Who Is Jeff Gerke?
So who is this guy behind WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Jeff Gerke is...me: a guy who loves Christian speculative fiction.
Christian fantasy. Christian science fiction. Christian time travel. Christian spiritual warfare. Christian supernatural thrillers. Christian "chillers." Christian alternate history. Christian pure speculative. I even like Christian speculative gaming, manga, comics, animation, machinima, and animation. If it's Christian and it's speculative, I'm there.
I discovered the power of speculative fiction when I was twelve years old and the original Star Wars (Episode IV) came out. I couldn't express it then but I knew something had happened to me when I watched that movie. I went back to the theater and watched that thing eleven times in a two-week period. I felt as if someone had unscrewed the top of my head and plugged this alternate world directly into my cerebral cortex.
The next time it happened to me was when I was in college and I discovered The Lord of the Rings. The university library had one stinking copy of the entire trilogy and, wouldn't you know it, someone else was reading it at the same time I was. After I blazed through The Fellowship of the Ring—in absolute thrall to Tolkien's spell—I went back to the shelf and the next one was out! For days and days it was out. I went to that shelf at least twice a day. Until finally The Two Towers was in. I snatched it and read the whole thing in a day or two. And then The Return of the King was checked out! Aaaaargh!
By the time I had finished the trilogy I had realized there was real power in these stories. I had seen worlds and creatures I had never imagined, and suddenly I was no longer satisfied with stories of the mundane. If it didn't have a speculative element to it, I wasn't interested.
I realized something else. I realized that I wanted to figure out how to wield this kind of power for myself. Here was true magic, and I would not rest until I had become an adept.
Along in here I became a Christian. I started wanting to read and write speculative fiction with a holy edge. I wanted to write a Christian Luke Skywalker who counted Christ, not the Force, as his ally.
The first novel I ever wrote, To Wield a Sword, was a fantasy about a priestly acolyte with the gifts of a warrior but a compunction against violence. It never got published. Because it was pretty terrible, actually. I don't think I have it anymore.
The next thing I wrote was a Dungeons & Dragons module for TSR. Looking back on it now, it was terrible. But I was creating a world of adventure and wonder and heroic deeds, and I didn't know or care that it stunk. To me, it was magic.
Then I developed an idea for a series of novels set in a mythical place I called Dragonsgaard Castle. Dave Lambert, then senior fiction editor at Zondervan Publishers, saw something in those stories. He worked with me on revisions and, though I never got the thing published, it was a taste of what was to come.
Computer games were gaining my interest at this time, too. I wrote up a passel of game ideas and sent them off to my favorite game companies. One of them, the now-defunct Cygnus Games, wrote back saying they liked my science fiction game ideas. I was in heaven, though once again nothing came of it.
During this time I graduated from film school and then theological seminary. I thought God had called me to make Christian movies. The first one I wrote and produced was: a speculative tale about a medieval warrior who has to assemble the full armor of Christ to defeat an evil wizard. Again, awful. But sublime at the same time.
Upon graduation from seminary I collected my ideas about a near-future story revolving around virtual reality. The kernel image I had in my head was of two men locked in chokeholds battling and thrashing through ever-changing virtual worlds—ancient Egypt, the moon, an Amazon jungle, a fantasy fortress—though their actual bodies were separated by thousands of miles. This became my first published novel, Virtually Eliminated. It's about a serial killer who sends assassination bolts of electricity across the Internet to purge his victims.
So...the other answer for who is this guy behind WhereTheMapEnds.com is that I am Jefferson Scott, the novelist. Check out my author site.
The other near-future technothrillers in that series are Terminal Logic (about artificial intelligence) and Fatal Defect (about genetic engineering). My second trilogy is a set of military thrillers called Operation: Firebrand.
The novel I noodle on now, whenever I noodle, is an epic fantasy I'm currently calling Swordmaker's Charm. It's a "hero's journey" story about a young man who longs for adventure but gets more than he's bargained for as he comes to realize God has chosen him to become an elite spiritual warrior. I've currently got over 85,000 words of notes for this monster but not much actually written. And what you see at that link I'll probably throw out and redo. I foresee this as a 400,000-word story broken up into three novels, like LOTR is broken up. The titles are currently Fog, Fire, and Foe.
That's me as a writer of Christian speculative fiction. Now I'd like to introduce myself as a publishing advocate of Christian speculative fiction.
There have been seasons of my life when I've been able to work from home and write my fiction. There have been other seasons when I've had to take "real" jobs. I have been blessed in those times to find employment in the wild and wonderful world of Christian book publishing.
My first publishing job was as a nonfiction editor for Multnomah Publishers in a beautiful mountain town called Sisters, Oregon. When I left Multnomah I worked as a freelance editor and writer.
One of the novels I was privileged to edit during that time was a fantastic speculative story called Time Lottery by Nancy Moser. Time Lottery went on to win the Christy Award in the Visionary category. Nancy, bless her, stood at the podium to give her words of thanks and touted my name to the assembled dignitaries in Christian fiction. I still owe you, Nancy!
I then took a job with Strang Communications, a Christian publishing company in Orlando. One of my main tasks there was to design and launch the very first fiction line completely devoted to Christian speculative novels. The creation of Realms is one of the professional accomplishments I'm most proud of, and the four novels we launched with remain among my favorites as an editor and fan.
I left Realms to take the helm of the fiction line at NavPress, in Colorado Springs. There I had the privilege and responsibility of guiding a fiction line, through acquisitions and editing and all the rest, with the goal of making NavPress a major fiction house within the next three to five years.
As fiction manager I was always looking to stretch the boundaries of what NavPress—and Christian publishing in general—would accept in terms of speculative fiction. In addition to historicals and chick-lits and the like, while I was there NavPress was publishing a science fiction trilogy, a fantasy trilogy, and a series that begins with a conversation with a demon. Much of what I looked to publish was traditional fare because we had to provide what our market was asking for. But I was always looking to stretch the borders.
To publish novels that lie beyond where the map ends.
In August 2006 I reentered the ranks of freelance editors and writers. Freelancing is the ideal work situation for me. It gives me time to take the projects I like and say no to the ones I don't; it allows me to set my own hours and take time off without permission; and it even gives me the flexibility to work on things like WhereTheMapEnds.com and, God willing, my own writing. If I can make it work financially, freelancing is the life for me.
I am honored to count among my friends almost all the published authors of Christian speculative fiction writing today. You will see many of their names and books here as they are all supportive of our goal.
I am also honored to be known in Christian publishing as the editor who loves speculative fiction. I often crack up agents when they ask me what kind of fiction I'm looking for and I tell them, "Anything weird." I love receiving more than my share of speculative proposals and projects. And I love talking with the writers and readers and artists who swim in those waters.
I believed for many years that the next wave of Christian publishing would be speculative fiction. I also knew from personal experience that that wave would probably not be started through the normal channels.
Typical Christian publishers reach a specific demographic with their fiction—white, conservative, Evangelical American women of child-raising to empty nest years—and this demographic is not typically into weird. So, in October of 2007, I formed Marcher Lord Press, an independent publishing house geared to weird. One year later, the first list of books became available.
So now I'm not only the editor that likes weird, I'm the publisher of weird, as well. It is a role I've found incredibly rewarding. As of this writing (January of 2011) we've released our fifth list, and the Marcher Lord books and their authors have exceeded my wildest expectations.
No, we don't have a million-seller yet, but we've got a Christy award winner (By Darkness Hid), a Carol award winner (Eternity Falls) and two Epic winners (Starfire and By Darkness Hid.) We also have finalists in the INSPY award and the Next Generation Indie award.
Most importantly, we've garnered a reputation of producing quality speculative fiction. With God's blessing, Marcher Lord Press has become the pathfinder company I always dreamed it would be.
And we're only just getting started, folks.
Who is Jeff Gerke? He's a guy who loves Christian speculative fiction. If you love it, too, you're among friends here.