On the face of it, LDS Archive Publishers may not seem of much interest. Because it publishes mainly reprints, its not interested in new works–what LDS authors are usually selling. And because demand for reprints is relatively small, booksellers often aren’t willing to think too much about them. But in fact, publishing reprints is important, because it allows readers access to the basic works that helped create a market for LDS books in the first place. And, LDS Archive Publishers is also interesting for its involvement in a segment of the LDS market most of us never see: the homeschool market.
When I was a youth, the Church encouraged us as members to engage our friends in conversation about the Church using the Golden Questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? and Where am I going to? My father even had a lapel pin for his suit that was in the shape of a question mark, meant to elicit conversations using these questions.
I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be good to have some similar system to elicit conversations about Mormon Culture and literature.
In part one, I discussed the terms LDS and Mormon and why various sectors of the field of LDS/Mormon culture choose to self-identify with one term or the other or use both — either interchangeably or to mean different things. I also drew some very blurred, porous lines between LDS fiction and Mormon fiction.
I thing the best place to begin part two is with a brief, hastily sketched and probably wrong in places history of how Mormon fiction has been defined. Not the whole thing. But the field as it has developed to where it is at today. For a full history of Mormon literature up until the mid-90s, see Eugene England’s “Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects.”
The field of Mormon fiction as we know it today really begins to take form in the 1970s. In the early ’70s, Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert created the anthology A Believing People and taught the first course in Mormon literature at BYU. In 1976, the Association for Mormon Letters was formed. Since that time the AML and the Mormon literature courses taught at BYU have been the main producers of work that is about the field of Mormon literature (along with contributions from Dialogue and Sunstone — often written by authors who are also involved in the AML). The AML defined Mormon literature (and thus by extension Mormon fiction) as literature by, for and/or about Mormons.
The AML has always taken a big tent approach to things, considering everything from works published by Deseret Book to Signature to national publishers and works by authors who are active LDS to non-LDS to Jack Mormons to cultural Mormons to those whose religious tradition comes from any one of the off-shoots of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry (Community of Christ, for example). However, it has also placed a priority on literary works (although the young adult and speculative fiction genres have always had a strong presence among the people involved and the awards handed out and papers presented by the AML).
There has been some dissent from this big-tent approach over the years. Most notably, Richard Crafcroft, who has pushed for a more LDS-oriented approach to Mormon literature. And, in fact, his main statement on the subject is an AML paper called “Attuning the Authentic Mormon Voice: Stemming the Sophic Tide in LDS Literature.” Note the use of “LDS” in the title. But note also that Cracroft expressed his opinions within the AML community. Continue reading “LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part two)”
In one of the very early AMV posts, I wrote:
“Mormon artists” above refers to artists who seek to live a life of LDS orthodoxy. In keeping with the big tent definition of Mormon literature, A Motley Vision will, at other times, use the term “Mormon artists” in a broader sense to include those, for instance, who identify themselves as cultural Mormons but are not active LDS.
Since then I and my co-bloggers (and commenters) have used the term LDS on this blog 918 times; we have used Mormon 1,240 times (according to a Google site search). I haven’t analyzed my co-bloggers posts, but I tend to use the two terms almost-but-not-always interchangeably.
Others, however, don’t. One of the most interesting things to come out of the brouhaha over Angel Falling Softly over at LDS Publisher was the idea that LDS fiction is a genre unto itself. I’ll be honest: this label had never really occurred to me. Certainly, I was aware that Deseret Book and Covenant have certain standards (and sometimes double standards) when it comes to what they publish and sell, but it never occurred me to that the term “LDS fiction” applied only to works that would find their way on to the shelves of DB and Seagull. Continue reading “LDS fiction; Mormon fiction (part 1)”