Archive for the 'Angelic Conflict' Category

Is Fantasy Only for Kids? No Way!

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure where this idea that fantasy is only for kids came from. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since middle school. I started with Madeline L’Engle and Andre Norton, progressed to Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert. I read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy as a teen, and unbeliever, and had no idea they were allegorical (I found Perelandra to be boring, and That Hideous Strength incomprehensible – they were better when I reread them ten years later as a believer).

Anyway, I never would have thought any of those were “for children,” not even Lord of the Rings which I devoured in high school. Yes, it has dwarves and hobbits and some funny bits, but the devotion to fantastical histories, the density of the prose and the sheer expanse of the tale was unlike any kids’ books I was familiar with.

From there it was Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Watership Down, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Katherine Kurtz, Stephen Donaldson, and more recently, Robert Jordan and Robin Hobb.

With the exception of Watership Down, I would never have considered any of these writers or books as being for children. Thus it never even entered my mind when I began writing fantasies of my own, that they should be written for children. As I detail in my article Why I Write Fantasy (see the tab above), my intent in part was to analogize the angelic conflict all Christians have been entered in at the moment of new birth after believing in Christ. And I didn’t wish to do it in a simplistic manner. It was also, particularly with Legends of the Guardian King, to trace the trajectory of a man’s spiritual life from unbelief to salvation and on through the various stages of spiritual growth.

Clearly the issues on my radar would be issues faced by an adult, not a child. The spiritual precepts would include those wrestled with by adults, not children.

It was not until I entered the field of Christian Fantasy, that I discovered — to my great dismay — the assumption that all fantasy is for children or young adults and should therefore be “clean” and free of sex or “gruesome” or “extreme” violence. I had well-meaning acquaintances tell me how they had given or recommended my books to the eleven-year-old boy next door, or their nine-year-old nephew.

It’s possible an eleven-year-old could follow the main line of the action, but much of the meat of the story I would think would go right over his head. Not that that’s a bad thing. I read my own share of books just that way – following the action, or certain story lines while the bulk of what was going on remained out of my grasp… (Lord of the Rings comes to mind in that regard – my perception of it as a 40+ year old was far different than when I was 16). It’s just… middle school kids were never my primary audience, and here I was facing a mindset that assumed they were not just my primary audience but my only audience!

And since I was writing for kids… how dare I insert into my book the heresy of having my – adult, male, spiritually disillusioned and until-then-celibate – hero commit a sexual sin! I received irate letters from grandmothers who bought the novel for their grandsons, forced to tear the offending two pages from the book before they could pass it on.

Outraged reviews turned up from mothers on Amazon and Christian Book dot com who, having read the book to make sure it was suitable for their young sons, had discovered it wasn’t. How dare I try to trick them like that and put such a thing in a Christian fantasy!

I remain bemused. I know in time past the entire field of speculative fiction was regarded as juvenile and struggled to gain legitimacy as acceptable reading material for American adults. The reason, supposedly was because none of it was “real.”

This objection has been nullified for science fiction for the most part as more and more of what went for science fiction in the old days has become science fact in ours.

So that leaves fantasy, the last bastion of the “make believe” and the “not real” and only children believe in such … well… fantasies.

As if many romances today are not “fantasy”; or many detective and spy novels! And what about Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Most of what they write about is “not real,” but somehow their books are not seen as “only for children.” In fact they are not seen as being for children at all. (Particularly King’s).

So why does fantasy still have the bad rap of being kidstuff?

The only answer I can think of is that it really does provide an excellent vehicle for portraying truths of the Christian life related to the angelic conflict. And since part of the intent of the opposition force in that conflict is to hide the fact that it exists… well then…. The one genre that people should pay the least attention to is the one that can actually reveal the most about what is really going on… and historically has.

Which makes the whole kidstuff thing almost… acceptable.  Almost.

For a more detailed treatise on all the ways fantasy does what it does, see my aforementioned article in the tabs above: “Why I Write Fantasy.” And if you want to know more about the angelic conflict, check out the tab called “The Angelic Conflict.”

The Genesis of The Light of Eidon

As I mentioned yesterday, in light of this being the last week that the first volume of my Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon will be offered free as an e-book by various vendors, I thought I’d pursue a theme of putting up some posts about the book.

In a previous post, I related that the inspiration for the series sprang from my seeing the very first Star Wars film (A New Hope) – which, like a lot of other people, I fell in love with – coupled with spiritual truths I was learning from a Bible study book by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr, called The Christian Warrior.

In Star Wars, I especially loved the idea of the hero’s journey from weakness to strength, the light sabers, and the concept of The Force, which at the time seemed like a great metaphor for the Holy Spirit.   

Especially in light of The Christian Warrior, which explores the biblical subject of warfare, both temporal and spiritual, using the template of a Roman soldier as a metaphor for exploring, defining and illustrating comparable qualities, preparations and experiences for the Christian soldier.  (“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Ti 2:3,4)

 Major chapter headings include Temporal Warfare, The Cause for Warfare, Jesus Christ Controls History, The Principles of Warfare, Military Metaphors in Scripture, Paul’s Contact with the Roman Military, The Roman Soldier in Paul’s Day, Roman Decorations and Surpassing Grace Rewards, and so on.  

Toward the middle of the book Col Thieme discusses the equipment we’ve been provided as Christians for the conflict, itemized in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit.

I loved the idea of the filling of the Spirit providing the light for the sword, something that might come and go depending on whether the soldier was in fellowship at any given moment. So that’s where I started.

The Bible teaches that our warfare in this age is invisible. We cannot see our real enemies, the fallen angels, nor do we see the Holy Spirit, indwelling all believers, nor Risen Christ, seated at the Father’s right hand.

Like them, if we actually learn to put on our armor, take up sword and shield to enter the conflict, we will be “Invisible heroes”. Which may be one reason why I am so drawn to many of the superhero stories: they often have a mild-mannered persona that leads most people upon meeting them to discount them – eg, Superman’s Clark Kent, Spiderman’s Peter Parker, Batman’s Bruce Wayne. 

I see in them a perfect metaphor for the Christian soldier, who is among the “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” of 1 Cor 1:26.  Like them we are “unknown but well-known” (2 Co 6:9). Unknown to most of the world, well-known to those we fight and those we fight alongside. And the angels who are watching us.

So I wanted that element in the story as well — someone who is perceived as weak by all, turning out to be not so weak after all. Especially as he uses the power of God.   Thus I would to tell the story of a man moving from weakness to strength, both physically and spiritually, and at the same time illustrate the entire trajectory of the Christian life, as well… chronicling the coming to faith in Christ, (or in this case Eidon,) then growing through the three stages of the spiritual life: babyhood, adolescence and finally maturity. Which is the ultimate of going from weakness to strength.

I was green enough, and deluded enough to think I might accomplish all that in a single book!

Somewhere toward the end of writing the first draft of what is now The Light of Eidon, I realized that was not going to happen. And even though trilogies were all the thing at the time, I had to settle for a tetralogy. The Light of Eidon would be Abramm’s journey to Eidon himself, as well as being molded into a hero strong enough to fulfill the destiny Eidon had for him.

In the five-year gap that occurs between The Light Eidon and The Shadow Within, I skipped over his baby phase and moved right to the end of that stage where he takes the first step of walking into his destiny… in this case, contesting his younger brother for the crown of the land that Abramm should rightfully wear.

Shadow over Kiriath brings him through spiritual adolescence and The Return of the Guardian King embodies the evidence testing, as Col Thieme called it, of the mature believer. By which he meant the believer’s ability through spiritual growth to reach a place where he can be deliberately tested by Satan as to just how far he will trust God, how much will he stick with what God’s word says. This is illustrated by Job’s experience and Jesus’s own testing in the wilderness by Satan in Matt 4– though Abramm’s testing is more like Job’s than Jesus’s.)

It was all so nice and tidy when I outlined it. Trying to put flesh on the outline was something else entirely, far more messy and complicated than I ever could have dreamed.

 Looking back, I should have known it was going to take a long time.  You can’t write about a journey like that without living at least some of it. The funny thing, at least for me, is that “maturity” always seems like something off there in the future.   The end of the story doesn’t really end until you’re dead. Or “promoted” as I like to think of it.

Col Thieme called it a “Permanent Change of Station.” I like that, too.

In any case, I originally had ideas for Abramm’s death, for his sons to carry on, for the Dorsaddi to return…

If we stick around as a nation long enough, and I finally manage to finish my current WIP, I’d like to go back to Abramm’s world and tackle that. But we’ll see what the Lord has in mind.

Again, if you’d like to try out the first volume of my Guardian King series, as a free e-book, click HERE.

 

Remember Taqiyya?

I’ve been following the events in the middle east and in particular Libya with great interest this weekend. Not merely because of the fact that my WIP, The Other Side of the Sky, concerns ambassadors and embassies, but because of my fascination with Islam, the religion of “peace.”

But not the religion of honesty. I wrote about the muslim doctrine of Taqiyya back in May of 2009 after reading an article by Raymond Ibrahim at Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers entitled War and Peace — and Deceit — in Islam.

It bears on what is going on today, so I thought I’d reblog it here.

In 2001/2002 my former pastor, Robert McLaughlin, did a series on Islam, quoting liberally from the Koran so I was aware of the passages allowing Muslims to lie to Christians and Jews if need be (Sura 4:29) and breaking a treaty with Infidels if the situation warrants. Dr. Ibrahim’s article expounded on this subject, adding greater insight into just how much lying is interwoven into their worldview and their politics. Using not only the words of Allah (Koran) and the Prophet (the Hadith) he also consults Islam’s greatest theologians (the ulema) for their assessment.

All of this revolves around the doctrine of taqiyya. Ibrahim cites the “authoritative Arabic text, Al-Taqiyya fi Al-Islam:

“Taqiyya [deception] is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it. We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream. … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era,”

The Koran forbids a Muslim making friends with Christians or Jews, unless he is in a position of weakness or minority, in which case it’s okay to pretend to be friends, just as long as he continues to harbor animosity in his heart. (Emphasis, mine.)

Muhammad, who is regarded by his followers as the most perfect human of all and worthy of emulation, lied when it served him. And, in fact, Ibrahim says,

“it bears mentioning that the entire sequence of Koranic revelations is a testimony to taqiyya; and since Allah is believed to be the revealer of these verses, he ultimately is seen as the perpetrator of deceit — which is not surprising since Allah himself is described in the Koran as the best “deceiver” or “schemer” (3:54, 8:30, 10:21).”

Which I think gives a great clue as to “Allah’s” true identity:

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies”

It’s a longish article, substantial portions of which were part of Mr. Ibrahim’s written testimony to Congress this last February (2009). I found it easy to read and compelling, because it made me realize that the Muslim mind and the western mind — particularly the western Christian mind — are radically different. How can you ever enter into a treaty with a people whose god instructs them to lie to you if you’re an Infidel, and whose central goal is not simply to live their lives and worship as they choose, but to fight all non-Muslims until everyone in the world either converts or submits to Islam? (Sura 8:39, 9:5, 9:29)

At which point we’ll finally have peace.

But no freedom.

The Plague of Busy-ness

Recently I’ve been going through old computer files and came across the following article which I wrote in August 2002 for the newsletter I was putting out then. This was about three months after Arena’s release, during which time I was busy making  trepidatious trips into local bookstores (“Who did you say you were? And why are you here, exactly?”), designing and ordering bookmarks, mailing out postcard announcements, putting together press kits and having a book signing.

In addition to a family related vacation to the east coast that summer, followed by a trip to the west coast for the 2002 CBA conference in LA, I also finished up the final touches on The Light of Eidon before turning it in to Bethany House, then began the rewrite of The Shadow Within to bring it into line with changes I’d made in Eidon.  All this in addition to updating my website, and writing the newsletter in which the following appeared.  Hence the reference to “activity and folderol.” The ideas expressed seem as applicable to me today as ten years ago, so I thought I’d share it again, this time in a different venue.

***

“Let your occupations be few if you would lead a tranquil life.” ~ Democritus

THE PLAGUE OF BUSY-NESS

With all this activity and folderol, I’ve seen how easy it is to lose one’s focus on the things that really matter — that is, the things above, rather than the things on earth. In fact, in some research I was doing recently I learned that one of the techniques used by cults to suck in their new recruits is to keep them busy all the time, to tire them out and to never let them be alone.

If they are constantly occupied with some task or engaged with some person, they’ll have no opportunity to stop and think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they’re coming to accept as truth simply by default.

I believe this plague of busy-ness is one of the main assaults Satan’s world system is deploying upon Christians today, particularly in the United States with all of its prosperity and corresponding options.

Daily we are bombarded with things to do and be and have. With people to listen to and do things with (and for). It can get overwhelming, to the point we’re just like the newly-snagged pre-cultist. Run ragged by all the demands, opportunities and perceived obligations, by all the people who come into our lives (have you ever stopped to count how many?) we can end up losing track of who we are and what we really want.

Worse, we end up losing track of the One who’s put us here and for whose glory we’ve been created. We sell ourselves out for the “stuff” of the world.

We may say we haven’t, but in the measure of our hours spent, how many are devoted solely to concentrating on and communing with the One we claim to love above all others? Even one out of twenty-four hours is only 1/24th of our day.

Doesn’t seem like very much, looked at that way, does it? Especially when you consider that none of us could even live were it not for our Lord who holds the very atoms of our bodies together.

Nor when you remember that time is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that eventually all these things that seem so important today will be destroyed and utterly forgotten…

 “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”         ~ Colossians 3:1-2

 

 

 

Munich Massacre Widow Still Seeks Justice

Iconic news photo one one of the Munich hostage-takers

In the summer of 1972, I was living in a dormitory at the University of Arizona, taking Organic Chemistry in summer school. That was five days of lecture and three days of labs, each of them three-hours long. The labs required a full written report for each session as well. It was a lot of work, and I had no job. Also no money… that was the summer I counted out pennies for a taco at Taco Bell, though mostly I lived on oatmeal, green grapes and “cup custard” sandwich cookies… I lost a good deal of weight, but at the end of three months I started getting sick all the time and went back to a more nutritious diet.

Clearly I had little time for radio, newspapers or TV, yet even I managed to hear about the massacre of the entire Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympic Games that summer.

During the Games’ second week, PLO terrorists sneaked into the Israeli dormitory one night around 4am, killed two of the Israeli team right there, took the other 9 hostage and in the end killed them all.

The movie Munich with Eric Bana is based on this event, focusing on the actions of Israel’s Mossad to bring the criminals to justice… or to exact retribution, however you wish to look at it. I think they accomplished both. (It’s a good movie; I recommend it)

Recently The Times of Israel ran an article on Ankie Spitzer, wife of slain Israeli fencing master and Olympic team coach Andre Spitzer. For decades she’s been trying to get the Olympic authorities to commemorate her husband and the other murdered athletes within the framework of the Olympic Games themselves.

Why at the Games? Because all the victims were Olympic athletes or coaches, and all were attending the Olympic games when they were killed. The International Olympic Committee has allowed official commemorations for all sorts of other tragedies, some of which had nothing to do with the games or the athletes, so remembering the Israeli deaths seems entirely appropriate.

She’s been at it for 40 years, stymied by the committee’s fear of alienating Arab nations who have threatened to boycott the Olympics should there be any such official remembrance of the slain Israelis. This from the representatives of the so-called Religion of Peace. And in the context of an event that supposedly celebrates “Man is Wonderful! Lets All Just Get Along!”

Except for the Jews, it would seem.

Here are a couple of quotes:

 The International Olympic Committee, while promoting peace and fraternity, also has a history of honoring the despicable. In 1936, some 11 months after the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, the committee allowed Hitler to host the Olympics in Berlin. In the 1980s, the committee bestowed its highest honor, the Olympic Order, on Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and Erich Honecker of East Germany. In the 1990s, the committee welcomed Saddam Hussein’s psychopathic son, Uday, as the head of Iraq’s National Olympic Committee even though it was well-known that he regularly tortured and killed athletes who underperformed during the Games.

And,

 “They are a corrupt organization, led by greed rather than the Olympic spirit,” said Spitzer, noting that a great deal of funding comes from the oil-rich gulf states.

The whole situation illustrates one of the major fronts in the unseen spiritual war around us — which is the fact that the kingdom of darkness HATES Israel. It will do anything it can to destroy the Jews, being God’s people, the nation and race to whom He has promised a messiah and human king who will rule over them  personally on this earth during the Millennium.

If Satan can wipe them out, then God will no longer be able to keep His promises to them…not only that they’ll have a special part in the Millennial kingdom, whose king is directly from the line of David, but that He will preserve them as a nation until that time. If He can’t keep His promises then He is proved weak, unjust, misguided, unrighteous, untruthful, in short, not God.

This Times of Israel article provides a good outline of events seen from Ankie’s perspective and is well worth your time. Read it HERE.

For further information check out Wikipedia’s article on the Munich massacres as well. You can find that HERE.

Update: And now that the 2012 Olympics have begun, with this year’s opening ceremonies including a moment of silence for Britain’s victims of Islamic terrorism in the London bombings which occurred the day after London was selected to host these very games, the Olympic committee’s refusal to hold a moment of silence commemorating the murdered Israeli athletes only confirms their hypocrisy.  You can watch the memorial  production for the Londoners — one NBC chose not to air Friday night HERE.

Because of What Happened in Denver

Well, clearly I have fallen short of my goal of 5 posts a week, this week. That’s due, in part to the fact that the post I intended to put up for this last Monday happens to be about the 1972 Munich Massacres. In light of what happened in Colorado last Thursday night/Friday morning, it didn’t seem appropriate just now so I’m saving it, and put up one of the two others I had ready to go.

What happened at The Dark Knight Rises premier was, of course, horrible but not exactly senseless, nor hard to figure out. It happened because people — all people — are fallen creatures and depraved. Yet, once again, I’m hearing and reading suggestions that demon possession/influence may have been the driving force behind the killer’s actions. I wouldn’t rule that out.

But at the same time I have to ask, again, why is it so hard to think that man might be capable in and of himself of these things? Isn’t one of the characteristics of sociopathic and psychopathic behavior a complete disconnect from any sense of wrongdoing or remorse or empathy for another? What is that but the ultimate of selfishness,  self-absorption and arrogance?

In fact, in many ways what Holmes did seems less personally vicious than many of the serial killers we’ve heard about —  dyeing one’s hair red, taking on an alternate identity from a comic book/movie, putting on body armor and a ballistics helmet and walking into a theatre with an automatic weapon to shoot the place up seems almost like a game. Holmes was play acting, removed from his victims as surely as many others are removed from the animated people they blow away on our vast and varied numbers of video games.

Was/is Holmes crazy? Clearly. Does that mean he shouldn’t get the death penalty if convicted of doing this? Not at all. Crazy or not, he wanted to do what he did and did it, which is why he should reap the consequences of his actions. But demon possessed or directed? Why go there?

We’ve all been selfish, self-absorbed, arrogant and even cruel at times, so why be  looking for supernatural causes when one of our kind happens to give the basic depravity that lurks in all our flesh a little more rein than most?  It just proves that we have sick heads and deceitful hearts, that there is no soundness in us from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet. It just proves we all desperately need a Savior…

Sex, Violence and Dark Events…

That is the title of my guest post over at Speculative Faith’s Blog which should be up sometime Friday morning July 6. I want to thank you all, my readers, who replied to my request last week for ideas for this post. You can see from the title which of them was most popular.

This post turned out to be a lot harder to write than I expected. I thought I’d just knock it out, but it took me the entire week.

The question I posed myself was : “Should we as Christian novelists include portrayals of sexual sins, violence or other “dark” events in our fiction, or would that be an automatic violation of Christian standards?”

Then I did a nonstop on the subject. That turned out to be more or less a rant, but it had a lot of energy, as rants often do, so every time I re-read it, it just carried me along and no alternative routes opened up before me. Finally, in desperation, I sent it to a friend for help, and afterward sat down and began to just list my thoughts on the matter as they came, without letting the emotion carry me off.

Turns out I have a lot to say on this subject. More than could be confined in a single blog post, so I had to work on paring it down and getting it focused. It was an experience kinda like trying to fill a plastic trash bag with styrofoam peanuts. Every handful you put in, stirs up the peanuts already in the bag. They go flying out, stick to your hand, the inside of the bag, the outside of the bag… Yeah. Very much like that if you substitute “thoughts” for peanuts.

A lot of prayers went up, and at times I had to vigorously trust  that in the end God would make it come clear. Between His help and that of my friend, I believe it did.

Anyway, as I said, it goes up Friday morning, July 6, and I invite you to head on over to Speculative Faith to see for yourself if I succeeded.  Feel free to comment there or here, if you are so moved. I’ll try to monitor both places.

Here’s how the post starts:

Ten years ago this summer Bethany House Publishers released my first novel Arena into a literary world of petticoats, bonnets and buggies. This explains its original pink and purple cover, an attempt perhaps to mitigate the fact that it was a significant departure from the usual run of Christian fiction. While Arena does include an element of romance, at heart it is an allegorical adventure with sometimes dark and violent scenes.

I’ve received a full spectrum of responses to it, from “Fabulous!”…. Read the rest here

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