From Brian Stavely comes a thoughtful post on depicting the divine in Fantasy over on Tor.com. I’ve included a short beginning here, but read the whole thing at this link to the whole article. Essentially Stavely counts off the ways one can describe a god in epic fantasy fiction–and there are five options. I was thinking through his list, and it’s good, but I think there are at least three more ways to depict a god in epic fantasy, and I humbly offer them up:
Option 6: Use other people’s understanding of the god as description. They might not all be alike, but the confluence, the overlap of them, will give a mosaic feel to your god. It will also create character development for the characters who have seen/or believe in this god, as we tend to see what we desire in our gods. A god’s description in the mouth of one character as a “god of vengeance” is a very different character than someone who calls him “a god of protection.” May be same god.
Option 7: Use tales of the deeds of a god to describe him or her. Actually what a god does says more about him than his/her description. And again, people have tales. If you can gather up the tales of a god, you can capture a character description that readers can fill in as they go. Then if and when the god shows up in your text, it may already have a pretty firm description in the mind of the reader, based on what it has done in the world. God is rarely described in the Bible, but his deeds let you know exactly what kind of God he is.
Option 8: Every culture uses Art to talk about its gods. Can you pull together images of the divine from a culture’s art? That will help form a picture in a reader’s mind through the cultural depictions of the gods, telling you a hell of a lot about the culture, as well as the god. Michaelangelo’s God touching Adam who seems curly headed and benevolent, and other depictions of God as a fiery, anger-filled rage monster.
Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy
by Brian Stavely
There’s a striking moment near the end of the twenty-first canto of Dante’s Inferno, one that almost all readers tend to remember, when the demon Barbariccia “avea del cul fatto trombetta.” It’s hard to put it delicately: he turns his ass into a trumpet. Not the kind of thing you expect out of a writer recording the steps his salvation, but the image stays with you.
Likewise, readers of the Divine Comedy remember Ugolino, who, for the sin of eating his sons, is forever frozen to his neck in ice, gnawing on the brains of Archbishop Ruggieri. In fact, Dante has no trouble at all depicting sinners in the various postures of their suffering, and for seven centuries readers have kept turning the pages. Corporal violence sells. Electronic Arts even has an eponymously titled video game in which Dante looks less like a poet and more like a Muay Thai Knight Templar. The EA people are no fools—they understand that there’s a ready market for brain eating and ass trumpets.
When it comes to the celestial realm of heaven, however, Dante runs into trouble.
READ MORE HERE.
Thanks, Brian and Tor.com!!
Hopefully these suggestions help YOU when writing about Faith in your Fantasy or Science Fiction. Let me know what you think. And don’t forget, you can write about Faith in Fantasy and Science Fiction for the Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods anthology, open for submissions right now over at http://www.tesseracts18.com!
If you’re in Ohio, there’s a new workshop of Writing Faith starting up at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton. A collaboration with First Baptist Dayton and Temple Israel, the workshop is going to be 13 weeks, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30.
The workshop is designed to teach you how to write about Faith–a tricky subject to begin with–but with a long history. Come explore your faith and learn techniques found in Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, Andre Dubus, John Updike, Frederika Mathews-Green, Kathleen Norris and others. While the core may be Jewish and Christian based, there will be readings from other faiths. We hope to create a lasting workshop of multi-faith writers who will continue to write and workshop together.
Follow us on www.writingfaith.net where I’ll be posting short articles about “How to Write about Faith” as we go.
Very proud to announce the new Tesseracts 18 is open for Submissions. We’ve built a website for it at Tesseracts18.com Come check out our conversations about faith and science fiction and fantasy. This anthology is open to Canadian citizens, landed immigrants of Canada, longtime residents and, of course, Canadians living abroad. Yukoners, I hope to see you write a story and submit.
Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods — Faith in Science Fiction & Fantasy
Well this is an all new topic for Tesseracts! And possibly a completely new topic for an anthology: a multi-faith, creative faith anthology of science fiction and fantasy. Who would have thought?
Here’s our thoughts on that kind of anthology:
Jacob wrestled with an angel in the night, earning him the name “Israel”, which means “struggles with god.” Buddha wrestled, and the hero of the Mahabarata wrestled too. Wrestling is a part of faith. Having a faith can help immensely with struggles in our lives, but we also must struggle against the rules, the boundaries, and the very doctrine at times. We all wrestle with our cultures and our gods, whether we believe in them or not. Faith is not passive. Human progress has relied on brave souls willing to challenge convention through their beliefs. And faith is not separate from Fantasy and Science Fiction. Fantastic elements are integral to all major faiths–they have their gods, fantastic creatures, miracles, blessings, power and magic. We continue that journey into space, possibly encountering worlds with their faiths. Since our cultures all began with fantasy and struggling with faith, Tesseracts 18 will continue the Science Fiction and Fantasy tradition of wrestling with Faith, without declaring all-out war.
The anthology will include a diverse representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures. Instead of looking to pass historical or cultural judgement, it will feature character-driven stories including faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith. It will avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures. We’d love to see faith surprise us, and surprise science fiction and fantasy readers.
Some questions we think naturally come from this:
How does Faith inform a culture, change a culture? What does it mean to really believe? What kinds of religions and faiths are out there in the universe? How does faith play out already through established fantasy cultures? How can people keep believing, sometimes with very little evidence? Or is there evidence that is so personal, it is never shown to others? How does faith effect an individual, a family, a city, a society, a race, a conflict, love?
Starting soon, we’ll start posting conversations about how science fiction and fantasy has dealt with faith and religion in the past—just to be able to talk about where we’ve come from, how those representations challenge the genre or challenge readers and writers.
Mostly we just want to create a conversation about faith in fantasy and science fiction–in all its diversity! PLEASE join us. We’ll talk a blue streak with ourselves, but we’d just as soon have as many voices as possible in this conversation.
TO SUBMIT: Borrowed straight from EDGE BOOKS.
- This anthology will include as diverse a representation of both real-world religions and faiths of fictional cultures as possible. Stories should not be looking to pass historical or cultural judgment, instead they should feature character-driven plots that include faith, doubt, miracles, spiritual journeys, and diversity of opinion within a faith. Please avoid blanket stereotypes of faith-based cultures. The editors want to “see faith surprise us”, as well as “surprise science fiction and fantasy readers”.
- The Tesseracts Eighteen anthology will reflect as broad a spectrum of stories as possible; highlighting unique styles and manners.
- Submissions must be speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, supernatural horror, weird tales, alternate history, space opera, planetary adventure, surrealism, superheroes, mythic fantasy, etc.
- Submissions may be either short fiction or poetry.
- The maximum length for stories is 5,000 words, with shorter works preferred.
- The Tesseracts anthology series is only open to submissions from Canadians, landed immigrants living in Canada, longtime residents of Canada, and Canadian expatriates living abroad.
- Canadian authors who write in languages other than English are welcome to submit an English translation of their work, provided it otherwise falls within the parameters of this anthology. Translation into English is the sole responsibility of the author. Please supply details of original publication for any submission that originally appeared in a language other than English.
- Deadline: December 31, 2013 (midnight).
- Do not query before submitting.
- Email submissions to: email@example.com
- Emails MUST contain the word “submission” in the subject line, or they will be deleted automatically by the server. Please also include the story title in the subject line.
- Submissions MUST come in an attachment: only .RTF and/or .DOC formats are acceptable.
- Emails MUST contain a cover letter in the body of the email; for security reasons, email attachments with no cover letter will be deleted unread and unanswered.
- Cover letter: include your name, the title of your story, your full contact information (address, phone, email), and a brief bio. If you do not live in the place where you were born, please also include your place of birth.
- Do not describe or summarize the story.
- If your address is not within Canada, please indicate in the cover letter your status vis-à-vis Canada.
- Reprints (stories having previously appeared in English in any format, print or electronic, including but not limited to any form of web publication) can be considered but will be a hard sell; reprints must come from a source not easily available in Canada. If your submission is a reprint, please supply full publication history of the story. If your story appeared previously, including but not limited to anywhere on the web, and you do not disclose this information to the editor upon submission, you will be disqualified from consideration.
- Submission format: no strange formatting, colour fonts, changing fonts, borders, backgrounds, etc. Leave italics in italics, NOT underlined. Put your full contact information on the first page (name, address, email address, phone). No headers, no footers, no page numbering. DO NOT leave a blank line between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs. ALWAYS put a # to indicate scene breaks (a blank line is NOT enough).
- ALWAYS include your full contact information (name/address/email/phone number) on the first page of the attached submission.
- Payment for short poetry is $20.00. Payment for short stories is prorated as follows: $50 for stories up to 1,500 words, rising to a maximum of $150 for stories up to 5,000 words (longer stories are paid a slightly higher fee, but in order to exceed the word length limit of 5,000 words, the editors must judge a story to be of surpassing excellence.)
- Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.
- Spelling: please use Canadian spelling, as per the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
- Response time: initial responses (no / rewrite request / hold for further consideration) will be prompt, usually within fifteen days. Please query if you’ve not heard back within 30 days. Final responses no later than 15 February 2014.
- Submit only one story or poem. Multiple submissions will not be accepted.
- Simultaneous submissions will not be accepted.
*Image is Jupiter and Io by Antonio Allegri da Correggio (c. 1530)
If you’re talking to someone on the Internet, skyping them and getting to know them, seeing if they’d be cool to date, and you live far across the continent from each other, let me suggest that rather than have one of you fly all the way to the other’s house, that you meet in Seattle instead.
Seattle is a great and easy city to explore–and is neutral territory for both of you. You have the freedom to explore, or not, the city around you. And there’s no pressure to meet friends or relatives on a first date. And everything is new to both of you (or relatively—one of you may have actually visited Seattle). We gave ourselves five days. And this was a good time-frame.
This might work for any couple! Yukoners are always looking for a nice short trip. Maybe you’re already a couple and you want to get out and see a new city. This plan for a Seattle trip will work for you.
1. In Seattle’s favour, they created the CityPass (many large cities offer this) consisting of six fun-filled things you can do at your leisure over nine days for one price ($74). They include the Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle, the EMP museum (science fiction and rock/roll), the Pacific Science Center (with IMAX), a harbour cruise, and a choice between the zoo or the museum of Flight. No tickets up front–so no pressure on when you have to go. You can do them in any order, at any time in nine days. Don’t feel like walking through the zoo? Go to the IMAX. Too foggy for the Needle? Go to the sci-fi/pop culture museum. (Was a great exhibit on the black leather jacket in pop culture–as well as Captain Kirk’s command chair.)
2. Get a hotel next to the majority of these. Let me suggest the Best Western Executive Inn Plus, next door to the Seattle Center. The Seattle Center has three of those six places in the CityPass–plus a lot more. You’d be a block away from The Pacific Science Center, the Needle and the EMP.
3. Bonus: you’ll be next door to the Chihuly Glass Exhibit, and the IMAX, and the Monorail–your connection to some cool places not far away…
Read the rest of this entry »
Well, it’s been awhile since I pumped out some fiction. I’ve been working on a longer novella, hit and miss, for ages, based on my own experiences on Long Island in 2004, and on a longer novel full of fun things. But I just looked at my “written work” section and discovered that I had a good six fiction publications in 2010, but what have I done for you lately? Not a darn thing sold since 2010–and that means not a darn fiction thing written, really. I have sold some nice short pieces to GEEZ, and I’m glad. But for fiction, it’s been awhile.
So, I’m thrilled that I got a story done for the Tesseracts 17 deadline (tonight at midnight). Sent it off yesterday. Hope they like it. But I’m chomping at the bit to get more done. So, I’ll see if I can’t pull off another story or two in March. I have a lot of started stories that lost their way….or which got derailed by work or life or both.
I tell you it was GREAT to get back into writing fiction. I wanted to write stories with werewolves, time travelers, Kings, ghosts–things you just don’t get to see everyday. And I’ve been reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. If Graham Greene wrote about magical creatures…. anyway, glad I’m back into the swing of things, and hope I can keep this up.
Proud that other Yukoners, including my two minions, Santana and Zeb, also found the deadline for Tess 17 to be an adequate kick-your-butt deadline for writing. YAY. Now, let’s see if I can do it without a deadline.
I also purchased an e-book for .99. I have to say it was great reading. Good ideas, and helped push me along. It’s called 2k to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron. One idea of hers, to sketch out a scene before you write it saved me a lot of time. And made the scene crystallize more. I’ve always been a huge note-taker–but her ideas were about making those notes more efficient and more usable for the final writing. Working out scene problems ahead of time–before you sit down–saves time when you sit down.
Anyway, nothing but praise for that book, for Tesseracts 17, and for writing again. Good to be back in the saddle.