Tag Archives: fantasy

Magazine Orders and an Open Poll

Well, the deed is done. With a budget of $25, I was able to order a single issue each from five different speculative fiction magazines I am interested in possibly submitting work to at a future date. The list of magazines for any and all interested:

  • “Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest”:http://www.apexdigest.com
  • “Farthing Magazine”:http://www.farthingmagazine.com
  • “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction”:http://www.sfsite.com/fsf
  • “Analog: Science Fiction and Fact”:http://www.analogsf.com/0604/issue_04.shtml
  • “Asimov’s Science Fiction”:http://www.asimovs.com/

The first two – Apex and Farthing – I ordered in print. I was disappointed that with the last three on the list I had to suffice with digital copies, since that is the only format that single issues are available for those magazines. (I much prefer actual print over electronic; something about being able to hold the pages in my hands.)

My goal in ordering these is to 1) give myself a fairly broad and diverse range of exposure to the field of speculative fiction as a way of priming the creative juices and 2) to being familiarizing myself with speculative fiction periodicals that would suit my publication goals. It is always highly recommended that fledgling writers become familiary with the sort of fiction that various magazines accept so as not to waste everyone’s time by submitting works of short fiction that are not suitable to that magazine. So, I plan to take the time to read and do the ‘homework’ necessary to hopefully get published.

Now, time for the open poll. These are just five magazines that I’ve found that are interesting to me. I have a handful of others on the side, waiting for more money for the budget. This is where _you_ get to chime in.

What magazines are circulating out there that a writer of speculative fiction might want to add to his or her list of potentials for short fiction submissions?

Give Me Simplicity

There are many times during the course of my immersion into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, whether it be reading books, watching shows or movies, etc., when I wish that I could experience aspects of those cultures first-hand. For instance, in the short-lived show _Firefly_, two cultures merged into one when humanity abandoned Earth. The predominant world superpowers at that time were the United States and China. So, when new worlds were terraformed and then populated by Earth’s refugees, it wasn’t long before most inhabitants of this new solar system were bi-lingual, speaking English primarily but switching over to Mandarin in moments of high emotion.

In Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, the culture of Britain in the early days after Jesu left his mark on the world was rich with history, symbolism, and faith. The mere image of the cross was enough to spark strong emotional and behavioral reactions in the followers of the Great Light, of the one True God. You can believe that nothing in their faith was taken for granted.

What it comes down to is this – I see in many Americans a shallowness that borders on being depressing. I don’t believe it always used to be this way. Early on in our nation’s history, national pride was treasured, cherished. It was important to be known as an American, important enough to die for, as many did. Today it seems that so many of our citizens are almost ashamed to be called Americans, thinking that to claim such is to be pretentious and arrogant in the eyes of the world. We are becoming American in name only, with so many having no concept of the pride that goes with being called such.

So, too, in our churches and in our faith. We are becoming Christian in name only, and that often only barely. Cultural shallowness has begun to penetrate our minds, our hearts, our churches so that our ministries become less effective, less robust. As both Americans and as Christians, we are losing our culture, those elements that root us in what we are and in what we believe. The cross of Christ has become less of an integral, necessary part of our belief system and more of a digitized placeholder of faith whereupon we look and remark in a distracted manner about how important it is to our faith.

A recent email conversation among some friends has addressed this topic from the perspective of the church’s affluence. The problem posed at the outset of the discussion is that of the presence of “fancy buildings… sound systems, and the musical instruments, and the hundreds of different colors of papers, and the power point programs, and twenty children’s programs and all associated materials.” These are all things that most of our churches today seem to think they require in order to function and minister effectively. We seem to require that our auditoriums be air conditioned and that crying children be removed from the service, that the drums not be played too loudly (or at all) and that the pastor have the appropriate level of pious humility if we are to be expected to worship at all. ((Email correspondence))

There are several things that I believe have contributed to the current state of affairs in our churches. The first is that the increased development of technology has pushed the pace of culture into hypersonic speeds. Information and data travel at a breakneck rate nowadays, and most of us have noticed that life has moved into not just the fast lane but into the ultra-fast lane. We have less time now than we ever did, and what free time we have we fill with activities that are, essentially, needless. We are constantly inundated with more and more information that we must sort through and process, and as a result we have become detached from those things that are truly important, things like God, faith, and family. This is contributor number one to the shallowness of culture.

The second contributor is the shift toward post-modern philosophy. Truth is no longer what it once was. It has become an ethereal entity that cannot be grasped. Indeed, truth has become little more than a vapor, a thing that is seen – and then only just barely – before it is caught up by the wind and blown away. We try to clasp it in our hands so that we may know it, yet it slips through our fingers and goes on its merry way, leaving us wondering if it was ever real to begin with. This is the way popular culture sees truth today, as an insubstantial, ever-changing entity that is unique to each individual. Truth has many faces, so that it may look different to each individual who views it, even changing in form to a single person depending on the circumstances surrounding its pursuit. We are continually losing the notion that truth is, in fact, static and stable, never-changing, steady throughout the ages. The Enemy attacks the idea of absolute truth because those who do not believe in it are merely sheep to be led to the slaughter. The disappearance of absolute truth has contributed to the shallowness of culture and the loss of those things which are most important. Now what is most important is determined by each person privately and may look vastly different from what is most important to the next person.

The third contributor has already been mentioned – the affluence of culture. As another contributor to the conversation stated, it seems that “the more STUFF we have around us, the more FAITH we need.” I do not believe that this is just limited to material possessions, either. I have watched as men fill their heads with more and more knowledge and ‘facts’, information that they learn and catalogue. In so doing they see less and less of God’s presence in the world and in creation and less need for something outside of themselves to provide truth and to make sense of those things that happen that we simply cannot explain. We are an affluent culture, both in the things we _own_ and in the things we _know_. The more things we have, the more we become distracted by them and the less we see a need for God. It is the _things_ that then become important because we must maintain them, maintain a certain way of life, maintain traditions that we have become comfortable with and that continue to make us comfortable. The things take a place of higher precedence, usurping God and pushing faith into the background. We continue to believe that we have faith, but all we are really left with is a dependency upon things that, when taken from us, cause us to come crashing down because, in pushing faith aside, we have struck our own foundation out from under ourselves. The acquisition and collection of things contributes to a shallow culture and a faith that is sorely taken for granted. Things are temporal; faith is not, yet we seem to have gotten the two in reverse.

I find myself yearning after some of the things I read in my fiction, not as a substitute for my faith but as a return to a simpler way of doing things, a way that eliminates so many of our distractions and restores a richness to culture and to faith that has been lost in today’s hustle and bustle of activity. I think perhaps what most appeals to me about Chinese culture, in some ways, is the richness of it, the legacy of history that inspires millions to both national pride and devotion (though even that is being lost as Western culture invades the Chinese borders). There is a power within a national legacy that the cultures of both America and American Christianity seem to lack. We have become shallow people, abhoring and rejecting that which is most important in favor of pursuing those things that are most important to _us_, our selfish and narcissistic ideals. That is what our culture has told us is important, to what and to seek out that which _we_ want, rather than what our Creator God deems important.

A return to simplicity is needed, I think, in order to return us to our roots, so that we may find again the awe of our faith and the power of God in our lives. I believe that the icons of our faith can once again become powerful, no longer taken for granted as just another pretty picture on a wall or a decorative item to be viewed and then dismissed. I also think that simplicity can be communicable, a contagion that can spread through the Church and returning it to a place where the important things are remembered and the unimportant set aside and forgotten.

Yet, I think in order for that to happen, simplicity must first take place within each one of us separately, as we extract those things in our lives that prevent us making the most of the time we have here in this life – the possessions that demand our interest, the activities that require our time, the pursuit of more knowledge and facts that only serve to distract from serving our Lord. It is in the doing and living that makes the most impact on others, that demonstrates that we do not, in actuality, require most of the things we cling to with such ferocity, that we can really be happy and content with less. It is not, and will not, be an easy process, no. But I think more and more that it is a necessary one if we as a Church in America wish to again be salt and light in our culture. We do not yet see that we need less because we are blinded by our own affluence, but there are Christians in many other countries who pray that Christians in America will face the persecution that strips away all the unnecessary things so that we will once again remember Who it is we serve and remember again what business it is we are to be about.

Less is more. Jesus knew this. It is why he taught time and again that for any man to follow Him, he must first give up all he had and then follow Him. Would that we should remember that.

Two Lights

“The Two Lights competition”:http://clarityofnight.blogspot.com/2006/04/two-lights-short-fiction-contest.html is done, the “judging”:http://clarityofnight.blogspot.com/2006/04/winners-announcement-two-lights-short.html completed, and the entries all “indexed”:http://clarityofnight.blogspot.com/2006/04/two-lights-short-fiction-contest_27.html. The objective of the contest was to use the photograph displayed as the inspiration for a work of fiction with the limitation that the work be 250 words or less. A difficult challenge that forced all participants to be very creative, since 250 words is not a lot to work with for the development of a plot. It is, essentially, the lower limit for typical “flash fiction”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_fiction.

Since I’m sure some of you probably did not click over to check the contest out (and I have had a few requests to share more of my fiction here), here’s my entry:

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“Choose the lamp on the left, see visions of the future. Choose the one on the right, taste of true madness for a spell.” The crone’s words burned in the girl’s mind like festering sores. She held her hands over the lamps but felt no heat from them, despite the frigid temperature of the small chamber. No shadows, nothing to indicate they even sat before her, despite what her eyes told her.

What kind of choice was this? Madness versus prophecy? The choice itself was madness.

Still, she plunged her hand into the light of the left-hand lamp and felt warmth from it at last as it gripped her arm and invaded her body. But then it grew bitterly cold as it wrenched her mind with visions of an impossibly terrible future. She screamed with the pain and terror of it and knew that this was far worse.

Her last thought before she succumbed to the black madness was, I should have chosen the other lamp.

* * *

Shuffling steps. A hunched figure in the shadows. The girl was half-curled in a fetal position, eyes wide and unseeing. She could have been dead, but for the tears streaming from her eyes and the trembling lower lip.

“Your problem, girl, is that you have no imagination, no ability to see the consequences of your choices. So very typical. Arrogance of youth.”

She spat and the rancid spittle slid down the girl’s cheek as the crone shuffled back into the shadows.

Megalomania

I completed my second short story last night. It’s shorter than I would have liked – only 1170 words – but it _feels_ finished. And I know from practical experience that when a story feels finished, it’s best to just let it alone. Otherwise, you risk making it less than the tale it ought to be. From here I am going to put it aside for awhile, turn down the heat and let it simmer, and come back to it in a few days or a couple of weeks so I can read it again with a fresh perspective. Maybe it will decide that there _are_ a few more details to add, a couple of things it forgot to mention that will make it a better story. For now, though, it needs to think about it, and when some time has passed, we’ll sit down and talk again and decide where to go from here.

One of the most valuable tips I’ve learned in writing is that when telling a story, you are an actor. Except that in storytelling, you act out every role and get to be multiple characters. I have discovered, though, that writing a megalomaniacal character is not as easy as it might seem. I had to continually ask myself, What would I say? How would I view the world, the universe? What opinions would I have of myself and of everyone else around me? How insane would I be, and would I be aware of my own insanity? No small task, to write a character that sees himself as bigger than life (quite literally).

So, time to move on to the next writing project (or move back to one of projects sitting in the queue). I want to end up with two or three stories that are complete and that I am satisfied with, and then I want to submit them concurrently to different places – I have a couple of SF&F magazines and writing contests in mind. With any luck, I’ll sell one, or at the least, get some feedback. Here’s hoping, at any rate….

What We Don’t Know…

Random thought that’s probably an obvious ‘duh!’ statement – the fact that we don’t know nearly everything there is to know about science is the very thing that allows us to write science fiction literature. Pretty obvious statement, I know, but it did occur to me that if we knew everything there was to know about science, about the universe and all its workings, we probably wouldn’t have much left to write about that would be all that interesting. Much of science fiction is based upon what we know, but so much is speculation about what we don’t know. ((Hence, the reason that science fiction is lumped under the heading of ‘speculative fiction’.)) But then again, maybe we would still be able to create interesting science fiction works even if we _did_ know everything, simply because so many of the concepts and principles in science are so big and so awesome that they would continue to wow us, no matter how well we knew and understood them. It’s just that, with the passing of time, new ideas lose their novelty and become ideas that we take for granted. ((See, the automobile, communication technology, etc.))

Fantasy literature has a bit more of a free reign, of course. In fantasy writing we create entirely new worlds, where the rules can be just about anything we want them to be. The fundamentals are pretty hard and fast, of course – we’re required to have human beings in our stories, else we don’t have a common point of reference and cannot understand the principles and concepts contained therein because the landscape would be entirely and utterly alien. ((The same goes for scifi.)) But the rules of magic and power can come under whatever rules we, the writers, can come up with from our own heads. What we know or don’t know about the real world has little effect on what happens, or can happen, in our new world.

Then again, maybe science fiction can do this, too, though possibly at the risk of alienating every hardcore, hard-scifi aficionado on the face of the planet. The only real rule that scifi has to adhere to is that the story centers around some sort of technology that does not yet exist. ((Or one that could _never_ exist.)) Beyond that, it is the author’s choice what actual scientific knowledge the stories embraces, if the story centers on any such concepts at all. Either way, what we don’t know can only help us as authors of speculative fiction to create fantastic worlds where virtually anything is possible.

Trials

“The trials begin tomorrow.” The older man was leaning against the rail, watching as the waves slid past beneath the bow of the ship.

“I cannot wait. I’ll likely not sleep tonight,” the younger one replied. He stood a couple paces off, facing his elder. The water held no interest for him, such was the intensity of his reverie. His eyes held that distant look that bespoke visions of far-off things.

“You’d best try, Ciphero. The trials are not for the weak, as you well know, and those who lack sleep will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.”

“Yes, of course, Elder Mast, you are right. Perhaps Lycil can draft a sleep serum for me if I have trouble. Her antidotes have always proven most helpful.”

“Be cautious, Ciphero. She, too, travels with us for the trials. You may find her less accommodating, and less trustworthy, now than you have in the past.”

The two were silent then, Ciphero now joining his teacher in gazing out across the endless sea. The brief silence was broken by a smallish voice.

“Excuse me, sirs.” Startled, Ciphero and Elder Mast spun to face the source of the voice and determine the identity of the intruder. It frightened both of them to see a young girl, obviously no more than eleven or twelve years of age, standing less than three feet away. The girl’s proximity to them was alarming in itself. Both masters of their craft, they had either become far too secure in these somewhat familiar surroundings, or this girl possessed a stealthy skill far beyond her years.

Elder Mast was the first to regain his composure. “And who might you be, little girl? I have never seen one so young as yourself on this ship before.”

“I am Rith,” she declared boldly, “and I have a question.”

“What is your question, Rith?” Ciphero asked. His heart was still pounding heavily in his chest, and he hoped his voice didn’t betray how unnerved the girl’s sudden appearance had made him.

“What are these trials you speak of?”

Elder Mast fixed her with a glare. “We do not joke about such things on this ship, young Rith! If you are here, then you know what the trials are. There is none who goes to the trials who does not volunteer to do so. It is impossible to attend any other way. To feign ignorance is a great disrespect and insult, both to the trials and to all who undergo them.”

Rith returned Elder Mast’s glare with a heat of her own. “But I am not a volunteer for the trials. I am here against my will.” The elder shifted as if to strike her. She felt her body grow tense, but she did not back away. “I was kidnapped,” she shot, as if defying either of these two men to contradict her.

Ciphero laid his hand on his companion’s shoulder in order to calm him. His eyes, though, never left the girl’s face. He could not believe what she had just said, yet her face begot no lie.

“You were-”

“Kidnapped. Yes.” Rith nodded once to emphasize her confidence.

Ciphero glanced at Elder Mast and was reassured to see that the worry displayed on his teacher’s face mirrored his own inner fear.

“Who was it that brought you here, Rith?” the older man asked.

She shook her head slightly. “I don’t know his name. He was very tall, skinny, and his bones stuck out from his skin.” She lifted her shirt slightly to reveal a darkening bruise on her side. She grinned, almost apologetically. “He had to carry me. I put up a fight.” Her bemused expression turned thoughtful. “And he wore a low, black hat with a wide brim.”

Ciphero turned to face his teacher. His voice was urgent, a hoarse whisper. “We cannot take her even to the captain, elder. He is the very reason she is here.”

Elder Mast responded, not bothering to conceal his voice. “I agree, Ciphero. You are right. Something is dangerously amiss. Things are changing, the magical barriers are breaking down, if someone can be brought aboard against their will, especially someone so young as Rith.” He turned to face the girl again. “I am afraid, Rith, that once someone has come aboard this ship, they are bound to remain. There will be no returning to your home until you have gone through the trials with the rest of the candidates.”

“But elder,” exclaimed Ciphero, “no one so young as she has ever gone through the trials, let alone survived them! Not even all who are here will survive, and we are all experts in our own trades.”

The older man’s face expressed the burden of sadness he felt, as he sighed, “There is no choice, Ciphero. The Maiden has laid out the law, and we are bound to abide by it. Let us just hope that this is the _only_ rule that is ‘broken’. Perhaps, once she is made aware of our young Rith, she will exempt her from competing.” His tone conveyed, however, that he did not believe his own words.

Elder Mast held his hand out to the girl. “Come, Rith. Our time has become very short, and you shall have need of such wisdom and guidance as I have if you are to have hope of facing what awaits – and survive.”

Fury

Per certain requests, I am going to post up the first chapter of a story I wrote a while back for a discussion forum. I used to play a CCG called “Warlord”:http://www.warlordccg.com but later had to quit, due to lack of local interest and lack of finances to support the game. I joined a discussion forum for the game called “The Temple of Lore”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com and was eventually promoted to moderator status for a section of the board called Anything, where all topics unrelated to the game land. One popular practice there is for people to write works of Warlord-like fiction as they hit ‘milestone posts’ (e.g. 1000 posts, etc.), with the Anything section appearing as a country in the world in which the Warlord events transpire. I wrote Chapter 1 of Fury when hit 1000 posts on the Temple.

Some of the events in the story are specific to the forum, as a way to keep it relevant to and fun for the other people who spend time on the forum. Also, the character names are actually screennames for people there, as you will see. DruidOverlord is my Temple identity and is one of the main characters in the story.

Anyway, here’s chapter 1. Enjoy!

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Fury – Chapter 1

The forests of Anything lay in a preternatural stillness. The sun was high in the mid-morning sky, bathing the timberlands in a sweltering heat. An unnatural tension lay over the entire area, a sense of impending tragedy. The air held a thickness to it, making it seem as if every breath drawn might be the last. There had been no rain in this region for several weeks, yet not a sound could be heard for miles. It was as if the natural residents of the forest feared drawing attention to themselves, and in so doing sealing their doom.

Suddenly the silence was split by a bloodcurdling scream of pain and anguish that was abruptly cut off. A body writhed in the middle of a clearing, crawling with dozens of varieties of insects, worms, and other creatures of the soil. Were it not for the human hand protruding from the twisted mass, it would have been impossible to determine the identity of the scavengers’ wrath.

DruidOverlord stood a few paces off from the now-silent victim, watching as the insect pestilence slowly devoured its prey, observing the way in which it crawled in and out of its mouth, nose, and ears, choking off the life of the wretch in a ritual of terror and agony. The victim was still struggling to escape its fate, though with less intensity and energy now as it began to succumb to the ruination of its body wrought by the blight called down by the druid to destroy it. A look of grim satisfaction was set on DruidOverlord’s face as he watched. Only one more death, he thought, and his revenge would be complete.

After a moment, he waved his hand and the earth beneath his victim split open, surging upward and swallowing the body before sealing itself again, leaving no sign of the death that had occurred there only moments before. Slowly, the forest around him began to come to life once again, but he paid it no notice, lost as he was in his own thoughts. Normally, he would have watched until the body had been reduced to a glistening skeleton, savoring each moment of his revenge. But instead of being sweet, his vengeance had become bitter and unsatisfying.

His two-year campaign of blood and terror had brought him to this place, a penultimate stop on a mission of vengeance. Everything that he loved and had held dear had been stripped from him in a period of 36 hours by an organization of schemers and connivers that, until then, had operated in complete obscurity. They had destroyed his home and sullied his name and reputation, making him an outcast among his people. But most importantly, and most painful to his memory, they had slaughtered his family before disappearing again into oblivion. Since that time, he had hunted the culprits down, unearthing a secret society far beyond what he had expected. It had taken a great deal of time, but he had discovered the identity of each and every member of the organization and had made them pay for their crimes in pain and blood.

His anger and seething hatred had carried him through each kill, fueling his imagination as he devised horrific deaths for his enemies, energizing him in a way nothing else had ever been able. His rage had become such that even the earth trembled at his coming, and the denizens of Anything fled from before him.

His passion and determination for vengeance had flagged with each subsequent death, however. The passage of time and the fact that he was nearing the end of his campaign of bloodshed had taken some of the edge off his wrath. He was beginning to lose interest, no longer waiting around to watch his victims be reduced to dust, sometimes even questioning his motives, his desires. He felt as though the darkness of his soul was beginning to abate, and he wondered if it was even necessary to destroy the last of his enemies.

It suddenly occurred to him that in all this time he had never learned the reason why his enemies’ had risen against him. He had never even known they had existed, let alone done anything that might have incurred their wrath. It had, in fact, signaled their very demise by striking against him, when they could have continued to operate unchallenged had they simply left him alone. It puzzled him. Funny how he had never thought about it before now.

As DruidOverlord stood there lost in his reverie, puzzling over this new question, the glen was cast in shadow, the air to his right shimmered, and a shade appeared. DruidOverlord spun to face the shade as a blast of arctic air washed over him. The shade lifted his cowled head, its deathly eyes fixing on him, and DruidOverlord felt his blood turn to ice.

_You falter in your cause, dark one._ The shade’s voice echoed in DruidOverlord’s head.

“Who are you? What do you want?” DruidOverlord challenged, wariness reflecting in his eyes.

The shade ignored his questions. _Your soul belongs to the dark now, druid. There is no hope for your return. You hesitate without reason, your mission incomplete. The memories of your loved ones cannot be placed to rest until the last of your enemies is destroyed._

“What can you know my cause, shade? I know you not, and your is existence only barely tolerated in this plane,” the druid sneered, spitting that last with bitterness and contempt.

_I know what has been taken from you. I know the hatred that flows through you. It fuels your vengeance, and the energy that flows from it can be felt on the spirit plane, as well. Yes, druid, you are known. You are known, and you are watched with great interest. There are great plans for you, dark one._

“Who are you?” DruidOverlord demanded again. “Of what plans do you speak?”

The shade merely laughed, or at least that is what DruidOverlord thought he was hearing. The sound was like bones scraping together, an altogether unpleasant, otherworldly noise that made his skin crawl.

“I am no dark one, shade. I am simply an executor of justice.”

_Yours, then, is a dark justice. The pain you have inflicted on others is worthy of the most evil creatures. Consider this…_

At that, the shade launched a volley of mental images, visions, and hallucinations on DruidOverlord, causing him to stagger and fall. He relived all the torture and death he had visited upon his victims, witnessed anew the bloodshed, the agony, the horror. The immensity of it left him gasping.

After a moment the shade lowered its arms, and the visions ceased. It was a moment before DruidOverlord was able to speak again.

“It’s over shade,” he panted. “I have only one left to destroy, only one to visit pain and death upon, and then I am done. It is over, and I can rest.”

_It is not over, druid! It is never over!_

The shade launched another series of visions on DruidOverlord, this time displaying faces of others that were responsible for his pain. The mental assault went on for what seemed an eternity, a bombardment of images and sensations that threatened to overwhelm him. After a while, a madness began to creep in, and DruidOverlord saw that the conspiracy against him was total, that there was none he could trust. His rage erupted fresh and hot, and he could feel his magic flare to a burning point within him. He opened his eyes and looked at the shade.

“Enough!” A bolt of energy shot from his hands and engulfed the shade in reddish-white light. In seconds, the shade was reduced to ash and the assault on DruidOverlord’s mind ceased. He stood up, looking into the sky, and lifted his arms. Energy crackled at his fingertips, then shot into the air. The gathered clouds turned black, responding to his rage with their own, swirling down and lifting him from the ground to carry him away toward the heart of Anything.

~*–*~–~*–*~–~*–*~–~*–*~–~*–*~–~*–*~

Shed of his guise, in human form once more, the shade stood in the shadows of the forest, watching DruidOverlord depart. A triumphant smile was settled on his face. He continued to watch the broiling clouds speed away as another stepped up beside him.

“It begins then.”

“It was begun when we destroyed his life,” the shade replied. “This is simply the continuation of the plan.”

“He has grown powerful, more so than we expected.”

The shade’s smile turned grim. “Indeed. But that only serves us all the better. The destruction he will bring to Anything will be more complete, more total — and more devastating.”

The other nodded. “For them? Or for us?”

The shade looked at his companion finally. “Does it matter? We need only what he can bring. How he does it is irrelevant.”

The other glared. “Let us just hope that he does not learn of the tapestry of lies we have manufactured against him. If he ever learns that his life, his family, were destroyed for our own vanity, if he ever learns that we started all this just so we could wield him as a weapon…” He did not finish.

The shade looked back to the lightening sky. “Your fears are misplaced. He will not find out. The truth has been carefully concealed from him.”

They stood together in silence for a moment. The other broke the reticence.

“You forget his hesitancy. He is not as completely given over to the dark as you led him to believe. If he turns again, we will not be able to recover. Our weapon, our plan will be irretrievable.”

“It is true — he may yet rediscover his conscience.” The shade paused, considering, the thought clearly unpleasant to him. He nodded slightly to himself, the hint of a smile appearing on his face. “But it will not happen today. Today, Anything will bleed.”

© 2004 James P. Stitzel

Head In the Clouds

I’ve always had an active imagination (though this has not always been a good thing). As a kid I came up with all kinds of scenarios involving outer space, mythical creatures, superheroes, and far-off lands. And being the avid reader that I was, I only further fueled my imagination by reading just about any book I could get my hands on.

I grew up with TV shows like “Thundercats”:http://www.tv.com/thundercats/show/10078/summary.html&full_summary=1, “Voltron”:http://www.tv.com/voltron-defender-of-the-universe/show/9693/summary.html?q=Voltron, “Transformers”:http://www.tv.com/transformers/show/1880/summary.html?q=Transformers, “Go-Bots”:http://www.tv.com/go-bots/show/6932/summary.html?q=Go-Bots and “SilverHawks”:http://www.tv.com/silverhawks/show/7307/summary.html?q=Silverhawks. I loved the fantastic nature of these shows. I loved thinking about what it would be like to live in those universes, to be one of the characters, to have the abilities to do the sorts of things they did. I spent hours with my friends playing outside, pretending we were SilverHawks or that we could transform into jets and fly at top speed to rescue someone from danger.

If anything my imagination has only grown more active as I have gotten older. The discoveries of science have introduced new possibilities for what could be. I continue to devour science fiction and fantasy novels, where I can travel to other worlds, wield magic or laser weapons, enter a portal and step through time, or any of an endless variety of possibilities. Now, though, I want to add my part to the world of speculative fiction, and I plan to get back to my writing as soon as possible. I’m excited about having been able to submit my first short story to a SF&F magazine, though I fully expect it to get rejected. But it’s a first step at entering the world of speculative writing, and at the least I hope to gain some good experience and feedback. The list of ideas to write about has grown as long as my arm, and I can’t wait to see what stories fall from my head to my keyboard.

Perhaps one of the things I like best about speculative fiction, especially when it is well-done, is how these new and fantastic worlds, these characters who are so different yet so similar to us, can touch old ideas and issues and address them in new and fresh ways. Theology and philosophy are dressed in a new setting, but the issues are the same and must be handled in the same way. And being the theology/philosophy/technology geek that I am, it’s just the perfect blend of a few of the things I most enjoy.

Exercise of the Mind

Writing is strenuous work. You wouldn’t think it would be just to look at it. But it takes effort and discipline and energy. I often leave a lengthy session of writing feeling fatigued, both
mentally and physically. It takes a lot out of me. Yet it is some of the most satisfying work I do in the course of a day. Right now, I have several writing projects I am working on.

One is a series of in-depth theological discussions on Open Dialogue. A couple of individuals have really made the dialogue very challenging, and I have enjoyed it immensely. Most of my responses involve at least half an hour’s worth of work, yet I leave them feeling refreshed, invigorated, and strengthened in my own faith. Indeed, these discussions have had the effect of driving me closer to my God these past few days than just about anything else (save the encouragement of my wife and a couple of dear friends).

Another project is this blog. I have a series of articles in mind to write based on a couple of experiences from this past weekend. One article
I have already written. The others are patiently waiting in my mental queue. They know I have other things on my mind and on my plate right now.

And then my final projects are in some ways my most important. I have a fantasy novel in progress. I am over halfway done with a science fiction short story. I am beginning to live my dream of authoring, of writing for the purpose of publication. My wife has been extremely supportive of me in this endeavor, and we have found the time for me to write a little bit nearly every single evening. It has already been richly rewarding, and I can’t wait to submit this first short story to a magazine with hopes that they will purchase it. Several friends have already graciously agreed to serve as my first line editing ‘staff’, and so I greatly look forward to getting
their feedback.

I do believe that God has given me a gift to write, along with the desire, the passion for the written word, and I want to use this gift for His glory.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31 (NIV)