An epic origin story, a charismatic leader, a generational saga: Is this the description of a fantasy novel, or a religion’s history?
For Mormon authors, the line is blurry. That may be what makes them successful.
Drawing inspiration from their religion, Mormon writers have filled young adult best-seller lists with fantasy and sci-fi novels, Abby Aguirre reported for The Times. Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series sold more than 100 million copies; Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” was adapted into a successful movie; and Ally Condie’s “Matched” trilogy filled bookstore shelves.
Several factors contribute to their success. First, the church, officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encourages members to become strong readers and public speakers from a young age.
The religion also embraces the family-friendly entertainment that the Y.A. genre has historically offered. As young churchgoers interested in publishing work grow up, writing programs at the church’s universities, church-affiliated publishers and enthusiastic Latter-day Saint readers support them if they write about subjects that the community has deemed acceptable.
A literary legacy suffuses the modern church, which comprises more than 17 million members. From early childhood, Latter-day Saints read complex sacred texts like The Book of Mormon — the basis for the church’s claim to be God’s restored church. Then, they stand in front of peers and share stories from these scriptures and the church’s history.
The church also encourages members to write in journals and watch or read only “clean” entertainment, giving young adult writers a built-in audience. Many writers, raised in large families that consume only children’s shows, enter their careers with a deep understanding of the market for youth entertainment.
And when the time comes to find their own subject matter, Latter-day Saints find it easy to develop material. The church’s doctrine relies on vivid and rich scriptural stories — of heroes, villains and other worlds. Many writers say their upbringing gave them the ability to create fantastical characters and plots.
“Fantasy is often a way that you can explore ideas of, you know, trust in something bigger,” said Rosalyn Eves, an author of five Y.A. novels that blend fantasy and romance with historical fiction. “I’ve always felt like religious faith and belief in miracles is not all that different from magic in some ways.”
In recent decades, Y.A. books were compatible with the Mormon Church’s strict code of conduct: no alcohol, smoking, coffee, swearing, sex outside marriage or gay or lesbian sex.
Now, contemporary Y.A. books often reflect evolving social norms, including L.G.B.T.Q. themes and more relaxed views about sexuality, making it harder for some Latter-day Saint writers to find an audience.
But the writers are changing, too. Many disagree with the church’s stance on L.G.B.T.Q. rights. For that and other personal reasons, some have stepped away from the church, which is losing many millennials. Still, their backgrounds provide rich material.
“People turn to stories to make meaning of their lives,” Casper ter Kuile, the author of “The Power of Ritual,” said. “They also use stories to mark transitions, from one belief to another.”
Kiersten White, who has written more than 20 books for young adults and children, is an author who has left the church. Her latest project? A book for adults called “Mister Magic.” It’s about a religious sect in the desert in Utah.
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War in Ukraine
The destruction of a major Ukrainian dam in June and the ensuing flood are still causing damage: Entire towns are without work and drinking water and farms lack irrigation.
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I spoke with the CNN mainstay Anderson Cooper, co-author of the forthcoming nonfiction book “Astor,” about the challenges facing television news.
Can a reporter from a known media outlet be a blank slate anymore? CNN or Fox News mean something by themselves aside from the individual reporters.
You’re right that some people view The Times as leftist, view CNN as whatever they view CNN as, Fox as whatever they view Fox as, and that’s going to determine things. I know also there are people who base things more on the individual. There are people who will watch one person on Fox News and not other people. So I don’t think you can paint with quite as broad a brush.
People had problems with CNN’s town hall in May with Trump. CNN was also criticized for giving him too much airtime during the 2016 primaries. It’s 2023, he’s still around and raising questions about how best to cover him. What do you see as answers?
There was a steep learning curve in figuring out how to deal with a candidate who is completely willing to lie and lies repeatedly and often. There’s a shamelessness in that and only so much you can do about it from a reporting standpoint. Then there’s questions about, well, should there have been a town hall? Should there have been a live event? All those are completely fair.
Is there something about TV news that needs to be fixed?
Do I, as a viewer, watch hyperpartisan content? I don’t. Do I, as a journalist, want to be in the business of hyperpartisan broadcasting? No, I don’t. But I know that’s popular, and that’s fine. I’m not in the business of telling people what they should and shouldn’t watch.
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THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
Tomorrow is Labor Day in the U.S.
The presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will meet tomorrow. Erdogan is trying to revive a grain export deal involving Ukraine and Russia.
Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the Proud Boys, is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday for his conviction on sedition charges.
The U.S. Senate is back in session on Tuesday after its August break. The House returns next week.
Peter Navarro, a former Trump aide, is scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday on charges of contempt of Congress.
The impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas is set to open Tuesday in the State Senate.
Biden will travel to India on Thursday for a summit meeting with other Group of 20 leaders.
The N.F.L. season will open on Thursday when Kansas City, the reigning Super Bowl champion, hosts Detroit.
New York Fashion Week begins on Friday.