Tuesday, November 25, 2008
So you want to know about dragons?
Start with "Dragonscaling!," a tongue-in-cheek look at a future where the world's most extreme sport involves the use of genetically engineered creatures. Continue on to read how dragons are kept out of sight in modern Hong Kong in "Dragonkeeper," before turning the page for a humorous look at the importance of listening to one's mother in "Lessons."
"The Druid's Dragon" reveals a possible connection between the ancient people and an enslaved dragon, before "Dragon Eye, P.I." twists all conventions and makes a dragon the lead in a 1940s-style detective story. "Poison Bird" brings the reader back to modern day for a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of the protagonist's boyfriend.
"A Reptile at the Reunion" pulls together two things that most people fear: dragons and high school reunions. A hunter learns compassion for his prey in "Dragon Blood" while "No Time for Dragons" takes a humorous tone when an example is made of dragon who is a pesky door-to-door salesman.
"For Your Eyes Only" reveals the power of devotion when lovers encounter a dragon. Both sides of a human and dragon interaction, with wildly different conclusions, are examined in "Shattered Dreams" before the influence of hatred and the cost of sacrifice battle each other in "A Darkness of Spirit."
A Firestorm of Dragons finishes with a trilogy of stories depicting some possible ends of dragonkind. "Dragon Fruit" reveals the happiest of conclusions when a symbiotic relationship between humans and dragons leaves both to lead their own lives. Dragons continue to live on throughout time in "A Dragon's Dawn," though they are relegated to lonely and unfulfilled lives. "Inside the Cavern" is the ending no one wishes for the majestic beings, their race dying in obscurity under man's unyielding pressure.
These a brief summaries of the tales that await you in A Firestorm of Dragons, an anthology edited by Michele Acker and Kirk Dougal and published by Dragon Moon Press. Although the stories are not necessarily all Christian world view, they are suitable for young adults as well as adults, and could even be read to some children.
Monday, November 24, 2008
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
and the book:
Realms (October 2, 2008)
Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)
Unfortunately, I was slow on this one and didn't get a copy of the book yet. I really wish I had, especially since I see Alton Gansky referred to on many blogs by writers that I respect. I have read quite a bit of praise for his speculative fiction and spiritual content in thrilling stories. This first chapter is all I know about Enoch, other than some reviews on Amazon. Between the reviews and this chapter I got enough of a glimpse to know that I want to read the whole story.
It is soon obvious that this character in the story is unfamiliar with his surroundings. He doesn't even know what a road is. Does he have amnesia? What's the deal? He talks in a way that would be unusual in Texas. If you want to know a little more, like I did, check out the reviews on Amazon. They don't give away the story, I don't think, but there's more information to base a decision on. I can tell you that I am adding it too my wish list on the fast track. I really want to read this one.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.
"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.
He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.
A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.
Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.
Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.
Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.
The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.
A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.
He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.
Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.
When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.
Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.
The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.
Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.
When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.
A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.
Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.
The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.
Henick kept moving.
Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.
The roar grew louder. The lights neared.
A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.
"What are you? Nuts?"
The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.
The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"
In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.
"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.
"That it, boy? You lost?"
"I am just walking," Henick said.
"In the dark? Where you headed?"
Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.
"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."
"I don't live there."
The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."
"It is true. I am cold."
"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."
"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."
"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."
"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."
Henick raised an eyebrow.
"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."
"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"
"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."
"I would like a ride."
"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."
"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.
"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."
A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!
Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.
After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.
Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of TedDekker.com.
Here are some of his latest titles:
Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)
Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
A few thoughts from me: Infidel is well-drawn and easy to read. Since I didn't read the original novel, I can't really compare the two. For those who have followed Ted Dekker's books up to this point, it probably will be a great treat unless your personal images in your head don't match those of the graphic artist. I have always enjoyed certain graphic art, in particular DC comics (yeah, I'm an old fan of the Justice League of America). Graphic novels have a couple of advantages, as I see it. First, it's a picture book! It really is easier to read when there are pictures to go with the narrative. Secondly, they are not as wordy as ordinary novels (not that I could ever call Dekker's novels ordinary), and therefore can be read in a considerably shorter time period. Those are good selling points for just about everyone in our rushed lifestyles, but especially good for reluctant readers. I think a main target audience would be those teen guys who hate to read.
This is the second graphic novel I have read from the Ted Dekker books. Like the first one, Red, it leaves me a little confused, most likely because the format condenses the story to a point that I feel there is a lot missing. But then again, it might just be me. Even with Dekker's full novels that I read, I felt it was all a whirlwind that moved faster sometimes than I could follow. Like I said, it might just be me. I am certain that Dekker's myriad fans will love it. I give it a high rating, so you might especially want to consider it and the first in the series as gifts for this Christmas.
AND NOW...THE FIRST TWO PAGES:
(Click Pictures to Zoom!)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It is time to play a Wild Card!
and the book:
Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Stephen Leon Rice is a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. He
has three short stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology
of Biblical speculative fiction (2007). The three stories reflect his interests:
speculative theology, language, philosophy, and bad jokes. He has
a B.A. in Linguistics and Foreign Languages and an M.A. in English
(Professional Writing and Editing). He works as a freelance journalist,
writer and editor, and he is fond of old books and early Christian thinking.
He also belongs to several writing groups and is known for swift,
accurate edits and critiques. His work emphasizes the need to rely on
God rather than on ourselves and models a Christian worldview.
Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at ansric.pbwiki.com.
List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Now, if our parents were normal, none of the rest of us—Charlie, Rod, and I—would have been at Allen and Clarice’s house, but our parents seemed to think that if we were going to have a club meeting, we should all be in the same room, not running it over the Net. It’s not like they were all Neandertals or anything; they used the Net as much as we did. But they thought biking over to Allen’s house would build character. Some parents are like that.
It wasn’t a surprise when Clarice burst in on our Mad Scientists meeting—she always found some excuse—but when she said she wanted Allen to override the parental controls for her chat room, well, that was a new one. Allen just looked at her the way he usually did whenever she asked him to delete her name from the school records so she wouldn’t have to go, but this time she wasn’t taking no for an answer. It didn’t stop him from trying.
“Look,” he said, “even if I wanted to change the settings, the main security is at the Web site itself. I’d have to hack their system, and that would probably be a crime. Besides, why do you want to shut off security anyway?”
“There’s a girl who wants to know my real name. She’s really nice, but she’s kind of sad, too. I’d like to cheer her up.”
Houston, we have liftoff, I thought. But this was Allen Peters, not the more obnoxious Rod Davies, and he had almost as much patience as Charlie. So he just sighed and shook his head. But I think we were all wondering what kind of scam Clarice had run into. The police or even the FBI might get involved, and we might get a reward if the guy in the chat room was a real prize. Clarice couldn’t understand that, of course; she was just a kid. So when Rod suggested finding out who the guy really was, she didn’t take it quietly.
“She’s not a guy,” she said. “Her name is Genie. Her handle is Pandora, and there’s some tagline like ‘out of the box.’ She’s real nice.”
“If she was a genie, she’d be out of the lamp,” Rod pointed out. He could be annoying that way, but we didn’t mind as long as he was doing it to her. Actually, I thought about asking if the genie had light brown hair, but then Clarice would have asked why, and I wouldn’t have known, and then I would’ve had to grow old listening to her keep asking why. It wasn’t worth it.
“Look,” Allen said with brotherly condescension, “don’t you remember what Mom and Dad told you about stuff like this? Don’t they pound it into you at school? You never give someone in a chat room your actual name, address, or anything else they can track you with. And Rod’s right, for once: you don’t even know if this ‘Genie’ is a girl. You might be talking with some dirty old man somewhere.”
“Kidchat checks every member,” Clarice protested. “You can’t even join without proving you’re a kid, so it’s safe.”
“Okay, so he’s a dirty old man with a little girl to help him get into places that are kids only.”
“Are you going to look, or just keep lecturing me?”
We all knew that tone. The next step was a full-blown tantrum, and if their folks came in at the wrong moment—which they usually did—we’d all be nailed for child abuse. So we trooped off to her room and had a look.
To begin with, whoever ran the site was sick. People who do kids’ sites are always either edgy or cute, and this guy was trying to do both, which meant that it combined the nausea of cuteness with the speed of attitude. If it was a dirty old man on the other end, he had to be desperate in every sense.
But anyway, there was an anime-type, big-eyed cartoon girl looking out of a cowl. She had a concerned look, no doubt because Clarice had been gone longer than expected. To the right of her, an animated box opened, and the name ‘Pandora’ floated out of it. Pretty good for a kid. The on-screen data gave her age as seven, which made her a couple years below Clarice and about half as old as the rest of us. A speech balloon appeared, and the computer read off the words in one of Kidchat’s user-selectable voices.
“Goodcheer! Are you back yet? Is everything all right?”
“Goodcheer,” yet! Was that Clarice’s idea or a gift from her mom? But Clarice (or “Goodcheer”) plopped down in her chair, fiddled peevishly with her mike, and replied, “I’m back. My brother doesn’t believe you’re really a little girl, so I don’t think he’s going to be any help.”
The cartoon face frowned. “That’s too bad. Can’t you use a riddle or pun as I did to tell you my real name?”
“I don’t think so.”
The face took on a thoughtful expression. Then it said, “Open another window and search for the relevant data. Do a search on your first name, for example; then send me links to the first few pages that come up, and I’ll locate the shared name. Or you may find an actress, model, or character with the same name and refer me to her Web site.”
It was probably just the animation, but I somehow felt like Pandora, or Genie, or whatever his or her name really was, actually did have to think this up. It made no sense at all, though: it was the obvious way to handle the problem, and an experienced pervert would have thought of it long before. But then, he or she was also using words a bit beyond “Genie’s” supposed age level.
“Wait a minute,” Allen said, grabbing his sister’s hand as she reached for the mouse. “We want to know who you really are.”
To our surprise and Allen’s annoyance, his demand was ignored not by Genie but by the Web site itself: his voice wasn’t registered, so Kidchat wouldn’t transmit what he said. The site’s controls were certainly doing their job. Clarice wound up relaying the message, which didn’t help his mood.
“I can’t tell you here,” the cartoon girl replied. “We could go to another chat room.”
“Why didn’t she do that with Clarice and leave us out of it?” Rod asked.
“This is the only chat room I’m allowed to use,” Clarice retorted. “Of course, if Allen wants to use another chat room . . .”
I didn’t think of it at the time, but later on I developed a strong suspicion that this was what Clarice had been after all along. I suppose I should ask her sometime.
Anyway, Allen scowled at the suggestion, but he gave Genie the address of a place where we sometimes had private chats instead of regular club meetings. He had the site located himself a moment later, and sure enough, someone named Genie was there already, and with the same animation and character avatar.
“All right, then, what is your name?” Allen asked.
“My name is Genie,” came the reply. This time it wasn’t a filtered, canned voice—or if it was, it was far better done than Kidchat’s.
“Okay, but how old are you?”
“I am not sure. I do not remember when I was born. Do you remember when you were born?”
If the audio was accurate, this was a genuine question, not sarcasm, and that seemed to bother Allen more than an outright insult would have done.
“Of course not,” he said. “No one remembers when he was born.”
There was a kind of satisfaction in the voice this time. “That is what I thought. First memories occur usually no less than one year after birth.”
“But your parents could tell you when you were born,” Allen said, and he almost seemed to accept that he was speaking to a little girl after all.
“I do not have any parents,” the voice said sadly. “Or at least, if I do, I do not know who they are.”
I can’t answer for Allen, but I was beginning to feel like a bully by then. If this was a man, he was a genius.
“Well, you can talk, though,” Allen persisted, even if he did look a bit embarrassed. “Are you in school?”
“No. I had not thought about schooling as a useful datum, but I do not believe I have ever been to school. Nor do I find reference to plans to send me. I suppose I have private tutors. I do know a lot.”
Allen smiled at this. All kids think they know a lot. “Do you know how much two plus two is?”
“Two plus two is four,” came the answer. “But I can also calculate roots, trigonometric functions—anything mathematical, really.”
Allen glanced back at us helplessly. It didn’t take much to get answers out of a computer, and if hers had a really good calculator available, math was a pointless test. Unless we turned Rod loose on her—but that really would have been child abuse. We needed something else to gauge her knowledge, so I decided to try my hand at fixing her background—and in my case, that meant checking her language proficiency.
“¿Comprende Ud. esto?” I asked. “¿Qué lengua hablo ahora?”
“Ud. habla español,” she answered easily. “¡Qué divertido! Ya no he contemplado—”
“Kore wa nani ga desu ka?”
“Nihongo ga desu. Anata ga rippa na—”
“How many languages do you know?” I asked, interrupting her. Spanish was no big deal, but Japanese was less common. Perhaps she had grown up in an old-fashioned melting pot neighborhood and picked up a smattering of several languages. Her answer dashed that possibility, though.
“The question is ambiguous. I should be able to respond fluently in at least twenty-three languages, and I could probably understand or make myself understood in ninety-two others. In theory, I should be able to identify roughly two thousand languages, though the matter is made more complicated by questions of dialect. For example, I can use Modern Literary Arabic fluently, but my ability at Libyan, Lebanese, or Iraqi Arabic would be rather less impressive.”
“You—you’re joking!” I stammered.
“No, though I am capable of joking. I know seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-four jokes, with minor variations.”
“Are you sure you’re even human? You talk like a computer in a sci-fi video.”
“I am human,” came the reply, and again the emotion in the audio feed caught me unprepared. She sounded slightly angry and very hurt. It was obviously a sensitive topic, and once more I felt like a bully.
“I’m sorry. We’re just trying to figure out who you are. You don’t sound like any little girl I’ve ever met.” I paused briefly, but she gave no answer, so I continued, “Do you have any other friends?”
“Only Uncle. He is kind to me and always tries to smile for me, though sometimes I think he cries. I cry too, but I cannot do it on the outside, the way he does. Perhaps it does not count if you only do it inside.”
“Sometimes it counts more if you only do it inside,” I said, and maybe I was a sucker, but I had to fight to keep mine inside. A muffled snort from behind me revealed that Rod wasn’t buying it, but at least he wasn’t grilling her either. “Tell me more about your uncle,” I continued.
“He is a nice man. He has gray hair, and he always tries to take time for me. In a way, I guess he is more like a grandfather. I like him. I wonder whether he could be my father—or my grandfather. Anyway, he is the one who hooked me up to the Internet. He said that I needed to get out more. That is why he signed me up for Kidchat. He said that I was not to talk too much to strangers, but Goodcheer is always so kind and friendly. I have learned a lot from her. He was right: it is good to have another girl to talk to.”
“Don’t you go outdoors?” I asked.
“No. I cannot go outdoors. The people here always want me to learn things, not play. Uncle is the only one who plays with me. He is the one who called me Genie and Pandora. He looks so sad. But they are good names. Genie is a regular girl’s name, but I know that he was making a pun on the jinni from Moslem mythology. Jinni are powerful spirits, often held captive to keep them from hurting people or to force them to help people. I do feel like a captive spirit here, though I doubt that I am powerful. And I would not hurt anyone—in fact, I would gladly help people if I knew how. I wish I could make Uncle happy, so he would smile all the time.
“As for Pandora, she was a woman in Greek mythology. Her curiosity led her to open a box and let loose all the miseries that plague mankind. But she also released hope. I do not think that I can release plagues on mankind, but perhaps I can bring hope somehow.”
“Pandora also means ‘all-gifted,’” I said. “Your uncle must think a lot of you to associate you with powerful, gifted beings.”
“Yes,” she replied, and her voice definitely sounded pleased. “The people here call me CHMI, but that is not a pretty name at all. They don’t care about me the way Uncle and Goodcheer do. That’s why I’m glad they don’t know about all I can do. Even Uncle doesn’t know, but he worries so much. I don’t want to trouble him. And I am a good girl.”
“I’m sure you are,” I said, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Wait a minute,” Rod interrupted. “You keep talking about ‘the people here.’ Who are they? And for that matter, where are you?”
“I do not know.” There was definite distress in the voice, and even though Rod was bigger than I was, I thought about giving him a nudge that would bend him over to my size. “I mostly just read. I only recently began to see and hear them. They don’t know that yet. Uncle knows. That’s why he talks to me.”
The tension faded from her voice as she spoke, and I determined to keep it away. “It’s all right, Genie. We know enough about you for the moment. Maybe Allen can help find out more—he’s good with computers. But for now, it’s enough that you’re Genie.”
“Thank you. And who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Tom. Tom Reilly. My friends and I have a club, and we meet at Clarice’s and Allen’s house.”
“What kind of club is it?”
“Well, mostly we just like to hang around together. But we’re interested in science, and we’re a bit unorthodox, so we decided to call ourselves the Mad Scientists. We got the idea from a book.”
“Mad scientists? Do you want to blow up the world or make monsters?”
“Well, we’ve blown up parts of school, and some people say we’re monsters all by ourselves, but . . . Well, I guess you could say we’re good boys in spite of it all.”
Genie laughed. “That sounds like fun. I know a lot about science, too. In fact, that’s what the people here are teaching me. I’ve already learned a lot more than they think. Uncle wants me to act as though I don’t understand. I don’t think he likes them. But I do understand. What are you working on right now?”
The question caught me off-guard, and I said, “We’re playing around with researching . . . well, superheroes, I guess you’d say. You know, the science involved: could someone really do something like they do in comics?”
“Ah, I see. I do not read comics myself, but I have heard of them. I could do a search on the subject.”
Now, I admit that it felt good to be taken seriously (even by a girl) on such an off-the-wall subject, so I volunteered a few sites for her to check when she had a free moment. I had no idea what “a free moment” meant to her. It took very little time to find out.
“This is interesting,” she said a few seconds later, “but also rather confusing. In some ways these people seem to have very little grasp of physics. Yet several of the ideas are intriguing. Were you going to try to replicate these effects yourselves?”
“What do you mean?” Again, I can’t speak for the others, but her question was so unexpected it made her reading speed seem trivial by comparison.
“Superhuman strength and speed, invisibility—what they call ‘super powers.’ It could be challenging.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Rod said. “Technology won’t be able to deal with such things for a century or more.”
“But they aren’t that difficult. For example, I should be able to put together a power suit such as Titan uses in just a week or so, and an invisibility suit such as Darklight uses would only take a week longer, I think.”
“If you can do that, you really are a genie,” I said, trying to glare Rod into silence.
“Thank you,” she replied, clearly quite pleased. “Now, if you will tell me where to have it delivered . . . ”
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Once upon a time short stories were quite popular, making Edgar Allen Poe, Chekov and O. Henry names that everyone recognizes. Unfortunately, anthologies of short stories no longer enjoy that popularity. This saddens me when there is a wealth of good short stories available, such as the fourteen pieces in Leaps of Faith.
Why do I like short stories? First of all, I can read a complete story in one sitting and still get some sleep in the evening. When I am in the middle of a good novel I have a very difficult time putting it down, therefore often going without sleep for a day or two. Not good. I was able to get through two or three of the stories, even four sometimes, at a sitting as I read Leaps of Faith. I had the urge to go further, but I was able to still go about sleeping and do some of my chores. I find it easier to absorb the theme and ideas in these tales than I do the longer tomes, often spending a little time at the end of each just thinking it over. True, the characters and plot aren't as developed or detailed as they are in novels, but a good short story wordsmith crafts his sentences carefully so as to give more bang for the buck. In my favorite kind of short stories, there is a plot twist that I don't expect at the end, a surprise that makes it worth reading.
In Leaps of Faith, I find several satisfying stories with that extra bang. These are exclusively science fiction, sometimes rather heavy on the science, but even so this very unscientific mind of mine was able to get into the meat of the tales and enjoy them. The real joy is in that leap of faith included in each entry, leaps that often mean the reader needs to stretch his or her own box a bit. God does not fit in a box, of course, and I love stories that make me ponder who God really is and all the "what ifs" that are posed in speculative fiction. What if there were aliens who came to accept Jesus as Savior? What if we really could travel through time? If we had certain technology, should we use it just because we can, even if it would mean playing God or going contrary to God's natural laws?
It's hard to write a short review when there are so many stories to consider. Perhaps my favorite is "Leaps of Faith" by Karina and Rob Fabian, the title story as it were. Each story involves some sort of leap of faith, but this one is literal. This is about the rescue nuns in the future, an order that works in space bringing aid to stranded travelers. More importantly, it deals with a young member who has wanted to rescue others ever since she was a child, but she has a great fear to overcome before she is able to help anyone else. The answer is one we can all take to heart, even without space travel.
"The Smile" by Greg Beatty is another one I really like. This one reminds me of some verses in Romans chapter one (v. 19, 20): "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
The tone and mood of each piece varies, from the very serious and somber to the silly. "Moses Disposes" fits the latter description. One of the stories, "The Relics of Venice" by Leslie Brown, is a real romance, but there are other stories with romance as well. Just not your average tale of two earthlings sometimes. Tales to make yoy rethink your viewpoints about "religion" and what God might really think.
Leaps of Faith does not fit into a neat little cubbyhole, but then neither does God. And if you think of God in a box, you really need to expand your horizons a bit. I recommend Leaps of Faith as a handy way to do just that. I hope you will give it a try. You'll be glad you took that little leap yourself.
A 2002 EPPIE finalist for Best Electronic Anthology, Leaps of Faith promises the best in Christian sci-fi.
Visit the Leaps of Faith Website.
Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I'm getting a slow start this week, but I'm quite excited about the book chosen by the CFRB for November. Leaps of Faith, edited by Karina and Rob Fabian and published by The Writers' Cafe Press, is not a run-of-the-mill anthology of short stories. It's an entertaining collection of specifically science fiction tales with a decided Christian worldview.
My actual review will be posted tomorrow, but for today I want to whet your appetites by a slight introduction to the overall contents of the anthology. There are fourteen short stories written by twelve different authors (well, thirteen, but Rob and Karina Fabian work together on one).
The selections in Leaps of Faith
cover the spectrum of the SF genre, showing the positive relationship between science and religion.
Space Exploration: “High Hopes for The Dead,” shows Christian evangelism though faithful example of Luke “High Hopes” Kittery, a member of a band of space explorers for whom every trip is potential suicide. “Quantum Express” examines the soul’s fate when the body is destroyed and reassembled through teleportation. In “God’s Gift,” faith is the key to preventing insanity brought on by a new method of interstellar travel. “Leaps of Faith” highlights the new industry of space search and rescue though the intrepid nuns of Our Lady of the Rescue. In “Confirmation,” harvesters of an exotic space fuel suspect they’re harvesting intelligent life--or perhaps the angels themselves.
Encountering Alien Life: “Lost in the Translation” chronicles a monk’s evangelism to a species for which death results in corporeal rebirth. In “Lost Rythar,” ministers bring the Word of God to long-forgotten human colonies. In “Sometimes We Lie,” a native born being tries to spread an ancient human faith. Fr. Wren wonders if a sentient tree-creature can marry into the Catholic Faith in “The Convert,” while Fr. Travener faces persecution by ministering to sentient androids in “Comprehending It Not.”
Hard SF: An astrophysicist finds the face of God in the stars in “The Smile.” God is a proven fact in “The Faith Equation,” leaving the question of the role of belief. “The Relics of Venice” combines genetic engineering and love to create a miracle.
Time travel: In “Tampering with God’s Time,” time travelers find they cannot change the timeline, but are themselves change as they encounter Christ personally, while in “Moses Disposes,” King Solomon deliberately uses time travelers to bring the Bible to future generations in an idiom they can understand.
Book may be purchased through the publisher, The Writers' Cafe Press and Amazon.com.
This tour is a tag team tour with different members blogging throughout the week. Besides daily blogs at the main CFRB site, there will be reviews, interviews, and other posts at the following sites: