A Quick Question

Has anyone ever heard of or read any post-apocalyptic fantasy?

I’m thinking of writing some and can’t recall any. At all.

Thanks

Sci Fi is Sin?

The first in a series titled “Spitballs from Baptisneyland.”* It deals with Christian worldview issues. So you’ve been warned.

IT’LL JUMP ON YOU!
I’m old enough and been around church long enough to remember the “Rock and Roll is Devil’s music” debate. “Words and motives don’t matter! Drums and electric guitars are Satan’s tools. It’s the beat – that pagan, idol-worshipping beat.”

Never mind God considers the heart before the appearance, that character and content matter more than cosmetics, that the root determines the fruit… scores of the faithful were burning other believers at the metaphorical heresy stake because they couldn’t/wouldn’t disassociate the medium from the message.

Offspring of shallow thinking, anec-data, bolstered with a few out-of-context Chapter and Verse, this things are evil doctrine is rooted in bad theology. Let me clarify right here, Stuff isn’t inherently sinful** – people are. We sin because we’re sinners – not the other way around. It’s not the THING- it’s how we use it. It’s us – not the item. Music is a vehicle for self-expression before it’s a vector for ideas. Same with film, theater, dance, art… To borrow a computer tech troubleshooting term, PICNIC: Problem in Chair, Not in Computer. Basic Christianity, right there.

That’s why salvation doesn’t merely forgive our crimes but transforms our criminal tendencies. It’s conversion of the soul, i.e the essence of who and what we truly are. But back on topic…

ROBOTS AREN’T REPROBATE
Now maybe you were expecting Yoda to be a little green Billy Graham, (died on tree, savior did) but is it really that shocking when non-believers express non-Biblical worldviews? When they speculate in speculative fiction? Aside from enjoying the experience, allowing yourself to be entertained, the key is shift your expectations, spit out the bones and discern (there’s that word again) the themes, virtues, principles that ARE portrayed. To stand on the common ground of our humanity. All truth is Gods and it’s the perfect place to start the conversation.

I believe artistic integrity, or faithfulness to the medium, is mandatory – I’ll talk about that in another post – but the notion that portraying the futuristic, the fantastic immediately disqualifies a story, renders it unprofitable and ineffective for Christian truths, betrays a blinkered, petty perspective based on ignorance and fear, not faith. That some use fiction to dissemble and deceive, and others follow along speaks more of a vacuum than inherent malice or conspiracy.

C.S. Lewis’ statement “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature” hits the mark. Unless you deliberately neuter your work in the editing process, Who and What you are can’t help but come out. The essence is transmitted. The challenge then is not simply to become an genuine Christian, but master your chosen medium and so authentically express the reality of redemption working in your life.

I’ll end with a quote from Dorothy Sayers. (I have a crush on her.)

“The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

EXTRA CREDIT BONUS QUESTION: If a net-friend’s autocorrect on her IPad keeps changing “Jesus” to “Jedis”, is it possessed?

*So titled as my attempts to fend off wads of gloppy logic fired by the insular religious

**Gnostic duality (material = bad but spiritual = good) isn’t Biblical. Sanctification isn’t seclusion. Creation is damaged by sin, yes, but it is NOT implicitly evil. God created, inhabited and continues to animate the material world. He made it. He blessed it. The Incarnation sanctifies mortal creation.

Asking a favor

SHIFT_TENSE_final_rgb_flatten_BIGI hope this isn’t an “ask too far,” but if anyone has read and enjoyed any of my books, could you fire off a quick, honest review for Amazon and/or GoodReads?

Even if you weren’t thrilled, that’s fine too. So long as it’s legit. I’m not looking for shill and gush. Genuine reviews (and review numbers) are critical for new or potential readers, and this Indie Sci Fi author needs all the help he can get.

To sweeten the deal, I’ll give away two 11″ x 17″ posters of the cover art for the full-length Shift Tense novel. (image on left) Drawn by Michal Oracz* of Neuroshima Hex fame, it’s the kind of esoteric, indie accessory every great game room needs. Post a review for any book, then leave a comment here, and once I have ten entrants, I’ll pick two names at random. (roll dice or something). Your shiny poster will arrive at your door via mailer tube.

Thanks much.

Links, or you can scroll down and click the images in the right side bar:

My Amazon Page

Running Black

Shift Tense 1 – Red Flags

Shift Tense 2 – Soldier Dreams

Shift Tense 3 – Angels

Clar1ty Wars 1 – One Bad Apple

*Michal also worked up the cover for the upcoming novella “The Barrow Lover”.

The Gospel according to Sci Fi


Consider the implications of the TED talk below. Or rather the ethical implications of this mind-blowing technology: techno-slaved insects/animals, designer hybrid pets, cloning, genetic engineering… If we do it with animals, it’s only a matter of time before the techniques and technology are used on people. Think it’ll never happen? We treat regular human beings with astonishing cruelty and callousness – how much more a being that is designed and grown? 50 Shades of Josef Mengele

One of my favorite books in recent years, Drew Magary’s ‘Post Mortal’, extrapolates a decidedly non-idyllic look at the near-future where age-freezing gene-therapy is developed, debated, then disseminated. Blunt, realistic, well-written, I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those wrestling with the inevitable struggle to integrate the Person and Principles of our faith with advancing technology in a global society. (Side note: I believe in the Rapture, but think it’s too often a cop-out of serious work and thought. After all, why dig deep or plan when you’re out of here at any minute, right?)

Far from being pagan or hostile, science fiction is an incredible opportunity for Christian writers. It challenges us to get a hold of Who and What we believe, then develop credible, consistent, working expressions of God’s redemption, compassion, and holiness. A cloistered, ‘Hold the Fort/Siege’ mentality won’t work. Does anyone actually remember the Alamo? Retreat and separation isn’t holiness – it’s heresy. All you’re really saying is ‘My God is small and stupid and no God at all.’

It’s a shame the TED talk cuts off. I’d love to hear the rest of the discussion.

But maybe that’s the point.

Rest and much geekery


Having finished both Shift Tense and The Barrow Lover (see below) recently, I’m feeling simultaneously relieved and drained. Now I’ve got ideas on the radar screen, the outlines/initial chapters of two novels, the start of the next Clar1ty Wars collection, but they’re all just kinda… sitting there.

The only shiver of excitement is seeing what Chila at Port Yonder Press does with The Barrow Lover. Someone asked if I was worried an editor would ruin the story, change its voice. I’m sure some do but I’m not sensing that here. I need and want a solid editor. A good book isn’t so much written as re-written, and having an objective yet sympathetic set of eyes to hone a story, tease out the best and grind down the rough edges is critical. Like Twain said, the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. A good editor helps you in that struggle.

So I’ve moved into a Reading Phase to step back and recharge. Right now, I’ve got Jane Gardam’s Old Filth, Iain Banks’ Surface Detail, Gorky Park, Story by Robert McKee, and The Moth at my bedside. (Plus a bunch of stuff on my Kindle) I’m especially looking forward to The Moth, as immersing yourself in good stories teaches you about good writing as much if not more than a book about writing.

To keep my otaku juices flowing, I’ve been gaming a new set of table top wargame rules titled Pulp Alley, adapting them to science fiction and post-apocalypse settings. My friend and I are having a blast. It’s refreshing to sit back and just enjoy a game.

Here are some pictures from three recent games:

There’s plenty more at my hobby blog if you’re interested.

I’ll also say turning 50 the other day turned out to be more a major blessing, and less one of those ‘acute sense of mortality/passage of time’ things. (I think those are good – in proper doses) My wife rented a house on a lake for a potluck with family and close friends, and we held a story slam that broke up around 11 pm. “All good” is an understatement; it was an opportunity to appreciate God’s grace on my life.

Eshu International backstories?

SHIFT_TENSE_final_rgb_flatten_6x9inches_with_bleeds I plan on releasing the full SHIFT TENSE novel in trade paperback and ebook late this year, but I want to add bonus material to distinguish the separate release from the serialized portions. I was considering short stories centering on Poet9, Tam and Jace, and the Triplets prior to the formation of Eshu International.

I’ve got a killer one for Poet9, but any preferences or suggestions?

I hate marketing

There, I said it.

I don’t want to be that guy joining forums, groups, discussions just to pimp my wares, a naked ego clothed only in my latest’s back-cover blurb and a Smashwords coupon code. Drive-by marketing is obnoxious, transparent, tiresome at best. And what with Mark Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” dust-up, the last thing I want to do is use ResultSource

I know advertizing and promotion is essential; a good book never read is the same as a bad book. The question is how to carve out the time to invest rather than impose? To locate places of genuine potential interest rather than spin up the hype where it’s unmerited? And contribute genuine support to other members of those online/physical communities?

Time is a precious commodity. With everyone already busy enough, it’s tough to maintain already established connections. And it’s getting more difficult to wade – to even want to wade – through the sludge these days. With ‘The Barrow Lover’ up next, I’m seriously struggling with how I’m going to honestly and earnestly promote it.

Any thoughts here?

Murdered girl’s ghost finds a home.

TheBarrowLover 2 eyes

Port Yonder Press Announcement for 2014 titles. Scroll down a bit

Looks like The Barrow Lover will feature a PYP imprint in 2014. Don’t know specifics yet, but I want to thank Chila Woychik for taking a chance on the story, and her staff readers for wading through the slush.

I suspect I’ll spend a few weeks grinding down rough edges, but at least I have the cover. It will be interesting to see how this small press-traditional publishing plays out. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll keep you posted.

PYP Website: Port Yonder Press
PYP FB: The inevitable FB page

And yes, I’ll make a Celtic stained glass panel to giveaway.

Collecting Smoke and Packing Springs

I’ve come to terms with being a slow writer.

I’d love to write faster, to sit down and let the fluid flawless prose flow from my fingertips like in the movies. Except that only happens in movies.
Or, I could be like the poet in Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk (below) and have a tornado of inspiration surge through. But it just don’t work that way for me. “Mulish” was the word Ms Gilbert used. I can relate.

Sure, I have breakthroughs, moments of clarity. Even (dare I say) sparks of divine inspiration. But most of time, ideas build slowly, coming from all manner of places. Like wisps of smoke on the wind, I collect them: bits of a song, a sensation, a turn of phrase or quote, a scene or a snatch of dialog. Sometimes just a character’s name or a place. (I have a notebook filled with random, unrelated Post-It notes, plus a separate notebook for each project.) Then, after an indeterminate amount of time, I’ll peer in the cupboard to see if anything has coalesced.

Idea sparked, there’s still the matter of hammering it out. But fiction isn’t an essay or a three-point sermon, and writing prose is precisely where poetry gets me in trouble. Growing up I read and still do read a lot of it. That translates into a constant internal challenge not simply for economy and traction, but the music of language. The right word in the right place to generate rhythm of thought and sound across the sentence, the paragraph, the entire story.

It’s like packing springs- one misplaced and they all pop out. Or that Mouse Trap Contraption Game. Properly done, the reader should move through the story’s tricks and turns like that marble without stop all the way to the end. Not saying that I do it all the time, but that’s the goal. Like holding a Horse Track Betting sheet, I stare at my keyboard and realize the winners are right there in front of me.

Shift Tense complete, The Barrow Lover nearing completion, and the next Clar1ty Wars plotted out, I’ve opted for ‘the drip’ method this year- a little bit on a consistent basis – rather than periodic guilt-wracked spasms. No, my schedule doesn’t allow me to write every day. But I can write four/five times a week.

These last 6-8 weeks I’ve been doing a short session in the morning followed by a short session in the evening. I get material down on paper, then come back and hammer it into shape. And punch out a little more material. Which I hammer into shape the next session, and gets me a bit more new material, and so on. The proverb about eating an elephant in little bites comes to mind.

After all, writers write and I have to say it’s been working well so far.

Best to all of you in the new year, especially you writers.

BTW – I highly recommend Ted Kooser’s Poetry Home Repair Manual to every aspiring writer, regardless of genre.

Here’s that TED Talk. Worth the watch.