Mir, Friday’s Femme: An Introductory Ramble

I’m Mirtika. Or Mir. Or Mirta Ana. Take your pick. I advise you stick to the shorter one, the one that’s easy to type and recalls a defunct space station. How apropos. The one like the word for “peace.” Perhaps […]
| Jul 21, 2006 | No comments |

I’m Mirtika. Or Mir. Or Mirta Ana. Take your pick.

I advise you stick to the shorter one, the one that’s easy to type and recalls a defunct space station. How apropos. The one like the word for “peace.” Perhaps less apropos given my excitable nature. The one that sort of sounds like the first word in a C.S. Lewis classic, which I read, reread, and still love.

Mir.

You might know me from Mirathon, my main blog. Or from ACFW. Or from The Sword Review, whose last two contests (one fiction, one poetry) were won by. . . er . .. me. Or from the DKA forum, since I edit over at that web-zine.

Or you may have happened upon this cheery-looking site while browsing and are sitting there, debating why you should bother to come back, especially on my scheduled days for rambling, ranting, relating, and even rabble-rousing: Fridays.

Here’s why:

  1. I believe wonder is important for the mind and soul.
  2. Modern life—its pace and expectations—has a way of leeching wonder from the world.
  3. Science fiction and fantasy—most especially fantasy—have a way of restoring fresh wonder to our lives, even if just for an hour or two at a time.
  4. Christianity is a faith full of mystery and marvels, a faith that— if we are fully open to it—adds immense wonder to our lives.

So, mix all that and you get why you ought to come back: You want more wonder in your life, and CSF might be one part of having more than a “mere” type of reading experience.

Pun intended.

I told you that the shorter name would do.

The Introductory Part:
(Here’s where you try to stay awake just to be polite.)

I was born sickly. I grew up and still am sickly. When your body betrays you, you find refuge in the imagination. I barely remember big stretches of my life because I was somewhere else, mentally, somewhere full of magic and power where I could grow a tail and gills at will, where I could fly and wield improbably weapons, where I kept the world safe, and where stars talked to me. I read about Pegasus and Theseus and wondered what Procruste’s bed looked like, even if I never wanted to nap there. I made up poems about Psyche and Cupid or Pyramis and Thisbe or Hero and Leander or Hector and Adromache.

And then I turned 16 and discovered a BRAVE NEW WORLD— and a whole new genre.

After being shocked by Huxley’s dystopia, I goggled at Michael Valentine Smith, that quite strange and hippified stranger in a strange land—choose which was the stranger, there (Mars) or here (Earth)—and thought, “There must be more and better.” That much I grokked.

There was better. There was DUNE.

I cannot begin to tell you what that novel did to me. I’ve never recovered. I hurried to the local bookstore and begged for “MORE LIKE THIS, MISS!” I read the sequels, which were not as wonderful as the original. I started scouring the SF section of Walden’s. I read THE HOBBIT and was underwhelmed. (Don’t shoot me. I was sixteen!)

But I always felt a bit hurt that the novels and stories didn’t include the kind of spiritual dimension that was crucial to my life since the instant God saved me from my sins and changed my perspective on…everything.

DUNE, at least, had some spirituality—transformed as it was—and a Messiah figure. THE HOBBIT had a superb act of mercy (providential), even if there is no overt Christianity that I can recall. Most of what I read was either functionally atheistic—particularly the sci-fi—or limited in the religious to what was a type of pantheistic or gothic dark powers sort of world. Or mythology. Or technology masquerading as gods.

I discovered new authors in college: Le Guin, Ellison, Lee, Tiptree. The last three remain favorites. Ellison is the only writer to whom I wrote a hand-written thank you card. And he is an author who wrote one story I cannot read, because it is blasphemous to my religious mind. (I am vast; I contain multitudes and contradictions; although mostly I am, from all the pizza and enchiladas and meat samosas, just vast.)

Still, references to religion—when they were there—tended not to be complimentary.

Then, when I was twenty-three and yet again stuck in bed with an extended illness, I caved and read a book I had tried to read in high-school: The Fellowship of the Ring. This time, I got past the initial slow set-up and got hooked, barely stopping to sleep or eat. I rushed through the tale to its conclusion.

But you couldn’t accuse Tolkien of obvious spirituality.

A few years ago, I happened upon an SF trilogy in a Christian bookstsore, one that had what my earlier SF forays did not: a contemporary sci-fi feel with a message that didn’t blaspheme or ignore the true faith of the One, but rather upheld it: the reworked Firebird trilogy. That’s when I realized that something just might be happening in Christian publishing circles if this was on a Family Book Store shelf.

But the offerings were far and few thereafter. I will not name names, but many of the Christian SF fare left me cold and without the ooooohs and aaaaaahs and whooooas I had come to expect from the best SF.

And now, here I am, middle-aged, not able to read as much as once, memory spotty, but finding folks who want to see what I’ve longed to see: high quality specualtive fiction that includes a thriving spirituality compatible, friendly to, reminiscent of, echoing Christianity. And I’ve found that the Christian bookstore is offering me a bit more and some better stuff in the last couple years.

We’re not gonna win a Hugo yet, but, there’s hope. Maybe. A window is open, but it could close.

We are here to help pry it farther open.

Now, For The Part Where I Vex Some of You:

I do not expect, I do not WANT, Christian SF to be absolutely, down-to-the-Westminster-Confession-or-Nicean-Creed Christianity. It can be. But I find it unrealistic that modern-day Christianity in OUR world transfers right into another world where the rules are different, or to a far future colony of earth where the environment and distance will have an effect. Expressions of faith change. We don’t dress or eat or work or live or talk like Old Testament believers or New Testament Christians. Or medieval ones. Or Puritans. (Most of us, anyway.) Imagine Cotton Mather or St. Paul visiting an emergent church with cushy chairs and a rock band whose lead singer is a nose-pierced girl with pink and green dreadlocks wearing a tank top and torn jeans. For that matter, imagine Abraham using the term “personal savior” or David sitting quietly in some pew, ready to go through the staid motions of high liturgy where spontaneous clapping or dancing would be veboten or Peter pitching the Holy Spirit like some softball across a stage: No, don’t think so.

In 2366, what will Christians on Earth or on a distant frontier planet say and do, while believing the eternal Way?

In The Land of The Seven Sailmasters, what rituals of faith develop to help lifelong warrior lords cope with sentient and malicious seas in a flat world that’s 90% dangerous waterways? What face and form does their Savior take?

I want authors out there (and me right here) to have the freedom to be creators of new worlds, new vocabularies of faith, worlds and vocabularies that don’t have Churchese, Christianese, and “Praise the Lords!” (necessarily), but that have true faith in unexpected expressions and true morality in eye-popping scenarios. Yes, virtuous dragons. Yes, colonists who recreate Eden, complete with no fig leaves. Yes, dimension-walkers who sing mystic hymns to open doors to other universes in need of truth. (My idea, back off!) I want to see boundaries expanding without breaking the back of what we believe. Maybe training that back into a more agile backbend or a longer reach.

First, though, I’d just like to see a solid readership/support base and a solid publishing commitment to Christian SF (in future, CSF). That means here, now, in this place, we pray and we write and we talk and we dream and we discuss and we support and we promote. Read our reviews, when we offer them. Buy the books, if they appeal to you. Or even if they don’t: Buy them for someone to whom they may appeal. Talk about the stories, the novels, the poems that honor truth. Share them with us. Let us pry open your curiosity. Spread the word. Let’s be a community that says, “Give us these stories and verses and mini-series. Give us new and wonder-filled tales. Let whole new universes unfold and proclaim, ‘God lives.'”

It goes back to wonder. I want to be left wide-eyed and astonished and challenged and enraptured by CBA CSF, the way DUNE left me. The way LORD OF THE RINGS left me. The way MORE THAN HUMAN and THE BIRTHGRAVE left me. The way NEVERWHERE and SANDMAN left me. The way ALICE IN WONDERLAND and BABYLON 5 left me. The way FOUNDATION left me. The way ENDER’S GAME and BtVS and FIREFLY left me.

I am hungry for magical and dazzling sights and sounds and people and places and problems and solutons—all of them breathed on by One who is more amazing still.

Are you hungry, too?

Starting next week—for this is our introductory week, so you had to put up with our hi-how-are-yas, you know?—I want to get into some meaty issues. I may be totally whack in my forthcoming opinions. Tell me if you think so. I can take it. Or I may bite gently back. You can take it. Or I may hit a nail head now and then. Agree with me loudly. I like that best.

Do not be silent.

Unless it’s silence in the face of wonder.

Who Am I?

Hi, my name is Beth Goddard and … oh, wait. Beth was up for today, but due to a melding of our minds, errr, a sharing of our brains … well, anyway, Beth and I will be trading off on […]
| Jul 19, 2006 | No comments |

Hi, my name is Beth Goddard and … oh, wait. Beth was up for today, but due to a melding of our minds, errr, a sharing of our brains … well, anyway, Beth and I will be trading off on Thursdays and I offered to go first.

Okay, so … I’m Shannon, and I’ve been dreaming up stories and living in alternate realities as far back as I can remember. I grew up listening to Star Trek on syndication after The Tonight Show, because although my mom would put me to bed at 8 pm or so, I’d lie awake for a long while. I think I’ve heard every episode at least twice.

My discovery of written SF/F came at age ten, when a slightly older friend corrupted me with my first reading of Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara. (Of course, I didn’t know then that it’s a “Tolkien ripoff” because I hadn’t yet read Tolkien.) Then came Heinlein, with Door Into Summer—I still remember the cat insisting on trying all the doors because he didn’t want to go out in the snow—and Anne McCaffery’s Pern series—until at last, in junior high, a fellow student loaned me The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. When my mom explained that Aslan was symbolic of Jesus, my world was transformed. Science fiction and fantasy could be merged with my Christian faith? What an absolutely cool idea!

Much later came the discovery of contemporary SF/F written from a Christian worldview—Stephen Lawhead, Robin Hardy, Calvin Miller. I devoured all I could get my hands on, even when I thought it was a bit cheesy.

Then, the wave of Christian speculative fiction just subsided. At least I still had C.S. Lewis.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the “current wave” of Christian spec fic …

A Quick Howdy

Hi. My name is Carol. I love science fiction and fantasy. Some days it’s like that when you’re a Christian and a fan and writer of speculative fiction. Kind of feel like you’re at a 12 step meeting. So it’s […]
| Jul 19, 2006 | No comments |

Hi. My name is Carol. I love science fiction and fantasy.

Some days it’s like that when you’re a Christian and a fan and writer of speculative fiction. Kind of feel like you’re at a 12 step meeting. So it’s more than a blessing to find like minded brethren and share this space with them.

The first book I remember reading by myself is CHARLOTTE’S WEB. (To a seven year old a spider who can read and write is fantasy.)

The opening line is still one of my favorites:

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

How can you not keep reading?

I also think Charlotte illustrates one of the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith—love for our friends.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13 (NLT)

Charlotte embodied the essence of sacrificial love to me during my childhood. I wanted to be as good a friend as Charlotte. (I also wanted to learn to read spider webs, but that’s probably a different conversation.)

From Charlotte, my love for the fantastical ballooned. I can’t remember specific titles, but I do remember reading every book in the elementary school library by the time I finished fourth grade.

Then I discovered Star Trek in the summer of 1974. OH MY! Can you say Spock-o-licious?! It was all over from that point. At the age of 10 I knew my destiny lay in the stars, one way or another. And, I wanted to marry Mr. Spock. (I’m not going to discuss what that might say about me!)

I’m new to the world of Christian science fiction and fantasy. When I read Tolkien in junior high, I had no idea he was a Christian. Same for Lewis.

So here I am with a whole new world opened up to me. I’m almost finished with Tyers’ Firebird trilogy. I’ve read Bryan Davis, Donita Paul, R. K. Mortenson, and Kathryn Mackel. I can’t wait to read more. I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do with all this energy and enthusiasm He’s creating in us for this wonderful, amazing, disturbing genre.

Welcome aboard. Get ready for some lively opinions and thought provoking fun.

Greetings From A Crazy Guy

So it’s time for my first post on this crazy thing. I’ll state right up front that I’m no big expert on anything, I’m not even a little one. I’ve got no publishing creds, only a nice little pile of […]
| Jul 18, 2006 | No comments |

So it’s time for my first post on this crazy thing.

I’ll state right up front that I’m no big expert on anything, I’m not even a little one. I’ve got no publishing creds, only a nice little pile of rejections. So feel free to take everything I say with a pound and a half of salt.

What I do have is a passion to get the kind of fiction I love to see the light of day. I’m no big literary guy, I grew up on Star Wars novels, with a bit of Roger Elwood and Stephen Lawhead thrown in, and a dash of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. Naturally there was the spice of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien in there as well.

Later on I discovered the Forgotten Realms books of R. A. Salvatore, the Dragonlance novels of Wies and Hickman, and Robert Jordan’s ever turning Wheel of Time saga. These books along with others fueled my imagination and gave me a hunger for rousing adventures, swords and sorcery, with maybe a dash of romance.

I’m also a world guy. I’ve been building my own writing worlds since Junior High, and I love exploring strange, new worlds with an author, and seeing how that world’s inhabitants are different and the same as we are.

But most of all, what I long for is a well written romp that feels authentic and a world that is more than a set-piece for a lesson to be learned.

For many years I gave up even looking to the Christian market for this kind of novel.  And even now they are rare. But I’m glad to say there are some that are pushing into my preferred territory.

Kathryn Mackel’s Outriders, is a fun rollicking romp through a very twisted future earth. She has fun characters and a fast pace that I really enjoyed. Just had a few issues with the world building aspect.

The Personifid Project, by R. E. Bartlett, is also another fast paced science fiction ride that I found enjoyable (other than the protagonist, who I really couldn’t like). This is also the book that I enjoyed how subtly the supernatural content was handled. Which brings up a good point.

One thing I believe, for me at least, that is holding back Christian speculative fiction is an over-abundance of and over-reliance on the supernatural.  What do I mean by that?

I’ll tell you next week.

If you want a chance to get some FREE fantasy and science fiction books written by Christian authors head on over to The Jerkrenak’s Den and take part in the Summer Saurian Safari.

What Is Speculative Faith?

We are writers who share two passions—a genre and a Savior. The genre is speculative literature. That ‘s the umbrella term that covers fantasy, science fiction, and allegory in all forms: short story, novella, novel, screenplay, and poetry. The Savior is Christ. That is the […]
| Jul 14, 2006 | No comments |

We are writers who share two passions—a genre and a Savior.

The genre is speculative literature. That ‘s the umbrella term that covers fantasy, science fiction, and allegory in all forms: short story, novella, novel, screenplay, and poetry.

The Savior is Christ. That is the faith part.

Genre + Christ:  Speculative Faith

This team blog, Speculative Faith, will offer you our individual perspectives—and we don’t always agree—on any matter that resides in that spacious spot where our faith and our preferred genre blend.

And we’re an idealistic, motivated group:

~~ We believe that there is a diverse and sizable audience hungry for Christian speculative literature.

~~We want to find you.

~~We want you to find us.

~~We want to mobilize a reading and writing community that will impact the future editorial acquisitional decisions of CBA publishing houses. Right now, they are not favorably inclined toward speculative fiction.

~~We want better and more varied and just plain MORE novels from CBA publishing houses in our genre.

~~We intend to promote the good speculative literature out there, works that showcase talent as well as spiritual truth.

Does all that excite you? Had you given up hope of ever finding such novels—and enough of them—to suit your reading needs?

Do you believe this, as we do? —  Truth and wild imaginings are not incompatible.  Space operas, allegories,  Tolkienesque fantasies, hard science fiction tales, science fantasies, hip urban fantasies, magical realism stories, slipstream novels, surreal poetry. . . God can be glorified in these types of creative expressions.

We’re out to blaze trails. Come with us.

Saddle up your dragons. It’s time to fly into the wide and burning sky of  Speculative Faith!