Can you take Little Tokyo to Mars? Find out in my second place award-winning short story, “For a Look at New Worlds” up at the Discover Nikkei website. This story was part of the Imagine Little Tokyo Writing Contest held late last year, sponsored by the Little Tokyo Historical Society. My story won second place for stories in English in the adult category and asks the question every immigrant knows: what can I take with me when I leave this place? Discover Nikkei has graciously published it. Very thankful for Imagine Little Tokyo for putting on this great event!
Writing Faith (Spiritual Memoir and Fiction):
12 week course
First Baptist Church, Dayton, OH.
Tuesdays, 5:30-8:30pm, Sept 1-Nov 17, 2015. (Shared Potluck)
How do you write about your spiritual journey–about how you have changed, the difficulties of living a spiritual life, the joys? Are there things that need to be said to our children, family or friends or the world? This course will explore writing spiritual autobiography, biography and memoir as well as writing fiction. No previous writing experience needed, but those who like writing and reading and would like to deepen what they know should feel very welcome. All faiths and seekers welcome. Readings provided. Weekly shared potluck dinner. You’ll deepen friendships over food and writing. Whether you are writing for yourself, your family, or for others who might find inspiration or understanding in your story, come join this 12 week journey and learn how to write memoir and fiction and explore how we wrestle with faith. Learn to help other writers find their voice and become better writers. Create this writers workshop with us–a workshop that could stay stable, and offer a great resource, for many years to come. Writing Faith is taught by Dr. Jerome Stueart, author, editor and writing teacher with 20 years teaching experience in writing. Sept 1- Nov 17, Tuesday evenings. There is a $120 fee for this course, or $10 per session, and scholarships available. See Rev. Jason Alspaugh at FBC Dayton for more information or call the office at 937-222-4691. Limit 20 participants.
Readings provided include Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Mark Doty, John Updike, Faith Adiele, Annie Dillard, Virginia Stem Owens, Andre Dubus, and many others.
Very honoured to be chosen to work with Sandra Kasturi of ChiZine Publications as a guest co-editor for Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing which features, yes, as advertised, the best speculative writing of Canadians from 2014. This will be published in September, I think. Follow the link above to see the Table of Contents.
Believe me, there were more amazing stories and poems than we could have possibly picked for one volume. These were hard choices, some of them, frankly, excruciating–but a 600 page volume was something that ChiZine said wasn’t possible for us at this time.
Congratulations to all who were chosen for this volume. There is a significant list of Honourable Mentions that you’ll see in the book.
Damn, but Canadians are writing well. That’s all I can say.
So happy too to have Margaret Atwood writing the Introduction to this collection.
For the Table of Contents please follow this link:
Reoters: [Dayton, Ohio] Dr. Harold Finnegan says he’s cleared his calendar on Monday and Tuesday as HBO has called him and 27 other local colleagues to be ready for distraught fans of the hit HBO TV series.
“We’ve sorta been warned,” he told us over the phone. “We’ve each received The Fax,” he said. He says it like you’d expect someone to talk about a subpoena.
The Fax: Sent by showrunners DB Weiss and Daniel Benioff, the Fax contains what is going to happen on Sunday night’s Finale episode and includes deaths, violence, even the words to “The Rains of Castamere”. They sent this fax to major cities around the US to prepare for the unprecedented outpouring of grief for at least two beloved characters on the show (and several not so beloved ones). We were not able to see the Fax ourselves.
“Cincinnati and Columbus and Toledo and Cleveland are prepared as well,” he told us. “There are hundreds of us who were asked to clear calendars for the whole week. I was able to ask other clients who had lost loved ones to hold off for another week or so and allow me to take Monday and Tuesday, at the very least, and reserve them exclusively for the fans of this show.
(For more of these Explorations of Faith in Science Fiction and Fantasy, see Wrestling with Gods blog where this was first published)
[SPOILERS if you have not yet seen last Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode “Dance of Dragons”]
Sunday’s Game of Thrones shocked many with its depiction of a father who decides to sacrifice his only daughter and heir to his name in order to Win the Throne. George RR Martin may not have put it in his books yet—but he did tell the showrunners, DB Weiss and Dan Benioff, that this was definitely coming. I don’t want to address the level of violence in the show. I think its characters are appropriate to their world. We have seen beheadings, slayings, burnings, stabbings, as well as rape, mutilation, etc. from good and bad characters. This is the world Martin has written, so by those rules this is how our characters react to crisis and achieve goals. It is profound then that level, compassionate heads are in short supply these days (and being mounted on spikes every season). I count Tyrion, Doran, Jon, Samwell, Varys, Margeary, Olenna, and a handful of others as being the people I would listen to if I lived in Game of Thrones. The Hound and Dario might have the most practical means of getting through this world alive, but I wouldn’t want to become them, so I wouldn’t want them as advisors.
Who one listens to—having good advisors—is a form of power, no different than a Valyrian sword, I will say. We all cheered when Dany and Tyrion met because, frankly, Dany could use some good advisors. Her decisions have been erratic–as she seeks to maintain power in a desperately sinking cultural situation.
I want to highlight three “gods” or specifically, three “speakers” for their gods who have become either advisors or powerful people themselves, and ask questions about the ideas that Martin brings out (or the showrunners highlight). I want to look at how an author might use religion or faith in his or her work to mirror, echo, or highlight something in our own culture.
Back in 2009, Charlie Jane Anders published a nifty blogpost on io9 in the midst of the BSG finale, last of the LOST episodes, and after the aftermath of Heroes, about how NOT to put religion in your science fiction. Things she was tired of seeing, but also things she believed you might also be tired of seeing. The blog post still feels relevant, though you can argue her points. It challenges us to come up with ways to avoid putting faith in science fiction badly. Try putting one of your “deadly sins” of putting religion in science fiction (or fantasy) in the comments section here–and let’s see if we can come up with our own version of this list.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction.
Religion is a huge part of science fiction – and it makes the genre better and more fascinating, as Battlestar Galactica proved. But there are seven mistakes SF should avoid in portraying the spiritual realm.
BSG wouldn’t have been nearly as epic if it hadn’t included spiritual themes from the beginning. The inclusion of religious elements added a way bigger scope and grandeur to the story of humanity’s last remnants struggling to survive – and it was realistic, since you’d expect people to be asking the big theological questions in that situation.
In general, religion and spiritual topics are a huge part of science fiction – if you’re really determined to avoid them altogether, you’re probably stuck with a few golden age novels, and a handful of Lost In Space reruns. But just like other science fiction elements, like first contact, time travel and space battles, science fictional religion can be done well – or it can be cheesy and weird.
Here are seven mistakes science fiction sometimes makes in handling religion (and I freely admit I was influenced to think about this by all the comments on Annalee’s final BSG recap and some of our other posts):
1. The cargo cult. Yes, I know, the gods really must be crazy. But I’m really sick of stories about primitive peoples who discover high technology and start worshipping it. Or the descendants of high-tech people, who have become primitive and started worshipping their ancestors’ technology. Like the Ewoks worshipping C-3PO, or the desert people worshipping the spacesuit in Doctor Who‘s “Planet Of Fire.” There’s usually an undertone of “See? This proves religion is teh stupid.” Also horrible: robots worshipping the people who made them, or aliens worshipping humans. Or aliens worshipping Ferengi.
2. The cheap Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with having a messianic figure in your science fiction – I’m not trying to take all the fun out of everything here – but don’t just pull the Jesus imagery out of thin air and expect it to mean something. Yes, I’m looking at you, crucified Neo. And I’m looking at you, Jesus H. Baltar. (And even though I love the ending of Doctor Who‘s “Last Of The Time Lords,” I’m also looking at you, floaty cruciform Doctor.) The indispensible TVTropes website has a great list of “random religious symbolism tossed in for no reason” moments.
3. The dumb space gods. Whenever we actually meet a god or gods in science fiction, it’s almost always a letdown. (There are exceptions – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine managed to have our heroes meet the timeless Prophets inside the wormhole, without ever losing their mystique.) Usually, though, when we meet a god or a godlike alien, it’s a cheesy old guy with a funny beard. Or it’s Jodie Foster’s condescending dad.
For the other 4 deadly sins…. seek out this link: http://io9.com/5185748/the-7-deadly-sins-of-religion-in-scien
I’m late to the game in loving Babylon 5, having dismissed it for years because everyone said it was “better than Star Trek” and that I “should” watch it. I resist those kinds of marketings. Tell me I “should” do something and I naturally resist. This is why I only joined Team Harry Potter long after Book 7 was published. I certainly didn’t like the implications that B5 might be better than Star Trek.
Be that as it may, I have now binge-watched the whole series. I was waiting to do an essay on the religion and faith I found embedded in Babylon 5, but I think this essay, originally on Right Fans, captures something of that–and so I’ll put it on the table to consider. I’ll start the article here, and then provide a link so you can finish it.
I think the author does a great job at highlighting the Catholic-friendly parts of Babylon 5. I think there’s room for me and others to discuss the other faiths in Babylon 5 as well, and when Straczynski goes full tilt away from organized religion. Still Babylon 5 is a great example of weaving in faith subtly into a story. It also deals with multiple faiths well and shows a kind of Buddhist nature at accepting all those faiths together. (You can click on the title to go to the full article, or read part here and follow the link at the bottom of the excerpt.)
More on Babylon 5 soon.
Stephanie remarks: For many years, I’ve wanted to write an extended essay on the Catholic-friendly philosophical and spiritual undertones of Babylon 5, so when Declan sent this to me, I squealed like a little girl. One day, when I have more time, I will write an extended addendum; for now, please enjoy Declan’s contribution!
While I have been both a cradle Catholic and a cradle geek, I can honestly say that the two rarely intersected for a good chunk of my life. Most of the time, my thoughts on faith and science fiction consisted of wondering why the starship Enterprise was a naval vessel without a chaplain.
Then the year was 1993, and the name of the show was Babylon 5.
While never as big a hit as Star Trek, Babylon 5 – or simple B5, as fans call it – was one of the few science fiction shows that fought and won against the Star Trek franchise without being run over by the monolith.
But one thing that made it special was religion.
Originally, Babylon 5 had been easily dismissed as a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ripoff, even though the creator, Joseph Michael Straczynski (best known as simply JMS) had pitched Babylon 5 to paramount the year before Deep Space 9. Even my family were a little wary of it at first. It was fun, but nothing particularly special.
Then came the episode By Any Means Necessary. A subplot revolved around an alien ambassador trying to obtain an artifact necessary for his religious ritual. The ritual involved burning a plant in the sunlight that touched a particular mountain on a particular day. Since they’re in space, the ambassador had to acquire the plant, and lead the ceremony at the same time as his people back home. When the station Commander finds a way to get the required plant, it was too late, the time had past. Until science fiction and faith collided. As the commander says:
What you forgot to take into account, is that sunlight also travels through space….The sunlight that touched the …. mountain 10 of your years ago, will reach this station in 12 hours …. But it’s still the same sunlight.
The ambassador agrees, and comments, “Commander, you’re a far more spiritual man than I give you credit for.”
The commander answers, “There are a couple of Jesuit teachers I know who might disagree with you.”
Welcome to Babylon 5, with the first openly Catholic commander in science fiction. My family was hooked.
Later on, in Season 2, there were two strong episodes that hit home. The first was called Comes the Inquisitor. The plot was simple: our heroes are in a war with an ancient enemy that make Sauron inLord of the Rings look nice, and an alien ally known as the Vorlons want to make certain that one of our heroes, named Delenn, is in it for the right reasons. What are the wrong reasons? To be a hero! To be adulated! To be the leader of a holy crusade!
Follow this link for the rest of the article.