Saturday, December 17, 2005
That’s Yvonne. Very keen and dedicated to truth. Yvonne is Jewish. And an agnostic. Her dad was killed in Auschwitz. She is one of the most honest agnostics I have ever met. There are remarkably few of those. She will say things such as, “I know there is something...someone...but I just can’t get past this business of God having a personality or desires.”
But back to her assessment of Mr Rogers. You know...she really does have a point there about that saying of his. I suspect we all somewhat feel that way about folks who say they love us. After all, they don’t know us. And the Christian answer – that God loves everyone because He is so loving– well that doesn’t quite sit well with most of us either. We don’t want to be loved by someone who loves everyone. We want to be loved by someone who sees what little goodness or virtue we have.
My question then, today is: “Have you ever accepted God’s love for you? Have you accepted his praise of you? Have you accepted his thankfulness for you?”
Carole, I hear you thinking, are you saying that God praises us? I thought we were supposed to praise Him???!!!!
Well, of course God praises you and loves you...because He is loving to all His creatures. But also because of Who you are.
Didn’t He praise Job? (Yes, I know...look where that got poor Job.) Didn’t Jesus see the young rich ruler’s heart and love him?Wasn’t Abraham called a Friend of God?Wasn’t Enoch saved because he pleased God?Wasn’t David called “a man after God’s own heart?”Didn’t Jesus pick about 400 people who followed him, then established closer bonds with seventy, then of that seventy chose twelve. And of those twelve, didn’t he have three best friends – Peter James and John? And of those three close friends, didn’t he choose John as his best friend?Aren’t there 144, 000 people who are called Companions of the Lamb who will remain at Jesus’ side forever?Aren’t there two thrones especially appointed for two people who will sit one at his right hand and one at his left?
Okay, so now someone else might say that like Mary we are all “full of grace” and “acceptable in the Beloved.” And someone else might say that this kind of thing smacks of favortism. I don’t think so. In favortism, the favored and unfavored ones have no choice. A loving and good child will be loved. No, one does not have to earn one’s love. As has been said over and over, God loves everyone and he knows how frail we are. But – scary thought– the Bible declares over and over that the Lord laughs at the wicked. Yes, I know...we are constantly being told God loves the sinner but hates the sin. Probably...but do you really want to play that game? Do you really want to fall into presumptuous sin and say “I know God hates this sin, but since he loves the sinner...well, I’ll just risk that?
I think – given my druthers– I’d druther shine a little brighter than the rest of my beloved brothers. No skin of the teeth salvation for me, no mere normal regular Godly love for me.
When I look at my husband I think, what a sweet-souled person! I know God sees that. Some of my friends simply amaze me by their sweetness, goodness, and piety. Some aren’t so sweet, but they’ve got such strength of character and such a capacity for suffering for God that well I know God stares at them everyday amazed. Yes, I could name them all. My friend, Rain, who picketed the local Walmart – the only picketer mind you– with a “Don’t sell guns!” sign in her baby carriage. My friend, Milvia, who is battling lymphoma and who helps so many others in addition to picketing the abortion clinic every Saturday. My friend, Yvonne, who is way more saintly in her behavior than many of the Christians I know. Yes, I cannot see the goodness of everyone so I’m not saying that I know whom God loves and doesn’t love. But I do think there are folks out there whom God loves very deeply, and in ways that are more profound than the love he has for the child molester, or the nominal churchgoer. Just as Jesus saw the heart of the rich young ruler and loved him, so He sees the heart of many a Christian and loves them in a uniquely special way. Somehow they become one of the inner circle.
Yes, God loves us just the way we are. But we don't have to stay that way. And our friends love us just the way we are. But why not make our friends' hearts swell with love when they ponder our great souls and noble deeds?
Prayer: Lord, let me live a life where my character and personality make you love me very much.
Easy Way to Write Bible Studies -- www.easywaytowrite.com/bible_studies.html
Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online including www.compulsivereader.com, www.thejoyofmovies.com and www.curledup.com. Her website is www.geocities.com/scifiwritir/OreoBlues.html She lives with her husband, their two sons, and their ferocious tabby Ralphina in upstate New York.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Interestingly enough both were religious in their own way. But what amazed me was that at the end of the episodes, after being downright nasty to Janice, self-righteous Omarosa (speaking to her mom on the phone) declares, "She needs Jesus, Mama." Yep, I coulda cringed. Why, oh why, do some Christian people say that in such a self-righteous way? Hey, we all need Jesus.
That kind of situation just makes the rest of us Christians look like cruel pious self-involved folks. It didn't help matters that she was black. Gosh, I cringed.
So that's one bedfellow I have to deal with. Since Ms Omarosa is a Christian and all.
But then there was President Bush. I neither like nor dislike him. He's human with vices and virtues like the rest of us. Although....truth to tell the way many Bible-believers act, one would think he was a prophet sent by God. Call me cynical but I am very suspicious of every human being. Especially ones who use my religion. And it annoys me no end that a mere person could cause so much divisiveness among Christians. I mean, I suspect only the anti-christ would get Bible-believing Christians arguing with each other. It seems as if only the truly elect would know that Bush is saintly or otherwise.
Over the past three years I have lost my liberal friends because I defended the president, and lost Bible-believing friends because I criticized him. Okay, I'm against abortion, against capital punishment, against the Iraqi War, pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian homeland. This is what kinda happens when you're a Christian who is a minority in the United States. But Christianity in America has sooo many political definitions, well....let's just say that we are living in dangerous times when have to totally praise or totally reject politicians, and when we define our faith by what we think about politicians. WWJD?
I am sure there are folks out there who cringe that I am their bedfellow. They want Christians to be seen as nice, kind, nonjudgemental. Hey, I'm nice, kind, non-judgemental. But there are certain things I say -- certain Biblical things-- which will definitely annoy a few folks. "Why does she say that? Doesn't Carole know that talking about Jesus being God's son kinda annoy folks? Doesn't Carole know that talking about Christianity just makes her look like some unenlightened uneducated Black person? We Blacks have outgrown that." That kinda stuff. Well, I believe what I believe. And while many modern folks have given up their faith in Christianity (not other religions mind you, because it seems that only Christians are treated like idiotic unenlightened persecuters) I will not be shamed into tossing away my religion.
So ... as it is, I -- like many Christians-- have strange bedfellows. And if I want to be accepted by many American Christians, it appears I must follow a particular political line. Everything is so darn cut and dried now. In my story, Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe, which will be published in the Jigsaw Nation anthology in March 2006, I manage to pick on both the red states and the blue states. Alas, why don't I learn to ALWAYS praise one group ONLY and to ALWAYS pick on the other.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
|Lovely and Amazing|
Well, keep your fingers crossed. I’ve sent off one of my stories to the editors of the “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror stories of 2005" or something like that. It’s the biggie that Ellen Datlow of Scifi.com edits. It’s a reprint anthology, of course. The story I sent was published this year in Fantastic Visions III, an anthology of fantasy stories published by Fantasist Enterprises.
If I do say so myself, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written....probably one of the best stories ever written in this universe or the next. I say this with all humility because Heaven knows I kept reading the published story wondering how the heck such a wonderful feat of imagination came from this addled brain. Writing a good short story is very hard and some of my published stories are workmanlike, competent, but not great. I kinda cringe when I see them, knowing they could be much, much better. Imagine my amazement, then, when I found I had written a perfect story. It’s about a knight crusader returning from fighting evil in the Holy Land who realizes that Christendom is also full of human evil. The knight is noble and yet approachable. He has a worldweariness that is not mere tiredness, but is a yearning to see the good in his fellow man, especially Christians. The story picks on Christendom yet Christianity and the love of Christ is all through the story. I would go on praising myself but you probably won’t believe me so I’ll let all this self-praise rest for the nonce.
Now, am hoping the Year’s Best editors think the story a good one. As a former lit major, I would like my story to make it into posterity, and getting into this anthology would be one of the neat ways to go about that. Whether they think it’s a great story or not – and I hear they really like cutting edge stories and maybe this story isn’t cutting edge– it’s now in their inbox.
So while pondering the story’s possible fate, I ended up talking with my beloved about story characters. There are two basic school of thoughts about art. One school says “art lifts a mirror to life and shows us the world, warts and all.” The other says “art should show the greatness of the human soul.” I tend to fall squarely in both categories. I like lifting a mirror to life but I also like showing extremely noble characters.
I really think that Christian Art should definitely be hopeful, loving, or faith-filled. Yes, it must show the world’s evil. But it should show the evilness of evil, the goodliness of goodness, and the loveliness of love. It’s good to see a movie where human nature is examined and where evil is not excused (or shown as hip) and where goodness is shown as real and brave and not mocked.
I’m sitting here wondering if there are any stories out there that has these elements. I tend to avoid Christian fiction because there is often something preachy or patently false and unreal about them. But strangely some of the most wonderful Christian stories or film have come from secular writers who are either hidden Christians or who have inhaled enough of popular Christianity to come up with a great spiritual story.
For instance, if you ever get around to seeing the Danish film “Festen” (or Celebration) try to see it. It’s about a son who confronts his father for sexually abusing him and his twin sister. The main character’s name is Christian. And his battle with bravery and with his patriarch-loving relatives is near Biblical. Another great film is “A prayer for the dying” starring Mickey Rourke. That’s rated R, I think. A really great Christian film that would never cross any Christian’s door because it has so much sex, perversity, etc, is “The Bad Lieutenant.” Raunchy yet full of redemption. But you have to be able to wade through all that filth to get to the spirit. Some great G-rated lovely films that show the greatness of the human spirit are Endurance – an Ethiopian autobiography about an Olympic runner. It’s a real lesson in faith as a race. There is also Chariots of Fire, and the Hindu Indian film Lagaan, although all those prayers to Krishna might turn many Christians off.
Well, I must finish writing today’s entry. I’ve got mega-work to do and writing this blog seems to be yet another one of my ways of avoiding finishing the great American Novel. I’m still wondering if I should go see “A history of violence” – just to see if I can find anything of spirit in it (while I lust over Viggo). And I’ll definitely go see Narnia. Because well...it’s beautiful and gore-free. And because it is lovely and because Aslan is such a wonderful Christ figure. And because the book is altogether lovely and amazing.
Reality TV and the ritual of judgement.
The current TV season is winding down. The last episode of America’s Next Top Model will soon be here and gone. After the winning would-be Top Model is crowned and I am proven right (or wrong) I shall have a few days of withdrawal before, mercifully, the new season of American Idol arrives. In the meantime, I shall have to tide myself over with Wife Swap, Trading Spouses, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, Iron Chef America, Surreal Life, Judge Judy, and Judge Joe Brown. Yes, I admit it: I love reality shows.
I like them because the best ones are unpredictable, unlike the average Lifetime movie --or the average Indie film which is predictable in its own indie way. In reality tv, one sees real people – not stereotypes created by Hollywood writers. I especially like reality TV shows because they remind me of the Great White Throne Judgment of God.
The Great Throne Judgement? Oh, yes! Definitely! The greatest fun of Reality TV is the ritual of judgment. This is when the truth is declared, the hidden evil or goodness revealed, the sufferer rewarded, the hard work and heartache justified.
As Christians we have been taught that the actual world in which we live is not the real -- or final-- world. St Paul tells us in the sixth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews that this world was formed by the Spirit of God and what appears to our senses was born from what is invisible: God''s Word. We walk by faith, not by sight. On a totally secular level, this means that Christians – especially poor Christians, powerless Christians, minority Christians– are taught to understand that true power is not something the world understands. Here the rich and the arrogant seem to have power, but in reality (spiritual reality) it is the poor in spirit who have true power -- God-- on their side. The power the world respects, however, is often on the side of those who have a gift of appearing better, wiser, more intellectual than their less worldly counterparts. But what does this have to do with Reality TV shows?
Remember how good you feel when the truth --as you see it-- is finally apparent for all to see? Remember that wonderful feeling when the judge is on your side? This is especially wonderful when you were poor, tired, powerless.
Remember the O J Simpson trial? Whether O J was guilty or not, the “Judgment” for his acquittal was seen as a vindication by those minorities who have learned never to trust the police. The Jury “proved” the blind justice system blind. Or, on a personal level, remember your worst enemy, the one who slickly got you fired although you kept to the high road? Remember the day – through no fault or sneakiness of your own– she slipped up really badly and all her hidden evil side was finally revealed?
The last judgment at the end of these episodes is very much like the last judgement the righteous and the oppressed look forward to. They may not see the deliberations, but they see the unveiling of reality and the ceremony when the victor''s crown is given. It is also the judgment the unrighteous fear.
As Christians, many of us have been made poor because we do not boast. We have made ourselves powerless because we do not engage in tit-for-tat vindictive vendettas. The poor, powerless, and oppressed long for the day when a righteous judge will hear their cause, or declare the rightness of their cause. And we want this from a judge we can trust. The judgment of TV judges hold the highest place of honor in my reality-show-loving mind. Schadenfreude aside, we love watching Judge Judy or Judge Joe enlighten the self-righteous plaintiff or unrepentant defendant.
I suspect this is why so many people prefer to air their dirty laundry with TV judges rather than in the local county courthouse. We know Judge Judy. She’s tough but she’s fair. The same for Judge Joe Brown. We don’t trust the local judge...who is either too white, too black, too rich, too poor, too religious, too non-religious to give us a fair hearing.
And so, yes! I LOVE reality tv. And I love God. Yes, as a Christian, I know my sins are wiped away by Jesus’s wounds, and I will not have to face the judgement. And I know I probably am as deluded and self-righteous as some of the folks Judge Judy enlightened this week, but I can’t help it. I still want to be justified even a little bit. Just to hear the words from my Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Somewhere along the way, though, we Christians have begun thinking of it as a great love story, and of Esther herself as the perfect symbol of submissive wifeliness. Perhaps the story has been in the hands of too many male ministers. We need to hear a woman minister tackle the story.
Let’s start with the king: Xerxes or (as the name is transliterated into Hebrew/English) Ahauserus. Xerxes was a braggart. Sure he had conquered more than his fair share of kingdoms and certainly had a right to brag. We Christians accept this because arrogance is perfectly normal for a king and certainly an arrogant male needing to be enlightened is considered a fairly popular romantic theme. After all, the woman who tames such a guy...well, it’s the old good girl/bad guy thing. This kind of pairing happens so often in Christian romances that one wonders why Christian women would want to read stories about women taming workaholic braggarts. We should be a bit more enlightened than to be attracted to guys like that, I think.
As the story goes, Xerxes gives a great dinner party, lasting 180 days, in order to show off. And in the middle of all his showing off, he suddenly gets the very drunken idea that he wants to show off his wife. Basically, he wants a veiled Arabian woman from whatever century that was to put herself on display for all his drunk friends. Vashti, his wife, (rightly, I think) refuses, giving him a snide answer. The men in the palace become quite upset about this and convince the king that if the women in the kingdom hear about how uppity Vashti has been to the king, the women will all start back-talking their husbands. And in that neck of the world (then as now) women’s equality with men is a major offense!
Christians have written tomes about how horribly unsubmissive Vashti was to do this. I think they’re wrong. I understand that when Esther enters the story we all want to be on her side, but does this mean we have to demonize Vashti. After all, maybe Vashti wasn’t so proud as all that. Maybe God used her integrity to get her to lose her place as queen. Yes, let’s think about that one for a moment. And for another moment.
Enter Esther. Raised by her uncle Mordechai, she is already shown to be a wounded soul who owes a male authority figure very much. Raise the stakes: she is beautiful. Is this not the perfect trophy wife for a king such as Xerxes? She will never question him, and she is perfect for a king who regards the external. So, she is perfect for him...but is this the perfect guy for her?
Of course not! Esther probably wanted a husband and a house in her neighborhood. instead of all that palace intrigue. Who wants to live among foreigners and away from one’s people? Who wants a husband who has five hundred concubines and secondary wives? Who wants a husband whom one can only see when it please him...or else? And remember, Vashti, the former queen is still in the harem. She’s demoted, mind you. She’s not out of the picture. What gets me is that many Christians seem to think that this story is a love story and that Esther actually falls in love with the king. Where does it say this in the Bible? Alas, nowhere. But films are replete with it. Needless to say, I’m not going to waste my time seeing the film...should it arrive at a theater near me.
Easy Way to Write Bible Studies -- www.easywaytowrite.com/bible_studies.html
Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online including www.compulsivereader.com, www.thejoyofmovies.com and www.curledup.com. Her works appear in various anthologies including “So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction,” edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; “Fantastic Visions III,” published by Fantasist Enterprises; “Then an angel came along,” edited by Julie Bonn Heath and published by WinePress Publishing, “Jigsaw Nation” published by Wildside Press and “Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of color.” She is currently working on two Bible studies: “Hagar, Vashti and other Scapegoats of Bible study” and “The Easy Way to Write Bible Studies" and two SF/F novels based on the Bible, "The Daughters of Men" and "The Windfollower.” Her website is www.geocities.com/scifiwritir/OreoBlues.html She lives with her husband, their two sons, and their ferocious tabby Ralphina in upstate New York.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
is not only a book on how to write Bible studies, but it's a Bible study in and of itself because I use Bible studies to illustrate certain interpretation and writing concepts.
The six basic rules of Bible interpretation:
* Learn how to read the Bible in a modern context using your common sense and intelligence to produce highly saleable articles, discussion papers and even virtual 'sermons'.
* Learn how to approach bible language and depictions - clearing the fog and discovering meaning in seeming contradictions.
* How to use humor to get your point across.
* How to bring the Bible to life, to make it fresh and relevant with each new article.
* Learn how to put aside your own 'prejudices' on sex, morality, and personal agendas.
* Discover the difference between symbolic and literal interpretation Learn the little known meanings of Bible names and references.
* Come to know the Bible as a rich source of reference and spiritual enlightenment.
* Get to know some of the specific historical perspectives and how our own culture has distorted or oversimplified the Bible's words
The main study book contains 234 pages packed with information and comment on all aspects of the Old and New Testaments. Including in depth analysis of the Gospels - on how and why their stories differ and coincide, as well as scholarly and fair assessment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nephilim, the role of the media, racism, slavery, even sex.
There's also a Bible reading plan - a complete beginners' guide to the Good Book.
Check it out at www.easywaytowrite.com
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
TFF: Tell me about Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair.
CM: About two years ago I was walking downtown and the old Elizabethan ballad kept coming to me. I kept thinking of the lyrics. Such longing, such adoration. The Iraqi war was going on. I was so against that stupid war and lost a few Christian friends because of it. But, it's the Jamaican in me. I can be a real curmudgeon. Anyway, the image of a crusader came to mind as I thought about this ballad. An Irish knight named Colgan. In my mind he was returning home to Christendom. But he was weary and burned out, with nothing left to him but his own honor. I wanted to show that people in Christendom lacked some of the virtues they claimed. It's written very like Boccaccio or Chaucer, very high language. It's a very theological piece with people tempting him. I don't want to make it sound as if it isn't fun. It's quite fun, and it follows the required stylization of a fairytale. The editor said he liked it because of its theological questions. Very life and death, and about love and purpose. It's a great story. I don't usually think all my stories are great. But this one most definitely is.
TFF: Why don’t you think all of your stories are great? How self-conscious are you about your writing?
CM: I was a literature major when I attended college at Purchase, NY. "Greatness" is not a word we Lit. Majors throw around lightly. For me to even think one of my stories has a quality of greatness to it—in its own genre—sounds pretty arrogant. But if I didn't know Black is the color of my true love's hair to be as good as it is, I wouldn't say it is great. Will see if I can get into the "year's best fantasy antho" that Ms Datlow edits. That would prove if it's great or not, I suspect. The rest of my stories are a mixed bag. Most have very original situations, but my skill in telling the story...well some stories are workmanlike, some are very graceful, some smooth and sweet as molasses, some are plain clunky. When I got my author's copy of "So Long Been Dreaming" I went through the book underlining, crossing out and making notations in the margin. The story, Lingua Franca, is wonderful and fun SF and Nalo and Uppinder helped me improve it. It's a very good story, but is it great? It's gotten some good mention in the reviews but I don't know. It could be improved. Black is the color of my true love's hair is 99% perfect.
TFF: What is your revision process like?
CM: I get crits from writer-friends. Tons of crits. I try to do the basic revision stuff: tighten, get rid of filtering, check for typos. I do a lot of global searches for authorly tics. I try to put tension where tension is needed. One of my biggest problems is that I tend to be episodic so I re-write my stories with the intention of making each scene either be a goal, motivation, reaction, etc. But more importantly, I try to feel my way through. If you know your stuff and have an educated intuition, that's all you can really do—trust yourself. And of course, trust God.
TFF: You mainly write reviews and Christian themed pieces. You seem to have a wide range of interest. Why fantasy?
CM: I believe in magic, love, great themes. I like to think I have a wide range of interests but I suppose religion, spirituality and existential questions glue all these interests together.
TFF: How does being Christian affect your writing? Do you find there is a conflict between writing Christian themed pieces and fantasy?
CM: (giggling) I guess I can't do some of the raunchier love scenes I'd love to write. Some writer once said that a novel is a conversation between the soul and the spirit. When I write, the more carnal aspect of my mind wants a story to end a particular way. The more spiritual part of me knows it should end another way. That's the struggle. To come to a conclusion that's worked through and doesn't seem like rigid cookie-cutter answers. Christians are used to "dark parables" But don't get me wrong: In the Christian world some folks think you're writing for the devil if you even mention writing fantasy. But back in the day—medieval and renaissance times—the "kingdoms" of art, literature, music, medicine, theater and science all belonged to God. Musicians wrote music for the glory of God. DaVinci painted for the glory of God. Herbalists for instance studied plants because they thought God had created a world that could be searched out. I am hoping that one day God will also have the kingdom of speculative fiction, so to speak. Right now so much of Christian publishing is icky inspirational romance. And Christian fantasy is so often limited to apocalyptical stuff like the Left Behind series which was just a horribly-written series and allegorical rewritings of Bible stories. Many writers of fantasy and SF are very hateful and mocking towards Christians. Many Christians get offended if a fellow Christian challenges them on politics, race, etc. I sometimes wish I was bred to be squarely in one group or the other. But God gave me my own mind. I'm neither a cookie-cutter Conservative, nor a cookie-cutter Liberal. I'm not pro Black politics or pro white politics. I'm not a feminist and I'm not "not a feminist." There is no real difference for me. Christianity has a lot of fantastical elements.
TFF: What are some of the fantastical aspects within Christianity that you find fascinating?
CM: Well most religions read like a kid's fairytale, don't they? Compare Buddhism and Christianity for instance. Think of two kings. Both kings have sons. One king raises his son in a sumptuous palace. The other takes his son and puts him in a poor family. The poor prince grows up having knowledge of his parents’ flight as refuges of his birth in a stable, sees death and suffering among the poor everyday, has to deal with Roman oppressors. He is a Man of Sorrows. The sheltered pampered prince who is unaware of sorrows, one day leaves the palace and sees how terrible the world really is. Shocked and traumatized, he returns home depressed and can't get the sorrows out of his mind. At last, he learns to deal with the situation by not thinking about it and by conquering sorrows and joys by rising above need and emotions. Of course this is all well and good for him, he's got food. But he has attained Peace and grows to symbolize mental peace and Acceptance/Submission to life. The other prince who has grown up among the poor, the sick and the needy, however, actively hates the sorrows he sees around him. He goes about taking care of the poor, healing the poor miraculously. He has such a disdain for the rich and the folks in the upper echelon that the religious people and the state join together to kill him even though the regular people love him. He dies between two thieves with a prostitute being one of the only friends at his death. Then he dies. But in dying, he kills death. In dying he kills the power of sin. In apparently "losing" to the devil, he has conquered the great enemy of man. Three days later he rises again, after harrowing hell. Fifty days after that, he returns in spiritual form and his spirit enters into all those who love him, giving them power to heal the sick, raise the dead, etc. There's a lot of fantastical stuff in that.
The two stories are about differing Gods. And human pain. The Christian idea is to conquer evil by love, by active involvement. We Christians have a lord who identifies with our sorrows, who was in fact poor and needy and rejected. The other prince is loved by the world. Ours -- the Christian's God-- wasn't; in fact, he tells us that we should be careful not to be too loved by the world, and we should not identify with it. As a writer I try not to pick on anyone's religion, but as a poor sickly needy human I like a God who identifies with my pain so much that he ran towards it instead of being overwhelmed by it. This is just me. I like a God who is "acquainted with grief" and who gives us power to actually conquer it...as opposed to simply learning to submit to it. The Christian idea of evil is that it is a malevolence...a knowledgeable mindful malevolence that is at war with good. Not just something in the world. Not just something that is an absence of good. Not just something we can conquer by learning to control our emotions. For Christians, good emotions such as love and joy ARE the things to aim for.
In addition, Christianity is essentially all the great folklore, myth and primitive religions rolled into one. All folklore, primitive religion and myth point towards it for their fulfillment. That's to say: it has all of the motifs one finds in those religions. From the sacrifice of virgins, the myth of God's lost book, the dying God-Man, even the ideas of cannibals eating flesh to incorporate the life of the dying warrior. But it's myth and history meeting...myth made life. True myth, as C S Lewis would say. And then there are all those prophecies, all that talk about the Active Malevolence of the devil, all the challenge to our ideas of our "goodness" and the giving of his own Godly life and spiritual power. Kierkegaard wrote in his book Training in Christianity that the great offense of Christianity is that it says that if humanity could get its hand on God, they would kill him. We say we like goodness but we really like to destroy it. It's insulting and fantastical, but in my opinion, it's true. Goodness gets destroyed a lot in my stories as you could guess. Lots of Christ figures floating around.
TFF: I’m familiar with the story-telling tradition within the Christian culture, but what about the Jamaican culture? What kind of stories in the Jamaican culture do you think have really affected your own personal writing style?
CM: Jamaicans have a dark, very black, sense of humor, a joyous cynicism about people and situations. Christians also have a certain divine cynicism where they just don't trust much earthly "facts" or opinions. Jamaicans also tell folklore, ghost stories, and of course their dreams. At the breakfast table, everyone has some dream to tell. Uncles were always telling ghost stories and aunts were telling stories about spiritual encounters with angels or demons or whatever. There is a Jamaican word called "labrish" which means a good gossipy story. When Jamaicans meet, they always ask each other if they have any labrish. So let's say that a mutual acquaintance -- a very greedy person-- has died. The teller of this bit of labrish will probably add something like, "It was tough though getting her body out of the house. When she found out she was dying she decided to take all her money out of the bank. She was stuffing a ten dollar bill down her throat when I last saw her. Woman gained at least fifty pounds stuffing herself with them dollars, but it's understandable...better than her husband's next wife getting it" To which the other labrisher would elaborate, "I hear dead people pass a lot of gas. Maybe we ought to go dig her up and wait for her to fart. I have an old tub in the back-- could hold a lot of money." You see: just the right touch of cynicism, fun and exaggeration. This pops up in a little children's story I'm presently writing called "Miles and the Layaway hair." The kid's mother is so poor she has to put a wig she sees at the 99 cent store on layaway, but because she is sooo poor, time passes and all the black hair styles keep changing. Meanwhile the hair is disintegrating in the box at the basement of the 99 cent store and a nest of mice are making a home of it. The owners of the store --who are quite greedy-- have to call in exterminators who shake the wig every month. Quite a dilemma: do we want the mice to have a home, the exterminators to give up shaking the wig or the main character's mom to get her hair? Jamaicans also tell riddles. When I was growing up, every little Jamaican kid knew the basic intro to a riddle. "Riddle me this, riddle me that. Guess me this riddle and perhaps not." Then of course the riddle would pop up, something like: "Roomful, eyeful, can't catch a spoonful." Then all the kids would sit there wracking their brains and finally someone might guess that the answer is smoke.
TFF: The best writing advice you’ve heard?
CM: From Jasper Johns. "Take something and do something to it. Then do something to it again." Something like that. Am not sure of the real phrasing. But it's definitely important. I mean this in connection with revising. So many people think they have finished a story when they finish the ending sentence. But that's just the beginning. If they want the story to be deeper and more cohesive, they should go over it again and again. To build layers but also to perfect the story.
TFF: Do you have any novels in the works?
CM: Yes, I'm presently working on a SF/Fantasy cross-genre story based on Genesis chapter 6 called The Daughters of Men. Very sociological. It involves four types of humans—the clones, the bio-genetically engineered chimeras, the semi-demonic Nephilim, and “normal” humans. Then there are the three lovers – Woden, a Nephilim Prince; Siddhart, Woden’s captain and rebellious best friend; and Ellie, the human Black woman they both love who may be fated to bring disaster or salvation to the Nephilim. Okay, so I'm a romantic—and slightly piggy too, having two guys in love with the woman. But it's also religious. I have all these prophecies—basically two—the prophecy of the stubborn Scarred Woman fated to bring Disruption, and the prophecy of the Beautiful One who will bring peace and salvation to the Nephililm. And of course the big question: Should Ellie marry Woden, especially if she's in love with Siddhart? Could it be that she is indeed the prophesied one? Of course, you bet she is! So the book has a lot of world-building. And it examines the nature of prophecy, community and memory. Am in the throes of revising it for—I hope—the last time. I'm also working on a fantasy version of the story of Hagar called The Windfollower. I'm always on the underdog's side. What can I say?
Monday, April 18, 2005
So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy is an anthology of original new stories by leading African, Asian, South Asian, and Aboriginal authors, as well as North American and British writers of colour.
Some authors included in this anthology are:
Opal Palmer Adisa
Sheree Renee Thomas
and Greg Van Eekhout.
website is www.nubianimagespublishing.com
Table of Contents
ESCAPE FROM NEW AUSTIN Paul Di Filippo
THE IDAHO ZEPHYR Douglas Lain
WAKING WACO Cody Goodfellow
RETURN TO NOWHERE Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake
THE MAN FROM MISSOURI Patrick Thomas
THE SWITCH Darby Harn
DOWN IN THE CORRIDOR Robert Lopresti
HOMECOMING IN THE BORDERLANDS CAFE Carole McDonnell
PLACES OF COLOR David Bartell
JUNETEENTH K.M. Praschak
THE PATRIOT Erin Fitzgerald
SECONDS Seth Lindberg
MISSION CONTROL Tara Kolden
THE STATE OF BLUES Gene Stewart
FIELDWORK J. Stern
THIS DIVIDED LAND Michael Jasper
RHYMES WITH JEW Paul G. Tremblay
Below are links to Kathy's sites:
Home Shorts Novel Links
Friday, April 15, 2005
Publications updates can be found at http://geocities.com/scifiwritir/Updates.html
And check out my interview on Today's Fantasty Fiction, a blog edited by Stephen Bargdill
Carole McDonnell Interview
My fiction and non-fiction writings:
My SF story, Lingua Franca, appears in the So Long Been Dreaming anthology, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press Site
My Fantasy story, Black is the color of my true love's hair, appears in Fantastic Visions III , edited by William Horner and published by Fantasist Enterprises
My alternate history story Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe appears in Jigsaw Nation: Tales of An alternate America, edited by Edward F McFadden and E Sedia
My true angel story, That Smile, appears in Then an angel came along, edited by Julie Bonn Heath and published March 2005 by WinePress Publishing.
You can read my nonfiction angel story at http://geocities.com/scifiwritir/angelstory.html
More details about this book can be found online at: Julie Bonn Heath Website
My nonfiction essay, My Son, The Australians, Mrs Spain and Me appears in Life's Spices From Seasoned Sistahs: A collection of life stories from mature women of color, edited by Vicki Ward published March 2005 by Nubian Images Publishing
You can read my entry in the anthology at http://geocities.com/scifiwritir/TheAustralians.html
Works in Progress
I am currently working on a Bible study entitled, Hagar, Job's wife, Vashti and other scapegoats of Bible study.
Information on how to purchase these stories can be found by clicking on the appropriate link.
Check out this interview on Today's Fantasty Fiction, a blog edited by Stephen Bargdill
My fiction and non-fiction writings:
SF story, Lingua Franca, appears in the So Long Been Dreaming anthology, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by
Fantasy story, Black is the color of my true love's hair, appears in Fantastic Visions III , edited by William Horner and published by
Jigsaw Nation: Tales of An alternate America, edited by Edward F McFadden and E Sedia
Then an angel came along, edited by Julie Bonn Heath and published March 2005 by WinePress Publishing.
You can read my angel story here:
More details about this book can be found online at: Julie Bonn Heath Website Nubian Images Publishing You can read my entry in the anthology here: Hagar, Job's wife, Vashti and other scapegoats of Bible study.
Life's Spices From Seasoned Sistahs: A collection of life stories from mature women of color, edited by Vicki Ward published March 2005
More details about this book can be found online at:
Julie Bonn Heath Website
Nubian Images Publishing
You can read my entry in the anthology here:
Hagar, Job's wife, Vashti and other scapegoats of Bible study.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
I'm titling this post "All three and more" because I am a Christian, a minority, and a writer. Will see what this blog will become and how these three aspects of myself will appear in future logs.
Will I share all my writerly heart? Will I share my Christian heart? Will I discuss minority issues?
We shall see.
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Here is a Bible study I wrote once. Instead of simply writing a long article, I simply listed some of the many questions God asks in the Bi...
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