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22
Jul

Mind the Gap

Some thoughts on the quandary of ‘crossover ‘ Christian Fiction.

The ‘too Christian for secular and too secular for Christian’ phrase has been popping up like the proverbial bad penny in recent online discussions. Seems the ‘professional’ consensus is an aspiring Christian writer must fall firmly on one side or the other is they want to go pro, be taken seriously, make a living at their craft.

Couple things:
I’m as willing as any aggravated non-believer to toss ham-fisted didactics in the critics’s den. Good riddance, I say. Dramatized sermonizing tends to be as painfully tedious as it is blatantly contrived. I think it was Dorothy Sayers who noted ‘pious trash is still trash’. Amen, sister. Throw it out.

Now I’m still learning how to both be a better Christian and better writer, so I’m not claiming mastery here, but as someone who does not see all art as a sermon platform and who strives for excellence in my work, I’m wondering at the wisdom of the ‘either/or ‘ stance as a professional mandate.

Learning curve aside for the moment, I’m unconvinced including explicit Christian content where it’s organic to the plot and characters makes one less professional, a wanna-be hobby or ‘weekend writer’. I’ve read enough thinly disguised ‘allegories’ from Christian authors that dripped with ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink. See what I did there? Biblical worldview! Aren’t I clever?” to not want to read any more. Those are just as much an insult to readers’ intelligence as any evangelical trope – even more so, as the Christian coyness seems inherently dishonest.

The key phrase here is ‘where organic to the plot and characters’. Discerning the where and when on that is not so much a question of ‘courage v compromise’, but the cultivation of mature technique, developing the skills of writing fiction. Echoing Dorothy Sayers again: ‘For work to be considered God’s work it must first be good work’. Nothing ruins a good idea faster than a poor execution, but a poor execution doesn’t automatically mean it’s not a good idea. The correct response to a good thing done wrong is to do it right, not to dump it altogether

Next is the idea of embracing what makes you different as a person and artist. You want to jump on the latest vampire/zombie/whatever trend, go ahead. Not my cuppa, thanks anyway. Seems to me, if there’s going to be any ring of authenticity to a person’s art, an artist/writer of any stripe has to embrace, wrestle, and reflect their deepest dreams, fears, and beliefs. If that is Marxism, Humanism, Nihilism, so be it. I may not agree, but I respect passion and conviction where I see it. For me, that triumvirate includes my faith in Jesus as the Risen Savior. There it is.

Because faith in Jesus is at the wellspring of my character and creations, it’s going to come out, overt or otherwise. Integrity demands it. And when it does, someone, somewhere, some when is going curl their lip, lift their nose, and start pontificating on my “blatant proselytizing “. (Pontificating…see what I did there? nudge, nudge, wink, wink) There is an element of reproach to the Gospel, an opposition and hostility. That old ‘world, flesh and the devil’ thing. So unless your Christians are lobotomized dupes or vile hypocrites, expect some flak. And it’s worth noting flak usually means you’re over the right target.

Closing this, you know I have to trot out the patron saint of Christian spec-fiction as well as apologetics, C.S. Lewis. His call for ‘Christians who write’ over ‘Christian writers’ still stands. Would to God I have the savvy to pen something like “The Screwtape Letters”, let alone multiple trips to Narnia. Point is for me, St. Clive managed both overt and covert expressions of faith in his fiction. He applied as needed. My prayer then is to imitate in principle, then develop the skills to write my stories and be both a solid Christian and solid storyteller to an audience in this generation.

Back to work now. Thanks and have an excellent day.

17
Jul

Fish Happens

Decades ago while potty training our daughter, my wife walked into the living room to find a #2 on the floor near the coffee table. Said female child lurked furtively nearby.

“What’s this?” asked Mom, feigning surprise.

“Maybe it’s a fish,” daughter replied.

“A fish?!”

“Yes, a sleeping fish,” the little round face explained in all seriousness. Then she galloped away.

***

Apologies for lack of blog content lately. I’m determined not to flog dead horses or join the chorus of flat earth answers, and I certainly don’t want to add to the deafening volume of white noise in our frantic, hi-tech, social media connect society. I’ve been wracking my mind for something I think will genuinely contribute, for content. Life has been pressing in on all sides, rendering me a bit preoccupied and not a little disheveled.

On top of normal everyday chores, I’ve been slammed with glass work and glass work-related problems. (Other people’s lack of planning becomes my emergency) On top of that my friend’s sister just passed from a sudden brain aneurysm. On the highway with her two kids in the car. She was 43.

Fortunately, another adult in the passenger seat was able to steer the car safely to the side of the road. That and the fact she was an organ donor are the only two bright spots in this tragedy.

That kind of cold smack in the face on top of real-world business drops my post-apocalyptic fantasy story down a few notches. Even the wonderful opportunity of being accepted to this year’s Viable Paradise gets a perspective adjustment.

Love your friends and family while you can.

***

Writing/reading-wise, I’ve got three new recommends:

David Brook’s The Road to Character

Neal Stephenson’s Reamde

and the Toshiba CB35 Chromebook. (My new ‘take-anywhere’ writing tool/toy)

Have a good weekend.

4
Jul

Accepted to Viable Paradise

The annual SFF Writer’s Workshop, that is.

One week on Martha’s Vineyard with other writers, select SFF authors, and several editors focusing on nothing but genre writing. I discovered VP when I first started writing fiction back in 2010, checked up on it yearly, but always had a dozen things that kept me from applying. This year however I clamped down, submitted the first 5,000 words of my next project, and was accepted. Looks like a great opportunity and not that I want summer to go any faster than usual, but I’m looking forward to it.

Now to press on with the first draft and keep saving my pennies.

Have a safe and happy Fourth.

 

 

23
Jun

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

I don’t know who’s writing the Deus Ex storylines, but I’d love to hang out in Montreal Eidos for a couple days, just to catch whatever nano-virus they’ve got. In my opinion, these folks nail it. For me, Deus Ex is the latest iteration of the cyberpunk genre. No contest.
Apparently there’s a bit of controversy over the theme/term ‘mechanical apartheid‘ in the upcoming game. I don’t mean to diminish that dark and difficult chapter of history, but is everyone in the fictional internal narrative/character/game dynamic required to be culturally sensitive/politically correct? Seems a sure formula for bland/homogenized characters and a sterilized story line. Not to mention flat out unrealistic.  Reminds me of certain portions of the evangelical market insisting fictional villains/scenes be de facto half-Christian. (“Bad words! Bad, bad words!”)

That’s another discussion though. Without further adieu, I present this play-through video, swiped from YouTube. Enjoy.

 

19
Jun

Guest Post – Dave Alderman

Work emergencies hindered me from getting this up sooner. Apologies.

The Distractions of Christian Fiction

Some days it feels like this world is going to hell in a handbasket. I turn on the news or I fire up my Facebook feed and I marvel at all of the ridiculous issues people are making a stink about. Everyone seems to be offended about something or someone somewhere. We’ve entered an age of entitlement issues and quick tempers. Passion has become misdirected. Instead of fighting against human trafficking, government corruption, or an increasing number of homeless filling our streets, we’re advertising, sharing, and making a huge deal about Bruce Jenner’s decision to become a woman.

Really, people?

Why is it this generation seems to have an easier time shying away from the issues that matter and instead cloister around nonsensical topics that allow them to turn away from the blood and violence and sexual slavery and instead fight amongst non-believers of their cause on social platforms?

This is one reason I have a hard time engaging in conversations with people on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t find a lot of worthy topics to latch on to. My passion is better spent writing.

If you read through the Bible – yes, I mean both Old and New Testament – you’ll see that God constantly uses believers to enact change in the world. We are His instruments, tasked with bringing Christ and His message of salvation to a broken world. Instead, we’re detracted by engaging in issues that don’t really matter.

We’re distracted, which I’ve realized is the Enemy’s number one weapon against Christians. In any great war, if you’ve succeeded in distracting the enemy, then you can pretty much take complete advantage of your opposition and secure victory.

I think the same goes for Christian writers as well. Instead of engaging issues from a Christian worldview, we’ve written clean-cut alternatives to the secular content monopolizing bookstore shelves. We’ve become distracted by a misinterpretation of the ‘who’ Christian fiction is written for.

I see a ton of Christian novels (fiction, science fiction, fantasy) that only seem to exist to see how many times the word ‘Christ’, ‘redemption’, and ‘forgiveness’, can appear in a novel. These stories cater to Christians and in many ways ostracizes non-Christians to the point where nobody but Christians want to read Christian fiction. Many of these stories are not realistic, nor are the outcomes. Not always.

Christians are shying away from writing about the real-world to instead offer up a wholesome, purified, easy depiction of the Christian life.

Too bad the Christian life isn’t easy. It’s full of heartache, it’s full of sacrifice, and it’s full of pain. A lot of it. It’s the kind of life that Christ shines the best through because He is our Healer, our Deliverer, our Savior. People who are not in trouble do not need a savior, nor do they need a deliverer, nor do they need a healer.

This is why I write what I write. I write Christian fiction but with real-world content. Drug dealers, megalomaniacs, sorcery, betrayal, sacrifice and ruin fill the pages of my fiction. And in the midst of it is Christ, coming to save a broken individual, a broken world.

Official Banner

It’s not enough to just write about this type of fiction. I want to publish it. That’s why I’ve created The Crossover Alliance, an online publishing company interested in pushing edgy Christian speculative fiction out into the world. Stories that the real-world can relate to. Stories of heartache and sacrifice and pain. Stories of healing, deliverance and rescue.

I have an Indiegogo campaign running right now to help raise funds for the first year’s expenses. Please head to the link – http://www.igg.me/at/TCA – to meet the team, read about the mission, and pledge to snag awesome digital subscriptions to our first year’s catalog.

My goal isn’t to prove that there is no need at all for tame Christian fiction, but that there is a serious need for Christian fiction that strives to resonate more with Christians and non-Christians alike.

IMG_0101David N. Alderman is an indie author of two speculative fiction series—Black Earth and Expired Reality. You can find all of David’s work at http://www.davidnalderman.com. He is also the founder of The Crossover Alliance (http://www.thecrossoveralliance.com), a publishing company specializing in edgy Christian speculative fiction. He participates in National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org) each year. When he’s not writing or spending time with family, you can find David gaming on any number of different consoles.

15
Jun

The Grim Fall notes

WHO CAN YOU TRUST WHEN THE GODS BETRAY YOU?

Tagline for my next novel right there.

Eshu International and Clar1ty Wars are going to stew on the back burner for a while. The Grim Fall is the project that’s banging inside me demanding to be let out.

So the initial outline is complete and I’m 15K into the first draft. To explain, The Grim Fall is a post-apocalyptic quest story set in a desolate, shattered fantasy world. The Gods managed to murder each other in their final cosmic battle before they could destroy all creation, allowing for a post to this particular Apocalypse.

My goal is Lord of the Rings meets The Road. To chain High Fantasy to a cement truck and drag it through Chernobyl for a while. I’m busting with ideas on what that looks like, and what fantasy world survivors would morph into to survive in such a place.

Worldview-wise, it’s my examination into/dramatization of people’s reactions to religion’s disappointments, failures, even treacheries. (Kinda the ultimate betrayal if the ultimate thing you trust throws you under the bus.) Like the tag line asks, who can you trust when your own gods let you down? Do you trust anyone or anything ever again? Can you find authentic faith in the ruins of a scorned, broken world?

On a practical note, while letting my imagination run, I’ve had to constantly rein in The Grim Fall because the story wants to escape into the bad lands and mutate in magical irradiated solitude into something rabid and monstrous. Methinks this is gonna be one huge novel, or maybe even a three-parter. I’ll know more as I write more, so that’s a decision for later. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away. I plan on contacting my cover artist soon. I need some visuals to prop up the increasing page count. I’ll post excerpts as I can.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great apocalypse-free day.

26
May

Some Thoughts about Ireland’s Same Sex Marriage Referendum

As a ‘conservative’ Christian, I found Ireland’s recent Same-Sex Marriage Referendum very interesting.

Off the top of my head, then.

1. Agree or disagree with Same Sex Marriage, people have the right in Free Societies to choose, to vote, to engage in the social and political process. Disagreeing doesn’t invalidate the right. Not even God violates people’s free will. This is happening. Deal with it – intelligently.

2. NPR reported that rather than take an adversarial, combative stance, many Homosexuals and Same Sex Marriage supporters personally went to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and said “This is who I am. This is important to me. Can you help?” One human being to another. There’s a thought, eh?

3. No one is opening a Big Box of Darkness in the world like Pandora. Darkness is the absence of light. Ground is lost by default. Now I agree that sexual immorality – homosexuality included – is dangerous both spiritually and physically; that is is indicative of broken, lost and defiant nature in need of redemption. But it’s time to stop pointing fingers and handing out Citations like God’s Traffic Cop. Fact is, we’re all in trouble and in desperate need of a Savior. What are we supposed to be doing again?

4. Time to reacquire a sense of proportion. There are LOTS of ugly, terrible things going on in the world. Compared to war, poverty, corruption, slavery, child-porn, and sex-trafficking (and half a dozen other things), this is way down on the list. Really.

To echo that Irish bishop, ‘It’s time for a Reality Check”. Yes, there will always be hostile contradiction, a reproach to genuine faith. I get that. But the simple Gospel is compelling, compassionate, and profound. However imperfect, it’s on us believers to reflect that accurately. As Christians, we’re Responsible TO people, not FOR them. Their response to Jesus is between them and Him. Don’t like what’s going on? I understand. The call then is to repent and return to being Salt and Light. To be God’s ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation. Jesus’ hands an feet.

Or to swipe from Gandhi, “Be the change in the world you wish to see.”

26
May

Free Story Time

Cover2For any interested parties, my short story SOZO is free ’til the end of the month.

Fair Warning: a quick read, it has mature themes and deals with a demobbed combat vet who finds himself in an ugly situation. Ending is good though.

On a related note, I’ve been told it has been accepted into the next Crossover Alliance anthology, due late this year. So that’s cool.

Thanks much and have a great day.

18
May

Will Mr. Mark Carver please stand up?

12"x 12" Foil wrap construction.

12″x 12″ Foil wrap construction.

After posting here, on FB and sending two email, it seems the winner for the Second Place Prize in The Barrow Lover Celtic Stained Glass Giveaway remains incommunicado. So the magic D20 has spoken again…

If so inclined, will Monsieur Carver contact me with his shipping details?

CCGLAZIER at GMAIL dot COM

Thank you.

8
May

One for my ‘concerned’ brethren

When I mention my fiction writing in a group of Christians, I often get suspicious glances/blank looks when I explain I don’t write ‘Christian’ books or target the Christian market. It probably doesn’t help that I use the word ‘explicit’ to describe my approach. What I mean by that is I try to write whatever I believe best conveys a credible portrayal of both Christian and non-Christian elements. Part of my devotion to God is faithfulness in my vocation. I have to be true to God and true to my work, which has to be true to itself. I won’t apologize for using mandatory conventions of fiction or genre. (‘show don’t tell’, war violence in Military Sci Fi, ghosts or magic in Horror/Supernatural…)

Now I make every effort to avoid the gratuitous and contrived, but the notion that including certain topics and realities somehow diminishes or cancels the Christian ‘witness’ is lazy logic. The strength of an idea is the test of real life – how it addresses and overcomes contradictory positions – not in cloistering it from any and every opposing viewpoint. To be “holy” is not sitting behind glass in a museum but employed for different work. Utensils in the Temple were honed for bloody use, washed after day in, day out use.

That said, this recent Two-Star Review had me smiling:

The Time I Accidentally Read a Christian Novel, May 5, 2015
 Verified Purchase
This review is from: Running Black (Eshu International Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I was looking for some gritty cyberpunk novel and found this. The world that the novel creates is truly excellent, and the technology is uniquely cool. I wasn’t expecting the christian elements which seemed to start out as a minor irritant when I was already mostly invested, but unfortunately by the end the christian propaganda has become a central theme. It’s an easy read, but instead of the expected grittiness you get Jesus freaks. I’d recommend passing this one over unless you want your cyberpunk to have what according to Christians are christian values.
***
The Christian faith themes are very clear in the book description and a number of reviews, so the charge of ‘bait and switch’ doesn’t stick. He got it though. I’m sorry he responded negatively to the Christian elements, but there’s little doubt he understood them. (Same guy also gave ‘The Book of Eli’ movie one star. Big shock, that.)
So this definitely helped offset the pain from yesterday’s hernia repair surgery.
Have a good day.
***
When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.

Flannery O’Connor
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