Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour Day 2

I woke up one morning and discovered that my genre was gone.

This month on the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour, we are featuring the website, The Lost Genre Guild. I notice the guild's home page has a number of questions on it. I will assume these aren't rhetorical and attempt to answer them:

WE OWN THE COPYRIGHT TO FALLEN-ANGELS, RIGHT?

I dunno, do you? I assumed Walter Dean Meyers owned the copyright to Fallen Angels.

CAN YOU NAME A SINGLE CHRISTIAN HORROR TITLE?

Most anything by Frank Peretti. I'm quite fond of The Oath.

CHRISTIAN SCI-FI IS CONSIDERED A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS.

By whom? A Christian writes fiction about science--where's the contradiction there? Some Creationists do it for a living. (Ooh! Cheap rimshot!)

Okay, okay, enough of that. The Lost Genre Guild, according to its "About" page, was originally a writers' group founded by Frank Creed and Daniel I. Weaver. The group's stated purpose is to "raise the respect and awareness" for what they call "Biblical speculative fiction." And if you want to know what that is, you can find out on this page, where they also have a list of subgenres in case you want to brush up on terms like "cyberpunk," "dystopia," "dark fantasy," and so forth. Their forum page has, among other things, a section offering writing advice. I particularly like the discussion of writer's block. That might help me get done all these half-finished scripts over here. And there's a blog.

Discover the rest of the Blog Tour (get it? See, it's called the "Lost" Genre Guild, so I said you should "discover"...oh, never mind):

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Courtney
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Lost Genre Guild
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Mirtika
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Quote

"We do not know what the dragon means, just as we do not know the meaning of the universe, but there is something in the image of the dragon that is congenial to man's imagination, and thus the dragon arises in many latitudes and ages. It is, one might say, a necessary monster, not some ephemeral and casual creature like the chimaera or the catoblepas.

--Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Little Bit of Christmas...

First, to make sure this is appropriately sf- and religion-related, I'll begin by noting that author J. J. Stewart kindly informs me that he has posted "Christmas on Another Planet," a sample chapter from his novel Aliens Are God's Children Too. So go read it.

Next, I of course have to tell you about how our Christmas vacation is going and show you the loot I got. My birth mother actually came to visit us while we were here with my adopted parents, Harman and Nattie Dragon. Such visits are always rather tense: usually, my birth mother will complain about the way I turned out and the Dragons will complain about the raw material they had to work with, both forgetting that I'm still in the room while they're having this conversation. This time, however, everyone got along quite well, probably because Phenny the Phoenix spiked the eggnog. All in all, it's been a pleasant visit.

Now check these out:

First of all, we'll get out of the way the item you're absolutely, positively not allowed to criticize. It's a nativity set hand-painted by my mom. My real mom, I mean. Check it out, yo:

(Click to enlarge.)
I tried to take a few detail shots, but none turned out.


Second, we have these awesome Bone action figures:

(Click to enlarge.)
And that's a nice in-table, eh?

Here are some close-ups:

(Click to enlarge.)
The Hooded One






(Click to enlarge.)
The Gran'ma Ben and Smiley Bone figures come with mini-comics. Whoa, new Bone comics...too much joy...getting dizzy...


(Click to enlarge.)
And yes, it is possible (with a great deal of effort) to stuff Smiley into his cow suit. The cow suit for some reason comes with Gran'ma Ben.

Lastly, we have this kick-awesome leather jacket. This wasn't really a Christmas present...more like a jacket a relative didn't want anymore. But I like it.

(Click to enlarge.)
Sci Fi Catholic Without a Cause: notice my extreme baditude; notice also that my stocking has a choo-choo and a pink bow on it.

And now you're saying, "Okay, hypocrite! You're always saying Keep Mass in Christmas, so when are you going to talk about Christmas Mass?" Well, I have two answers for that. First, I want to know if "Christmas Mass" is redundant. Do we have any grammarians here? Second, it was great. The usual gang and I went to Midnight Mass at the Catholic church that is nearest to the nexus of the Fairy Woods closest to the Dragons' cave...which happens to be St. Mary's in Newton, Kansas. The church has beautiful frescoes..er, maybe those aren't frescoes...um, the church has beautiful wall paintings. No, I don't have any photos, sorry. But I can tell you the choir was in top form and the priest there always says a beautiful and reverent Mass.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Homosexuality Discussion on Exploring Our Matrix

If you wonder where I've been lately, I've been, among other things, arguing with Dr. James F. McGrath of the blog Exploring Our Matrix. The debate is over whether or not sodomistic relationships can be considered marriage. You can probably guess which position I take based on the way I phrased that.

McGrath's post on the subject is here. My arguments, and Dr. McGrath's responses, are in the comments that follow. So you can go see what a crummy debater I am. I steal my arguments liberally from other people, particularly John C. Wright. Also, see Dr. McGrath's article on the subject in Religion Dispatches.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where We At?

If you've been wondering where we been at for the last week, we've been preparing to go spend Christmas with Snuffles's parents, Harman and Nattie Dragon. That means we're preparing for a trip to the Fairy Woods, and at this time of year, that's like preparing for an arctic expedition. I'll give you some updates later when I can, and I'm sure we'll have a movie review in the near(?) future. Unfortunately, that review won't be of this season's other vampire love story movie, Let the Right One In, because I can't find a theater playing it. Curse you, not-playing-Swedish-vampire-movies theaters! Now I'll be stuck seeing the sucky American remake!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Doom Comic with Voiceover

I only just learned of the existence of this, a hilarious voiceover to a hilarious comic book adaptation of Doom. See it here, but refresh the page after it loads so the sound and images will be properly synchronized. More than the novelizations, more than the film, this captures the spirit of what Doomis. Notice the use of sound effects from the original game.

I may post more on this particular bit of pop culture later.

Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 Keep Mass in Christmas Campaign

Do you get inexplicably angry when people who don't practice your religion greet you in a way that acknowledges the time of year but doesn't acknowledge a specific holiday of your religion? Are you upset that stores indulging in consumeristic excess don't explicitly mention your religious holiday as they do it? Do you fly into a rage when friends or coworkers celebrate non-Christian holidays around the same time you're celebrating a Christian holiday?

Then maybe you need to get a life.

Or, if that's not an option, maybe you need to join The Sci Fi Catholic's Keep Mass in Christmas Campaign. What is this campaign, you ask? Why, that's just our annual habit of reminding everyone why the holiday's name has mas on the end of it. So if you just gotta rant about something this year, go tell your Protestant friends there's only one real way to celebrate Christmas. And while you're at it, ask them why they condemn religious iconography for eleven months out of the year but demand the right to display nativity scenes on public property during the twelfth month. No really, ask them. I'm curious.

Speaking of Protestants, remember a few years back when all the Protestant churches cancelled their liturgical celebrations because Christmas landed on a Sunday? That's messed up, man. I mean, seriously, they cancelled the celebration of the Lord's birth because it landed on the Lord's Day. Whoa, my head's gonna explode--

So, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the ridiculous shopping sprees, and the hunts for overpriced gifts that make the real point of the holiday almost indiscernible, we invite everyone to take a deep breath, sit back, relax, enjoy a cup of eggnog laced with your favorite hard liquor, surround yourselves with loved ones, read the opening chapters of Matthew or Luke, and quietly contemplate the true meaning of Christmas away from the chaos of the season. Then, when you're all done with that, and it's been at least an hour since you had that eggnog, you better get your butt to church, cuz they don't call it Christmas for nothin', baby.

If you don't, Santa will find you and mess you up. He'll mess you up bad--



Keep Mass in Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Book/Movie Review: Twilight



It's a vampire story. And it sucks.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown and Company (New York): 2005. 498 pages. $10.99. ISBN-10: 0-316-01584-9. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-01584-4.



Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Billy Burke. Goldcrest Pictures (2008). Rated PG-13. USCCB Rating is A-II--Adults and Adolescents.

Read other movie reviews here.

(For some [negative] Christian reviews that we'll try to address in this post, see Spes Unica, a Catholic blog apparently dedicated to criticizing the novel series, and the movie review from Decent Films Guide. The latter is worth reading simply for its use of the phrase "vegan meat-lust," which we are now going to work into our casual conversations at every available opportunity. Also see the more balanced reviews at Plugged In Online, Amy Wellborn, Jeffrey Overstreet, and Nathan Briscoe. For a brief summary of the whole series [with spoilers], with some negative criticism interspersed, see Connecticut Catholic Corner. For a down-to-earth trashing, see Quizilla. Also see Eric Snyder's send-up. I mean, really, see that last one at least, because it had me shooting rum and Coke out my nose. Also make sure you catch Roger Ebert. And because Meyer doesn't really deserve quite that much trashing, read her interview in the Times Online. Also check the link list at Phat Catholic Apologetics, who also has a collection of bumper stickers, some of which are hilarious...and some of which are creepy.*)

D.G.D.: This is the first time we've tried this; all three of us are going to review a book and a movie at the same time. Hopefully, we'll be able to do it without a fistfight. I'll begin by giving a couple of warnings: first, Snuffles and Lucky have seen the movie, but have only read the first volume of the book series. I have only seen the movie. Second, there aren't really any, um, guys here to review this thing: I've got a soft spot for sappy romance, Snuffles has read so much manga he's more-or-less immune to the stuff, and Lucky is a girl. Sort of.

Lucky: Hey!

D.G.D.: So if any males among our readership dare to expose themselves to Twilight and then want to complain that we didn't really tell them how girly this thing is, just be aware that the reviewers here are all eccentrics.

Snuffles: Oh, I think we've made the eccentric part clear, so let's get on with this so we can get back to our vegan meat-lust. Lucky, give the plot summary.

Lucky: Thanks. Twilight is one of my favorite novels. It's about seventeen-year-old Bella Swan. Her parents are divorced, and when her mother remarries, Bella decides to move to the rainy town of Forks, Washington, to live with her dad. Even though she's clumsy, all the boys at her new school really like her, but they're annoying, so she only has eyes for the gorgeous, wonderful, indescribably hawt--

Snuffles: Hokay, I'm gonna give the plot summary now. Bella is an obnoxious brat who treats her kind and considerate friends, especially her male friends, with appalling lack of interest, apparently because she's a misanthrope who prefers blood-sucking carnivores to regular human beings. Um...actually, I can't say I personally blame her for that--

Lucky: *Ahem.* In Biology, Bella gets to be lab partners with Edward Cullen, who's über-gorgeous. However, he acts disgusted even to be around her.

Snuffles: I can't personally blame him for that, either.

Lucky: Hush! Anyway, she almost gets hit by a car, but Edward uses superhuman strength to save her. He also saves her from some bad guys who attack her in the street. Eventually, Bella discovers that Edward and the other Cullens are vampires who have given up human blood and only drink the blood of animals. Edward is so attracted by Bella's scent that he has to struggle to prevent himself from killing her, but he does, and they fall in love. But then some bad vampires, led by a guy named James, show up while Bella and the Cullens are playing baseball, and James decides he wants to kill Bella.

Snuffles: Yeah, James shows up on page 365. That's where the plot begins, so if you're thinking about reading this book, I suggest you start there. Everything before that is repetitive, dippy description of Edward's physical beauty and Bella's disturbing obsession with him. This book has little plot, and that little plot moves at a snail's pace. For two hundred pages, the novel moves gradually along predictable lines to the beginning of Edward and Bella's relationship. Then for about a hundred and sixty-five pages, Bella describes how beautiful she thinks Edward is. Then on page 365, Stephenie Meyer suddenly says, "Holy cow! This story needs a conflict or something!"

Lucky: Rrrrr...

Snuffles: I mean, yeah, I can handle an overwritten romance, but I like the plot to move along somewhere in the background while the protagonists are making doe-eyes at each other in foreground. But in this book, the plot doesn't just grind to a halt when the romance starts; it never gets started. I can tell you right now, I'm not reading any of Twilight's sequels. Offhand, the only other overwrought, overwritten romance I can remember failing to get through is Saikano, which is bad in so many ways, but at least stuff blows up in that one. At least the characters have interesting personalities and have to deal with serious issues, like him being a jerk and her being a killer cyborg. Twilight doesn't have any issues like that, no real obstacles or conflicts. Edward cries about being a vampire, but he makes it look easy: When you're a vampire, you get to be gorgeous, have super-speed, and surround yourself with cool cars and fawning females. The only bad thing you have to put up with, if the movie adaptation can be considered accurate, is a lousy haircut. Bella, likewise, cries about moving to the rainiest town in the continental U.S., but she's immediately surrounded by good friends and by guys who want her, and then she has the nerve to complain about that. Come to think of it, can we review Saikano instead?

D.G.D.: No.

Snuffles: Some people claim there's too much teen melodrama in this novel, but I disagree. There's none at all. A little melodrama would have improved this book enormously and made it tolerable, the same way excessive emotion makes opera tolerable. There's not much of anything to this book except lengthy description. This novel could be half as long if half the descriptions of Edward were cut.

D.G.D.: Snuffles, I understand you have to express your opinions, but I won't have you insulting opera on this blog. Besides, I think you have it backwards: It's opera that makes excessive emotion tolerable.

Snuffles: Whatever. And those repetitive descriptions of Edward are creepy, too. I'm going to be blunt here: Edward is consistently described in such statuesque terms, I honestly wonder if Bella is supposed to be a closet pygmalionist. The novel rhapsodizes about how his body is hard, cold, and stone-like. He is described as if he were a sculpture. It is because of, rather than in spite of, this stoniness that Bella finds him irresistibly attractive. As I know too well from anime, sexual attraction to weird things is a persistent problem in fandom, and Meyer hasn't done anyone any favors by adding marble statues (and vegan meat-lust) to the long list of Creepy Things Fans Think Are Hot.

D.G.D.: I don't know what shocks me more, Snuffles, that you know what pygmalionism is, or that you linked it.

Snuffles: Here's an observation: in the novel, Meyer easily gets away with describing as "beautiful" the way Edward glitters like crystal in sunlight. In the movie, when Edward glitters in sunlight, he looks grotesque, or dumb, rather, since the special effects aren't exactly top-notch. It strongly suggests (or confirms) that Bella's physical attraction to him is grotesque. I'm not saying that people with physical defects are barred from romance, but in healthy romance, people are in love with each other, in their entirety, "warts and all." Good romance means loving a person; it is the opposite of a fetishism, which is fixation on an object or body part. Bella's fixation on Edward's stoniness looks a lot like a kind of fetishism.

D.G.D.: I don't know what shocks me more, Snuffles, that you know what fetishism is, or that you linked it.

Lucky: Or that you recently made a tasteless joke about fetishism on this blog.

Snuffles: Ignoring that. Anyway, now that I think about it, Twilight does give the impression that anyone who's less than perfect is barred from romance. Early on in the novel, Bella turns down a guy because he has bad skin. Later, she turns down a guy because he's too possessive. Then she ends up with a stalker vampire. Kind of ironic, really.

Bella's feelings toward Edward take on the characteristics of a monomaniacal obsession even before she knows anything about him. Only a short space into the novel, she is fixated on him, and on nothing but him. She engages in dangerous behavior, and not just the dangerous activity of hanging out with a vampire who's tempted to kill her: Once, for example, she purposely overdoses on cough syrup to ensure a good night's sleep because she has a date with him the next day. Listen up, any teen girls who happen to be reading this, that's the sort of thing the Deej would do. You don't wanna end up like him, do you?

D.G.D.: I have never--

Snuffles: According to summaries we've found of the sequels, her self-destructive behavior becomes even crazier later on. Jeffrey Overstreet summarizes Bella's character nicely:

I cannot think of a weaker female "heroine" than Bella. She cannot do anything for herself--anything. She can only surrender to her ill-advised infatuation. She lectures one of her friends on being an empowered, independent woman, but cannot put that into practice herself. I've known girls just like her. They did not end up in healthy relationships. They ended up getting hurt again and again by guys who were alluring and exciting, but eventually abusive and selfish. [more...]

Overstreet chooses his adjectives well: alluring and exciting certainly do describe Edward, but so do abusive and selfish. Here's another quote, this time from Gina R. Dalfonzo with National Review:

...Edward behaves like a predator.... He spies on Bella while she sleeps, eavesdrops on her conversations, reads her classmates’ minds, forges her signature, tries to dictate her choice of friends, encourages her to deceive her father, disables her truck, has his family hold her at his house against her will, and enters her house when no one’s there--all because, he explains, he wants her to be safe. He warns Bella how dangerous he is, but gets “furious” at anyone else who tries to warn or protect her. He even drags her to the prom against her expressed wishes. He is, in short, one of modern fiction’s best candidates for a restraining order. [more...]

Sexy, no?

All of this might not be so bad, but Stephenie Meyer clearly believes she is writing a beautiful romance about true love. Obsession on one side and stalking on the other, both attractions based entirely or almost entirely on looks and other externals--does that sound like a beautiful romance to anyone? Anyone sane, that is?

Lucky: Well, I think it's--

Snuffles: Shut up.

D.G.D.: Regarding healthy romance, C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a helpful distinction between what he calls love and being in love: the former is an act, and the latter is mainly an emotional fixation or attachment. The culture at large (and the work under discussion) puts all its hopes on being in love, and I think Christians are correct when they blame our high divorce rate partly on this attitude. That doesn't mean that being in love is wrong, or that it shouldn't be celebrated in literature, but being in love is a high emotional state that doesn't last forever, at least at its initial intensity. As Lewis rightly notes, being in love has an important function: it inspires people to make lifelong vows, promises and vows being the proper way love expresses itself. However, when that emotional fixation of being in love wanes, people should be men (and women) enough to stick by the vows they have made; as a minor character puts it in the comic Girl Genius, "One of the problems with people here--is that they do not take sacred vows at all seriously!"

Lewis suggests that it is when "being in love" has served its purpose, and has waned, that people can get down to the real business of loving willfully. We should add that the emotional high of being in love, if it is not coupled with serious wisdom, consideration, and willful love, is shallow and even potentially dangerous, as in the relationship central to Twilight. In his discussion of this series, this kind of shallow, dangerous emotional attachment is what Jeffrey Overstreet calls "infatuation." Our sources suggest that Stephenie Meyer has no grasp of this. Her protagonist's obsessive infatuation continues through the series and apparently continues indefinitely after the deus ex machina ending. This is not a realistic romance by any stretch, though unrealism in and of itself isn't necessarily a problem. It becomes a problem if people try to apply it to their lives when they shouldn't. If people are really viewing Edward Cullen as an ideal man and his relationship with Bella as an ideal relationship, that's a problem, though arguably a problem that lies more with the readers than with the series itself.

Snuffles: I'm not in agreement with everything Christian reviewers are saying. Spes Unica, in particular, tips sometimes into the hysterical and occasionally exaggerates the novel's contents (though the author of that blog has read the sequels, which apparently contain more risqué elements). Spes Unica claims, for example, that "There is no way they could put the contents of the books in this movie and keep it a PG-13," which might be true of the sequels but isn't true of the first novel. Then it claims that the Cullen family is similar to a gang, which is silly. That's the same sort of nonsense that Christians passed around about the Harry Potter series, disliking the books so much that instead of merely criticizing the real negative elements, they had to make even the good elements look bad. The review at Plugged In Online is more reasonable in describing the Cullens and in acknowledging the story's few positive elements while still criticizing the bad ones:


Family is a big part of what nurtures Twilight's love. Edward's coven--family--of vampires is a loving one. Each member is committed to protecting the others, even Bella when she becomes part of them through her relationship with Edward. [more...]

Actually, Spes Unica contains some of the melodrama the novel is missing, but it also has a number of good things to say and is worth taking a look at. Perhaps I am tempted to criticize it harshly because it praises Michael O'Brien, a man who sincerely tries to discern the good and bad in fantasy and does a rather poor job of it, though we don't necessarily do better.

As for Plugged In Online, the only comment I reject, that I think all three of us here would reject, is the casual statement that Christians' "better judgment" would "normally push vampire flicks out of bounds." That kind of sweeping statement encompasses a lot of important movies, including classics like Nosferatu. Better to judge such movies on an individual basis. (And Twilight, for the record, is no Nosferatu.)

The review at Decent Films Guide also has some good things to say, but makes a big issue out of the fact that Edward's a vampire and tries to make that into a moral error. In particular, the reviewer objects to the fact that Edward's romantic attraction to Bella is apparently a sublimation of his bloodlust, or vegan meat-lust, if you will. But those are fantasy elements, intended as metaphors. All romance involves the sublimation of an appetite, and no metaphor is perfect. However, though I disagree that this is a moral deficiency in the novel, I readily agree that it is an aesthetic deficiency. Wanting to suck somebody's blood just isn't romantic, even when sublimated. It's a lousy metaphor for anything resembling healthy sexual attraction, as Decent Films Guide does a decent job of pointing out. That's part of why I'm having a hard time getting excited about the vampire romance craze. Vampire eroticism goes all the way back to Stoker, maybe even further back than that. They've always been sexy, but they're not romantic. At least, there's nothing romantic about their vampirism: Your old-school vampires use their erotic qualities to acquire victims; however, in Twilight, Bella knows Edward is attractive to her precisely because that is a part of his predatory arsenal. But she says flatly that she doesn't care and continues in her obsession with him. As Overstreet says, she is not a strong woman. She is carried away by emotion and never pauses to think. So, he likes her because he's hungry and she likes him because he's designed to lure her in and eat her. That sure doesn't put me in a romantic mood, though, curiously, it does make me want a sandwich.

D.G.D.: Must be that vegan meat-lust.

Snuffles: Now--and here's where we'll differ from most Christian reviewers you're likely to read--all of this is reasonable for fiction. In fact, it could be argued, as some have argued, that Bella's self-destructive behavior is quite believable for a hormone-driven young woman from a broken home, one who hurtles herself into an unhealthy relationship with an abusive man. Even Spes Unica, in trying to criticize Bella's behavior and her negative attitudes toward marriage and family (which he attempts--I believe incorrectly--to attribute to the series itself), keeps turning around and acknowledging that her personality makes sense for a young woman from a broken home. The problem is not that Meyer has written such a thing, but that she is apparently oblivious to the nature of what she has written. Twilight ought, properly, to be a tragedy, but Meyer treats it as a comedy and treats Edward and Bella's relationship as true love. According to all sources we have found, she ends the series with a perverse, happy conclusion that even breaks all the story's established rules and its established storyline in order to ensure everything comes out okay and Bella gets her desires gratified.

D.G.D.: From the information we've gathered, and from what I saw in the movie, my major problem is, this is apparently supposed to be a chaste romance because the characters don't have sex until they're married (after which, if our sources are accurate, the sex is as exaggerated and ridiculous as everything else). Meyer not only misunderstands healthy romance, she apparently misunderstands chastity.

Snuffles: Yeah, see--

D.G.D.: Okay, now you shut up. This happens to be my soap box. Abstinence and chastity, as I'm fond of saying, are not the same thing. This story, vampire metaphor and all, is about two young adults who really, really want to fornicate but decide to resist. That's abstinence, certainly, but it's not chastity. It gets even worse with Edward purposely putting himself in the path of temptation in order to strengthen himself against it. That is not a healthy way to deal with temptation, especially when the temptation is to murder his girlfriend. In the movie adaptation, these two characters are lying in bed together or making out while she's in her underwear--

Lucky: She was in her underwear?

D.G.D.: Yeah, didn't you notice?

Lucky: No, but I'm wondering why you did.

D.G.D.: Um...my point is, I see this as a continuation of the same misdirected teaching on sexual ethics that we've been seeing for quite some time, the "abstinence" teaching that everything's cool if you don't actually have sex. That's not good Christian teaching. Chastity is about both self-mastery and a positive respect for purity, virginity, and the sanctity of marriage. Its practice involves a move toward greater and greater virtue. Abstinence, as it's usually presented, and as it is apparently presented in this story, is about not crossing a line, usually for no other purpose than avoiding disease or unwanted pregnancy, or getting some nebulously defined "better sex" that's supposedly in store for those who wait until marriage. A story focused on abstinence inevitably depicts the characters pushing the boundary as far as they can. Instead of championing virtue, it ends up offering a different form of titillation, rather like those comics Snuffles reads.

Snuffles: Hey!

D.G.D.: Don't try to deny it.

Snuffles: Say, Lucky, you're awfully quiet over there. Do you have anything to add?

Lucky: Who, me?

Snuffles: No, the other enchanted goldfish.

Lucky: Oh, no, no. You two go ahead and have your little boy talk and trash my favorite novel.

D.G.D.: Uh oh. You sound mad.

Lucky: Not at all. You're just trashing it because you're boys and feel intimidated by how gorgeous Edward is. But go right ahead. I don't care. It's just a symptom of your vegan meat-lust.

D.G.D.: I don't know what shocks me more, Lucky, that you know what vegan meat-lust is, or--

Snuffles: Deej, if you do that one more time, I will kill you. I've been thirsting for your blood for some time, and I don't have Edward's inhibitions.

D.G.D.: O-okay. Why did I agree to this three-way thing?

Lucky: Maybe it's time to move on to the movie discussion.

D.G.D.: Good idea. I haven't read the book, though Lucky's talked about it so much, I feel like I have. The movie more-or-less follows the book's plot, so--

Snuffles: It does, however, alter the dialogue, except for the stupidest lines, like, "You're my own personal brand of heroin," which has become a favorite riff for the film critics. Some of the characters, especially the minor ones, have noticeably different personalities than their book counterparts. The relationship between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) has little build-up and little chemistry. We're simply told they're in love, and the suddenness of that detail is jarring, which makes their relationship look all the more superficial. On the matter of casting, directing, and photography, the movie holds its own, though Stewart and Pattinson both spend too much time stuttering, acting awkward, and gazing stupidly at each other. Where the film really suffers is in the effects department. First, there's the makeup effects on the vampires, especially Edward. They have powdery white skin, bright red lipstick, and stiff hairdos. Although Pattinson is a good-looking guy and does look reasonably hunky on the poster and in some picture stills, in the actual movie, where he's walking around in unflattering lighting conditions with his makeup flaking off and his immobile hair standing on end, he looks like a goofball. When Bella visits his family and all the vampires are in one room, things are even sillier. They give no impression at all of being supernatural or menacing. They just look like doofs in ugly makeup. It's like Bella's visiting a bad, unfunny version of the Addams Family.

D.G.D.: So they're like the Munsters?

Snuffles: Kind of. The vampires' super-speed looks fake; their clothes and hair don't ruffle, not that their hair probably could anyway. Most of the special effects budget went into the infamous vampire baseball game; apparently, Hardwicke knew that's silliest part of the story and tried to fix it by making it as over-the-top as possible; it has plenty of slow-mo shots set to squealing guitar. It's still stupid, but at least it's entertainingly stupid. Also, whereas the novel passes over the climactic action sequence, the movie contains a fight between Edward and James.

D.G.D.: That action sequence has some satisfying vampire-fu, but it's much too short. It would have been nice for all the boyfriends and husbands suffering through the film if that had gone on for a few more minutes.

Snuffles: Besides adding the action sequence, the movie tries to shore up some of the novel's biggest deficiencies. Instead of showing up suddenly during the baseball game, the evil vampires show up earlier and kill some people around Forks. That doesn't change the story arc in any significant way, but it does make the villains' arrival less sudden. The moral and aesthetic issues with the movie are more-or-less the same as with the book. However, the movie has added some things that readers may want to be aware of, such as some risque dialogue that's not in the novel, including one passing joke about fornication and contraception.**

Lucky: I could have enjoyed this movie a lot more if the Deej wasn't giggling through the whole thing.

D.G.D.: Sorry, I couldn't help it. When I hear lines like, "We call ourselves vegetarians because we live only off animals," I have to giggle. It's a reflex. Kind of like when I hear "vegan meat-lust."

Snuffles: So, to wrap up, our review is quite negative for both book and film. Right, Lucky?

Lucky: Deej, tell Snuffles I'm not speaking to him right now.

D.G.D.: Oh boy.

Final Comments from D.G.D.: Regarding the question of whether or not Meyer's books ought to be kept from young readers, as some Christian writers are suggesting, that's a matter that ultimately lies with parents and guardians, rather than with schmucks who blog. However, to my own mind, I would say those on the upper end of the age range of the novels' target audience (which I presume to be about 12-18) are probably old enough they don't need parents monitoring their reading too closely. If they are well-grounded Christian youths, they can probably find the novels' deficiencies themselves. Flighty youths, on the other hand, are likely to acquire some distorted ideas from them. Either way, adolescents and young adults should always lean heavily on the advice of older, wiser heads, so in any home where the books are being read, some parent-child discussion of their contents is in order, particularly on the subjects of chastity, dealing with temptation, and, for crying out loud, not clinging to abusive boyfriends just because they're unusually good-looking or prone to vegan meat-lust.

Content Advisory: Over at Plugged In Online, the reviewer informs us that the film contains an "exclamatory use of h---," but then remarks that "Oh my [deleted] is used a few times." So quoting the taking of the Lord's name in vain is okay in movie reviews, but hell is off-limits. I'll keep that in mind, though I don't understand what the h--- is up with it. The movie also contains some action violence, a little blood, and a panty-clad makeout scene. (Nobody else seems to have noticed the panties, not this guy or this guy or this guy. What's wrong with me?) The novel contains an obsessive romance, misguided perceptions of chastity and dealing with temptation, some mild action and torture, excessive tedium, and toxic levels of estrogen.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating For Twilight:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. This section currently unavailable.


*And some of which are hilarious-creepy.

**We don't know what's more shocking, that we know what fornication and contraception are, or that we linked them.***

***If you think our running gags are annoying, those are nothing compared to the repetetive descriptions you'll read in Twilight.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yet Another Delay

We're good at these. I've hurt my back and cannot sit at the computer right now, though I have found a creative new way of typing while lying down. At any rate, our promised review of Twilight is experiencing another slight delay, but we hope to have it up tomorrow or the next day. We're trying to do a lot of research for this one, but we had some quotes and links before we lost a chunk of our text, and some of those are proving curiously hard to track down again. At any rate, this review will probably have more links than any other Twilight review you'll read this week.

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Open Letter to the Original Battlestar Galactica



Dear Battlestar Galactica,

We've been through a lot, you and I. I mean, we practically grew up together. I can honestly say you've been one of the most important television shows in my life, not that I've had a lot of television shows or anything like that.

I know that, lately, I haven't exactly treated you the way you deserve. No, that's an understatement. I have to be blunt and honest about what I did: I left you for a newer, younger show. I did. And I regret it more than anything I've ever done.

I can't deny it, she lured me away from you. She just seemed so sophisticated, so much more grown up, if you will. It was mostly an intellectual attraction, I swear it was. But after we were together for a while, I started to realize there was too much...too much drama, if you know what I mean. You're just so much more fun to be with, and you have such a great sense of humor.

But the thing I really like about you, the reason I really like you more than her, is the kids. No, I'm serious. She told me right from the start that she really didn't want any kids. We ended up having one, early on in our relationship--but then he mysteriously disappeared. I'm actually really worried about him.

You, on the other hand, have always adored children. You told me from the beginning you wanted one of your own, and that you wanted to have a bunch of others to walk on as extras, too. I like that about you. You're so family-friendly, not like that other show. I know some people don't like your kids. They've told me so. And they don't like your mechanical dog, either. But I'm not like them. They're just a bunch of pet- and child-haters.

Of course, sometimes I think maybe you're a bit soft on child endangerment. I mean, I would be happier if you didn't let that poor kid go on so many dangerous missions or walk onto the bridge unsupervised, but I'm willing to overlook some of your little faults like that. They're cute in their own way.

And you're so bold. I love the way you shamelessly rip off other people's work, like when you renamed The Guns of Navarone "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" and tried to pass it off as something original. Or when you renamed Towering Inferno "Fire in Space." That other show rips off stuff like West Wing instead. I mean, seriously. Plus, you give me at least one space battle and one gunfight an episode. That other show is much more fickle about things like that. And she's always so embarrassed, trying to cover up her plot holes. But you never care about things like that. You're too busy having fun to fret about minor details like continuity. I love the way you transformed that "socialator" character into a nurse without any explanation.

And then there's your Cylons. They're so much fun. The Cylons in that new show are just...people. Yours are silly looking robots, as they should be. I'm particularly a big fan of Lucifer. Does that sound wrong? It's true anyway.

What I'm trying to say, baby, is, I done you wrong. I have to admit that. I'm sorry. I love you. I want you back.

Will you take me back?

XOXO,

Deej