Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blog Tours to the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

This week the bloggers of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour have been On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, courtesy of Andrew Peterson.

Now, this month's featured novel is the first book in the Wingfeather Saga - a fantasy series. And of course, I don't get fantasy, which would usually make this a pretty short stop on the tour. And in keeping with tradition, I haven't read On the Edge of the Dark Sea.... I have, however, read a few interesting comments on the tour so far.

For instance, Timothy Hicks and Christopher Hopper both commented on some Python-esque aspects of the book. CherryBlossomMJ, who has at least started the book, hears that the author has been connected with those Veggie Tales reprobates - and who doesn't love a bit of Veggie?

There are a few notable exceptions to my non-getting of fantasy, and given the aforementioned reasons to expect silliness, I am wondering whether On the Edge of the Dark... might in fact be one such exception. I may (gasp!) be forced to acquire a copy, just to check.

Based on the reviews, blurbs etc on this tour and elsewhere, I am given to think that, were I to write a review of On the Edge..., it would include somewhere within it words like 'Pratchett' and 'Discworld'. So, if anyone would like to compare On... to, say, The Light Fantastic, please let me know.

Some folks who may be interested in doing that include...
Sally Apokedak Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Jackie Castle Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis D. G. D. Davidson Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Beth Goddard Marcus Goodyear Todd Green Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Pamela Morrisson John W. Otte Deena Peterson Rachelle Steve Rice Cheryl Russel Ashley Rutherford Chawna Schroeder James Somers Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Sci-Fi Song of the Week

You can thank Mr Hopper for this. It is, of course:

Monty Python's Galaxy Song, from The Meaning of Life. Downloadable MP3 here!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Phursdsay Photos: Lindisfarne

Apparently today is St Cuthbert's Day, which seems like a good excuse to brighten up the blog with some pictures of his erstwile home, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne has one of the iconic castles of the Northumbrian coast, which is a recurring feature around our house for various reasons.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sir Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008

Sir Arthur C Clarke, one of science fiction's most visionary authors, has died at the age of 90.

Best known, of course, for the movie 2001: A Space Oddysey, he was an author who often included religious (or at least mystical) elements or themes in his stories (The Star, and The Nine Billion Names of God come to mind), and as such will probably crop up here again.

That he hasn't cropped up here more often is a poor reflection on the influence he has had on the science fiction genre, and no doubt will continue to have for some time yet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In honour of St Patrick....

...I will dedicate this post to directing you to something that has been on my list of 'things to get round to looking at'.

It's Irish Christian science-fiction, of course! Brought to you by Rick Sutcliffe, all the way from, er, Canada. Naturally.

Even though these stories are readily available as handy e-books, I have yet to get round to trying one, so I can't offer a proper review. (But you don't come here for the reviews, do you?)

I can however, tell you that I find the whole idea of the Interregnum intriguing - but then, I'm a sucker for alternate histories, which is precisely what the Interregnum series is. In fact, it tells the story of several alternate earths, connected by the Timestream. One of the main 'Earths' is Hibernia, otherwise known as Greater Ireland, and has a detailed alternate history plotted out here, which starts with the non-crucifixion of Christ, and ends with the Three Worlds' War in 1939 (via space flight in 1735) , where the story begins.

If anyone out there has read any of the series, I'd be interested to know what you thought. For the rest of you, well, maybe I'll have a review ready by next St Patrick's Day...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Churched Batman

Since superheores have crept into the last few posts for one reason or another, today I will hand over to ASBO Jesus for his take on the subject....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday Tunes Goes Old Skool

Last year we inherited a second-hand sound system - quite a flashy looking one, but it was the 5-CD changer that turned my head, and made me decide to pension off our existing stereo. The stereo in question was about 12 years old, and the CD player has never been the same since it got some dust in it when we moved house, but it did date back to the days of 'records', which, for the iPod generation, are like bigger, more cumbersome versions of CDs. I know, how did we ever manage?

In light of all this I decided that I would transfer my vinyl onto cassette (I know, I know!) for posterity. Only I hadn't got far through the process when the tape deck exploded.

So (and this is the point of the story) I bought myself a new toy recently - an Ion USB Turntable. And a suitably impressive piece of kit it is too. I bought it with the intention of digitising my vinyl collection, but having hooked it up to the stereo and tried it out on a couple of tracks, I think it's likely to get a lot more use than that. There is something satisfying about the act of putting the needle on the record. Even the snap, crackle and pop of some of the lower quality vinyl I own adds to the experience rather than becoming annoying. And, of course, there is the adventure of rediscovering some of those wierd 12 inch singles I bought in the early 90s.

There is no doubt that the new turntable is far superior to the one I just threw out - after all, that was part of an all-in-one unit released at the time vinyl was being replaced and the CD was on the rise. At least one LP I had thought scratched beyond listenability has turned out, in fact, to skip only one or two spots.

It is, of course, probable that the novelty will wear off and getting up to turn the record over every 20 minutes will get a bit tedious, at which time I will get transfer them all to MP3 and go back to using the 5 disk changer from across the room. Until then, I shall continue to wallow in my nostalgia.

Sci-Fi Song of the Week

I've done enough self-indulgent wibbling today, so all that remains is to introduce this weeks Sci-Fi Song, which, in keeping with the superhero theme of recent posts, is (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, by The Kinks.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Miscellaneous Podcastery

First, following on from Friday's review, if Robin Parrish's Dominion books, or Heroes, are the sort of thing you like, you may well have discovered Mur Lafferty's Playing for Keeps. It's a podcast novel along similar lines, the story of a bunch of, well, rubbish superheroes, I guess, who find themselves stuck in the middle of a titanic battle between superheroes and supervillains. The last podcast went out a couple of weeks ago, so I guess I owe Mur an apology for not plugging it earlier. My Third Wave power would be 'shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted'. There's PDFs too, for purists who prefer the written word. :)

Second, I believe Mir speaks quite highly of Carole McDonnel. So, for Mir's benefit if nothing else, she has a story on Escape Pod this week. EP is always worth checking out, so if you haven't got round to it yet, there's your reason - I could be wrong, but I think this was the first time I've heard Steve Eley use the word 'Christian' in his intro. It's a bit different from their usual fare - I like a good alternate history, but I didn't really get that much of a feel for the world in this story. And although the story centred on racial politics, it did hint at Christians getting a raw deal elsewhere in the reimagined USA, which would have had more relevance to me.

Finally, a couple of quickies to check out: Starship Sofa are podcasting the nominees for the BSFA Best Short Story Award 2007 this week, so that should be good; and I've been getting into the Daily Audio Bible just lately, for anyone interested in listening to the Bible over the course of a year.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Review - Fearless by Robin Parrish

Regular visitors may recall that Fearless has already been featured on the CSFF Blog Tour, but I hadn't read it back then, so my contribution was a review of book one of the Dominion Trilogy, Relentless, which you can read here.

Fearless continues the story in a world in chaos, with apparently natural disasters happening in LA, Jerusalem, London... you name it. Personally I thought these bits got a bit Left Behind at times, but on the whole the story wasn't in that league (which is agood thing, btw!). Superhero 'Guardian', aka Grant Borrows, and his fellow Loci head to London, via the aforementioned disaster in Jerusalem, where Grant discovers more about his destiny. None of them seem the least bit bothered about why they had to switch bodies, which still bothers me a bit. And while we're talking minor niggles, exactly where is 'downtown London'? And (spoiler alert) how come the psychic barrier extends to the Underground, but allows the Loci to walk across the river bed? The Underground, to best of my knowledge, goes under the river. The author might as well have wrtten 'the Loci made their way through the barrier by locating a big enough plot-hole'.

OK, enough criticising. I enjoyed Relentless when I read it last year, and for the most part, I enjoyed Fearless just as much. The pace is just as fast as in the first volume, thanks in part to the short chapters, and in part due to the fact that this book is even more chock full of action than the previous volume. Cliffhangers lurk around every corner, right up to the final climactic scene.

There's plenty of suspense, a suitably varied cast of superheroes, some of whose back stories are touched on to add a little depth to the proceedings.

As I mentioned when reviewing Relentless, I like my Christian fiction to have a bit more Christianity in it, and so far it has only had passing mentions in this series. I will, however be looking out for Merciless to see how (if?) the Secretum, Loci and associated mythology relate to the Christian faith.

If by some fluke you haven't read any of the Dominion Trilogy books (and especially if you don't live in the UK), go read Relentless now. Fearless might work on its own, but I would recommend starting at the beginning.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Who is This God Person Anyway? (Fit the Sixth - The Total Perspective Vortex)

So we make a long-awaited return to the increasingly occasional series plucking at the spiritual threads of Douglas Adams' writings.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about the Total Perspective Vortex:

The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.
To explain--since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation--every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition, and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.
The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.
Trin Tragula--for that was his name--was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.
"Have some sense of proportion!" she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.
And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex--just to show her.
And into one end, he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other, he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.
To Trin Tragula's horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain, but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

I was sort of going somewhere with this, like to parallel the Vortex with the way getting too close to God would annihilate the brains of Old Testament Jews, but really I just wanted to let the universe speak for itself.

Monday, March 03, 2008

On Slacking

I have been a bit slack when it comes to writing lately, both in letting my thoughts loose here and in getting on with Project Seven.

That will be, at least in part, real life getting in the way. Oh, and the fact that there is a gaping hole at the beginning of the story - there is no reason for the events I wish to portray to actually happen - which bugs me every time I try to get on with the story.

I try to tell myself that a sucky first draft is allowable, and probably what I'll end up with whatever happens. But the lack of a concrete opening is leaving a lot of leaway for the whole thing to descend back into the realms of fantasy, which I've tried to keep it out of on the basis that a non-spec-fic version of the story might actually get published. I suppose I should be realistic, tell myself that's completely unlikely and make it as fantastic as it wants to be.

Or maybe I should write something else; I have a huge array of characters, settings, story ideas and themes which are, currently, largely unrelated. Maybe I should pick a random one from each list and see where the story goes - just as a change of creative scenery, if nothing else.

Above all, I think I need to constantly remind myself of the importance of writing, to me, as a way of spending time with God. When I wrote Countless as the Stars, I spent ages reading the Bible as research, and learnt a lot about God as a result. The whole process became an act of worship in many ways (and I hope that came through in the end result). This one is different; the story is much more personal, and I am having to learn a lot about myself as research. For various reasons, my protagonist and I find ourselves in similar positions. Writing about his journey is my way of reflecting on my own.

So I guess I have some writing to do. In the meantime, I will try not to let this become a blog about writing...