Idea: In the wake of The Work and the Glory.

The world of historical fiction seems to be alive and thriving in the LDS community, but I’d be interested in seeing the sales figures for all these series. Are they actually selling that well, or are publishers just putting them out in hopes of hitting the same popularity jackpot snagged by The Work and the Glory series? Whatever the case, historical fiction currently makes up an astoundingly large share of the LDS fiction market.

A quick role call:

The Work and the Glory. Gerald Lund. Early church history.
Standing on the Promises. Margaret Young and Darius Gray. Black saints in early church history.
Light and Truth. Darryl Harris. Early church history in Great Britain.
Prelude to Glory. Ron Carter. American Revolution.
Faith of Our Fathers. N.C. Allen. Saints in the Civil War.
Children of the Promise. Dean Hughes. Saints in World War II.
Hearts of the Children. Dean Hughes. Saints in 60’s and 70’s.
The Promised Land. David Woolley. The beginnings of the Book of Mormon.
Out of Jerusalem. H. B. Moore. The beginnings of the Book of Mormon.
The Kingdom and the Crown. Gerald Lund. Days of the New Testament.

So, despite the fact that the Mormon market is currently saturated with the genre, what are the best yet uncharted territories in Mormon historical fiction?

There’s one period whose absence is striking. The Brigham Young era. Why has this not yet been tackled? Is it because of polygamy? I have to wonder if it is. Such a series would have to deal with the hard details of the day to day life of polygamy, and it seems that either authors, publishers, or readers aren’t ready for it. I wonder if such a series has been proposed and has been turned down by a major publisher, as well I wonder what the general reaction would be if such a series were published. It would be controversial, but if someone really did their research and wrote a good historical fiction series from the perspective of one of Brigham’s wives, I think it would be fascinating. There are a lot of complex emotions and ideas to explore there.

I’d also like to see a series on the life of Adam and Eve. As has just been demonstrated, there are a lot of different ways to approach the story. How much did they know as they set out into the lone and dreary world? What did they do when they weren’t farming? How much instruction did they get from their Father and how much did they have to figure out on their own? Did they ever get sick by eating berries that are not to be eaten, and did they ever connect the sickness to the eating of the food? You could go on with such questions forever. I think it would take an incredibly creative mind to take on such a project. But I also think it could be an effective way to say some profound things about ourselves.

Though it’s moving into the realm of speculative fiction, I also want to see a series about the preexistence. What was it like? What did we do all day? How exactly did the war in heaven play out? Did we promise loved ones that we would find them here on earth, a la Saturday’s Warriors? What did we think our future life on earth would be like? How does who we were then affect who we are now? I think all of these questions could be answered in a fun and thought provoking way through fiction, whereas it would probably start to get kind of silly if you sat down and began spelling out your speculations in non-fiction form. OK, so it would probably start to get kind of silly in fiction too, but I would read it.

Chris Heimerdinger has touched on it in his Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series, but we still need a good, thorough historical fiction of the latter half of the book of Alma. As many times as I’ve read the Book of Mormon, all those wars are still kind of muddled for me. And as Ronan has pointed out, Captain Moroni is a complex character. It would be interesting to explore the motivations for his actions. Does he have a dark side or are there explanations for his behavior? A good historical fiction could make a case there. Plus, latter Alma also claims two of the top ten badasses of The Book of Mormon. You can’t beat that.

8 thoughts on “Idea: In the wake of The Work and the Glory.”

  1. I remember a series of historical novels for children from the 1980s that did cover the polygamy period. It was called the Storm Testament , and I don’t remember it raising much controversy.

    There’s more controversy to the Brigham Young period than just polygamy, though. There’s also theocracy and the major doctrinal points that we no longer accept. So there would be real challenges in writing an early Utah-period novel that would be both realistic and acceptable to a mass Mormon market… 

    Posted by RoastedTomatoes

  2. I completely agree, Eric. I would especially like to read a series from the Brigham Young era (and afterwards — up to the first world war) and a Book of Mormon series.

    Actually a Book of Mormon series has been started. Two volumes are out so far. As always, the AML List’s Jeff Needle has a review .

    The books only cover up to 1 Nephi 17 — although it sounds like more are planned.

    I understand the impetus to start at the beginning, but I agree with you Eric — a short series (say 3 or 4 volumes) covering some of the events in the later part of Alma would be more interesting, imo.

    The problem with commiting to cover a certain period of time is that there may be stretches where the history isn’t just that interesting, or the characters have to be shoehorned in.

    I’d also like to see a series that isn’t set in the United States. I think that it’d esp. be interesting to see a series set in one of the countries where the Church didn’t really take of until the 1960s. Start with some of the pioneering efforts, but then really focus on 1965-1995.

    ALSO: No Adam and Eve, but Orson Scott Card’s Women of Genesis series should also be part of your list.  

    Posted by William Morris

  3. There’s a weird old book about the prexistence called “Added Upon” by Nephi Somebody. I read it on my mission. 

    Posted by Ronan

  4. RT,

    Ah yes, I forgot about Storm Testament. It’s funny, I wonder if polygamy has become less socially acceptable over time. When Charly the movie came out, I read the book. Before Charly dies, she tells her husband to marry someone she would have approved of because she would have to live with her in the next life. You would never see something like that today.


    Thanks for pointing out Women of Genesis. I haven’t read any of them but I’ve heard they’re good. And yes, I think the foreign experience would be great. Something that shows what it’s like to live in a ward of 10-20 members and starting up in a new place. It’s the same church, but a greatly different experience.

    Posted by Eric Russell

  5. Hi, I saw your comment at the bloggerhacks. Wow, the Metempsychosis Comments Hack 1.03 works for you.

    I tried to put all the codes on my template but the problem is when I click the comment all of sidebar goes down. Please, if you have time, help me.

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    Posted by Raquel

  6. Ronan:

    I assume you are joking about Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon . As campy as it is, it is clearly a classic of LDS ‘home’ literature. First published in 1898, it was continually in print until Deseret Book finally shut it down last year. 107 years is a pretty good run for a book.

    Look for a critical edition in about a year from my firm, Mormon Arts and Letters . 

    Posted by Kent Larsen

  7. In the national market historical novels were first really big in the 1970s, with the John Jakes series of novels on US history.

    Since The Work and the Glory came along in the mid 1990s, I suppose this means the LDS market is about 20 years behind?

    Perhaps next we’ll see a wave of psychological self-help books a la M Scott Peck (RIP this past week, btw)?


    Posted by Kent Larsen

  8. Just happened by. Just a question: are you implying that Adam and Eve are historical? 

    Posted by Anonymous

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