Happy 100th Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Ray Bradbury’s 100th birthday is August 22, and he has always been a huge inspiration to me.

I borrowed my older brother’s copies of Bradbury’s books the first time and couldn’t stop reading his short fiction. I loved his passionate characters who believed so deeply in something they were willing to fight for it.

I read R is for Rocket, S is for Space, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, even later, The Toynbee Convector. I loved the way he wrote—the prose just sings with joy! And I love the monologues of characters on the brink of getting what they need! I have taught The Martian Chronicles as a perfect short story collection—connected, multi-character, and those stories have affected my stories.

I got the amazing chance to meet him when I was 21, (I think I was 21), when he came to Lubbock, Texas. He spoke at length about his garage doors he designed for the Smithsonian exhibit, and about writing the screenplay for Moby Dick, the movie. He also talked a little about Mars. Afterwards, I stood in line to get my book signed, The Martian Chronicles, and to meet him. Just as I got to the front of the line, as I was about to say something to him, a woman butted up in front with a stack of opened Bradbury books, about ten of them, slapped the stack of books on the table like a tower, said to him that this “wouldn’t take long” ( she might have been part of the team responsible for the event. I don’t know) and urged him to sign them quickly. But then she grabbed her daughter and gave her a camera and pulled Ray to the side, as he was trying to sign the books, for a photo with her, swiveled him around in the chair like a puppet, threw an arm around him and smiled big.

When he had finished signing, finally, and she had gone, he looked at me and I guess somehow we connected, and he decided to make up for her rudeness by spending extra long with me. I mean there was a line behind me, but for a moment, we were conspirators in the slog she made him go through before he could talk to me.

Me: I read all of your work. It’s amazing. It inspired me to be a writer. I write stories too. I am a writer because of you.

Ray: Are you sending your stories out?

Me: (stuttering, faltering) Well…I

Ray: I wrote a story every week. I started on Monday and ended on Saturday and mailed it off. Now all of them weren’t that good. But I had a better chance of making a sale if I kept writing anyway. If you are writing 52 stories a year, a few of them have to be pretty good, right? I had a better chance with 52 of them in circulation than I did with one or two.

He looked me in the eye, “Send your stories out.”

I feel like I got a blessing from Ray Bradbury that day. A challenge. The gauntlet thrown!

I’ve never written a story a week! Lol. But I would like to push myself more.

I felt like he encouraged me to believe in myself, anyway, no matter how good or bad I thought a story was.

This little interview with him below is wonderful! I hope you enjoy his spirit and his love of life! I felt this was something about Ray I resonated with. That love. I miss his writing. He died at 91 years of age.

Happy Birthday, Ray! Thank you for your stories, your love of life, and for those precious, life-changing few extra minutes with me.

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is finalist for Eugie Foster Memorial Award

Very happy and honored to tell you that my novelette, “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Mar/Apr 2019) is a finalist for the 2020 Eugie Foster Memorial Award!

The Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction (or Eugie Award) celebrates the best in innovative fiction. This annual award is presented at Dragon Con, the nation’s largest fan-run convention. Starting with the 2020, we will add a video presentation of the award online, along with a reading of a section of each finalist.


The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. We will be looking for stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate, and change us and the field. The recipient is a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.

—from the Eugie Award website http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward

You can learn on the website what a wonderful writer and person Eugie Foster was, and about her legacy. I’m deeply honored to be on a list recognized by those associated with her.

Four other writers are also featured with their stories:

A Civilization Dreams of Absolutely Nothing” by Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com)

The House Wins in the End” by L Chan (The Dark)

Love in the Time of Immuno-Sharing” by Andy Dudak (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward

I’ve had a wonderful two days just telling people that I became a finalist and receiving so much positive feedback. I kinda feel that being a finalist with all these cool authors and stories is its own reward! It’s really filled my soul with love in this very tumultuous time.

There are still many changes to make in the world. We will make them! Today, it was nice to feel loved.

PS. Yes that is my illustration for the story. It was something created way after the story was accepted and in print… but it was fun to doodle.

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.

 

 

 

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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Space-Quakers: Why Quakers and Quakerism Can Find a Home in Science Fiction

Jo Walton has a nice 2009 review of Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day over on Tor.com.  This is another book to add to your reading list if you like faith represented in science fiction/fantasy, and want to present faith reasonably well–without being preachy, or limiting a faith.  Certainly this book caught my attention.  I went to a seminar once on Quakers in Science Fiction which rattled off quite a few of those books.  I no longer have that list with me, but there is an annotated list of Quaker references in science fiction at adherents.com site.  Let me hit some highlights for you, and then give you the link to Jo Walton’s essay on Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day.

Some of the books with major Quaker themes/ characters/ plot lines include:

Nancy Kress  CROSSFIRE

David E. Morse  THE IRON BRIDGE

Judith Moffett  PENNTERRA

Joan Slonsczewski  A DOOR INTO OCEAN, STILL FORMS ON FOXFIELD, THE WALL AROUND EDEN

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A Flood of Great Writing Techniques in Noah: (Re)-Writing/Expanding Sacred Stories

Russell Crowe as NoahLet me praise Aronofsky’s Noah for its fleshing out of an iconic thin narrative of Noah in the Bible and making it a story.

The story of Noah in the Bible is relatively sparse.  Noah never says anything.  God does all the talking.  In the movie, well, God may be doing some communicating, but since the narrative is told more from the ground, from Noah and his family’s perspective, Noah is the main character, making choices.

Making choices.  I think that’s an important thing to highlight.  One of the strange ironies of religious life, it seems, is that the closer we get to our God, whomever that may be, the seemingly fewer choices we get–until we are the Hand of God, the Feet of God, the Puppet of God.  I don’t think this is really the case.  But depiction in movies and books sometimes have us think characters who are devoted to their god cease to think and act based completely on the commands of God.  One should add “the interpretation of what they believe to be” between “on” and “the” in that last sentence. Because in many cases, believers have to do a lot of interpreting.

The movie holds out that question to answer.  Certainly Noah has to decide HOW he is hearing God.  He gets parts right—there is going to be a flood.  God wants him to build an ark.  The animals are going to come and get on board the boat.  After that, though, Noah is subject to some speculation and extrapolation when he can’t really hear a clear answer from God.

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Bajorans and the Evolving Trek View of Faith

I have to admire Star Trek for the way they evolved on matters of faith, by showing the complexity and the cultural aspects of faith, and how religion impacted society, at least in one series.

Star Trek hasn’t always been like this. Faith and Religion seem to be the target of early Gene Roddenberry design. In TOS and STNG, faith and spirituality were often shown to be merely a way to manipulate the masses (hello, Karl Marx). Both Kirk and Picard showed the natives that their gods were machines (“The Return of the Archons”) and (“The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”), usually, or fickle higher powers prone to jealousy (“Who Mourns for Adonis”, and “The Apple” come to mind from TOS), or merely keeping people young and stupid for the whim of the gods (STNG “Who Watches the Watchers?” ) or (VOY: “The Caretaker”). Worse was when a believer realized that his/her faith was empty (VOY: “This Mortal Coil”, or VOY: “Emanations”).

In STNG, Q also represented the gods at their most amoral and irresponsible. A whole slew of gods that were bored but fascinated with humans (HUMANS are the object of everyone’s curiosity… what, no god wanted to explore Betazoid culture? ) What a scary concept for a higher power.

But Deep Space Nine seemed to want to explore religion and faith a bit more deeply. True, the requisite aliens were present in the Wormhole next to Bajor, but Roddenberry wasn’t beyond saying that gods could be higher forms of life that we don’t understand. Certainly I agree.  My concept of God is that he is a much higher form of life—an alien, yes, but still God. But unlike Q, the gods of Bajor, the Prophets, care for the people of Bajor. They are higher life inside the wormhole and emotionally attached to a humanoid species.

Bajorans themselves are almost all religious, having to deal with the reality of gods who live in the wormhole. The gods intervene in history; they send little Orbs that light up and give you prophecies, and Bajoran faith has completely mixed with politics in a way that is eerily similar and yet very different than American culture today. The US may not have preachers as politicians, but they have politicians who think they are preachers, and who create laws as if God himself were speaking to them. At least Bajor is up front: it’s the Pope in charge of the world, thank you very much.

I give DS9 a lot of stones for making this faith and religion complex.

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MARCH 1st deadline for Clarion Workshop 2015 application

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If you’re thinking about investing in your writing as a science fiction and fantasy writer, Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in San Diego is a good deal–and your application is due MARCH 1st.  Six weeks of time with other writers like you, with six amazing published writers in your field.  You and your work are taken seriously there.  I encourage you to investigate the options at Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop in San Diego.

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Writing Courageously Through the Lenten Season

abstract trees grass sacred skyscapes photomanipulations 2560x1600 wallpaper_www.wallpaperhi.com_54Writing is a Sacred tradition in many cultures.  We revere the books that come from these cultures.  It’s also a very sacrificial act, one that takes a lot of courage, honesty, and time.  I’d like to talk about writing during Lent.

Traditionally, Lent gives some 46 days to prepare for Easter, a time of preparation for Christians for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross (and the subsequent cool resurrection part).  The idea was that you were not just shocked, surprised, pleased, and quickly through Easter, but that you could think –over 46 days– about the impact this one act of self-sacrifice did for your faith.  It’s mirrored in some ways by Advent.

But whereas Advent is about preparing for joy–a baby, a baby! Lent is about preparing for death and transition.

Christians often give up something for Lent–so that whenever they crave it, they will think of what Christ gave up for them.  Chocolate and Life are not comparable; however, the idea is to be aware of the season through this sacrifice.  Call it the best mindfulness exercise the Christians have come up with yet.

That said, whether you are Christian or not, we can take the Lenten Season to think about Faith, and perhaps, write about it.  Or at least ask ourselves to write with more courage, more honesty, and more faith than we have in the past.

Writers are plagued with insecurity and negative thoughts.  Let’s put those on the altar of Lent and say, hey, no more of these.  We are afraid sometimes of writing our Truth and giving it to others.  And we often have a lack of faith in our own abilities and ideas.

Lent leads us up to celebrating Life from Death.  I don’t want to co-opt Jesus’s very big moment, but he too had a very big mission, and it got harder and harder to be honest, to be courageous and to follow through on what his mission was.

What I want to do is to ask writers to write for 46 days– science fiction, fantasy, memoir, essay, poetry–and write with more courage, more honesty and more faith than you ever have before.  I also challenge you to write a little about faith.

It’s important for us as writers to believe in ourselves and our writing, to give up negative thoughts and insecurities, preparing our hearts to more honestly talk about Life.  There is a lot of struggling that goes on in writing if we are to be honest–and struggling with being honest–and so, for 46 days, let the honesty flow.  Be yourself.  Be creative.  Be courageous. Be honest.  GIVE UP negative thoughts that question YOUR mission, and Create and GIVE something honest and courageous to the World.