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

Losing my religion?


I was asked recently about the ‘religious’ characters in my stories and ‘all that Christian stuff’, and figured I’d post some sort of answer.

I’ll freely admit one of my central goals as a writer is to integrate Christian themes into my work. However, I’m committed they work organically in the plots and I avoid heavy-handed, preachy narrative, or contrived ‘alter call’ moments. I’m not ashamed of my faith or trying to be coy and ‘sneak in’ definite truth-claims, but I feel part of my job as a writer is to keep the story line internally consistent. That means characters – Christian and non-Christian – have to act/re-act in ways that are authentic to their particular worldviews. That’s part and parcel of the calling of any writer. More so, the believer.

I’m never comfortable analyzing my own work, but Running Black intentionally addresses the sanctity of human life, specifically the premise that a transcendent worldview is the only thing that restrains Man’s inherent inhumanity against their fellow Man. Historically groups dehumanize, demean, and demonize ‘others’, caricaturize them as outcasts and opponents. As a person who has dealt with a physical disability all his life, I’ve encountered this dynamic before.

One of the catalysts for the Eshu International series was the fear that cloning technology will one day allow us to mass-produce human beings, who in turn be viewed legally and culturally as solely as property. A high-tech version of slavery. Hopefully, Running Black and even Shift Tense touch that nerve in the midst of all those firefights, explosions and betrayals.

Now Clar1ty Wars is a different animal. It is a serialized, sci-fi re-imagining of the 19th Century Opium Wars. The big picture is this nasty, shadowy war between the planetary government and massive, space-bound corporations who have been controlling an entire planetary system with a drug. I’m trying to portray the conflict on the street-level using an immersive, mosaic style. There are recurring characters, but each chapter offers a different perspective, a new piece of the puzzle. The Clar1ty Wars focuses on regular people – the good, the bad and the ugly – caught in the crossfire of a war.

Acknowledged or not, religion and spirituality play a major part in our societies and people’s lives. This has been true all over the planet for centuries up to today. And wishful humanist thinking aside, I don’t see that dynamic disappearing any time soon. For me and my writing, it means devout characters will play their parts along side the rest as the conflict unfolds. For example, the cabbie in One Bad Apple’s ‘The Doubter’ learns to see the protagonist, Seeb, in a new light. Little does he know it, but he’s slated for another appearance at a crucial time in a later installment.

Hope that helps. If you have an further questions just ask.