Democracy Or Oligarchy?

Sample BallotYesterday after I voted, I tweeted that I prefer a democracy even though it’s not perfect. The thing is, I’m beginning to feel as if I’m not living in a democracy any more. There’s more than one reason, but the prevailing one at present is that so few people vote!

I know this is the low of my state, but in Los Angeles County, only 29.4% of registered voters managed to make it to the polls yesterday. Never mind that not all who are eligible have bothered to register.

Sure, part of living in a free country is that no one makes you do your duty. But these numbers mean we no longer have a majority of the people deciding important issues or choosing which candidates will serve in important offices.

Take our county assessor, for example. Just this year there was a scandal in the office and the chief assessor was charged with corruption. In the contest to replace him, there’s a 50.2% versus 49.8% split—about as close as you can get. But in reality, whichever candidate wins (I understand they’re still counting mail-ins) will do so with the approval of 14.6% of the registered voters.

That’s a mere handful of citizens essentially dictating to the rest of us who will move into an office that needs to be cleaned of its corruption. Did “we” get the right guy or did “we” vote in someone who will continue doing business as usual?

The point is, there is no “we” in our elections any more. Even for those who vote, making a decision is more apt to be choosing the party line, which means someone else is making the decisions and telling their followers how to vote. Some, to be sure, listen to political ads on TV and let the people who pour thousands of dollars into producing slick sound bites determine how they should vote. But is that any better than voting the party line?

Often times trusting in TV commercials means trusting in those with the most to gain if you vote their way, but who they are is something you have to dig to uncover.

I realize that part of why voter turn out is low stems from this very problem. People feel less empowered by voting than in the past. Who they choose likely won’t change things, and if there is someone who has good ideas, it’s hard to figure out who they are or what they believe in because of the attacks hurled at them from the other side.

But here’s what bothers me about voters: all this “work” seems too hard. We actually have to pay attention to what’s going on, to listen to who does or doesn’t endorse a candidate, to read up on what he says he wants to do if elected.

I have to say, people in fledgling democracies put us to shame. They know what it’s like to have zero voice in how their government is run. By our voting habits, you’d think that’s the kind of government we are trying to create here in the US.

Maybe we should revoke voting privileges that aren’t exercised. If a person doesn’t vote in a five year span, for example, they will be banned from voting for life. I mean, they’ve shown they don’t take their responsibility seriously, so why should they get to fire in and vote whenever it jolly well pleases them?

I’m not actually serious about that idea, but I have noticed, people care about things they may actually lose more than things they feel entitled to own, whether they use them or not. So I can’t help but wonder, if we were faced with the possibility of losing the right to vote, might we actually start exercising it?

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Anything For A Story

Sea_Cliff_Bridge_During_Rain_StormWestern society lives for pleasure–an adrenaline high or sexual titillation or culinary delights–if it feels good, then that’s what we want. The sad thing is that the parts of our day that don’t feed into these wants are often considered boring or second rate or something to be endured, to be gotten through.

Any wonder, then, that TV ads tell stories or make people laugh? The motto seems to be, whatever it takes to keep people entertained. Horrors if a product is described in boring terms. Why, even the dire warnings about possible side effects to prescription drugs are communicated in soothing tones while pictures of active, healthy seniors playing golf or basketball or swimming speed past our eyes.

So it’s not a surprise that TV news has joined the entertainment business. That happened some time ago. The sensational gets a hearing, especially if it comes with pictures.

What seems to be a new twist to this scenario, however, is the interpretation of facts to make them entertaining, one way or the other!

This tendency seems particularly noticeable here in SoCal concerning our weather. Maybe the meteorologists are simply tired of having nothing much to talk about, but I think it has more to do with creating a sensation. That, it seems, is now the role of TV news.

As most people have heard, all of California has been experiencing a drought. But at long last, news poured in this week that we had rain in the forecast. But not just any rain. We were looking at the BIGGEST STORM in YEARS! In fact, the “in years” turns out to be the biggest to hit the southland in three years.

Well, yes, since we’ve been having a drought during that time, there haven’t been any big storms. So this storm that has triggered mandatory evacuations and sandbagging and the construction of berms and barricades–to keep runoff out of homes and high surf out of neighborhoods–isn’t actually a particularly large one if you were comparing it to the storms in a non-drought year.

But the news media can’t pass up an opportunity to sensationalize even the weather. We can’t simply celebrate the fact that we’re getting rain, that farmers who have dealt with the lack of water, and ranchers who have had to truck in feed for their cattle, and small towns that have seen their wells dry up, are getting a little help.

Rain can’t be good. It can’t be an answer to prayer, most assuredly. Instead it has to be sensational. The irony of it all is that the one mention I heard of the rain and its affect on the drought was that it would help very little.

Sure, I get that this one storm isn’t going to replenish the lakes and rivers that have steadily shrunk over the last several years. But no help?

Must the story always be woe and beware? Well, yes, apparently the extreme and the dire fit the entertainment model, so that’s the kind of news we get. Even for the weather.

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on Anything For A Story  
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The Attack Has Begun

Photo by Gage Skidmore

No sooner did Rick Santorum sweep the three Republican primary or caucus races yesterday than the attacks began. As I’ve noted from time to time on Facebook, Mr. Santorum has escaped the scurrilous invectives up to this point because there’s nothing horrific in his background that lends itself to attack. Leave it to his opponents to find one: his religion. (He identifies himself on his Facebook page as a Christian – Roman Catholic).

The particular recrimination I saw most recently has a picture of Mr. Santorum on the left and one of Osama bin Laden on the right. Under Mr. Santorum’s picture is the caption, “This guy thinks religious law should override secular law.” Under Bin Laden the caption reads, “So does this guy.”

Well, assuming the person who put that bit of “humor” together had in mind some of Mr. Santorum’s socially conservative views, such as pro-life, that’s a pretty effective way of dismissing him as a nut no one need listen to. How sad! If you form an opinion based on selfishness or greed, it is fine if you want to supersede secular law with something new. But if your opinion is formed by a religious admonition such as “You shall not murder,” suddenly you’re viewed as a terrorist.

Of course his views on homosexual marriage received an immediate mention, too — as if this “secular law” has been around for centuries and suddenly this religious freak comes along and wants the rest of society to bend to his God’s laws. Well, news flash. The law of the land here in the bulk of the fifty states of the US is that marriage is between one man and one woman. The people trying to force a change are not the religious “nuts” but those who wish to redefine terms that have been in place for as long as this nation has been in existence.

But this caricature of Mr. Santorum serves a purpose — it demonstrates that there’s really nothing else his opponents can go after except the policies they hate so much, the ones they desperately want to keep out of the White House. All the “gains” the liberals saw under President Obama — specifically, government funded abortions here and abroad, aborted-fetal-tissue stem cell research, the movement toward socialized medicine — will come to an end.

At the least, now that the media can no longer ignore Rick Santorum, we’ll be forced to look at some of the issues that divide our country and need to be discussed … that is, until Saturday Night Live comes up with a skit to make him look like he’s off in left, make that, right field.

They did that with Mr. Gingrich, I guess. I missed the sketch but heard that it poked fun at his idea that our space program should work toward putting a colony on the moon. So now Mr. Gingrich is loony. Ha-ha-ha. Except, I heard him explain his ideas on one of the news shows, and it made perfect sense. He was addressing a crowd in Cape Canaveral, Florida — where people are greatly affected by the fact that we are no longer sending manned spacecraft to explore the heavens — and he was proposing a new way of doing business, one that would lean heavily on the private sector. As Mr. Gingrich said, It’s hard to imagine President Kennedy receiving the same kind of treatment when he proposed sending a rocket to the moon.

But that shows how our politics have changed. Now the person we differ with isn’t just misinformed or misguided or even wrong; he’s stupid, dangerous, the next tyrant or jihadist.

News flash for the Republicans — the Democrats have found the sweet spot. If they can paint a conservative candidate as stupid or foolish or ignorant, they are gold and the conservative candidacy is dead in the water.

They did it to Vice President Dan Quail (though some would argue that he did it to himself, I’d disagree; being a notoriously bad speller myself, I can testify that knowing how to spell potato has nothing to do with what you know or don’t know about governmental affairs). Since then, they’ve done it to President Bush with much less success, Sarah Palin, and a handful of Tea Party candidates during the 2010 election.

Somehow the Democratic candidates escape such accusations, though I can point to a number of their office holders from the state of California who ought to be scrutinized in this area. But why should anyone look back into their college records and see what their GPA is when they don’t hold any ignorant views such as creationism?

You see the bottom line, don’t you? It’s not intelligence or religious law or moon colonies. It’s all about authority. These people who don’t want “You shall not murder” to apply to unborn humans really don’t want anyone telling them what is right or wrong — not the Bible, certainly, but not the Constitution either, and not state propositions or amendments passed by the people. They want what they want, and until they get the law to let them have what they want, they’ll fight the rest of us however they can.

Even by attacking a moral, God-fearing … oops, there’s the problem. That’s what’s earned Mr. Santorum these attacks.

Published in: on February 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm  Comments (12)  
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Monday Musing – What Are We Coming To?

I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things today. I posted over at Spec Faith about “family friendly” fiction, I’ve interacted with others there about Stephen Burnett’s Thursday post on the movie Courageous. I’ve also been learning about middle grade fantasy novelist N. D. Wilson, a Christian who is writing for the general market.

With all these interesting conversations, every time I try to formulate my thoughts for this post, one other subject rears its head. It’s totally a California thing, and my thoughts are little more than rants really.

I’ve tried to frame this issue from a Biblical perspective, from a what-does-it-mean-for-the-country angle. It’s just not working for me.

In the end, I’ve decided to lay it out for you as objectively as I can, and let the facts speak for themselves.

In today’s local newspaper, the Whittier Daily News, on the page reserved for stories connected with the nation or the state, this short summary of an Associated Press story. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that allows children as young as twelve to be vaccinated for sexually transmitted diseases without their parents’ consent.

The bill also allows children in this same age group to receive “other STD prevention treatments, including new medicines that help prevent HIV infection if given within 72 hours of exposure.”

There’s more. In the story just below this one, Governor Brown is reported to have signed into law a bill that prevents children under eighteen, with or without their parents’ consent, from using tanning beds.

In the first instance, if I have this right, parents have no say so about a medical treatment for their own children because the government is empowering children to make their own decisions.

In the second instance, parents have no say so about a beauty treatment for their own children because the government is stepping in to protect the children from their own foolish decisions.

Am I wrong to think this is rant worthy?

Let’s face it. What Governor Brown is actually saying is that government alone is wise enough and informed enough to make these critical decisions regarding children. Not parents.

Whether allowing twelve year old kids to get these treatments that could well encourage them to be sexually active, or preventing them from using the tanning treatment, the government is cutting out parents as the guiding force in their children’s lives.

This disturbs me.

Published in: on October 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm  Comments (7)  
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If More Isn’t Better, What Is?

Last time I made a case for writers slowing down their writing rather than flooding the market with less-than-best novels. With the change of status of the e-book and the ease, as well as the lower cost, of publishing that format, authors may be tempted to increase how fast they put out books rather than to slow down. I think that would be a mistake.

Writers should continue to improve. How can they when they barely have time to get a story down and turned in on deadline, even as they put in hours promoting the previous book?

But how, exactly, can a writer improve?

Last time I mentioned that characters can improve with time. As a writer gets to know the characters, they become like real people and therefore behave on paper in realistic ways. Gone will be the lines of dialogue the author forces on them because readers need to know certain things. Instead conversation, thoughts, and actions will fit naturally because this particular character would say, think, and do these particular things.

But it’s a stretch to make characters unique. No two people are alike, and an author needs to work hard to make no two characters alike, in what they do, how they think, how they sound. In addition, no character should fit a mold. Just like an author should avoid cliched expressions, she must avoid cliched characters.

Along those lines, a writer aiming for better, not just more, should avoid cliched answers to the difficulties she puts her characters in. Finding an uncommon way of escape is a challenge on several levels. One is to find something that hasn’t been done to death already. The other is to foreshadow it properly so that the problem isn’t solved by some force or mechanism that appears conveniently at just the right moment when nobody (especially the reader) expected it or looked for it.

Besides believable plot points that are properly foreshadowed, the better plots are not convoluted. Once I had an editor call a synopsis I wrote “convoluted.” He was right. I hadn’t written the book yet and put the synopsis together based on ideas I had for the story. I knew where I wanted to go but not what all I wanted to happen on the way. I put in all the interesting things I considered. It was too much and of course as I began to develop the story, it was obvious to me which ideas didn’t fit.

Unfortunately, it seems like some books retain all the interesting ideas even if they don’t fit. Plots should not be hard to follow. They can have interesting twists, certainly, but the bottom line should be, the protagonist has an objective and a plan of action. So does the antagonist, and the two are on a collision course.

Most importantly, however, books should say something. Unless they are modeled on fables in which a stated moral is part of the story, the something a book says should be woven into the fabric through symbolism, character growth, plot developments, and resolution.

Such weaving takes time and is often a result of extensive revision.

I could go on and discuss character motivation and language and imagery and subplots and a host of other things that better stories have, but I think it’s probably time I put this particular rant back into its cage for a while. Let me end with a simple answer to the title question: If more isn’t better, what is? Creativity — and that takes time.

More Is Not Better

No, more is not better. Better is better. More is just more. If it’s more of the same, and the same is boring or insipid or unimaginative, then how is more better? It’s not.

Yes, this is somewhat of a rant. Recently I’ve been reminded of some authors who are overly busy because they are putting out several books a year, some in different series and even for different publishers.

This means there is little, if any, coordination between when a manuscript is due and when the book needs to be edited or promoted. There’s also a question in my mind how well an author can write unique characters when she spends so little time getting to know them.

Experts say we only can have three or four close friends at any one time. So how many characters can a writer develop? Seems to me we should know our characters nearly as well as we do our close friends.

Consequently, I feel confident that more characters don’t make for better stories. More books of course require more characters, so it seems to me, every book an author puts out in a relatively short amount of time indicates less time spent with the characters.

There are exceptions, of course. D. Barkley Briggs, for example, is in the process of publishing three books this year. He published the first of a young adult trilogy with NavPress back in 2008, but weeks before the second released — a book that had already gone through the editing process — his publisher decided to end its fiction line.

When he recently signed with AMG Publishers, they reprinted his first book, then three months later published Corus The Champion. The third in the Legends of Karac Tor series is due out a scant three months after Corus, but this elapse of time is not a reflection of how long it took to write the books.

Apart from the obvious — the disadvantage a writer puts herself at by trying to create deep and realistic characters and a story that is fresh and well crafted in such a short amount of time — there’s also reader weariness.

Yes, reader weariness. What if the Harry Potter books all came out within six months of each other? Would readers have been ready to stand in line waiting for a midnight release when they’d done it just six months earlier?

Would so many readers have been clamoring for the next book, or would some give up the effort to be in the mix because after three books, they’d fallen hopelessly behind?

My point is, writers that believe more is better may actually be saturating the market with their own work. Readers either can’t keep up or may grow weary of the writer’s voice.

Not to mention that some writers sacrifice story structure for the more is better approach. The plot twists and twists and twists again in a meandering plot because the writer doesn’t really know where the story is going and is just hoping it all comes out in the end.

Some readers don’t care how convoluted a plot is, as long as there’s a spaceship battle in every chapter. Some don’t care how realistic the characters are, so long as there’s a good guy and a bad guy. I understand — I once watched western movies that had characters like that.

But make no mistake, those stores are not better. No matter how many of them a writer cranks out, more does not make them better.

So Tired of the SAME Arguments

Rant warning! 😉

Here we go again. Someone inside the Christian publishing industry, in this case novelist Eric Wilson, is upset with Christian fiction. The issues seem to be the following:

  • content that doesn’t deal with such things as doubts, depression, sexual and financial issues, addiction, and disease
  • placement of Christian fiction in a Christian section
  • influence and parameters have narrowed
  • moneychangers are stepping in and the Spirit is moving out
  • viewed as a “safe” alternative instead of a vibrant, world-changing entity
  • not as “raw” as the Bible

Besides the fact that most of these criticisms are OLD, they also aren’t true. Perhaps they once described Christian fiction. Not any more.

Although Eric says he has reviewed and endorsed hundreds of novels in the last decade, I wonder if he’s read them. I haven’t read hundreds, but I’ve read books with sex outside of marriage, adultery, attempted rape, babies out of wedlock, slavery, drug use, a Wiccan character, a failed seminary student, a depressed and worried Church volunteer, dealing with Alzheimer disease, death of a child, an autistic character, creation scientist working in secular lab, cloning, and more. Raw. Real life.

Rather than “narrowing the parameters,” in the last decade, publishers have clearly expanded them. Granted, because of the economy—and the digital revolution—publishers are understandably cautious and unwilling to take abnormal risks right now. But I don’t see this hiccup as representative of a long term pattern that will reverse the previous nine years of change.

Which brings up the “moneychangers” issue. Last week, Mike Duran addressed the charge of greed among publishers in his article “Should ‘Profit’ Be the Bottom Line for Christian Publishers?” For whatever reason, we seem to have the idea that the book business should operate like a ministry rather than a business. Why? Perhaps because of the Christian content in our books. But the last I checked, many of the Christian imprints are owned by secular companies, so the idea of “ministry” is a foreign concept to the parent responsible for oversight.

I know many Christian editors and others in the firing lines who do look at their work as a calling, as do many novelists. However, we are still involved in a business where enough money needs to be made to keep paying employees and pass along a profit to the investors. Just like every other business.

As to placement of Christian fiction in Christian sections of book stores, or in Christian stores, we’re talking about something out of the control of the book sellers AND something that some of those working in the industry have tried (are trying?) to change. This complaint is going to the wrong people. Write a letter to the Barnes & Noble book buyers instead.

As to the “safe” alternative, instead of vibrant, world-changing entities, why can’t we have both? Why do “raw” books have to drag readers into the gutter to get a point across? Is a book more artistic because it deals with the seamy in a seamy way?

I’ve read some beautifully written fiction, some thought-provoking stories that have PG writing. Why must we conclude that R-rated work is better?

And this final idea, that the Bible is more raw and real than our fiction. No. The Bible gives narrative summary. It never takes the reader into Rahab’s bedroom and shows her selling her body. It tells us she was a prostitute. We know what that means, so the Bible doesn’t need to paint the scene.

One final point that came out in comments to Mike Duran’s post on this issue over at Novel Journey—something new, at last. Eric apparently is looking for support as he leaves Christian publishing and looks to find a general market house.

I’m not quite sure what kind of support he has in mind, but I do think we can come along side writers no matter where they are being published—small press, general market, Christian houses, self-published. We should be praying for each other, mentoring, encouraging, consoling, admonishing, promoting, endorsing, reviewing—whatever is needed, as we are able.

The Christian life is not a solo flight. We are in this together. Maybe it’s worth regurgitating the well-digested topics of yesteryear just to reach that final point.

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (82)  
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Jumping into the Christian Speculative Fiction Discussion

I’ve been blogging about Christian science fiction and fantasy for four years now—that and a few other topics. 😉 Early on I gave an apologetics, of sorts—why Christians should be writing fantasy. Later I explored why the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) side of the book industry seemed hesitant to jump on the fantasy bandwagon that gripped the rest of … well, pretty much, The World.

Consequently, when friend and soon-to-be published author, Mike Duran, broached the subject on his blog, (“Why ‘Supernatural Fiction’ is Under-Represented in Christian Bookstores”) I didn’t jump into the discussion with both feet, (OK, I made one tiny little comment. You didn’t think I’d remain completely silent on the subject, did you? 😛 ) After all, I’ve said my piece, over and over and over.

Well, the discussion is escalating. First Mike posted a similar article, “Why is ‘Speculative Fiction’ Under-represented in Christian Bookstores?” at Novel Journey. His comments got picked up and discussed at the blog i09 in an article entitled “Christian readers demand more science fiction books. Why won’t Christian publishers listen?” Then blogger J. Mark Miller joined the discussion in a post today: “Christian Speculative Fiction?”

In reading the various posts and comments, a couple things jump out at me.

  • Many of the people who voice opinion about the health of Christian Speculative Fiction apparently haven’t read much of it. The fact that they don’t know how much ECPA houses have branched out is evidence of that. I won’t take time to make a list—though that would be a worthy project for another post. For now, note that ECPA houses Tyndale, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Bethany, WaterBrook, Harvest House, Crossway, AMG, and Strang all have speculative titles coming out this year—and most have multiple titles.

    Suffice it to say, comments about a lack of science in any Christian science fiction show an ignorance of books like Austin Boyd’s Mars Hills trilogy and Karen Hancock’s Enclave. Lumping all speculative in with supernatural shows an unawareness of books like Sharon Hinck’s The Sword of Lyric series and Jeffrey Overstreet’s Auralia’s Thread series. And belittling the quality of the writing shows unfamiliarity with authors such as George Bryan Polivka and Tom Pawlik and Tosca Lee and Athol Dickson. (Yes, the last two aren’t exclusively speculative fiction writers, but their speculative titles shouldn’t be ignored, either).

  • The idea that Christians don’t want to read speculative fiction is archaic. In a post four years ago, I quoted from a Barna Group of Ventura California study that surveyed teenagers from thirteen to eighteen over a three year period. The findings indicated that 77% of this group identified as church-going and 78% identifying themselves as born-again Christians had seen or read at least one Harry Potter book or movie.

    Since the survey started in 2002, that means those eighteen year olds would now be twenty-six. Are we to believe that in these ensuing eight years those who read or viewed a Harry Potter fantasy now are closed to the genre?

    And what about those of us who grew up on the Star Wars movies? I don’t have stats, but I know in my circle of Christian friends, the majority saw all six. Do we have one standard for movies and another for books? I don’t think so.

  • Then why don’t publishers report better sales for speculative fiction? Why are insiders continually repeating the mantra that Christians won’t buy speculative fiction?

    First of all, Christians do buy speculative titles. As a number of commenters noted, some of the best selling Christian fiction (beyond Lewis and Tolkien—and the fact that those authors still sell well only adds to this point) was speculative. Frank Peretti opened the door to Christian fiction beyond prairie romance. Ted Dekker mixes speculative with thriller, but his more speculative titles such as the Circle Trilogy have better Amazon rankings than some of his more recent works. And anyone remember the Left Behind phenomenon?

    For some reason, these best-selling authors don’t count. I don’t know why. Some say Dekker could sell anything, so readers don’t like him for his speculative titles—they just like him. And Left Behind was … something no one understands.

    In other words, there are reasons not to throw in these authors’ numbers with other speculative writers.

    But here’s the thing, not all readers enjoy all speculative fiction. I don’t. I have a strong preference for fantasy, and not for dark fantasy, not for science fiction, not for supernatural. But how is a reader who enjoys a particular kind of speculative fiction to find the books they want to read?

    Not even Christian book stores consistently do a good job of stocking speculative titles. In one local Christian book store, I had to order a Karen Hancock book, despite the fact that she had won three consecutive Christy Awards.

    Could it be that we can still improve when it comes to telling readers about Christian speculative fiction? Of course, we might then be in danger of adding to the impression that we are merely a vocal group. 😉

    In my opinion, two things have moved Christian speculative fiction forward. One, ECPA houses are getting more and more titles into general market stores. Granted, they are still shelved in the Christian fiction section, but Christians who don’t go to CBA stores will be more apt to peruse works at Target or Borders, even when they’re in the “special section.”

    Two, Bryan Davis has marketed tirelessly and sold his fiction well. So did Donita Paul. The industry insiders, then, concluded that YA fantasy would sell and a host of titles have cropped up. Some writers for adults even added fantasy for middle grade and YA—notably Ted Dekker and Robert Liparulo.

    I say it’s time to end this false idea that Christian speculative fiction doesn’t sell, has only a small niche audience, isn’t well written, won’t be tolerated by Christians. Let me end with this quote from one of my previous fantasy rants:

    Last point, and perhaps the most important. If selling is most affected by word of mouth—and most people who hang around long enough in this business seem to agree it is—isn’t it reasonable to conclude that those with the most influence have the biggest affect when they say something? In other words, don’t editors [or agents], when they say sci fi and fantasy don’t sell well, actually create the negative buzz that insures the truth of those statements?

    I don’t know if I’m saying this clearly. What I’m thinking is this: The people who are most in a position to know things, by saying “We don’t think this sells well,” create the very buzz that causes the genre not to sell well. Because certainly editors have a bigger platform than some wanna-be blogger who rants about how Christian publishers are missing the fantasy train. 😉

    I’ve Been Banned!

    * * *Rant alert * * *

    It happened once before. Back in 2005 when the movie End of the Spear came out, a group of bloggers took it upon themselves to reprove the people behind the production. I don’t want to rehash those issues, but I took a stand, largely based on the fact that God has called Christians to unity and I didn’t think the the debate was promoting unity.

    I voiced my opinion in a way that … apparently didn’t promote unity either because the owner of the blog I was commenting on banned me. 🙄

    And now it’s happened again!

    Sort of the same problem, too. This time the blogger was taking to task a well-known Bible teacher for sloppy exegesis of Scripture. I can agree that if this actually happened, it is appropriate to address the issue. However, this blogger went a step farther and said this person who is affiliated with a certain evangelical group he came out of is trafficking in the same false teaching he left.

    Uh, that would be not true.

    I’ve got some personal knowledge about this teacher’s body of work, though not about the latest title that this blogger’s source quoted. I undoubtedly voiced my opinion too harshly, and I’m sorry for that, but here’s my on-going concern.

    A lot of bad stuff is flying under the banner of Christianity, but instead of taking a look at those believing in universal salvation or groups deconstructing Scripture or denying God’s sovereignty, we have this blogger telling others this godly, Bible-believing teacher espouses a false faith.

    The thing is, I found this blog post because a blog I subscribe to had a follow-up article—an “ah-ha, I wondered if something was fishy with this teacher” article.

    It’s heart-breaking that someone with an ax to grind can go after someone on the Internet and influence others to “go and believe likewise.” Hopefully my comment to the blog I subscribe to will at least cause that individual to investigate on his own.

    But what about the others out there? Especially considering Mr. Ban-her cut off the discussion before you could legitimately call it that.

    The odd thing is that I’ve come out so recently saying Christians should stand up and call false teaching, false. I suspect that one reason we remain silent is because of people like Mr. Ban-her who wants to call anything not aligning to his position “false faith.”

    Another strange thing, I admitted in my comments (all three he let through) that I don’t always agree with said Bible teacher. And I don’t. But his position was, sloppy exegesis in the instance passed on to him meant this person was habitually incorrect in their handling of Scripture—and he was right, I was wrong, so I should SHUT UP! Well, he didn’t use those words, but he did type an entire sentence in all caps telling me how I really had nothing of value to say.

    Sometimes getting banned from a site ain’t all bad. 😉

    Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm  Comments (9)  
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    Book Bloggers and the FTC

    I don’t consider myself to be a libertarian or anything, but I have to admit, I bristle at the talk of government regulation of book bloggers.

    Seems the US Federal Trade Commission is passing expanded “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Book bloggers, they say, must include a line of disclosure so that their visitors know the blogger is being “compensated” for his reviews, “compensation” referring to the review copy of the book. 😯

    Never mind that print media members have been receiving free books for years and years and years without any such disclaimer and will not now be required to include such a disclaimer (see Edward Champion’s article summary of an interview with FTC’s Richard Cleland). Seems the FTC views newspapers and magazines as fair and balanced but individuals as evil and corrupt. 🙄

    As such, the FTC apparently believes poor, helpless consumers are being buffaloed by us greedy, lying bloggers who say we like a book when really we don’t, thus bilking book buyers out of … what? The responsibility to think for themselves? To think about the reviews they read? To compare and contrast one blogger with another and bloggers with print reviewers?

    What mystifies me is that the FTC thinks blog visitors are too stupid to tell which bloggers are writing endorsements instead of reviews. Or that once burned they might continue to visit an endorsement blog and get burned again, and again, and again.

    Above all this silliness is the FTC admission that they can’t in any way visit all the blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts (yes, this also applies to social networking sites). Of course these guidelines also have no power whatever over bloggers located outside the US. So what do they accomplish?

    And another question for those in the US. How is it that an agency we did not vote into office can pass new laws like this, for certainly, if they can fine bloggers up to $11,000 they are passing a law. Well, not “passing” a law. That’s what Congress does. I guess in this case it’s “declaring” a law.

    Then my other question: Why is the government seemingly so concerned about due diligence when it comes to protecting consumers from bloggers but couldn’t manage to look into banks and savings and loan companies to keep them from mismanaging millions of dollars?

    Makes me wonder about motives and priorities and such, ya know? 😕

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