April 27, 2011


Mary's novel, REDEFINING EVIL will be out in 2012!

Her editor at PORT YONDER PRESS (http://portyonderpress.com/default.aspx) gave an interview to Mike Duran at one of my favorite blogs, deCOMPOSE. In it, Chila Woychik answers questions regarding her stellar standards for accepting manuscripts.

At one point, she mentions MARY'S BOOK, though not by name. When you get to the interview page:

search for the term "vampire" and it will bring up the five times the word is mentioned.


April 26, 2011

Ideas on Tuesday 10: Urban Fantasy – About the Only Fantasy I Like…

I am NOT a huge fan of fantasy. My likes are limited to only the extremely original: LORD OF THE RINGS; CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, UNBELEIVER; CHRONICLES OF NARNIA; SWORD OF SHANARA; JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL; and a few others. When I step out of “sword and sorcery”, the fantasy I like best falls into the “urban fantasy” variety – WAR FOR THE OAKS and A MADNESS OF ANGELS are my prime examples. Keeping that in mind, I was looking for an idea and I came across this page: http://www.teenrc.ca/booklists?page=1&tid=2635. It’s a page of reviews about books (in this case, the spark was a review of a book called DIE FOR ME (author Amy Plum, review by happy_Panda) aimed at young adults/teens.
I turned the idea upside down: the family of fifteen-year-old Dude who lives on an organic dairy farm in Wisconsin is murdered brutally one night while he’s on a camping trip with friends. His only other relatives live in the Powderhorn Neighborhood of Minneapolis. When he returns from the trip, his life has changed totally – not the least of which are his (and others’) suspicions about how his family died. On the farm, he was shy and quiet. His relatives in the Cities are loud and boisterous.
He adjusts to his new life and a new school because of another quiet girl. They talk, discover that they love reading – she like mythology, he likes science fiction – but they eventually go on a date and then start to hang out together. That’s when he meets her family. They treat her as if she’s a pariah; some sort of diseased freak. He can’t figure out WHAT’S wrong. Then she tells him her secret: the Angel of the Lakes, Guardian of the City of Minneapolis is about to be devoured by the Demon of the Wind, Oppressor of the City of Chicago and in so doing, will enslave all of the inhabitants of Minneapolis. The only thing that will stop the Demon of the Wind is the TRULY willing Sacrifice who will give her life so that the Angel of the Lakes will have the power necessary to overcome the Demon of the Wind.
The Dude doesn’t want her to Sacrifice herself. She doesn’t want to. Obviously, the Demon doesn’t want her to. But surprisingly, the Angel doesn’t want her to either – and might have another plan…

April 19, 2011

Ideas on Tuesday 9: Where’s the REALLY original Fantasy for Teens?

Go here: http://www.amazon.com/Top-Ten-Teen-Fantasy-Books/lm/YXG22221KD1B.

What do you see?

Wizards, dragons, magic, elves, dark lords, broomsticks and all the other stuff we always associate with “fantasy”.

TWO of them are different. One might rank as science fiction rather than fantasy – WRINKLE IN TIME (at least that’s how I read it when I was thirteen) – but the others rest squarely in the realm of what we think of as “traditional fantasy”.

Except THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. While there are certainly kingdoms and at times the book reeks of its predecessor, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, it is, nonetheless, a “modern” fantasy. Of course, the list here on Amazon is “personal” and doesn’t include the works we think of as really “popular”, like the endless variations of vampire books and the Harry Potter legion of clones meant to entertain us between HP books (can you say SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE…?). The thing is that some of these will be seeing the bottom bins of recycling containers everywhere in a few years while the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and HARRY POTTER and others will take their places in the annals of “classic children’s literature”.

CS Lewis said, “No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring a tuppence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” (MERE CHRISTIANITY, Ch 11, Book 4)

Here you go: Using a hay bale (one of the round ones), a city park and a lamp made of used electrical conduit, circuit boxes and insulated wire – create an outline for a really TRUE young adult/teen fantasy.




April 17, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Reaching Micro People Groups

We love to talk about missions.

We love to “go” on mission trips. I went to Haiti over twenty years ago on a two-week mission trip. I’ve been to Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia for an eight-month mission trip. I’ve even been to Hawaii as a youth chaperone to do miming on Ala Moana Beach as well as doing a year-long stint working with Mary’s Place in Minneapolis and Place of Hope in St. Cloud (not at the same time!)

Many of us find ourselves as I did, on missions to “people groups”. A people group, for the purpose of sharing the love of Christ and the hope of salvation, has been clearly defined. It is “‘…the largest group within which the gospel can flow along natural lines without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.’ This simply means that unless the gospel comes from someone within one’s own people group, it is foreign.”1

Lately China has been on my heart. Virtually everyone would agree that the cultures, languages and socioeconomic clusters within the nation of China could be called “people groups”. But I don’t speak any of the seven to fourteen dialects of Chinese. If I ever went, I’d expect to hear languages I didn’t understand. If I were in Beijing, I’d most likely have a Chinese pocket dictionary application on my cell phone. I might be able to find out where to catch a bus that will take me to a statue of Mao Zedong or find a “house church”. While officially “atheistic”, China is operationally polytheistic and while there are accommodations permitting minor religions, official stance is against any sort of organized religion. But current estimates put anywhere between 40 to 130 million Christians in China and Wikipedia reports that “Although China bans foreign missionaries and sometimes harasses and imprisons Christians, especially in rural areas, Christianity is booming in China.2 With a population of 1.3 billion, it’s clear that reaching Outsiders in China is carrying out the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

Are there people groups in the US?

Clearly, the answer is “yes!” I’ve sponsored youth on mission trips to the Appalachians and to the Navajo reservations of southwest Arizona. I traveled with an organization whose sole mission was to reach youth with music. I’ve gone on mission trips to the poor of downtown Minneapolis. All of these groups are small and have their own “language” or way of speaking that’s different from how I talk. China is a gigantic people group. Haiti was smaller, the Navajo of Arizona smaller still. But these aren’t the smallest groups of people who need to be reached with the Good News of Jesus and discipled for Christ.

There are, in fact, really SMALL people groups. A micro people group is a “sparsely populated indigenous tribe consisting of 5,000 to 25,000 people”.3 These “micro people groups” can be even smaller than that and it can be argued that they share a language only they understand. These micro people groups don’t have to be in another country, either. Stand outside of a group of politicians, fantasy sports players, quilters, manga readers, sheet rockers or Star Wars fans and it can be as strange as standing on a street corner in downtown Beijing. These other groups are speaking English but the words you hear can have totally different meanings than what you’ve come to expect.

For example, a “lemon” can mean a bad car, a mature manga or a yellow fruit. It depends on what group you’re listening to. A “cave” can be a place you find bats, a student-run pub, an Italian commune or a political term for a group of people who oppose development. Among fantasy sports players a “bust” isn’t a piece of art, it has nothing to do with drugs, and it doesn’t mean “to break” – it’s a player who’s expected to have a poor season despite predictions. These small groups of people don’t make formal dictionaries – insiders are expected to know the jargon or it’s painfully obvious you aren’t part of the group.

Science fiction with its alien races, faster-than-light starships and interstellar empires might be considered a micro people group. Fantasy with its elves, massive wars and wizards might also be considered a micro people group. Mysteries, with their murders, suspects and deduction might be considered a micro people group, as well. If you doubt this then see if you can answer the following questions:

1) What is a con?

2) What is a Gandalf?

3) What does “specfic” mean?

4) What is an Edgar?

5) What are the Hugo and the Nebula?

6) What is a cozy?

7) What was Excalibur and why was it important?

8) Who was Hercule Poirot and where did “Murder on the Orient Express” take place?

9) What is Dune’s other name?4

If you can’t answer ANY of those, then specfic fans and writers can be defined as a micro people group and they might be considered a legitimate mission field for those who “speak the language”.

These people can also be isolated from the Church by choice, distance or simple apathy and no one should argue that they need to hear the Good News in a language that makes sense to them. In their book UNCHRISTIAN, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons point out that, “While we are trying to convey the most important message in human history – that Jesus offers a new life through faith in Him – something gets lost in the translation.”5

People who can speak the language of a micro people group can communicate the Gospel more easily than an outsider could. They can determine the best way possible to clearly and unequivocally show the love of Christ and point the way to salvation and discipleship.

Most of us belong to micro people groups. Are you a speculative fiction fan? How about a politician, fantasy sports player, quilter, Minnesota Wild fan, public school teacher, manga reader, sheet rocker or Star Wars fan? What micro people group are you part of?

Once you’ve identified your micro people group, pray for them and ask the Lord how to convey the most important message in human history to them. How can you present the gospel so that it can flow along natural lines without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance? What message will you send so that the gospel comes from someone within your own people group and make sure that the message of Christ isn’t foreign to them? Can you enlist others to help? When will you begin? My micro people avidly read, write and are fans of speculative fiction. I’ve identified the group, considered the message and spent time in prayer and fasting. I have my target events – though I have no one to join me and I’m wondering if I should wait or go ahead with it.

But that’s between God and me.

Missions to large people groups are good efforts to get involved with. But finding your micro people group and reaching them with the Good News of Jesus Christ can be exciting and can help you be a bigger part of God’s call to all of us to “go and make disciples of all nations”!


1) “The Challenge of the Unreached Peoples” by John Robb, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009, quoted in http://www.etnopedia.info/?p=254

2) Church growth in China.(Century marks)(Brief article) Industry & Business Article - Research, News, Information, Contacts, Divisions, Subsidiaries, Business Associations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China

3) http://www.imb.org/main/news/details.asp?LanguageID=1709&StoryID=585

4) Answers: 1) Short for a speculative fiction CONvention; 2) A major award for fantasy 1974-1980; 3) SPECulative FICtion; 4) A major award for American mystery; 5) The “people’s choice” award for spec fic; a “peer reviewed” choice for spec fic 6) A “quiet” mystery that usually doesn’t involve gruesome murder, sex or profanity; 7) The sword Wart pulled from the stone; it made him King Arthur of Camelot; 8) Agatha Christie’s main brain detective, a train that ran from Calais, France to Istanbul, Turkey. It ceased operation completely in 2009; 9) Arrakis

5) http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_rate.htm

image: http://media.photobucket.com/image/small%20group%20of%20lego%20people/darraghmc80/lego-people.jpg

April 15, 2011


I read the play version of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON when I was in eighth grade. It has stayed with me for decades, a haunting symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human mind. I’ve started and stopped this novel a half a dozen times in eleven years. I want to bring the original idea into the present millennium. To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll three pages back until you get to the bottom.

CJ stayed back while Job, Sentury and Jude race the others, one to each sheet. Sentury came back from the 3rd place sheet first, shaking her head. Job came back from the first place sheet, bouncing and calling, “Sentury got a first place! Sentury got a first place!”

Jude spun around and ran across the room just as the secret agent/PI answered his cell phone, snapped it shut and started across the room toward CJ. Jude shouted, “CJ got second place! CJ got second place!”

The PI grabbed CJ’s should and said, “Your sister is home.”

CJ looked at Jude then looked at the PI, back and forth between the two of them as the judges stepped out and called, “First place for schools goes to Neill Armstrong Middle School!”

Mr. Jalfroun leaped in the air, cheering while the others: Job, Edison, Trevon, Jude, and Luc bounced around him. Sentury stood to one side, a silly grin on her face now. The other teams lined up to congratulate the champion – no one appeared to even listen to the announcement of second and third places – and pretty soon the chaos got organized into the effort of moving a day’s worth of coats and shoes and back packs, lunchboxes and coolers back to waiting school busses. When the judges brought over the team trophy and the individual trophies, there was a flurry of digital and cellphone flashes.

No one noticed that CJ had slipped out with the PI – after the man-in-black grabbed Mr. Jalfroun from the celebration and briefed him. Mr. Jalfroun stepped up to CJ and bent over, saying, “You’re sure you’re safe going with this…agent or whatever he is?”

CJ nodded, “I think Mom hired him to investigate my sister’s disappearance.”

Mr. Jalfroun straightened up, scowling. “I thought you sister…”

CJ waved his question away, “Don’t worry. She had a surgery and she’s better now.”

The agent looked over his dark sunglasses at CJ for an instant. He felt like he couldn’t breathe suddenly. He waved at Job and started for the exit, getting ahead of the PI for a moment. The man hurried up beside him and said, “Hey, wait up, little man! You don’t even know…”

CJ looked over at him and snapped, “What’s wrong with my sister?”

He shrugged, “I don’t know what…”

“You gave me a look when I told Mr. Jalfroun that Mai Li is better now. What do you know?”

The PI turned his head forward and pushed open the exterior door. The shouting, bus-engine-rumbling chaos outside was deafening and CJ stopped and shouted, “What’s going…”

The PI grabbed him by the backpack strap and dragged him forward. CJ had no choice but to move his feet. It felt like the man would have dragged him across the sidewalk if he tried to stop. The cut between the loading busses and into the parking lot. The PI let go of him and they strode across the lot fast until they reached a rusted out Jeep Cherokee Classic.

“Nice car,” CJ growled.

“Shut up,” said the PI. “It doesn’t get noticed.”

“Yeah, except by the junkyard,” CJ said as he got in, throwing his backpack over the passenger’s seat into the back seat.

The PI shook his head and started the car. “My real car’s a classic 2010 Mazda 3.”

CJ snorted, “Yeah and my real bike’s a Felt T43.” They pulled out of the parking lot in silence and even though he leaned forward, the PI didn’t drive any faster. When they got to the house, CJ jumped from the car and raced to the front steps where Mom stepped out just as he reached the door. “Mom! What’s wrong?”

She opened her arms and said, “Mai Li is back…”

CJ stopped at the bottom of the steps, freezing and whispered, “What’s wrong with her?”

“I…I…don’t know…” she stepped aside and pantomimed for CJ to go into the house.

“Where is she?” CJ said then shouted, “Mai Li? Mai!”

“She’s in your bedroom downstairs,” Mom said softly.

He was too stunned to move, then bolted into the kitchen and down the stairs…

image: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumblarge_262/1209149672kUynhz.jpg

April 12, 2011

Ideas on Tuesdays 8: African Thoughts

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Some of you may know that I spent eight months in Africa as the guest of the Nigerian, Cameroonian, and Liberian Lutheran Churches. If people aren’t impressed with my time there as a tool of the Church, they’re appalled by my white supremacist intention of crushing African traditions beneath my white supremacist assumptions of African savagery that needs to be saved from savagery…

Both responses make me feel ill and neither one grants the people of the Continent any power of self-determination – and are equally white supreme-ist.OK – rant over. (I’m sure this little essay may possibly irritate some people…) So, I recently read THE BETRAYAL OF AFRICA (for a brief review, go here: (http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=17923) follow this with an apparent non-sequitur, a few years ago, I read and recommended for an ANDRE NORTON Award, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s second book, THE SHADOW SPEAKER (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shadow_Speaker). If you’ve never read it, do. If you haven’t, read both and then build a story on this foundation: a Library to rival the one at Alexandria is nearly done in the center of the Sahara in the Erg of Bilmah – and the dark forces of America: Jersey Devils, Yuma Skeletons, Wampus Cats, Bigfeet, Headless Horsemen, Mosquitoes, Trickster Coyotes, Maids in the Mist and Pecos Bill and his legions take on the legends of the Sahara: mummies, scorpions, Desert Rattlers, raging sandstorms, desert wolves and tigers…who wins and how…

April 10, 2011

WRITING ADVICE: Mike Duran #7 – How To Be Routinely Inspired

I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a spec-fic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY at http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/. The original article for THIS entry is here: http://mikeduran.com/?p=7565

What is it that inspires a writer? (You may choose only one answer)

a) routine

b) it strikes randomly like lightning, so fly a kite

c) “whatever works for ya, babe!”

d) make a schedule that accommodates muses

e) none of the above

Despite Mike Duran’s advice and observations, I’m going to have to pick e) none of the above.

I believe that how a writer lives their life inspires them to write.

“How can I live my life for inspiration if I write horror? I don’t think I’d LIKE to live that kind of life!”

“How can I live my life for inspiration if I write murder mysteries? No one’s ever killed me and I’m pretty good on that sixth Commandment!”

“How can I live my life for inspiration if I write hard science fiction? I, uh, have neither been to an alien world nor fought an alien starship…Not since I was abducted by aliens as a child, anyway.”

To demonstrate the main way I come up with ideas, I accepted a challenge from a writer friend of mine to put my money where my mouth was: take one of the books from his inventory and use it to generate ideas.

I wrote a series on it and if you’re interested in reading the whole set, you can go here: http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/09/where-do-you-get-your-ideas-part-3.html

The upshot of the articles was that I use whatever I’m reading to generate ideas. The book I was using, though a purely science history of the AIDS epidemic, forced me to be creative in order to generate some fantasy and speculative fiction ideas. The horror ideas were easy, unfortunately.

I also write for children and young adult/teens. I’ve written historical fiction (gleaned from a camping trip to Banning State Park near Hinckley, Minnesota) where I discovered the Great Hinckley Fire and wrote both an unpublished novel and a CRICKET MAGAZINE short story plus a fact article. My book (still available after thirteen years!) came from kids’ sermons I started doing at a church I attended as a new husband and father.

My contention is that inspiration comes from how you live your life. While you could probably argue that in order to do the Great Hinckley Fire story or SIMPLE SCIENCE SERMONS FOR BIG AND LITTLE KIDS I had a lightning strike moment or the “muse” moved me (did you know that the root word for “muse” is the same one as for “amusing”?) or some routine (“routine” is a word that doesn’t cross my life much any more) allowed for me to write. I would argue that the answer – at lease for me, and I suspect for most people – is that how you live everyday life is what inspires you to write.

What story do YOU see in the image above -- an everyday view of garbage cans under a bridge?

image: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5103/5572424604_b5df75790e.jpg

April 9, 2011


This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So I added some things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

Tommy Hastings, Freddie Merrill, both fourteen and Charlie Fairlaine, seventeen with his father – “Well,” Tommy thought, “he’s a lot younger than my dad.” – were squashed thigh-to-thigh in the cab of the milk truck.

Tommy shot a glance sideways. The man was still scowling. He’d been scowling ever since they left Fairlaine’s Creamery in Glen, forty miles ago. He hadn’t said a word, since. Freddie hung his head out the window of the truck, taking deep breaths.

Charlie, on Tommy’s right, kept a stony gaze forward.

As they passed a sign that read, “Cromwell”, Mr. Fairlaine said, “Won’t be long now, we can dump the boys and sell the milk.” He glanced at Tommy then at Charlie. His son didn’t move. Mr. Fairlaine had given him a hard cuff after they’d gotten going, catching Tommy’s ear with an elbow when he’d turned away.

They’d been talking about nothing in particular and hadn’t been driving long when Charlie had suddenly said, “Tommy’s uncle is Herbert Towne.” Mr. Fairlaine had swung and belted Charlie hard in the face. The older boy hadn’t been able to move far enough because of Freddie and had caught the full force of the slap.

No one had said a word since then. After a long time on the back roads, they turned north, the sun streaming into the truck full past Freddie’s face. Houses and a water tower finally showed they were back into civilization. The tower read “Cromwell”. They rode into town, passing houses, a church and a school, reaching the main street in a short time.

Mr. Fairlaine let the milk truck roll to a stop at a stop sign letting on to a busier road. Cursing under his breath, he pulled on to the road. It was smoother, had painted stripes and once they were out of Cromwell, there was a wide gravel strip on both sides. Right after they turned on to it, Tommy saw a shield-shaped sign that read “210”.

They sped up, the tires starting to hum. Soon Tommy found himself getting sleepy. Freddie was already slumped on the door, his head on his right arm. Charlie though, hadn’t moved and sat staring straight ahead, eyes wide open, blinking occasionally, even though the sun was bright and was creeping overhead. They came up on a sign that read the names of four towns Corona, Iverson, Carlton and – the bottom one was Duluth. Forty miles.

Tommy took a deep breath. He could live for forty more miles. He glanced at the speedometer – Mr. Fairlaine had the truck up to almost sixty. He did the math in his head – they were going a mile a minute. They’d be in Duluth in forty minutes.

They passed through the tiny town of Corona without slowing down.

The milk truck drifted slowly toward the gravel edge.

Tommy looked out of the corner of his eye at Mr. Fairlaine – his eyes were closed! For a second, he thought of grabbing the wheel – be he didn’t know how to drive anything this big! Should he scream? No – he wasn’t a girl! Should he elbow Mr. Fairlaine? Right – did he want to live to join the Air Force?

He sneezed.

Mr. Fairlaine woke up, jerked the wheel back on to the road and gunned the engine as they roared past Iverson. He suddenly looked down at Tommy and said, “I shoulda just let all of us die.”

image: http://wpcontent.answcdn.com/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cc/Alaska_Highway_Mile_1337_(Looking_Eastbound).jpg/200px-Alaska_Highway_Mile_1337_(Looking_Eastbound).jpg

April 5, 2011

Ideas On Tuesday 7: The Most Important Thing...

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

If you’ve been reading my posts and the banner above, you know that my wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. So my mind is there and so is today’s idea. It’s prompted by a conversation my daughter had with a classmate at college:

Take this website, http://www.breastcancerride.org/site/PageServer, add a young woman, 16, who has been diagnosed with a breast lump – and then stir in the fact that she’s from an alternate time line in which physics is more advanced, but medicine MUCH LESS SO. With her family, they are exploring and assessing OUR time line. In her original world, breast cancer is a death sentence, demanding ritual suicide. Does she follow the custom – or defy it in this time line?

April 3, 2011

Slice of PIE: Where Are the Technocrats and Their Perfect Society?

While I still believe that science fiction rarely gives Christianity or Christians a reasonable shake, I started wondering if it gave a fair shake to the type of society most SF writers seem to be promoting – the technocracy.

Imagine how surprised I was that I couldn’t find any in the SF books I’m familiar with. Somehow, the egalitarian “form of government in which engineers, scientists, health professionals and other technical experts are in control of decision making” doesn’t appear to have made it into standard science fiction novels. (I am open to correction here – PLEASE!)

While I realize that novels explore possible futures and are made to entertain and that showing “government at work” would be a sure way to stop a story dead, many writers have no trouble mentioning that their society is a theocracy or that fundamentalist Christians took over in such-and-such a year (for example, Peter F. Hamilton’s NEUTRONIUM ALCHEMIST, David Weber’s ARMAGEDDON REEF and Alan Steele’s COYOTE all have specific dates “the Christians” took over.)

I can’t find a single novel that cites dates “engineers, scientists, health professionals and other technical experts” took over, forming a technocracy – but all of the books above make it clear that is what happened. All of them show that given correct application, all of society’s problems can be solved by science and technology. There’s a “boom” on now – at least according to one opinion writer in the New York Times. Clearly, the advent of a technocratic society is closer to becoming a reality than the theocratic society some SF writers “fear”.

Instead of calling it “technocracy” which seems to have gone out of a style, the concept of the “post-scarcity society” seems to have made its way into the work of Cory L. Doctrow, Wil McCarthy, Charles Stross, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson, James P. Hogan, Rudy Rucker, and Iain M. Banks but none of them address the actual “rule of law” in that future. Who runs the country, the planet, the empire, federation or the Culture? Rather than putting scientists, et al in positions of power and decision-making and showing the story through their eyes, the oblique references to society growing out of religion or particular religious practices or simply ignoring religion by having characters who share the author’s view of religion is usually briefly stated somewhere in the book.

Other writers state elsewhere in essays or interviews what they believe and project in their writing. David Brin for example, in his essay, “Otherness”: “But for others of us who have passed through the Doctrine of Otherness, it might be time to move on…to the attitude of Elder Brothers and Sisters only a little more knowledgeable than our fellow creatures but with the power and duty to be their guardian.” Anne McCaffrey as well, states, “I also don't have organized religion on Pern. I figured - since there were four holy wars going on at the time of writing - that religion was one problem Pern didn't need.”

So – we have perfect societies on Coyote, Pern, Tranquility and back on Earth with the Terragens Council. Where are our technocrats today and what are they doing to move us toward our perfect society? The bigger question for me though is where are the novels with EVIL technocratic governments who make horrible mistakes or set terrifying atheistic governments on the hunt for fundamentalist Christians? Oh, that’s right – the Soviet Union fell apart in 1983 and 1984 is considered passé…

Some references:



“The Technocracy Boom” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/opinion/20brooks.html



image: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v491/ProfVonHapsburg/TarkinTechnocracy.jpg