/ Features E. Stephen Burnett

Say Goodnight Kevin’s Podcast Made Me a Dallas Jenkins Fan

Kevin McCreary interviews “The Chosen” series director Dallas Jenkins, who has a great take on evangelical culture.
| Apr 17, 2019 | No comments |

Kevin McCreary just interviewed Christian film director Dallas Jenkins. Everything went better than expected.

Background: podcast host Kevin McCreary also hosts the Say Goodnight Kevin video channel. He reviews movies and makes occasional forays into even more perilous territory, like social issues and politics. But as he says in his podcasts, his Christian movie reviews seem to get the most attention. (May God preserve him from this particular pigeonhole for life.)

As for Dallas Jenkins, he’s director of upcoming biblical streaming series The Chosen. He also made a few evangelical movies, such as The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. I actually reviewed that film for Christianity Today‘s website, and liked a lot of its ideas:

For all its predictability, though, Gavin Stone also has charm. More than cringing, I found myself laughing aloud—and for the right reasons. And the filmmakers clearly want audiences to know that they empathize with criticisms of awkward Christian movies.

So in this podcast, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Gavin Stone‘s director had exactly these intentions.

Jenkins and McCreary both mentioned that winning Cloud Ten Pictures “release the film to VHS and DVD first, then release to movie theaters” strategy. I wonder why no other film distributor has ever tried that?

Behold, Jenkins also showed me a mystery. What on the late great planet Earth happened to that 1999 Left Behind movie?

Looking back on Left Behind ’99

Jenkins said he actually worked for the studio behind Left Behind. (This was 1999 Left Behind, The One with Kirk Cameron, not The One with Nicolas Cage.) He said he gradually found out the film would be low-budget and probably not good. (This after early reports said that movie-Left Behind would have a multi-million-dollar budget and A-list actors attached.) Thus, Jenkins left that job, weeks before the makers began shooting the movie.

That’s when he started his own company. He had help from his father, none other than Left Behind coauthor Jerry B. Jenkins.

Dallas Jenkins also let slip another fact. Both he and his dad figured out in advance that Left Behind ’99 wasn’t going to be that great.1

Evangelical subculture: it’s not so terrible

Jenkins strongly professes faith in Christ, the gospel, the inerrancy of Scripture, all that good stuff. However, he does say that he’s moved on from some beliefs. He doesn’t say what they are, but does mention a “strict” evangelical culture.

But even better, Jenkins says that all that subculture doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers some people.

For instance, in local church services, Jenkins says he’s not anxious about who’s “faking it” in worship. He sees how God does work through things like music and emotion, rather than suspecting these things as being exclusively “manufactured.”

This sounds exactly like my view of Christian subculture. Listening to Jenkins articulate this so pleasantly gave me a near-“worship” experience. (I suppose that means that McCreary and Jenkins “manufactured” it for me, so it’s not Authentic.)

Why did Gavin sink like a stone?

Jenkins said he intentionally made The Resurrection of Gavin Stone to follow a “formula.” That’s by design, Jenkins explained, to help make the story accessible. But he also wanted to have some fun showing a “fish out of water” in evangelical subculture.

It didn’t work, Jenkins admitted, because Gavin Stone didn’t draw audiences.

But the idea was good and Jenkins said he still likes the movie.

By the way, Jenkins observed: ever notice how few Christian movies actually explore church itself?

I have noticed this. In fact, that’s why I insist that most “Christian fiction” is actually not Christian enough. Creators tend to stick with safer topics, such as unbelievers or backsliders—or high-school sports teams.

Jenkins has made one of those movies too. In fact, he said he made one of those before the genre was cool.

Finding The Chosen one

He’s also busy making The Chosen, a biblical drama series on VidAngel. The first episode is free. Jenkins said the series is designed to follow the real (fictionalized) lives of figures such as Peter, Mary, and other followers of Jesus, even before they met their messiah.

Based on this podcast alone, I’m suddenly very interested in the series. That’s because biblical drama is at its best when it’s both faithful to the main course of written Scripture and willing to explore fictional side-trails.

Over the resurrection weekend, I hope to see that first episode.

And I hope to hear more from Dallas Jenkins, a chap who already knows that many Christian movies aren’t that great, and wants to make them better.

  1. For all the faults of Left Behind ’99, at least its makers knew their limitations. Also, they roughly followed the original novel’s story, right up to and including antichrist-figure Nicolae Carpathia. Left Behind Caged! did not.

Mission Report, Supplemental: Photos from Lorehaven at Teach Them Diligently in Waco

We kept hearing people say things like, “I’m so glad you guys are doing this. There’s such a need!”
| Apr 16, 2019 | No comments |

At SpecFaith, I’ve shared a summary of Lorehaven’s time at last weekend’s Teach Them Diligently homeschool conference in Waco.

Our booth featured writer Marian Jacobs, creative relations Lacy Rhiannon (my wife), and myself (publisher/editor).

We met dozens of families. Usually we asked them, “Hi! Do you all like to read?”

Most people said, “Oh yes.” A few said, “Yes, but don’t have as much time as I’d like.”

I’d say perhaps 70 percent said something like, “Yes, but my children are reading like crazy. And far above their reading level. I can’t keep up!”

Then we shared our mission: Lorehaven finds truth in fantastic stories. . . .

Some parents politely nodded or said merely, “Thank you,” before moving on.

But for each one of these less-interested folks, three other parents or students immediately got our mission.

We shared favorite stories. We asked parents what their kids love to read.

And we kept hearing people say things like, “I’m so glad you guys are doing this. There’s such a need!”

During the event, we also shared photos at the Lorehaven feed on Instagram and at Lorehaven’s Facebook page.

Here are a few, including some newly shared photos.

In That Land No Good Thing Is Destroyed

Even if people never rebuilt the Notre Dame cathedral, why presume this good thing is gone forever?
| Apr 15, 2019 | 2 comments |

Today, Paris’s famed Notre Dame cathedral is all but gone.

Starting this morning, news spread like a fire itself, about the blaze that had swallowed the 800-year-old landmark.

As of this writing, Paris’s firefighters had said they’d at least preserved the building’s main structure. Paris’s mayor also promised the city would rebuild the rest of it.

While videos live-streamed and articles updated, several of my friends remarked how they had always wanted to visit the cathedral.

Others recalled a special trip when they had seen Notre Dame. Yet they regretted they’d never see it again, or bring their children there.

I’ve never seen the cathedral myself. But I can empathize with that sense of loss (even if not on such a human-historical scale).

That strange sense of distant yet personal loss

Last summer, my wife and I learned the fate of our old vacation cabin.

We’d vacationed there as newlyweds in spring 2009. Three years later, we returned for a more traditional vacation.

Then, last year, we had scheduled a return to that area. It’s Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a nature and popular-cultural vacation spot near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had tried to reserve the same cabin, but it had vanished from the internet. I called the company but heard no news, other than the very true fact that owners can pull their cabins off the rental market whenever they like. So I reserved another building, which I figured would be just as decent as the first cabin had been.1

When we arrived, we began to see the signs of the November 2016 disaster. A fire (started by vandals) had scorched the forest surrounding this tourist town. Gatlinburg itself had only barely escaped destruction.

Following directions in our memory, we finally found the site of our old cabin.

Yes, it was gone. Only stone rubble was left. Trees surrounding the cabin site still bore black scorch marks.

We felt a strange sense of loss, and also curiosity that we hadn’t even thought that “our” cabin could have been destroyed. All the cliches come true. You just don’t assume that such a disaster could happen to any place you know.

Will Notre Dame be restored?

Whether or not we’ve seen the French cathedral, maybe its presumed inevitable existence becomes as fixed in our minds as, say, the Grand Canyon. Or the moon. Or like history itself.

It’s been there long enough. Why should it ever go away?

But the existence of centuries-old historical buildings are full of interruptions. So-and-so destroyed this part during this war. This portion was rebuilt in 18-something after the earthquake. And, of course, the structure had to be restored after the terrible fire of (year).

Now for Notre Dame, that latest year is 2019.

And yet, even as I grieve the threat to Notre Dame’s priceless artwork and Gothic architecture, and the attack on history itself, I’m not sure I can agree with fears such as, “Now I’ll never get to see the cathedral.”

I think the Christian can safely add, “… In this life.” But even if people were never to rebuild Notre Dame, why presume it is gone forever?

Parisian historians might do their best to show us, in the future, what the cathedral once looked like. But only the universe’s Architect has power truly to restore the building, and anything else, right down to the exact, perfectly placed, even original molecule of wood or stone.

He can do it, but will he?

‘The glory and the honor of the nations’

Scripture promises that, for Christ’s people, eternity will be a physical, tangible planet. It will be this very Earth, renewed and restored, filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.2

The Bible doesn’t mention only one city in this New Earth (i.e., New Jerusalem). Revelation’s prophecies also promise:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.3

New Jerusalem itself, New Earth’s capital, has no need for a temple. That’s because the Church, Christ’s body, has inherited the “temple” role. But what about famous churches in other cities? Places like Notre Dame’s great cathedral (regardless of whatever false teachings or sins have been associated with it before) certainly qualify as “the glory and the honor of the nations.” And there it is right in Scripture: a direct promise that “the kings of the earth . . . will bring into [the city] the glory and the honor of the nations.”

Kings will come from outside the city, from their nations, and bring into the city their national treasures.

As Heaven author Randy Alcorn remarks:

Though John doesn’t elaborate in Revelation, Isaiah is specific about what will be brought to the Holy City. He mentions the cultural products of once-pagan nations: the ships of Tarshish and the trees of Lebanon and the camels of Ephah and the gold and incense of Sheba, which will be brought in by its people “proclaiming the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Treasures that were once linked to idolatry and rebellion will be gathered into the city and put to God-glorifying use. Both Isaiah and Revelation indicate that the products of human culture will play an important role on the New Earth.4

Very possibly, this could include the future Christ-worshiping kings of France, and/or the future Christ-worshiping rulers of France. They will bring into Christ’s new earth the glory and the honor of France.

So that’s why, even as Paris and the world mourns the loss of Notre Dame, I take some encouragement in this truth.

‘No good thing is ever destroyed’

Finally, lest all this seem too theological, fantasy fans will recall how C. S. Lewis imaginatively reflected this truth at the end of The Last Battle. In these concluding moments for The Chronicles of Narnia, our heroes have been drawn into Aslan’s country. This land unites not only the true and eternal Narnia, but also several other true and eternal places:

[Lucy] looked harder and saw that it was not a cloud at all but a real land. And when she had fixed her eyes on one particular spot of it, she at once cried out, “Peter! Edmund! Come and look! Come quickly.” And they came and looked, for their eyes had also become like hers.

“Why!” exclaimed Peter. “It’s England. And that’s the house itself—Professor Kirk’s old home in the country where all our adventures began.”

“I thought that house had been destroyed,” said Edmund.

“So it was,” said the Faun. “But you are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed.”5

I live in this hope: that Christ will return and renew all things. And in that land no good thing is destroyed.

Maranatha.

  1. Narrator: But in fact, the new cabin was not as decent as the first cabin had been. But that’s another story for another time.
  2. Habakkuk 2:14 (cf. Isaiah 11:9). For more biblical references about the physicality of the future New Earth, as opposed to an ethereal or “spiritoid” heaven, see Isaiah 60, 65–66; Romans 8; and Revelation 21:1–5.
  3. Revelation 21:22–26 (emphases added).
  4. Randy Alcorn, “Randy’s Response to a Former Professor’s Critique of Heaven,” Aug. 31, 2005, EPM.org.
  5. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, page 208.

Lorehaven Arrives at Teach Them Diligently in Waco

We’ll reopen with the exhibit hall Friday morning at 10 a.m.!
| Apr 12, 2019 | No comments |

Lacy Rhiannon, Marian Jacobs, and I have set up the Lorehaven shop in Waco this weekend.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Ready for Teach Them Diligently!

A post shared by Lorehaven (@lorehavenmag) on

We’ll reopen with the exhibit hall Friday morning at 10 a.m.

When:

  • Friday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Avenue, Waco, Texas

What:

  • Subscribe for free to get every issue online!
  • Browse or purchase print copies of the magazine.
  • Grab a free bookmark, hot off presses, about discerning stories.
  • Win a copy of Thomas Locke’s post-post-dystopian novel Enclave.
  • Chat about fantastical fiction and learn how to find these amazing stories from Christian authors.

The Best Meme About That Black Hole Photo

After that black hole photo, Lord of the Rings fans have drawn clear comparisons based on color palette.
| Apr 10, 2019 | No comments |

By now you’ve all seen that “first photo of a black hole.”1

Of course, after that black hole photo, Lord of the Rings fans have drawn rather obvious comparisons based on color palette.

But you may not have seen this meme. Live, at the speed of internet (I saw it at the Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Legendarium page):

  1. Which I imagine wasn’t a photo per se. Previously these images have turned out to be a composite, or computer imaging derived from scientific measurements of a possible object.

Visit Lorehaven this Weekend at Teach Them Diligently in Texas

Lorehaven magazine exhibits at this weekend’s Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas.
| Apr 9, 2019 | No comments |

One of my greatest new joys is editor-in-chiefing and publishing Lorehaven magazine.

Our next event: we’re exhibiting at this weekend’s Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas.

Who: Fanservants writer Marian Jacobs, creative relations Lacy Rhiannon (my wife), and myself.

When:

  • Thursday, April 11, 7 to 9 a.m.
  • Friday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Avenue, Waco, Texas

What:

  • Subscribe for free to get every issue online!
  • Browse or purchase print copies of the magazine.
  • Grab a free bookmark, hot off presses, about discerning stories.
  • Win a copy of Thomas Locke’s post-post-dystopian novel Enclave.
  • Chat about fantastical fiction and learn how to find these amazing stories from Christian authors.

Why:

Lorehaven serves Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres. Magazine print copies are available by request and at special events.

Central Texas fanservants, we hope to see you this weekend at Teach Them Diligently!

‘If Only Christians Made Great Art!’ Ignores Real-World Criticism

Any Christian artist, no matter the label or quality of the art, will face criticism or even persecution.
| Apr 8, 2019 | 3 comments |

I like to advocate for Christian fiction. By name. By Christians, and for Christians.

And yes, I do this while recognizing that the label Christian fiction has a lot of silly definitions attached to it.1

But in response, some Christian-fiction-as-label critics offer some sentimentalist views of their own.

For example, I often hear an objection that goes something like this:

If only more Christians made great art! Then we could really influence the culture for the gospel.

That’s the best version of this objection. Lesser versions of it attach generalized riders like, Then more people would believe in Jesus, or Then we could do something about people’s nasty beliefs about Christians.2

I call these objections “sentimentalist” for at least two reasons:

  • It ignores the existence of existing, excellent Christian-made fiction;
  • It presumes the general goodness of popular culture “kingmakers,” who chase trends and agendas like any other human.

Exhibit A: ‘Strange Planet’ cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle.

If you have gone anywhere near social media, you’ve likely seen the comics of Nathan W. Pyle. Within the past month, he’s gotten hugely popular.

Who?

He’s the artist who makes those “Strange Planet” comics. They’re the ones that feature those little blue aliens, who practice basic human things and describe them with comically cumbersome big words.

As in, alien 1 says to another, about a salad, “YOU GATHERED LEAVES”.

Then alien 2 replies, “LEAFBUCKET! IT’S SOMETHING TO INGEST”.

These comics are whimsical, genuinely funny, well-done for their medium. They’re not “evangelistic.” And they’re not propaganda. They’re simple, accessible, and they speak to the basic human condition from a position that’s at once comfortable and challenging. Each four-paneled insight lets us laugh at ourselves but not in a mean-spirited way.

Well. Turns out Nathan W. Pyle could still himself be a threat-level-A alien menace.

For this crime, many of his fans are turning against him. They’re saying things like, “Damn. I really liked your comic, too. Shame on you.”

And, “oh yikes, the cute alien comics dude is anti abortion”.

The worst headline I’ve seen actually whimpered, “The internet’s favorite new comic strip ruined by old anti-abortion tweet.”

There’s more scuttlebutt about the web.3 But so far, from what I’ve seen, Pyle hasn’t been doxxed, blocked on Twitter, fired from jobs, or persecuted by human rights commissions in the nation of Canada or the state of Colorado.

This means: Christians should not be crying “persecution!” any more than Pyle’s critics should be crying “anti-woman!”

Also, I don’t here address the question of how Christians should respond to persecution. I’m not talking about whether Christians should grant any legitimate grievances along with the criticism we hear, or try to improve the church’s witness in the world.

That’s not my point.

Rather, I’m simply pointing out that any Christian artist, no matter the label or quality of art, will face criticism. Harsh criticism. They may even face persecution, if not now, then in the future. The loudest critics, because of their religious motivation, will only regret for a moment (if that) that they must now ignore excellently done art. After that, well, belay the art and all that. We’ve a Cause to support.

That’s enough of a caution to stop self-critical Christians from saying, “If only Christians made better art, then we could . . .”

“. . . Glorify God better?” That’s really the best way to finish the sentence.

But “. . . change the world? . . . impress non-believers? . . . improve the church’s witness? . . . get more people saved”?

Such statements are just as wishful-thinking as that sappy Christian novel where the main character finally gets saved and suddenly everything in her life becomes miraculously better.

  1. Definitions attached to Christian fiction include, but are not limited to: saccharine, shallow, sentimental, “not realistic,” Amish, romance, prairie romance, Amish prairie romance, derivative, uncreative, and such-like. For my part, I argue that “Christian fiction” simply means “a Christian made this fiction.”
  2. Some folks who make the objection attach more personal riders. They might think, Then I would feel more welcome at church. Or even, Then Christians could regain their cultural privilege in Western nations. I think either one of these ignores the ultimate purpose of art (to help us glorify God). It also hijacks a topic, like art or fiction, in service to a personal conflict—which is to say it takes art into the service of a kind of propaganda.
  3. This website overviews the scuttlebutt thus far. It “fairly” states that “even if Pyle personally opposed abortion, that was not evidence that his personal opinion matched his political stance.” This seems to leave an implicit, ominous warning that genuine personal or political opposition to abortion should not stand.

Some Quick and Mixed Thoughts on ‘Shazam!’

Last night my wife and I saw DC’s new hero film “Shazam!”, and I have some brief reactions.
| Apr 5, 2019 | No comments |

Last night my wife and I saw Shazam!

I’m pitching a longer article/review for another site. But for now, I have some brief(?) reactions.

Some may sound negative. I like this movie. But, especially compared with the previous DC films, it will take a little more work than I expected to reset my expectations (again). Such constant resetting will become more necessary for me, because DC’s movies are becoming even more director-driven. They’re sharing the same “universe” in name only.

  • The film is genuinely funny in many ways. But it’s more character-driven humor than “banter,” or “trope subversion,” and such.
  • I loved the cast, especially Zachary Levi as the titular World’s Mightiest Mortal.
  • Yes, the story is set in the DC film universe as established in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Aquaman.
  • But several of the other films, even Aquaman, have scope and grandeur that clash with Shazam!
  • Earlier DC films established that civilian bystanders don’t always “hit their marks” in reacting happily to superheroes.1 In fact, superheroes have previously polarized the world’s religions, governments, and military powers. All that’s gone here. Superheroes in town are just a bit shinier than the costumed folks in Times Square. And civilians all “hit their marks.” Civilians are either rescued by heroes or stand around applauding heroes. Honestly, it’s a little awkward and cliched.
  • It’s also a bit regressive. We’ve already seen, from both Marvel and DC films, some slightly more realistic story turns about how the world would actually react to real-world superheroes.
  • One hero’s strange “cameo” yields more questions that cancel out the potential for a happy-fan-moment.
  • Sometimes the film’s ambition stretches at the budget. Parts of the movie look almost homemade.
  • Billy’s foster brother, Freddie, exhibits an understandably juvenile “fandom” of real-world superheroes. He objects when Billy Batson, in hero form, doesn’t act as a hero should. But the question of what a hero should do, or what Shazam’s ultimate mission should be, is not explored.
  • For DC fans, this Shazam does not actually inherit the “wisdom of Solomon.” The film references that superpower, then kinda forgets it.
  • Parts of the film actively seemed to mock the other DC heroes. A child drops a Batman and Superman action figure to watch two other characters fight. End-credits silly animations show Shazam!‘s characters easily surpassing and mocking Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. It all seemed very Teen Titans GO! I am not fond of this impulse. DC should show confidence in all its heroes.
  • I loved Billy Batson’s foster family. We can rejoice to see such a positive portrayal of a loving, flawed yet normal group.
  • Some moments were downright horrifying, especially with the Seven Deadly Sins. Parents, take caution.
  • The film does not develop a potentially strong theme about a teen who must grow up quickly into a mature hero.
  • I’d love to see more from these characters. But sequels would need to arrive in a hurry, lest the child and teen cast members age out of their roles.
  • One can hope that a sequel helps Shazam grow up, not just as a character, but as a franchise.
  1. The phrase “hit their marks” comes from my friend Austin Gunderson’s review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Austin notes, “In Batman v Superman, (director Zack Snyder) continues to play the story straight, as if a godlike alien had actually just saved the real world. What’s the result of this approach? The townsfolk don’t trip over themselves to hit their marks. Many of them don’t like the idea of living under a deity who can’t be controlled. Some of them don’t accept his word that he won’t abuse his power. A few of them actually push back.”

Sorry, ‘Joker’ and Other Villain Stories, But I’m Mostly Interested in Heroes

I care less for stories about Batman’s villains than I’d care to read an auto-parts manual for the Batmobile.
| Apr 4, 2019 | No comments |

Two days ago I wrote that “I’m curious about this upcoming live-action Joker, but I’m barely interested in all the villain stories they’re putting together at DC.”

The very next day (yesterday), Warner Bros. released the teaser for Joker.

It’s directed by Todd Phillips. And it stars Joaqin Phoenix as the titular Clown Prince of Crime, at least for this alternate origin story.

Friends and much of the internet went nuts. Wow! It looks almost like a Martin Scorsese movie. Double wow! This looks so intense!

Where’s the Bat?

I watched the teaser. And found myself a bit lost. Um, okay? I’m not exactly sure I want to see Joker, pre-makeup-and-purple-jacket, in that same dim-grungy apartment where they film all the dim-grungy indie movies and dim-grungy Netflix shows, dancing around in his loosey-whities.

Clearly I’m not the audience for this movie.

That’s because—and I’m sure I’m not alone—I enjoy superhero stories mainly for the heroes.

Sure, I prefer villains to be in-depth, passionate, devoted to their own beliefs, and often empathetic. But not for their own sake. Instead, for the sake of providing the hero a greater challenge to conquer.

Thanos? We all want to see him devoted to his religious anti-population cause, and defeated.

Lex Luthor? We want to see him absolutely sure of his self-made-made righteousness, and defeated.

Joker? Whether it’s the psycho-flippant clown prince of other adaptations, or Nolan’s origin-agnostic anarchist, I am only interested in him long enough to see him go down. Hard. At the dark-knit hands of Batman. Or Nightwing, or Robin, or heck, I’d take Alfred.

But what if Batman’s nowhere near the movie, and not even promised for a sequel?

Well, then, I find myself less interested in standalone stories about Batman’s villains than I would be reading an auto-parts manual for the Batmobile.

This is also why I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for Suicide Squad, and remain agnostic about its James Gunn-directed sequel.

It’s also why, despite enjoying the recent Lego DC Super-Villains game as a guilty pleasure, I just can’t enjoy it as much as superhero games.

And the folks at DC can try all they like to make me care about a Harley Quinn-featuring spinoff (set back in the main DC film continuity). At my best, I’ll keep finding myself indifferent. Or at worst, I’ll assume this is an exercise in something like exploitation, both of villain angst and the worst impulses of fans. As I mentioned in my Suicide Squad review:

It seemed to grind home the exploitation, along with excuses for viewers to imagine that they, too, are just as nihilistic, “broken,” and empty-glamorous as Harley Quinn and the Joker.

But you, gentle reader, are likely interested in Joker for other reasons. Perhaps you’re a Joaqin Phoenix fan, or a DC villain fan. And I certainly allow that we can’t only have stories about only slightly flawed heroes.1 In either case, I’d want to hear your reasons for being excited about DC’s Joker.

With that, I’m off tonight to see Shazam!—another hero I care about, and whose villains, such as Dr. Sivana or Black Adam, would interest me very little apart from Shazam.

  1. This is why I really enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, although it clearly meant to grow Superman and redeem a broken Batman.

You Must Not Steal E-Books

I keep seeing all these excuses from e-book thieves eager to justify their violation of God’s law.
| Apr 3, 2019 | 7 comments |

“All my books have been widely pirated,” says a fantasy author friend of mine, R. J. Anderson.

Another friend asked how she knew this. Anderson continued:

Every time I google any of my book titles, I get a slew of links to pirate e-book sites. I also see forums where my books are being requested for download and those requests are being answered by other users who send links to them via DM. And that’s just the surface; there are way more sites that fly under the radar. Only a couple months ago I had to ask a Wattpad-type writing site to stop one of its users from uploading the entire text of [my book] to her account at the rate of one chapter a week — as though her acknowledgment in the author’s note that “I didn’t write this, I just liked the story” made it somehow legal or OK. By the time I came across it, she’d uploaded eight chapters.1

She also shared a screenshot from author Rachel Caine, who said in this tweet:

Needless to say—no, apparently very needful after all—this is wrong. God’s word says:

You must not steal.2

In response, I keep seeing all these excuses from e-book thieves eager to justify their violation of God’s law.3

Special pleading

But at least that way authors get more readers!

You must not steal.

Oh, but some people simply don’t have access to the e-book in their country.

You must not steal.

If I give the author credit, then that makes it okay.

You must not steal.

You’re being greedy. Everybody should share in culture.

You must not steal.

Think of the exposure—

You must not steal.

But real-life items are different from “internet” content like e-books!

You must not steal.

Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it.

You must not steal.

I have to spend my money on other, more important things.

You must not steal.

If I bought the book secondhand, the writer would get no money anyway.

You must not steal.

I’ve read too many bad books, so this way I can first make sure it’s good.

You must not steal.

I’m not stealing from “small” authors, only the “big names” who can afford it.

You must not steal.

To hell with your standard. I’ll do what I want.

You must not steal.

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.4

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.5

  1. Perhaps ironically, my first version of this article did not name Anderson or link to her original post. After checking in with her about it, I’ve edited the story to add these changes.
  2. Exodus 20:15.
  3. Some of these responses are found in Katy Guest’s article, “‘I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds’: can book piracy be stopped?“, The Guardian, March 6, 2019.
  4. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; emphases added. But see verse 11 for the good news.
  5. Ephesians 4:28.