Okay, so I think I’m over my fit of temper from the last post.
I think I’m willing to work through it, anyway…and that’s almost as good, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, I still think WordPress has achieved an entirely new level of moronicity* with their changes, but I’m going to try and struggle through. And, yeah, some of that willingness to struggle is the ubercompetitive pride that I usually try to hide: I ain’t gonna let any other sonofabitchasswagon beat me! The less said about that side of my personality, the better.
*Why am I a sci-fi/fantasy writer? Because I freaking LOVE to make up words!
So, where does that intro lead me?
Not into the following post, as a matter of a fact.
Look, when the hell have I ever planned one of these posts?! Yeah, yeah…I come in with an idea of what I want to talk about, but that original idea generally lasts about as long as a Twinkie at a table of 7th graders. Once I start hitting the keys — once the words start to flow — that original plan is nothing more than a barely remembered aftertaste…
There’s been a conspiracy of late. No, not THAT conspiracy! No Satan-worshipping pedophile deep-state resistance for me, thank you very much. No, this conspiracy is worse. It’s a conspiracy of those I love, and those I read, and the world itself. It is a conspiracy to remind of that which I no longer am; of that which I have left behind.
I just finished a new fantasy series that really put the capstone onto this “conspiracy.” The first two books in the trilogy were good. Good, but not Tolkien/Jordan/Martin good. Just good. They were also pretty basic, with not a lot of undercurrent and subtext to go with the plot and characters. Then the third book…the third book went and pulled the rest of the clubs out of the bag.
Oh, the message wasn’t what you would call subtle…not even close, in fact. This was CS Lewis-style allegorical fantasy, rather than Tolkien-style high fantasy.*
*If you don’t know the differing views and philosophies those two close friends brought to their respective works, you should probably go back and study more…
The backdrop for this is that I used to be a Christian. I still consider something of a Christian, although I am far, far closer to a Deist than to any of the **intentionally skipping controversial comments here** flavors of “Christianity” that so dominate the US today.
So what got me to thinking about this?
That third book. I copied out and emailed to myself several quotes from that book, but I’m only going to use here the first of those. Mainly because it was the one that got me to thinking, but also because it is the one that I think has the most to say to modern US-style Christianity (note — I’m editing the quote here to be more general, but book details are at the end of this post):
“Because that’s not how it works. Faithful people suffer and evil people prosper all the time[…]you must know that is true. Besides, if our actions are driven only by reward or punishment—eternal or otherwise—then they are motivated by greed and selfishness, not faith or love. That is where so many people go wrong, even those who say they believe in [God]. They obey because they think it will make their lives better, rather than themselves. And that is very much the wrong reason.”
Why am I not a Christian? Two reasons I’ll give you — and a third I will keep to myself, thank you very much.
The first, and primary, of those is that US-style Christianity is all about fear and punishment and force. Do this or go to hell. Live like this or go to hell. Believe this or go to hell.
That there is some Kool-Aid-drinking, mind-control bullshit…especially when fed to children. If a “god” loved me so much he would send me to Hell for even questioning, I’m quite happy to play for another team.
The second of the reasons is that Christians — mostly, but not exclusively, US-style — can’t leave well enough alone. They can’t let anyone else get on with their life if that life conflicts with their own prejudices and intolerance. And, yes, this second reason is basically a subset of the first…
But every so often my own prejudices and snap-judgments get challenged. Every so often you talk to, or listen to, or read, that person who can iterate something different. The best stories, by the way, can iterate something different. Oh, it doesn’t have to be religion — arguable, shouldn’t be — but it has to be something meaningful.
Why do Joe Haldeman and Ursula LeGuin and Robert Heinlein and George Orwell still resonate as sci-fi writers? Because they wrote far more than they wrote. Their words were about more than plot and character, their words were about the freaking world…about life, and all the bullshit that goes with it.
I’m not going to hold James Islington up in that company — his books were good, but nothing near that good — but he gets all the credit in the world for making me think and question my usual knee-jerk dismissal of “message” writing.
My rule on this, by the way, is if the writer is someone with whom I would like to sit down and have a drink and talk through what they wrote. The list of such writers is pretty stinking small, but Islington (and his message) has made his way onto it.
Well done, sir.
**Note — The specific book in question is “The Light of All That Falls” from the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington.