December 31, 2007


I was nominated for a Nebula Award by popular SF writer Catherine Asaro ( ).

The nomination was for a short-short I wrote for ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT called "Warning! Warning!" (October 2005).

It was inspired by something that irritated me -- a label in both Spanish and English plastered inside the lid of my wheeled recycling tub, UPSIDE down when you're opening the can's lid; right side up when it's open. It read: "Caution: Owner may trip if lid is not closed." This was such a stupid warning that I knew immediately that someone MUST have tripped while rolling the tub with the top open and tried to bring a lawsuit against the company that made the garbage can. They probably won.

It SO irritated me that checked several other appliances and furniture in my house, finding to my horror that just about everything had a warning label on it. I wrote a short-short SF story carrying the absurd increase in "warning" lables to its obvious conclusion -- everything, everywhere on Earth and in space will have to carry some sort of warning label on it. In addition to being adhered to and engraved on objects, these warnings will be broadcast from a special "Warning Broadcast Network" as well as visually projected on to all surfaces capable of causing harm. In this future, mea culpa (Latin, "my fault") will be struck from the English language and everything will be the fault of "someone else".

Like essay writing, short-short writing has to come from a passionate heart. There's no time to develop character, so POINT becomes all important. What is the POINT of the short-short? Can you state it in three or four words? Are you passionate about the POINT you are trying to make?

Then perhaps you'll have a saleable short-short story when you're done!

December 25, 2007


“Roddenberry’s Star Trek gave us the United Federation of Planets, a meta-government that spanned human space. He envisioned humanity as ultimately perfectible. While perfection remained out of reach, the notion that it was even achievable seems, perhaps, hopelessly naïve and idealistic.” (

Naïve it may be, but even today, the Second Gospel of Science Fiction is predicated on the firm belief that Humanity will be able to create a general society that is peaceful, poverty-free and refuses to embrace divisive religion. This Gospel wants nothing to do with God. It assumes that Humanity’s baser instincts are essentially tamable and that with basic research, technological development, philosophy, sociology and psychology as our tools, we will be able to create ourselves as a “new humanity”.

The Humanist Manifesto is a series of documents signed by tens of thousands of people who have set out to do just this. ( Isaac Asimov was a signatory of the Manifesto II and his works clearly proclaim the idea that we can perfect ourselves and need no outside help – especially supernatural outside help. Others who have the same beliefs use their fiction (first and foremost) to entertain, but certainly somewhere down the list of “why did I write this story?” they harbor a desire to promote their belief in the ultimate perfectibility of Humanity.

My contention is that Humanity is NOT perfectible. The Bible notes this – some of the observations are made by verifiable historical figures whose wisdom has been passed down through the ages: “…the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3) and “They are corrupt and have committed abominable injustice. There is no one who does good…every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 52: 1-3) are both examples of simple observation.

Some might contend that Humanity is no longer the same organism David observed 4000 years ago. A quick scan of or a newspaper; a talk with a retired person or an inner city classroom teacher or an organic dairy farmer in rural Wisconsin will present anecdotal evidence that “things haven’t gotten better since (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH A YEAR), they’ve gotten worse!”

They aren’t going to get any better as long as we leave ourselves in charge of the renovation. We cannot manifest our way out of a technologically more advanced slide into deeper and deeper sin. Satan will continue to take marvelous inventions and through his Human agents, pervert them to something ugly (“60% of all website visits are sexual in nature” MSNBC Survey 2000, Any Democrat will be happy to relate to you the horrors of the war in Iraq; any Republican will be happy to relate to you the horrors of Vietnam. Some atheists might point out that 9,000,000 Muslims and Jews were slaughtered during the Crusades and 300,000 during the Spanish Inquisition in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; some Christians might point out the supposed 61,911,000 in the old Soviet Union or the alleged 35,236,000 in China who were murdered in the name of communism by atheist regimes.

The manifesting has not gone well thus far.

We ain’t getting’ better, folks. Putting Christ on the bridge of the Enterprise won’t solve our problems either. We simply can’t “get better”. We aren’t ultimately perfectible – not on our own. Only when we surrender our broken spirits to Jesus – not the Christ of the Crusaders or the Republicans, but to the Messiah of this world can we become perfect IN Him.

Now I KNOW that’s going to irritate some of you…but this all the room I have today…

December 18, 2007


While it may seem obvious, I learned the hard way that my essays had to have strengths that sounded mutually exclusive.

A few years ago, our family and friends were on a Fourth of July outing to watch a big-city fireworks display. It was windy that night and several times the fireworks were nearly called off. At ten-ish, they decided to appease the restless mob and the shooting began.

Moments after the first bombs burst in the air, hot ash and glowing cinders blown down by contrary upper winds, started to rain down on our side of the crowd. Few other people were there, most having gathered in the park. Spared the night fall, they were busy oooo-ing and ahhhhh-ing as those of us caught in the rain of debris sprinted for cover dragging, pushing and carrying little ones.

Incensed by the time I got home, I made to fire off a letter to the editor of the local paper. I wrote it, but after it cooled for a few days, a quick read-through made it seem trite, spiteful and (worse) whiney. I started again, this time pausing to reach back into history to compare our little episode with what some of the Colonists might have experienced as real rockets rained down on them during the first American war. Suggesting we all might enjoy the gift of freedom a bit more with our small taste of flaming ash in recent memory landed me a Guest Editorial in the paper rather than being relegated to one of a half-dozen Letters to the Editor.

Narrow focus coupled with broad appeal is a formula I should follow more often when writing essays.

December 11, 2007


For the next five pieces of PIE, I’m going to look at the Four Gospels of Science Fiction. By Gospels, I mean that I see four predominant paradigms appearing in the majority of SF/scifi stories. I’ll state my case, offer support from the chief apostles of each Gospel and then let the rest of you have at it. The Gospels of SF:

1) There is a force in the galaxy/universe from which Humans (and others) might draw strength to do either good or evil.

2) Humanity is ultimately perfectible and given time will create a rational, kind and peaceful society that incorporates all philosophies.

3) Humanity will evolve to a state where it will (or find a means to) transcend matter (though still manipulate it) and freely choose either a corporeal or non-corporeal existence.

4) There is nothing outside of nature and Humanity will learn to perfectly manipulate matter and will leave its “tribal gods” behind when it moves into space permanently.

(Obviously, there is crossover among the Four Gospels of SF. Rational perfection may lead Humanity to a point where matter is no longer necessary and we exist as beings of pure energy. The perfect manipulation of the material may lead to a truly Unified Field Theory and all forms of matter and energy may prove to be intimately entangled with Human consciousness. There are easily others that shade into and out of each other. For example, Isaac Asimov, a strict apostle of the Fourth Gospel occasionally allows room for the Second Gospel in some of his robots like R. Daneel Olivaw. To me, George Lucas is the primary apostle of the First Gospel, but has incorporated elements of the Third Gospel into the STAR WARS movies.
And that is where we’re going to start:


The Jedi Knights were members of an ancient monastic order who could use an energy field generated by the cumulative “life” of all living things. This allowed them to have great strength, long life, powers of the mind like telekinesis and telepathy, and a moral certitude beyond that of ordinary people.

Jedi Knights were chosen by other Jedi Knights – in Episodes IV-VI apparently by sensing a “force” in an individual…in Episodes I-III by how many midichlorians an individual had in their blood. Jedi Masters rose from the Knights by successfully training padawan learners, nomination by other Masters, performance of extraordinary deeds or by self-proclamation.

Many Christians have equated Lucas’ Force with the Holy Spirit, Anakin Skywalker with Jesus Christ and the Emperor with Satan. What does Lucas say? In a TIME magazine interview in 1999, he said, “I see STAR WARS as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down to a more modern and easily accessible construct…I put the Force in the movie to try and awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people – more a belief in God than in any particular religious system.” (TIME Magazine, April 26, 1999)

I don’t think that Lucas would mind imagining Jesus as a Jedi Master (if he believed in the Force as some do. His personal philosophy tends toward Buddhist), and there certainly are hints of the Christ story in STAR WARS, but as Lucas says, his “Force” is an attempt to distill religion down and make it more modern and easily accessible.

The question begs to be answered: “more modern and easily accessible” to whom? Jesus has already said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to the Father but by Him. Does Lucas imply here that because his Force is a sort of energy field made up of all living things, that to connect with the Force you have to have a specific disease (midichlorian infection). Does it mean that using the Force requires no commitment to anything other than “doing good”, that more people will follow the Force – because it has done away with exclusivity that requires no sacrifice of any sort?

I think this is exactly what the First Gospel of SF is aiming for. It creates a nice, easy “quasi-religious” religion with no one to really tell you what to do; no “right or wrong”; no rules to follow except for whatever you want to do. Certainly, if you want to climb to the highest heights, then some bit of sacrifice is required – ah, but the Earthly (or Tatooinely or Coruscantly) rewards are great!

To me, it’s eternal salvation for everyone who “does good” rather than salvation through the person of Jesus Christ.

To me, it’s dangerous because it requires nothing of most people. It doesn’t have any sort of morality except what you decide to have. It certainly doesn’t require sacrifice. Jesus was no Jedi Master. He is simply, Master and He requires that “you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” (Luke 14:33). Somehow I don’t think that that would be acceptable to the apostles of the First Gospel of SF…