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.
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.
- I believe wonder is important for the mind and soul.
- Modern life—its pace and expectations—has a way of leeching wonder from the world.
- 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.
- 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.
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.