Finished edits on part one of The Shattered Worlds and decided to play around in GIMP. I like the way this turned out. I think people are going to enjoy this story.
Someone asked about ‘Dead Saints’ the other day. Well, it’s on the back burner until the election is over. It’s been a stop and go project from the beginning, with the first scenes and outline sitting on my computer for several years. The current delay is due in part by my malaise and general frustration as well as an eerie resemblance between the current political situation and several key plot points.
For example, the story’s antagonist is a corrupt politician demonically inspired to boost their career trajectory toward the White House by deliberately allowing a terrorist attack and then playing the hero in the aftermath. Evidence of this conspiracy is contained in emails thought deleted by the politician’s staff but uncovered by the protagonist while battling both natural (terrorist) and supernatural (demonic) forces in an attempt to stop the imminent terrorist threat.
And here I was, making stuff up.
Have a good weekend.
Black Mirror, Season 3 Episode 4 that is.
I am tripping on Black Mirror. My lips to God’s ears, I wish I had the chops to write things like it.
As long as I’m confessing… I binged the first two seasons when they appeared on Netflix and have been spending most every spare minute on Season 3 since it was announced last week. Sort of a Twilight Zone on Crystal Meth and a 4G Wireless connection, the series has riveting plots, great writing, and pitch-perfect acting that synthesizes each episode into a polished splinter digging in that sensitive intersection of human nature, technological advances, and social trends.
That’s not saying I ‘like’ each episode or agree with the conclusions. It’s not Family Friendly by any stretch. (I suppose as a Christian, I’m not supposed to appreciate it, but frankly Scarlet…. ) Polished as each vignette is, the tone is brutally frank and deeply unsettling. I suspect the real reason it gets so uncomfortable at times is how authentic, incisive, and terribly plausible it all is.
Which brings me to San Junipero – the episode I watched during lunch yesterday.
As a thirty-one year Christian, former Christian Drama Team leader, pastor, and missionary, Sunday School teacher, Bible Study leader, etc, I can’t recall ever seeing such a brilliant and beautiful dismissal of religious faith. I mean that sincerely. I was speechless with admiration not choking on indignation. It was a slice of artistic genius.
It would be difficult to explain line by line how San Junipero encapsulated such a momentous dismissal unless you’re familiar with the traditional Biblical worldview and you watched the episode. I don’t want to slather a spoiler-filled synopsis here. But if you’ve seen it, I bet you’ll follow along: start with the distinctly secular, scientific premise of digitized consciousness/personhood, add the lesbian relationship, the one character’s heart-rending rejection by ‘strict religious family, the other’s poignant lack of faith concerning belief in ‘life after the death’ in the case of her spouse and daughter. Then so to the perpetual Spring Break hedonism of the virtual ‘afterlife’ – (in the 80s, no less) Add it up and the underlying statements are plain: there is no soul, no Eternity, no spiritual dynamic to life, no accountability, no consequences.The episode is a complete dismissal of and substitute for religious faith. The writers even managed to give Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth far more meaning than it ever had. (or deserves)
Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven, love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
The purpose here is not to air my sniveling, or rate the show on some Faith- Based Approval Scale, or offer a Believer’s Public Service Warning. I really do appreciate the show. It is excellent and challenging.
If there’s a caution, it’s to myself. I know God’s redemption is real – I’ve experienced it in my own life and seen it authentically transform others in America and overseas.
That said, I’ve concluded lately that much of the Western church still operates under the illusion that many non-believers/other-believers need or want or are interested in the Gospel message. Maybe twenty-five years ago, but not anymore. Not really. If anything these days, they’re indifferent. Or dismissive. Contemptuous. Even hostile.
The fact is, most folks are already confirmed and committed not just to carnal and consumer distractions but to a definite worldview. Or they have sought out and bought into alternative remedies to their questions and issues, selecting them from the drop down menu of hundreds of available options in our pluralistic, globally-connected, information age world. We Christians assume they’re hungry in quiet desperation when in reality they are all set and just ate. And yet we’re still knocking on the door with yesterday’s sandwich.
So my personal caution is this: as an artist and a writer, as a human being who believes and has experienced God’s Grace, I am convicted of my need to earnestly, diligently pray for His Spirit to inform and infuse my character, my words, and my work. The world is far better at everything than I am. And they have more of it. The only thing I really have isn’t even mine – the grace and truth that is in Jesus. And I can and should do my level best to pass that on as uncut and consistently as possible. But it needs to be in my bones not just on my bumper sticker. Because in the end, that is the only way I can be a genuine witness to His death, resurrection, and reality.
Have a nice day.
And watch Black Mirror.
Netflix just announced Season 3 of the BBC show “Black Mirror“.
Billed as a ‘Twilight Zone for the social media generation’, if you missed seasons 1 and 2, you should queue them up asap. But be warned: it’s as brutal as it is brilliant. Black Mirror is a very appropriate title. There’s no “…who’s the fairest of them all?” here – you’re just as likely to be horrified as you are fascinated when you look.
A ‘fifteen minutes in the future’ kind of Sci Fi, the show’s writers have an eerie knack for standing right in the intersection of technology, cultural trends, and our primal human appetites. Whether it’s the sordid voyeurism for political scandals, clones of deceased loved ones downloaded with personality algorithms based on social media profiles, to reality shows, pornography, virtual reality, the impact of mnemonic cyber implants on relationships, what makes the show remarkable isn’t merely its excellent script, stories, or acting, but the terrible plausibility of it all.
Again, this won’t be everyone’s cuppa, but I suspect it will engage futurists, fans of William Gibson, and SF junkies out there. As a Christian, I’m both struck and dismayed by how astonishingly well it captures humanity’s capacity for creativity and innovation, as well as reflecting the deep-rooted flaws in our souls that only God, not technology, can remedy.
And as a SF writer, I confess I’m a little jealous.
Trailer for Season 3 below. Now go queue it up.
Have a good day.
Work has slowed down to where I can revise the first major section of my next novel, Shattered Worlds.
So no computer games for me this month, eh?
To thank you for your support and encouragement, all three of my Near-Future shorts are available for free at Amazon for five days beginning tomorrow Sept 9. Download them, tell a friend, pass the info on. They’re short, easy reads. I hope you find your time well spent. Click on the covers below.
Have an excellent day.
Oh yes, please.
The next iteration of cyberpunk-awesomeness is here. The latest installment of the Deus Ex gaming franchise was released yesterday and my bytes are all aflutter.
Immersive world, excellent voice acting, multiple paths/game play methods, RPG elements, deep story line, these are great games, and I mean ‘great’ as in ‘like a good book’. This is far more than a SF-flavored Run n Gun with a dash of grit, cybernetics, and lens flare. These games draw you in, force you to think, make choices, get lost in the story’s implications, complications, and conflicts. As a cyberpunk fan-boy, I’d love to hang out with the creators and writers up in Eidos Montreal for a week to just listen and take notes.
I am resisting the siren call of Mankind Divided because I’ve set aside September to revise the first section of my next novel, Beneath the Broken Moons. But it calls to me from my Steam Cart. Oh how it calls…
Have an excellent day.
Fellow writer types – this is worth a read. Art hard and watch your back.
Scammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.
An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.
With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.
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Another ‘Near-Future’ short, The Stones Remember is about NATO units caught up in a massive Russian invasion of Poland and the Baltics. Exhausted, out-gunned, and out numbered, they find themselves at the site of an old battlefield and have to decide if some history is worth repeating.
Available in electronic format right now, it’s a quick, cheap read. (less than a cup of coffee lasts longer) Thanks much. I’m hammering away at two full-length novel projects but wanted to get this out in the meantime. Hope you enjoy it.
Another near-future military action short coming soon. Doing final proof-read now.
Have a good day.
Back to Writing and Fiction because Real Life is so unbelievable right now.
A few years back, William Gibson said he veered away from cyberpunk SF because ‘the future got smashed on the windshield of the present.’ Razor-sharp Gibson-ese. An example of why I admire him.
I think it touches on the geometric progression/proliferation of technology as well as the simultaneous unpredictability and weird deja-vu familiarity of the future. Some dynamics of civilization are moving at a frenetic, methamphetamine-fueled pace while others are as ancient and rooted as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In an odd twist of futuristic prescience, I see diced and commercialized slices of Pattern Recognition’s virtual art installations in the current Pokemon craze. (Apparently the US military had to advise folks not to wander into Restricted Areas chasing VR anime creatures – a statement I find deeply strange.)
I also notice the gap between my own futuristic imaginings and current events shrinking to quite literally 15 minutes in the future. Point of fact, my current Mil SF/NF short focuses on the remnants of a US Mechanized Infantry company caught up in a massive Russian invasion of the Baltics and Poland, which, if you’ve been following the news, is a thing that might actually happen. Especially after Putin’s shenanigans in Georgia, Estonia, Crimea, the ongoing fight in the Ukraine, and now the massive Russian military build-up in Kaliningrad.
Now I imagined the opening scenes several years ago, mulling over the old ‘Cold War turned Hot’ RPG Twilight 2000. Back then, my speculation was rear view mirror daydreaming. Common sentiment was the Cold War collapsed with the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. Now I’m hammering the story out by the end of the month before it literally becomes old news.
I would prefer to spend my energy on writing, not intense self-examination. There is a synergy, a mystery to making art that is only realized in the doing, not in the debate. I recognize value in discussion, but you can’t pin the process to a board like some specimen of exotic butterfly. It too easily morphs into Delaying Activity. Plus dissection has a tendency to kill its subject.
With that caveat, I confess the inspiration/motivation for this current short story is different. There’s an urgency and not the usual entertaining escapism behind it. I have this odd sense the Sun is shining right now but the wind has shifted. The barometer has dropped. (what Cape Codders call ‘a sea change’) I’m no prophet, but I think something nasty is just over the horizon and we might want to batten down the hatches. Salt that warning to taste. I hope I’m wrong.
In terms of larger fiction projects, once I release this new short, I’ll have to decide whether to pursue the three-part Fantasy novel or the contemporary supernatural thriller, “Dead Saints.” I’m also considering seeking out agent representation for one or both of those novels to publish via a traditional route. It would be nice to be commissioned to write in the same way I’m commissioned to make stained glass windows. All that has been added to my prayers, so we’ll see.
I’ll should have Pre-Release copies of this this short story available soon. If you’re interested in a freebie, let me know.
Thanks much and take care.
FEAR AND LOATHING IN – well, Everywhere.
The Blacks. The Whites. The Spics. The Chinks. The Ragheads. The Jews. The Gays. The Cripples. The Cops. The Liberals. The Republicans…
Toss that stuff you learned in Grade School about being kind, not stereotyping and judging people by their looks or the actions of a few. Forget our common humanity – it’s the era of the ‘Other’ where Partizanship, Polarization, and Contempt are the order of the day.
BBC interviewed a young black man in Dallas who said a common sentiment among protestors was the white cops ‘deserved’ to be shot. WTF?
That makes as much as shooting Alton Sterling or Philando Castile because they’re black.
I’m not suggesting injustice doesn’t need to be addressed swiftly and severely, but it’s like some kind of Stuxnet virus is loose in our society; component parts are being isolated from the whole, stressed to the breaking point, all as inaccurate, dated information keeps it from being fixed correctly. It’s getting out of control and we’re tearing ourselves apart.
Elie Wiesel just died. Not like I have my finger on the pulse of Global Media, but my impression was his passing went strangely unremarked. Did everyone spend their quarterly mourning quota on Muhammad Ali? (It was like that with Mother Theresa/Princess Diana back in the day, IIRC) Scanning news, the net, and social media, I had this weird vertigo sensation. I was unbalanced like gravity changed or tectonic plates shifted.
Seems to me there’s an urgent need right now to bring the lessons of Mr. Wiesel’s life and legacy to the forefront, to remind ourselves of the consequences of the hideous philosophy of dehumanizing the ‘Other’. I’m not strumming ‘Kumbaya’ or glossing serious problems; I’m saying if we don’t smarten up, find common ground, and start working together to fix them, this story won’t have a happy ending.
As Elie Wiesel would tell you.
Side Note: The Stuxnet Documentary ‘Zero Days’ is available as of today. Here’s one place you can watch. Google Play