A Story and An Interview

Today, instead of writing something new, I’m going to point you to something already written. Yes, stuff I wrote. At free lance editor/publisher/writer Jeff Gerke’s site WhereTheMapEnds. com, he has posted an interview with me, mostly about fantasy. He also […]

Today, instead of writing something new, I’m going to point you to something already written. Yes, stuff I wrote.

At free lance editor/publisher/writer Jeff Gerke’s site WhereTheMapEnds. com, he has posted an interview with me, mostly about fantasy. He also graciously posted one of my short stories, “Swallow and Beyond”.

If you care to comment, I’m always open to feedback, so I invite you to stop back here and give your thoughts/reaction to either the interview or the story.

Fantasy and The Depiction Of Evil

“Reality fiction” (as opposed to speculative) requires evil to show up in a known form. The protagonist faces opposition, from things outside himself and from his own wayward heart. The inward conflict in fantasy may look much the same as […]
| Jul 28, 2008 | No comments |

“Reality fiction” (as opposed to speculative) requires evil to show up in a known form. The protagonist faces opposition, from things outside himself and from his own wayward heart. The inward conflict in fantasy may look much the same as that in reality fiction, but the external conflict may be considerably different. In this difference lies fantasy’s strength.

External conflicts in reality fiction center on day to day problems: a cheating spouse, job stress, disobedient children, and such. Or on day to day disasters: child abuse, pornography, Internet predators, drugs abuse, serial marriage, same sex marriage, child sex slaves, gang violence, homelessness.

For argument’s sake, suppose a Christian author decides to write about child sex slaves. Does he present Christ as the answer to the conflict he paints? Or as a peripheral subject? Does he show Christ as the comforter instead of the answer? Who then saves the day? Some social service or governmental agent? Or Christian? Can the author realistically show the character’s Christianity as the motive for what he does to solve the conflict?

And what about a story dealing with cultural issues that are widely debated in society such as abortion and homosexuality. Can the author of such a story avoid oversimplifying on one hand, with stereotypical answers, or giving anti-biblical views on the other, with culturally relevant open-endedness.

All the while, can the author avoid the appearance of condemning the sinner instead of the sin?

In contrast, fantasy can have evil show up in whatever imagined form, but inevitably, the real truth about evil comes out: it is opposed to good. That’s the heart of evil.

What was the problem with Adam eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Because God told him not to. Adam chose against God.

In fantasy, choosing against God can look like eating Turkish Delight or keeping a ring you set out to destroy. It can look like a White Witch or a roving Eye or a disembodied wizard who too oft remained nameless.

I believe depicting evil with this broader stroke is not only truthful, but it gives the Holy Spirit room to use the story for His purposes in the life of the reader. What was Turkish Delight but a sweet treat? Until it became More. Until it became the the thing that enticed Edmund to choose against Aslan. And as they think about the story, do readers dwell on Turkish Delight or might they consider their own enticement?

In addition, without a reality-sin issue at the heart of fantasy, few readers can assign the problem to Others. (Oh, sure, those Other people—the ones addicted to Turkish Delight—they really need to read this book, but that’s not me!) Thus fantasy depicts evil in a universal way, even as it personalizes the protagonist’s struggle, thus allowing readers to identify with the character, though their own struggles may be with vastly different issues.

In short, fantasy tells the truth about evil—it is a problem primarily because it opposes good. And fantasy depicts evil in a way that makes it understood universally.

Can reality fiction accomplish these things? Possibly. But in my opinion, not as often and not as well.

—–

Fantasy For Young and Old

A fantasy series for all ages and stages. That’s essentially the way WaterBrook marketed Donita Paul‘s DragonKeeper Chronicles. When book one, DragonSpell, came out, I had my doubts about that strategy. I mean, if it was shelved with adult books, […]
| Jul 21, 2008 | No comments |

A fantasy series for all ages and stages. That’s essentially the way WaterBrook marketed Donita Paul‘s DragonKeeper Chronicles. When book one, DragonSpell, came out, I had my doubts about that strategy. I mean, if it was shelved with adult books, how would YA readers find it? But if it was shelved with YA books, how would adults find it?

Interestingly, over the years I discovered the books in both places, sometimes in the same store. And evidently the strategy has worked, because all five books seem to be doing very well, at least at Amazon.com.

I’ve been a fan of this series for some time. I love quests and symbolism and fresh creatures and new worlds. Donita gives readers all of that. But what makes the books appeal to both young and old? Or do they?

One reviewer called DragonLight, the book CSFF Blog Tour is featuring this month, “family friendly.” That’s a good term. I considered “light fantasy” as opposed to “fantasy-lite” and in opposition to “dark fantasy.”

The fantasy world of Amara is one adults can enjoy. Seven high races, seven low races, but all created by Wulder, an allegorical depiction of God. Throw in the meech dragons and the minnekens, and now we have an adult-sized mystery.

In fact there are lots of issues in this series that should put adults to work. Paladin, a representative of the church, faces opposition that has interesting effects on him—points easily missed by the younger audience reading for the enjoyment of a good story.

But no readers will miss the main characters’ dependence on Wulder or their reliance on the Tomes and its principles for the source of truth. In other words, the DragonKeeper Chronicles have something for everyone when it comes to the themes.

In characters, there are adults and children with which readers can identify. In the early books, the protagonist was a young girl, then a young man. But there were wise adults, well-drawn and incredibly fresh and delightful, that older readers could easily identify with. As the main characters matured in DragonFire and now in DragonLight, there are still key roles for children. And of course, there are the minor dragons.

The plot of these books is probably the part that is most suited for younger readers. There’s lots of action and a minimum of actual on-stage violence. Nothing graphic or dark. Some of the antagonists even seem comical or sympathetic and even redeemable. Over and over the good wizards win, and they do so because they use the gifts Wulder has equipped them with, because they are doing the job Wulder gave them to do, and because they are relying on the principles Wulder has given them to live by.

Fantasy for all ages? It’s an interesting concept. All in all, I think Donita Paul pulled off it in the DragonKeeper Chronicles.

See what others on the CSFF Blog Tour have to say about DragonLight.

Brandon Barr Justin Boyer Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Karri Compton CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis Stacey Dale D. G. D. Davidson Jeff Draper April Erwin Karina Fabian Beth Goddard Mark Goodyear Andrea Graham Todd Michael Greene Katie Hart Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Joleen Howell Jason Joyner Carol Keen Magma Terri Main Margaret Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa John W. Otte Deena Peterson Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Chawna Schroeder Sean Slagle James Somers Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Laura Williams

Heroes, Sin and The Knight’s Dark Doctrine

(Also posted today on FaithFusion.) The Dark Knight is gripping. And very deep. Its evil is powerfully and horribly represented, especially on the part of The Joker, whom apparently you cannot even hurt. If he’s tortured or in pain, he […]
| Jul 19, 2008 | No comments |

(Also posted today on FaithFusion.)

The Dark Knight is gripping. And very deep. Its evil is powerfully and horribly represented, especially on the part of The Joker, whom apparently you cannot even hurt. If he’s tortured or in pain, he just laughs. He lives to “watch the world burn.” He kills without a hint of remorse, and in fact, while he takes a life he merely jokes and (dare I say it) “cuts up.”

In the future, if I’ve ever encountered anyone, whether non-Christian or professing Christian, who claims total evil isn’t real or that people are basically good, I’ll likely refer to The Joker in The Dark Knight. His is an especially insidious evil.

But the film’s representation of goodness is even deeper. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the moral quandary at the end, which — a hint of spoiler may be impossible to avoid here, so I hope you’ve already seen the film — Batman himself resolves by deciding to become, in effect, a penal substitution for one man’s sins. This skewed and backward-heroic act, becoming the villain but really the hero, the total unfairness of it all, is riveting. But it’s a choice that we ultimately know Batman must make for the Joker’s evil plan to be thwarted.

As Plugged In reviewer Paul Asay wrote, “Batman takes [the man’s] sin on his own shoulders, leaving [him], in Gotham’s eyes, pure and spotless and clean. Sound familiar?”

Even as I write that, tears come to my eyes. It’s so unfair. It seems so unjust. But it is “an echo of the sacrifice Christ—utterly innocent, yet humiliated and judged on our behalf—made for us,” Asay continues. That’s what I though I saw then, and what I see now even more clearly: Christ becoming the “villain” to save human rebels, just as Batman needed to be.

But apparently several movie reviewers just aren’t getting it.


The Joker’s total depravity

Secular movie critic Roger Ebert didn’t get it about the Joker. In his Dark Knight review, he wrote that with The Joker’s “cackle betraying deep wounds, he seeks revenge, he claims, for the horrible punishment his father exacted on him when he was a child.”

But Ebert misses the whole point about the supposed father-torture motivation: the Joker is lying about how he got his scars! Later, for example, he begins telling another victim that his scars were self-inflicted, when he was supposedly trying to make his wife feel better about her disfigurement. And at least twice more he’s about to tell his “backstory” again — and though we don’t hear further versions of whatever happened, we know he’ll just lie again.

(Was Ebert out getting popcorn during those film portions?)

The late actor Heath Ledger himself confirmed that the Joker is a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy,” he told The New York Times. The Joker doesn’t even want money or even simply power. He wants to wreak havoc simply because he is truly and totally depraved. That’s it. And paradoxically, that makes his character more complex than anyone who’s portrayed as evil partly because of childhood abuse.


Batman’s ‘lying’ substitution for sin

Meanwhile, Christian reviewer Ted Beahr’s MovieGuide site didn’t get it about Batman. Their take on the film? “Very confused and eclectic, or mixed pagan, philosophical perspectives ending on a relativistic, deconstructionist ‘truth does not matter’ sentiment.”

Seriously, were they watching the same movie? (I’m still utterly confused by them since they gave Pirates 3 such high marks for supposedly containing so many Christian metaphors!)

Oh, and MovieGuide also got the Joker wrong as well. “Joker is psychotic and mean from the beginning,” the site writes. “He’s shown to be psychotic and mean several times. A little character growth would have helped him a great deal.”

Mm-mmm, not at all. That would have defeated the whole point. The Joker has no character growth. He is evil, through and through. Wrap your heads around it, and while you’re at it, consider that according to Scripture, that is how God, because of His absolutely perfect moral standards, sees us without any intervention from Christ.

But back to Batman: MovieGuide goes on, finding fault especially with Batman’s decision to take on one man’s sin as his own, and thus keep the Joker’s corruption of the man’s posthumous reputation from succeeding. In response: “[H]ero decides to lie to solve plot problem and police commissioner agrees with him,” the site writes. “It suggests a hero can be a liar without tarnishing his heroic qualities.”

Let’s see. Christ, the God-man, lay down His life on the Cross, suffering physical and even worse spiritual torment from God’s wrath, in place of rebel sinners. He takes blame for sins he hasn’t committed, and God “agrees with Him,” and punishes Him — all part of the plan.

That, it’s very clear, makes Christ a “liar.” He becomes the villain in our place, and in that way, He is the true hero — but a hero on a level much deeper than many would think.

Even some professing Christians don’t understand that. They decide that the idea of Christ laying down his life and in effect “lying” about the sins He’s claiming as His own is “cosmic child abuse.” God wouldn’t do that! such writers insist. He’s all about love and He could never be a villain! But apparently God Himself, in actual Scripture, didn’t see the need for such sugar-coating propaganda. As author/pastor CJ Mahaney says, “He crushed His Son.”

It’s a terrible truth, even an “unfair” truth. But it’s unfair to the glorious benefit of rebel sinners. And thus Christ is truly heroic, even though many now try to hunt Him, hate Him, loathe Him as a villain. The reaction of many to Him now is just like the angry mob’s reaction to Him then. And ultimately it’s very similar to the fate chosen by the Dark Knight as well.

Is Fantasy Dangerous?

Most people think of me as an advocate for fantasy, and in particular, Christian fantasy. And I am. But my position is somewhat tempered. Why? Because fantasy is dangerous. Yes, you read that correctly. I believe fantasy is dangerous. Fantasy, […]
| Jul 14, 2008 | No comments |

Most people think of me as an advocate for fantasy, and in particular, Christian fantasy. And I am. But my position is somewhat tempered. Why? Because fantasy is dangerous.

Yes, you read that correctly. I believe fantasy is dangerous.

Fantasy, even that which is not allegorical, provides a metaphor for reality, and sometimes we humans see the way things actually are more clearly by looking at a visual representation rather than looking at the actual thing. But a skilled writer does this in a way that catches a reader off guard. Before he is aware he has been looking at the life views of the writer, he is already rooting for the protagonist of the story.

Of course, all fiction shows the life views of the writer, but in a murder mystery or an historical about Jewish concentration camps or a romance involving a prostitute, the world views of the writers are perhaps a little easier to spot.

Some might think the world view of the fantasy writer is easy to spot, too, because, afterall, fantasies predominently show a good versus evil struggle. But there in is the problem. The author’s view of what is good may or may not be true.

Add to the fact that fantasy gives a more subtle reflection of the author’s worldview, this truth: much fantasy deals with the spiritual. Yes, spiritual. It seems that fantasy writers, perhaps drawn by the metaphorical aspects of the genre, write about the unseen more often than not.

As if that’s not dangerous enough, couple these with what’s going on in our Western culture. The mantra of tolerance, the attack on rationalism, the rise of story, and the elevation of the emotions seems to have eroded discernment. What matters today is not what is true but what feels right.

Enter fantasy, with it’s ability to define or re-define good and evil, and show it through a story. The genre is tailor made for today.

Which is exactly why Christians should embrace it and write it and read it and give it to their non-Christian friends. Can any character create a longing for God like Aslan? Or show creation in such a compelling way as Lewis did in the story about the beginning of Narnia?

Unfortunately, because Lewis wrote these wonderful tales, it seems like many Christians think It’s Been Done. Who needs to write again what has been written?

As long as there’s an author writing His Dark Materials, as long as a film maker is producing movies like The Lion King, then there’s a need for Christians to write fantasies that keep good and evil straight.

The biggest danger of all regarding fantasy is if Christians quit writing it.

Shellacking ‘The Shack’ on Doctrine and Fiction

(Read Shellacking ‘The Shack’ on doctrine and fiction, part I, or Shellacking ‘The Shack’ on doctrine and fiction, part II.) First let me get this out of the way: no, I haven’t yet (and likely won’t anytime soon) read The […]
| Jul 10, 2008 | No comments |

(Read Shellacking ‘The Shack’ on doctrine and fiction, part I, or Shellacking ‘The Shack’ on doctrine and fiction, part II.)

First let me get this out of the way: no, I haven’t yet (and likely won’t anytime soon) read The Shack. This isn’t a disclaimer, or an apology, just an acknowledgement to the inevitable objections that go something like, “you haven’t read the book, so you really can’t say anything about it.”

What I’ve mostly been recently rebutting, though, have been this bestselling book’s defenders, on the Boundless webzine blog and elsewhere, who have been offering mostly emotional objections to those who (correctly) oppose the book on Biblical bases. And even for those times in which I attempt to rebut the book itself, I can do so by appealing to the “authority” of those I trust who have read it, who overall share my views and who profoundly object to the book’s contents. These include the above-mentioned blog and many others, including blogger/author Tim Challies and Don Veinot of Midwest Christian Outreach.

For those who don’t know, The Shack is a book by a guy called William Young, in which a man whose daughter has been abducted and probably killed by a murderer is summoned by God to rendezvous in the shack where the crime took place. Once there, the lead encounters the “trinity” in the form of a clichéd matronly black woman (the “Father”), a smiling Middle-Eastern guy (“Jesus”) and an Asian woman (“the Holy Spirit”). And they talk theology, or rather the author’s version of it, for several dozen pages.

Boundless blogger Tom Neven followed up his initial observations on the book with his July 1 post called “But It’s Only Fiction,” in which he specifically rebutted the idea that you can simply dismiss a story as just a story even if it contains anti-Biblical ideas. This is both bad doctrine as well as bad fiction, Neven contended:

 

While fiction is by definition a story that doesn’t pretend to be true, it still must adhere to certain basic rules. You can create any universe you like, but once you’ve created it, you must stick to its internal logic. If zurts are green and fly and jurts are blue and don’t fly, you cannot willy-nilly switch these “facts” around, even if they are totally products of your imagination. And if for some reason in your story we see a blue jurt that is flying, you’d better have a good narrative explanation for why or else you’ve confused the reader.

[. . .]

If you’re going to ground your fiction in the real world, then it must conform to the rules of the real world we live in. No unicorns or magic squirrels allowed. Even one of my favorite literary genres, Magical Realism, adheres to certain basic rules.

So if you’re going to have God as a character in your real-world fiction, then you must deal with God as he has revealed himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters in this story set in the real world, The Shack author William P. Young is clearly indicating that he’s supposedly talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about himself in Scripture, and much of what Young does in this novel contradicts that. I don’t care if he’s trying to make God more “accessible.” He’s violated the rules of fiction.

[. . .]

To those people who have snapped up copies of The Shack to give to non-Christian friends, you are doing them no favors. You are introducing them to a false god. You are inoculating them against the claims of the True God of Scripture. And more to the point, you’re just giving them bad fiction.

 

Skewing Scripture and storytelling

In response to that came affirmations from several commentators, myself included (I’m Dr. Ransom on there), along with a few opposing views that fairly much repeated the same point (“it’s only fiction”) or offered overly emotional responses that didn’t contradict Neven’s logical and theological argument at all (“but you see, The Shack changed my life”).

“Many were along the lines that I should just lighten up,” Neven summarized later.

To be sure, many among Shack’s Christian critics will be the same types, God bless ‘em, who pass around email forwards talking about how J.K. Rowling performs daily goat or human sacrifices to Lucifer, or how Madalyn Murray O’Hair, back from the dead, is taking over the Federal Communications Commission and putting TBN out of business (unfortunately, no such luck). But Neven is certainly not one of them — he’s not pulpit-pounding and raging legalistically (perhaps in a southern accent) about how The Shack will send people to Hell.

As I wrote here, just like I could read Harry Potter, or view Star Trek, and sort through the non-Christian elements, I could — if I wanted to — read through The Shack and sort the good from the bad. Thanks to God and great teaching, I’m confident I wouldn’t be swayed from what I know to be true from His revealed Word in Scripture.

However, The Shack doesn’t start with a premise of God’s nonexistence, or complete noninvolvement, as do Harry Potter and Star Trek and many other stories. Instead, “God” is there — but he/she has a completely skewed nature. He/she doesn’t talk all that much about his/her holiness, or revelation in Scripture, or death on the Cross, or judgment of sin or call to repent and be redeemed. Instead, he/she is mostly love, sweet love (supposedly something that in the Church there’s always just too little of).

In response to that often comes the argument that, well, the author doesn’t really believe everyone goes to Heaven by default, or that God is a girl, or that He won’t punish sin. And perhaps it could be unfair to assume a writer is intentionally trying to deceive his readers.

However, according to what I’ve read, this Biblical balance of the Almighty receives precious little press time in The Shack. It’s a severely imbalanced view, even if the author portrayed God the Father as a male and other unorthodoxies were avoided. This won’t be at all helpful to new believers, much less so for nonbelievers. What, then, does it really matter what the author truly believes, if what he has publicly said presents imbalanced or skewed doctrine?

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” — Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

 

For your consideration

Many at this point will still be hanging onto the “it’s just a story; what’s the big deal” argument. Perhaps one cannot expect to be able to change their minds. However, one comment on the Boundless blog from a commentator named Rich makes one of the best rhetorical and sensitive arguments I’ve read on the subject.

Say I wanted to communicate to the world about God’s wrath and justice (these are two biblical character qualities of God, just like His love.), so I wrote a fiction book where I depicted God as the serial killer guy from Saw. You read the book, and (rightfully) express concern (outrage would be more appropriate): ‘Rich, I don’t think God is like the guy from Saw. Yeah, I know He’s just and He exhibits wrath on the unrepentant at the judgment seat, but the way you depict Him…well…That’s not quite biblical.’

I respond, ‘Relax. It’s only fiction! I’m not writing a theological treatise! If you read the book, you will learn about God’s justice and be blessed.’

How would you respond? No doubt, you’d respond with incredulity: even though its fiction, I’m communicating something about God, something deeply flawed. The fact that I’m writing fiction doesn’t get me off the hook.

It’s the same with The Shack. If I’m not off the hook in my flawed attempt at communicating about God’s justice, why is Young off the hook when he makes a flawed attempt at communicating about other parts of God’s nature, like His love or Immanence?

You see, we usually only express that blasé attitude when the book in question presents God in a soft light. Why the inconsistency?

I understand that fiction is a slightly more fluid genre than, say, theological papers in a professional journal. But that doesn’t mean we give fiction authors a free ticket to ride when it comes to speaking about God, truth, and reality.

Far from being the “trash heap” of the written word, fiction is an incredibly powerful and important genre. Brian McLaren and others encapsulate their theological ideals in fiction partly because they understand such ideals will be easier for the rank and file to accept if they are captured in a story. For the most part, this is all well and good, but it has a down side: we can easily let our guard down.

Therefore, we should treat fiction as it is: an important and honorable genre worthy of the utmost consideration.

So far, no one on the blog has answered this scenario with how, exactly, they could object to such a reverse-engineered fiction attempt, without facing the same objections.

However, that doesn’t mean an attempted answer doesn’t exist, per se. Any interaction here about the Shack book — or, as with me, reactions to the reactions of its defenders — is most welcome, along with discussions about what or how much, exactly, is “permitted” in Christ-honoring speculative fiction, given what we know from Scripture about God and His Truths.

Revisiting Christian Horror

Rather than trying to re-say what I just read, I want to encourage you to click over to Mike Duran’s blog and read his post on Christian Horror. Ideally, you’d come back to Spec Faith and discuss the subject. This […]

Rather than trying to re-say what I just read, I want to encourage you to click over to Mike Duran’s blog and read his post on Christian Horror.

Ideally, you’d come back to Spec Faith and discuss the subject. This subject has come up here before, but I have to be honest, I’ve done some rethinking of my views.

However, one thing I do believe. Some writers take fantasy to the dark side and eventually that trend kills the genre.

Horror, even Christian horror, is a smaller segment of a larger subset. While I recognize the talent of the authors Mike mentions, and I agree in principle with his final point, I grieve for the genre because I believe the advance of horror will bring the death throes of all fantasy.

Why is that? Why, if Christian horror in particular, has redemptive qualities, would readers steer away from it? I have my theories, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Fantasy Tour This Fall

As you may remember, a group of fantasy writers issued a press release recently announcing a West Coast book tour. In preparation for this event, they are once again posting information on the Fantasy Four Web site set up last […]


As you may remember, a group of fantasy writers issued a press release recently announcing a West Coast book tour. In preparation for this event, they are once again posting information on the Fantasy Four Web site set up last summer as a supplement for their East Coast tour. I say “their” but in actuality, the number of authors has doubled.

Now eight fantasy writers will be traveling from Seattle to San Diego, talking about their works, meeting fans, and signing books. It sounds like great fun.

I mentioned the preparation. Since four new authors have joined the book tour, introductions seemed necessary. Already three are up, in the form of an interview.

Here’s a sample:

First from Wayne Thomas Batson

Q: Are your books influenced by your own childhood in any way?

I think so. Aidan is a lot like I was when I was in my tweens. Creative, hopeful, and thoughtful—but not very outgoing. I always longed for adventure, but most of mine were in my imagination. Aidan’s fear of Robby’s Basement came straight out of my own childhood fear. My parents had a split basement. The unfinished side, the workside as we called it, was the creepiest place on the planet. I was always afraid that some creature lurked in its shadowy confines—that it waited for someone to venture too close to the open door. I used to leap over the side of the stairs onto a couch to avoid going by that basement door.

Next was Bryan Davis.

Q. What did you want to be when you were growing up? How did you go from there to becoming a writer?

When I was quite young, I wanted to be a professional athlete, either a baseball or a basketball player. As I went through my teen years, I enjoyed math and science, so I pursued and obtained an engineering degree and later became a computer professional.

I became interested in writing mainly through homeschooling our children. Teaching them how to write was an important part of the curriculum, so I decided to write a story as an example. Every Friday night, which was our family night, my wife would read my week’s writing out loud. I had so much fun creating this story, it grew into a novel. Although it never got published, this experience ignited a passion in me to write more.

Then the most recent, from L.B. Graham, author of The Binding of the Blade series (P&R Publishing).

The fifth and final novel of “The Binding of the Blade” just came out. How does it feel to be finished?

Actually, I was finished writing All My Holy Mountain, the last book in the series, in 2006, and it did feel a little surreal. BOTB runs about 2500 pages all told, and it is essentially one big story rather than five individual ones (though I guess the first book could be seen as a sort of prologue to the other four). At any rate, it was a pretty sizable undertaking and it felt almost odd to be finished.

As a regular feature on the site, author Sharon Hinck is posting prayer requests for these authors as the weeks leading up to the tour fly by. I encourage you to consider adding these requests to your prayer list. From this last Sunday:

Every Sunday, I’ll post updated prayer requests and praise reports from the authors and tour organizers.

You can add this site to your FeedBlitz or other subscription manager, in order to receive updates directly into your email box.

And feel free, if you are so led, to write a prayer about one or more of these requests in the comment section. It’s a way to have a little “prayer service” together via the cyberworld.

From Sharon Hinck – seeing huge improvements in health and energy, and was able to finish galleys on a new book last week. Please pray for her as she is traveling the next few weeks, including at the International Christian Retail Show

From Donita K. Paul – My prayer request would be for health and focus. I am on a very tight deadline. I do wish I could write fast!

From Wayne Batson – Praise that Kayla hasn’t had a faint spell in more than 3 weeks. Pray for discipline in writing–ie: get your butt in the chair and write, Wayne! lol

Four of the authors will be attending ICRS – pray for them at their press meeting on July 15th – that media would be excited about the tour and help us spread the word.

Thank you so much!

CSFF Blog Tour – Vanished By Kathryn Mackel

If you’ve stopped over at my personal blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, you know that I am blogging about a book I haven’t read. How can a person do that? Well, let me make it clear, I am not […]
| Jun 24, 2008 | No comments |

If you’ve stopped over at my personal blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, you know that I am blogging about a book I haven’t read. How can a person do that?

Well, let me make it clear, I am not offering a review of the book. Fortunately, a number of other CSFF Blog Tour participants are doing a fine job telling visitors about the featured book, Kathryn Mackel‘s Vanished.

Instead, I’ve chosen the role of facilitator. I want to acquaint visitors with Kathryn Mackel and point to the blogs on the tour you won’t want to miss.

The more I poke around at Kathryn Mackel’s Web site and blog, the more I read interviews with her, the more interesting things I uncover.

So here’s a short quiz, just to see how well you know our featured author. Be sure to leave a comment and tell us how well you did. Answers are below the list of particapant links at the end of this post.

1) True or False – Kathryn Mackel took her first fiction writing class when she was 41.

2) Multiple Choice – Kathryn Mackel has written
a. adult novels b. YA novels c. children’s books d. screenplays e. all of these

3) True or False – Before writing fiction, Ms. Mackel had no previous background in writing.

4) True or False – Her first publisher found her manuscript in his slush pile.

5) Multiple Choice – Kathryn Mackel is a sports fan for which team?
a. the Patriots b. the Celtics (gag, cough, gag) c. the Red Sox d. all of these

Take time to check out what others on the tour have to say:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
*Melissa Meeks (also has an interview with Kathryn Mackel)
Rebecca LuElla Miller
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
Chawna Schroeder
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

Quiz answers: 1) true; 2) e; 3) false; 4) true; 5) d

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Golden Age Sf

Check back tomorrow for a special blog post about Kathryn Mackel and her newest novel, Vanished. Today I wanted to give you sci-fi fans a little something (since I so often post about fantasy, I figure you deserve a turn). […]
| Jun 23, 2008 | No comments |

Check back tomorrow for a special blog post about Kathryn Mackel and her newest novel, Vanished. Today I wanted to give you sci-fi fans a little something (since I so often post about fantasy, I figure you deserve a turn). With permission, I am reposting Elliot Hanowski’s Golden Age sf, an article that first appeared on his blog, Claw of the Conciliator. And now Elliot.

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Golden Age sf

by Elliot Hanowski

SF Gospel has posted a short review of Space Vulture. (He liked it.) It’s an homage to the old-school pulp sf novels, written by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers.

His review got me thinking about old-school sf. Lately I’ve been reading The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964. I wanted to further my science fictional education and read more of the classic Golden Age stories which are often referenced by critics and fans. And many of the stories in this collection, voted on by the membership of the SFWA, are new to me.

I didn’t expect the book to be at all relevant to this blog. My general impression has been that religious imagery or spirituality only became a major topic in the New Wave of science fiction, sometime in the 1960s. There were a handful of exceptions, of course (like Walter Miller or Anthony Boucher) but for the most part the Golden Age was apathetic to religion.

But I’m beginning to think I was mistaken, at least partially. There are twenty-six stories in the collection. At least six of them deal significantly with religious themes: Microcosmic God, by Theodore Sturgeon; Nightfall, by Asimov; Mars is Heaven!, by Bradbury; Quest for Saint Aquin, by Anthony Boucher; Nine Billion Names of God, by Clarke; and A Rose for Ecclesiastes, by Roger Zelazny. Two of the other authors included had written or would go on to write classics of religious sf: Cordwainer Smith and James Blish. And another two may not have used such symbolism in their stories, but did identify themselves as Roman Catholics: Murray Leinster & Clifford D. Simak.

The editor, Robert Silverberg (who’s written some great fiction on spiritual themes) notes that one more story was voted into the Hall of Fame (as fifteenth favorite) but had to be excluded because the author was already represented: Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star. Which is, of course, about a Jesuit agonizing over a hard theological problem. Silverberg also commends the first secretary-treasurer of the SFWA for his efforts in forming that organization: Lloyd Biggle, Jr., who was apparently also a Catholic.

So perhaps my impressions should be amended. Much Golden Age sf did avoid religion, and many of the classic authors were determined secularists. But among the very best, a significant minority explored religious ideas in their work, in their lives, or both.