Monday, May 19, 2008

MindFlights 2: The Stories

Since MindFlights is a speculative fiction e-zine, it's fair to look over the stories. Although MindFlights is technically new, it has a seasoned staff, so I'll set the bar higher than I did for the newer Wayfarer's Journal.

The best of the stories, in my view, is "The Significance of Snowflakes," by C. L. Dyck. It's also the best story from a scientific and philosophical standpoint. For that matter, it's the only outright Christian story in the group; all the others could have been written by an atheist or Wiccan with the right kind of imagination. (If you've ever looked at Isaac Asimov's "religious" fantasy short stories you'll know what I mean.)

"The Other's Mission," by Matthew Wuertz, is also good, showing how a spec fic story can be generally "Christian" without being particularly preachy. (On other hand, the basic plot could also be transferred to a non-spec fic setting: it's basically a missionary story.)

"The Red Unicorn," by Rebecca D. Bruner, is caught in a dilemma of the author's own making. In medieval symbology, the unicorn represented Christ, and Bruner appears to accept that. But that makes the importance of virginity work in a troublesome way, as though it were a means of grace or even salvation. Is there forgiveness for someone who marries for the wrong reason? Apparently not.

"On the Edge of Eternity," by Steve Stanton, has a few issues. The opening scene should've been deleted; the story proper starts in the lounge. I found the "sprite" idea excessively cute. It could work, but not this way.

"Heart of Flesh," by Michael Bonett, Jr., was depressing enough I didn't finish it. I suspect it has a worthwhile point; I just didn't care for the overall tone or spirit of the piece.

"Takin' Notice," by Susan Plett, just annoyed me. The narrator affects a folksy tone, yet when God shows up in quasi-Bubba gear, he talks like a regular city fella. It probably wasn't God at all--just Obama makin' a stopover in flyover country. (Zeb shoulda ast to see him bowl!) And remember, flyover folks at best are well-meanin' but childlike dolts who need a city slicker to straighten 'em out. And what's on God's mind anyway? Salvation? Repentence in general? No, just avoidin' critters on the road. Good point and all, Lord; should I save the whales while I'm up?

"Potato," by Ben Payne, and "Poisoned Thorns," by Jonathan Moeller, were both good stories at the start, but in the end they inexplicably took a sharp turn right into the wall. I wanted to like "Potato" in particular--its opening is reminiscent of my novella "Virtual Messiah," though the setting there is relevant to the story as a whole. In this case we seem to be looking at a fake existence that is changed (more or less) to something more real by evil. There's a wrinkle God never thought of! (Yes, God does use our evil deeds to confront us with our selfish, godless fantasies, but perceiving reality is a gift of God, not a direct result of evil.) And the solution to mindless fantasy is something poisoned and evil. Okay...

In "Poisoned Thorns" the main character decides that the answer to bad magic is not-so-bad magic. Though warned at every turn that there will be some kind of curse on the result, she perseveres--and no curse turns up! (Okay, her hubby may throw a hissy fit. Large whoop.) I was prepared for some kind of "Monkey's Paw" resolution, and indeed the logic of the story requires one. I have no idea where it got off to.

Someone will probably take issue with my statement that "The Significance of Snowflakes" is the sole specifically Christian story in the group. What about "Wedding at the End of Time," by Russ Colson? It does use some biblical imagery and terms, but the concept is a bit of a stretch. The early Christians realized that the big deal about the afterlife was being admitted into or barred from the presence of God. Here, rather like "Waiting for Godot," there's a certain amount of chat about the curiously absent deity (okay, no, there's way more in the play than in this story), but it's unsurprising that the story ends without his actually putting in an appearance.

So we have two stories out of nine that are good, perhaps two more than aren't bad, and the rest (in my view) hit the wall for one reason or another. Not bad, I suppose.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll make a few observations about the e-zine as a whole and why it's necessary to set the bar higher for spec fic than for regular fiction.

Other CSFF Blogs on the tour:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Linda Wichman
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise


Mike Lynch said...

I enjoyed reading your comments about MindFlights. I especially agreed with your assessment about the longer stories. Just post them as-is rather than having to go to another page.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Someone will probably take issue with my statement that "The Significance of Snowflakes" is the sole specifically Christian story in the group. Ha! You read my mind. I reviewed "The Other's Mission," and, like you, thought it was a missionary story. And a Christian missionary story, at that. I don't think a story to be so named must approach Christianity with realism. Allegory is fine and so is symbolism or typology.

As to pagans writing "Christian fiction" if the latter is to be considered, I'd say, Sort of. That's exactly what C.S. Lewis discovered in his reading of mythology--even the pagans have myths that uncover our longing for a God who loves us, a Redeemer who saves us.

I suppose, in trying to label the fiction, an author's intent would have to be taken into consideration. So Lewis, who was certainly intentional in his depiction of Aslan and who was a believer, would be writing Christian fiction. Asimov (never read him, so I'm going by what you're saying here) would not.


Steve said...

While "The Other's Mission" certainly fits with Christian ideas, it could have been written by someone espousing a mere "love gospel" replete with platitudes and warm fuzzies. That's why I say that it isn't specifically Christian. In context, however, it is probably Christian.

Michael A. Heald said...

Thank you for your comments. I'm out of the loop, though, since I have not read any Wiccan SF/F! :) Best regards.

Michael A. Heald

Kameron said...

Great reviews. I remember the ratio of "good to bad" being about the same when the tour featured DKA.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Steve, I would agree about the "love" gospel, except for Jesus. Any character who sacrifices his life to save another is simply mirroring what Christ did on a Grand scale, whether the author intended it or not. That allusion is powerful and I think qualifies a work as Christian fiction if the author was intentional in his inclusion of it.

(Such a slippery slope, this classification business).


Matthew Wuertz said...

To read about the background of "The Other's Mission," I wrote a behind the story article that is posted on my website here:

Thanks for taking the time to review my story.

-Matthew Wuertz

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