Monthly Archives: September 2006

Speaking of God-haunted….

After John M. Ford’s death, Elise Matthesen (who lived with him) posted copies of “The Declaration”, a ceremony performed by them in front of a whole convention full of people. I’m pretty sure that, canonically, this constitutes a marriage covenant: promise of “till death do us part”, consent, witness of the community. If not, it’s pretty close. (It would seem simpler just to get married in such case, but fans never can do anything like anybody else….)

Anyway, if you scroll down, this posting also included her poem “Response”, which includes some very powerful Crucifixion and Rosary imagery related to Ford’s constant poor health. You might like to read it.

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Amy Welborn on Tap

I just got back from listening to Amy Welborn‘s talk on The Da Vinci Code at the local Theology on Tap. I know I should also go to their stuff when the speaker is not a St. Blog’s parishioner, but… those kids all look so young! :)

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve gone downtown after work. Nothing particularly interesting at the Neon Movies, or nothing to do but run books and audiobooks back to the main library for a new supply. But fortified with pulled pork from down at the barbecue place in the old White Tower, I ventured forth to Oregon Express. It is so named because a) it’s in the Oregon District and b) it’s right next to the railroad. Folks had the pleasure of feeling the building shake at regular intervals during the evening (though the soundproofing and piped-in music killed most of the racket of the trains going by). Anyway, not much had changed about the bar since I was last there. It’s got decent beer and makes good pizza. I got a Bass and settled in. I was hoping some of the other area bloggers would come, but if they did, I didn’t see ‘em.

An older lady, a retired teacher, came and sat with me. She was very interested in The Da Vinci Code, from what I gathered; and had been pulling for a Jesus/Mary Magdalene relationship for forty years, which I guess means ever since Jesus Christ Superstar came out.. I did my best to chat with her and encourage her to look into real Church history, primary sources, stuff like that. But I’m not really good at talking to people, much less apologetics. So I just hope I didn’t say anything irreparable….

Then the programming started. Amy gave a good talk. I’d pretty much heard most of her arguments and stories on the blog or in her articles, but it’s always interesting to hear this stuff live. Besides, the real attraction was getting to see a blogosphere acquaintance live and in person. Unfortunately, a lot of other people have described meeting Amy before, so I have to think up something new and interesting. My interesting unknown Amy facts are:

1. She pronounces French very convincingly. (Why, you’d almost think she was Acadian!) :)

2. She does this cute little bob/curtsy/bounce thing every once and a while during her talks.

So how good a speaker is Amy, you ask?

Towards the end of the talk, I managed to inadvertently put my Bass down on the ashtray rim or something similar. The bottle flew off the table onto the floor, and made a nice spill. (Fortunately, not really hitting anyone — but the floor now has a Bass section.) So I went to get a towel, while Amy kept on talking, unruffled, and everyone else kept listening to her. They were fascinated, including the lady at my table.

So, yeah, it was a good talk, and Amy is a pretty good speaker.

During the break after her talk and before the Q & A portion of the evening, I came over to the book table to get my book signed and say hi to Amy. She knew who I was when I introduced myself, which was gratifying. (I’m still not used to living in a community where I’m not the only Maureen anyone knows, and all the other Maureens make me paranoid.) We chatted for a bit, and then a guy interested in The Da Vinci Code came up, and so did the lady who sat at my table.

I am afraid I proved unhelpful to Amy on the apologetics front, however. (Note to self: Implying that ‘Jesus made only men priests because it’s not fair that only women can get pregnant’ is not a convincing argument.)

Then we sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the Theology on Tap regulars, and Amy went back up to do her Q&A’s. Possibly the most entertaining question was the first one, which asked Amy which book was more the product of satanic inspiration: The Da Vinci Code, The Koran, or [book I don’t recall]. (I ‘helpfully’ suggested from the audience that the backs of cereal boxes are the real product of evil, though I probably should have said “the instructions on toothpick boxes” instead. And yes, I don’t like to talk, yet I have a big mouth.)

Anyway, Amy answered the question with aplomb and without signing onto anything weird, which is quite an accomplishment with that sort of “have you stopped beating your wife” question.

Alas, Amy and her daughter had to drive alllll the way back to Fort Wayne, so they couldn’t stay long afterward. I bought a book and got out of there myself.

All in all, a pretty nice way to spend an autumn evening.

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An Interesting Project

Btw, when I was visiting Will Shetterly’s blog, it turned out that he’s got a rather interesting project going. Apparently, he’s doing the “translate the Bible without footnotes” thing. He’s translating “Elohim” as gods, and treating Jacob and the angel as a tussle with a minor river god… that sort of thing.

On the one hand, I can understand the lure of translating. OTOH, it seems kinda pointless. There is a translation out there for every day of the year, and the “Distinguished Fantasy Writer Bible” is not something I ever felt a pressing need for. Also, kinda silly to dump tradition, when you need tradition to understand works like the The Tale of Genji, much less a collection of books that start a lot older.

On the gripping hand, though, who am I to discourage folks from weird projects? And if Shetterly is God-haunted enough to translate the flippin’ Bible from scratch, it seems ill-advised to discourage him. He does seem interested in the covenant, which isn’t bad.

It’s just… I worry about people who start out projects without a firm grounding, and of course most folks in fandom (who are likely to read it) don’t have a very firm grounding themselves. It’s like if my mom told me to go get a job, but I had no clue that this implied “Don’t get a job as a prostitute, a hit woman, or an inside trader.” Some people in fandom are like that. (And of course some people in fandom know perfectly well how they’re not supposed to interpret things, and that’s why they interpret things precisely that way.) And some people in fandom are looking so hard for meaning that they’d base their lives on a typo in an obscure short story or poem. So… I wish Shetterly luck, and hope things don’t blow up in his face in some weird way.

All in all, though, this project seems the sort of thing that people more interested in Biblical scholarship than I might be interested in seeing. So here’s a link to The Seeker’s Bible and The Seeker’s New Testament.

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John M. Ford, RIP

John Milo “Mikey” Ford, author of science fiction and fantasy novels, songs, poems, and gaming modules, and game designer, has passed away unexpectedly at his home. He had apparently had health problems for a long time, but still, he was only 49.

May that perpetual light which is brighter than the stars shine upon him.

Among his works:

Novels: Web of Angels, The Princes of the Air, The Dragon Waiting (World Fantasy Award – not my cup of tea, but might be yours), The Scholars of Night (interesting novel about the spy world and Shakespearean scholarship), Growing Up Weightless (a Heinlein-like YA sf novel), Casting Fortune (a Liavek collection), and The Last Hot Time (urban fantasy from an alternate Borderlands). At the time of his death, he was somewhere around chapter 7 of Aspects, which would have been the best fantasy train novel ever, according to Jo Walton. I believe it.

Gaming materials: The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues (an awardwinning Paranoia roleplaying game module. Including songs), GURPS: Infinite Worlds (cowritten), and Discworld RPG: Adventures on the Back of the Turtle (cowritten).

Star Trek novels: The Final Reflection, the best novel about Klingons ever, and one of the best about games; and How Much for Just the Planet?, the funniest Star Trek novel/musical/film ever, with many fannish injokes and guest stars. (Btw, The Hand of Kahless is a reprint of The Final Reflection bundled with Michael Jan Friedman’s novel Kahless.)

Songs, stories, and poems: many. Perhaps his most enduring work will be “110 Stories”.

Remembrances:

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden gathers most of them.

Will Shetterly also remembers.

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Recognizing Truth

One of our Catholic bloggers is having a crisis of faith right now. (Pray for her, btw.)

There were a lot of sympathetic commenters, of course. But one of those comments seemed not quite true. Every thinking Catholic has a crisis of faith over church practices and doctrine?

Um, I thought crises of faith were when you have the sudden conviction that God doesn’t exist, or that God is evil and hates you. Or you have serious artistic differences with God over how Creation was designed. So I always thought that faith crises = personal problems and arguments with God. Having one over anything else, especially elements of church teaching and practice… why, it just seems so… civilized.

I suppose it’s not, though. Any time that emotion and thought and the soul get all tied up in knots, it’s not going to be pleasant to work through. So I guess intellectually I can understand it, and certainly it’s important to figure out what’s true and what’s not and why. But I just don’t think that way myself, so it’s hard to grasp. (And let me make it perfectly clear to God and everyone that I am not anxious to gain my own personal experiential information about the topic. Noooo, thank you.)

I collect information. As I collect it, I compare it against what I already know. If it doesn’t fit, I consider whether this piece of data or the previous piece was in error, and discard pieces accordingly. If it does fit, I slot it away and don’t worry about it. If I can’t figure out whether it fits or not, I let the piece sit and wait for other pieces of applicable data to come along. But most of the consideration takes place on an intuitive level; I only have to think consciously about things flagged as contradictory. It’s more of a pattern recognition process than inductive and deductive reasoning. (Though reasoning is useful for figuring out what’s wrong about a wrong thing.)

So it’s not that I don’t study theology. Heck, I study science, too. But either I think a theory is true, I think it’s mistaken, or I think I don’t know. I don’t spend a lot of emotional energy on the matter. I’m pretty sure that all the stuff the Church officially teaches is true, because that worked out early on and has continued to fit the data; and I’m pretty sure that the theory of why the sky is blue is right, and for the same reason. Working out the beautiful consequences of a theological concept or the refraction of light through the atmosphere — that’s much more fun to contemplate.(OTOH, the existence and propagation of wrong information tends to make me angry. I’m not saying that bad data is morally as well as factually wrong, but it sure feels that way!)

But I suppose that the lack of argumentation and angst in my head is why I’m really abysmal at explaining the faith to people. I can tell them the facts, but in the back of my head, I expect them just to recognize those facts as true and act accordingly. (Which just ain’t gonna happen, in the general run of things.) Meanwhile, folks who’ve angsted over every theological and doctrinal detail, instead of just sucking ‘em in, can recap their own arguments with themselves for other people.

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Things to Enjoy in Early Fall

That sunset I just saw out my window. An intense flaming red all over the sky. (I ought to get that digital camera running again, I guess.)

Malted milk powder in hot milk is a pretty good recommendation in itself. But if you go and get Horlick’s Elaichi (cardamom) flavor at your local Indian grocer… mmm. Perfect for fall weather as well as bedtime. And the Elaichi flavored kind is orange! (Btw, the main Horlick’s website definitely has that J.K. Rowling vibe.)

Hot cider. Especially if you add some mulling spices. Hot wine, also, of course. (Microwaves are such a blessing….)

Horseland, 11:30 (EST) on Saturday morning, CBS. Yup, it’s a gimme for those of us who like horses. There is show jumping. There are palatial pastures. There are sage pieces of advice about horses and morals of the story. There is a collie named Shep, who talks to the other animals in a Sean Connery accent, and an arrogant Persian cat named Angora. (Yes, I’m shallow and easily amused.) So despite the fact that the little girls all have hugely long big hair, like unto the Trollz and Bratz, and that said hair never seems to disappear up under their riding helmets as in real life, and despite the presence of purple and green highlights in the horses’ manes and tails (ew!), I think it’s a pretty positive show. The writers seem to be the usual DiC suspects, but that’s a good crop of writers. And today’s episode by Martha Moran was indeed touching.

The idea that young humans must take responsibility for their own actions (and their horses’) is a strong message which today’s kids need. (And hey, riding gear means those girls are fully clothed!)

P.C. Hodgell, To Ride a Rathorn. Very good, very spooky, and very foreboding about what will happen next to Jame and the Kencyr. A very worthy 3rd/4th book in the series.

Anon., Fatherless Fanny; or a Young Lady’s First Entrance into Life: Being the Memoirs of a Little Mendicant and Her Benefactors.

I can’t express how delighted I’ve been with this novel so far. Originally published in 1811, but continually reissued and altered by various publishers thereafter, I can see why this novel went through so many editions. You would think, from the title, that this would be primarily a depressing sort of problem novel. Not so far. Instead, it seems to be part of the same reaction against Gothic from Gothic fans that Jane Austen later joined — putting the more bizarre situations into modern English terms, and then having a little fun with it. I would not doubt that Georgette Heyer read this novel at some point (and Thackeray did mention it in Vanity Fair).
Take, for instance, Chapter 1: The Seminary. It begins:

“In one of those polite seminaries devoted to female instruction, with which the environs of London abound, lived Miss Bridewell, whose despotic sway within the limits of her own jurisdiction was certainly equal to that of the most potent monarch in the civilized world, not excepting the great Napoleon himself.”

Heyeresque, ne? But here’s a choice bit from Chapter 2:

Lord Ellincourt, like most men of fashion, had many favourites amongst the fair sex, but few upon whose fidelity he could place much reliance. One exception, however, he had long been in possession of, who although a female, had never for an instant broken her faith. Some of his favourites received his lordship according to the state of his finances, and smiled or frowned in proportion to the golden shower that fell into their laps from his bounty; but his little Fan was invariable in the display of her affection, and lavished her caresses upon her beloved lord without considering whether he had had a run of good or ill luck. His lordship was not ungrateful, and his regard for Fan was quite equal to the affection she felt for him, nor did he ever think himself happy when she was not by his side. Whithersoever he went, his faithful friend went with him, and even partook of his bed-room: but lest I should be supposed to be a retailer of scandalous anecdotes, I must beg leave in this place, to inform my readers that poor Fan was a four-footed lady, and therefore the intimacy that subsisted between her and Lord Ellincourt could reflect no disgrace on either party.

His dog, in fact. I know, I’m easily amused, but…. Hee!

So go treat yourself to a Regency romance novel written in the Regency! What are you waiting for? It’s free!

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The Woman Who Sold the Moon

Anousheh Ansari, one of the X-Prize Ansaris, is about to head out for space. (12:09 in the very early morning, Eastern Daylight Time.) She will become the first private industry female astronaut, the first businesswoman in space, the first Muslim woman in space, and the first Shi’ite Muslim in space at all. Not to mention a ton of other firsts. (I predict a lot of girls in the Old Country are going to be named Anousheh now. And I bet the mullahs are feeling pretty sorry that they drove her family out of Iran.)

Considering that the X-Prize might not exist if she hadn’t persuaded the other Ansaris to found their own business, and considering that she donated a huge chunk of her own money to found the X-Prize, I don’t see how anyone could say she hasn’t earned this trip.

So here’s to clear skies at Baikonur, an uneventful stay on the space station, and a safe landing!

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