Some Peace and Community for Queer Ghosts: Queer Ghost Hunters Series

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I’ve been charmed by a Youtube docu-series: Queer Ghost Hunters. It is unlike anything else in the genre of ghost hunting reality series.

Yes, it’s remarkably well-produced and edited.  It’s funny, and it’s poignant, deeply moving at times.

The Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters accomplishes these things because it’s doing everything so differently than other ghost hunter shows.

  1.  They aren’t reacting to a disturbance or a sighting.  The ghost hunters don’t (so far) go to a place because they’ve been called by folks disturbed by ghost activity.  They are seeking out where they believe queers would have gone in cities and rural areas.  Theatres, prisons, convents.
  2.   The goal is not to get the ghost on tape, or to prove that ghosts exist.  The show takes as a premise that ghosts exist.  Their goal: to provide a safe space for queer ghosts to talk about what it was like living queer in different moments of history.
  3. They’re looking for QUEER ghosts specifically.  Their focus drives their narrative.  They are looking to bring a safe community to a group of queers who can’t move out of their places to find other queers. ( It’s not like ghosts can pack up and go to San Francisco or Greenwich Village.)  The show’s aim is to chat amiably with queer ghosts who may not have had anyone to talk to in their lives about being queer.
  4. All of the ghost hunters fall on the Queer spectrum: genderfluid, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, pansexual, even a bear. 🙂   This is about diversity in the cast as well as diversity in the ghosts, but they are talking about LGBT issues.
  5. This is MORE than just ghost hunting: it is an examination of the history of LGBT people and, in some ways, how people lived, hid, coped with being queer in different places.  In that, it is a reflection–and a chance–for people to talk about what it is to live as queer in any time.

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The Book of Birmingham: Adding Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the Bible

Minister Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching at an eventI would like to see Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) added to all new Bibles.

I don’t propose this lightly.  Three times in the Bible, in three different places, listeners (and they wouldn’t have been readers) are exhorted not to add to, or take away, from specific books.  One is about Revelation, one is specifically to the Israelites in Deuteronomy to listen to the law, and the other is in Proverbs: “Every word of God is true….do not add to his words, lest you be proved a liar.”  I think it’s safe to say that I won’t propose adding any new words of God to the Bible.  I’m advocating something less radical.  If we can have letters from Paul, we can have letters from Martin.

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Jesus in Science Fiction

I started teaching a course that looks at the character of Jesus when he shows up in SJombsfcience Fiction.  Currently the course is only 6 weeks long and only taught at the UDLLI, the University of Dayton’s Lifelong Learning Centre for Senior Adults.  We are using the following short stories and novels in the course, and I will be placing the blogposts of the course over on Wrestling With Gods website because it’s become a great place to talk about religion and faith as it appears in science fiction and fantasy.

What happens to Biblical Jesus when the narrative is continued into the future?  Is it subverted?  Are writers appropriating Christianity to rewrite it and rob the narrative of its miracle, or do they instead seek to expand the notion of Jesus to its infinite possibility?  How does Jesus fare in science fiction and what can we learn about faith when science fiction writers write about him?  We look first at the life of Jesus in the Gospels to ground us in the ur-text, try to gather the importance of him as a character and iconic figure in history, culture and religion.  How is Jesus relevant in the future?  Then we look at how authors extrapolate the future of faith, or seek to tweak history, just a bit, to get the savior they want, and perhaps we can better see what kind of culture we are in the face of our chosen Saviour.

Come follow along over on the Wrestling with Gods site.  Already the class has been exciting as these students know a lot about religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity (UD is a Catholic institution) and many retired professors attend these classes for fun (they also can be quite mischievous).

The works we’re going to explore, and I will detail in blogposts are these:

To get us oriented on Jesus the character in the Bible:

Jesus: the Face of God    Jay Parini

“The Man”     Ray Bradbury from The Illustrated Man

“Mecha-Jesus”     Derwin Mak from Wrestling With Gods

“So Loved”           Matt Hughes from Wrestling With Gods

“The Rescuer”      Arthur Porges

“The Traveler”          Richard Matheson

“The Real Thing”       Carolyn Ives Gilman

 “Let’s Go to Golgotha!”      Garry Kilworth

“The Gospel According to Gamaliel Crucis”   Michael Bishop (a longer work I may not use)

“Jesus Christ in Texas” W.E.B Dubois  (which isn’t exactly Science Fiction, but may prove useful in this study)

Then two novels:

Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock, 

Jesus on Mars   Philip Jose Farmer

 If we have time, “Farewell to the Master,” Harry Bates—Which becomes The Day the Earth Stood Still.  This would be delightful to show to students in a longer class.  To read the short story and then watch both films.  

I can also see adding these works to the syllabus for a longer class:

The Man Who Died         DH Lawrence

Jesus Christ, Animator   Ken MacLeod

All Star Superman       Grant Morrison

Jesus Christs                AJ Langguth

Only Begotten Daughter     James Morrow

If you have suggestions on stories, poems, or novels to add to this list, let me know. Specifically we are NOT covering characters who merely have a “savior-esque” quality to them, or those that have a martyr motif.  I want to look at places where characters are for all intents and purposes supposed to BE Jesus.

 

 

 

Teaching Writing the Spiritual Journey at University of Dayton’s Lifelong Learning Institute

3037998122_307fb8e593_bWriting the Spiritual Journey (UDLLI on the U of Dayton Campus)

Excited to be able to offer this workshop to the University of Dayton’s Lifelong Learning Institute on the River Campus.  6 Weeks and registration information link is below.

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How do you describe the indescribable without sounding preachy or crazy? What if you’ve had bad experiences with faith? Speak it honestly anyway. We need all voices to chart the faith journey. Open to all faiths and believers and seekers, this workshop will use readings and memoir writing exercises in both in-class and take-home assignments. Readings feature Annie Dillard, Langston Hughes, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Mark Doty, John Updike, Elie Wiesel and others. You will give fellow writers feedback in class and will become better equipped to edit your own writing by the end of the workshop.

6 Mondays, January 12 – February 23 (No seminar on January 19)
9:30–11:30 a.m. at River Campus
Seminar Limit: 16

Recommended text: A number of readings in PDF format will be available before the first seminar meeting. These will also be printed out and available as a packet.

Jerome Stueart earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Texas Tech University and has been teaching writing workshops for more than 20 years. He is a 1996 recipient of the Milton Fellowship (now sponsored by the journal Image), designed to foster excellence in writing for Christians. His writing has been published in Geist, Geez Magazine, Joyland and many other journals, anthologies, newspapers and magazines. He is the co-editor of Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods, an anthology of faith-inspired science fiction and fantasy. His first book about religion in an altered-history America, One Nation Under Gods, is forthcoming from ChiZine Publications (November 2015); his collection of short stories follows in 2016.

For information on how to register for this course, please follow this link.

Gays Will Save the Church: my story in Queer Story Archives

As a science fiction/fantasy writer, I just want to remind folks that we aren’t all alike, and we don’t live in just one bubble. My blog has always been about the experience of being a science fiction/fantasy writer and not just reflecting the genre/writing parts—but about my whole experience of being a Yukoner, of having a faith, of being gay–AND being a science fiction/fantasy writer. So this is part of it.

The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited. This is me telling it in less than ten minutes. It feels better in my own words, complete.

We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. I’m placing this over on Talking Dog too.

Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy via Tor.com

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.

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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!

Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods open for submissions

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.

IMG_1094Tesseracts 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:

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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.

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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.

SUBMISSION DETAILS:

    • 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: tesseracts18@edgewebsite.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 from a Chihuly glass exhibit in Seattle, WA