Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sci-fi With a Difference?

Wayfarer's Journal is only has a new edition twice a year, so don't let any old items on the site fool you: it is alive and updates between editions. It's also very new, so it could change markedly for better or worse, and the readers and writers can influence that.

WJ is dedicated to sci-fi (and only sci-fi: sorry, fantasy fans) with a spiritual, i.e., Christian, dimension. Like most modern projects, it goes out of its way to avoid being "preachy." While I still have problems with that, WJ is somewhat more open to a Christian message than some other putatively "Christian" e-zines.

But there are also problems. Consider "The Soulless," by Donna Sundblad, for example. Ignoring the numerous errors of grammar and punctuation--they really do need editing at WJ--there is preachiness. The topic is cloning, and if you can't predict the ending at least generally before you're halfway through, you're not trying. But the larger point is that it is preachy.

Really: just look at it. We have a rabble-rousing preacher, who is clearly of the same kind as those who preached against civil rights for minorities decades back, and he is the Bad Guy. (This is a Christian e-zine, too: count your blessings. Who knows what an atheist magazine might do? Oh, yeah: about the same thing.) So, since he is obviously a jerk, the Other View is just as obviously the Right One. There is no actual argument to sustain the viewpoint presented; it is supported by emotion and (let us be candid) prejudice alone. For the preacher evokes prejudice, and it is that which argues against his views. The result is propaganda: an uncritical reader will come away knowing less than he did going in.

Christians can do better than this.

(Part of the problem is the naive assumption that Greek and Hebrew had the modern English concept of the soul. They didn't. In fact, although a hundred years ago the word "soul" was vaguely like Hebrew nephesh and Greek psyche, it has changed markedly since then. The same problem occurred in early Latin theology: the whole argument over "ensoulment" derived from trying to make the Bible languages have the same semantics as Latin.)

"Changed Minds," by Alice Roelke, is better, though it ends without hope, which is a cardinal sin for Christian fiction in my view. I'd still consider it the second-best current story. As for "Immunity Project," by Ann Wilkes, I don't see the Christian/spiritual angle, for the most part. There's a passing reference to angels, but the actions of the characters belie whatever faith they might profess. This could've been published in a completely secular magazine.

On the other hand, "Phobos," by Stoney M. Setzer, represents the direction I hope WJ takes. It is definitely sci-fi and definitely Christian--and I'm no fan of telepathy in Christian fiction. Imagine an episode of The Outer Limits written by a Christian.

I couldn't get Colleen Drippe's "Memories" to load, so I can't comment on it. I was surprised to find Grace Bridges' "Invasion" in the archive. It's a good story, but not regular sci-fi. Perhaps WJ will be more inclusive of other genres after all.

Other Blog Links:
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

2 comments:

Terri said...

Steve--

Thank you for this review. I would have to say that I agree with much of it. We are a new publication, and I have been handling it all on my own. That is not a good thing because you don't have other sets of eyes to double check things. Reviews like this help point to areas needing improvement.

Actually, it inspired me to do my own review of the site which is even more critical.

Steve, never pull your punches in a review (not that I would expect you to do so) That is how we spot areas for improvement.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Steve, I was particularly interested in your comments about the preacher in Donna's story. I haven't read "The Soulless" yet, but here are my thoughts about Christian writers portraying Christians as the Bad Guy.

Some Christians, unfortunately, have had experiences with preachers who were not honorable or perhaps not even men of God. But for the most part, if a Christian reads the Bible, he/she should know what preachers are like more often than not. No, not perfect. They are men who work to love their one wife, keep control of their kids, avoid being drunks, and shepherd their congregations.

However, I'm guessing this Bad Guy image is coming less from personal experiences and more from the culture's perspective of preachers. I've seen it too often.

Sure, we should not pretend Christians are what we are not. But neither should we advance the notion that preachers are all out to exploit.

Becky

 
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