Category Archives: Uncategorized

Writing Courageously Through the Lenten Season

Standard

abstract trees grass sacred skyscapes photomanipulations 2560x1600 wallpaper_www.wallpaperhi.com_54Writing is a Sacred tradition in many cultures.  We revere the books that come from these cultures.  It’s also a very sacrificial act, one that takes a lot of courage, honesty, and time.  I’d like to talk about writing during Lent.

Traditionally, Lent gives some 46 days to prepare for Easter, a time of preparation for Christians for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross (and the subsequent cool resurrection part).  The idea was that you were not just shocked, surprised, pleased, and quickly through Easter, but that you could think –over 46 days– about the impact this one act of self-sacrifice did for your faith.  It’s mirrored in some ways by Advent.

But whereas Advent is about preparing for joy–a baby, a baby! Lent is about preparing for death and transition.

Christians often give up something for Lent–so that whenever they crave it, they will think of what Christ gave up for them.  Chocolate and Life are not comparable; however, the idea is to be aware of the season through this sacrifice.  Call it the best mindfulness exercise the Christians have come up with yet.

That said, whether you are Christian or not, we can take the Lenten Season to think about Faith, and perhaps, write about it.  Or at least ask ourselves to write with more courage, more honesty, and more faith than we have in the past.

Writers are plagued with insecurity and negative thoughts.  Let’s put those on the altar of Lent and say, hey, no more of these.  We are afraid sometimes of writing our Truth and giving it to others.  And we often have a lack of faith in our own abilities and ideas.

Lent leads us up to celebrating Life from Death.  I don’t want to co-opt Jesus’s very big moment, but he too had a very big mission, and it got harder and harder to be honest, to be courageous and to follow through on what his mission was.

What I want to do is to ask writers to write for 46 days– science fiction, fantasy, memoir, essay, poetry–and write with more courage, more honesty and more faith than you ever have before.  I also challenge you to write a little about faith.

It’s important for us as writers to believe in ourselves and our writing, to give up negative thoughts and insecurities, preparing our hearts to more honestly talk about Life.  There is a lot of struggling that goes on in writing if we are to be honest–and struggling with being honest–and so, for 46 days, let the honesty flow.  Be yourself.  Be creative.  Be courageous. Be honest.  GIVE UP negative thoughts that question YOUR mission, and Create and GIVE something honest and courageous to the world.

FEB 2: Facebook Chat with Authors, 99 Cent Sale on Kindle edition

Standard

T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Hey Folks,

Wanted to let you know that on February 2 we’re going to unveil the Table of Contents for the anthology Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts 18.  On that day, on a special Facebook page, you can chat with authors and party with us as we celebrate all things Wrestling with Gods.  You can also purchase on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca the Kindle edition for 99 cents.  So if you’ve been dying to read the stories and want to get the anthology for less than a buck, come on over on FEB 2 to this special event.

Please go on over to the Facebook page and join this amazing event!  We’ll see you there on February 2nd!

It’s our little Groundhog Day fun….

Humans with God Complexes: Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, Hindu Gods, Buddhism, and Enforced Karma

Standard

Here at Tess 18’s blogsite, we’re still just gathering books and articles for you to read in your quest for understanding ways of making faith and religion a part of your science fiction or fantasy.

rz_lordoflightA nice review of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light is over at Tethyan Books.  It highlights the problems inherent when someone uses religion or faith to keep power.  This time it’s Hinduism, but any religion will do as a billy club.  Not all faiths have to be ways of keeping power–but often they are.

From Allie McCarn’s review:

“A group of humans with impressive technology have colonized an alien planet.  With the ability to reincarnate into new bodies, the original colonists live long lives and populate the world with multitudes of their children. 

However, rather than raise these citizens of the new world to their standard of living, many of the powerful want to maintain their own dominance.  In the guise of shepherding an unready population, they impede the development of technology among their subjects, and tightly control the means of reincarnation. They model themselves after the Hindu pantheon, and manipulate the population through their enforcement of a system of ‘karma’.

A threat to their control comes from one of the first colonists, a man named Sam.  To many, he is a great religious leader and a legend—the Buddha of this new world—though others see him for a fraud.  For all of those who wish to bring down the Lords of Karma, though, he may be the only hope.” ~Allie

The rest of her thoughts on the book can be found here.

Space-Quakers: Why Quakers and Quakerism Can Find a Home in Science Fiction

Standard

dazzleofdayJo Walton has a nice 2009 review of Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day over on Tor.com.  This is another book to add to your reading list if you like faith represented in science fiction/fantasy, and want to present faith reasonably well–without being preachy, or limiting a faith.  Certainly this book caught my attention.  I went to a seminar once on Quakers in Science Fiction which rattled off quite a few of those books.  I no longer have that list with me, but there is an annotated list of Quaker references in science fiction at adherents.com site.  Let me hit some highlights for you, and then give you the link to Jo Walton’s essay on Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day.

Some of the books with major Quaker themes/ characters/ plot lines include:

Nancy Kress  CROSSFIRE

David E. Morse  THE IRON BRIDGE

Judith Moffett  PENTERRA

Joan Slonsczewski  A DOOR INTO OCEAN, STILL FORMS ON FOXFIELD, THE WALL AROUND EDEN

How Can Quakers Be Helpful in Contemporary Science Fiction?

1. They value peace. When a lot of science fiction–and society–seems to glorify war, or see war as an inevitable part of our collective futures, Quakers do what they can to keep peace.  In our futures, a culture that establishes or tries for peace is a valuable asset. We’d like our futures to be war-free.  How do we get there?  Could the Quakers hold a key?  So much of our science fiction is becoming GrimDark.  Quakers as characters who value peace can help your story try to create peace as a goal–without fighting.  Though Friendly Persuasion was a big movie for Quakers–as it showed Quaker life well–unfortunately, the plot was about pushing a Quaker to the point where he would use a gun and go to war.  I hated that.  I don’t think that’s the only plot/arc available to Quaker characters: the above mentioned books and The Dazzle of Day have more than that arc to play with. If you want to understand more about creating peace, research some Quakers, consider throwing that into the mix.

2. They value equality.  While some came late to the Welcoming and Affirming practice, the services of Quakers can be a lovely lesson in re-distributed, decentralized power.  They tend to avoid creeds and hierarchies.  Sometimes you sit in a service, an unprogrammed meeting of worship, in a circle and wait for the Spirit to move someone to speak.  If it doesn’t happen, you just sit there, or you may sing.  Even when I attended a church in the Nebraska Yearly Meeting, a programmed worship service still had an extraordinary moment when the pastor stopped talking, and there was silence after the sermon for the Spirit to move in the congregation and then anyone–ANYONE–who wanted could stand up and speak.  It was Open Mic.  Quakers knew that the Spirit could speak through anyone–not just the pastor. Also, a higher majority of women were the strength and voice of the church than in most denominations I had attended.  (I think the United Church of Canada has that same equality of voice and strength).

3. They resisted authority.  Oh, did they. Some in the Friends community I knew refused to pay taxes as long as they went to War efforts.  And they were successful!  Your space-faring quakers might well be those who can lead a rebellion just through resistance.  They won’t fight, but they will resist.

4.  They have a strong community.  Want your characters to have a strong sense of community?  Quakers stick together. They aren’t ruled by following one charismatic leader–so therefore there’s a tendency to want to keep everyone together since anyone could have the wisdom that week.  And they’re modern.  They aren’t Amish, but they still feel separatist, even surrounded by society.  The Amish might not be able to run a spacecraft, but a whole bunch of Quakers–sure!  They love technology.  It doesn’t interfere with their faith.

I think something that helps Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day is the fact that it’s shaped like a memoir, with a memoir-voice.  Faith literature is mostly first person, and to really tap into the faith-side of your science fiction, going with a first person narrator gets your reader deep inside and intimate with a character and their deepest beliefs.  I think it’s a beautiful way to chart a spiritual journey.

________________

Here’s Jo Walton’s review of The Dazzle of Day:

The Dazzle of Day is an astonishing short novel about a generation starship.

There have been plenty of books set on generation starships by everyone from Heinlein to Wolfe, but thing that makes this stand out is how astonishingly real the characters are, and how well fitted to their world. Gloss has an immense gift for getting inside people’s heads. This story is about people both like and unlike us—they are culturally Quakers and they’ve been living on the ship for generations, which makes them very different, and yet they’re unmistakably people. They’re my favourite kind of characters, people I can understand and get inside their heads, and yet very different from the standard kinds of people you get in books. They’re very much individuals, not types, and they’re very much shaped by their culture and experiences.

For the whole review, follow this link.

Catholic-Friendly Babylon 5

Standard

babylon5castI’m late to the game in loving Babylon 5, having dismissed it for years because everyone said it was “better than Star Trek” and that I “should” watch it.  I resist those kinds of marketings.  Tell me I “should” do something and I naturally resist.  This is why I only joined Team Harry Potter long after Book 7 was published.  I certainly didn’t like the implications that it might be better than Star Trek.

Be that as it may, I have now binge-watched the whole series, except for the last episode and a few movies–which I will have done by next week.  I was waiting to do an essay on the religion and faith I found embedded in Babylon 5, but I think this essay captures something of that–and so I’ll put it on the table to consider.  I’ll start the article here, and then provide a link so you can finish it.

I think the author does a great job at highlighting the Catholic-friendly parts of Babylon 5.  I think there’s room for me and others to discuss the other faiths in Babylon 5 as well, and when Straczynski goes full tilt away from organized religion.  Still Babylon 5 is a great example of weaving in faith subtly into a story.  It also deals with multiple faiths well and shows a kind of Buddhist nature at accepting all those faiths together.  (You can click on the title to go to the full article, or read part here and follow the link at the bottom of the excerpt.

More on Babylon 5 soon.

Guest Post: The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction, by Declan Finn

Stephanie remarks: For many years, I’ve wanted to write an extended essay on the Catholic-friendly philosophical and spiritual undertones of Babylon 5, so when Declan sent this to me, I squealed like a little girl. One day, when I have more time, I will write an extended addendum; for now, please enjoy Declan’s contribution!

While I have been both a cradle Catholic and a cradle geek, I can honestly say that the two rarely intersected for a good chunk of my life.  Most of the time, my thoughts on faith and science fiction consisted of wondering why the starship Enterprise was a naval vessel without a chaplain.

Then the year was 1993, and the name of the show was Babylon 5.

While never as big a hit as Star Trek, Babylon 5 – or simple B5, as fans call it – was one of the few science fiction shows that fought and won against the Star Trek franchise without being run over by the monolith.

But one thing that made it special was religion.

Originally, Babylon 5 had been easily dismissed as a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ripoff, even though the creator, Joseph Michael Straczynski (best known as simply JMS) had pitched Babylon 5 to paramount the year before Deep Space 9. Even my family were a little wary of it at first. It was fun, but nothing particularly special.

Then came the episode By Any Means Necessary. A subplot revolved around an alien ambassador trying to obtain an artifact necessary for his religious ritual. The ritual involved burning a plant in the sunlight that touched a particular mountain on a particular day. Since they’re in space, the ambassador had to acquire the plant, and lead the ceremony at the same time as his people back home. When the station Commander finds a way to get the required plant, it was too late, the time had past. Until science fiction and faith collided. As the commander says:

What you forgot to take into account, is that sunlight also travels through space….The sunlight that touched the …. mountain 10 of your years ago, will reach this station in 12 hours …. But it’s still the same sunlight.

The ambassador agrees, and comments, “Commander, you’re a far more spiritual man than I give you credit for.”

The commander answers, “There are a couple of Jesuit teachers I know who might disagree with you.”

Welcome to Babylon 5, with the first openly Catholic commander in science fiction. My family was hooked.

Later on, in Season 2, there were two strong episodes that hit home. The first was called Comes the Inquisitor. The plot was simple: our heroes are in a war with an ancient enemy that make Sauron inLord of the Rings look nice, and an alien ally known as the Vorlons want to make certain that one of our heroes, named Delenn, is in it for the right reasons. What are the wrong reasons? To be a hero! To be adulated! To be the leader of a holy crusade!

Follow this link for the rest of the article.

Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods Cover Reveal

Standard

T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Happy Bodhi Day!  Tesseracts 18 has a COVER!  We’re very excited to show you the new cover for Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods, the new anthology of science fiction and fantasy from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, latest in the long running, award-winning Tesseracts anthology series.

The Tesseracts Eighteen anthology is filled with speculative offerings that give readers a chance to see faith from both the believer and the skeptic point-of-view in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife.

The work is now available as an e-book download for Amazon Kindle, exclusively, until it’s available in print in March (Canada) and April (USA) and in other e-book formats.  Keep watching for more on Tesseracts 18 in the coming weeks!  Order your Amazon Kindle e-book today–just in time for some holiday reading.

We’re incredibly proud of this anthology! We think you will be too.

Click on the cover to take you to Amazon’s Tess 18 site.

Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.

About the Editors for Tesseracts Eighteen:
Liana Kerzner is an award-winning TV producer & writer who was also in front of the camera as co-host of the late night show Ed & Red’s Night Party, and is currently the host/writer of Liana K’s Geek Download, heard weekly on the internationally syndicated radio program Canada’s Top 20.

Jerome Stueart has taught creative writing for 20 years, teaches a workshop called Writing Faith and has been published in Fantasy,
Geist, Joyland, Geez, Strange Horizons, Ice-Floe, Redivider, OnSpec, Tesseracts Nine, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts Fourteen,
and Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead. His novel,One Nation Under Gods, will be published in Nov 2015 from ChiZine.

————————————————————————-

For more on Bodhi Day–the Day Buddhists commemorate the Enlightenment of Buddha– see this link.

A Flood of Great Writing Techniques in Noah: (Re)-Writing/Expanding Sacred Stories

Standard

Russell Crowe as Noah

Let me praise Aronofsky’s Noah for its fleshing out of an iconic thin narrative of Noah in the Bible and making it a story.

The story of Noah in the Bible is relatively sparse.  Noah never says anything.  God does all the talking.  In the movie, well, God may be doing some communicating, but since the narrative is told more from the ground, from Noah and his family’s perspective, Noah is the main character, making choices.

Making choices.  I think that’s an important thing to highlight.  One of the strange ironies of religious life, it seems, is that the closer we get to our God, whomever that may be, the seemingly fewer choices we get–until we are the Hand of God, the Feet of God, the Puppet of God.  I don’t think this is really the case.  But depiction in movies and books sometimes have us think characters who are devoted to their god cease to think and act based completely on the commands of God.  One should add “the interpretation of what they believe to be” between “on” and “the” in that last sentence. Because in many cases, believers have to do a lot of interpreting.

The movie holds out that question to answer.  Certainly Noah has to decide HOW he is hearing God.  He gets parts right—there is going to be a flood.  God wants him to build an ark.  The animals are going to come and get on board the boat.  After that, though, Noah is subject to some speculation and extrapolation when he can’t really hear a clear answer from God.

Aronofsky is not afraid to make God a real entity; he is not afraid to represent things in the Bible as they seem to be—the angels cast out of heaven, the unbelievably old people like Methusaleh–close to 1000 years old when the film begins.  These are fantasy elements, but Aronofsky plays them straight because believers believe them as fact.

(Full disclosure: As a Christian myself, I tend to believe most of the Bible stories as fact–since all the fantastical elements are explainable through communication and interaction with a god that I don’t fully understand or comprehend. Gods have powers.  They can do whatever they want and it happens…so angels from heaven, eternal people, giant massive floods–I’m okay with that.  It is my belief.)

Some Christians did not appreciate Noah.  At least that’s what I heard.  Over here the Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax does a good run down of comparing Christians who loved the film with those who hated it–and why.

I loved the Christianity Today response especially–thoughtful and positive. Not what I expected, but very happy.

My point: Depicting someone’s sacred scripture is never easy.  When you are given such meagre bits of story that have been idealized, and in some sense, covered up, when the original sounds like a fable or a fairy tale to begin with, where characters are not that well-drawn, you invite interpretation and imagination.  Always a good thing. But a dangerous thing.  Where your imagination filled in Noah’s story with THIS, mine filled it in with THAT.  And as we’ve talked about here before, interpretation differences fuel arguments when it comes to scripture especially.

What does Noah do right, though, as a film of a sacred story?

Read the rest of this entry