Communion, my art show, up at FBC Dayton, coming to Christopher’s Restaurant in June

UPDATE: These paintings and more are going to be hanging up at Christopher’s Restaurant in Kettering, OH in June! So happy! You can see them in person if you come by Christopher’s in June!

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March 26, 2019

Ever feel like one of the best times at church was actually AFTER church at the coffee fellowship? Where you all caught up with everyone’s lives? Where you shared the good news about your new job? Your new apartment? Or shared the loss of a relationship? Things that you may not be able to do in a service—and you receive things here that you may not be able to get in a service either. You get to share something with family, receive praise, encouragement, sympathy—become a community together.

So, I made a set of paintings picturing our church members having coffee together, as part of our regular coffee fellowship that happens after formal church services. I wanted to talk about how the informal coffee we have together is very much like Communion, in that it fosters community. While Communion is a very theological concept of remembering the life and death of Jesus, communion is also a way that a group commits to a larger mission together–to care about each other. My church members went along with my idea by sitting for photographs that I then turned into paintings.

I’ll probably add a few more to this set. I am going to try and shop around this show to area cafes and restaurants to see if anyone would like to show it. (Yeah, like Christopher’s! See Update!)

I also painted our church as a welcoming and affirming Baptist church, so the Pride flag is there…

Prints are available if you would like to have me make them. Just DM me here in the comments or contact me through my email on the About Me page and I can make a print. Email me: jeromestueart@gmail.com

Putting them together for First Fridays! They will be separated again when they are up at Christopher’s Restaurant in June, but I wanted to see them all together here.

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” published in F&SF + Some featured Jazz

My story has been published in F&SF for the March/April 2019 issue. I’m so happy about that.

An old jazz-playing faun has the chance to get back everything that was taken from him a hundred years ago, if he can take it from his only student. The story has Jazz, Mentoring and Hope as themes. It also asks the question: how do you change your own life?

My two characters, a young college football player who wants to become a jazz musician, and an old faun who just wants to be a part of the world again, struggle and fail and attempt again this massive turn in their lives, together. At one point, one of the characters says, “I feel like I’m this tiny tugboat trying to turn this massive life around.” And that’s one of the questions I wanted to pose–how do you do that? I hope you find these characters as inspiring as I did.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

I mention an organization I used to work for in my twenties when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program under the Missouri Folk Arts Program. An example of their work is here–pairing two musicians together, a master and an apprentice, much like Mr. Dance and Eric in the story.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction (from io9)

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.

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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.

The 7 Deadly Sins Of Religion In Science FictionEXPAND

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

Catholic-friendly Babylon 5: Some thoughts from Declan Finn

babylon5castI’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.

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Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods Cover Reveal

T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Happy Bodhi Day!  Tesseracts 18 has a COVER!  I’m very excited to show you the new cover for Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods, the new anthology of science fiction and fantasy from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, latest in the long running, award-winning Tesseracts anthology series.

The Tesseracts Eighteen anthology is filled with speculative offerings that give readers a chance to see faith from both the believer and the skeptic point-of-view in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife.

The work is now available as an e-book download for Amazon Kindle, exclusively, until it’s available in print in March (Canada) and April (USA) and in other e-book formats.  Keep watching for more on Tesseracts 18 in the coming weeks!  Order your Amazon Kindle e-book today–just in time for some holiday reading.

On a personal note, I’m incredibly proud of this anthology! I have enjoyed multiple readings of the stories and poems included and I would say these represent the best of Canadian science fiction and fantasy–stories that also happen to speak on faith and religion in some way.  I think you’ll be surprised how easily science fiction and fantasy speaks on these topics–and remember classic stories and novels that have always spoken about faith.

Click on the cover to take you to Amazon’s Tess 18 site where you can purchase an Amazon Kindle download.  Again, print versions come out in the spring, as well as other ebook editions.

Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.

About the Editors for Tesseracts Eighteen:
Liana Kerzner is an award-winning TV producer & writer who was also in front of the camera as co-host of the late night show Ed & Red’s Night Party, and is currently the host/writer of Liana K’s Geek Download, heard weekly on the internationally syndicated radio program Canada’s Top 20.

Jerome Stueart has taught creative writing for 20 years, teaches a workshop called Writing Faith and has been published in Fantasy,
Geist, Joyland, Geez, Strange Horizons, Ice-Floe, Redivider, OnSpec, Tesseracts Nine, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts Fourteen,
and Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead. His novel,One Nation Under Gods, will be published in Nov 2015 from ChiZine.

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For more on Bodhi Day–the Day Buddhists commemorate the Enlightenment of Buddha– see this link.

Writing Your Faith: Workshop offered in January at the United Church

Olya telling me the Russian Faith and Light Movement StoryWhat is Faith to you?  How do you think about it?  How do you put it into words–to tell someone else what it means to you?  Does it only appear when you are going through struggles?  Is it constant like gravity?  I like this photograph by Grigory Kravchenko.  The woman looks up, but it looks as if she’s giving God a good talking to.  Faith seems to take place over coffee, and in a gritty real-world setting.

Starting January 21st (it was the 14th, but we canceled the first class due to extreme temps, -38C), the Whitehorse United Church and I have teamed up to offer a class in Writing Your Faith.  How do we put into words what is ineffable?

We’ll be looking at a lot of writers who have done just that.   Some you will find more effective for your style of writing than others.

While the majority of works that we look at will be of the Christian variety, they will not be texts that marginalize you.   They will be authors who struggle with the same kinds of questions that most people do when they are talking about a greater being in the world and how they interact with that being.  We’re not reading the selections to pick up content—it’s not an evangelical endeavor.  What we’re doing is looking at how people talk about their Faith, whatever their Faith might be.  So we’re picking up tips.  And those tips are good to use whether you are writing about yourself as a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or Agnostic.

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Talking Dog gives Gay Christian Resources: my other project

via Flickr and the Creative Commons licenseTalking Dog is one of my other blogs, hopefully a good resource for gay Christians.  There are a lot of good gay christian websites out there, and so I decided merely to become a portal so that you could find resources.  Mostly I wanted to provide all the information that anyone might need to investigate the whole issue for themselves.  Debates swirl about and people need to know the truth.  It was websites like the one I created that helped me when I needed information.  I needed resources.  I couldn’t ask anyone out loud about them, and I didn’t know a gay Christian.

Many of you might recognize the Talking Dog in my title–it comes from “Believing in the Dog” which was the short story that I entered into PSAC’s Anti-Homophobia Week’s contest over two years ago.  In the story, I had a man go out into the woods in January at night to kill himself–just sit out under a tree and freeze.  There was a talking dog in there–and as the author, I knew I couldn’t save the man’s life without making the black lab into a talking dog.  That I had to bend reality into fantasy to save the character.  I had wished that there were more talking dogs in the world–or that we would become the talking dogs in someone’s life.  The story won the contest, and Darrell Hookey, always encouraging me forward, helped me (i.e. pulled me off the floor crying) when it came time to print my name beside it in What’s Up Yukon.

It’s my way of giving back to the community what it gave me.  Maybe there’s someone else out there who’s questioning their faith and their sexuality.  Who knows?   They might just need a Talking Dog.

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For more on the blog, I have this page.