My problem is not with the genre itself but with the degree to which evangelical women are “attracted by a simpler time,” curious about “cloistered communities,” and admire “the strong, traditional faith of the Amish.” Talk about escapism!

         I’m having trouble identifying any moral or spiritual failings there. Reference Tolkien on the meaninglessness of “escapism” in any literary conversation.
        The question you offer, on the other hand, is constructive and leads to a substantial, reasoned discussion. It’s a question every writer and reader should be asking.

        • dmdutcher says:

          Lewis again, from “On three ways of writing for children.”

          Almost the same answer serves for the popular charge of escapism, though here the question is not so simple. Do fairy tales teach children to retreat into a world of wish-fulfillment— ‘fantasy’ in the technical psychological sense of the word— instead of facing the problems of the real world? Now it is here that the problem becomes subtle. Let us again lay the fairy tale side by side with the school story or any other story which is labeled a ‘Boy’s Book’ or a ‘Girl’s Book’, as distinct from a ‘Children’s Book.’ There is no doubt that both rouse, and imaginatively satisfy, wishes. We long to go through the looking glass, to reach fairy land. We also long to be the immensely popular and successful schoolboy or schoolgirl, or the lucky boy or girl who discovers the spy’s plot or rides the horse that none of the cowboys can manage. But the two longings are very different. The second, especially when directed on something so close as school life, is ravenous and deadly serious. Its fulfillment on the level of imagination is in very truth compensatory: we run to it from the disappointments and humiliations of the real world: it sends us back to the real world undividedly discontented. For it is all flattery to the ego…
          …I do not mean that school stories for boys and girls ought not to be written. I am only saying that they are far more liable to become ‘fantasies’ in the clinical sense than fantastic stories are. And this distinction holds for adult reading too. The dangerous fantasy is always superficially realistic. The real victim of wishful reverie does not batten on the Odyssey, The Tempest, or The Worm Ouroboros: he (or she) prefers stories about millionaires, irresistible beauties, posh hotels, palm beaches and bedroom scenes—things that really might happen, that ought to happen, that would have happened if the reader had had a fair chance. For, as I say, there are two kinds of longing. The one is an askesis, a spiritual exercise, and the other is a disease. 

          Being attracted by a simpler time if not careful can lead to feeding the ego in the same way the posh novels can flatter it. To be the proud, pure Amish maiden who wins the heart of her love through faithful service is kind of an ego trip, but for submission. “If only I lived then or there, I’d be such a great Christian wife!”

          • Fred Warren says:

            J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”

            In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in [literary] criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.

            For all the popularity of Amish fiction, we don’t see a mass exodus of folks into the Amish community (though the Amish would likely shake their heads wearily and send them all home).  I think that readers find the Amish world admirable and fascinating, but I expect if you asked them, they’d tell you there’s no way they could ever live like that, and they’re quite aware of the downsides of Amish life and its problems in practice. They’re no more likely to trade in their car for a horse and buggy than they are to board a rocket to Mars or fly away on a winged unicorn. For all intents and purposes, it’s fantasy.

            And as Tolkien explains, fantasy is one way we can employ our imagination to break out of the various prisons society or we ourselves have constructed to confine us. Or, to employ a different metaphor, it’s a respite from the battle of our daily lives—a three-day pass in the rear area, far from the sound of the guns. It’s the cigarette between artillery barrages. It’s the letter from home. It’s the cup of hot coffee during the midnight watch. It’s not desertion from real life, it’s a break that refreshes the spirit and makes it easier to resume your post and soldier on.

            Though we might disagree about its literary and real-life merits or deficits, I can’t be too upset about someone wanting to imagine themselves in a place where prayer, family, and hard work are honored, where expectations are clearly spelled out, where the pace of life is slower and more predictable, where everyone has a valued role, and where faith in God and Christian values are taken seriously. If we’re looking for spiritual deathtraps masquerading as wholesome entertainment, or villains to blame for our frustrations with the Christian Fiction market, there are plenty of better candidates than Amish romance.

  5. By the way, today Rebecca Miller addresses the very topic of genre snobbishness.

    Pretentiousness, arrogance, haughtiness, elitism–I don’t think any of it belongs among Christian writers and readers. But sadly, literature–or more accurately, people’s feelings about literature–generates attitudes of exclusivity.

    from Reading Choices: Down With Snobbery

  6. celesta says:

    In general, I think reading Amish fiction would be a lot less damaging than reading vampire fiction. Vampire fiction tends to promote an extremely unhealthy view of sexuality, extreme selfishness, occult themes, alcohol abuse, and a host of other bad stuff. Personally I find Amish fiction boring and would gravitate towards more ‘interesting’ fiction but I try to be careful about what I read. Most vampire fiction is not something you want to invite in.

  7. Jill says:

    Women are pretty much damned if we do, damned if we don’t. And hell’s bells, we’re the ones who’ve been wearing bonnets for hundreds of years (until recently, except in specific cultures). I’m not surprised that something as traditionally and innocently feminine as a bonnet could be construed as somehow hiding a lurking devil. Because female. Because female material, base, and evil. Because men spiritual, intelligent, and glorious. Rise, oh Greek God, and crush the bonnets by which Medusa hides herself!

    • Hmm. I’m not sure how accusations of sexism relate.

      “Bonnet” here is only used as a symbol, a shorthand, for “wholesome” Amish fiction. I’m not entirely in agreement with Duran’s conclusion, but it’s not about sexism.

      • bainespal says:

        I think I do understand the accusation of sexism, but I also believe there are equivalent cases of discrimination among Evangelicals against male interests.
        Here, stuff women like to read about is considered light and vain and illegitimate. Amish stories are shallow romantic kitsch that contain empty platitudes; vampire stories are shallow romantic kitsch that contain gratuitous sin. Presumably, men’s reading interests have at least a greater likelihood at being deep and significant and worthy of being taken seriously.
        In other arenas, men are the ones whom Evangelicals consider to be evil by default. Try being a junior high boy at a private Christian school. The teachers make you feel guilty about the very idea of sexuality, even though you don’t even have much of a mental conception of what sex is. I was made to feel guilty about all the sins that men have ever committed against women, about feelings that I didn’t even understand. Boys’ male traits are discriminated against as they grow up; they get yelled at for burping or for wrestling, taught implicitly that being genuinely male is morally wrong while also being taught that the stereotypical alpha male is the adult ideal that they must strive for.
        So, let’s stop making each other feel worthless and petty. Here, the relevant fact is that women’s interests are not less deep or less serious than men’s interests.
        Everyone deserves to be taken seriously at all times. To do otherwise is a serious wrong.

  8. Kate says:

    How about Christian Amish Vampire fiction? http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9775490-forsaken
    It appears there are several series in this genre, amazingly. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13018514-the-hallowed-ones

What say you?