Bread or Circus?

or “Why SyFy’s ‘THE EXPANSE’ show is better than the books”

‘Bread and circuses’ was the policy employed by jaded Imperial Roman politicians to control and appease the great unwashed pleb masses. Now this isn’t a political post (although I certainly could run down that rabbit trail barking like a pack of rabid hounds) This being a writing blog, I’m going take a moment to ramble on about the storyteller’s dilemma of Substance versus Spectacle.

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STAR WARS: THE PLOT DOESN’T THICKEN  THE FORCE AWAKENS
After Christmas, I spent one of my rare annual visits to the Mall Multi-Plex on SW:TFA. My wife and I, along with several friends plunked down our $8.50 each, sunk into our seats and escaped for 2+ hours while munching on popcorn and smuggled-in Twizzlers. When the final credits rolled, my first reaction was relief: JJ didn’t botch it. He and his team made an epic Big Screen event and a solid homage to my childhood geek icon. Bravo.

Then why was there this nagging disappointment? For all the new characters, the old familiars, the cool vistas, the choreographed dogfights, the Death Planet explosion, I was ultimately underwhelmed. My one-sentence summation hit me on the drive home: “Another layer of frosting on a 39 year-old cake.”

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OK, so it’s not 1977 and I am a bit older than 13. What did I really expect? It’s “Star Wars” not “War and Peace”. Then I ran across this excellent LA TIMES article which brought it into focus: the old issue of Story versus Spectacle. Yes, SW:TFA was pretty, and shiny and frenetic, but plot-wise? A thin layer of Stupendously Predictable.

 
STORY OR SPECTACLE
That’s the storyteller’s dilemma, isn’t it? Story or Spectacle. My question is “Why do we have to choose?” Now maybe audiences have been complaining about this for centuries. “That Euripides is so shallow. All pageant and chorus. No depth at all – not like Aeschylus.” It just feels like the swap, the ‘bait-and-switch’, is far too common these days. Well, sizzle ain’t steak, no matter the era.

As an unrepentant geek, I’m referencing sci fi and fantasy here, but I think this friction applies across the board.

Take a moment and compare Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy with The Lord of the Rings. See? That’s my point. Not that The Hobbit wasn’t a great book with magical characters in the same incredible world. It just wasn’t THREE MOVIES worth of story. Which is why we ended up with Hunky Dwarves, an e-Harmony Dwarf/Elf match, an Albino Orc baddie, non-stop Disney-ride action sequences, and Sand Worms imported from Arrakis. Instead of one book per movie, we got one novella spread over three movies. So, Sir PJ had to spackle something in all those gaps. He had seven + cinema hours to fill.

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Cover of ‘Dwarf Quarterly’

What about Avatar? – where James Cameron grabbed every sci fi trope that couldn’t run fast enough and blended them into a sweet frothy frappe of a plot he could hang $600 million worth of CGI on. Contrast it with District 9. (Which stands as one of my all-time favorite SF films) Positively Everything about D9 is more interesting than Avatar, from the characters to the camera work. It has an actual story arc and character development.

No, Mr. Blomkamp didn’t hit the same heights with Elysium or Chappie, but it’s obvious he’s trying. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I had to choose, I’d rather be known for D9 than Avatar, a.k.a. the most forgettable mega-blockbuster in history. (Four out of five Otaku Experts agree it left virtually NO cultural footprint) And don’t even get me started on Pacific Rim or the recent Godzilla letdown.

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THE EXPANSE 

SyFy’s latest attempt to recapture the BGS phenomena comes from two of George RR Martin’s staff writers who are cranking out a series of SF novels each heavy enough to stun a horse. Kudos to them – they’re making a good living.

I heeded the hype and tried, but gave up when neo-Chandler detective met the Space Zombies. The whole affair hit me as McDonalds space opera: quick, assembly-line, SF calories. Filling in a way, made for rapid consumption from obviously reconstituted ingredients, but definitely not taking digestion in mind.

Thing is though, to fill out all those pages Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck needed to think in longer than 42 minute increments, conjure up better than cardboard character types, twine more than two plot threads for their solar system-sized setting, then add a dash of political/social machinations – which is why the show works as good SF television. There is more STORY there than the bog-standard SyFy serial. (Sharknado 4, anyone?) I won’t buy another Expanse book, but I’ll be spending one lunch break per week to catch up on the latest episode.

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A QUESTION OF MEDIUM?
“Don’t be daft, Paddy me boy. TV ain’t books.” Aye, I get that. They work different ways on different levels. Fine. But aren’t both vehicles for STORY? And isn’t STORY what we crave? Sure, we oooh and aaah at sweeping vistas, alien landscapes, and epic battles, but we want rich characters, believable story arcs, genuine character development, credible conflict, setback and climax. We want legitimate struggles rather than contrived ones. Faulkner’s ‘heart in conflict with itself’. Give us heart-breaking defeats and breath-taking triumphs – the bones and body, not the make-up. I think that’s why even in shallow fare like Star Wars, Darth Vader is more compelling than Luke Skywalker, and why Smeagol/Gollum is one of the most memorable characters in all Middle Earth.

 
NAMING THE WIND OR PASSING THE WIND?
I’ve heard that Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles was optioned for film. (and video games and graphic novels, and possible TV spin-offs, and clothes, and…) The spec-fiction genre fan in me is very excited. Good on ya, Mr. Rothfuss. Excellent choice, Hollywood.I hope they do them justice.

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I’m afraid though – terribly afraid, given recent events- that Mr. Rothfuss’ marvelous books with get reduced to green screen fantasy flatulence that happens to have a rocking medieval boy-toy musician, hashtag ‘Kvothe’. Which would bum me right the hell out. Like near-suicidal. It would be like watching a cow get turned into bouillon cubes. Or a Eucalyptus tree into bubble gum. (For the love of all that’s holy, Pat. Don’t let ’em do it!)

 
FIVE FLAMING TORCHES ON THE WRITER’S ROLLA-BOLLA OF DEATH

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Juggling – that’s the challenge. At least, that’s what I think good story-telling is: a deliberate whirl of characters, plot, prose, entertainment and substance. Not that I have an MFA in Creative Writing or that I’ve hit the 10,000 hour/Million Word “Expert” mark. Honestly, I’m figuring this out as I go – sort of an ‘Earn as I Learn’ thing. Working on my next novel, I’m painfully reminded any genuine mastery is going to take far more discipline than inspiration.

However, those are the five elements that coalesce in the stories that move me. Books with that mysterious alloy survive the annual cull year after year and they are the ones I buy multiple copies of to give away to friends and family.Those are the kind of stories I want to write.

No, I haven’t mastered this yet. Not even close. But I’m going to keep at it because in terms of my writing, at the end of my life, those are the kind of stories I want to be remembered for. I don’t think for a second it’ll be easy, but I do believe in my marrow it’s on the shortlist of things that are truly worth it.

Have a good day. Thanks for reading.

V.P. Writing Exercise

Here’s my writing exercise from the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop. Each of us was assigned to work up a piece for a notional short story anthology, as well as given a surprise toy that had to be included. My anthology was “Poe 3000”, a sci-fi homage to Edgar Allan Poe. My toy prop was… well, I bet you can figure it out.

***

 

The Annabel Lee at Ganymede

Sam Ryoshi asked once more, to make sure. “You got her a nose?”
Kishore Patek nodded, eyes flickering over the thruster display. “A plastic one–”
“A plastic one…”
“With a sharpener inside it.”
Ryoshi studied the copilot before pushing off the wall and floating over his head. “So do you plan on ever having sex with her again?”
“What? Yes! I mean of course. Dude, it’s a novelty item –”
“It’s a nose.”
“- It’s a gift.” Patek continued. “I got it at Mare Imbrium. It’s from the Moon. She’ll love it.”
Ryoshi settled into the pilot’s seat and pulled himself toward the steering yoke. The HUD released a spray of bouncy phantom alpha-numerics. “You got it at a kiosk in the Arrivals Concourse, Terminal C. It has a pencil sharpener up one nostril.”
“Bita is a writer,” Patek exclaimed. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Ryoshi leaned forward and tapped up the main display. “Right. ‘Cause nothing says ‘literary’ like a plastic nose pencil sharpener.”
“Shut. Up.”
Ryoshi at the helm, the large flat screen at the front of the cockpit cabin bloomed to life. Software enhanced and colorized the bow camera’s view. Ganymede’s cratered surface filled the lower half, an arc of pocked granite slashed with jagged ice-white lines. The display’s upper portion was inked in deep black with a scattering of hard, bright stars.
Ryoshi zoomed in on the center field until the orbital appeared- a knobby spindle topped with a spoked wheel of linked hab-units. At the tip of the spindle at the wheel’s center he could make out the white blister of the Command Module. It’s hull lights illuminated the bristling comms array. Everything looked intact.
He moved the reticle down to the bottom of long knurled axle. Mining drones rose and fell from the moon’s surface – ‘Hop Frogs’ in company parlance – swarming like silver gnats around the lower collection bay. Everything seemed normal there too.
So why was there no answer? Why was the docking arm still retracted?
Ryoshi adjusted the focus one more time; the docking lights were still blinking on standby: yellow-red, yellow-red, yellow-red.
He frowned and tapped the bow thruster icon to slow their approach. “Hail him again, Kishore.”
The copilot complied. “UMC facility ‘Raven 119-09’, this is the UMC supply ship ‘Annabel Lee’ requesting permission to dock. We’re here for your three month check-up. Over?”
Nothing.
Ryoshi waved for Patek to try again.
“UMC facility ‘Raven 119-09’ this is the supply ship ‘Annabel Lee’. We’ve got that fresh food and water you’ve been waiting on. And beer, Raven 119-09. We brought beer. Sorry for being late but we are on approach now, and requesting permission to dock. Please respond. Over.”
Both men craned forward expectantly. Silence.
Patek leaned back and shrugged. “Maybe he’s in the head.”
“He’s supposed to have his comms on at all times.”
“Can’t a man shit in peace three-hundred ninety million miles from home?”
Ryoshi peeled off a thin smile. “We’re five days late. File says it’s this guy’s first rotation on a mining station. Solitary type or not, ninety-plus days alone in a can floating in the Big Empty, I’d be climbing the walls waiting on my resupply. Even if it was just to get a twelve pack and see our mugs for twenty-four hours.”
“So then he’s down in the drone bay,” Patek suggested. “You know, actually earning his pay and fixing something.”
The Annabel Lee was closing fast and the station was expanding on screen. Ryoshi zoomed the display out and grabbed the steering yoke with both hands. “Usher Mining Company redundancy the shit out of all their deep-space platforms. B-grade A.I., mining robots… the place runs itself. Supervisors are props to comfort investors. Management is convinced the human touch adds confidence. Creates the illusion constant oversight. Plus the photos give quarterly profit reports that ‘rugged explorers on the final frontier’ vibe.”
Patek pumped his fist. “Onward robot exploiters.”
“Exactly. Ah! There we go.” Sam Ryoshi pointed with his chin toward the screen. “He’s back.” The docking lights had turned steady green. The umbilical began to unfold.
Patek grinned. “Last stop, here we come.” He hunched over his work station and began queuing up the Annabel Lee’s automated cargo transfer.
Ryoshi hit a series of buttons on his own console, then released the steering yoke to let the ship’s autopilot guide her in. “Hey – maybe you can get her something from Jupiter. Something romantic. Like, I dunno… a pen shaped like a –”
“Dude – Shut. Up.”

 

***

 

Patek squeezed past Ryoshi in the docking tube. “Nah, this isn’t creepy at all.” He peered toward the spindle’s central shaft, then turned back, eyebrows lifted in mock alarm. “What the hell is he doing?”
No one was waiting in the docking chamber when they disembarked. The entire level was dark. And silent. Red emergency lights smouldered every six feet along the narrow passageway, and the hiss-thunk of the airlock sealing behind them had actually echoed.
“What’s this guy’s name again?” Patek asked.
A twitch of the fingers and Ryoshi’s data pad flared with a company mug shot, personal data, and clearance levels. “Perry, Edgar A. Temp contract. No immediate family. Middle-of-the-road psych and performance evals. Degrees in robotics and low-g engineering. No surprise there.”

“Well, big surprise here,” Patek exclaimed. “Edgar A. Perry, sci-nerd and all-around loner turned out the lights.”
Patek exhaled and jutted his chin at his breath plume. “Turned off the warmers too. I say that psych eval missed something. I mean, what brand of stupid turns off the heat eight hundred million miles from the Sun?”
“Good question.” Ryoshi crinkled his forehead. “Same kind that buys his girlfriend cheap novelties in spaceports, maybe?”
Patek grinned. “Mock away Sam, but chicks dig sensitive guys.”
“Oooh, so that that’s your secret.”
“Abso-fucking-lutely.”
Ryoshi pointed toward a ventilation grill on the ceiling. “Well Casanova, the air is still on, so Perry must be here somewhere.”
“Right–”
An enormous metal groan cut him off. The station shivered, then a mechanical thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump started up, like someone was tapping a hammer on the hull. The beat echoed throughout the station.
Patek’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second. He started breathing through his nose. “Water transfer,” he said after a moment. “I set Annabel to auto-trans once she’d hooked into with the station. That’s what that is.”
Ryoshi spit out a laugh. “I think I peed a little.”
“Me too,” Patek said. “So we leave now, right?”
“What?”
“In the movies, two ‘creepy space station’ cues means our heroes are pretty well hosed unless they bail right then.”
“Except we’re not in a movie.” Ryoshi nudged the copilot with his shoulder. “C’mon. Let’s go find this poor bastard. The sooner we find him, the sooner we can leave.”
Patek let himself be nudged along. “A stray micro-meteor holed one of the rechargers, forced Perry to scale down to critical systems. That’s why it’s dark, right? He’s in one of the hab units, eating cold ramen, wrapped in a foil blanket.”
“Exactly,” Ryoshi said.
Patek kept talking. “I mean, I’m living the astronaut’s dream: playing hide and seek in a deep space meat locker with a recluse engineer.”
“Oh, the places you’ll go,” Ryoshi said. “At least this way, you can tell Bita you’re a real hero.”
Patek squared his shoulders. “Heh. Like I’m not already.”
A dozen more steps and they reached center shaft. A wide, heavy-duty ladder was bolted against the interior wall, the cord in the space station’s spine. The aluminum ribs of its safety cage blushed in the dim blood-light before disappearing into dark holes above and below.
“Heaven or hell?” Ryoshi asked.
Patek swung out and grabbed a rung. “Cargo Bay of the Robotic Damned for me. You can scour the heights for our wayward sheep.”
“Fine. Keep your comms on though.”
Patek threw up a quick salute as he started down.“Aye aye, captain.”
Ryoshi almost returned it, then stopped. Ceremony doesn’t carry in a vacuum, he reminded himself. Only competence.
He waited until Patek’s head vanished, then started to climb toward the Command module.

***

Sam Ryoshi was three rungs shy of the hab-ring when Patek’s voice sounded in his ear. “I thought UMC was digging for low-g mineral formations.”
“They are.”
“So why is there ice down here?”
“You mean space chill?”
“No,” Patek said. “The bay is filled with ice. The Hop Frogs are bringing up blocks of it. Not rocks.”
“You sure?” Ryoshi asked.
“I’m looking right at it.”
Sam Ryoshi reached up and grasped the hatch handle. He pushed it open, then climbed into the hab-level. “Ganymede’s got a huge subsurface ocean, but last I knew, the Froggies were scraping the Gula and Archelous craters.”
He sat on the rim of the hole, legs dangling, back against the upright hatch. “They shouldn’t be bringing up ice.”
“I’ll tell them,” Patek said. “Any sign of Perry?”
“I just got here. I went up, remember?”
“Slacker.”
“I would make a ‘climbing the corporate ladder joke’ but that would be tacky.”
“And that’s one thing you’re not,” Patek said. “Hey, that’s strange.”
Ryoshi stood, one hand on the rim of the hatch. “What’s strange?”
“The ice is melting weird.”
Ryoshi stepped back and let the hatch fall shut. “Weird how?”
“… — sticky. — ‘ll over the –ace. I can’t–…” The rest was static.
Ryoshi grunted in disgust. Of course they didn’t take inter-station comms into consideration – it’s a one-man operation.
“Kishore, forget the ice. If you find Perry, bring him up. If not, come up in ten minutes. He’s got to be here, somewhere.”
A hiss of static, then Ryoshi’s earbud went silent.
The lights were off in the hab-ring as well. It was colder too; his breath puffed out little red-tinged clouds. Space was seeping in. Heat was the priority, otherwise they would be astronaut-sicles in a few hours. More emergency lights glowed on the curved ceiling of the connection tube, vanishing around the bend in each direction. No clue which way to go first.
Right, he decided. Counter-clockwise. Not like it’s far.
The thump of the Annabel Lee’s pumps was softened up in the hab-ring. It became a measured beat he heard as well as felt, a pulse in the decking under his boots. Ryoshi walked in time with it, probing the gloom with his flashlight beam, careful and thorough as doctor checking a wound.

“Perry? Where are you, Perry? It’s Sam Ryoshi from the Annabel Lee. Can you hear me?”
The only answer was the ping and creak of cooling metal, and the deep throb of the pumps below.
There were signs of the man everywhere: stray tools, a t-shirt, a stack of food trays. Every door on the hab-ring was wide open. The storage units, supply, mess, rec-room, medical, even the hatch to Perry’s sleeping quarters was toggled flat back against the bulkhead. Ryoshi understood. He’d had done that himself his first tour – and the next two. Anything to create the illusion of room, more space.
If you didn’t have claustrophobia when you signed up for a supervisor stint, Ryoshi though, fifty-fifty you had when you left. A mining orbital was huge, but the liveable environment was less than two-thousand square feet. Sounds like a lot until you’ve paced, crawled and climbed every last inch of it. Then it was like being stuffed in a tuna can.
The agoraphobia was worse. After his first bit, it took him eight days to work up the nerve to go to a park. Thank Christ his wife had pushed him to enter UMC’s pilot program. Maybe he’d pass that on to Perry. It didn’t look like his first experience was going all that good.
Ryoshi was three-quarters of the way around, approaching the door to the Command Module.
It was shut.
He smacked the knob with the palm of his hand. Nothing. Again. The door held fast. Puzzled, Ryoshi backed up, slipping as he did. He played his flashlight across the steel grate.
The deck was slimy. Dotted with smeary footprints. “What the hell?”
Ryoshi raised his foot, watched thick gunk stretch and snap. The slime was thick like hydraulic fluid, only clear, with the oily rainbow shimmer of snail mucus.
He peered in the door’s viewport. The lights were off in there as well, but data scrolled furiously across the system monitors, jumping from one station to another.

Ryoshi glimpsed what looked like A.I Core programming, but it the viewport was small and the chunks of colored data volleyed too fast to be certain.
The data flow silhouetted the command station. Someone was in the chair with their back to the door.
Ryoshi pounded on the steel hatch. “Perry, open up.”
No response.
“Perry. C’mon. Quit fucking around and open the door.” Ryoshi’s words made a string of angry clouds in the chilled, metallic air.
Nothing. Not even a twitch.
Ryoshi fumed. This shit was definitely going in his report. He pounded on the door again. Still nothing.
“Fine,” he muttered, and tore the cover off the knob casing. “Be that way.”
Ryoshi had locked himself out of a supply closet four months into his second tour over Io. UMC modules all used the same lock – the blessing of low-bid standardized construction.
Static hissed in Ryoshi’s ear bud. He yanked at the lock’s wiring. “Never mind, Kishore. I got him. Genius locked himself in the Command module. Playing some kind of game. Come on up.”
There was a squawk, then a garbled crackle of white noise.
“Don’t worry, we’ll keep the beer for ourselves.” Ryoshi said.
The temperature was dropping and he shook himself to ward off the chill that fingered his bones. Quickly, he fished in the junction box, twisted the red and yellow leads together, then touched them to the connector behind the knob. The door popped open.
“So there,” he murmured.
He ducked inside and went straight for the chair. Frantic data-lightning played across the computer screens, the thump-thump of the pumps rang the chamber like a deep, distant bell. Perry sat perfectly still.
“What the hell? You playing some kind of–”
His fingers gripped, slipped on the back of the chair as he swung it around. His mind registered the slime on the cushion, on the floor. He saw it quivering on the system terminals. Some part of his brain was half a second ahead, knew without words what he’d find.
The chair spun. Perry was dead.
The engineer’s body was locked in mid-twist under a coating of iridescent gel. An insect in glassine sap. Agony contorted his face. Confusion. His mouth gaped in one last moan, or scream, a runnel of clear viscous slime oozing out over his lips, across his stubbled cheeks, slipping down his neck.
Patek screamed. Ryoshi’s earbud squealed. “-ot me! –elp! For —- sake, get —”
“Kishore!”
Ryoshi spun, lurched back toward the hall. Behind him, a flurry of data leaped between the monitor screens. Over the door, a red light blinked three times before it thunked shut. Ryoshi heard the gasp of pressure seals.
He slid to a halt, began pounding the steel panel in time with the beat of the pumps.
“Kishore! Kishore! Answer me. What’s happening? Kishore!”
Only static.
Another spasm of on-screen data made Ryoshi turn back around. The door’s steel ribs were hard and cold against his back. Before him, Edgar Perry’s rictus howled silently as long chains of commands, blocks of logic structures stormed through the displays, flitting like vicious faeries from station to station, morphing and growing as they lashed through A.I. command system.
Ryoshi stared in horror. Panting frantic plumes in the flickering, throbbing, red-lit room, he saw the clear, alien fluid gather and slip ever so carefully towards him.
***
Outside Raven Station 119-09, the Hop Frogs went back and forth from the Ganymede’s frozen oceans, swarming, merging, scattering like quicksilver mites winking on the infinite deep velvet of space.
After many days, the running lights along the smooth white hull of the Annabel Lee lit up. Slowly, silently, it detached from the mining orbital, pirouetted, and headed back the way it came.

 

copyright Patrick Todoroff, Oct. 2015

VP19 Exercise “Poe 3000”
Oct. 2015

Free Fiction: SOZO at Amazon

Sozo (Original Cover)My near-future short SOZO is free for Kindle and I-Pad beginning tomorrow through the Sept. 14. Use the buck you would have spent to get yourself a cup of coffee, then click through to Amazon to get your copy. It’s a quick read. Your coffee probably won’t even get cold.

It gives you a taste of my writing and it’s a small thanks to folks who read my work.

Have a great day.

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.

 

 

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.

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.