More Thoughts on A Net of Dawn and Bones

I’ve now read the book, and the plot and characters are quite good. As expected! Buy the book!

There’s a somewhat confusing-to-reader backstory about the heroine being an early Christian heretic. She’s not really involved with Gnosticism. She’s involved with “gnosis,” knowledge, which is the old Alexandrian term for a form of mysticism involving the seeking of both theological and personal knowledge of Christ. (As seen in St. Clement of Alexandria and poor old Origen.) The bad body-hating, woman-hating Gnostics of Gnosticism took over the term, alas, and used it to mean esoteric and occult knowledge. (St. Clement, St. Irenaeus and other writers talk a bit about the distinction between gnosis and “so-called gnosis.” After that generation, Christians started to use other terms to avoid confusion.)

Chancy is basically playing around with this and with pagan Egyptian religion stuff, although honestly there seems to have been almost no overlap between pagan Egyptian practices and ancient Coptic/Orthodox/Catholic Christian practices. Alexandrian Christianity usually seems to have been dueling with Greco-Roman paganism, as in St. Clement of Alexandria’s apologetic work, Protrepticus. (Albeit I think it’s humorous as a fantasy trope to see literal “spoils of the Egyptians.”) There’s also a few twisting of bad Gnosticism stuff (reincarnation, bodies as not intrinsically connected to the person, secret passwords for traveling between levels of existence, blah blah) into Christian-acceptable stuff, as a theoretical reverse-engineering to a fantasy idea of gnosis “powers.” Since a lot of the false Gnosticism stuff probably was sucked in from a bad understanding of Egyptian religion or trendy Roman occultism (Irenaeus points out that there’s actually a Gnostic version of the Egyptian Ogdoad, albeit it’s a really tenuous connection!), this sorta fits with the fictional spoils of the Egyptians idea.

Spoils of the Egyptians aside, the entire “magic system” used by the protagonist appears to be more of a miracle system. She’s a saintly person who quotes the Bible; and then God grants her speaking of true things to have an effect, as a result of her gnosis of God. (Which is not the worst description, since it does seem to work that way for some miracleworking saints whose wills and love are pretty much at one with God’s will and love, which would indeed be true gnosis.)

Anyway, there’s not really much said about how exactly this character’s beliefs are heretical. Presumably it’s not something that comes up in routine conversation. Of course, neither do the considerable differences between Mormonism and Trinitarian Christianity, or the Arianism of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

(If you want to have fun with early Christians and magic, the Recognitions of St. Clement (ie, the future Pope Clement I of Rome) is a really fun early Christian “adventure novel” with all the typical Greco-Roman separated siblings, as well as Simon Magus doing wicked magic. There’s also a bit of travelogue to famous Roman sites that don’t exist anymore. Lots of homilies and religious debate as well, which is why Rufinus of Aquileia translated it from Greek into Latin. My other favorite is the book with the resurrected dried sardines and the talking dog. If you’re interested in early Christian mysticism, The Shepherd of Hermas is a good intro, and St. Clement of Alexandria’s Paedagogue and Stromata also talk a lot about it.)

To address another point of potential reader confusion, there is absolutely no way that you could confuse Purgatory with Hell. Purgatory is part of Heaven. That said, some European Purgatory literature does get rather enthusiastic about portraying poor souls suffering (unpleasantly though temporarily) in Purgatory (albeit to encourage the living to pray for the Poor Souls with no one to pray for them, and to mend their own ways). Still, I don’t recall anyone ever showing Purgatory having demons in it. Angels being stern is about as far as it goes.

In general, and as with Buffy, I don’t really think this “Hell” is actually Hell. If you wanted to argue that demons’ minions had settled some mundane-but-unpleasant planet in a weird dimension or plane, and then invited the demons to take over; and that this was where people were being “dragged to Hell” by evil wizards and demons – that would be a lot more consistent with orthodox Christian theology. But obviously every writer has the power to decree the rules of their own writing worlds, so I could be totally wrong on where Chancy is going with this.

As noted in my previous post, Chancy says that she wanted to write an urban fantasy where the heroine fought evil, and did not choose to go after the Sexier of Two Evils. The inclusion of a not-totally-bad demon (even if not as a love interest, thank goodness!) would seem to militate against this goal. But in a world where people are dragged to Hell unwillingly and in which demons can sire children a la Nephilim (as opposed to “the sons of God” being Seth’s descendants and “the daughters of earth” being Cain’s descendants), a not-totally-willing Nephilim could end up being dragged to Hell and putting on a front as being a demon. (Which I expect we will find out in some sequel.) Of course, a being which isn’t actually of the angelic kind (albeit partaking of some angelic powers) would not have an angelically unchangeable will, and therefore would be capable of changing his mind about working for the baddies. (And I suspect that’s where she’s going with this.)

I hope we get more books from Chancy soon, whether from this universe or others!

P.S. Bart Ehrman is not a good source for early Christian stuff. He’s the kind of guy who will say that a source [Epiphanius] is a big fat liar about heresies, claim that the source’s tale of being groomed for sexual abuse by the Borborites was obviously made up, and then will quote that same source as authoritative about the Borborites, without pointing out who the guy is that he’s quoting! Elaine Pagels is dippy and relentlessly misguided, but she’s honestly dippy.

Still, you’re a lot better off learning about early Christian writers from either the primary sources in translation (there are several good anthologies of excerpts, like Aquilina’s Fathers of the Church), or from standard works describing them like Quasten’s four volumes of Patrology. Rod Bennett’s The Four Witnesses is another good starting place.

If you want to know why folks like Ehrman and Pagels are so insistent about “other Christianities” being somehow better and different, you can blame a German scholar from the 1930’s.

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Vathara Has an Original Novel for Sale!

It’s an original urban fantasy/high fantasy. Haven’t read it yet, just found out about its existence. I’m buying it as a thank you for much good reading over the years.

A Net of Dawn and Bones by C. Chancy.

Welcome to Intrepid, North Carolina. Where autumn brings leaf season, tourists, and bloody sacrifice.

Twenty years have passed since the Dark Day brought creatures of horror onto the evening news. Now vampires run nightclubs, alchemists deal potions on the street corners, and werewolf gangs lay claim to shady alleys. The honest cops of Intrepid enforce human laws on supernatural evil, and pray. Because the turn of the leaves brings Halloween, tourists… and the return of a serial killer who’s plagued Intrepid for over two decades.
Yet the night holds darker secrets than even the best detectives have unearthed. Somewhere in Intrepid, a demonic sorcerer plans to bring Hell on earth. And the Demongate is almost complete.

In the midst of a stakeout gone wrong, two mysterious wanderers drop into Detective Church’s life. Aidan, who moves like flames and holds secrets in his shadows… and Myrrh, a holy warrior born of ancient Alexandria. Enchantress. Heretic. Hell-raider.

Welcome to Intrepid.

Evil’s in for a hell of a night….

Now on Kindle and in print.

Vathara is best known as the author of massive crossover fics, as diverse as Airwolf, Stargate SG-1, Rurouni Kenshin, Star Wars, Sword Art Online, and Godzilla, and of the massive Avatar: The Last Airbender rewrite, “Embers.”

Apparently the starting point is theorizing that, if damned souls weren’t frozen in an unrepentant state if demons and evil magic-users could drag people down to Hell without them getting there by God’s judgment, then it might would be possible to get souls out of Hell. So basically, it’s as if the Harrowing of Hell weren’t a one-time thing that rescued the patriarchs in the Bosom of Abraham and the righteous pagans; and that folks of goodwill were still stuck down in the better parts of Sheol, instead of going directly to Purgatory/Heaven. And then the book goes on from there.

Vathara says in her blurb that she wanted to write an urban fantasy where the heroine fought evil, and did not choose to go after the Sexier of Two Evils.

It seems to be somewhat inspired by some of the Buffy fic that Vathara was doing, but with the serial numbers totally transformed into completely different characters and storylines. Vathara says her 2013 NaNoWriMo book was the first draft.


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Prayers for Katrina Fernandez!

The Crescat is sick in the hospital with bad chest pains. She is getting a stent. Please pray for her!

Also pray for her son and her family, as this is probably pretty worrying for all of them.

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What I’ve Been Doing

Working at my part-time job at Sam’s Club.

Yeah, pretty much that’s it. I go to work, I work, I come home, I take a shower and then take pain relievers for my aching feet and legs and back. Eventually I sleep. Then I get up and go to work.

On my days off, I try to get things done, but generally I just recover.

The major difficulty is that one has to stay hydrated while working in the fairly warmish kitchen area. However, I have now gotten used to it and have stopped sweating like a pig all the time.

It is also awesome for my sinuses. Yup, all those steaming concessions machines are a healing thing. I haven’t had a sinus headache for almost half a month. Sometimes I feel a bit of sinus pressure at home, but that’s it. Obviously I need a hot dog machine in my house, running all the time.

I’ve also gotten a bit more energetic, so instead of dragging my butt home and immediately going to bed (sometimes without even having the appetite to eat), I’m able to sit here and make a blog posting.

I’m still editing Part 2 of Commentary on the Apocalypse.

I’m still working on my Secret Novel Project.

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Jamie Lee Curtis, Cosplayer

Jamie Lee Curtis goes incognito to a convention for fight videogames, along with her whole family. Praises the gaming community as fun company.

Of course, she had spent time with the horror fandom community as a young actress, so I think she’s comfortable with the whole concept of attending conventions.

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In Which the Banshee Realizes the Blindingly Obvious.

Much as I love my rice cooker, it tends to overflow if I’m cooking anything sticky. Rice pudding is particularly prone to this.

Now I have learned the blindingly obvious – one can make puddings and cheesecakes and sticky rice porridges in the crockpot, which has much higher walls. Apparently tapioca pudding is a particularly good crockpot food, because that way you don’t have to stir your arm off.

Sigh. Yeah, I should have thought of that before.

This crockpot cobbler looks good, but you’d have to eat it with ice cream. Not a big fan of hot food in the summer.


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Fr. Z Puts Up a Nice Mass Proper for the Feast of St. Elijah


“….on this solemn feast of blessed Elijah, your Prophet and our father: who, at your word, arose like fire, closed the sky, raised the dead, smote the tyrants, killed the impious, and laid the foundations of the monastic life….”

All the Carmelite orders take inspiration from St. Elijah (the order of friars was first founded by a guy living on Mount Carmel in imitation of Elijah), so this is a big feast for them.

Carmelite readings and prayers for the Feast of St. Elijah. In English. :)

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