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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-12-28 15:01
Subject: [writing] Religion in fiction
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Music:house noises
Tags:death of a starship, religion, writing
Bumped up from comments here.

I'm proud to likewise be among the ranks of evil atheist authors using the tool of genre for insidious means:



Oh, that *is* spiffy.

I have book coming out in 2008 from MonkeyBrain,
Death of a Starship, wherein the primary protag (there are three) is an Orthodox priest. I went to a great deal of trouble to portray him sympathetically as a sincere person of faith, whose character and actions are informed by his beliefs. We'll see how people cope with that.

Oh, and this priest is essentially the "men in black" alien hunter for a far future star-spanning empire in a galaxy where the Fermi paradox continues unresolved.
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User: tobias_buckell
Date: 2007-12-28 23:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That'll be interesting :-)
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2007-12-29 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One thing that occurs to me: I have an unfinished novel, Janae, which was one of my attempts to write extruded fantasy product. The problem is that I dislike XFP for the most part, and ended up instead writing a twisted alternative history which, sad to say, can best be described as "Jedi-like warrior-mages become pawns in a pitched political war over the Seventeen Provinces during the Medici Era."

What occurred to me throughout the story was that the Church would have an significant and singular interest in the warrior-mages: who they were, what they could do, how to control them, how to keep them from overwhelming the Church, and so on.

It became an intensely religious novel. And that's when I lost interest in it, because I realized that the amount of attention I was giving Christianity and Catholicism, and the respect I was showing to it despite my own secular nature, would have dropped the novel right into a ghetto where it would find paltry sales only in bookstores with names like "The Good News" and "His Word Books."
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User: autopope
Date: 2007-12-29 01:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Point 'em at me. I'm a Dawkinsite atheist of the "why is Christianity any less inherently silly than Salafist Islam?" persuasion, with an added dose of Sneaky.
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Ramblin_Phyl: celtic cross
User: ramblin_phyl
Date: 2007-12-29 02:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:celtic cross
In response to my Merlin's Descendants books, I don't know which is scarier, the person who wrote to say she couldn't read my books anymore because I wasn't a Christian. She objected to the statement, no matter what name you give to God She is listening.

Then there was the pagan coven who wrote to say they had adjusted their rituals to match my version of magic in the books.

Either way I fear I've become a cult.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-12-29 03:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I remember that particular essay, and some commentary on it.

IIRC, the general consensus among Christian F & SF folk was that the man doth protest too much. FWIW.

As a practicing Catholic I don't feel driven to write about Catholicism and all that--some of my characters may be Catholic, but they tend to be the touchy-feely librul sort that drive the evangelicals nuts. Hardly likely that anything *I* write is gonna end up on a Christian recommended list.

And as for Phillip Pullman and _His Dark Materials_...I thought _The Golden Compass_ was the strongest book of the three. By the time I'd finished the trilogy, I was pretty much meh about it, and meh about Pullman's writing. If anything, I'd shove him on the same shelf with C.S. Lewis and let the two trilogies duke it out (I discovered similar annoyances in both, and considering that I find Lewis's fiction to be rather tiresome and annoying except for _Until They Have Faces_...or is it _Until We Have Faces_?--that says something about Pullman's writing, at least to me. But I tend to dislike allegory).
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User: hkneale
Date: 2007-12-29 04:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Clue Fairy
Yeah, it's kind of hard to write most major Earth religions in outer space, since a lot of their Meaning of Life belief archs are so dependent on things beginning and ending on this planet.
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User: sunshinepeachy
Date: 2007-12-29 05:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think maybe it is more than that, more than the dependence on this planet.

One of the primary things sf does really well is use alienness to give us the remove to examine what is.

If an author wants to talk about faith, making it another faith with different beliefs makes it easier, more palatable.
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User: lonfiction
Date: 2007-12-29 07:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Is DoaS in the continuity of your Fat Jack and the Spider Clown story that was in Black Gate?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-12-29 14:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Good question. No, that is the Ship continuity, which is "Fat Jack", "In Defeat of Transcendent Epiphany" and a few other stories which have not been published. I think there's a third Ship story out there, but I'll have to go back through my records to figure out where.
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Chang...  just Chang.: Skull - Fear Not
User: chang3002
Date: 2007-12-29 13:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Skull - Fear Not
Oh, boy. I feel like a David walking into a roomful of Goliaths wearing hobnailed boots. Here goes...

I remember this blog post from when it first circulated through the intartubes and it did seem a bit of much ado about nothing. Yet another piece of misguided feelings of Christian persecution.

I guess I feel a biut sy on this topic and posting here is because I am religious and believe in a greater being than one of flesh and blood. I have no idea what that could be though, and I am content to live in the world of "I don't know." What do people do when they don't have the answers to something and they believe in science and not a god of some sort? Adopt a wait and see attitude.

My belief is not in a white robed, Anglo-Saxon father figure sitting on a throne with a hippie kid to his right looking down on a red-suited city-slicker in a basement mansion with endless heat. I just think there's something out there beyond our ken that we have no possible way of knowing fully through our meat brains and meat bodies.

Re: the handling of religion in SF, well, what little I've seen is okay. Charlie's imam in Accelerando was well-done and pretty respectful, especially when I consider Charlie's Dawkinsite background. Accelerando changed my life! I haven't seen anyone writing down on religion in SF, yet. I guess when I get smug and look down on someone whom I think is sad and deluded for their beliefs, I realize it is sad and deluded to do so.

And, Jay, I am excited to read Mindspring even more after that review you posted where the guy thought you were a creationist. Oh, that produced quite a titter on my side of the box. Jay Lake, Creationist. You should make a t-shirt of that! OR perhaps it's a PhotoShop job!

In my own book in progress, I did the wackiest thing which was to create a new religion. It's looks wack-est (sic) when others have done it like Heinlein, but I thought it needed to be done for the story. I won't even tell you what it is, because I think it may not last the final edits. But it's enough to say that I think as we expand into space, new ideas and beliefs will crop up as we have our horizons expanded.

Whoa. Early morning ramble. Not nearly enough caffeine in me to be coherent.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-12-29 17:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've got to agree with you about the handling I've seen of religion in SF.

Additionally, obviously those Christian folks don't consider _The Sparrow_ to have Christian elements--come on, that's one of the best Christian-themed books I've read. Challenging, yes. But we're *supposed* to like to wrestle with challenging issues, right? So folks who are Christian and sf (and fantasy, I think fantasy should push the envelope as well) fans really *should* like to stretch their brains.

Hm. Maybe this morning is a good time to start working on my faith/religion LJ posting. I have been thinking about it.
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User: karenthology
Date: 2007-12-29 15:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That book sounds right up my alley. I'll be watching for it.

Religion in fiction (not "religious fiction") is one of my favorite topics and something I've been studying academically, so I could go on and on. I wish people wouldn't cubbyhole themselves -- or others -- so much. We'd all be so much better off. Yes, there are atheist authors writing "atheist fiction" and Christian authors writing "Christian fiction." But in the middle, the lion's share of us are trying to write about people. And people are rarely so black and white.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-12-29 16:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But in the middle, the lion's share of us are trying to write about people.

That would be me...
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User: karenthology
Date: 2007-12-29 17:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Which is why all of us keep on reading your books. :)
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2007-12-29 18:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes. Absolutely.

People have to deal with real issues. The problem with pigeonholing yourself as an "atheist writer" or a "Christian writer" is that it limits you with regard to where you can go in exploring your characters and your story.

I like reading religion in fiction. I usually *don't* like "religious fiction." To illustrate the difference--C.S. Lewis compared to Andrew Greeley. Though some might consider Greeley to be "religious fiction," I guess--I think it depends upon the specific book. Certainly his writing about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church has been among some of his best work, IMO.
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russ: watchmen
User: goulo
Date: 2008-01-02 16:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Christian fiction" seems to be lame in the same way that "Christian rock" is lame.

Of course to be fair, the essay you linked doesn't seem to be pushing "Christian fiction", but just fiction in which "Christian characters making decisions that are consistent with their faith", because "a person's faith is INTEGRAL. All decisions will proceed from that faith."

Perhaps the problem is that writers write what they know, and many writers are not religious, or not so self-consciously bombastically religious that every decision that make proceeds from their religious faith. Certainly most decisions I make don't seem to be highly dependent on my religious faith, such as it is.
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