Tag Archives: science fiction

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.

Robots with the Ability to Power Their Own Movements

New Scientist Breaking News – Methanol-powered artificial muscles start to flex

Notable quote:

bq. “One day you could find yourself sitting in a bar next to a humanoid robot, who is taking a shot of vodka to give himself the energy to go to work,” jokes Ray Baughman, a nanotechnologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, US.

Oh, I think this might just serve as good fodder for a sci-fi milieu element. I like!

Currently Gaming

I find myself in the ‘predicament’ where I am playing way too many different games right now. On the down side, sometimes it’s hard to decide which game to play. On the up side, I have plenty of variety and if I’m not in the mood for one game, I have several others to choose from. I’m finding that I am increasingly drawn toward games with story, a far cry from the days of Pong and Super Mario Brothers. The reviews below are only partial reviews, since every single one is a game in progress currently.

Advent Rising for Xbox “Advent Rising”:http://www.adventtrilogy.com is the first in a trilogy under development. The game developers signed SF&F author Orson Scott Card onto the project to help develop both the story and the dialogue, and you can certainly see his imprint in various places (e.g. FTL(faster-than-light) communication, the ansible).

The storyline itself is captivating. Humanity is on the brink of total annihilation. A race of aliens who call themselves the Seekers have travelled the universe under the guise of peace in search of all human colonies. The Seekers see themselves as the most advanced race in the universe, and they want to keep it that way. However, certain religious prophecies have spoken of another race, humans, that will rise to a higher evolutionary plane, taking their place at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder. So, the Seekers are systematically hunting down and destroying all humans they find.

In Advent Rising you play the part of Gideon Wyeth, a human pilot who is fated to become the first human to trascend, acquiring the power to ultimately rid the universe of the Seeker pestilence. You fight with him through many battles and revel in the acquisition of new strength and power. ((Gideon acquires powers like Lift, Aeon Pulse, Surge, and Negate)) The story drives forward at a breakneck pace, leaving hardly enough time to catch your breath. It is a pleasure to play a game that has a great plot. The dialogue and voiceacting is excellent. Gideon even has the ability to fire at two targets at once, if you switch back and forth between very quickly.

There are, however, a handful of downsides to the game. Some of the forward movement in the story, particularly at the beginning, is a little bit rushed. It is almost as if the writers simply want to get you to ‘the good stuff’ and so hurry past some of the key development points. The mechanics are also a little bit clunky, with the auto-targetting system forcing to look somewhere that may not be in the direction you want to go. ((Though, once you get used to the system, it gets much easier to handle.)) Advent Rising also attempts to follow in “Halo’s”:http://www.bungie.net footsteps by rendering the gameplay and cutscene graphics as you go. This sometimes causes the game to slow down and stutter, an annoyance at the least and a fatal hindrace at the worst.

On a scale of 5, I give the story a 4.5 and the gameplay mechanics a 3.5. If you love science fiction and video games, I recommend it.

Burnout 3 Ok, so I don’t go exclusively for the story-driven video games. Sometimes it’s just fun to get a fast-paced game to play purely for the fun of it. In “Burnout 3”:http://www.ea.com/official/burnout/burnout3/us/home.jsp your only mission is to win as many races as possible and take out as many opponents as you can. The more gold medals you win, the more cars you earn. Races span the USA, Europe, and the Far East.

The more opponents you crash, the more cars you earn. The more points you acquire, the more cars you earn. Get the picture? It’s high-speed, high-action, and high-intensity paired with a diverse soundtrack. As the driver you get to race everything from coupes to muscle cars to circuit racers to semi trucks. If you want quick, mindless action that tests your reflexes, then Burnout 3 is the game for you.

On a scale of 5, I rate Burnout 3 as a solid 4.5 for both fun and mechanics.

Kingdom Hearts A video game that features “Disney”:http://disney.go.com/home/today/index.html characters. A kids’ game, you think, right? Not so. “Kingdom Hearts”:http://www.kingdom-hearts.com/language.html has quickly become one of my favorite games.

Someone is unlocking the doors between worlds, causing each world to blink out of existence, one by one. It is up to Sora, as the wielder of the Keyblade, to figure out why as he searches for his friends Riku and Kairi. He teams up with Donald and Goofy as they search through numerous worlds to solve these riddles, meeting dozens of familiar Disney faces along the way. The voiceactors feature many of the same people who were cast in the original films.

The mechanics of the game are very simple to learn and use, and the story so far has been first-rate. Sora has been exiled from his island home and thrust into the heart of the action as the Keyblade has chosen him to be its master. Now, Sora must track down the keyholds on each world and lock them to prevent their total destruction. He makes many friends and enemies along the way to discovering the secrets of these strange circumstances.

Disney and Squaresoft have created a believeable world where Disney and Final Fantasy characters can co-exist. I am looking forward to seeing how this chapter ends and where Kingdom Hearts 2 (scheduled for distribution at the end of this month) picks up.

On a scale of 5, I rate the story a 5 and the mechanics a 4.5.

The Legend of Dragoon This is a bit of a blast from the past. “The Legend of Dragoon”:http://www.rpgdreamer.com/lod/ is one of my favorite PSOne games. It was developed by the same people who brought us the Final Fantasy series. The story follows Dart as he strives to save the world from ultimate destruction. Along the way, he discovers his fate to become one of the legendary Dragoon, humans chosen to wield the power of the dragon in the fight against evil. He pairs up with six others, all who become Dragoon along the way, and together they move inexorably toward the final confrontation.

One of the things that I most love about this game is the ability affect the battle _during_ the actual attack sequences. Dragoon is built around the turn-based style of gameplay that the Final Fantasy series is famous for. Your character comes up, you select the action for him (or her) to perform, and then sit back and watch as the character carries out that action. In Dragoon, you take an active part in helping reinforce each of your characters attacks by helping them complete their ‘Additions’. Each successful completion boosts the strength of the attack and unlocks more powerful additions.

The Legend of Dragoon is a strong game with a great story. The dialogue is a little stilted, as is typical of any Japanese game that has been translated into English. However, I think you will find that you can overlook the awkwardness and see a terrific game with an exciting story to drive it.

On a scale of 5, I rate the story at 4.5 and the mechanics at 4.5.

I have two other games currently in progress, “Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando”:http://www.us.playstation.com/content/ogs/scus-97268/site/ and “Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory”:http://www.splintercell.com, but I think I’ll call it quits here for now. I’ll likely review these two at a later date, after I have gotten a little further through them.

SF Writer’s Who Blog

Big on the Internet: SF writers who blog by Carol Pinchefsky – Intergalactic Medicine Show

Over at the “Intergalactic Medicine Show”:http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com, Carol Pinchefsky has written an interesting article about the number of science fiction writers who blog. And now that she mentions it, I _have_ noticed that a lot of the bloggers I’ve met along the way also seem to be aspiring writers of speculative fiction. Now, I realize that this will in no way be representative of the population as a whole, since my readership is far too small for such things, but this is the time for everyone (even those of you who simply lurk) to speak up.

Continue reading SF Writer’s Who Blog

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.

Has Been, Armageddon and Glorious Appearing, & Intergalactic Medicine Show

It’s been a while since I’ve written any reviews, so I guess I’d best get my act together:

Has Been

When I first heard that William Shatner had produced another music album, my first thought was, “Another?! What was his first?!” And my second was, “Shatner?! Music?!” All I could picture was Captain Kirk, and so I had a hard time seeing him as a sensational music star. Yet, here was his album, _Has Been_, and it is truly sensational.

To be fair Shatner didn’t actually compose the music for this album. Instead, he teamed up with Ben Folds of “Ben Folds Five”:http://www.benfoldsfive.com/ fame, who wrote the music to back the poetry of Shatner. I was skeptical when I first started to listen to the album. Few actors are able to make the transition into other mediums, and with the abysmal flop of Shatner’s Tek War series, I didn’t have high hopes for a music album. Yet, I was delighted and thrilled right from the first track all the way to the end. Ben Folds is on top of his game, and Shatner’s lyricism is catchy and engaging. It is a wholly different style from just about anything else in my collection and strikes a resonant chord with this musician and artist. I give the album two thumbs up and hope that Shatner produces another in the near future.

Armageddon & Glorious Appearing

This is probably more a review of the entire Left Behind series than of just these last two books in the series. Written by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, the series follows a massive cast of characters across the global landscape of a planet caught in the Tribulational judgments prophesied in Scripture. Based heavily in both Old and New Testament prophecy, the _Left Behind_ series shows what these judgments might be like from the eyes of those who experience it firsthand.

The series was exceptionally well-written and very enjoyable as dramatic fiction. It is certain, however, that the books cannot do justice to the terror and destruction that will one day lay waste to the world as we know it and decimate its population to a fraction of what it is today. Jenkins and LaHaye did an exceptional job of covering all the relevant prophecies contained within Scripture, though it is certain that a fair amount of artistic license was taken with passages whose interpretation is symbolic and difficult to determine. Ultimately, though, the sequence of events is right on target and encompasses a sobering description of life between Rapture and Millenium.

Intergalactic Medicine Show

A relatively new online magazine for science fiction and fantasy aficionados can be discovered at Intergalactic Medicine Show. Founded by Orson Scott Card IGMS(Intergalactic Medicine Show) is an outlet for amateur SFF(science fiction & fantasy) authors to display their wares. IGMS(Intergalactic Medicine Show) is a quarterly publication and features several short stories in each issue, plus a short story from the Ender’s Game universe penned by Card himself (also available in mp3 format). October’s issue also included Cards first novel _Hot Sleep_ (later republished as _The Worthing Chronicles_) as a five-part series and the comic _Fat Farm_, adapted from one of Card’s short stories. Free content features movie and book reviews and columns by various writers. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy buff, IGMS(Intergalactic Medicine Show) is well worth the $2.50 per issue fee.

Potpourri

Here we go….

bq. Ok. You walk through one of those portals you talked about in your last post. Tell us what
you see. – “Theresa”:http://www.thismomblogs.com/

The air is hot and rank with the stench of sulfur. The sun is high in the sky, but the day is dusky due to the stifling vapors filling the air. I arrive in the middle of a labyrinth of cinder cones, indicative of volcanic activity. Yet, closer inspection reveals that there are signs of habitation — broken buildings, burned clothing strewn about, signs everywhere that there had once been a thriving civilization here. The metal fragments are recognizable enough — shell casings from ballistic weapons. Whatever happened here, war was certainly a major part of it.

A shuffling sound off to the side makes me turn my head, and I see a young girl, probably no more than three or four years old, standing barefoot on the hot ash, apparently oblivious to her burning flesh. Her hair is matted with grime, her face blackened by soot, her dress barely more than strips of rags draped carelessly about her slight form. She stands looking at me silently for a moment, then raises her left arm to point at me. Her face, blank a moment before, contorts into a disfiguring expression of rage as she unleashes an inhuman cry that echoes off the smoldering cones. The breeze blows a thick cloud of smoke between us, and when it clears again, the girl is gone. I don’t know where she came from or where she went, but I feel almost certain that she has not gone far.

I feel the ground beneath my feet tremble as something large approaches. And now my ears ring with the sound of it. Suddenly, what light there was in this hellish haze is blocked out as a ship slides into view over the cinder cones. It is larger than anything I have ever seen, extending from horizon to horizon. Spotlights swinging back and forth across the ground from beneath the technological monster tell me that whoever, or whatever, is inside is looking for something. The energy fluctuations from my portal probably alerted the dominant species in this place of my arrival. And then I can see no more as one of the lights swings over me, blinding me by its glare. I stumble to get away, falling backward into the portal again.

I was fortunate this time. I have seen that type of ship before, on another world, and few who see it are so lucky as to escape. I have managed it twice now, but only because I possess a fragment of their own technology. A short stop this time, and already time to move on. I slide through the vortex and hope that the next world I see is free…

bq. your take on the perfect vs. sinless question – “grace”:http://willfullgrace.blogspot.com/

In character, Jesus was perfectly sinless; otherwise, He would not have been able to serve as a sacrifice, as a payment for all men’s sins. In body I believe Christ was prone to the same physical struggles as other men — illness, body aches, weariness, etc. As such this is why we can say that there is no temptation common to man that Christ does not know or understand. He has been there, experienced it all, and is therefore completely sympathetic to the human condition.

It’s definitely an interesting juxtaposition — Christ as fully God being completely perfect, lending Him the ability to live a life without sin, and Christ as fully man, able to be tempted by the same things as the rest of us, able to experience the same physical maladies, yet able to stand against it all and do the right thing every time.

bq. what does it mean to get a “new body” and how does that fit in with our heavenly experience?…is it more physical or more whispy and spiritual?? –
“grace”:http://willfullgrace.blogspot.com/

Delightful question! Scripture seems to indicate that our new bodies will be exactly as Christ’s body was upon His resurrection — fully corporeal and physical, able to be touched, yet seemingly not bound by the usual physical limitations. He was able to skip across space with hardly a thought, appearing where He would and ministering to His followers in the days before His ascension. I believe our bodies will be like that, as well, and that we will continue to have full physical use of them. But I believe that, like Christ, we will be able to move from place to place at will! This has exciting implications when you consider that we may ultimately have the ability to explore the furthest reaches of the universe, all to the glory of God! Our new bodies will not be given to us, though, until sometime after God establishes His Kingdom here on Earth. I’m not entirely clear on the timeline, but it seems like it will occur after the Millenial Reign, during the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. It’s also possibly that the saints who return with Christ at the end of the Tribulation will already have their heavenly bodies and those who live through the Millenium will receive theirs later.

bq. what is the book or revelation really all about? “grace”:http://willfullgrace.blogspot.com/

Hope and repentance. It is written to provide hope to all believers, to show that in the end righteousness rules the day, all wrongs will be righted, wrongdoers punished, the righteous rewarded, evil banished forever.

It is written to urge the sinful and unbelieving to repentance, to urge the believers who have turned away to return, to make it clear to the unbelieving what awaits them if they persist in their unbelief.

Revelation is about comfort. God wins, Satan loses. End of story.

bq. And btw what kind of horses do you have? – “a thinker”:http://plousia.blogspot.com/

My wife and I have two (so far). Sonny is her baby, a blood-bay quarterhorse of Sonny Dee Barr lineage (grandfather). Turk is an Anglo-Arab descended from Man O’ War lineage. A couple of his ancestors were also derby winners – Determine in 1954 and Decidedly in 1956. My wife informs me that Turk is also out of the Hyperion bloodline – it was apparently big in the racign world in the 40’s-60’s then vanished in all modern horses, meaning he is also (distantly) related to – though not a direct descendent of – Pensive (1944 winner), Ponder (1949 winner), Swaps (1955 winner), Needles (1956 winner), Tomy Lee (1959 winner), Chateaugay (1963) winner, and Citation (through the dam, 1948 winner). Not bad for a little unregistered gelding, is it?

bq. I have to ask – what do you do? Are you a pastor? – “Arielle”:http://www.whomovedmytruth.com/

Nope, though I _am_ a missionary pastor’s kid. I had (briefly) considered the pastorate, but ultimately decided that was not where God wanted me. I did my undergraduate work at “Cedarville University”:http://www.cedarville.edu in Cedarville, Ohio, completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and picking up minors in Bible, music, and math. My graduate work was in social psychology, done at “Ball State University”:http://www.bsu.edu. Now, I work at “Purdue University”:http://www.purdue.edu in the “Enrollment Management”:http://www.purdue.edu/enrollmentmanagement office as an Enrollment Analyst (they haven’t added me to the staff listings yet, I’m so new).

I write in two formats currently — the first is on Writer’s Blog, expounding on some of the deeper and richer things that cross my mind, deviating ocassionally into things of lesser weight. The second is I do some amateur writing in the science fiction and fantasy genres. I have penned a couple of short stories so far, with many others still in my mental queue, and I have a fantasy novel in progress. I’m hoping to enter the world of professional writing in the near future by trying to get some books on shelves, but most of my speculative writing is on hold at the moment while the wife and I get settled into our new home. I _have_ submitted a short story to a magazine, however, and am waiting to hear back from them.

Now, isn’t that a whole lot more than you wanted to know? ;-)

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.

The Fish That Could Walk

Ok, I am finally getting around to writing the follow-up to my previous post. I don’t recall exactly what got me thinking about evolution, but something sparked my thinking on the subject. I spent the majority of my drive home from Muncie one evening about two weeks ago mulling it over and came up with a few things to seemed to be very contradictory to me. So, I drafted a very brief story to demonstrate some of the thoughts I had, and what you got was my previous post.

For me, everytime I think about a creature evolving, I picture in my mind the famous “Darwin fish” — a prehistoric sea bass with four legs, gills, and lungs creeping up out of the water onto dry land for the first time. Now, I realize that my little story had some theoretical problems with it, even from an evolutionary perspective. But it was fun to write and I knew I would never be
able to briefly encompass all my thoughts, so that was what you got. Let me try to elaborate the logical order with which my thoughts progressed.

So, you have this fish, four legs, lungs, gills, able to live both in water and dry land, the first of his species (one would suppose) to have evolved and adapted to a harsh environment. Questions come to mind: How was he able to grow legs and lungs? Did his parents have such organs first, perhaps underveloped ones? Was his aquatic environment too harsh to survive in, thus forcing his evolution to a new species? And if so, why didn’t the rest of his species die off completely? Were they also able to adapt? How long did this adapatation take? One generation? Multiple generations? If multiple, then how were they able to adapt quickly enough to avoid being annihilated? See, the problem for me is that evolutionary scientists assert that physical evolution takes millions, billions of years. That would suggest that for one species to take the next evolutionary step would require at the minimum a couple of thousand years, hardly what I would consider ‘fast’ adaptability to harsh conditions. If I’m not mistaken, evolutionary change is only stimulated as a result of a need to adapt, a need to survive or be destroyed utterly as a species. If that is the case, the evolutionary changes required of a species would take far too long to be beneficial.

In the case of my story example, we have a fish that has evolved at least some of the necessary physiology to survive on land, the first of the lizards. As FKIProfessor has pointed out, the fish’s changes would have had to have developed prior to his emergence from the water onto land, thereby indicating that its ancestors would have had to have encountered the land first and have failed to survive on it. Would every successive generation have then tried for the land, only to fail but at least cause their own genetics to ‘adapt’ a little more by developing new organs adapted to land? (And by the way, how would the genetics have known what to change in order to be suited to life on land?) Also, the mating drive (which was something I was definitely trying to point out in this story) poses an additional problem. There would have had to have been a ‘first’, a creature who emerged from the water ahead of the others. Would it have been alone, the only one of its generation to do so? Or would there have been others who had
evolved at the same time? Where would these new creatures have mated? Would they have been suited for mating on land? And LeiraHoward pointed out a number of good questions, as well.

Ultimately, I found the idea presposterous at least because of its contradictions — evolution that takes far longer than it should in order for a species to survive; the source of food for a new species and its ability (or lack thereof) to catch it; the idea that the genetics of the species would ‘know’ how best to adapt to a completely foreign environment; etc. In essence, I discovered that there would still have had to have been intelligent design behind the whole
thing because there is no way that genetics alone could have known either what adaptations to make in the species or could have randomly figured it out in time for the species to survive the hostile conditions from which it was trying to escape. I know that some of the questions I posed above could be answered from an evolutionary theoretical perspective (I could answer them myself), but I don’t know that it could answer all of them satisfactorily or resolve the seeming contradictions in theory. Again, I find that it takes far more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creation of the universe and all things in it by an intelligent, living, creative being.

Thanks for indulging this up-and-coming author in a bit of creative, speculative license, and thanks for the comments that came back. It’s always fun to get feedback from real, thinking people.

Steppin’ Out

The sun was high in the sky as it drew toward midday, the heat turning the air into a veritable sauna. Giant ferns and palm trees dotted the landscape, plants best suited to the harsh environment and conditions. A nearby volcano issued forth a continuous breath of steam as it lay momentarily dormant. Waves from the ocean lapped gently onto the sand before receding back to the body from which they came. The landscape was silent but for the occasional buzz of a small insect population.

A flurry of splashing marked the emergence of a creature from the water. It stood there on the sand, lidless eyes bulging from its head in a continual look of mock surprise, sunlight glinting off its scales, legs trembling as it struggled to support its own weight. Its mouth gaped open and shut repeatedly, for the first time inhaling the foreign air for its primary supply of oxygen. It stood poised momentarily, as though unsure of what to do. It had simply leaped from the water to snag an insect flying just above the water’s surface and found itself propped on the harsh, course sand. Now the insect was gone, forgotten, as the creature oriented itself to its new
surroundings. The sun ultimately settled the creature’s indecisiveness for it, the harsh rays stinging its eyes and nearly blinding it. A blur of motion, a splash of water, and the creature was gone, back to its native habitat.

Shortly after nightfall the creature re-emerged from the water. This time it took a few uncertain steps before awkwardly shambling further away from the waterline, his tailfin leaving erratic trails in the sand. It took some time for him to familiarize himself with using his limbs in such a fashion. He had always had them, but in the water he had never really had reason to use them. Chasing down his food required little more than exercising the strength of his tail and navigation of his forward fins. Occasionally, he had used his legs to flip himself around a submerged rock, but far and away his legs had only served as impediments to movement by creating drag
and slowing him down. He had often surrendered his prey to another of his species simply because the other had no such inhibiting limbs, making him sleeker and faster. Now, though, he was alone in his environment, and he found that he could move much more quickly as he became familiar with the mechanics of using his limbs on dry ground.

He chased insects for a time, filling his belly and sating his hunger, never straying too far from the waterline, keeping it always within view. He was not yet quite ready to abandon his native habitat, and the lightening of the sky indicated that dawn was not far away and with it the sun against which his eyes had no defenses. He also felt his body becoming dehydrated and stiff the longer away from the water he remained, so he gently slipped back into the breaking waves
and swam into the depths. He would return to the land again at nightfall, but for now the cycle had run its course and mating season was upon him. Instinct drove him into the deeper water.

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There is at least one fundamental, theoretical, and logical flaw in this story. What is it (or what are they)?