Euthanizing God?


EUTHANIZING GOD?

Now that I figured out I’m not Flannery O’Connor, I’ve been mulling over my experience with representations of Christian faith in popular science fiction. Note, this isn’t a researched thesis, so take it with salt.

Asimov’s classic “Caves of Steel” was one of the first sci-fi novels I ever read. Turns out the antagonist/murderer is a fundamentalist Christian, or ‘Medievalist’, that the android character tells to ‘Go and sin no more.” Irony abounds. Flash forward four decades to John’s Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War”, (great book, btw) which whips out a ‘stupid Christian’ stereotype in one of the early scenes. We got a space elevator, baby. Who needs the Sermon on the Mount?

Perhaps my impression derives from a peculiar selection of sci fi novels. Maybe I’m being peevish. However, it seems to me most of the fictional future wants traditional religion gone. Buried. Forgotten.

Cause of death varies, but there’s no need for God in fictional tomorrow. I ran into yet another example in a (very good) self-pubbed cyberpunk novel the other night. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the typical ‘Christian as villain/idiot’ trope. It was past contempt to outright dismissal.

In this particular projection, some tectonic event/discovery finally allows Mankind to dispatch God like a cantankerous, embarrassing relation. After all, He clung to life long past any reasonable expiration only by preying on the impoverished and uneducated. About time, eh? Future man gets to excise religion like a useless appendage, a sort of appendix on the human condition. Offering a meager, questionable inheritance, Mankind jettisons religion for a bright and shiny rocket ship/microchip.

If that isn’t a prelude to dystopia, I’m not sure what is. (See Communist Russia for recent historical example)

Yes, I actually paid attention in Western Civ classes. Yes, I understand stereotypes exist for a reason. Yes, I keep up with the world news. No, I’m not a Luddite. It’s the unreality of that prediction, the sheer disconnect with history, psychology and humanity I find so inconceivable.

We can bandy statistics, quote surveys, play Copy & Paste with internet articles forever. I’m happy to talk about it, but I’ll refer you to CHRISTIANS ARE HATE-FILLED HYPOCRITES and HOW CHRISTIANITY CHANGED THE WORLD to ground the discussion first.

Before you think I’m whinging or lobbing hand-grenades over the cloister walls at marauding secularists, I am painfully aware of abysmally stupid extremes. As un-Christian as it is, I loathe and mock those folks too. (I remain convinced sarcasm is a divine attribute. God is helping me.) Fact is however, people have been wrapping their lusts in good causes forever; religion doesn’t get a pass. And it certainly doesn’t mean God is cruel or faith is inherently tragic, debilitating, or divisive.

My net-friend, fellow blogger and writer Katherine Coble recently posted an interesting article: Christian vs Christ-Following. It is yet another comment on the unenviable but inevitable reality of Christian reproach. When I use the term ‘Christian’, I refer to those who have identified with the person of Jesus, hold to the veracity of Scripture, and trust in the grace of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as the remedy to their sin and death.

Credibility demands I grapple with extremists and blunderers, but realism acknowledges for every high profile failure, reprobate, and lunatic, there are scores of people striving for devout, authentic lives. Yes, those people are flawed, conflicted. Who isn’t?

My concern here is the plausible depiction of believers in spec-fiction, and the challenge to not trade the mystery of God, (what C.S. Lewis called the Numinous) for the convenient high-ground of Morality or a cast of contrived Baptisney-land caricatures. Both the Numinous and the Moral are essential if I’m honest to my faith, but I think mystery is what ultimately captivates, just as it’s the person of Jesus who ultimately saves.

My question to Christian authors is if we don’t wrestle with portraits of real believers, a real God, and real faith, who will?

Author Jess Hanna: Mega-Dark Blog Tour #2

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Next Installment of the Mega-Dark Blog Tour. Now up: Jess Hanna

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More about Me
This is a continuation of my first post on the Mega Dark Blog Tour. In that post, I focused on where I came from, when I knew I wanted to be a storyteller, and the origins of my fascination with the supernatural. This second post will continue along that vein, providing further insight into what motivates me to write. But before I dive in, I would like to thank Patrick Todoroff for hosting me on his blog.

After I got saved, I saw the world with an alarming new clarity. The supernatural things that interested me before now took on a more sinister tone. I found that the majority of it (Ouija boards, the occult, ghosts, aliens, etc.) was meant to lead me away from the truth of God. Don’t get me wrong, I was still fascinated by these things, but the way I viewed them was not longer with fascination, but as tools of the enemy.

It wasn’t too far into the future that I stopped writing altogether. While I had an interest and felt I could write well, I didn’t see it as a viable career choice. I allowed ‘real’ life to crowd out my love of writing. I even stopped reading for many years. To fill the void I lived my life the best I could, moving from one unfulfilling job to another. It wasn’t and hasn’t been terrible, but spending a career climbing the corporate ladder is just not all that appealing to me.

Everything changed when I turned 32. While floundering in questioning what to do with my life, I felt a strong urge to get back to writing. I hadn’t written anything in so long that I wasn’t sure I could still do it. I tried to push the feeling away, to be practical, but the tug was strong. I knew I had to write, regardless of whether or not I felt the tangible benefit of it in this life.

I also started reading again and re-read my copy of On Writing by Stephen King. After I finished it, I took his advice and just started writing. Within a few months, I had written the first draft of my first book, The Road to Hell. I was so happy to just finish a full length novel at all, and let that elation carry me until I started the second draft. I found it was hard work, taking what I had written and scrutinizing it with a critical and grammatical eye.

To find out more about my experience writing my first book, along with details about my motivation and the painstaking process of multiple edits and the submission process, check out my next stop on the Mega Dark Blog Tour with Mark Carver.

Don’t forget to check out my website for more about me and my writing.

http://www.jesshanna.com

Junk Food and Cowardice re-post

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RE-POSTED FOR THOSE WHO DON’T LIKE TO CLICK THROUGH:

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JUNK FOOD AND COWARDICE
I was told the other day my fiction was the literary equivalent of fast food: cheap, suspect, and eminently forgettable. In this person’s mind, too much fiction – especially genre fiction – is impractical. Unhealthy.

Fact is, it’s true in many ways: my novels won’t ever make the “Great Books of the Western World” list. (http://thegreatestbooks.org/lists/40) I’m not in a snit over it. Espionage thrillers about futuristic mercenaries, clones and killer drones aren’t going to change the world. I’m OK with that. As a writer, I’m pecking at the keyboard to exercise my imagination, to spin a yarn, hopefully entertain someone. Maybe even make a couple extra bucks before my time is up. I just hope I’m more like Panera than Mcdonalds.

now I want onion rings…

I’m aiming for that lofty goal because as a writer and artist who is also a Christian, I’d like to inject some substance, trace-elements of spiritual qualities in my work. After all, it is a product of my time and labor, an extension of my person, if you will, and I’d hate to think my soul is vapid and shallow. But that’s the fear, the accusation, isn’t it?

Which is what brought me to the charge of cowardice.

I finished Flannery O’Connor’s “The Violent Bear it Away” recently. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Violent-Bear-Away-ebook/dp/B009LRWWN6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375299985&sr=1-1) I read it decades ago for some Eng Lit course, and didn’t get it at all. I was stunned this time around though. The following passage in particular hit me.

“Tarwater clenched his fists. He stood like one condemned, waiting at the spot of execution. Then the revelation came, silent, implacable, direct as a bullet. He did not look into the eyes of any fiery beast or see a burning bush. He only knew, with a certainty sunk in despair, that he was expected to baptize the child he saw and begin the life his great-uncle had prepared him for. He knew that he was called to be a prophet and that the ways of his prophecy would not be remarkable. His black pupils, glassy and still, reflected depth on depth his own stricken image of himself, trudging into the distance in the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus, until at last he received his reward, a broken fish, a multiplied loaf. The Lord out of dust had created him, had made him blood and nerve and mind, had made him to bleed and weep and think, and set him in a world of loss and fire all to baptize one idiot child that He need not have created in the first place and to cry out a gospel just as foolish. He tried to shout, “NO!” but it was like trying to shout in his sleep. The sound was saturated in silence, lost.”
Excerpt From: O’Connor, Flannery. “The Violent Bear It Away.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Your mileage may vary, but what stunned me wasn’t merely the prose, the theme, the characters; it’s classic American literature for a reason. But I had the sudden intimate realization I lacked both the skill and the courage to write something that messy, that audacious. There’s an anger, a certain mad daring, not to mention profound bravery needed to grapple with the enormity of free will, Man’s primal defiance and the mystery of God’s grace without imposing clichéd answers. I was numbed, humbled.

I confess that with rare exception, I find most of the contemporary Christian artistic offerings as insipid as they are sincere. My opinion is that as flawed as we believers are and will be down here, the reality of God deserves better than the modern evangelical status quo. The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters and brought the entire universe into being at the divine fiat. That is the spirit reportedly indwelling us.

As an artist, a writer, I agree with Akira Kurosawa that “The role of the artist is to not look away.” I understand what Steven Pressfield means when he says “The artist is seeking the real by means of the artificial.” It’s just that I flatter myself if I think that simply waving around the live-wire of some controversy, spilling some fictitious blood or allowing my non-Christian characters to drop an F-bomb or three, I’ve struck a blow against saccharine mediocrity. It might be bold to some, blasphemy to others. It might make me a shark in the koi pond, a vandal in the Precious Moments Temple, but sizzle ain’t steak. None of that is inherently more gritty or authentic. Like the song says, ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’

O’Connor’s novel reminded me once again true skill doesn’t rely on gimmicks, that gratuitous detail isn’t realism, and that my work will never really ring true unless I’m willing to leave the cloistered certainty of comfortable answers. As a Christian, an artist, a writer, as a human being, I have to venture out into the mystery that is God, the madness that is love, and the scandal that is grace, then have the courage, the humility to get out of the way and let them be what they are.

Milestone: 7/18/13

Ain’t NY Times Bestseller list but still pretty cool. Today’s Shift Tense- Red Flags Amazon stats

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Cyberpunk
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Religious Fiction > Christian > Futuristic

Giveaway and Review Request

Red_Flags_17_titleB Two weeks after the release, sales are strong even with little/no PR, but I’d like to boost those ever important Amazon and Goodreads review numbers. So… I’m offering TEN electronic copies of SHIFT TENSE- RED FLAGS to blog readers and FaceBook connections free the week of July 15 through July 20. Yes… FREE.

Now, if you’ve already purchased RED FLAGS, Thank you very much. It’s a blessing any one purchases/reads my work. By way of compensation, fire off a review of RF and I’ll send you a pre-release of the second installment, SHIFT TENSE – SOLDIER DREAMS for your effort. (You have to keep contents to yourself until it is officially available however.)

What’s the catch? I ask for a short, honest review at either Amazon or Goodreads. (or both and where ever else you feel like posting) Reviews make a huge difference and every one counts. The more direct and honest, the better. I think most readers can smell a shill at a hundred paces, so legit comments are worth their weight in gold.

If you’re interested, leave a comment below and we’ll work out specifics.

If the response is larger than expected, I’ll give away more copies.

I also found several ARCs (advanced reading copies) of Running Black and CW:One Bad Apple if anyone’s interested in reading/reviewing either of those. Let me know.

A thousand thanks.

Red Flags Release

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Now available at AMAZON ON KINDLE. Read/Reviews would be much appreciated.

Special thanks to Michal Oracz for the cover, Mark at Angel Editing for the clean-up, and a heap of patient readers. I’m grateful.

Part 2 is under the copy-edit scalpel right now.

An Ocean of Storms. (a Clar1ty Wars story)

Fact is I’m a slower writer than I care to admit, but here’s the prologue for the next Clar1ty Wars installment, ‘Under Strange Stars’.

PROLOGUE: AN OCEAN OF STORMS

“– the Check-In at Gate E –”

He sat on the edge of the red-padded couch and stared at the domes’ apex; a thin, impeccably dressed man surrounded by luxury fascinated in the polished navel of a titanium skeleton twenty meters above him.

He stopped and looked around the empty room. ‘Executive Lounge.’ He bristled at the name; Executive Waste is what it was. One man in a bubble of light and warmth and oxygen that could easily house fifty. The profligate disgusted him. Oblivious, entitled, they flaunted the wealth wrung from the sweat and air of thousands of people. People like him.

This place was a profanity. God damn them all.

Drop City was below the horizon, so the Lounge windows swelled with a deep, star-dusted black. He kept looking up, hoping to see it peek over the horizon, but he calmed himself. He would be there soon enough – God willing.

When he left fifteen years ago, he was certain he was gone forever. He had elbowed his way to the bulkhead and stared for hours out a tiny porthole, first at the pale blue orb receding from him, then when the tears dried, at the stars.

There was so much light. He had been stunned to think of space as bright, but he soon learned a billion suns scintillate in the void. The farther out, the clearer they were. Sorrow begets revelation begets rebirth. This too was from the hand of the Almighty.

But that was long ago and he was here now. Today.

The spaceport’s landing pads gave him enough light to make out the rough gray of the crater lip on his right. Without a reference, it was difficult to gauge the distance, but the panels were so clear, he swore he could have stepped between the struts and bounded across the dark basalt.

He snorted. The electro-stat needed to keep the view dust-free for a month probably ran more than he made in a year. More squandering.

He grit his teeth, swallowed. His old bio-suit, a few hours oxygen, a good ship, and he could be far away from this blight, this poison, back where God spoke in the endless silence among the frozen dunes. Back home.

But leaving wasn’t an option. The Prophet had declared a great and effective door was open – but only for a little season. They must move swiftly, at any price.

“– Jumaat please report to –“

And what a price. He tugged his shirt collar for the hundredth time. The tie was still tight, but not knowing how to retie it, he feared loosening it further. The jacket, with its smooth, iridescent silk, bunched under his arms, cinched around his waist. This mission must have cost dearly; the outfit, a new identity, a Movado Charm, even this Shuttle ticket. But he had been assured a thousand-fold reward. How could he refuse?

A wallscreen beside him pinged on. Twice his height, it blossomed with high-def color. Are they blind as well, that it needed to be so huge, he fumed. At least the Auto-Serve had stopped pestering him about a beverage.

Two News Net personalities were blathering about a mega-storm south of Drop City’s equatorial land-chain. Satellite imagery flashed a cotton-pearl swirl on a bed of azure blue. The frowny faces of the newscasters nodded thoughtfully at projected path icons and wind speed data. Raging thousands of kilometers wide, the storm crept northward. Massive oceans and twin moons conjured furious weather patterns on a gigantic scale, Drop City’s southern hemisphere being particularly volatile.

Oceanum Procellarum, they called it. An Ocean of Storms.

He smiled at that. He decided long ago Irony was God’s most common figure of speech. A storm was coming indeed.

“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report –“

He heard the name and froze. Why were calling him?

A split second of fear tingled down his spine. What had he forgotten? Had he missed something? His cell leader had drilled vigilance into him: every step closer brought another level of surveillance. Threatened, defensive, the Orbitals and their TTA lackeys layered it around their dens: monitors, retinal scans, voice and facial recog-ware, chemical and biological sniffers… Paranoia revealed their corrosion, their weakness, but he must be careful.

Without moving his body, he glanced around. He checked the reflections in the glass. No CE uniforms bursting in, no security turrets sprouting up, no micro-drones… Why were they calling him?

“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report to the Check-In at Gate E.”

He stood, swept his hair back, smoothed his jacket. Slender, with dark, delicate Malay features, he looked every inch the refined technocrat now. The skin next to his eyes was still tender from where they lased the Glare Lines smooth, but not rashed. Spacer Squint would have been a dead give-away. Certainly something Mr. Tenuk Jumaat wouldn’t have. Everything was in place. He set disdain on his face, and strode out the door.

Twin TTA attendants, eerily beautiful in their bio-sculpted symmetry, perked up as he approached the Check-In.

The female lit up with a smile as bright as arc-light wattage. “I’m so sorry to disturb you, Mr. Jumaat. As a courtesy to our Executive Class Passengers, we wanted to personally inform you the storm system has delayed all in-bound flights to Bradbury Space Port. We apologize for the inconvenience, but TTA Control is re-routing shuttles as we speak.” She double checked her station screen. “It shouldn’t be more than a twenty minutes before we have you on your way.”

Relief shivered through him but he nodded thoughtfully, just like the newscasters on the wallscreen. “No worries. It’s the season for storms, right?”

“Exactly,” she said.



Copyright 6/2013. P. Todoroff

Is my work ‘Science Fiction’?


I recognize my work isn’t ‘Christian’ in the traditional sense. In preparing Shift Tense: Red Flags for release I wondered if it really counts as science fiction in the traditional sense. I gots no wise-cracking aliens, no FTL, Jedi Knights, death rays, or time machines.

Is it cyberpunk? Moreso, perhaps. Its got that ‘high-tech fluff/lowlife’ spice. But there are no big hair/metal-band, leather-clad punks. (You’re welcome)

Fact is, I wrote Shift Tense to illustrate the friction between First and Third World armies with their widely different weapon systems and soldiers, and the general social, technological and financial inequality that in my opinion will remain and widen.

So is it near-future thriller? Espionage? Vanilla Action and Adventure? Or something else? I’m interested in your opinion.

Side Note – I do love this trailer:

Sneak Peek: Red Flags cover

It’s really coming.
Here’s the first stage cover art. Minor changes and “Red Flags” subtitle pending. Each portion of SHIFT TENSE feature a different cover and will be released for Kindle over the next six months. The full novel will be available after in both trade paperback and electronic format. (About time, eh?)
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