June 29, 2008

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Is There Any Difference Between Parables and Speculative Fiction?

I'm not one to pass on 21st techno-chain-letters. I am leery about the veracity of such things. On the other hand, the one I got recently, while it may not be literally "true", certainly has the earmarks of a classic, Jesus-type parable:

A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable

It was in poor shape when I got it, so I cleaned it up and I'm putting it here because parables are writing. Some people might consider them speculative ficition as well. And I KNOW some people find them irritating -- both Christian and non-Christian alike. I'd be interested in what anyone out there thinks of this:

"This will give you the chills...GOOD chills.

"A young man had been to Wednesday Night Bible Study. The pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice. The young man couldn't help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?”

"After the service, he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten o'clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he began to pray, “God...If you still speak to people, speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.”

"As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said, “God is that you?” He didn't get a reply and started on toward home. But again, the thought came to him, “Buy a gallon of milk.” The young man thought about how the child Samuel, sleeping in the Temple with the Ark of the Covenant, didn’t realize that the voice of God was calling him. He ran three times to Eli, who finally recognized the call of God and told Samuel how to respond (1 Samuel 3:3-10).

"Speaking into the empty car, he said, “Okay, God, in case it’s you, I’ll buy the milk.” It didn't seem like a difficult test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home. As he passed Seventh Street, he felt the urge to turn down that street.

“This is crazy,” he thought, driving past the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street. At the next intersection, he slowed down and said, “Okay, God, I will.” He turned back and headed down Seventh.He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in a semi- commercial area – not the best but not the worst of neighborhoods. The businesses were closed and most of the few houses looked dark – the people were probably already in bed. Again, he sensed something: “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.”

"The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat. He said, “Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I’ll look stupid.” Again, he felt like he should go and give them the milk. Finally, he opened the car door and said, “Okay God, if this is you, I’ll go to the door and I’ll give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, fine. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something, but if they don't answer right away, I’m out of here.”

"He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man's voice yelled, “Who is it? What do you want?” Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The man was standing in jeans and T-shirt, looking like he’d just gotten out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn't seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. “What is it?”

"The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.” Without a word, the man took the milk and rushed down a hallway. A moment later, a woman carrying the milk walked toward him and turned in to the kitchen.

"The man followed her holding a baby. The baby was crying. So was the man. Tears streamed down his face. He said, half-speaking, half-crying, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.

"His wife in the kitchen called out in broken English, “I ask him to send angel with some. Are you an angel?' The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man's hand. He turned and walked back toward his car, tears were streaming down his face. He knew that God still answers prayers.

"THIS IS A SIMPLE TEST.... If you believe that God is alive and well, send this to at least ten people and the person that sent it to you. This is so true. Sometimes it's the simplest things that God asks us to do that bless us if we are obedient to what He's asking. His voice more clear than ever. Please listen, and obey! It will bless you and the world – Phil 4:13. This is an easy test - you score 100 or zero. It's your choice. If you aren't ashamed to do this, please follow the directions. Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.”

"Not ashamed? Pass this on."

June 22, 2008

A Slice of PIE: The Christian Ghetto at Barnes and Noble

There are some Christians who would see the “Christian Inspiration”, “Christian Fiction” and “Bibles” sections at Barnes & Noble as a victory in Jesus. I think it’s a defeat of the first order and directly contradicts the Scriptural injunction of the Great Commission -- because what atheist would be caught dead among the rows of Christian Inspiration?

A hard-core science fiction fan might rather die than have her best friend discover her touching a Christian Fiction novel.

This way, B&N – and Borders and WalMart and Target and Lucifer – have created an island of literary safety for Christians to go to (because they don’t want to be sullied by those racy romances) and non-Christians to stay away from (because they are very happy with their personal philosophical choices, thank-you-very-much!)

Hell forbid, a seeker might stumble across the autobiography of Billy Graham alongside a Mahatma Ghandi autobiography. We have made SURE that all that “Christian stuff” is safely packed away with suitable warning labels so that all the people who aren’t Christians won’t be offended and are handily warned away from Christian thinkers like T.D. Jakes and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. People seeking the latest New Age Tarot book or PHILOSOPHY FOR DUMMIES absolutely will NOT stumble across Richard Swinburne or Dorothy L. Sayers’ THE MIND OF THE MAKER. Certainly, sports jocks won’t be able to find Skip Bayless’ (honest and critical) book about Tom Landry, God’s Coach because it will be hidden in the “Christian Biography” section.

Why NOT shelve Dee Henderson in the MYSTERY section? Why isn’t Frank Peretti’s THE OATH in the Literary Fiction section near Chuck Palahniuk’s FIGHT CLUB?

Because the Christian right has insisted that we have our own place in the store, a place we can call our own, a place where everyone thinks alike, and speaks the same language – while at the same time, making less money than others who write exactly the same thing but don’t carry the label “Christian…”. Voluntary or involuntary, this place is called the…

ghetto – (Italian: “part of the city to which Jews are restricted”) formerly the restricted quarter of many European cities in which Jews were required to live; "the Warsaw ghetto"; any segregated mode of living or working that results from bias or stereotyping; a poor densely populated city district occupied by a minority ethnic group linked together by economic hardship and social restrictions wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

And as we all know, the ghetto is a dangerous, dangerous place to live.

June 19, 2008

WRITING ADVICE: In the Write Spirit

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

We interpret the Bible every day, asking the Holy Spirit how God’s Word applies to our lives. I skim past verses that a friend of mine tells me later are “deeply powerful and exactly what I needed to hear.” Clearly, God uses his Word to talk to us where we are.

That’s why this verse may seem a bit “stretched” to you. Keep in mind that God’s speaking to me and now I’m sharing with you how this might be significant to us as writers. More simply: please bear with me!

My logic chain is as follows:

a) I belong to Jesus.

b) I listen to Him and learn about Him through Scripture, prayer, preaching and reading the thoughts of other Christians – all the while listening to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

c) What I learn of Him, for the most part, has been written.

d) ALL the books of the things He did have NOT been written – if they had, the world itself could not contain them.

e) The world’s not filled yet, therefore, there are books WAITING to be written about what He has – and IS – doing.

f) Because I belong to Jesus, He lives in me and moves me and breathes in me.

g) The “me” I am includes my imagination and the imaginary worlds I’ve dreamed up.

h) These places – at least when I submit to Him and LISTEN to His voice with my heart, in the words of others, in His Word – were made by Him and are things He did through me.

i) So, I can write about these worlds of imagination – I can ADD to the books that have been written about Him because these worlds of my imagination are HIS.

Lastly, these verses speak to me as well:

“Write everything I tell you in a book.” Jeremiah 30:1

“And don't tell me that I have no authority to write like this. I'm perfectly free to do this—isn't that obvious? Haven't I been given a job to do? Wasn't I commissioned to this work in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, our Master?” I Corinthians 9:1

“For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;” 2 Corinthians 1:13

This is my call to missions, codified. Anyone hearing anything else?

June 9, 2008

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: One Holy Klingon and Apostolic Church

Maybe it’s just me, but I can see on cursory inspection several similarities between the Roman Catholic Church and the religion created for the imaginary, fictional aliens called the “Klingons”:

Catholics: THE BIBLE: As in all Christian Churches, the Bible is the source of doctrine and provides a “roadmap” to following the tenets of Christianity. As well, it offers a history of events that led up to the establishment of both Judaism and Christianity as well as commentary on those events, stories of the heroes and heroines of the faith and expectations of what is to come.

Klingons: PAQ’BATLH: The Paq'batlh is a large series of ancient Klingon scrolls and religious texts, that, among other things, passes on the stories of Kahless. Along the side of the scrolls are icons of the Klingon culture, such as bat'leths, d'k tahgs, and the emblem of the Empire. Among the scrolls in the paq'batlh are Klavek's tomes. The Eleventh Tome of Klavek describes how Kahless came back from the afterlife, and had kept a scar to show that what he'd experienced was real, so that he may save the soul of his brother. (VOY: "Barge of the Dead")

Catholics: CREATION: God created the Heavens and the Earth and gave them and all that was in them to Adam and Eve with a single exception – they couldn’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve did so anyway, earned the punishment for disobedience: being cast out of God’s presence. (See Genesis 2:1-3:24)

Klingons: CREATION: "With fire and steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, 'On this day we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens. None can stand before it without trembling at its strength.' But then the Klingon heart weakened, its steady rhythm faltered and the gods said, 'Why do you weaken so? We have made you the strongest in all of creation.' And the heart said... 'I am alone.' And the gods knew that they had erred. So they went back to their forge and brought forth another heart. But the second heart beat stronger than the first, and the first was jealous of its power. Fortunately, the second heart was tempered by wisdom. 'If we join together, no force can stop us.' And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a terrible sound. For the first time, the gods knew fear. They tried to flee, but it was too late. The Klingon hearts destroyed the gods who created them and turned the heavens to ashes. To this very day, no one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts."
A version of this creation myth is told during the traditional Klingon wedding ceremony:
DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited")

Catholics: ANGELS/FALLEN ANGELS: St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel': from what they are, ‘spirit,' from what they do, ‘angel.' With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word." As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgment. (Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9) For more information, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 328 and following:

Klingons: FALLEN ANGELS: In Klingon mythology, the kos'karii are pale, serpent-like creatures which inhabit the blood-red waters crossed by the Barge of the Dead on its way to Gre'thor. They attempt to lure dishonored souls to them with voices of friends and loved ones, and then drag them into the water. (VOY: "Barge of the Dead") ___________________________________________

Catholics: UNIQUENESS OF THE CHURCH: Belief that the Church is the vessel and deposit of the fullness of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles from which the Scriptures were formed. This teaching is preserved in both written
scripture and in unwritten tradition, neither being independent of the other.

Klingons: UNIQUENESS OF THE KLINGON PEOPLE: “Early in the 23rd Century…the Klingons trumpeted their superiority over the physically inferior and comparatively docile humans…”

Catholics: JESUS the CHRIST: Belief that Jesus Christ is Divine, a doctrine officially clarified in the First Council of Nicea and expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Klingons: KAHLESS: Kahless awaits all Klingons in
Sto-vo-kor: the life, which lies beyond this life. His teachings of honor and tradition form the basis of modern Klingon philosophy and culture. Kahless is still worshipped as a divine figure by the Klingons. (VOY: "Day of Honor")

Catholic: THE SECOND COMING: Few truths are more often or more clearly proclaimed in Scripture than that of the general judgment. To it the prophets of the Old Testament refer when they speak of the "Day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31; Ezekiel 13:5; Isaiah 2:12), in which the nations will be summoned to judgment. In the New Testament the second Parusia, or coming of Christ as Judge of the world, is an oft-repeated doctrine. The Saviour Himself not only foretells the event but graphically portrays its circumstances (Matthew 24:27 sqq.; 25:31 sqq.). The Apostles give a most prominent place to this doctrine in their preaching (Acts 10:42; 17:31) and writings (Romans 2:5-16; 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; James 5:7). Besides the name Parusia (parousia), or Advent (1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:19), the Second Coming is also called Epiphany, epiphaneia, or Appearance (2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1; Titus 2:13), and Apocalypse (apokalypsis), or Revelation (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Peter 4:13). The time of the Second Coming is spoken of as "that Day" (2 Timothy 4:8), "the day of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 5:2), "the day of Christ" (Philemon 1:6), "the day of the Son of Man" (Luke 17:30), "the last day" (John 6:39-40).

Klingon: THE SECOND COMING: Upon his death, Kahless promised he would return one day and lead the Empire again. Since his death, it is said that Kahless awaits all Klingons in
Sto-vo-kor: the life, which lies beyond this life. His teachings of honor and tradition form the basis of modern Klingon philosophy and culture. Kahless is still worshipped as a divine figure by the Klingons. (VOY: "Day of Honor") Kahless later invented the forms of what would become the Mok'bara when he went to the Underworld in search of his father. Kahless showed him the forms, and his father was able to remember his body and return to the world of the living. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II") When Kahless united the people and gave them the laws of honor, he saw that his work was done. So one night he gathered his belongings and went to the edge of the city to say good-bye. The people wept, they did not want him to go. And Kahless said, "You are Klingons. You need no one but yourselves. I will go now, to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return." Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, "Look for me there, on that point of light." (TNG: "Rightful Heir") The story of "The Promise" indicated that Kahless was to reappear in the lava caves on the planet of Boreth. The Followers of Kahless, or "Guardians", waited there for his return. To Klingons, there was no more sacred place. For over 1,500 years, Klingons came to Boreth to ask questions. According to the Clerics, the only way a Klingon warrior could find the answers they sought was to: "Open your heart to Kahless, ask him your questions, let him speak to you with your mind unclouded by doubt or hesitation. Only then can you find what you are looking for." (TNG: "Rightful Heir")

Catholics: PURGATORY: Pope John Paul II used his Wednesday general audience during the period of late 1999-JUL to early
1999-AUG to discuss topics related to life after death. He had described heaven and hell; at his AUG-4 audience, he described Purgatory. He affirmed Roman Catholic theology that: "Before we enter into God's Kingdom, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected. This is exactly what takes place in purgatory." But he continued by stating that Purgatory "does not indicate a place but a condition of life. Those who, after death, live in this state of purification are already immersed in the love of Christ which lifts them out of the residue of imperfection." Like Hell, Purgatory is not a physical place. He urged Christians to pray and do good works on behalf of those in purgatory, so that the latter will be released earlier than they would otherwise be.

Klingons: PURGATORY: Sto-vo-kor is, in
Klingon mythology, the afterlife for the honored dead, where all true warriors go after they die to fight an eternal battle against great enemies. The halls of Sto-vo-kor were said to be guarded by Kahless the Unforgettable. A Klingon can enter Sto-vo-kor by dying in battle or while performing a heroic deed. In addition, they may enter Sto-vo-kor by allowing themselves to be killed by another Klingon. (DS9: "Children of Time"). Alternatively, the relatives of the deceased can also perform such a deed in the name of the fallen to ensure their arrival in the halls. In 2375, Worf destroyed the Monac shipyards in the name of Jadzia Dax, in order to gain her entry into Sto-vo-kor. (DS9: "Image in the Sand", "Shadows and Symbols")



June 4, 2008

WRITING ADVICE: Absolutely Basic Genre

GENRE: the French term meaning “a type of”. A literary genre is a recognizable and established category of written work employing such common conventions as will prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it [with] another kind. writing2.richmond.edu/jessid/eng216/216terms.html

OK: now that we’ve defined it, let’s say it together: “g” – pronounced the same way as the name of the elderly actress Zsa Zsa Gabor; or the sound represented by the “s” in Asia – “ah” – as in “open your mouth and say…”; and “nra”, as in the middle part of corporate cheats, E“nro”n.

CONTINUING: What’s it all mean? The absolute basics of genre are this: you can clearly recognize what you like to read and there’s a place for it at Barnes & Noble/Borders/Waldenbooks/Half-Price Books. If you say, “I want a romance,” and the floor clerk leads you to a section that has a sign above it that says ROMANCE, then that’s a genre.

FINALLY: The genres listed on Wikipedia are: action-adventure, crime, detective, fantasy, horror, mystery, realistic fiction (historicals are part of this), romance (historicals are also part of this), science fiction and western. ALL of these have “special divisions” such as action-adventure (thrillers), crime (true crime), detective (hard-boiled), fantasy (urban), horror (slasher), mystery (cozy), realistic fiction (history), romance (historical, steamy), science fiction (cyberpunk – the word invented by Bruce Bethke) and western (historical here, too).

LAST OF ALL: If genre is what you enjoy, the go forth and WRITE IT!