Archive for September, 2008

Context 2008 – This is how I Roll

This pretty much sums up my con experience. Friends, family, networking, parties, and laughs. And as Alethea said “if this picture was a sitcom, you’d watch it.”

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Episode 31: Give me a slice of Mr. Broaddus

I was on another JustLifeTv podcast. The topic was my idea given a conversation that my wife and I had a week or so ago (which then was echoed by Team Broaddus).

Episode Synopsis
Almost everyone I know is busy. Busy with work, family obligations, hobbies, etc. Busy-ness has become a virtue in our culture. So today, we’re going to talk about what contributes to our busy-ness and what we are doing to keep our heads above water.

You can check out the podcast directly here. The whole idea of learning to rest is a tough one for me, though it might be time for me to revisit my blog Take Your Ass Home.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Twittered (aka Project Fail)

Pretty much, this is my new icon. I barely survived ConText. I certainly didn’t come out of it unscathed.

Due to Brian Keene, THE Kelli Dunlap, and the endless haranguing of my personal assistant/board mod, Lauren David, I have succumbed to peer pressure (and my own declarations) and started a Twitter account:

No pleads for you to follow me, this is just an fyi, because I wasn’t lying when I said to expect a lot of gibberish.

(Sheesh, it’s barely been up five minutes and the mocking begins …)

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Courtesy Flush for Jesus (Or, On Being a Stepford Christian)

One of the things that made me absolutely miserable about my Christian walk was the guilt of it all. It was like the church body I was a part of had this singular idea of how a Christian life should be led and any deviation from it and you were made to feel like you were a bad Christian. It was a whole culture of thought and deed. Life was to be lived according to a rigid set of rules, clear cut dos and don’ts (heavy on the don’ts because the don’ts were what separated us from “the world”). Books weren’t to be trusted unless they were written by MacArthur, Piper, or a few select mini-popes. Music, movies, any entertainment really, had better have been purchased at a local Christian book store (CHRISTIAN bookstore, not one of those Catholic ones).

Forget the idea of trying to be genuine, there was a set of rules you had to live by, all within the greater context of a culture and mindset. You had to get up and do “devotions” (which meant 30 minutes of Bible reading and prayer). Lord help you if you didn’t “get your day started right.” It got to be so that folks made each other guilty and miserable, robbing each other of the joy of their spiritual journey, by making each other feel like you were not loving God if you weren’t spending that critical 30 minutes in study. I know folks who’d end up reading the Bible during their “morning sit down” in order to squeeze in their time while getting ready for work, calling in their spouses to discuss applicable verses. (Thus the lament for a courtesy flush for Jesus.)

If you were a woman, you were expected to be a wife (sorry, no single Christian women allowed; you could only be fulfilled as a Christian as a wife. Technically you had to be a wife AND mother to fully be in the club). You were expected to homeschool, because what right thinking Christian would dare allow their kids into the public school system. And, since you weren’t expected to hold a job, you had to otherwise make the most of your time, I don’t know, threshing wheat or something.

It was a game of keeping up with the spiritual Jones’ enforced by the mega church mafia.

It got to the point where I felt like I had to put on a show, rather than be real with other Christians. Mind you, it’s not the discipline of Bible study and prayer that I’m down on. It’s the guilt-laden coercion into it. Basically, folks were being made into Stepford Christians, or other people’s idea of what a Christian should be. It is ironic that in Christ we’ve become free from the law and sin, only to become slaves to one another. To quote Michael Yaconelli in his book, Messy Spirituality:

“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. it is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are NOW in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we LET GO is seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Christian spirituality should be about encountering the person of Christ, and then a living out of that interactive relationship in every moment of life. It’s about knowing God, not knowing about God. We don’t need hyper-regimented, guilt-filled lives to call ourselves spiritual. God sees you. He knows you. You might as well be honest, authentic, and interact with Him in the midst of how you are … not how others think you ought to be. Each relationship is different. There shouldn’t be any Stepford Christians.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

[BIB] – Black Marketing

(crosss-posted on Blogging in Black/Readers Room)

A while back, I did a series of blogs/interviews with some of my black horror writing colleagues. As it turns out, I ended up doing a collaboration with one of them. Wrath James White and I wrote the novella Orgy of Souls. To our editor’s delight, we quickly earned out our advance, but we’re not satisfied with that.

You see, the bulk of the marketing of the novella was done through the channels one would expect a horror novella to be marketed. The book is available at the Apex book store, Amazon, and Horror Mall. There have been the usual posts on horror message boards and advertising in horror magazines. (And when you have a publisher putting in the effort to market your work, you’re thankful because that’s less you ultimately have to do). The novella is now up at Fictionwise, the e-book is on sale for $4.24 for the next two weeks. (Fictionwise provides in a number of formats including Kindle, PDF, and eReader.)

So then I asked, what are we doing to market to the black community? While I was expecting “you’re the black writers. You’re supposed to tell me.” his response was “I’m gonna put someone on that. Any help would be appreciated.”

One of the contentions I’ve repeated made to horror publishers was that the black market was going ignored. No one can complain about a lack of readers when there are whole populations of readers going specifically ignored (a topic specifically discussed by my colleagues). So I’m putting together my list of black reviewers and black book clubs (RawSistaz and APOO I’m looking at you). I’m ramping up my presence on several black message boards (Black Science Fiction Society and the AAMBC). I’m making my list of black book stores in my area (X-Pression Bookstore & Gallery and Elevations Book & Coffee Shop) to arrange signings. I’m checking out the Carl Brandon Society. So as I’m thinking through the next phase of my marketing campaign, I’m turning to the Blogging in Black experts. What else would you recommend?

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

An Atheist and a “Pastor” Go Into a Convention Part IV

[Bringing you up to speed, here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III – I now respond to B]

Sadly, I’m quite used to the tone.

Atheists constantly try to convert me and whether they realize it or not, usually with a chip on their shoulder. I know (or at least try to remember) where it comes from. Many of their stories follow similar trajectories. Many were burned by the church. We have burned a lot of people, literally and figuratively; and frankly, as much as one person can apologize for other’s history of mistakes, I’m sorry. If for nothing else, my participation in that history of mistakes. We, as the church, fall short of who we ought to be and what we ought to be doing.

Many have been burned (or enlightened) by their own faith, as in they asked questions and didn’t get answers that made sense to them and it led to them becoming disconnected with the historic Christian faith and led them down other paths.

Overlapping those two trajectories of stories are those who, due to their re-experience with members of the Christian faith, walk into conversations with Christians anticipating certain reactions. In other words, it takes a while for their guard to drop.

However, the tone does rub me the wrong way when it’s not just enough for you to not believe, but you want to spread the “truth” or, more on point, when anyone who doesn’t believe like you is stupid. It smacks of not respecting the beliefs of others and, in truth, you become everything you don’t like about religion and/or Christian folks.

So let’s just be careful that the tone doesn’t end the conversation.

Let me tell you where I’m coming from. Whenever anyone is trying to convert me (or even engage me in an agenda driven conversation), their message is only as good as the messenger. It forces me to constantly be evaluating my life and faith. If my life isn’t marked by me loving others and taking care of the poor, my faith (or whatever I profess to believe) is meaningless. If I’m not being formed into the kind of person my faith claims to make, then all of the logical arguments in the world is not going to convince anyone of anything.

Of course what I believe is foolishness. Faith often is. Look, I’m basically saying I believe there was a guy running around 2000 years ago claiming to be God (a claim which would get folks committed these days). Whose life impacted those around him. Who was crucified, like so many others were, but then folks said he rose from the dead. And that’s before the 3-in-1 God I believe in or even the idea of God incarnating and becoming a man.

There are days when I’m not feeling it. Days when I wake up and go wtf? Days when my prayer feels like me talking to my imaginary friend. So folks wanting to convince me of “the truth” probably aren’t going to share anything I haven’t thought about.

Is there a God isn’t necessarily a good question. A better question would be if He does exist, has He revealed himself in a way we understand but not exhaust? After all, if He hasn’t revealed Himself, He might as well not exist. (In my faith paradigm, He has revealed Himself truly and fully in Christ). To be compatible with secularism, we would have to remove any sense of mystery, any sense of the transcendent, and to do so would remove the essence of faith.

Faith isn’t an epistemology, but it is how you know what you know. It’s meant to shape you, to create a relationship, what could be described as a mystical knowing of God or the supernatural. Which is what I would describe as the role of the Bible in my life.

The Bible is a collection of stories. Not a history book, not a science text, not even a series of dogmatic propositions. To treat it as such is a failed proposition, reducing and misusing the canon. It’s a collection of stories I’ve chosen to let shape my life. It is a tool for spiritual transformation and formation, not necessarily given as a “Christian epistemology.” In short, I use it to affect my life. The idea of the Bible as a story especially appeals to me as a writer as I firmly believe that stories convey truths propositions can’t, or rather, fall short in being able to do it. Stories can be grasped in any age, by any culture. And a story doesn’t have to be totally true in its details for it to be true.

The only thing analogous to faith that I can think of is the act of “falling in love”. Falling in love isn’t rational. We can pretty it up to where “the practical information outweighs the romantic notions to the point where the romantic notions are meaningless.” Is love an evolved response to protect our genes being passing on? A biological imperative dressed up, given more meaning that it has? That kind of answer is sure to crimp ones dating life.

Since it can’t be quantified, I measure my faith experientially. Though there are days when it doesn’t make sense, there are many more days when it does. If only to me. And when all is said and done, all faith is personal and experienced individually.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Doktor Sleepless – A Review

“Future Science Jesus”

Warren Ellis (newuniversal, Thunderbolts, Desolation Jones) is one of those writers who even at his most lackadaisical, his stories are interesting, hyper, and edgy, not easily slipping from the mind. Sometimes his ideas are big (Planetary), sometimes he’s simply exploring what the comic book form can do (Fell). Sometimes he likes to mount philosophical campaigns with a measure of technofuturism thrown in for good measure, integrating every half-possible speculation into his writings (Transmetropolitan, so the comparisons between these two books is understandable).

As much anarchist manifesto, V for Vendetta with a more science fiction bent, Doktor Sleepless is chock full of Ellis’ philosophical musings, throwing out some interesting ideas about the present and future of technology and its impact on social networking, community, and our individuality.

“All are welcome in my house for it has many rooms.” –Doktor Sleepless

Doktor Sleepless, aka John Reindhart, our post-modern shaman and techno-messiah, stopped being real and became a character. By his thinking, the only way for a messenger to promulgate his message is to create an image of himself, shifting from man to legend, in order for his ideas to take root and spread. The reader right away dives into a techno-fetishist world of drugs, IM on contact lenses (Clatter), extreme body modifications, abortions kept as jewelry, shriek girl subculture (girls who are wirelessly connected for simultaneous experience), and tulpas (idea thought forms made manifest).

“The one thing I can tell you about the world is that it doesn’t work. It is in fact so fucking broken that if it were this computer here, you’d take it to the store and demand a new one.” –Doktor Sleepless

The grinders, the everyday work class, toil in what passes for their lives in Heavenside, a place separated by a mountain range from Hellside. Signs have popped up expressing their disappointment with the future they were promised: No flying cars, no jet packs, no space ships, no ray guns. Doktor Sleepless has taken it upon himself to lead them from their mundane lives of complacency and acceptance and move them toward a path of fulfilling who they were meant to be.

The first step on this path to individual freedom is the realization of the dilemma that we find ourselves in. In their world, there is something terribly wrong. The people live lives of coerced conformity, their freedoms curtailed. They sense that they weren’t who they were supposed to be. For the grinders, their shame, their sin, is in their very ordinariness, aggressive apathy, not life to their fullest potential.

“Changing the world is as easy, and as hard, as just changing the way every thinks about their world.” –Doktor Sleepless

The true revolution begins, with a new idea and faith in a new hope. For such a revolution to take root, it needs messengers to carry the idea forth and converts to live out the mission. Doktor Sleepless and his assistant, the murdering assassin/bodyguard Nurse Igor, weave a tapestry of symbols, propaganda war, and the occasional spot of violence to nudge the grinders toward taking ahold of their situation, living for their future rather than waiting on it.

“Stop looking for something that isn’t there. You live in the future and you don’t know it.” –Doktor Sleepless

Doktor Sleepless is more than Ellis being Ellis. It’s science-fiction at its highest, full of ideas examining community, identity, ideas, future, technology. It also sees Ellis at his most poetic, though admittedly some of the prose in the book began as flash fiction pieces for him. He’s not walking through this one, doling out fanboy biscuits of violence and bastards. There is a brooding intentionality, a philosophical scraping, as he pulls together not only this graphic novel but in a bit of meta collaboration, a shared/network experience, a wiki emulator website so that entries can be added to by anyone. Everything is connected.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Forbearing One Another (or, This Discipline Sucks)

Once again I’m trying to figure out an aspect of my faith, in this case wrestling with what is supposed to be a simple command: “Forbear one another”. So I’m trying to ask myself a few simple questions:

What does it mean to forbear (bear with or give slack to) one another and what does it look like in your life?

What does it mean to give people room and space to be who they are?

What does it mean to give people room and space to become who they are?

What does it mean to give people room and space to contribute and belong despite imperfections?

Who are you called to bear with?

It’s easy to like people who like you or are like you. The true test of your faith comes in loving your enemies. The annoying. The “extra grace people”. And think of how good God is at forgiving, putting up with, looking past the mistakes of, and loving people … and how we’re called to reciprocate it by forbearing one another.

So I’m stuck with this simple prayer: “Lord, teach me to love.”

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

On Nap Nazis

Okay, this is just an escalating pet peeve of mine, so you may want to just skip this rant.

I realize that not everyone counts the cost of what it means to be a part of a church plant. There are sacrifices that one has to make. Not all the “programs” will be set. Heck, there might not be any programs to speak of. For a while, that was the number one complaint we had when we got started: we didn’t have any programs for the kids.

Yes, I get it. You believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

I believe we’ve raised children to the level of idols. The children end up ruling the household because they are apparently fragile and in need of constant shielding (protection is one thing, encasing them in a plastic bubble is quite another). Yet more and more parents become slaves to the routine and schedule of their kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m like the Ayn Rand of parenting: I believe in the selfish parent. My kids have to adjust to my schedule. Until they start paying bills, they jump to my tune, not vice versa.

Then there’s the church culture many of us grew up in. The one with programs for kids starting when they can sit up and are taught to “pat the Bible” as their nursery theological training (because, well, as you know, the Bible is the fourth person of the Godhead and we should be worshiping it, not allowing it to point us to God). We need to just admit that most of our concern for programs for our kids boil down to 1) we abdicate our role as the spiritual teachers in our children’s life and want someone else to do it and 2) we want free babysitting for a couple hours (and, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea of dropping off my kids at a church nursery so that I can go home to cry out “oh God, oh God” in an entirely different context).

Oh, and don’t get me started on being slaves to a nap schedule. I get that we’re a consumer culture, and we want church to serve us like Burger King: I’ll have a whopper of spirituality done my way! So we choose the services we attend in order to coincide with our precious, precious baby’s nap schedule. I appreciate the need for constancy in a schedule, but one day a week breaking your routine won’t kill anyone. Just admit that we’re ultimately still slaves to our own convenience and that it’s about you and your comfort. Again, I’m the Ayn Rand, I can appreciate that.

In short, if you want to talk to me about creating a rhythm to your life, I’m all good with that. And I’m all good with basing your routine around your Sunday morning or the convenience of your life. Just realize that you are modeling the importance of the gathering. Balance that out with the realization that it’s only one hour out of week when you worry about the programs you are subjecting your kids to. That isn’t going to be the bulk of what forms them. If I want my kids to be compassionate, I have to model compassion and be compassionate 6 days and 23 hours a week rather than stick them in a class for 1 hour a week and hoping for the best as they pat the Bible.

Of course, I can only rant like this as long as our church stays at Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. If we had to move to a Sunday night service, we’d have to leave early because our kids have to go to bed at 7:30 pm or they are monsters the next day.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Hmm … now we ought to sue PA

Self-Publishing Services and Defamation

In light of this, here’s my plan: I need a volunteer to write a book that says a lot of defaming things about me. Preferably stuff that isn’t actually true. (Surely I’ve pissed off enough of you that I should have a church full of volunteers). You publish your book through PublishAmerica, who promises editorial oversight of your product (plus that dollar advance!)

Then I sue you and PublishAmerica for millions.


Okay legal scholars, tell me why this wouldn’t work.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.