Fantasy Friday – Speculative Faith

Some of you who have been visiting here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction for a while know about the team blog Speculative Faith—a site set up by Stuart Stockton to discuss speculative fiction from the perspective of our Christian faith.

A number of writers participated. For a time Karen Hancock wrote regularly. Bryan Davis did a short series. We had interviews with editors like Nick Harrison (Harvest House) and with writers like Robert Liparulo. We did reviews and had lengthy discussions about books and movies alike. In short, it was a wonderful success.

But gradually, one writer after the other began to pull back. We were a loose organization and no one filled those gaps or took the lead to insure that each day had content.

I was the last of the regulars, and then my computer crashed. When I was back up and running, I had so many things to catch up on, and Spec Faith was low on the priority list. Then the spam set in. When our core group still wanting to see Spec Faith work took a look at the site, the clean-up alone seemed daunting.

In the end, we agreed to start afresh at WordPress. This time Stephen Burnett took the lead and began transferring posts and designing the new site. We began posting a couple weeks ago, with Stephen doing most of the writing. The next step was to secure regular writers, but we also wanted to include a good selection of guests.

I’m happy to report that the schedule is coming together. I’ll once again be writing on Mondays. Stuart will post on Tuesdays. New to the team is Rachel Starr Thomson, writing on Wednesdays (though she may share the slot—this detail is still being worked out). Then Steven will post on Thursdays. Fridays are the designated Guest Blogger Days.

We have invitations (and some acceptances) out to a number of writers. It should be an exciting lineup. All this to say, you are hereby invited to stop on over at Speculative Faith (affectionately known as Spec Faith 😉 ) and join in the discussions. We also are on Facebook and Twitter, so we’d love to have you follow us or friend us on those sites as well.

CSFF Blog Tour – Starlighter by Bryan Davis, Day 3

One of the fun things about blog tours is the chance to learn more about the author through interviews. We’ve enjoyed a couple this week in our tour of Starlighter by Bryan Davis. For a quick, six-question interview, stop by Fantasy & Faith with Dona Watson. For a longer edition (only eight questions, but Bryan’s answers are more in depth), visit Inklings Blog with Rachel Starr Thomson. Jill Williamson also interviewed Bryan for her day two post—interesting set of questions.

Something else I think important to mention during this tour. Bryan has a short companion adult series coming out with Living Ink (AMG) called Tales of Starlight. The first book, Masters & Slayers, releases September 14. If you’d like to learn more, check out what Nicole, an early reviewer (and not part of the blog tour) has to say about this part of the Starlight story.

And now my review of Starlighter.

The Story. Two planets in the same system share something that could have been wonderful—a portal allowing inhabitants to step from one to the other. However, one group, the dragons of Starlight, used the portal for their own purposes. Some time in the past, they kidnapped children from Darksphere and enslaved them.

When one of these Lost Ones escaped and returned to his world, no one believed his story. To protect the rest of his people, he devised a way to lock the portal.

As years passed, people came to believe the story of the Lost Ones was nothing but a myth. Meanwhile, the dragons of Starlight told their captives a different story about their origins. However, the humans had an oral tradition telling of the portal and the enslavement. But who believed in “old wives’ tales” any more?

On Darksphere, a boy named Jason and on Starlight a girl named Koren both desire something better for the Lost Ones. Jason comes to believe the story of the hidden portal and sets out to find it. When he does, his path and Koren’s intersect, and the real conflicts begin.

Strengths. One critiquer commented that this story is clearly a Bryan Davis novel. In other words, Bryan’s voice is strong, and his stamp is all over this story, from plot to themes to characters.

The central figures, Jason and Koren, are heroic, sacrificial, noble, altruistic. (For an excellent commentary about creating such characters for young people to emulate today, see Fred Warren‘s day 3 post.)

The plot moves at a rapid rate. Dangers on the left, dangers on the right, and difficult decisions to make at every turn. Without a doubt, this plot will keep Bryan Davis fans holding on or holding their breath.

The themes develop from the character qualities of the protagonists. They are not exclusively Christian but mirror biblical attributes Christians are called to live out.

Weakness. I notice things in fiction now that I am a writer that I would not have noticed earlier, at least not consciously. And as it turns out, the area I’m considering a weakness is a direct result of a decision Bryan has made in his writing process. As a self-styled computer geek, Bryan undoubtedly has an organized mind, but instead of outlining his plots, he utilizes the “seat-of-the-pants” method of writing fiction.

The method itself is not a weakness, but I think it leads to one—a lack of foreshadowing. Because Bryan doesn’t know ahead of time what will happen, he doesn’t tip off readers. This can work against believability, but it can also dampen reader reaction.

* * * SPOILER ALERT – Of necessity, some discussion of plot points ahead * * *

For example, when a group of slaves are trapped in a small cluster of mining tunnels, the dragons release a swarm of particularly deadly bees. It’s a tense moment, but I suggest it could have been rendered more so if the bees had been foreshadowed. As it is, readers understand the danger but don’t feel it. We could have been worried about the bees for chapters. (Not the bees! Anything but the bees! NO! They’re NOT releasing the BEES! Woe, oh woe! How will they ever escape the deadly, deadly BEES?)

I doubt if one out of a hundred Bryan Davis fans notice something that is not there. But I suspect the power of foreshadowing would have vaulted the tension so much higher that readers wouldn’t be able to stop talking about the story.

Recommendation. I highly recommend Starlighter for all Bryan Davis fans. It’s sure to move to the top of many a favorites list.

Be sure to see how my review stacks up with others posting on the tour (see participants’ list at the end of Monday’s article).

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Knowing God

I’m going to digress from my usual format in order to address some of the comments in the last two posts.

Fouzia, a Christian Pakistani woman, regularly walks her children to worship despite a terrorist attack on a Christian hospital that killed 70 people, despite the kidnapping and rape of a fourteen-year-old Christian who dared to share her faith with her classmates and would not convert to Islam as her captors demanded.

“We all feel sad,” [she said.]

And more afraid?

“And more afraid.”

But even as she spoke, Fouzia was gathering her children to go to church.

“Maybe it will not be my enemies who will be watching,” she said. “Maybe it will be other Christians. Maybe when they see us going to worship God and to pray, in spite of what all is happening, in spite of our fears, they will be encouraged to come along and worship with us.”

And what about the danger to herself and her family?

Fouzia simply said, “We will trust God.”

(true story and excerpt from Daughters of Hope by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett)

Then there was Yuan, a Christian in China who ministered throughout the week to the women in her area. She and her husband held an underground church in their home until he was arrested and imprisoned. Days later soldiers came to Yuan’s home and trashed it. They hauled her in and confiscated everything she owned before releasing her.

A neighbor took Yuan in, and she continued to visit the women because she wanted to be bold for her Savior just as her husband was.

Again she was arrested and fined. She said she had nothing to her name—they had already taken all she owned. No, they said, she still owned the shoes she wore. They removed them and crushed her feet with their heavy boots so that she could no longer go from house to house.

She was left to crawl back to her neighbors, but her ministry did not end.

Today she sill “stands” as a faithful witness. Women and children come to her bedside to hear her tell the story of a God who loves them and who sent his own Son to suffer and die for them.

(true story and excerpt from Daughters of Hope by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett)

What’s my point? As a number of commenters described their spiritual journey, God brought to my mind the parable recorded in Luke 8. As Jesus explained it to His disciples, He said some people are like seed that falls where rocks are and the rocks keep the roots from going down deep.

The rocks are temptations—the hard stuff that makes us want to look at our circumstances just as the people of Israel did on their way out of Egypt. They didn’t have food, water, or any way to defend themselves from their pursuers. Consequently, they wanted to quit, to go back to the way things were. Their roots weren’t deep.

But here’s Yuan and Fouzia and a host of other women who live where rocks abound yet they turn to God—the God of the Bible, without all the redaction or re-imaging—to be their comfort and their support. (For a beautiful post, reasonably short, on Christ and our suffering, read Rachel Starr Thomson’s post “Painful Perfection.”)

Could it be that simple faith is what we need, as Jesus said, and not mystical “centering prayer” or Scriptural gymnastics to make the text say something beyond the plain meaning of the words?

Here’s what I think. God wants to be found. He’s “bent over backwards” to reveal Himself—through prophets, living object lessons (that’s what Isaac was and what the Old Testament sacrifices were, what Joseph was, and David), through His Son, through His written word, through His Holy Spirit living in believers, and through the Church—His hands and feet in the world today.

Satan (yes, a real adversarial being who appears as an angel of light) is determined to muddy the waters. He is a liar and the Father of lies. He started by lying to Eve, first making her question what exactly God had said and ultimately contradicting God’s clear command.

On her behalf, she wasn’t there when God told Adam not to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden. Maybe she thought she misunderstood Adam when he related God’s words. Maybe she redefined them in her mind. What was “death,” after all? Not something she knew first hand. Was there even such a thing?

Sadly, even though Eve was deceived and Adam knowingly disobeyed, she suffered the same consequences he did. They were separated from the love of their lives. From the One who made sense of the world.

Their real problem wasn’t the rocky soil they now had to till or even their he said/she said attacks they started when God confronted them. Their real problem was their loss of relationship with their Creator.

This outcome is what Satan is after. He is loath to see God glorified. In his pride, he wants God’s place. He wants the esteem and honor that belong to Jesus. What better way than to belittle God and bring Jesus down.

So he lies about God today, just as he did with Eve. God doesn’t really mean what He says. He isn’t really a righteous Judge, he’s a wrathful monster at odds with his loving son. But no worry, he’s finally come around in the twenty-first century and repents of his previous brutality. He promises he’ll never do it again, certainly not for eternity.

Satan wishes.

Fantasy Friday – Slogging through the Swamp

We have a winner! 😀

If you think I’m referring to America’s Favorite Dancer, you’re off. Yes, I watched the finale, but no I did not vote. As entertaining as that bit of pop art is, I’m more concerned with who won the July CSFF Top Blogger Award. And we have a winner! Congratulations to Rachel Starr Thomson, now a two-time recipient of the award.

And what does that have to do with slogging through the swamp? Nothing. That was an important announcement, is all, so it had to go first. 😉

Swamp slogging has to do with my writing, and particularly with The Lore of Efrathah. Twice I’ve taken my character into a swamp, and wouldn’t you know, both times, my writing has bogged down.

But here’s the thing. The first time I had a group of friends pray for me, particularly that I would figure out how to get my character out of the swamp. The scene that developed is the climax of book two, Journey to Mithlimar, and is probably the strongest writing I’ve done (at least I think so, though whether an author can ever accurately discern such things is a topic for another day).

The point is this, and it applies in writing or in our daily lives, slogging through a swamp is not pleasant and sometimes feels hopeless, but by prayer, God can move us out of the swamp, though He generally doesn’t do so miraculously. It’s usually one step at a time, which can often seem like a painfully long journey, with little progress visible.

But one day you realize the trees are thinning and the mud isn’t quite as deep. It’s a little easier to move forward, and you’re not quite as tired today as you were yesterday. Progress. Hope.

Which is where my character is with this second encounter with the swamp.

Here’s the capper: the end result is often far better than we thought possible. 😯 I don’t know why I am still shocked by answered prayer, but that’s the unfortunate truth.

The thing is, when it comes to slogging out of the swamp, God has already promised that He will take the muck of my life and work that around to my benefit. Redeeming is what He does.

He redeems sinners and makes us part of His family. He redeems time and gives us eternity. He redeems hurt and heartache and gives comfort and joy. He redeems difficult writing and transforms it into memorable scenes.

How great is our God! 😀

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 11:37 am  Comments (4)  
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Run-off Poll – Last Day

The April CSFF Top Blogger Award poll closed with two participants leading the pack. Today is the LAST DAY to vote for the winner between those two:

Brandon Barr

Rachel Starr Thomson

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Published in: on May 3, 2009 at 8:55 am  Comments Off on Run-off Poll – Last Day  
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