Antony over at SFBook.com graciously agreed to review “Running Black”. I’m honored that he read it at all, let alone gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Many thanks. And if you’re looking for new books to read, head over and go through the recommendations. Well worth it.
Hired another excellent artist, Javier Garcia, who will be providing illustrations for various chapters. I’ll post these as I get them, and will keep commissioning him as long as the money lasts. (so buy the book, please)
Check out the “Illustrated Excerpts”.
Here’s a link to his personal website:
Someone asked recently why I couldn’t write “nice Christian stories”. Answer: because I can’t.
There’s a tendency of modern western evangelicals to cloister, or enclave. Christians only associate with other Christians, go the Christian Schools (or home school) work for Christian companies, live in Christian communities, shop at Christian stores, read Christian books, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV… It’s safe, it’s predictable, controllable to some extent, and it’s a fantasy. The salt stays in the saltshaker and the light is safe under its bushel basket.
Life isn’t Disneyland. For most of the world, life isn’t even America, and for much of America, life isn’t suburbia. This is my Father’s world but it is not Christian. The real world is a messy, dangerous, beautiful place. Now I believe God has a passionate concern for His creation and the Gospel is the mind-blowing news that He offers genuine forgiveness to real people who have committed real sins in our real world. The struggle is to accept that with all it’s brutal ugliness and awesome wonder, and effectively pass it on.
“Running Black” is fiction, but I made an effort to include Christian characters in an organic way in realistic settings. I wanted to avoid creating a “scary but safe” adventure, as if it were some sort of theme-park ride where you’re titillated but not touched as you wind towards the happy ending. I wanted more “gritty realism” than goose bumps. I included a bit, a tiny bit, of abrasion and discomfort; not gratuitously, but because I felt (believe it or not) a conviction to do so. This conviction of realism factored in everything from my decision to avoid light sabers, aliens, FTL space-travel, to name real cities and companies, as well as to let my non-Christian characters say and do non-Christian things. Explicitly. But I wanted the Christianity to be just as explicit.
Did I execute that conviction in my first novel perfectly? No. But my inability to do it perfect wasn’t an excuse to leave the task undone. I’ve got more stories inside and I pray to get better as I continue.
Went with the fade bar and subtitle ’cause it just seemed right. I’m waiting on the final mechanical edit that hunts down typos and backwards apostrophes, then the manuscript will be formatted, uploaded and released. I’m told it takes 6-8 weeks to wend it’s way thru distribution channels before it appears on Amazon and B&N, so I’ll be working furiously towards a pre-Christmas release. The final, final version will also include a teaser chapter from the sequel “Shift Tense.”
Thanks to everyone for their support.
Advance copies available at Lulu if anyone’s interested. See link on right.
I’ve been sending Advance copies to review sites in anticipation of November’s release. I’m told as a writer I need rhino skin because not everyone is going to love my book (tasteless cretins) but it’s nice the second read and review was positive too. Here’s the link, this time from Shelly Bryant at a Christian fiction site:
From cyberpunk author James Strickland.
“Ambitious execs, corporate armies, local politics, vicious tank-grown killers, religion, and one tired mercenary black-ops team out in the cold with the prototype tech breakthrough of the century. Tense, relentless, and a thunderous first novel.”
-James R. Strickland, Author of Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences
Not only was he kind enough to read it, seems he enjoyed it too.
That’ll be going on the back cover for sure.
A triptych I made as a memorial for a teacher and administrator at the school where my wife has worked for ten years now. Gretchen was a wonderful woman and these were donated to honor her and her passion for education, art, literature and poetry. Made with antique and architectural glass, glass nuggets, antique cast rondels, and beveled glass, the panels stretch nine feet from left to right and cover an area of twenty one square feet. The sandblasted text is Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers’. My wife and I studied it as part of Gretchen’s poetry group. The windows are in the school library. Seemed appropriate.
There’s a C.S. Lewis quote about the necessity of writers who are Christian as opposed to Christian writers, that has always resonated with me. That sentiment in mind, I want to touch on the idea of “mixed content”, and some of the difficulties of genre fiction writing as a Christian over the course of the next several posts. Author of a single book, drafting my next project, I’m by no means an expert. I can only discuss my experience.
One of the first complaints about “Running Black” is the use of profanity and the depictions of violence, the indictments coming that A. they negate any Christian message; and B. that those things obviously reside in my heart and thus render my faith suspect. Now there’s not much I can do about other people’s opinions, but if you think I didn’t struggle with it, think again. I’ll address the idea of negating later.
Part of my responsibility before God is to walk in the vocations He’s called me to. I use the plural because I’m called as a man, a husband, a father, grandfather, neighbor, glass artisan, and writer, each with their own peculiar boundaries and responsibilities. None of them absolve me from cultivating moral character, but each makes specific demands in the context of pursuing them to the best of my abilities.
Now I believe it was John Stott who said Christians shouldn’t pander to an unbeliever’s intellectual arrogance, but they must cater to their intellectual integrity. My intended audience is those already familiar with military sci-fi and cyberpunk, and one of the cardinal rules of fiction is to “Show, not tell.” I don’t dare classify “RB” as a Christian novel. It’s not, and it was never meant to be one. It’s a straightforward sci-fi run and gun that happens to have Christian characters in it, written by someone with a definite Christian worldview. These Christian characters act and speak – I hope – consistent with their faith, while those who are not, act accordingly as well. The novel’s setting isn’t in the grim darkness of the far future or a galaxy far, far away; it’s grounded in real-world politics, society and technology, and I have populate this realistic, recognizable world with credible characters. That’s part and parcel of the necessity of the story and the vocation of fiction writing.
Given the demands of genre fiction, the setting, and the audience, I think typical readers are more likely to be discomforted by the Christian elements than by occasional bad language or violence in a science fiction action story. That’s all for now. Feel free to comment. Thanks for your time.