Who hates religion in fiction?

I’m always wary about reviews that talk about how a book is “too religious.” Not even that it’s religious message fic (which sucks) but that the character has religion, or is religious at all.Sometimes I think there are people out there who are hurt at the mere mention of religion in a novel.

And I’m not talking about religious themes, or concepts, or overtones, but religion itself. What moron thinks like that? This is basic, dirt-stupid cultural anthropology. We’re somehow going to have a world completely and utterly devoid of religion? What evangelical atheist paradise is this?

I mean, heck, a world devoid of all Judeo-Christian mythos will still have pagans. Just look at L Jagi Lamplighter’s Rachel Griffin books if you don’t believe me.

But to discount religion or religious characters, there goes half of David Weber, most of Larry Correia and at least two entire series by John Ringo. Hell, there goes Terry Goodkind and his made-up nuns in The Sword of Truth. There even goes William Lehman’s books. There goes Ann Margaret Lewis, Karina Fabian, Richard Paolinelli, John C. Wright….

How about Chronicles of Narnia? Is that going into the wood-chipper too? I’m sure that Tolkein barely gets a pass, because his books were supposed to be a “pre-Christian” mythos, but he himself is Catholic.

But, heck, even the new Wonder Woman film made Ares sound like the Judeo-Christian Satan. I guess that goes down the crapper.

“I don’t like religion in my stories” … yeah, good luck with finding something completely and utterly devoid of faith. I wonder if people like this were offended by Captain America’s line that “There’s only one God, and he doesn’t dress like [Loki or Thor].” Because, you know, that was a line written by an atheist. Even Joss Whedon respects the religion of character more than some people.

But I do try to get my head around this concept or having no religion. Are we now in a position where everyone is supposed to have one, monotonal thought process of Atheism? This is, of course, excluding the idea that Atheism itself is a religion. If you don’t believe me, go out and meet the anti-theist branch sometime (THE IDEA OF GOD IS EVIL AND SO ARE THEIR FOLLOWERS), instead of the more libertarian branch (“I don’t believe, and I don’t care if you do. Next”).

I’m sorry, but I’m generally open to all ideas and all thought processes. I read Eric Flint, atheist Communist. I read John Ringo, Recovering semi-Catholic. David Weber and Timothy Zahn, who are both ministers, if I recall correctly. John and Jagi Wright. Richard Paolinelli, who believes in God, and it’s in his books. Larry the Mormon Correia.

Seriously, in order to pull something like that, I can only conclude one would have to be some sort of anti-religious SJW-zealot who hates religion in general. They’re the only ones closed-minded enough to be offended by a character who might even have a religion.

I mean, good God, congratulations, there goes Dracula, by Bram Stoker. That had the Eucharist! They’re Catholics involved! OMG! I can only conclude that this is particularly painful to read.

Even Die Hard has religious Catholics. The McClanes! It’s directly referenced in movies 1-3. Congratulations, that’s enough to be hated by this sort of person.

And anyone who hates Die Hard simply and absolutely HAS NO SOUL.

I’m sorry, wrapping my brain around a secular universe makes my brain hurt. This is in defiance of all basic cultural anthropology. Despite statements made by random philosophers, there has not now, nor has there ever been, in the history of the world, a society that is purely secular or atheistic. The closest we get in America are Deists among the founding fathers, but  that list also includes Reverends, so that’s an interesting conversation. The first person who cites Thomas Jefferson will have to justify every contradictory statement Jefferson ever made, and citing the Creator in the first line of the Declaration of Independence.

But religion is a thing. It is a part of any society. Ancient Greeks made being an atheist a capital crime — if you didn’t pray to Athena in Athens, you obviously didn’t have the interests of the city at heart, and you had to go.

Now, granted, sure, I’ve had some people make books that are religious message fiction. That, of course, can be problematic. Because message fiction is message fiction, no matter the message. The problem isn’t necessarily the message — Hell, I like the “save the whales” film, Star Trek IV, but that’s because it was funny — but the execution of story, plot and characters …. usually, that there is little to none of any of the above. But one cannot lump that in with Narnia, or Rachel Griffin or anything by John C Wright has written. To do so is BS.

Heck, even my novel, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller (The Pius Trilogy) (Volume 1) has religious characters in it … a Jew, a Muslim, a half-dozen Catholics. Which one gets hated upon the most? Technically, the story itself isn’t religious, as it centers on a historical element. But there are priests and Popes, and rosaries, and the historical MacGuffin is around the Pope of World War II. I’m certain that’s enough to get those who hate religion to sniff and wave, “move along. Go find your own kind. To the back of the bus with you.”

As Jeffro Johnson pointed out in his Appendix N, religion in fiction goes all the way back into the Pulps, where Christianity can rout the fae, God can be a player. Heck, look at Superversive SF, which is also welcoming to God.

And then there’s SuperversiveSF, the blog. God, faith, and religion are all over the place. You can’t escape it.

And this is why I think that Superversive SF and Jeffro’s Pulp Revolution are probably the future of science fiction and fantasy. There are no gate keeping here. There’s no snobbish, anti-religious bias that I’ve seen. I don’t even think there’s an anti-left bias, as long as one avoids going full SJW, but I could be mistaken.

It’s nice that, among the SVSF / Pulp folk, there’s an open, accepting atmosphere where even a freak like me can feel welcome.

Illegitimi non carborundum

And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

A Pius Man, Chapter 2: A Pious Mercenary

Here we go again. We now continue with your free look at the new edition of chapter 2 for A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller.

By now, you’re probably well aware my yanking this from the shelves when I signed with Silver Empire Publishing.

But right now, it’s back on Amazon.

And if you’re new here, and have no idea what A Pius Man is … It ate up ten years of my life, and the best use I have ever gotten out of my Masters in History outside of writing biographies of older vampires.

But here you go, here’s the next chapter. When you’re hooked, by all means, order it.

You’ll note this one is a little shorter than usual. Sorry about that. But a little Sean goes a long way.

Anyway, there will be more to come on A Pius Man. You have been warned.

Chapter II:

A Pious Mercenary

Even in Rome, there were not that many people conscious so early in the morning—just people awakened by the explosion, firemen, and a scattering of pedestrians.

One pedestrian was a jogger, moving along the street casually. His gray jogging suit didn’t stand out at all, and his build was unremarkable underneath all the cloth. Even his face was covered by the hood. He was short, only 5’6”. The only other detail the observant person could pinpoint would be the occasional flash of bright, electric blue eyes.

The jogger slowed as he approached the Vatican, looking over the scene of devastation. He gave a low whistle and pulled back his hood, revealing his pale skin and raven-black hair.

He gave a small, quirky smile. The scene was amusing for multiple reasons, the foremost among them was that a hotel had been wrecked, and he hadn’t been responsible for it. For once.

He murmured, in an almost unaccented voice, “Someone had fun.”

He scanned the crowd, more interested in the people around the crime scene than destruction itself. It wasn’t even all that impressive, as far as destruction went—the only thing really damaged was the hotel room window. And the car.

Well, if you don’t count the body. But body bags aren’t that expensive in Italy, are they?

One person slipped through the crowd. A figure in black, only a little taller than the jogger himself.

Well, if anyone is going to know what’s going on here…“Ahoy,” the jogger hailed, speaking only slightly above conversational volume.

Father Frank Williams heard and looked in his direction, smiling as he headed towards the jogger. “How are you, Sean?”

The jogger named Sean shrugged. “I’m doing well, though I’m wondering why you weren’t at our usual meeting. I waited twenty minutes before I started by myself. After a while, I feel ridiculous firing off all of those bullets solo.”

Father Frank nodded. “Understandable, considering your profession. What are you calling yourself this week, a prostitute?”

The jogger shook his head. “No, a mercenary. I’m not exactly a big operation like Black Lake, but I count.”

The man in black cocked his head. “Black Lake?”

Sean furrowed his brows. “It is Black Lake, isn’t it? Blackpool…? Blackthorn…?” he thought a moment, and then his bright eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. “Blackwater! That’s the name. The mercenary company.”

The priest shrugged, and blatantly ignored that Blackwater had changed its name years ago. “Sounds better than ‘personal demolition unit’.”

Sean rolled his eyes, the electric-blue orbs looking like circular lightning. “Again, I’m not quite that bad. I’ve only killed a few… dozen … people? I think? I figure I manage to kill a few more, I win a set of steak knives.”

Father Frank was uncertain about whether or not he was joking. “In which case, I will let you get on with your day.” He turned away, then paused, and looked back to Sean. “By the way, I should probably mention, I may not be able to train with you for the next few days.”

Sean raised a brow. “Really? What’s up?”

Father Frank looked back towards the shattered car and the broken person. “Oh, just some business I’ll have to attend to, that’s all.”

Sean nodded. “Okay, then, I’ll see you around.”

The jogger watched the priest wander off, and then turned back to the devastation. He caught a whiff of something odd, and blinked. He looked up to the ruined window, studying the frame, and the faint, lingering cloud of smoke wafting away from it, like smoke at a fireworks display.

Someone used black powder on this? Wow, talk about bombs on the cheap. What did they do, dissect a box of firecrackers?

Sean shook his head. He was suddenly glad that he had left his bag full of guns at the studio; otherwise, he would probably be in even bigger trouble than usual.

He glanced down at the car, studying at the short woman Father Frank had been talking with. She wasn’t too bad-looking, even if she was a few inches short of being a dwarf—and not the kind with a beard and a battle axe. Her eyebrows hair was were a light brown, but her hair was overdone with gold highlights deliberately put in by some hairstylist who may have been holding a grudge.

Then again, what do I know? Sean thought. I’m from California, a silicon valley that has nothing to do with computer chips.

The short woman walked through the crowd with little difficulty as she followed the taller man in a dark suit. Sean quickly flipped up his hood again, hiding his features.

The last thing he wanted to do was get in the way of the head of Vatican security when he was in a bad mood—and having someone land on one’s car was more than sufficient to put anyone in a bad mood.

I wonder if I should make Gianni’s life easier, get involved.

Sean considered it, but only briefly. His resume was cluttered with inconvenient events—explosions, assaults, gunfights, and a body count that would have counted as mass murder if they weren’t all in self-defense—and offering assistance would pretty much ruin Figlia’s day.

After all, it was bad enough that the same person who had slaughtered dozens and had leveled millions of dollars in property damage was also, at that very moment, employed by the Pope.

So, have enough fun yet? Just click here.

And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

Eta Cancri review

Please welcome Xewleer to Superversive SF, he is a new reviewer and you can expect a lot more from him. His review is cross posted from his blog millennialking.wordpress.com

Spoilers! It’s a great book, and worth reading.

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I just finished Eta Cancri by Russell May. It was, surprisingly for an author who was not on my radar before, an excellent read chock full of delicious theology. It was a treat, to be sure. The characters are living and breathing with distinct personalities. The descriptions are on point. The science is a good medium-hard, with just the right amount of give for philosophical and theological conversations the teeth they need to grow. Ah… that more stories which pride themselves on science and philosophy would take this route!

The book switches through various characters’ POV. My personal favorites were Ed and June, along with the AI Archie. Each one has a solid voice and drive that breathes life into this book more than could be expected. Indeed, books that switch perspective live and die on this sword. I could tell that the POV shifted through the author’s choices in word play, character focus and other hints almost instantly.

The conceit of the story, which involves demonic possession, bacteria and genetic modification, was well done and quite unique to this author from my experiences. Though I have experimented and read up on demonic possession and stories about it, this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a broad and interesting way. Nothing triggered any sort of violation of the suspension of disbelief. It holds up the story incredibly well. This is dreadfully important in this genre as Russell did it. If the suspension of Disbelief is violated, then the entire book will fall over itself and the threads that he depends on to carry the story forward logically will be lost, unable to be gained back.

Though there is no part of the story I groaned at the reading of, I did feel fatigue about halfway through on chapter 3 or 4 (?). The story before and after focuses on multiple characters, the evil of the Demon Legion, the science, philosophy and theology mix and POV shifts. This middle bit has nothing that really sticks out too hard. The story sticks to Pierce the techno-everyman and doesn’t shift too much. There’s just too much dialogue and not enough cool stuff to give us a rest between theological questions. Not that I was exhausted by the questions, I just wish the heady brew was cut a little with soda. Even a bit where Ed deals with his crazy and preps for the ship coming in, or June sees something which heightens our horror at the actions of Legion would do much for the pacing and general interest. I’ll point out that Ed has no reason to not succumb or struggle with Legion’s influence and a decent POV could have been written comparing and contrasting his belief in Dame Fortune and the belief in God, which is touched upon later but not to my satisfaction.

I’ll point out that, theologically, what we call Dame Fortune is the Will of God. That the saved man has free will is not something I debate or question. I question how much Dame Fortune impugns it. (I use Dame Fortune as a conceit from the story. Mentally, I use the term ‘Fate’) Does a belief in Fortune change how free will operates as we continue in Christian Free Will or Willfulness Against God? I think that there might have been an excellent few points to be made there between Ed and Father Justinian, more than was done in story. Though, there is a sequel in the cliff hanger, and I will be purchasing it as soon as it comes out.

I also wanted a little more debate on the nature on Transhumanism. I am not fond of it, as I believe that the body has the critical mass to keep the soul ‘Human’ and that, at a certain point, the ‘I as I’ that is ‘You as you are’ becomes warped into something that could be described as ‘ME’ 2.0. Also, what is morality to someone who is neither permanent or baseline human? (Though those points are touched on) June seemingly has no contrast in character, but rather is June personality as June soul is June without much debate despite much lycanthropy. Various ideas are presented with authority, but I don’t feel it is earned. The matrons producing ubermenschen in the asteroid belts are not properly repudiated in a manner that I call an argument. Rather, it is just presented as wrong. I dig, but I’m really hoping for a similar thing to Ed in the sequel.

I’ve not gone into the plot because it’s quite simple. A colony goes dark and a ragtag group of cyborgs, everymen and mercenaries go to figure it out and cleanse with fire whatever’s in there. Just about right, really. You don’t need fancy pants intrigue for stuff like this. Most of the characters are moral, upright and probably one of the best portrayals of Christians I’ve seen in Science Fiction. I’m sorry John C. Wright, but sort of randomly turning Mickey the Witch into the Space Pope of the Seventh Humans because of his wife without a redemption scene just doesn’t compare to baptism after flamebroiling demonic abominations with improvised explosives created by a literal Biblical evil. But it’s different scopes. That scene doesn’t compare to the Cathedral of Luna in the 4th book of Count to Eschaton. Ahhhh it’s perhaps differences in scale. But I’d be very interested in talking with Russel May some time to break down what he believes and what his reasoning is.

I wanted MORE, if you could believe it. I find that I have a hard time reading philosophy directly, so I have a better time consuming it if its regurgitated through literature, especially when the author provides examples within the story to provide a more definite framework for the reader to investigate. It really does wonders for the most artistically inclined philosophers, who may not be able to as readily read the great works directly. Of course, this assumes the reader is able to properly manage things that are presented vs. their origin points. Counter and counter-counter is appreciated through the characters of Archie, Father Justinian and even Legion. Legion’s absolute Nihilism is well presented without the usual tropes in plain evidence. There’s always a fresh horror from him. His unfetteredness and nihilism make an excellent baseline for the ‘evil’ of the universe. Nihilism is a hell of a drug, kids, and leads to madness.

I also think the book is missing a carnival scene. But then again, I’m a sucker for them. I also wanted more crazy bomb stuff fight scene flip outs from Michaud and Lars, but ah.

The combat scenes are fresh, well done. The weapons properly treated with excellent extensions of characterization through them. The creativity that Russell displays drives the story forward with brazen steps. Lar’s and the rest of the characters’ spirituality treated so delicately as to be art. Ah! There are few flaws and many boons to reading this book!

Overall this book is mos defs a purchase soft-cover, maybe hard-cover kinda book. Sadly, there are only kindle copies available at this time. It is worth a read! It is SUPERVERSIVE. I hope with fervent prayer that we are coming to an era where the dominant voice in Sci-Fi is Christianity! If Russell May joins the luminaries of the Superversives, Castalia House and others, shall not the glory of God be expanded in this genre of atheists, science worshippers and deviants?  DEUS VULT!

Xewleer

I, even I, drink ink like wine.

CASTALIA: “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Dark, Brutal, and the most Superversive movie ever made

Okay, I’ve been waiting ALL YEAR to do the “It’s a Wonderful Life” post for Superversive Tuesday. For those living under a rock, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the endlessly remade and parodied Christmas classic about a man, George Bailey, on the verge of suicide. Before he can complete this ultimate act of despair God (!!!) briefs the witless but kind-hearted angel Clarence on the important details of George’s life, so that he understands the background and context of George’s actions before attempting to save his soul. And that’s where we get our movie.

I’m not going to bother adding spoiler warnings for this film. If you haven’t seen it, do so right now. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is far more than one of the greatest holiday movies ever, it is one of the greatest movies ever made PERIOD. While most famous for its brilliant ending, where Clarence shows George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he didn’t exist, the entire movie is excellent, featuring underrated performances from Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and a rich character study on the level of “A Christmas Carol”. It’s as much of a must-watch movie as “Casablanca” – you really can’t call yourself a fan of films without seeing it.

But the film doesn’t need me to sing its praises. What I want to focus on is a curious kind of nostalgia that I’ve noticed follows this film around. People tend to have this idea that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a happy movie and Bedford Falls almost a platonic ideal of small town life, probably because of its upbeat ending and status as a holiday film (holiday films being rightly notorious for trite sentimentality).

A rewatch dispels such a silly notion very quickly. That is, if anything, the opposite of the truth. Bedford Falls is a coin flip – one life – away from being a terrible, terrible place. Drunken drug store owners beat disabled children. A cruel business tycoon (Mr. Potter, played to perfection by Lionel Barrymore) has near-dictatorial control over half of the town. A man punches George in the mouth moments before the famous suicide scene. There is, of course, much to love about Bedford Falls, but it is not even close to being the ideal of small town life.

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Interesting Article on Christians and Fantasy

An interesting article about the current difficulties of the efforts to write Christian Fantasy:

The real reason that Christians don’t read fantasy

There’s been an ongoing discussion in the Christian speculative-fiction community about why nobody can sell books. This discussion has gone on for years. “Look at our awesome fantasy!” authors cry. “Look at our amazing science fiction! Why doesn’t anybody want to read it?”

The Christians don’t want to read it, and the non-Christians don’t want to read it. So a lot of head-scratching goes on in the community. “What are we doing wrong?”

Read more…

Bronze Sunday

We continue from last week with part two of this Advent series, inspired by the Bohemian folk names for the four Advent Sundays. Last week was iron, this week is bronze:

Bronze Sunday

Bronze shields and spears arranged in ranks,
To form the fearsome Greek phalanx,
Conquered nations far and wide;
Now there’s a new source of Greek pride:

Bold theories and insightful thoughts
That they debate in marble courts.
“Whose wisdom can outshine our own
Or that of our great pantheon?”

Twixt oracles and temples grand
In Athens a small altar stands
Placed there as a reverent nod
To an as yet unknown god.

But soon That Day will come.


For more of my poetry, there are two of my collections available on Amazon:

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CASTALIA: “Futurama” explores the big ideas while avoiding message fiction

Image result for futurama

From left to right: Fry, Bender, and Leela

There will be spoilers to endings of episodes. The subject of the post happens not to depend so much on twists, but even so, I recommend watching the show first before reading my review. In any case, all spoilers here on in are unmarked. You’ve been warned.

The more I think about it, the more I lean towards the conclusion that “Futurama” is not only superversive, it is one of the most superversive shows ever made. “Futurama” is the anti-“Rick and Morty”. Some episodes even share similar concepts in broad strokes – like, for example, the dual classics of “The Late Philip J. Fry” and “Rick Potion #9” (if you don’t see it, check out my original “Rick and Morty” article) – while somehow managing to end up almost completely opposite in tone and message.

In its prime, I think you could make the argument that “Futurama” was one of the funniest shows in television history; I defy you to find the man who can watch “Roswell that ends well” without cracking up. Even so, there are a lot of funny shows out there. What makes “Futurama” consistently different is that it nails its moments of sentiment and emotion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ANY show this good at making me care about its characters. “Luck of the Fryrish” (which actually made me tear up, something I never do), “The Sting”, “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings”, and “Meanwhile” all manage the trick with astounding success, among others.

(We will not speak of “Jurassic Bark”.)

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