Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Tour Within

CSSF Blog Tour

Looks like a return to form here then... another missed post and now a token contribution to the blog tour. I'm striken by plague, and I can't even bring myself to create an amusingly off the wall post for the tour.

So, in the unlikely event that you've stumbled in here from somewhere unconnected to the tour, why not take a look at Wayne Thomas Batson's Door Within trilogy: The Door Within, Rise of the Wyrm Lord and The Final Storm.
Or visit The Door Within web site and the author's blog.

And when you've done that, check out some of the other blogs on the tour. I particularly recommend the interview with Aidan Thomas (star of the trilogy) at Unseen Worlds. Nice idea for a post, might have to pinch it if I can persuade one of my characters to co-operate.

Your tour continues this way:
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver

Friday, January 19, 2007

Space-filling post of the month

Sorry, Wednesday's post got lost somewhere as I was too busy messing about with 'new' Blogger's bells and whistles. Not that I've really started using them yet, but I'll get round to it.

Anyway, some fun stuff I've been noticing:
Speculative Catholic, having returned from sabbatical a while back, has gone all Martian on us. Some interesting links about Martian calendars and liturgy, if you're into that sort of thing.
And over at the Lost Genre Guild, Andrea Graham wonders why we can't place King David in the midst of a high-tech future, in outer space, or even on another planet? Biblical science-fiction? Almost like sort of a, um, Old Testament Space Opera, maybe? Finest idea I've heard in a while....
Oh, and I've been watching the blog of Chris Walley lately. You know, my nemesis. (Not sure he knows that, mind!) And, much to my disappointment, it reads like he might actually be a decent bloke. He says some funny things. He's frustrated with Britain's Christian so-called-booksellers (and him, a proper author and all). So, since I can't really dislike the man for anything other than being Welsh, I guess I'm forced to admit that I'm just plain jealous.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Patron Saint of Plagues, by Barth Anderson

You know those books where nothing much seems to happen, but you keep reading because the characters become real and the writing is just so darn good?

This is not one of those books. This is one of those books where nothing much seems to happen, but you keep reading because you promised to review it on your blog.

That's not to say it wasn't well written - there are flashes of brilliance, especially in the couple of chapters that describe the progress of a cells as they travel through the human body, and some of the insults from 'cuss-poet' Isabel Khushub are, well, cuss-poetry.

Anyway, the story. It's about 2050, the US has collapsed in on itself and Mexico is rising under a sort of Catholic/fascist dictatorship. Into all this enters a bio-engineered plague, targeting native Mexicans, and all-American hero Henry Stark, who, assisted by his former flame the aforementioned cuss-poet Khushub, obviously sets out to save the day.

There are a few good sf ideas thrown in too; as well as the obligatory flying motorbikes, the pilone network and associated 'wetware' - a sort of internet browser hard-wired into the brain - plays an integral part in the story. Whether the tell-tale scar left behind by its installation is in fact the mark of the beast, has nothing to do with the story at all and is just an interesting thought that occurred to me.

I think I may have missed the point with this book. All the Spanish words and catholic stuff may just have switched my brain off, but it failed to grip me. The characters failed to engage me, and ultimately I don't think there was enough going on to fill 370 pages.

Barth Anderson, by all accounts, is a short fiction author of some renown; unfortunately I think this, his debut novel, falls short of its potential. Must try harder!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who is This God Person Anyway? (Fit the Second - Genesis)

In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
Many races believe that it was created by some sort of god, though the Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI believe that the entire Universe was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being calle dthe Great Green Arkleseizure.
However, the Great Green Arkleseizure Theory is not widely accepted outside Viltvodle VI and so, the Universe being the puzzling place it is, other explanations are constantly being sought.

I suppose, to a radical atheist, this may not seem much more bizzarely improbable than 'God said "Let there be light," and there was light.' But the Universe according to Hitchhikers got into its current state through evolution, which is referred to repeatedly, from the throw-away gag:

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

to the creation of the super-evolutionary Haggunenons, who will 'quite frequently evolve several times over lunch', and the disruption of evolution on Earth by the arrival of the Golgafrinchans on the 'B' Ark.

But I'm not going to embark on a creation/evolution debate - personally I don't care how the Universe was created, the fact is it's here and we've got to deal with it. Instead (and I may end up jumping forward a bit here) consider:

" must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

- Genesis 2:17, NIV

and consider the fact that, in trying to establish the Question to the Ultimate Answer, Arthur Dent ultimately secures his own death. Although, of course, it is a well-established fact that the Question and the Answer cannot both exist within the same Universe, presumably because such knowledge would lead to certain death on a cosmic scale. And finally, another quote from DNA on the subject of knowledge:

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

Incidentally, I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up follwoing the books of the Bible - any suggestions for what Leviticus should cover will be gratefully received.

Friday, January 12, 2007

On Precogs and Prophets

So, following on from watching Minority Report, I thought I would take a quick look at the 'meantal powers' sub-genre - that branch of science fiction which tells of Homo superior in all its forms, endowed with powers including telepathy, telekenesis and precognition.

Centuries ago anyone claiming to have such powers would have been burnt at the stake, condemned by the Church as a witch. Although demonic assistance isn't credited quite as publicly as it might have been 300 years ago, anyone claiming to be able to move an object purely by the power of his mind is generally considered to be either a bit mad or some kind of occultist (assuming that we discount stage magicians, of course).

So, are we treading on thin ice if we consider these subjects in Christian fiction? Well, apparently not; I'm currently reading Kathy Tyers' Firebird trilogy, in which the pseudo-Christian good guys are chock full of funky mental powers. Precognition, however, is seen as something of a dark art even among the Sentinels.

It might be interesting to take some of science-fiction's ideas on precognition - Can the future be changed? Is any such vision destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy? - and mix them in with a theme of divine prophecy. Would the same rules apply to a divine prophecy? And how would anyone know what is from God and what is from a genetically-enhanced human? What if God used a genetically-enhanced human as his prophet? And so on.

In the world of the Old Testament Space Opera, meanwhile, Joseph (he of the posh jacket and the dream-readings) becomes some kind of telepath or precog; this gives those around him cause to turn on him, and him the ability to survive what might befall him when they do.

There are other super-human abilities that sf has given us too: levitation, transportation, mind-control... and that's before we dig into the world of the comic-book super-hero...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Who is This God Person Anyway? (Fit the First - DNA)

Douglas Noel Adams was famously an atheist. He was fascinated by religion in all its forms, but did not consider his atheism in terms of belief or non-belief. He was, in his own words, 'convinced that there is no God'. Which could be why, in the first sentence of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, we are introduced to Oolon Coluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters: Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes, and Who is This God Person Anyway?

I've long fantasised about writing a book with that last title. A volume on theology, perhaps, in the style of Hitchhiker's. A sort of Hitchhiker's Guide to Eternity. The Gospel According to Zaphod Beeblebrox, that sort of thing. Maybe I should give up on science fiction and set about my own trilogy of philosophical blockbusters. For now, though, I'll settle with this little series of posts.

Douglas' facination with religion is apparent throughout the Hitchhiker trilogy, from that opening sentence to the wierd missionary antics of Huma Kavula in the movie version, and then overspills into the world of Dirk Gently. And that Hitchhikers has at its heart a quest for the meaning of life almost goes without saying. Some of his writings seem to have been adopted into atheist folklore:

...if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.
Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: I refuse to prove that I exist, says God, for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.
But, says Man, the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.
Oh dear, says God, I hadn't thought of that, and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

It's hard to fault the logic there, and Adams has brilliantly twisted a 'theist' argument to suit his own atheist worldview. This is, of course, a load of fetid dingoes kidneys, not least because God has never, to my knowledge, refused to prove his existence, or used the 'proof denies faith' argument in his own defence. On top of which we could always use the counter argument - that proof does not deny faith, but in fact confirms it.

It is just possible, of course, that Adams used this illustration simply for the sake of a joke, as the passage finishes:

Oh, that was easy, says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

Well, that about wraps it up for atheists, it would seem.

Further musings on the Gospel according to Douglas Adams will follow next week, in the meantime you can get an insight into his beliefs (or convictions) in his interview with The American Atheist here, also published in The Salmon of Doubt.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Evil Santa, Alien Pop and the Apocalypse

So, Christmas has been and gone, and with it, Doctor Who sealed its place as part of it. After just two Christmas specials, the good Doctor is almost as traditional as the Queen.

The most recent special wasn't as good as the previous year's homage to Hitchhiker's, but the evil Santa's were back, there was a star-shaped spaceship over London, and (this being TV-land) it snowed on Christmas Eve. And the good Doctor saved the world while dealing with the loss of Rose, which happened immediately prior to this episode. There was even a subtle nod towards Torchwood, which also ended its first season this week.

At its best, Torchwood has been great viewing. Unfortunately it has had more than its fair share of mediocre episodes, and really, someone should tell the makers that adult TV doesn't have to include sex every week. Or, in fact, at all.

For me, Torchwood is at its best when trying to be the Welsh Angel. And sure enough, the season ended with a barely averted apocalypse straight out of the Buffyverse. I have to mention the ending, but I don't want to spoil it, so highlight the next bit if you want to know why.

The final episode starts with Ianto reading from the book of Daniel, as an introduction to the coming apocalypse. Imprisoned under the rift, and inadvertantly released in the last episode, is Abaddon, a big scary monster that instantly kills anything its shadow touches. Up to and including Captain Jack, who sacrifices his apparently immortal self to save the world. Gwen, still believing him to be immortal, spends 'days' with his corpse in the Torchwood morgue, until he awakes only to be spirited away by a passing TARDIS.

You can see why I had to mention it.

There are plenty of loose ends, and a second series has been commissioned. If we're lucky, the series will find its identity and Captain Jack and his crew will become more than two-dimensional characters who do little more than work and sleep with each other.

Elsewhere in the Whoniverse, it being the holidays, I managed to catch the pilot of the Sarah Jane Adventures. I wouldn't normally comment on childrens TV - and it was sillier than the most kiddy-friendly Doctor Who stories - but it seems the people in the Doctor Who spin-off department have swallowed a Bible, or at least a book on end-times prophecy. So we end up with Mrs Wormwood, a nasty alien come to take over the Earth by putting alien DNA in fizzy drinks. Oh, and there's an all-knowing kid created in a laboratory who may have some important role to play as the thing pans out.

Just another Christmas in the Whoniverse then...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2007 and all that...

Right, so, I'm back, and hopefully will manage to keep things ticking over on the blog front. I'd make that a new years resolution, except I actually want to keep it up.

So, what can we expect from the new year at OT Space Opera?

If all goes to plan, I can resume three posts a week, to keep the place fresh while still, hopefully, having enough relevant stuff to comment on. You may even find a semi-regular review slot.

One interesting thing that has cropped up once or twice over the life of this blog is the treatment of religion by atheist writers - for instance, Joss Whedon's creation of Shepherd Book for Firefly. For a while I've thought about taking a closer look at the concepts of god and religion as featured in the works of Douglas Adams. So I've decided to just that, because, well, it's my blog and I can do what I like. :-p

In between which I will, no doubt, pass comment on other science fiction related matters, and if I really put my mind to it, write some sf myself. No promises there though.

Oh, and the CSFF blog tour will stop by here too, of course, adding the occasional mention of fantasy into the mix.

Hey, that almost sounds good... now how am I going to keep it up?