Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Case of Conscience is next on my reading list; Pug has just finished with it, you can read his thoughts here.
And the latest part of the ever entertaining dissection of Left Behind is here.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Watering down the Biblical basis was something I deliberately avoided with Countless, intending it for a Christian fiction market which fell flat on its face in the UK. As a result, some of the sf elements were watered down, probably to the detriment of the story. Although the sequel will follow on from the events of Countless, I plan to make it a standalone story, hopefully worthy of the wider sf market. Unfortunately for my loyal readership, that will probably entail recounting some of the key events in flashback, but I guess we'll wait and see what my publisher says... ;)
Anyway, here's a quick teaser:
Twenty years have passed since the expulsion from Tellus.
Despite many difficulties, the United Colonies are thriving.
Aidan Qqayle, reluctant leader of the UC, hasn't seen his father since they settled on Lomas, shortly after the old man died.
Now he's back, with one more task for his son to complete. A task that will lead Aidan to confront his past, doubt his present and, one way or another, influence the future of the entire system...
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The bunker was dug into a hill overlooking the city, which looked like a huge siler jellyfish, stranded on the vast sandy plain, the highways leading out of it like tentacles. Uax and Khem had worked almost non-stop for three weeks rendering the disused bunker inhabitable, using the plans drawn up by R'Leef.
The main entrance was through a well camoflaged door forged out of heavy steel, which led past a lift shaft running between the bunker's three storeys, and extended back into the hill. At it's far end, another, much smaller, steel door opened out onto the hillside.
R'Leef sat beside the main entrance, watching a convoy of hired trucks making their way slowly up the steep hillside. Power generators, plants, freezers, furniture - all were on the way to the bunker as it neared completion.
R'Leef knew what he had to do. God had been warning mankind of his judgement; only R'Leef and his family had listened. Once they were ready, God would bring his judgement.
One more week, he prayed, nervously. That should be enough.
Something cold and wet nudged R'Leef; he jumped, then relaxed, seeing the face of a friendly dingo behind him.
"Yes, this is the place," he said, stroking the dingo lightly. He stood up to lead the animal to Zalbeth's temporary surgery. Only when he turned did he see the full extent of what God was doing here.
The plain below him was alive, as creatures of all sizes moved across it, faster animals running in from the horizon, overtaking the closer, slower animals. Even as he watched, herds of animals appeared from other directions, all converging on one point, a large tent at the foot of the hills.
"Zalbeth," R'Leef spoke softly into his two-way radio. "I hope you're ready for action."
The next seven days were filled with activity; extracting, labelling and storing DNA samples, preparing a greenery, and putting the finishing touches to the living quarters.
The upper floor was taken up entirely by the greenery, divided up to provide the optimum amount of heat and light for the huge variety of fruit, vegetables and other plants.
The middle floor was set aide for the animals they would be taking with them - some they would need for food, others were needed as offerings to God. A small kennel had recently been added under the stairs, where the dingo and its mate slept. Several birds flitted around the dimly lit room.
The bottom level consisted of six bedrooms, the living and recreation rooms, a kitchen and dining area, and a walk in freezer packed with DNA samples. Near the lift shaft, Khem had set up a reserve power generator - he had installed and powered up the main generator as soon as he could, but couldn't take the chance on it lasting indefinitely. They had no idea how long they would need to stay below ground.
Once the bunker was furnished and habitable, all the animals saved for future generations, and R'Leef had done all that the Lord had asked of him, the eight of them entered the bunker, where they would be kept safe from the wrath of God. R'Leef watched as his family went in, a hot wind building up behind them, swirling, directionless, so full of dust that at times it obscured the sun. One of the heavy trucks they had hired for the move rocked in a strong gust. R'Leef felt a pang of guilt; he had every intention of returning it, but time had run away from him.
It doesn't matter now, he felt God whisper.
He smiled, raising an arm to protect his face from the hot dust blowing into it.
"It's starting," he said to Uax, the last to enter the bunker. "Go on in. I'll follow in a moment."
Uax turned briefly to his father and nodded, unable to make himself heard above the howling wind.
With the last of his family safely inside, R'Leef took one last look out over the city, through eyes half-closed against the dust-laden wind.
His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped, suddenly oblivious to the flying grit, when he realised he was looking at the full awesome power of God being used in anger. High above the city, still as visible through the dust clouds and the sun, a new star glowed a deep red-orange.
For a moment, R'Leef even thought he could see the huge waves of energy this exploding star was sending out, and which were just beginning to reach Tellus, when he was knocked backwards by a sweeping gust of warmth, hot dust stinging his face, the wind taking his breath away.
He stumbled backwards into the tunnel, where he was caught by Uax.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
R'Leef was staring, wide-eyed, out of the metal hatch at the plumes of sand and dust that whistled across the entrance to the bunker.
"Yes," he whispered, nodding weakly.
A sudden change in wind direction slammed the hatch closed with a bang that echoed through the narrow passage for a second, and rang in R'Leef's ears for much longer. He looked up at Uax, who confirmed that the hatch was locked.
The Lord had closed the door behind him, and had locked them in.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Is it possible to get from 33AD to 1933 and still end up with Hitler's rise to power without the effect of Christianity? Possibly, or at least something similar; but if not, there is always an alternative - Left Behind: the WWII chronicles!
Alternative histories of World War Two are so much a staple of sf as to be a cliche unless given a sufficient twist. Harry Turtledove continues to be a prolific writer of alternate WW2 scenarios, notably the Worldwar sequence, in which an alien invasion interrupts the proceedings... (Incidentally, I think these stories, in trying to follow the course of events in the US, Japan, Germany and Russia, as well as on the alien mothership, get a bit too complex to keep track of at times, and I had trouble figuring out why the lizards wanted to invade anyway if all they were going to do was moan about the weather.)
So that's my latest plan to sneak in under the cover of 'end times thriller' and introduce sf to the Christian fiction reading masses.
Although, Elliot's probably read it already...
Friday, May 19, 2006
Another near future story, A Form of Godliness by Shane Johnson, is reviewed as a contemporary thriller rather than sf, but its near future setting qualifies it for the genre in the broadest sense.
Another Johnson novel, The Last Guardian, "culls elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and ethical parables" according to Tim's review, and mixes in elements of the 'end times' novel.
Similarly straddling the line between sf and fantasy is Outriders by Kathryn Mackel, a kind of post-apocalyptic science-fantasy.
Shivering World, by Star Wars novelist Kathy Tyers, is proper science fiction - hard sf with a spiritual twist - with other planets, terraforming, genetic engineering, and even, apparently, actual science...
The Traveler by Peter Krausche is promised to be the first in a seven book time & world travelling epic.
And finally, Tim looks at Sky Songs 1 & 2, two short story collections containing a mix of sf and fantasy.
I have to confess I haven't read any of these, but some of these participants in the blog tour may have done:
Becky Miller's Christian Worldview of Fiction
Mirtika Schultz’s Mirathon
Insights from Beth Goddard
Jason Joyner’s Spoiled for the Ordinary
Marci’s Writer Lee
Sally Apokedak’s All About Children’s Books
Cheryl Russell’s Unseen Worlds
LaShaunda’s See You On The Net
Shannon McNear’s Shenandoah’s Eclectic Musings
Meg Mosley’s Megawriter
Stuart Stockton’s The Jerkrenak’s Den
Sharon Hinck’s blog
Valerie’s In My Little World
Karen Hancock’s Writing from the Edge
Chris Well: Learning Curve blog
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
And now I realise that I hadn't quite finished with it myself.
Before you reach for the stones again, what if, instead of taking Christ out of the equation entirely, we just moved him about the timeline a little. You know, have him actually face the kind of dilemmas modern life insists on presenting us with.
It doesn't have to be today, of course; if it was, it would certainly be a different today - the way the world would have turned out without the influence of Christianity. It could be the near future, a space-faring future (for those of us aching to write a Christian space opera) or the year 5 billion.
Or venture into the past - have Jesus walk the earth in 1960s London, or '80s New York, or transplant him into any of the What ifs I mentioned in my first post on the subject.
I've been looking for a unique hook for my WW2 alternate history...
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
OK, I know I said I was going to get back to sf today, but I'm short of time today, and having grabbed onto the coat tails of the aforementioned Blog Tour with the idea of adding some science fiction into the mix, I'll just have to settle for directing you to some of the other participants:
Mirtika Schultz’s Mirathon blog
Insights from Beth Goddard
Jason Joyner’s Spoiled for the Ordinary
Marci’s Writer Lee
Sally Apokedak’s All About Children’s Books
Cheryl Russell’s Unseen Worlds
LaShaunda’s See You On The Net
Shannon McNear’s Shenandoah’s Eclectic Musings
Becky Miller - A Christian Worldview of Fiction
Stuart Stockton - The Jerkrenak's Den
I'll be back tomorrow with, hopefully, something more to contribute!
Monday, May 15, 2006
More comment on that Da Vinci thing, from Caritas and Johnny Dangerous.
Half of the new Entropy Gate website is up: check out the website and the blog.
Becky Miller has finished discussing theme, and is off on the subject of 'Fanatsy and a Christian Worldview'. I shall be watching carefully, if only to pilfer ideas for this blog... ;)
Becky will also be participating in a Christian fantasy related blog tour, which you can find out a bit more about at Beth Goddard's blog, and which kicks off with this feature at Christian Fiction Review.
Tomorrow we'll get back to science fiction. Probably.
Friday, May 12, 2006
"I just don't drink, OK?" Khem insisted.
He was in a pub near the site of the new casino, where he was senior electrician, trying to persuade a burly bricklayer to order him a lemonade.
"Take after that looney-tune father of yours, that's your problem!" the brickie laughed.
"He's not a looney!"Khem shouted, lunging for him.
The rest of the crowd cheered as Khem wrestled the big man to the floor - all of them, including Khem, if he thought about it, knew the bricklayer was putting it on, and would be able to get up just as soon as he chose.
The crowd of builders looked to the door, where the old man stood with a young woman in a white coat.
"They're coming to take you away, too!" one of them quipped.
The brickie loosened his grip on Khem, who stood up, blushing slightly.
"Hello, Dad," he said quietly.
"I think you'd better come with us," Zalbeth said.
Khem brushed past them silently, and hurried out of the car park, not stopping at his father's people carrier. He was still angry when his father drew up alongside him and offered him a lift.
"I'd rather you drank than built casinos and started bar brawls, Khem," R'Leef said patiently.
"Didn't start it," Khem muttered.
"Well, it doesn't matter now," R'Leef said. "You'll not be doing either for much longer."
"You can't stop me from working there, old man."
"I don't intend to. But unless you change your ways and listen to me, God will judge you along with the rest of humanity."
"OK, OK." Khem held up his hands in protest. "I've tried to go along with your religious stuff; I've given up drink, I've said my prayers every night - what more do you want?"
"Just listen to him," Zalbeth said. "He's trying to save your butt."
Having persuaded Khem to help him, R'Leef had a slightly easier job in getting his eldest son, Uax, to cut short his latest voyage - although he did have one objection.
"But I'm on my honeymoon, man!"
"Your wife is welcome, of course," R'Leef smiled into the video-phone, "as long as she does her share of the work."
"God will wait until we are all safe," R'Leef told him. "But don't let's keep him too long," he added hastily.
"We'll be there as soon as we can," Uax said.
"See you soon," R'Leef nodded, and switched of the phone.
A few days later, R'Leef was chairing a family meeting in the family's modest semi on the edge of the city. Since Uax and Zalbeth were both married, Khem had been permitted to bring his girlfriend along too. The others had been unenthusiastic about this initially, but she had promised to be faithful and obedient to Noah and to God - and so far had been a better worker than Khem himself.
"The bunker is in the desert," R'Leef explained. "Khem will be in charge there-"
Khem looked up suddenly - his name had never been used in the same sentence as the words 'in charge' before.
"Because he's the only one with any knowledge of construction work," R'Leef added.
"Thanks," Khem smiled.
"I have some rough plans to share with you later. We will also have responsibility for the animals - this is where Zalbeth comes in."
"What do you want us to do?" It was her husband who replied.
"The animals will all come to us to be kept alive - how you do that is up to you, but we owe it to God to preserve as much of his creation as we can."
Zalbeth nodded thoughtfully, and then said, "How much equipment can I take from my lab?"
"You may not need much. The bunker used to be a research lab - it's likely the Lord has provided all you need."
"If God is going to provide the animals," Zalbeth said, as much to herself as to her father, "then theoretically if I could take a DNA sample from each and keep it safe, that would be enough."
"Can you repopulatethe world from a few blood samples?" Khem asked.
"With the right equipment," Zalbeth nodded. "But that's the difficult part."
"The Lord promised to provide for the future," R'Leef said. "Although he will wipe out everything living on the planet, the city - civilisation - will remain for us to inhabit later. Your lab - and any other - will be available for creating your clones later. If the technology exists, we can find it later."
"Are you sure?"
"Have faith. Speaking of which, we will need to keep some animals for food and sacrifices; if Zalbeth's plan will work, these will be the only livestock to enter the bunker with us. Someone will need to take responsibility for them."
"Cool!" Khem's girlfriend spoke up. "I love animals!"
"Don't get too attached," Khem said. "They're our lunch."
"Then you've got the job," R'Leef smiled. "On the subject of food, my wife and I have some experience of growing fruit, herbs and so on, and will see to this in the bunker. I must also spend time with God - we all must - and I will set aside time to pray for each of us. I would ask one of you, therefore, to help when I am otherwise occupied."
"I will do that," Uax's wife volunteered.
"What about me?" Uax said.
"As my eldest son, you will be my deputy. Oversee everything; help wherever you're needed."
R'Leef looked around the table, seven pairs of eyes firmly fixed on him. "Any questions?"
They all shook their heads.
"Then let's not keep God waiting any longer," he said. "You know what you have to do."
Six of them left the table.
"I take it you wanted to see those plans?" R'Leef asked Khem once they were alone.
"Yeah," he answered, "but there was something else..."
Khem looked carefully at a small scratch on the table in front of him. Took a deep breath. Looked his father in the eye. "Sorry I doubted you," he said, and looked quickly back at the table.
"That's history now," the old man said, resting a hand on his son's shoulder.
Khem smiled up at him, a smile he hadn't seen since Khem was five or six, amazed by his Dad's talent with superglue...
"Come on," R'Leef said. "We've got work to do."
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Speculative Catholic was kind enough to steal - er, I mean, reproduce ;) - part of my post, attracting a 'thanks but no thanks' kind of reaction...
I'm not sure what to make of the silence here - maybe I've scared everyone off with the merest thought of such heresy! Well, you can all come back, I'm not about to do that just yet. Although I do find the idea interesting.
The first question that occurred to me after 'What if Christ had not been crucified?' was 'Would the Roman Empire have fallen?'
Robert Silverberg explores this possibility in Roma Eterna, but from the perspective of Christ never having been born; he supposes that the Exodus failed, leaving the Hebrews a barely noticed minority among whom a great prophet never rose, and never started Christianity.
And you don't see anyone throwing bricks at him, do you? I guess it must be safer to just take Christ out of the equation than to wonder what he might have done differently.
I'm just thinking aloud here, please ignore me if I continue to offend. :)
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I'm sure you will have noticed a little bit of publicity about a little movie based on a little book called the Da Vinci something or other. Reading a conversation about the subject in the Blogosphere recently made me think: Maybe I should read it, find out what it says that's got so many people so wound up. Of course, I've heard a lot about it, and opinions vary hugely; writers, English teachers - people I trust to know about this sort of thing - say it's not very well written. A number of people - many of them Christians - have said it's a good read, provided you don't forget it's just a story. Another group of Christians seems to be getting very uptight about the very existence of the book and the film, many, I suspect, without having bothered with basic research such as, oh, reading the book, for instance. And the TV people? Well, the documentaries treating 'the conspiracy theory' as something with a solid foundation in reality have just been feeding the insane paranoia that says this is a true story...
I haven't read the book. Don't plan to, or to see the film. Not because I object on some moral or religious grounds, I just can't be bothered. I therefore have no opinion on the content of the book. So why am I adding to the already huge volume of hype surrounding it?
Well, fiction is about playing 'What if...?'. This is most obviously the case, perhaps, in science fiction, particularly that sub-genre known as Alternate History:
It doesn't have to be about war and conquest, of course, but they are obvious turning points in history and ripe to be altered. I could just as easily ask what if the Beatles had never split up, or never formed in the first place?
What if the Cold War had escalated?
What if Germany had won the Second World War? Or the First?
What if the British Empire existed today? What about the Roman Empire?
And whichever way you approach it, there can be few events in human history more pivotal than the life of Christ. So why not ask 'What if'?
The Wossname Code may not be an alternate history as such, but is there any reason these questions should not be raised in sf? Could a Christian writer tackle these questions in a sympathetic manner? And more importantly, would Christian readers take him seriously, or would they be hunting him down with a bag full of large, pointy bricks?
What if Christ escaped crucifixion?
What if he had never been born?
What if he had raised a family? What if he did have a blood relative alive today?
Monday, May 08, 2006
What, you want more than a word? Well, OK, but I don't think they deserve it. The only reason I mention them at all is to point you to this blog, which runs an occasional series plotholing the Left Behind series.
But while I'm on the subject, I may as well get my rant over, since Left Behind and all the other 'End Times Thrillers' that followed in its wake can be included in the broad definition of science fiction, in that they are set in the not too distant future. But having read the original LB series (I know, what was I thinking?) and been utterly underwhelmed, I don't intend to give this sub-genre a regular spot in the blog. At least until someone writes a decent one.
I commented on my other blog that, even recognising that I'm still an amateur at the writing game, I could have written the LB series better. I came up with the idea when I was about 14, just before the Cold War ended, but didn't have the Bible knowledge to do anything with it. Heck, I probably could have written it better then...
Tyndale House have, thus far, declined my offer to write Left Behind: London, presumably in case I do in fact turn out to be much better than LaHaye & Jenkins...
Anyway, enough of this speculation.
In the hope that LB had in fact spawned a sub-genre now packed with decently written Apocalypse stories with a Christian twist, I grabbed Wired by Robert L Wise from the library a while back. That was nearly as bad.
Well, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. The plot was predictably similar to that of the LB series, which gave the whole book an instant disadvantage, but the quality of writing didn't do much to counter that. And then there was the odd phrase that caused me to chuckle. Take, for instance, our introduction to the post-Rapture Christians:
"They are more of an underground group."The New Seekers? I mean, for goodness sake, the rapture's just happened, and you want to buy the world a flippin' Coke?
"Really!" Matthew grinned. "Now that really gets my attention. What are they called?"
"New Seekers." Jennifer lowered her voice.
"Awesome. I like the sound of the name."
And, just like in LB, spiritual enlightenment is provided by a Jewish Bible scholar who just happened to be passing, in this case, former adult film star* Adah Honi. Who, annoyingly, talks like Yoda:
"The important issue is what says the Bible."
"Perhaps, we simply have not figured out for what idea the number is a symbol.""Let us quickly walk away from the platform. We need from any cameras to stay away."
"One of the next steps in the Anti-Christ's plan is new believers to persecute."
I won't be following that series until the Glorious Appearing. Which, incidentally, I thought might put a stop to LaHaye and Jenkins in their quest for world domination, but, like George Lucas before them, they have discovered the prequel. The latest of which, apparently, will be launched on 06.06.06.
I've just realised. LaHaye and Jenkins are the anti-Christ!
*OK, I may have added that bit myself.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
The author, David Levy, believes that 'within about fifty years there will be almost no limit to the intellectual and creative powers of robots, nor to the sophistication of their electronics and their electromechanical design.' Fifty years is a long time in technology, so he may well be right. But there are more theories presented in this interview which, although pretty far out for actual scientific prediction, make good sf fodder. For instance:
ChessBase: Are you really so sure of your predictions about love, marriage, sex and reproduction with robots? Isn’t this all rather science fiction?Reproduction - why not? Self-replicating nanobots have been an accepted sf device for a while, after all. When you think, as Levy appears to have done, about human-robot relationships, however, I start to shudder. He does, however, make a valid point about same-sex marriages; who'd have thought that would happen, even fifty years ago?
Levy: No, it isn’t science fiction.
Most interestingly, Levy also speculates on robot rights (which I think led to the world of the Matrix), robot ethics, and even robot religion...
I'm sure some of this has been covered in sf - Asimov's robot stories spring to mind, as does Star Trek's Data; robot religion specifically in The Quest for Saint Aquin (Anthony Boucher), and 'Silicon Heaven' as featured in Red Dwarf:
"...and the iron shall lay down with the lamp..."
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
For instance, I recently read The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld, in which compound minds - essentially AIs comprising all the computer power of a planet - can behave like gods, and are treated as such by the mechanically-enhanced Rix people.
However, it stands to reason that computer programmers seeking to create artificial intelligence would not be deliberately trying to replace humanity as the dominant species. Logically there would be some form of control built into the little artificial lifeforms (like Asimov's Laws of Robotics, if you like).
My WIP starts along these lines:
ALFs are artificial lifeforms created within a strictly controlled virtual environment, and imbued with a limited degree of intelligence by their creators.
However, following a dispute over how to use the technology, the experiment is corupted when one of the programmers leaves the the project, having first infected the system with a virus.
In an attempt to salvage the project – and save countless artificial ‘lives’ – the creator of the project must enter his virtual world in order to isolate and remove the virus.
Unknown to him, however, his erstwhile colleague, as well as corrupting the project, has found a way to influence the actions of the artificial lives, and a battle to control the world has begun...
OK, so the second half sounds a bit cheesy, and the whole idea as presented here (before Elliot says it ;) ) may be a bit unsubtle. That, combined with the fact that it didn't finish it while cyberpunk was still young, and a major part of the story subsequently appeared in The Matrix, is why I've shifted it onto the backburner. I do have a couple of ideas to breathe new life into it, and may yet be able to make a sufficiently original story from it.
Alternatively, as Elliot suggested, maybe the Christian market is about ready for a Christian Matrix...