Broad-spectrum Christian fiction

For some people, Christian fiction means Evangelical Christian fiction— books from a handful of publishers representing an handful of flavors of Evangelical. “You can’t write Christian fiction, you’re Catholic!” is what you hear from the naysayers.

But Evangelical Christian fiction is not the sum total of Christian fiction. It arose, I think, because there were once a large number of Evangelical churches who condemned reading ‘worldly novels’ the way they condemned drinking alcohol, dancing and wearing make-up.

The problem is, Christians are readers. Protestant/Evangelical Christians are urged to have daily Bible reading habits. Catholics are often urged to do Lectio Divina — aka Bible reading— and to read Catholic religious books. So it’s natural that those Evangelicals who were taught that reading ‘worldly novels’ was wrong wanted some non-worldly fiction to read. You can’t read prayer books and sermons forever.

Evangelical Christian fiction has done well for itself. The ‘Left Behind’ series showed that even Evangelical fiction with strange theology most Christians didn’t know about (the Rapture theory) could become best-sellers, going far beyond the realm of Evangelical Rapture-believers. (Some Evangelicals don’t believe the Rapture theory.) I was a Norse Neopagan when I got hooked on the Left Behind books.

At one time most of the fiction produced in Western Civilization was written by Christians. Some of them, like Machiavelli, author of ‘The Prince’ may have been only nominal Christians— Christians in name only. Christian themes in fiction were normal and acceptable. Think of Jane Eyre, or Dracula. There was enough Christianity there that if they were first written today, most literary agents and publishers would demand the books be secularized to be published.

When I was in school at San Jose Christian School, our teacher Mrs. Stark had a group of novels at the back of the room that were very Protestant Christian fiction. One was set in Germany at the time of the Protestant Rebellion (“Reformation”) and the characters were all associated in some way with Martin Luther (founder of the Lutheran church.)

I have also read old Catholic novels from the 1950s, and I have read the books of Orson Scott Card, a man of the Latter-Day Saints church who managed to become a Hugo Award winning writer without hiding his faith. His ‘Lost Boys’ is a story featuring an LDS family who are living out their faith.

I think that Christian fiction readers and writers need to take a broader view of Christian fiction. Is it really better for an Evangelical Christian to read a secular book by an angry atheist than to read a Catholic author? We are all followers of Jesus Christ even if some of us have *wrong* theology.

Some people would say it’s OK to read Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical fiction, but they draw the line at Mormon. After all, that religion is in the book ‘Kingdom of the Cults.’ Well, is that how we are called to judge other Christ-followers— by whether their church is in the book ‘Kingdom of the Cults?’ As a Catholic I believe that the Mormon teachings include a lot of incorrect theology. But isn’t Mormon fiction a little closer to what we should be reading than fiction that calls Christians ‘haters’ and ‘unintelligent’, and promotes angry atheism?

Christians/Christ-followers of different kinds can work together to make Christian fiction a more viable and exciting genre. We can help authors sell their books and readers find new reading material. It’s better to work together that to break up into ever-smaller groups looking for only writers with perfect doctrines.

The image above is of Catholic author Karina Fabian’s sci-fi novel Discovery. I read it cover to cover and when I had come to the end, I liked it enough to immediately start again at the beginning and read it a second time. I very much recommend it to sci-fi fans.

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WW: A Sci-Fi military must know that it’s the military

Our Worldbuilding Wednesday topic is: Military. More information on the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop below.

The one thing your fictional Sci-fi military must do is know that it is the military. None of this crap they put out in the recent Star Trek movies ‘I thought we were explorers.’ What did you think the Enterprise’s phasers and photon torpedoes were there for? What about those military ranks? And the fact that disobeying an order can result in a courtmartial, not just getting fired as in the civilian world?

Star Trek is stupid on these points because it’s a brilliant idea ruled over by whiny Leftists. You can’t expect better from them. That’s why I didn’t bother to watch more than a few minutes of ‘Star Trek Discovery.’ I knew it would suck and it did. So I spend my time seeing if Ice-T could solve the murders of Tupac and Biggie. (I think he needed help from Mariska Hargitay.)

A military uses force for the common good of society. Yes, they kill people. And that’s sad. But when you have an enemy army pouring over your nation’s borders, you need to kill some people to stop it. Probably most of the people you kill will be nice people who are only doing what their government tells them to. But if you don’t want your nation ruled by a Stalin or a Hitler, you will need to get your hands dirty.

A police force also uses force for the common good. Sometimes good police officers shoot and kill a dangerous looking person that turns out to be young, or unarmed. But the problem is that you can’t always tell if that dangerous or defiant guy is young or reaching for a stick of gum instead of a gun. What would happen if officers failed to stop a dangerous-looking guy who went on to kill 10 school kids?

In my WIP Tiberius Base, there is a Fleet which was once answered to the Terran Council. Only the Terran Council disbanded years ago. The Fleet goes on, protecting Terran worlds and doing a little trading on the side to fund themselves. Because they now no longer receive funding from the taxpayers as they once did.

The space city Tiberius Base is owned by Fortunate Dragon Company, which is a part of the Interplanetary People’s Republic. The IPR has a political/economic policy called Alliterism, which has a bad reputation on many worlds. So Fortunate Dragon hires the Fleet to provide people to operate the Base’s weapons, and some to function as a local police force. This requires them to create laws that are a sort of hybrid of what the IPR wants and what the Fleet will stand for.


This has been a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop, sponsored by Rebekah Loper. Visit her blog at: https://rebekahloper.com/

Valdemar: Fantasy Fic with Big Govt Programs

I’ve been reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series for years, but some things about the series rub me the wrong way. Valdemar is a fantasy series set in a medievalish kingdom with magic horses called Companions. As a medievalish society it should be…. not progressive, socialist, or other modern things. And yet, it is.

In the novel Take A Thief, which tells the early history of the character Skif, it is told that the Crown has decreed that the school kids in the capital Haven get a free meal at government expense. It isn’t mentioned that the free meal is limited to the poor by any test of means. But it is mentioned that children who get through the mandated elementary education have to leave school and thus miss the free meal.

Another question is the education itself. In various Valdemar books it claims that Valdemar mandates elementary education for children though it seems that since the education is carried out by the various religions that perhaps Valdemar is requiring the religions to fund the schools rather than spending its own taxpayer funds on it.

The question arises: how does a medievalish fantasy world even come up with the idea of such big government programs? In the real world they didn’t come along until later. In part because medieval central governments were weak and the local lords had more power over the everyday life of their people.

The free meal program might have been a part of the normal charity programs of a medieval society, but only if it was confined to the poor. They hadn’t invented the concept of handouts for all classes of people yet. Even in our country the idea of a free summertime school lunch for all income levels (yes, that is a government program) is controversial.

And then there is the idea of education for all. In the medieval societies, most occupations didn’t require education or literacy. It seems a silly burden to impose on children who will grow up to be farmhands or carpenter’s assistants or street sweepers. Now, if Valdemar had a state religion, there might be a call for universal religious training, which might, like the first Sunday Schools, include reading and arithmetic training. But Valdemar decrees ‘No One True Way’ and that seems to mean that its religious picture is one of dozens of varieties of polytheistic paganism.

Now, the reason medieval societies didn’t have the full list of big government programs is that they cost the central government more money than it could raise by taxation. Medieval people, like people today, didn’t like high taxes. Why risk a tax revolt to fund social programs when the Crown had more immediate needs like funding an army for when wars happened? Or for when subordinate provinces rebelled and needed to be reconquered— perhaps because of a revolt against high taxes?

Of course the real reason fantasy worlds like Valdemar have anacronistic Big Government programs is that there are fantasy readers and writers who are Progressives/Socialists/Leftists who love these programs so much (because they never had to live on them) that they put them in to their fantasies whether they make sense or not. And that’s OK. But I’d like a fantasy world with less government and more freedom, personally.

Worldbuilding Wednesday: When Darwinism is hidden ‘knowledge’

Wednesday again and time for Rebekah Loper’s Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop. Visit her blog to learn more or join up.

Today’s topic is knowledge, and that’s a big thing in the world of my WIP Tiberius Base. There is even an interplanetary institution which stores knowledge from various humanoid worlds. But knowledge or perceived knowledge does not always travel well between worlds, languages and cultures.

Take the example of the theory of evolution and its associated philosophy, evolutionism or Darwinism. During the lifetime of Charles Darwin there were humanoid aliens living on Terra, most notably the Menders, who were there to steal horses. They were charmed by Terran cultures and folklore as well. When Darwin’s book was published and got talked about, the Menders thought Darwin’s story of the possible evolution of Man was a charming fable like the Frog Prince. They conflated the two stories and spread it throughout the galaxy that Terran humans thought that their kind originated by someone kissing a frog or an ape— or maybe from an ape kissing a frog.

When Terran humans developed our own science enough to travel in space, Darwinism was often used to mock them as unscientific. Since other intelligent races didn’t have their own theory of evolution and some had been observing for longer than Earth had existed, the theory was quietly excised from scientific training.

However, the life philosophy of evolutionism, where evolution functions as the Blessed Hope of Man, was kept alive by some cultures that had an old-school secularist/Darwinist philosophy. But it was not taught to young school students who might blab about it to aliens. It was something like the secret at the heart of a mystery religion— taught only to those who were properly initiated.

Now I must point out that this controversy is kept alive as an attempt to downgrade Terran humans. Humanoid races are classified into groups by the Interplanetary Humanoid Archive, and only certain groups are considered advanced enough to claim a planet for colonization at the Archive. So most humans pretend not to know about or believe in evolution or evolutionism.

The questions from today’s blog hop theme:

How much does each culture know about your fictional world?

Those involved in the story have a great deal of knowledge, with the exception of the True-Alien Diggers. They are non-humanoid aliens of a class known as Fernal Aliens. They can’t communicate with humanoid either through language or telepathy, they don’t live in our kind of environments and the best humanoid wisdom is to leave Fernal Aliens strictly alone. There is another race of True-Aliens of a type call Bynal Aliens who CAN communicate with humanoids, and they have communication with the Diggers. Or so they say. But it is really not known how much the Diggers know about humanoids and their worlds.

How is that information stored?

Both computer systems and books are used to store knowledge. Some races carve lists of their kings or presidents into stone since that will last longer. The Interplanetary Humanoid Archive tries to keep copies of it all. Information is also stored in archives on humanoid worlds, usually following methods used at the IHA.

How is that information passed on?

This varies from planet to planet and from region to region. Tiberius Base itself does not have formal schools for children because children haven’t been born or imported yet. College level courses are available over computers at the station, and more can be downloaded over the ansible system (interplanetary radio/television/internet). These courses are used by the inhabitants of the Base to upgrade their skills. The main character of the story, Ping, takes a course in the German language to communicate with new workers, and one in the Korean language to impress his Korean girlfriend’s father.

Trade Languages:

Knowledge must be passed on in languages. And learning the language of another humanoid race is much more difficult than learning a different Earth language. The solution that has been developed is to learn a Trade Language. Trade Languages originated on the planet Terra. They are languages which were simplified for international use, and they also proved useful in interplanetary communication. The primary Trade Languages are: Esperanto, Volapuk, and Universalglot. A dialect of Esperanto called Ido is also in use. (These are all real made-up languages. You can google them.) The Interplanetary Humanoid Archive very early on adopted Volupuk as their primary cataloging language. And regretted it, since the moment they got done with that project the language Esperanto was invented which was easier for most humanoids to learn.


So, this has been my random worldbuilding thoughts for this week. I hope it has been of some interest. Feel free to comment— about my worldbuilding or your own!

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Geography of a space station

So, does a space station actually have a geography? Well, Tiberius Base is pretty big, so, yes, it does. It’s a space city, really.

This is a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Join us!

The Core

The core of the Base is a hollow-out asteroid donated by The Diggers. The Diggers are a True Alien race— not humanoid— and they are classified as Fernal Aliens. In other words, they can’t or don’t communicate with humanoids normally. But in this case there is another alien race, the Tsanan, who are Bynal Aliens— they do interact with humans— and they are able to communicate with the Diggers.

The Core is the center of the Base but it is covered in artificial constructions. The Base is in levels and has artificial gravity emanating from the bottom of the sphere. I might mention that in my current WIP Tiberius Base is in the late stages of construction and a lot of the interior is still being build or adapted for its intended used. Tiberius Base is built and owned by the corporation Fortunate Dragon, which is based in the Terran Empire, in a subdivision ruled by Chinese people.

The Docks

There is a double-ring of docks around the ‘equator’ of the station, where ships can refuel, undergo repairs, or trade cargo. At the Docks level, most of the facilities are related to trade or repair, as well as lodgings for those who are visiting the station. There are also security officers aplenty, because there are also some spacemen’s bars being set up and trouble is anticipated.

Topside

This is the ‘top’ of the station although designations like ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ are arbitrary. Topside is where the well-to-do will live and work when the Base is fully operational. A home in Topside is considered very exclusive. The rooms don’t just have many rooms. Most have their own gardens build in— and they are not practical gardens, but are filled with difficult-to-grow exotic flowers, usually. Though one eccentric grows nothing but varieties of day-lilies in his. A few of the more posh spots also have a second garden for the practical purpose of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchen. The Topside shops and restaurants are the most desired locations and people of all levels of the station use them.

Midside

The levels just above and just below the Docks level are devoted to the homes and workplaces of the middle class. The homes are not luxurious but are nicer than those in most space cities. The ‘downtown’ shopping district is also located in upper Midside. The great ‘street’ which makes up the shopping area has streetcars. It is also where the Base’s forest is located. All Bases and starships have a forest, but the one on Tiberius Base is larger than any forest previously set up by Terrans. During mushroom season, mushrooming in the forest is a popular activity, but one heavily controlled by the authorities. On other stations there have been murders over poaching mushrooms (they were morel mushrooms so it was justifiable homicide.)

The Dome

It is a tourist attraction really. There are a lot of transparencies (like glass but tougher) so you can see out into space. There is also a grand colored transparency like an abstract stained glass window. My main character Ping was in charge of the project of installing the transparency. The Dome area leads into Midside’s ‘downtown’ area. It is also the entrance to the ship’s forest.

Bottomside

Bottomside is dedicated to the most practical operations of the base, like the sewage system. There are also the homes of the menial workers. These homes are NOT posh and there are actually barracks for the unmarried workers. The only shops and restaurants at the Bottomside level are a few cheap places that cater to the poorest. Most Bottomside residents shop and eat at Midside. The station management makes shop spaces available there at low-enough prices that most folks locate businesses there.

 

Why Christian/Catholic Authors shouldn’t write smutty books

Sexy

Everybody does it, these days. Sex scenes in fiction are oddly considered ‘realistic’ and some unfortunate readers refuse to read books without them. But a Christian (includes Catholic) author must not do it.

Note: the book cover above was chosen at random. I don’t know the author or if the book is as ‘sexy’ as the cover indicates.

Why not? Plotting a sex scene involves cultivating a sexual thought, on purpose. In Christianity that is called ‘entertaining impure thoughts.’  HAVING impure thoughts is not the sin– we have no control when we wake up from a sex dream and continue having sexual thoughts before our self-control can assert itself.

There is an old Catholic story about a teen boy who goes to confession and can’t think of what to confess. The helpful priest asks if the boy has been entertaining impure thoughts.  The boy, wanting to be truthful, says ‘No, Father, they entertain ME.’

Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and many other fine authors that we all should read managed to write novels without having their characters go at it sexually all over the landscape. Dickens even wrote prostitute characters without resorting to sex scenes. Why today’s authors think they are better and more realistic than Dickens because they write their sex fantasies into their fiction I do not know.

A Christian is called to be pure. Why? Because sex is too holy to be taken casually. God instituted marriage so that believers could live out their sex lives in a pure and holy way. Marriage— and the sexuality that comes with the marriage— is symbolic of the relationship of Christ and the Church. What part of that makes you believe that writing out sex fantasies in our fiction is OK?

Some people think that you need explicit sex scenes to be ‘realistic’.  It would also be ‘realistic’ to have an explicit scene of your character’s next bathroom visit. But it would also be crude and disgusting to many readers. Do we really need to know if Harry Potter did a number 1 or a number 2?

Another reason against sex scenes is the unintended effect we may have. We write a gritty, realistic rape scene that is as unsexy as we can make it— and some teen uses it for whacking-off material. Won’t that warp the young person’s sexuality? And what about the recovering sex addict? A sex scene, unexpected in a Christian author’s novel, may cause a relapse.

A very pragmatic reason against sex scenes for the Christian/Catholic author is that the reader base for Christian fiction overwhelmingly prefers traditional fiction without sex scenes. What do you do when the Christian readers reject you? Secularist readers won’t like you unless you reject all your Christian values in a way you probably don’t want to do.

Finally, writing a sex scene can be overly revealing about you-the-writer. It’s hard to write a sex scene without drawing on your own personal sex experiences, if any. And even if you are innocent of experience, folks will figure that you are doing that kinky sex thing you wrote about.

I should at this point admit that when I first started out writing I tried to write a porno. I had to buy some porno books to get the sex scenes right. I wrote one chapter with a lesbian scene and then lost interest in the project. I realize now what a mistake it would have been to have continued with that project.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 KJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Food

Yet another post in Worldbuilding Wednesday, a blog hop sponsored by Rebekah Loper.  This week our topic is food.

Food supply is an essential for many worlds, yet authors don’t often think about all the difficulties involved. Our culture discourages involvement in food production. I read about a promising farmer’s son who was told in high school he would be ‘wasting his life’ if he studied agriculture in preparation to take over the family farm.

In my WIP Tiberius Base, the setting is a space city— like a space station but much larger — which is called, not surprisingly, Tiberius Base. The city is still under construction, but it needs to support the needs of a crew of builders and of some administrators supervising the project.

Tiberius Base is very large. It is built around a hollowed-out asteroid which was given to the human base-builders by the Diggers, a true alien race (not humanoid). The humans don’t understand the Diggers and cannot directly communicate with them.

Given the large size of the base they can do a lot of food production on their own. Since the population of the base are meat eaters there is no question of imposing vegetarianism. There are large facilities which grow hydroponic grasses which are fed to cattle of various sorts, as well as artificial pastures, which are rotated almost daily. A small number of pigs are kept in order to recycle food waste. Chickens are kept along with the cattle and they clean up spilled feed and provide eggs. Some ducks are raised also.

The base was started by Asians, mostly Chinese, from Earth. So rice is grown on the base on a large scale. The straw from the rice plants is used as cattle bedding. When a large group of Catholic workers are imported, a small amount of wheat must be grown so they can make their own communion wafers.

Sprouting is a vital food source. Sprouting seeds are imported from various worlds and sold nearly at cost by the station administration. Most households on the base do their own sprouting both of salad sprouts and of bean sprouts or lentil sprouts. There are also commercial operations which supply sprouts to restaurants and cafeterias.  The sprouting habit is the major source of vitamins and minerals to the average station inhabitant.

Hydroponic facilities grow a variety of vegetables, including oriental veggies that most Americans would consider exotic. A few orchards on the base provide fruit.

Every space city has at least one transplanted forest at the heart of it. Tiberius Base has an exceptionally large one, as well as three smaller parks. The forests/parks are traditionally seeded with mushroom spores so there are many inhabitants of the base who go mushrooming regularly to supplement their diet. A mushroom growing center will likely be added to the base at some point to supply those who had bad luck mushrooming.

Lower income people on the station have a rather boring diet of beef or pork, rice, and locally grown veggies. Higher income people can pay for imported canned food or frozen meat grown on a relatively local planet. The richest can buy exotic meals from many different cultures specially preserved for the high-income consumer.

The hydroponic growers and the meat producers are sensitive to the desires of the consumers, even low income ones. If they import a group of workers who want more cauliflower or more chevon (goat meat) they are likely to look into ways to produce it. The employers of the low-wage workers, who do such things as move cargo from docked spaceships or do menial tasks around the station, think it very important to provide their workers with decent food to keep their morale up.