My New Fiction Series (“Strange Encounter”)

My New Fiction Series (“Strange Encounter”) March 22, 2024

I’m excited to share with you that I am writing a short-form fiction series as a companion to my book Strange Religion: How the First Christians Were Weird, Dangerous, and Compelling (Brazos Press). The fiction series will be released in episodes, through a partnership with Fathom Magazine (and my amazing magazine editor Kelsey Hency). Episodes 1 and 2 were released this morning (March 22, 2024). You can find them HERE.

This series is called “Strange Encounter: Felix and Anna Meet a Christian.” It takes place sometime in the late first century A.D. in Rome. Felix and Anna are a relatively poor couple that lives in one of Rome’s many low-cost apartments (called insulae). Felix works in the tavern on the first floor, Anna helps with her cousin’s business. The story focuses on a new resident at the apartment, Hermes, who is a bit secretive and acts kind of odd, but Felix has a strange fascination with him. Why does Hermes act so strange? What is he hiding?

Why did I write this series? I wanted to paint a picture of what the religious, political, and cultural landscape was like in the ancient Roman world, and what “regular people” (Romanized people) would think of meeting a Christianos, a “Christian.” I wanted to highlight how all areas of life involved the gods (work, politics, parties, etc.), and the challenges and even dangers of being a Christian in that environment. And perhaps especially I wanted to ponder what would inspire someone to trust a Christian and visit their odd gatherings. I also want to portray early Christians realistically, so there will be some twists and turns in the story as well!

I tried to make the setting and situations as realistic as possible, but there are somethings that are hard to know (what kind of chairs would a poor person have in their house?) and some practical issues (I’m writing the dialogue in English, obviously they don’t speak English). I tried to use realistic names, places, and even some specific events from history, but there is plenty of “artistic license.” Every now and again I will do a “behind-the-scenes” blogpost to talk through some choices I made. Stay tuned! And I hope you enjoy this series.

If you want to know more about early Christian in the Roman world and in comparison/contrast with Roman religion, check out my book Strange Religion.

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