Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December CSFF tour: a semi-relevant post

Giants, sorcerors, talking birds, magic cloaks... what is this, a Harry Potter post?

Well, no, actually, because all these things appear in the Birthright Project, a Christian science fiction series. It does have numerous fantasy elements in it, and is aimed at the same teenage audience as young Harry, but at the same time blurs the line between sf and fantasy.

Set on what appears to be post-apocalyptic Earth, the sorcerors are using what remains of science to create transmogrified creatures - including some unfortunate humans, who become the even more unfortunate gigants. The birds don't really talk, but can be understood by the birthrighters, and therefore act as a sort of messenger service. Like a carrier pigeon with better security. And the magic cloaks? Well, it seems God has been good enough to provide the birthrighters with a magic spindle, with which they can create 'out of time' fabric, which renders them invisible, impervious to the passage of time, or, apparently, whatever the plot seems to require. Arguably this is a cop-out, but this is Christian spec-fic, which by its nature assumes the existence of an all-powerful God who can, should he see fit, produce from thin air a talking donkey, a never-ending Mars bar, or even a magic spindle. So why not.

Anyway, I promised semi-relevance, and semi-relevant I intend to be.

As is my usual slacker way, I haven't read the book in question. I have, on this occasion, read the first book in the series, Outriders, on which this little intro to the world of Trackers has been based.

So I suppose it would be semi-relevant to add a few words about Outriders.

Well, it's got post-apocalyptic decay, genetic mutants and hints of sci-fi technology hidden in the ark. It's got sword and sorcery coming out its ears. It's got angels and demons battling over the lives of our heroes. In fact, you'd be hard pushed to squeeze much more into a Christian science-fantasy story, really. Oh, and don't forget to throw in some teen angst, questioned faith, and romantic dilemmas. That's not to say it suffers from cramming all that in. Most of the time it all seems to fit together in a way that makes sense, and the action clips along at a decent enough pace to keep the interest up.

Young adult novels such as this are not normally my thing, but that is actually the only reason I can come up with not to go away and read Trackers some time soon.

Is it that time again already?

Hello? Um. Is this thing working? Right. Where did I leave everything? OK. Sorry, I took rather longer off than I expected. Still didn't finish that NaNo mind. Tsk, eh?

Anyway, here I am, ready for the final day of the December CSFF blog tour. Ooops. Still, seems as good a time as any to drag myself back into Blogoland, especially since I have something semi-relevant to post this time round (shock!).

This month the tour is looking at Trackers, the second volume in the Birthright Project sequence by Kathryn Mackel. So here, as a sort of prelude, is a list of links. (This is not the semi-relevant thing.)

Kathryn Mackel's website
Birthright Project website
Trackers on Amazon
Outriders, volume one of the series, on Amazon

and, of course, your fellow blog tourists:
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John Otte
Cheryl Russel
Hannah Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An apology to Landon Snow

CSSF Blog Tour
Mr Snow,

I know you are more than worthy of comment here on my humble little blog. But the thing is, you see, your timing's all wrong. It's November - it's NaNoWriMo, and I'm doing really badly at keeping the pace with that too.

I've had a poorly one year old to look after, which meant I had at least a day's work to catch up on in NaNo & blogging time. And then she gave whatever it was to me, so I was completely useless over the weekend. I even went to bed before Torchwood. That's how bad it is.

So, I'm sorry, Mr Snow, that I don't really have time to comment on your exploits.

Apologies also to R K Mortenson, for not being able to plug his latest book.

Don't worry though, there are a few people out in Bloggoland doing just that. Lucky escape for me there are more reliable folks like Jim Black, Jackie Castle, Valerie Comer, Frank Creed, Gene Curtis, Chris Deanne, Janey DeMeo, April Erwin, Beth Goddard, Todd Michael Greene, Leathel Grody, Karen Hancock, Katie Hart, Sherrie Hibbs, Sharon Hinck, Joleen Howell, Jason Joyner, Karenee, Oliver King, Tina Kulesa, the entire Lost Genre Guild, Kevin Lucia, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Caleb Newell, John Otte, Cheryl Russel, Hannah Sandvig, Mirtika Schultz, Stuart Stockton, those nice Speculative Faith people, my nemesis Chris Walley, and of course Daniel I. Weaver.

Further apologies to anyone who has just read all this.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Quick NaNo note

As I may have mentioned, I took the lunatic step of signing up for this, and in fact got off to a good start. Whether I'll keep that up or not is a different matter.

Anyway, if I'm not around much over the next few weeks, well, you probably won't notice any difference, but this time there is a reason.

I'll be mucking about in the Bermuda Triangle of fiction that lies between Jasper Fforde, Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams.

So far Per Ardua ad Chipping Sodbury has an impressive 4004 words - some of which actually make some kind of sense - and occasional snippets will be posted here, so as not to lower the tone of this blog. The prologue is there now.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

...and Angels

CSSF Blog Tour

What first came to mind for "angels" is the moment when Kosh reveals himself to save Sheridan, and he looks like an angelic being. But that's only because Mir jumped the gun yesterday. Nice to get a Bab5 reference occasionally though.

Anyway, Angels. Messengers of an almighty God, purveyors of Providence, proof of the unprovable, denizens of a supernatural spiritual reality. So goes the DKA blurb for them, anyway. And in Christian fiction you can put them anywhere (well, within reason). I've got them in Countless as the Stars.

Spiritual warfare made real was pretty much the mainstay of Christian spec-fic a few years ago thanks to Frank Peretti, and still crops up here and there, if usually in a smaller, less in your face way.

I've seen sf stories that take the Nephilim as their inspiration - would those 'sons of God' who paired off with the daughters of men have been angels? Or aliens? Are angels aliens? Are aliens angels?

Oh, my heads spinning with wacky ideas again. And that's before we even mention fallen angels. Is it NaNo time yet?

But as far as science fiction and angels go, I reckon the Simpsons had the start of a good story.

Now, all that remains for thos month's blog tour is for me to give you a little nudge in the direction of these other participants:
Jim Black Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Kameron M. Franklin Beth Goddard Todd Michael Greene Leathel Grody Karen Hancock Elliot Hanowski Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Joleen Howell Jason Joyner Karen and at Karen's myspace Oliver King Tina Kulesa Kevin Lucia Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Caleb Newell Cheryl Russel Mirtika Schultz Stuart Stockton Speculative Faith Frank Creed Christina Deanne Lost Genre Guild John Otte

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


CSSF Blog Tour

Knights in science fiction?

Um.... errr....

With swords and everything?


What, some sort of laser sword, perhaps?


No. Next thing you know you'll be giving them magic powers and stuff. It'll never work.


CSSF Blog Tour

OK, we know that Dragons, Knights and Angels is just a name, and that stories appearing in it don't have to feature dragons, knights, or angels. After all, as Johne Cook says in the DKA vision, that would be silly. Which really is tempting for someone like me who happens rather to like silly.

But that's another post. Or perhaps a DKA submission. Or a NaNo project, even.

This is the blog tour, and an opportunity for me to take the subject and ramble off on a tangent. If you want to know about DKA, go off and read Mirathon. You want intelligent discussion sparked by the subject, Becky's got it. You want to try and cram dragons, knights and angels into sensible science fiction, well, I'll give that a go. But bear in mind, I do like silly.

So, dragons.

At first glimpse the exclusive domain of the fantasy tale, how do we get these mythical creatures to play a sensible role in science fiction?

This would be one of those areas where sf and fantasy overlap, as in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern sequence. Here a world which wouldn't look out of place in a fantasy novel is created by colonists from Earth, who create a race of dragons by genetic manipulation. Sounds like science fiction to me.

As a child, I was briefly fascinated by the 'science' of dragons. The biology of how such a thing could actually exist. That was before I knew anything about biology, of course, like how boring the lessons were. But it is science, and if someone were to dig up a dragon's remains somewhere, you could have fun exploring the science of dragons. You could always dig up a live dragon, in a Reign of Fire sort of way.

So how do we bully all this into a Christian story? There's plenty of Biblical monsters to choose from - the Leviathon from Job, Jonah's big fish (well, have you ever seen a dragon?), and dragons (be they physical or metaphorical) in Revelation. You could throw Christians to the dragons like a Roman Emperor. And the 'dragon as a representation of general nastiness' theme was donw by Frank Peretti a while ago in The Oath.

'Here be dragons' they wrote on maps in days of yore, and who knows, maybe those early spacefarers will use the same phrase, harking back to their ancestors, to denote areas of as yet unexplained danger. The dragons could be anything. And that (he says, miraculously returning to the point) is the way DKA see them. Johne Cook says:

To my way of thinking, dragons represent the mystical, the unknown world, dangerous and magical and huge beyond reckoning.

And in science fiction, that leaves a lot for the imagination to play with.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Introducing the October CSFF blog tour

Yes, it's time for the increasingly popular CSFF blog tour again. This time round, a whole bunch of people will be commenting on the Christian spec-fic webzine Dragons, Knights and Angels. I'm on sort of a mission now to find out how any of those three entities wind up in science fiction stories - I'll report back tomorrow.

In the meantime, why not pop over and take a quick peek, then come back and see what these nice people have to say about it:
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen and at Karen¹s myspace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Lost Genre Guild
John Otte

Monday, October 23, 2006

The recipe for perfect telly sf

  • Take one of Joss Whedon's spare Hellmouths, and place under a British city. Say, Cardiff.
  • Add one part X-Files and two parts Men in Black.
  • Create a Scooby gang including at least one technical guru and one, um, Xander, led by a mysterious, handsome (apparently) stranger with a dark side. If he once died and came back mysteriously immortal, so much the better.
  • Give them a Batcave, whose entrance is protected by a Somebody Else's Problem field from Hitchhikers.
  • Place the mix into a pre-heated sf universe. (Note: Doctor Who is popular at the moment.)
  • Make occasional throw-away references to this show, but do not depend on it.
  • In fact, distance yourself from its key fanbase by taking a distinctly adult sf plot (say, Species) and plundering it for Episode 2.
  • Before serving, take the name of the parent show and sprinkle the letters over the title sequence.

Enjoy Torchwood. I did.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

miscellaneous bloggery 7

Yes I know. I'm copping out more frequently than I'm writing proper entries. So sue me.

But to stay remotely on topic, I like these, pointed out by Elliot recently. They just sent my little writer's mind into a bit of an idea-frenzy... maybe something new might be on the NaNo cards yet?

In the open space has some thoughts on another TV sf show that hasn't made it into my life yet, Battlestar Galactica.

If you haven't wandered over to The Lost Genre Guild yet, here's the link. (There I go, diverting my readers to somewhere that does this Christian sf comment thing so much better than me...)

And for a smile, Mir suggests The Town Drunk, and having just briefly perused a couple of stories, I have to agree. If I can knock up a faintly amusing Christmas story in the next two weeks, look out for me there in a couple of months... don't hold your breath though.

Maybe I should start a little series of Hitchhikers or Red Dwarf posts. I also might nick Becky's idea and explore the many sub-genres within science fiction (which I kind of started way back when, before I started running out of time to blog properly...)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What was I thinking...

...when I signed up for NaNoWriMo?

I was actually thinking I've got all these WIPs on the go, but none of them really seem to be going anywhere... so I thought I'd join in, in the hope that it would inspire me to knock one of these half finished ideas together into something approaching a usable first draft.

At the moment the idea I'm planning to use is the sequel to Countless as the Stars, but my main problem with this is that I only know it as 'the sequel' - it doesn't have a title, nor any sign of developing one any time soon. I can see myself getting hung up on that and not writing anything until I have a title...

So I may well have a change of heart in the next couple of weeks and pick one of my other ideas (most likely a comic fantasy, because they don't even have to make sense!). Most of them are little more than ideas and characters at the moment - I've titles without stories too, come to that - so either way the actual writing will be started from scratch.

I've never done a NaNo before either, so the whole thing is a new experience for me. Hopefully I won't get too involved in technicalities or forumming and forget to actually write anything.

My plan is to plot my NaNo progress on my other blog, so that I can continue uninterrupted coverage of Christanity in sf over here. But now that I write that, it also seems pretty unlikely.

Anyway, on the bookshelf, by popular demand (sort of) is near-future bilogical thriller with prophetic nuns The Patron Saint of Plagues. Expect a review sometime after NaNo.

Monday, October 09, 2006

So many books!

My copy of Firebird has arrived, and currently sits between Barth Anderson's The Patron Saint of Plagues and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

Also on the reading list is a tatty second hand copy of Lord Foul's Bane, (The First Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever) by Stephen Donaldson, which I picked up cheap having had it recommended to me eons ago.

I haven't decided which to read first yet though. If anyone would like to suggest which they want to see a review of first, I'm open to a quick straw poll :)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

miscellaneous bloggery 6

The sixth in an occasional series in which I realise I haven't posted here all week because it's my little girl's first birthday and I can't be bothered to come up with anything original to write about.

The new, David-Tennant-shaped Doctor Who has landed in the states. Mir looks forward to season three, and In The Open Space reviews the season opener. Did you guys not get the Christmas Invasion? Or are they saving it for Christmas, when it will be all out of sequence and not make any sense at all?

Oh yes, and in other Christian sf developments, the Armchair Theologian proposes a Christian version of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I can't believe no-one thought of that before! (Notice how he and Carmen both mention Brian McLaren? Is it Brian McLaren week and I missed it or something?)

In other news, Mir mentioned haiku earlier, a largely irrelevant fact which I mention only because I like haiku too.

Normal service may potentially resume next week.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm Lost.

I can hardly believe I made it through the entire second series of Lost without mentioning it here. What with all the miraculous healings, that 'Man of science, man of faith' malarky, and all the rest of the philosophical musings that could have ensued, it could have kept me going for a while. But I'm sure I blinked during one episode and probably missed something vital and would have ended up looking a muppet anyway.

Still, now we know, they're not in purgatory, or in fact dead at all. Probably.

I should make a note to mention Lost a bit more when season three arrives.

Until then, I shall remain slightly confused by the whole business. Which is, of course, the whole point.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Doctor Who and the Spin-off invasion

First there was a K-9 spin-off - in about 1981, originally - but the latest K-9 Adventures seem to have gone very quiet just lately. (Probably because no-one recognised the tin dog.)

Then there was Billie Piper: Earth Defence, which died a death when Billie didn't want to do it. Duh!

Now, Sarah Jane Smith (who was also in the original K-9 spin-off, of course) is going to battle evil with a 13-year-old neighbour for CBBC.

But most importantly, coming very soon (to me, at least :p ) is Torchwood, a proper grown-up spin-off, which sounds a bit like the X-Files filmed in Wales.

And in other news, Buffy Season 8 is set to arrive in March. Hooray! Er, but only in comic book form. Hooray, sort of.

Until then, it's endless Doctor Who reruns and Angel on DVD for me...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Two sides to every story

OK, so, I've been rummaging through Edenstar's virtual box of books, and - hooray! - found that Christian SF is not quite the non-entity it sometimes seems (as Stuart so rightly pointed out yesterday).

In the space of a few minutes I have found time travel, alternate history, space travel, a cyber-thriller-type-thing and what almost looks like a space opera... who'da thunk it? At that was just a scratch of the surface, a few random picks I may not otherwise have come across. There is also plenty more that I have heard of, but have yet to read; and a wider selection of stuff by some authors I am aware of - I really must check out Bill Myers, for instance.

So, you may well ask, where is the downside to all this fabulous Christian sf?

I would have thought that was obvious. Turns out all my most original ideas have already been done!

Continue your tour here:
Jim Black Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Bryan Davis Beth Goddard Leathel Grody Karen Hancock Elliot Hanowski Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Sharon Hinck Joleen Howell Jason Joyner Tina Kulesa Kevin Lucia Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Cheryl Russel Mirtika Schultz Stuart Stockton Speculative Faith

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm not bitter. No, I'm really not. Honest.

But I do think I have a valid point.

And my point is this: Edenstar books say they have discontinued their own shop in order to concentrate on their database, so that they can "expand the list to include out-of-print and hard-to-find titles". Provided, apparently, that they are listed on

Which is fine as far as it goes, and at risk of getting booted off the tour (erk!), my gripe is not with Edenstar as much as with amazon, who don't make it easy (or cheap) for an impoverished UK self-pubber like, well, for instance, this nice chap, to get their hard-to-find title listed.

I managed to get a listing on - admittedly the cover disappeared a while ago - but they picked it up just for having an ISBN... which, apparently, isn't as international as the 'I' might suggest.

Anyway, before I get any more sidetracked onto the woes of self-publishing, my point is this: as good as the database is on Edenstar, it is restricted to publications available on amazon in the US. If the owners are happy with that, fair enough, it's their website after all. But if they want to try and develop a comprehensive and definitive list of Christian spec-fic, they are welcome to drop me a line ;)

In the meantime, for all that's happening on the UK CSFF scene*, one stop is all you'll need... for everything else, there's Edenstar.

And if there's anyone in the US with an amazon marketplace account that wants to be my agent, let me know...

*that hasn't been picked up my, Edenstar, or a CBA publisher. Or someone else.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is it that time again already?

Yep, it's the Christian SFF blog tour again... and this month we'll be visiting Edenstar Books, a reference site for Christian themed science fiction, fantasy and games.

I've had a bit of a browse through the books section (in anticipation of finishing the five novels currently awaiting my attention) and, although the site doesn't offer any disctinction between science fction and fantasy, managed to find a few intriguing sf novels from the titles and the first couple of lines of blurb, which is all you can see on the browse pages. Some books have full reviews by Edenstar, but this seems to be a fairly small percentage of the 600+ items listed on the site (and who's got time to read that many books?).

There does seem to be a good mix of new and old; well-known titles and obscure self-published ones; and includes some titles published for the mainstream but with serious Christian themes.

Plenty to explore, then; I'll try to pluck one or two interesting gems from their pages tomoorow.

Until then, other bloggers sampling the delights of Edenstar this week include:
Jim Black Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Bryan Davis Beth Goddard Leathel Grody Karen Hancock Elliot Hanowski Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Sharon Hinck Jason Joyner Tina Kulesa Kevin Lucia Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Cheryl Russel Mirtika Schultz Stuart Stockton Speculative Faith

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A slight return

Well, it seems the world can never have too many blogs, so I have returned to the blogosphere. I suppose a British eye on Christian spec-fic is still a pretty unusual thing, so I still have a point. Hurrah!

Anyway, what's been going on since I last stopped by here...

Well, if you're a regular here you will no doubt already have been to where the map ends. It's booklist should keep me in reading material for a while (once I get most of them shipped across the Atlantic), but there are some notable exceptions. ;)

It's appearance led to some interesting thoughts from Elliot on Christian evangelical fiction. If he's right, maybe I have been too influenced by this ''conservative evangelical American Christian" ideal for UK publishers? It's not a thought I relish, but I was writing for the CBA audience. Which, of course, doesn't exist anywhere except the US.

On the subject of CBA publishers, Allen of Entropy Gate fame has a few choice words to say about violence in Christian fiction.

And elsewhere in sf news, it seems the Trek people haven't learnt anything from Lucas' folly...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is anyone missing me?

Only, my pooter's been on the blink lately, so I haven't been able to post anything half decent. Or indeed at all until now.

But with Christian spec-fic blogs and websites springing up left right and centre, it seems like you can all carry on without me ok. Maybe my work here is done?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto: a Mickey Mouse planet

It's official: Pluto has been demoted, and it's all over for Charon, Ceres and Xena's hopes of becoming planets.

Well, for the time being anyway; it seems there are a number of objections to the decision, not least that the language in the definitions is illogical, and that it was voted on by less than 5% of the world's professional astronomers...

In the meantime, we now have dwarf planets. Possibly quite a lot of them, eventually.

We also have a good opportunity for Disney-based puns.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Kathy Tyers Blog Tour Continues

Several of the blogs on the tour have useful links to Kathy Tyers' website. None of which I can get to work (it's a conspiracy I tell ya!). I'm sure it's quite good though.

Elsewhere Mir has taken a look at some of Ms Tyers' other writings; Karen Hancock gets a hint as to what she's up to now; and Becky Miller takes the opportunity to compare and contract fantasy and science fiction.

And there's more reviews, interviews, opinions and snippets from these fine folks too:
Jim Black John J. Boyer Valerie Comer Bryan Davis Beth Goddard Rebecca Grabill Leathel Grody Karen Hancock Elliot Hanowski Katie Hart Sherrie Hibbs Sharon Hinck Pamela James Jason Joyner Tina Kulesa Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Cheryl Russel Mirtika Schultz Stuart Stockton Speculative Faith

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pear-shaped: The August CSFF blog tour

I'm beginning to suspect the blog tour doesn't like me. Last month I was on holiday for it. This month it's for a book which sounds like the sort of thing I'd like (a space opera with spiritual themes? What do you mean you'd guessed?) but which is not widely available in the UK.

Stupid backwater country. With no market for Christian fiction. Except, apparently, Left Behind. But I'm not bitter.

Here's the link for the book in question, the Firebird Trilogy by Kathy Tyers. Which I haven't read yet, due to the difficulty in obtaining a copy, but which I intend to. A review will follow eventually, but I might have missed this tour...

The tour is masterminded this time round by Beth Goddard, who has an interview with the author on her blog. Elliot has posted one of his annoyingly informed reviews here - good to see he's finally admitted to reading too much science fiction... that's the first step to recovery, I hear.

Other bloggers with posts up on the tour already are:
Rebecca Grabill
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sharon Hinck
Jason Joyner
Tina Kulesa
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Speculative Faith

The tour continues for another couple of days, so expect more posts to follow.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The observatory

A post in which I make some observations.

You may have seen the 12 planets proposal that's keeping astronomers busy at the moment. I can't help thinking Douglas Adams would have fun with a planet named after a Warrior Princess... Maybe they could call it Persephone in tribute, as that's the name he gave the tenth planet in Mostly Harmless. (Rupert, like Xena, was a nickname - 'after some astronomer's parrot.') Heh, so DNA thought ten planets would play havoc with astrology, now they may have to contend with 12...

I just got round to watching the Christmas episode of Doctor Who... (minor spoiler coming!)
It's the first episode after he regenerated from Christopher Ecclestone, and he seemed to regenerate into Arthur Dent... he spent half the episode in his dressing gown and really needed a cup of tea...

A Scanner Darkly hits the UK cinemas today... a potentially great collaboration of two sf greats - Philip K Dick gave us movies like Minority Report, Total Recall, and of course Blade Runner; Keanu Reeves is the veteran of modern sf classics like Johnny Mnemonic, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Oh, and that one with all the kung fu. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, that's it.
Seriously, it sounds like this should be closer to the PKD novel than some film adaptations, and with all the digital rotoscoping, it looks good.

And finally, if you just can't get enough of my witty jottings, I've started doing music reviews on my other blog. Crikey, is there no beginning to this man's talents...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Countless as the Stars: OST

Just uploaded a page to my website that might interest anyone who's read Countless as the Stars, or any of the writers out there: the original soundtrack!

Mostly it's a selection of tracks that inspired the writing of various parts of the book (or at least were playing while I wrote).

There are links to most tracks on, from where you can find audio samples for some, if you're curious.

I won't waffle too much about it here - the page should be self-explanatory.

So while I've got a few sentences to spare, I'd just like to remind you all to save Concorde.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Wisdom of Star Trek

Thanks to Mir for passing this further round the blogosphere... couldn't resist (since I've started illustrating my blog now!) posting a couple that tickled me...

"Words don't always solve problems. Sometimes you just have to punch an alien in the face."

So true.

"Look, not every episode can be 'City on the Edge of Forever', Okay?"

I love the episode Spock's Brain. The dialogue in the opening scenes between Jim and Bones couldn't have been funnier in the hands of the best Trek spoofers.

Is it any wonder Star Trek is the most influential sf TV series of all time?

Friday, August 11, 2006

DVDs I'm currently loving

I'm loving Season 3 of Angel.

Angel practically disappeared from terrestrial UK TV during season 3, having switched to Channel 5 and being shown in a constantly-shifting middle-of-the-night slot. I taped a few episodes but gave up in the end, and have now worked my way through to the second half of the season on DVD.

Although I have heard bits of what's to come in the next couple of seasons, most of what I have to look forward to is completely new to me, and as I said, I'm loving it. I'm particularly loving Season 3 because Angel has just become a Dad, and that is something I can totally relate to!

I also finally got round to watching Serenity, after my DVD player packed up last time I started. (The proceeds from Yoda on Mars covered the cost of a replacement.) I was late to the party here, too - Joss Whedon is apparently no longer popular with UK TV, so I held off watching Serenity until I had seen the Firefly DVDs.

I must admit, I wasn't quite ready for how dark it got on Miranda - I think the tag line 'They aim to misbehave' kind of led me to expect a kind of Italian Job-style crime caper in space. With cowboys.

Instead, I can't help thinking it had everything a Star Wars movie should have had: witty one-liners, a huge space battle, climactic shoot-out, one really nasty bad guy, a girl who really kicks butt (a sort of post-Buffy Princess Leia, maybe), and absolutely no Jar Jar Flaming Binks. Oh, and Mal Reynolds is renegade-with-a-heart in the Han Solo mould. I reckon he'd shoot first, too.

The bigger picture themes of belief, sin and redemption crop up - and not just from Shepherd Book. Elliot made a few comments in this direction in his review a while back.

It's not all Joss, though; I've also watched a few episodes of last year's Doctor Who again. It occurred to me watching the Dalek episode, which for me was one of the series highlights, that the Doctor sacrificing Rose for the greater good of mankind became a bit of a recurring theme over the first two seasons. I'm sure it wasn't like that in the old days. I remember when the good Doctor wouldn't sacrifice a Jelly Baby for the rest of mankind...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yoda on Mars II

For those interested in such things as old vans and TV shoots, the remaining pictures now appear here.

This has been a public service announcement.

Raising the Stones by Sheri S Tepper

Sheri Tepper is one of those sf writers who eschews the ray gun and the spaceship, in favour of a more thoughtful type of story, contemplating the nature of society in the science-fictional worlds she creates. In doing so she brings in themes including feminism, religion and violence, the three of which collide head on in Raising the Stones.

The story opens with Sam Girat, Topman of Settlement One, on the colonised world of Hobbs Land. Here, society is matriarchal, and largely non-religious, apart from a token respect for the last God of the recently extinct native race, the Owlbrit.

Until, that is, the God dies, and the settlers take it upon themselves to raise up a new God in the Owlbrit tradition, and then set about becoming missionaries to the other Settlements of Hobbs Land, and beyond.

So far, so good; this new found religion only increases the wellbeing of the Hobbs Landers. However, humankind has brought some of its own religions into the System - the harsh, patriarchal Voorstod religion, from which Sam fled as a child along with his mother; and the Baidee, who appear to have twisted the original words of their prophet in various ways, resulting in different degrees of radical extremism.

Another non-human race, the Gharm, have been treated (or more often, mistreated) as slaves by the Voorstoders, and when the missionaries from Hobbs Land reach them, they accept the new Gods as incarnations of their own Tchenka - a kind of pagan/Native American style god creature.

These cultures - particularly the human religions - are built up in some detail as the tensions build and ultimately boil over into an almighty clash on Hobbs Land. Some of the religious aspects, certainly the extremism of the Voorstoders, appear a bit too extreme to remain realistic, and so the ultimate outcome can only be conflict; there is no room for debate, discussion, finding common ground or just agreeing to disagree with these three religions. As a result the whole story simply ends up saying 'look at organised religion, it's the cause of all wars, especially religion organised by men, etc. etc.' The sort of thing Christians hear a lot of, as I'm sure do other followers of 'organised religions'.

However, if I may now come to some sort of a point, this book shows that it is possible to write about religion - and not much else - in the mainstream science fiction market. The problem being that if something like Raising the Stones were written to be more sympathetic to the way people of faith generally are, there wouldn't be nearly so much conflict and the story would risk dying prematurely.

To sum up: it's interesting to see how religion can be tackled in this type of story, but ultimately the anti-religion, anti-men undercurrent was a bit, well, anti-me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Yoda on Mars

This is Yoda. He's small, green, and - though I hesitate to say 'ugly' - he's a bit wierd looking. For a Mini. He is a 1972 Mini Clubman estate, in Limeflower.
Yoda keeps his complexion by grazing on green green grass.

A few weeks ago, when Liz from the Clubman Estate Register thought the chances of her Clubby passing the audition for Life On Mars* were slipping away, she recommended Yoda to the BBC and, last Friday, Yoda and I made the epic road trip to Rochdale for the filming, in a rather sorry looking disused hospital building.

Yoda on location, somewhere in the vicinity of Rochdale.

They only wanted the cars on set from 4pm, so I was saved the extra hassle of getting up at some unearthly hour, but, on the downside, by the time we got there most of the show's stars had packed up for the weekend and gone down the pub. Without leaving any clue as to which pub. I did, however, have the honour of being the first one to show John Simm the caricatures of the cast in this month's SFX magazine, and persuaded him to sign it (well, he could have taken offence!)

That's John Simm turning his back on me like I'm some sort of crazed paparazzo.

Yoda's scene was an external shot of the Lancashire General Hospital. It lasted about five seconds, but on the plus side, Yoda appeared to have a nice foreground location, so if you don't blink, you won't miss him.

For some reason, Sam Tyler had been barred from the Cortina, and was driving the CID car, which the crew seem to have forgotten was a very similar colour to Yoda. Ooops!

A Morris Marina 1.8 Super. Yesterday.

They even give you a period tax disc, but they don't fill it in, so they pinch it back at the end of filming. Tightwads!

A couple of extras discuss Yoda's early 70s cool. Is she leaning on my car?

Although the drivers of the VW and the ambulance were old hands at this sort of thing and by their own admission a bit blasé about the whole thing, I had never spoken to a TV star in his natural environment before and quite enjoyed the whole thing. Even the sitting around doing nothing, of which there was less than if the vehicles had been needed all day of course.

A Bedford CF Ambulance waits for an emergency to happen.

Can you spot the deliberate mistake?

We did get the chance for a quick snoop around some of the interior sets too; I would probably be in breach of the official secrets act if I published any photos of that though.

I even enjoyed the chance to take Yoda out for a real run. Cars like cars used to be - none of this newfangled nonsense like in car entertainment (like a roaring A-series isn't entertaining enough?) and adjustable seating.

Having said all that, I don't think I'd do it again - not for BBC Manchester, anyway. Nothing wrong with working for them, it's just a long way to go. Now, if Doctor Who were to visit the 1970s... pity I would have missed the chance to meet Billie. Oh well. She'd have probably slunk off to the pub before my sceen anyway...

Yoda will be featuring in Episode 6 of the second series.

*Life on Mars is a cop show with a kind of time travel element, which is how I justify wibbling about it here. For those in foreign climes who may not be aware of it, the basic premise is this: Cop involved in near fatal car accident, while in a coma gets a job as a copper in 1973. We get to watch a cool 70s style cop show while at the same time Sam is figuring out why he's gone back in time and how to get home. That's right; Quantum Leap with a car crash instead of a quantum leap accelerator, and a single leap lasting about 16 episodes. Yes, he's even called Sam.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Out of the Silent Planet by C S Lewis

Since we are here to talk about Christian science fiction, we may as well start at the beginning. Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy must be the first - certainly the best known - overtly Christian sf novel there is. At least, that is how it is most often represented; the Christianity, however, is not particularly overt, although the spirituality is, and knowing CS Lewis it is impossible not to draw out the Christian symbols.

The spirituality of Malacandra tells of a hierarchy of beings: eldila, Oyarsa, Maleldil, and The Old One - angels, archangels, Jesus and God being the Christian parallels. The tale is told of how Earth's Oyarsa fell, caused mischief in Heaven and on the planets, and was imprisoned on Earth.

And so it is that we find wicked Earth men arriving on Malacandra to spread their violent ways, bringing Elwin Ransom as some kind of sacrifice so they can plunder the planet's plentiful supply of gold. Ransom, on the other hand, having escaped his captors and discovered intelligent life on the planet, toys with the idea of being a kind of missionary to the planet... the irony only becoming apparent later on.

Ransom initially encounters, at a distance, the more or less humanoid seroni, who he assumes to be the only intelligent life forms on the planet, and also out to get him. However, it is with a hross that he first manages to make contact, discovering them also to be one of three species of intelligent Martians, the third being the pfifltriggi.

These three races represent three facets of human activity: the seroni are the scientists, the hrossa poets, and the pfifltriggi the builders. All three are untouched by sin, and work together in harmony, acknowledging their differences but none of them claiming superiority. All of which brings us back to the question of what it means to be made in God's image, and what it means to be human.

As science fiction, well, the narrative style doesn't compare to your modern space opera (and at 187 pages, neither does the word count!), reading like a slightly more poetic HG Wells. Lewis embarks on detailed descriptions of the Malacandrian landscape, flora and fauna, as well as the social and spiritual culture of the world he creates. Lewis also takes the unusual step for a sf novel of teaching us the alien language, at least some of the key terms. He manages to pull this off by introducing his protagonist as a philologist, which in itself may be slightly contrived, but makes the whole interaction with Martians feasible.

Of course there are huge flaws in the science, but Mars, and even space travel, seem to be reasonably accurately represented according to the knowledge available in 1938, when it was first published. It still works as a science-fantasy rather than a true science fiction, does some interesting things, and sets the mould for later Christian sf by the likes of Stephen Lawhead and Chris Walley.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Countless as the Stars: Chapter One

We're not quite up to normal service yet. As part of the forthcoming refurbishment of my website, the sample chapter is one of the pages scheduled for demolition. So I have painstakingly dismantled it, phrase by phrase, to be reconstructed in it's entirety here in the blogosphere. Where it will find a whole new audience, boost sales and make me a multi-jillionaire. That is how it works, right?

Chapter One

“Eight years ago, Litah single-handedly ended the most barbaric period in the history of Tellus. From Luna Minor, Litah brought salvation to a planet blighted by pollution and decades of war, barely able to support its dwindling population-”
Aidan Qqayle was disturbed from his work as the communal Citycar bounced over the buckled road surface. Glancing out of the window, he could see Luna Minor, a small point of white, pale against the yellow tinted sky of late afternoon, winking as the jagged peaks of ruined tower blocks flashed across his view. The C-car, following a pre-programmed route, was passing through the heart of the old city – a ghost town, abandoned and left to decay when most of Unioncity had been destroyed.
Aidan hit the save button on his comm-cell in case an unexpected jolt wiped out his work, and relaxed, the only sounds the rumbling of tyres on the uneven road beneath him and the occasional popping of his bubblegum. In the near-silence of the C-car he wondered again why Litah was such a burden on his heart.
Aidan believed that Litah – the Link between Tellus and Heaven – was, if not godless, Godless, responsible only to the twin deities on Science and Technology. By their power and his own ingenuity, man sought to dominate God’s universe. Even when the War ended as the Eight Nations united behind the project, Aidan had felt strongly that it was wrong; although so far he had been unable to fully explain this conviction.
The road began to smooth out, the bumps and thumps replaced by a more distant and even rumble as the Citycar approached the eastern edge of Unioncity, where a cluster of small buildings was still in use, mainly farming the fields which lay just beyond.
The C-car coasted noiselessly to a halt outside the last of these anonymous buildings, its sexless, synthesised voice reminding Aidan to take his user card. The kerbside door opened for him as he did so and Aidan stepped out of the orange bubble-shaped vehicle, leaving it ready to be summoned by its next passenger.
“You’re early tonight.”
Aidan looked around for the unseen speaker, and saw Chik Renken at the top of a ladder that reached the roof of the Temple.
“I wanted somewhere quiet to polish up my talk,” Aidan explained. “What are you doing?”
“Replacing the weather vane,” Chik said as he climbed down the ladder. “It’s about time this place started to look like a Temple.”
The building they called the Temple – a name which conjured up grandiose images of marble pillars, elaborate stonework and expensive gold trimmings – was in reality little more than a hut; a smallish building whose breezeblock exterior wore a thin coat of pink gloss in a failed attempt to cheer it up. In front of the building a small car park occasionally harboured the P-cars – private electricars – of the Temple Officials or Followers, and behind it the Temple had a small farm, breeding animals for the sacrifices demanded by the Creed.
“Come on, I’ll show it to you,” Chik said.
Aidan followed him across the empty car park and into the Temple, the pleasant coolness of the interior a welcome change from the heat of the summer sun.
Chik pointed to a heavy looking metal structure on a trestle table in the middle of the hall.
“The two suns,” Aidan said as he approached it.
“Well, I’m glad it’s recognisable.”
Chik had formed the two suns from hemispheres of metal as big as his head, one with small, gently curving rays which reached out protectively towards the blue-green sphere of Tellus, while the sharp, silver coloured rays of the second start tried to skewer the world. This was the second sun which had burnt for a year, its heat destroying life on Tellus, its legacy left for generations after in legend, and becoming a central part of the Creed.
Chik said, “I’ll go put this up, leave you to finish your sermon.”
“It’s too good to put on the roof,” Aidan said as Chik carried his sculpture outside.

Aidan settled down with a large mug of steaming coffee in the study, a small room at the farthest end of the building. He set his comm-cell down, hooking it up to the display screen and keyboard, and started work. The heavy wooden door deadened noise so effectively that Aidan didn’t realise Chik had finished until he walked purposefully into the study, rousing Aidan from his writing.
“Sorry, did I disturb you?”
“No, I was about finished,” Aidan said, without looking up from the screen.
“So what can we expect to be educated on this evening?”
“Litah,” Aidan answered.
Chik lowered his eyes and shook his head. “I thought you’d want to speak about that sooner or later,” he said.
Aidan sat back and looked up at his friend, who was still wearing his scruffy blue overalls.
“I know you’ve got some deeply held opinions on the subject, but…” Chik paused, searching for the right words. “This is a church,” he said finally. “It’s no place for opinions.”
“This is not about opinions,” Aidan argued. “The whole project is an abomination in the eyes of God. The very name is a blasphemy!”
“I know, you’re right,” Chik said. But I’ve known you a long time, Aidan, and I know how outspoken you can be – and I know how strongly you feel about this subject.”
“Chik, I promise you that what I have to say will be nothing if not balanced,” Aidan said. “I will be the first to admit that the project has its good points.”
“Well,” Chik said, “I have to admit, you’ve surprised even me there.”
“Well, the Eight Nations haven’t cooperated on such a big scale in decades – if ever.”
Chik smiled. “Alright,” he said, clapping Aidan warmly on the back. “I’m going to trust you on this. Just don’t let it get personal, OK?”
“Here,” Aidan said, angling the display towards Chik. “I was going to ask you to take a look anyway.”
“Thanks,” he smiled, sitting down in front of the screen.
“I’ve tried to put my personal feelings aside and concentrate on what I believe God thinks of it,” Aidan said. “As my friend, and as an Official of this church, I can’t think of anyone I trust more to tell me if I’ve succeeded.”
Chik didn’t answer. Aidan watched his eyes dance back and forth as he scrolled through the pages of text, and while he was bent over the screen Aidan was pleased to notice Chik’s off-blond hair was finally beginning to thin. Chik was just a fortnight older than Aidan – they had held joint birthday parties since the age of 12 – but now Aidan’s hair was rapidly receding he felt a lot older than his friend. Aidan brushed his hand through his short hair almost unconsciously; he would have to have it shaved again soon, which should even the score a little.
Chik looked up, cutting short Aidan’s moment of satisfaction. “Interesting,” he said.
“Go on…”
“I think you’ve succeeded in hiding your personal aversion to the programme,” Chik continued.
“But?” Aidan knew him well enough to expect a ‘but’.
Chik paused thoughtfully. “But I think some of the phrases you’ve used there are a bit strong,” he said finally.
“Like?” Aidan turned the screen back towards himself.
“Typically human self-centredness, for a start,” Chik said.
“There are a lot of humans in this church, Aidan.”
“Don’t you think it’s true?”
“I told you, Aidan,” Chik said softly, “this is no place for opinions.”
Aidan’s opinion was that his best friend – and some of the Followers that had elected him as an Official – was more concerned with keeping people happy than speaking the truth in sermons. That didn’t change their friendship, of course – that had been built over 25 years, since before either of them followed the Creed – but Aidan knew God was much more revolutionary than some of the church leadership felt happy with, and that, Aidan believed, was why Chik was a part of the Temple’s leadership while he was still a Lay Brother, an occasional speaker in the Temple.

After the service, Aidan sat before the sacrificial altar at the back of the Temple, where a small pig roasted on a bed of aromatic plants. Chik had looked disappointed when Aidan used most of the phrases he had tried to discourage earlier, but Aidan made it clear that it was not his own opinion, but God’s, and carefully validated all his arguments. God, wanting nothing more than to see His world at peace again, had allowed Litah to begin, but man had abused God’s gift, as he always has and always will. So God had revealed to Aidan that this plot to conquer and rule creation by human endeavour alone was destined to fail. Not only would it fail though; its failure would be turned to God’s glory instead. God had a way of doing that.
Chik sat down quietly beside Aidan. Aidan didn’t rush, but finished his business with God before taking on the sharp side of the Official’s tongue.
“That was very good,” Chik said when Aidan finally turned to face him. “Thank you.”
Aidan was puzzled. “That’s it?”
“You were right to believe those were God’s views on the subject,” he added. “I see that now.”
“Thanks, friend,” Aidan smiled.
“Sometimes I wonder, you know,” Chik said, “why I was chosen to be an Official above you. I often envy your closeness to God.”
Aidan wondered silently where this was heading.
“But now I know,” he continued.
“Well?” Aidan prompted after a moment’s silence.
“God spoke to me this evening,” he said. “I don’t fully understand the meaning of these words, and you may not either. But God says to you: ‘Leave your country, your people and your household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people will be blessed through you.’”
Aidan sat for a moment, struck dumb while he tried to take it in.
“That’s pretty heavy stuff,” he said eventually.
Chik just nodded solemnly. “It’ll be a shame to see you go,” he said.
Those words hit Aidan harder than the prophecy itself. “You really…”
“Yes,” Chik looked him in the eye. “I really believe it.”
Aidan tried to let the word of God settle in his mind, but it all seemed too big, too improbable, almost senseless to Aidan’s tiny human brain, and he couldn’t bring himself to think about it.
“I know how you must feel,” Chik said. “I prayed hard before deciding to tell you; it’s a huge calling, but I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t convinced of its truth. I can’t imagine how much worse it is knowing the word is for you personally.”
“I don’t know,” Aidan said, getting up and pacing before the altar. “I can’t take it all in.”
“Go home,” Chik said, resting a caring hand on Aidan’s shoulder. “Get some rest and pray about it tomorrow. Talk it over with Savana, and the other Officials if you like, and come and see me when you’ve had a chance to consider it properly.”
Aidan nodded vaguely at his friend, and continued to pace.
“Go on,” Chik said firmly.
Aidan left, reluctantly.
Twilight had arrived, and with it came the cold, but Aidan didn’t feel it as he went to meet Savana. She would have finished work during the service, and gone straight to the Temple farm, where she often tended the animals. The farm buildings lay a short walk from the sacrificial altar, and once the lights from the little pink Temple no longer lit his path, Aidan’s thoughts turned back to Chik’s word of prophecy.
Leave his new home? So soon after they’d settled in? He and Savana were just beginning to make new friends-
“Wait a minute,” Aidan said out loud.
He didn’t like the shape of the thought that was forming in his mind, but couldn’t stop it forming just the same.
He was being pushed out. The Temple Officials didn’t like what he’d had to say, and they were effectively excommunicating him.
“Stars!” he muttered to himself, kicking a stone in anger.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Hello, I'm back.

This is just a short post to ease myself back into things.

In theory I should have plenty to blog about for a while; a couple of book reviews ready to roll, a couple more relevant reads lined up, and I watched most of Serenity before my DVD player packed up the other day (grrrr...)

Some other, not directly related, developments are still going on, and will no doubt be related here when they come to fruition (ooh, tease!).

Big thanks to those on the CSFF blog tour for allowing me to be an honorary participant... typical that I miss the first one with significant sf content!

Obviously I have some catching up to do now, but normal service will resume shortly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

'Scuse me, just passing through...

I've been a bit busy lately, with this and that. Playing around with a few changes I want to make to my website, working on a couple of short story ideas, and, when I get a minute, the day job...

To top all of which, I shall be off on a little holiday soon.

If you haven't already found your way their - and are not, in fact, a contributor - Speculative Faith should be able to fill in for me during my absence. And, I expect, way beyond. (Have you fixed my link yet, guys? ;) )

And, because I probably won't get to join in next week, July's Christian SFF blog tour will be plugging the Christian Fandom website on 24-26 July. A good place to start is usually round Becky's place.

I'll be back in August.

This year, all being well.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Doctor, Doctor...

Well, we knew the beeb had a big finish lined up for this season of Doctor Who, but who would have imagined vast armies of Daleks and Cybermen converging on London, for the final of the 2026 Worlds Cup at the recently opened Wembley Stadium?

That the good Doctor would stand in a referee was inevitable as soon as that happened, but surely nobody could have expected the streaker.

I won't spoil it by telling you the score, as I know many of my readers won't get to see it for a while.

If you really want to know how the series ended, I'm sure you can look elsewhere. All I'm saying is, it was possibly a little over the top (in order to top it next year, I hear Quentin Tarantino will be directing the season finale) but Doctor Who fans will certainly enjoy it, with all its entertaining cartoon violence. A bit like the World Cup, really.

Oh, and as we were talking about Ender's Game (well, in passing last week), check this out.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The age old dilemma...

Which Star Wars DVD should I buy? Or should I not even bother?

Do I go for the 4-disc box set, or the forthcoming 'Limited Editions', with the original versions as a bonus?

The box set is cheaper, and has all that bonus material.

The limited editions might be the only opportunity Han gets to shoot first on DVD.

And, of course, it's all subject to the whim of George Lucas, who will no doubt release some other version as soon as these stop making money.

So maybe I should just keep my cash until the super-duper all-singing all-dancing pick-which-bits-you-want-from-each-version box set arrives.

Or just watch them on VHS until the tapes wear out.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

miscellaneous bloggery 5

The fifth in an occasional series in which I can't be bothered to come up with anything original to write about.

Mirtika reviews Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card;

Orson Scott Card reviews Superman;

Superman reviews In the Open Space (no, actually, I could have that the wrong way round...);

Claw of the Conciliator points us to some discussion on the spiritual significance of Donnie Darko (which I can see I'm going to have to watch again);

phywriter tells us about Ray Gun Revival - something else for me to check out when I'm supposed to be working...

And finally, if anyone can brave an insight into what goes on in my mind besides Christian sf, I've started posting some fairly random stuff on these blogs.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Spiritually Significant Films

I'm not sure how long this list has been knocking around (this is the 2005 edition), but since it's just come to my attention, I thought I'd take a look.

Top scoring sf film is Russian post-apocalypse tale Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, who had previously directed Solaris, also on the list.

Sneaking in towards the bottom of the list is 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that's about it for sf. Compare that to the 2004 list, which featured most of the obvious omissions: Blade Runner, The Matrix, the Star Wars trilogy; plus one I had forgotten was about a minister, Signs. Plus this surprise entry, which I seem to remember also had aliens in it. All of which are in my video collection, and will probably get revisited on the blog when I get time to watch them...

The compilers of the list admit to favouring lesser-known movies - which presumably puts Star Wars and The Matrix at an instant disadvantage - but that still seems a poor showing for movie sf, doesn't it? (Having said that, I don't know what I'd knock off the list, other than some of the obscure foreign movies I've never heard of, which is no doubt very unfair.)

I'm almost afraid to do this, but the obvious way to end a post like this is to ask what spiritually significant sf movies have been missed, and open those up for discussion...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The future's arrived...

...and it's shrink-wrapped.

Seven colour-coded personality types I can live with.

But choosing a one or three year lifespan? That seems a little, well, wrong somehow.

Well, I mentioned some of the spiritual problems with cloning back here, so I won't digress on the subject now.

I just thought I'd say: Elliot, how'd you fancy one of these for your birthday?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Remember science fiction?

Next week I will meander back towards the subject in hand - that's Christianity in science fiction, in case you had forgotten - but today I can't be bothered, and so as not to spoil the rhythm of 3 posts a week, here's a little light music to keep you entertained.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Christian Fantasy Blog Tour: DragonKnight

Under the spotlight this week is Donita Paul's DragonKnight, which, rather handily, came out yesterday. Not having read the book, I have decided instead to discourse on the subject of Dragons:

Many years ago, in a more innnocent time, a new breed was coming into existence. Across the land they emerged, blinking into the sunlight. It was 1982, and they had been shut away in their bedrooms, playing 1K Chess on their ZX81, or marvelling at the colour and sound brought by their new-fangled Spectrums and C-64s. The period of evolution was complete; the Computer Nerd was here.

And it was into the world of the early '80s nerd that the Dragons came. They came from Wales. Port Talbot, in fact, from Dragon Data, of the Mettoy dynasty. First, the Dragon 32, and later, the Dragon 64, swooped on the Sinclair empire, teeth bared, breath flaming, spoiling for a rumble.

You know, as I write this, I'm wondering what on Earth any of it has to do with Christian fantasy. Maybe I should look up this DragonKnight book, see what I can figure out.

*reads amazon listing*

Oh, right. That sort of dragon. Crikey, that's embarrassing. I pictured a geek in a parallel universe searching for retro computers. I'm a bit disappointed, tell you the truth.

Well, erm, since I won't be able to add anything on the subject you can't find out elsewhere on the tour, I'll let this post stand. At least I don't run the risk of duplicating information. Ahem.

The following bloggers may in fact have read the book:
Sally Apokedak
Valerie Comer
Johne Cook
Janey DeMeo
Mary E. DeMuth
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Marcia Laycock
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton

Now, where's that unfinished comic fantasy of mine, I've got a great idea... I think I might call it: DragonQuest.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Burning: Part Five

Continued from Part Four

It transpired that the probe had suffered little physical damage, beyond some burnt out circuits, presumably from residual radiation, or simply heat. A few components had to be foraged from the bunker's other systems, but a week later, Khem and R'Leef had the probe powered up again, and were ready to send it back up to the surface.
R'Leef nodded at Khem, and placed the probe in the lift. As he pushed the button to close the door, a ball bounced along the corridor at some speed, was deflected by Khem's leg, and bounced off the plastic dome of the probe.
"Oh, heck," said Khem, I hope that hasn't ruined a week's work."
"It'll be fine," R'Leef said, switching on the monitor.
The dingo barged between the two men, almost knocking R'Leef over, and followed his ball into the lift just before the door closed.
Khem groaned, close to despair. "What if the dog breaks it?"
"I would worry more about what your wife's going to say, son."
"About what?" Khem's wife asked. "And what's Ringo doing in the lift?"
Khem looked round, wide-eyed, to see the dog - Ringo - lying down in front of the probe's camera, gnawing contentedly on his ball.
"We tried to stop him," he lied.
"Will he be alright?"
Mercifully Khem was saved from having to answer this when the picture beside him brightened suddenly. He turned in time to see Ringo get up, and bound off into the distance.
R'Leef waited a moment, and once he was sure everything was working correctly, moved the probe forward.
The three of them stood, transfixed by the view. For the first time in over a year, they looked upon the city they had once called home, as it slowly came into view over the hill. The huge towers that stood in the centre raised their heads first, pointing sharply up into the clear blue sky. The vast network of glass and metal that formed the bulk of the city followed, shining in an almost alien sunlight. As the rest of the city came into view, they saw a large area that had been burnt to the ground many months ago.
"Oh no," R'Leef whispered. His own home had once been in the fire damaged zone.
"It';s alright Dad," Khem said. "You can have the biggest house in the city now."
"Thanks," he smiled. "Although I think we should see what other damage has been done first."
The camera zoomed in on the city, its streets - even the highways leading in and out of the city - were still and silent, littered with abandoned vehicles.
"What's that?" Khem pointed at a deep scar running parallel with the highway, from the city out into the wilderness.
R'Leef panned quickly through the city, tracing the cutting's approximate line until he located it on the other side of the city.
Khem's wife had turned ghostly white. "It's the river," she croaked.
They stood in silence, the camera following the dry river bed as it ran out of the city, and into what had once been fertile farmland, but was now dry and cracked, like the river bed. The heat had dried the surface thoroughly, and it hadn't rained in months.
The river ran out of the camera's vision, still dry, so R'Leef focused the camera back on the city. Many of the buildings had sustained considerable damage, very few had unbroken windows, some had had their rooves smashed in or ripped clean off, and others had been decimated by falling debris.
"One day, son," R'Leef said, "all this will be yours."
Khem looked at him, unsure. His wife smirked. R'Leef grinned, and then all three of them burst into laughter so loud and raucous that the rest of the family were soon running along the corridor to see what was so funny.
"The city's in ruins," Khem chuckled, "and the river's bone dry."
"And we lost the dog," his wife giggled.
"But the air's ok," R'Leef laughed. "We made it! We're safe!" and he gave his wife a huge celebratory hug.

A few hours later the lift reached the surface again, this time carrying the eight human survivors of the disaster. All the animals they had with them had been let out into the sun, but for R'Leef and his family, this was their first sunlight, their first fresh air in over a year. After weeks underground with only emergency lighting much of the time, the sunlight was particularly harsh and bright, but the air was incredibly clean and fresh as the last humans alive stepped out onto the world they had to rebuild.
Ringo had found his way back, and lay at the entrance to the lift shaft, panting for water. He slunk into the shade of the lift as soon as Noah's family had vacated it, and lay down again, hot and thirsty.
"So this is all that's left," Uax said.
R'Leef nodded. "This," he said, "and our faith."
"But there's no water," Khem reminded him.
"And it's still so hot!" Zalbeth said.
"Don't be ungrateful," R'Leef said. "We're alive, aren't we? Uax, prepare the sacrifice. We should thank God first. He's given us a fresh start; let's begin on the right foot, shall we?"
And so the hilltop - the very lift shaft by which they had entered this new world - was dedicated to the Lord with the burning of some of the birds they had kept for the sacrifice.
A gentle, refreshing breeze began to blow, and R'Leef thought once again that it carried words to him, although this time the others also appeared to be listening.
"Be fruitful," it said, "increase in number and fill the world. Every living creature which I have saved thorugh you will be under your command. Life is my gift to each of you.
"I now establish my eternal covenant with you, my loyal and faithful servant, and with all of your descendants, and the creatures you watch over. Never again will I destroy the world and mankind in this way. This is my unconditional, eternal promise to you and to all mankind.
"And this is the sign of my covenant with you all - a second moon in the sky. Whenever you see this sign, I will remember my covenant with mankind, never to destroy as I have done now."
The breeze died down, the voice gone as suddenly and strangely as it had come. R'Leef wasn't sure if the others knew, but he was aware that with mankind's sinful tendencies still present in the eight of them, it was possible for things to get that bad again. Reassured by God's promise, demanding nothing of him, he looked at his family, and at the second moon which hung clearly in the bright blue sky. As he looked at this, he saw a cloud form in the distance, growing closer, bigger, blacker by the second. Soon it was on top of them, obscuring the searing sun and the sign of God's covenant, and the rain came down.
Ringo stodd up, and tried to catch raindrops on his tongue. Then his owners tried too, happily getting wet, soaking in the water, sent from heaven to bring life to a world re-born.
R'Leef danced in the rain, singing praises to God, through whose grace the future of mankind was secure.