Thursday, April 30, 2009

SF Signal's Mind Meld: Polytheism vs. Monotheism

Over at SF Signal, various authors and fans have offered opinions on which is better in a work of fantasy or science fiction, polytheism or monotheism? The best answer (to my mind) comes from John C. Wright, whose lengthy essay on the subject can be summarized as, it depends on what you're trying to do and how you think you can accomplish it. Sounds sensible. Kate Elliott adds another sensible answer, which is that the religion, whatever it is, should be thoroughly worked out as a part of good world-building, and should interpenetrate with the other parts of the culture.

To my own mind, even if a writer doesn't want to go to the trouble of carefully working out a theological system, he should at least be good at faking it: I've once or twice complained about the stripped-down religious systems in some Evangelical fantasy works; I suspect the religions in such novels look so basic and dull because Evangelicals, as a rule don't appreciate that long-lived religions accumulate ornamentation. If an author doesn't want to bother building his religion from the ground up, he should at least know how to thrown in the ornaments; you can hide a lot of vagueness behind a fog of incense. Of course, this is a bad idea when the religion is front and center rather than part of the background decoration.

But I do not see anyone in this discussion making much mention of pantheism (where everything is god), henotheism (where you acknowledge all gods but worship one), or, for that matter, atheism.

Now that I think about it, I can't off-hand think of any examples of henotheism in fantasy fiction except Orson Scott Card's Hart's Hope, which has a god called God whose followers worship him exclusively, even though the other deities, the Hart and the Sweet Sisters, unquestionably exist. For some time, I've had percolating in the back of my brain an idea for a post-singularity sf story centered around a henotheism of sorts; maybe I should work on that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free Comic Book Day

Don't forget: Free Comic Book Day is May 2. Go to the Free Comic Book Day website to look for participating comics shops in your area.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And Now, For My Next Act of Terror...

Believe it or not, I have already received dire warnings for calling your attention to Minipax's characterization, in a memo entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," of pro-lifers as potential domestic terrorists. But fear not. This Pro-Life Terrorist™ is not easily cowed.

The American Center for Law and Justice has a link at its website to a petition with which you can protest the Department of Homeland Security calling pro-lifers "rightwing extremists" likely to commit acts of violence.

Resources for My Fellow Terrorists:

At Lifenews.com, see this article in which Janet Napolitano defends the inclusion of pro-lifers in the memo.

Associated Content has an opinion column on the subject, addressing the touchy issue of the document's classification--it's not classified, but it's not supposed to be distributed to the media (however, it's readily available on the web). For fairness, the column links a similar document from 2001 entitled "Left Wing Extremism: The Current Threat." However, that memo is about communism and radical Black separatism; it points out that communists committed most of the "officially designated" terrorist acts in the U.S. in the 1980s, and it does not characterize, say, pro-aborticide groups, as potential terrorists. Unlike the " Rightwing Extremism" memo, it is also balanced with a discussion of right-wing extremist and white-supremacist groups. It also distinguishes carefully between violent and nonviolent holders of left-wing ideologies, and emphasizes the importance of free speech, none of which the new document on right-wing extremism does.

More recent and relevant is a DHS document on left-wing threats issued in January, as discussed in PoliGazette. The existence of this memo suggests that the "Rightwing Extremism" memo is part of a series of ongoing warnings about potential threats. However, the "Rightwing Extremism" memo points out specific groups and causes, such as pro-life. The document on left-wing extremism does not do so; it focuses specifically on an Internet-related form of eco-terrorism, mostly perpetrated by animal rights groups. However, it does so without broadly characterizing animal rights activists the way the new memo broadly characterizes pro-lifers. The memo on on-line eco-terrorism, like the "Rightwing Extremism" memo, is non-classified but not for general distribution. But it's easily available on the Internet.

The Volokh Conspiracy has a balanced discussion of the issue, including the frivolous lawsuit from the More Foundation.

The memo's likely effects have probably been exaggerated by pro-life commentators. Nonetheless, pro-lifers are right to protest being characterized as potential terrorists. See this article from Michelle Malkin on that subject.

Also, for a more...erm...personal attack on Janet Napolitano, see this from Gingi Edmonds, which, along with nasty, un-funny jokes about Napolitano, contains this money quote:

The report, "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment", reports that right-wing extremist groups may be using the recession and the election of our nation's first African-American president to recruit members.

You know, I'm getting really tired of the color of Obama's skin being the cause of and solution to all of our nation's problems. Long before the color of Barack's epidermis was a daily mainstream media talking point, pro-lifers have been non-violently 'recruiting' others to acknowledge the common sense basics of elementary biology – namely that abortion kills an innocent life. But to Napolitano, the mass slaughter of innocent children won't motivate us crazy right-wingers to action... only opposition to President Barack Obama will. [more...]

And this one:

...When the Department of Homeland Security begins propagating the media's "pro-life violence" mythology, it's time for pro-lifers to put our feet down and demand accountability. If pro-lifers are so violent, where is the violence?

When questioned as to which pro-life groups were suspected of potential violence and why in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" this past Sunday, Napolitano responded by stating that, "the number of groups are far too numerous to mention". One can only assume she's basing this conclusion on the countless rabid Christian grandmas seen launching Molotov cocktails over the fences of abortion mills. Oh wait! That doesn't happen.

So we're back to wondering: what makes pro-life advocates so dangerous? What is the basis for this statement? The bottom line is: there is none. The pro-life movement is undeniably the most peaceful movement in U.S. history. Throughout the nine-page report Napolitano states that there is "no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence". [more...]

Much of the pro-life response to the DHS memo has included (probably rhetorical) expressions of fear that an anti-conservative witch-hunt is forthcoming. Really, though, that won't happen for at least fifty more years. And Catholics can relax, because the witch-hunt's first victims will probably be Evangelicals, since it's usually Evangelicals that leftists accuse of being just as bad as Islamic terrorists, even though Evangelicals are not known for blowing up busses, launching rockets into towns, or crashing planes into buildings.

Nonetheless, the Newspeakish switches in language evident in the memo, in the current administration, and in the country's general political climate, are of real concern: Islamic terrorists are now militants, pro-lifers are potential terrorists, and now people who oppose abortion may even be accused of "verbal terrorism," whatever the hell that is. Leftists have proved willing and able to mangle language to get what they want; they are exactly the people Orwell warned us about. This mangling is evident in the "Rightwing Extremism" memo where Napolitano warns that potentially violent groups include those concerned with a "single issue." "Single issue" is a meaningless leftist catch phrase, a way of dismissing pro-lifers without addressing them in honest discussion or debate: Your problem is, you're too concerned with just this one issue! Ignore the millions of babies being slaughtered behind the curtain! Let's talk about something else!

Although Napolitano undoubtedly had actual, real, violent terrorism in mind when she wrote the memo, the incompetence of the memo, its vagueness, its political correctness, its singling out of pro-lifers, veterans, and people concerned with illegal immigration, its inability to find more than a couple of examples of right-wing extremist terrorism (as opposed to the memos on left-wing terrorism mentioned above, which give numerous examples), and its failure to give concrete or useful data to the law-enforcement agencies it's supposed to inform, are all signs that something's not right in the DHS.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ack! Le Tour de Blog!

That's no moon...that's a blaggard!

Where is my mind? I so totally spaced the blog tour for this month, it's not even funny. I really need to get back in t3h b10gg1ng z0n3.

Moving on from there, the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour this month goes out this month to Blaggard's Moon by Brian Polivka. My infallible dictionary (the Internet) has a blaggard as a man who swears in front of a woman; therefore, I conclude that a "blaggard's moon" is a man who shows his butt in front of a woman. Did I get it right?

Apparently not. The novel this month is a pirate adventure by George Bryan Polivka. See his website here.

NOTICE: There will be no "let's moon 'em" jokes...oops.

Here's the Blog Tour, and I'm out:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

News and Comments

Trying to get back in the groove here. This is the tail end of my weekend today. After getting back from the field, and being freed of my Lenten fiction fast, I went on a fiction binge that was a terror to behold, so we will probably have some reviews again in the future, sooner or later. The blog has gone down the tubes largely because I've focused more on my potentially publishable writing.* That's good, I think, but it sucks for you guys.

Speaking of which, I'm currently on the third version of the third issue of my comic book miniseries-in-progress. The previous two versions rated a little too high on the suckelage. I try to keep the suck factor in my work down around 2.5, but the two previous versions of this issue were scoring somewhere around 9.0, so the quality control department (Snuffles, who proofreads) was gettin' all up in my face.

Not coincidentally, I'm also on my third glass of wine, so this might not be the most coherent post ever.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I had a ranting, angry news post I put together a few days ago, and then thought, you know, maybe I don't want to post that because I don't want to be that irate, this isn't a news commentary blog, and I'm not drunk enough. Fortunately, that situation has partly changed. So here it is:

According to the news given me by our news girl Lucky the Goldfish, the Department of Homeland Security, henceforth to be known as the Ministry of Peace (or Minipax), has followed the guidance of President Obama, henceforth to be known as Big Brother (or BB), and declared pro-lifers to be potential terrorists. Actual terrorists, on the other hand, are still euphemized as militants and freedom-fighters.

Therefore, I hereby declare this to be an official Pro-Life Catholic Terrorist Blog. I might even make a badge and pass it around if I ever figure out how to use PhotoShop. Maybe I can even get arrested and waterboarded; Obama may have struck down the Bush Administration's torture practices, but I bet he'll make an exception for vicious terrorists like us Catholic bloggers.

By the way, you know how Hollywood likes to attack Catholic priests as child molesters? Turns out being a child or youth molester is A-okay if you're also a Hollywood film director.

Don't miss John C. Wright's essay on political correctness, a defilement of language henceforth to be known as Newspeak. I myself have been subjected to the tyranny of Newspeak (not to be confused with the tyranny of Newsweek); some time ago when I dared to debate the immorality of sodomy, some who didn't want to challenge my ideas decided to attack me for my plain English instead, getting upset because I wouldn't give degrading acts cutesy names to make them sound special and pleasant.

Speaking of the Culture of Death (or "Culture of Masturbation," a label I find more accurate and less romantically sinister), I notice the History Channel is running a documentary series, or more accurately, a science fiction series, entitled Life After People, which displays how glorious the world would be if the humans were all dead (see this review). As to who exactly would enjoy this glorious, people-free world, I imagine that's a question the documentary doesn't ask. I understand it's a well-made show, but I also hear the character development is rather thin. (Rimshot.)

And speaking of masturbation, there's CNN.


Whew. After the mono, I wouldn't have thought I had that much spleen left to vent.

*And on reading comic books.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Need Technical Help

My Internet Explorer now freezes up, typically, about ten minutes after I open it. About 30 seconds after Internet Explorer freezes, the rest of the computer goes with it and I have to turn the whole system off. The problem started after I made one, maybe two or three mistakes:

First, I switched my sluggish, bloated, ineffective PC-cillin antivirus software with the more effective, faster, but more temperamental PC Tools Spyware Doctor with Antivirus in order to remove a trojan I was warned could be on my system. I also downloaded Registry Mechanic from the same company, and have used it, which might have been a mistake since, you know, it messes with the registry.

Around the same time, I downloaded Microsoft Live! to make the obnoxious "Download Microsoft Live!" popup go away.

The problem sometimes, but not always, occurs about two minutes or so after Spyware Doctor announces that "Error -1" had caused it to be unable to download its latest updates. When I see that, it means I need to save my stuff because Internet Explorer and my entire system are going to crash soon.

Formerly, Microsoft Word was also having trouble, taking a long time to open and sometimes freezing up, until I deleted the Microsoft Office Live! plugin. Now it's working fine. I can use my word processor for as long as I want if I don't open the web browser.

I have disabled several of Internet Explorer's plugins, including Microsoft Live! The web browser now runs about three times as fast...which enables it to crash sooner. Apparently, I haven't solved the problem.

Anyone know how to fix this? It's making it hard to blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Taking a Break

I realize that, from your perspective, it already looks like I've been taking a break. But I need a break. My current writing project is an intense project, one I am finding emotionally draining and troubling to write. So I'm taking a break.

(Just so you know, three of the ten issues are drafted, though #3 needs a lot of work; I think I said that before, but I rewrote over half of #3 just recently. Several scenes of other issues are drafted as well, so the think is coming along. I'll be plunging into #4 here shortly: One lengthy scene of it is already drafted; an earlier version of another scene is drafted as well, but needs to be rewritten.)

We're now in Holy Week, having just passed Palm Sunday. This Friday is Good Friday, when we commemorate the crucifixion of Our Lord, and this Sunday is Easter Sunday, when we celebrate his resurrection. It is also the time when catechumens are baptized and confirmed, so pray for all the catechumens. This Easter will mark my third anniversary as a Catholic. Also, be sure to have finished Theology Of The Body if you've been reading it with us. I have about ten pages left myself. It's a difficult read and I wasn't sure how much I was getting out of it until yesterday morning when I found myself summarizing it for someone, so I must have gotten something.

Since it is Holy Week, and since I'm going back to Rump's End, Nevada, a.ka. Land of the Non-Existent Internet Connection (I will be sooo glad when this job is over), it seems to me a good time to take a break. I'm going to spend Holy Week, in part, thinking and praying about my writing project.

Also, since I'm going back to Rump's End, Nevada, a.k.a. Land of the Non-Existent Catholic Churches, I will probably be unable to assist Mass on Easter, but I am with you all in spirit. My confessor, who's a wonderful priest and a great guy who knows how my employment makes it difficult for me to assist Mass every week, decided to help my situation by giving me, for penance, the task of meditating on the Stations of the Cross every. Single. Day. This week.

That's not a complaint, by the way. I appreciate a priest who really know how to dole out the penance.