/ Features E. Stephen Burnett

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.

If Creators Turn a Story Into Just More ‘Worldview’ Work, I’m (Likely) Out

Nothing personal, but if movies embrace Sexualityism agendas over story, I’m free to embrace rest over yet another culture-engagement job.
| Apr 2, 2019 | 1 comment |

Last night I saw a fandom-news headline that happily proclaimed:

Avengers: Endgame Director Confirms A Queer Superhero Is Coming To The MCU1

I’ve seen a few of these headlines already. So, despite the fact that yesterday was April 1, I believed it. Then I resisted the urge to repeat the cliched and not entirely accurate slogan “go woke, go broke.” (I prefer, “Go woke, story broke.”)

Instead I shared the article and, admittedly, I griped:

“Endgame” indeed.

If they go through with this folderol, I will just as quickly exit the franchise fandom, at this clean breaking point, and then become the DC>Marvel partisan many already claimed I was.

Not the most mature response. And of course I got challenged, by friends, and probably rightfully so. There would have been a better way to phrase that, and certainly one that didn’t leave myself open to several charges. Such as:

  1. Does “this folderol” mean, “Oh, the slightest hint of a ‘queer person,’ and you get grossed out and run away”?
  2. Would you really “exit the franchise”? All of it, really? Never see another Marvel film again?
  3. Joke’s on you, crusader; the DC franchise will also just follow this trend in another few years.

Comments section ensued. Thank God I have great friends. Even when they verge on “frenemy” territory.

But to make a long comments section short:

1. By “this folderol,” I don’t mean, “Ew, a wild queer character appears. Brave sir Christian boldly ran away, away, away! (It’s not very effective.)”

Rather, I’m referring to the habit of movie-makers announcing this incredible epic future casting/character event. To be fair, perhaps they don’t lead with this. But fandom/media writers lead them in this direction. Either way, they use the same breathless tones, as if the filmmakers’ special effects artists, while applying mocap headsets and suits to their performers, stumbled across the discovery of cold fusion.

And no, I don’t panic and flee at the sight of a “queer person,” or a “queer character.” That would be a plain false accusation.

Some examples from superhero or fantasy franchises I enjoy:

  • The Flash has mentioned the “gay” lifestyles of some characters. I’m still watching. (Though I’ve slowed my pace. Ha, ha.)
  • So has Arrow. Though it’s offered some more explicit content (kisses and such). I’m no longer watching. But not for that reason.
  • Switching genres, I’ve actually really grown to appreciate some of Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling’s interpretation of Albus Dumbledore’s history of same-sex attraction. After all, this concept serves a dual purpose.2 If you’re same-sex attracted/”gay”/”queer”/or etc., you can see him as a representation of your lifestyle choices. If you’re not, or find objections with this behavior, Dumbledore just as easily becomes a magnificent portrayal of a hero who has this struggle, and yet puts it aside and even lives celibate.3 After all, Dumbledore is a flawed yet true hero. He fights for the greater good of destroying a twisted, manipulative enemy—in fact, the very man, the dark wizard, Grindelwald, who held his attraction for so long. This personal history, plus the fact that film-Gridelwald is constantly shown using his masculine charisma to influence others—men and women alike—makes this an even more fascinating story.

2. By “exit the franchise,” I mean I wouldn’t watch every film “religiously.” (Or I’d temper the overstatement.)

Honestly, I still aim to see some Marvel movies. If they make more stories about Black Panther, or Black Widow, and of course my new–old favorite, Spider-Man, or folks like Dr. Strange, then sure, I’d like to follow their adventures.

But I won’t stay “in the franchise,” as I have been. I won’t feel something like a “need” to see every single movie.

As an aside, I’m not a lifelong Marvel comics fanboy. I got on board with the original Spider-Man trilogy (2002–2007), and then the burgeoning Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man (2008). It’s the movies, not the comics, that won my allegiance.

Literally, it’s culminated in a moment when I paused writing this, several times, in another effort to get the Cinemark app to actually load for a change so I could score Avengers: Endgame tickets for Thursday night, April 25. I may not have grown up reading Namor the Sub-Mariner comics. And I’ve never camped out on a sidewalk weeks in advance for Hall H. But I do at least share this level of dedication.

(Ticket quest update: I finally won. But for the small-screen only. My town’s huge “XD” screen had sold out within half an hour of the ticket announcement this morning.)

3. Sure, plenty of other movies (including the DC franchise) will follow this trend.

Yes, and in some previous cases, I’ve either pulled back from those shows, or exited them entirely (as with the show Supergirl).

I’m already less devoted to the upcoming DC films than some people think. For example, 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. Like with the X-verse, I’ll take some DC movies, and leave others.

If I feel stories are getting hijacked by religious causes, I’ll take each instance in isolation, and choose what to do with my time.

But this leads to another surprising twist in my quickfire reaction to this news.

I’m tired of restful stories getting twisted into Just More Work.

Thinking about these comments section challenges, I realized something new.

I realized that my feelings about “a queer hero in the MCU” rhymed almost exactly with my feelings about (as a whole) evangelical movies.

And in retrospect, I just felt worn out.

I felt as if yet another evangelical movie-maker had come along and said, “Now see here, we’ve made this very important movie and it’s in theaters now, so you’d better come out and support it, okay?”

I don’t mind supporting good causes. But let’s be clear: that’s work. It’s necessary and practical but it’s work.

To say nothing of the fact that it takes even more work, in the facial-muscle-wince department, to get through some evangelical movies.

And to be frank, I’m tired.

I’m tired of seeing some forms of needed recreation burst into ash.

When either evangelical or general-audience marketers push movies at me like this, I don’t feel that they’re asking me to enjoy a new and restful form of recreation. Instead, I feel like I’m being asked to Work. Again. It’s like you’ve finally escaped to vacation after six months of sixty-hour weeks at the construction site, and then someone runs up to you at the beach with a hardhat and vest and says, “You! Over there—we’re digging a new pier, and you must pour the concrete.”

I already spend a lot of time reading and writing about fantasy stories for career purposes. Because of this, I’m already slightly at risk of having the joy sucked out of these favorite stories, because it has become Work.

“Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.”

— J. R. R. Tolkien

So I tend to enjoy television and games and movies for the escape of it. By this I don’t mean “escapist” escape. I mean healthful, recreative, restful escape. The kind of escape J. R. R. Tolkien described as managing to break out of the temporal “reality”-prison for a change.

In this case, with Marvel and DC films, toxic fandoms are already threatening people’s enjoyment. I can ignore that fairly easily.

But what if a story’s creators effectively say, “Let’s make it more enjoyable only for other people. But not for you. Because with this marketing emphasis, we’re going to imply that you’re backward. You’re a bad person. You’re presumed immoral if you do not get on board this thing”?

When they do this, I can’t rest even when I really need to rest. Instead, I’m being pressed into dutiful service. Again.

Mind you, I really ought to be willing to engage at that level. All the time. Yes, I really should be always-on, 24/7, as a faithful Christian witness and worldview-explorer and popular-culture-engager-in-constant-training.

The spirit is willing. But the flesh is weak.

I can’t be always-on.

I can’t see every movie, climb every secular mountain, ford every Sexualityist stream.

In an overbudgeted life already, if I find that creators of a formerly restful story have chosen to twist it into Just More Work, then I may be forced to make a decision. I may be forced to decide: I’m out. I’m going to leave this formerly quiet beach and find a new one, where I can spend whatever recreational time I’m granted by grace. Then I’ll return to the workload, including all the cultural engagement I’m called to do.

It’s not about refusal to work at all, to confront false beliefs, or to understand my own mission field.

Instead, it’s about obedience to God’s command: to work six days, rest a seventh, and desperately find any other appropriate in-between Sabbath rest-times that we can. That is, until Jesus Christ returns to bring to Earth his ultimate and forever Sabbath-rest.

  1. See Jamie Gerber, “Avengers: Endgame Director Confirms a Queer Superhero Is Coming To The MCU,” April 1, 2019, ScreenRant.com.
  2. My original typo here read, “duel purpose,” which is a happy coincidence when discussing Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
  3. I’m being very optimistic here, and presuming no further retcons from Rowling at this point. Yes, this may be a pretty comical presumption.

Christians, How Do You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’?

If you watch the HBO fantasy drama series, I’m curious about how you personally handle the porn parts.
| Apr 1, 2019 | 3 comments |

Here we go again with all the hype for Game of Thrones.

I haven’t seen any of this HBO fantasy drama myself. Written about it, though—and mostly negatively.

Of course, I can’t review the show, having not seen it. And I hope my earlier articles (most of them several years ago) always proceed with a tone that says, “I’m open to correction here, but here’s what I understand about this show.”

For example, by all accounts, it’s a plain fact that the show has porn in it.

Based on this, I think we should condemn the porn as (at best) inappropriate.

My friend Cap Stewart went further, and reminds us that these exploitative scenes aren’t just “awkward,” but violate the actors’ dignity. (More recently, Cap wrote this must-read series, When High Fantasy Becomes Porn Fantasy.)

So I’ve had a bit to say about this subject. But now that the show’s final season is due to debut, I keep hearing everyone getting crazy hyped.

I try not to judge. Rather, I find myself morbidly curious—and not about all these nasty, sin-compromising friends I have.

Instead, I trust my friends. I’m presuming that they already have natural temptation-resistance, or other methods, for resisting what would otherwise be the succulent allure of visual pornography.1

But then I get more curious about what those methods are. So I propose this poll. Anonymous replies are fine! But feel free to comment below, knowing that right now, it’s me who’s trying to learn from you.

Then perhaps later, you can ask me about my strategies for dealing with sexually exploitative moments in anime . . .

  1. Despite my optimism here, I think people still need to work through the arguments that Cap Stewart makes: that even if the show doesn’t cause them personal temptation, their fandom of the show can still result in actor exploitation.

‘People Are Dying!’

“People are dying! They are dying!” And apart from Jesus, people are desperate to fix this in absurd ways.
| Mar 29, 2019 | 1 comment |

What stories are we telling ourselves about the reality of death and dying in our world?

This week, I heard this lament from a young political influencer:

“People are dying! They are dying! This is about American lives, and it should not be partisan. Science should not be partisan.”

No, I’ll not even address the controversial of climate change. I won’t even address the particular legislation this leader had proposed.

You could be skeptical. Maybe this leader doesn’t truly believe what she’s saying. Perhaps it’s just a cover for socialistic power-grabs. In other words, a leader who wants to nationalize industry would believe in this, even if human activity were not altering global climate.

People rage against death and they don’t know why

Instead, let’s presume this leader was legit.

Let’s presume she is actually in grief because, as she believes, people are dying!” from climate change.

If that’s true, I wonder how much people are using climate change as a “language” to express a far greater fear.

The fear of death and dying.

And no political cause, no economic changes, no switch in party governance, will change that.

No matter what law you pass, the mortality rate will stay at 100 percent.

You can prevent all that carbon from escaping into the atmosphere. People will still die from hurricanes. From mudslides, earthquakes, volcanoes. And they’ll die from accidents, cancer, heart disease, depression leading to suicide, and murder.

All of that horror is hard enough to contemplate with a biblical Christian worldview.

I can’t even imagine how someone can deal with the horror without this worldview.

For example, a person who does not see the world in terms of biblical revelation may end up making largely atheistic assumptions about the world.1 But by the tenets of atheism, you cannot logically rage against death. In their own worldview, death has always “existed.” To rage at death, you may as well yell at the rock on which you stub your toe. Or scream at the void of outer space because you feel you’re owed oxygen.

So instead—again, assuming the best here—such a person grabs for whatever religious beliefs she can. The person doesn’t care about consistency. She is desperate for some response to her own quiet, creeping sense of terror. She must deal with this flailing desperation. And she must answer that silent shriek that something, anything, should be done about this terrible death and suffering!

Well, Jesus Christ has already dealt with it. Not by the minuscule action of passing a human law. Instead, by his death and resurrection, he fulfilled the divine law that sin leads to death and suffering.

Anyone who ignores that truth, or calls it lunacy, will be forced into even greater silliness. In some cases, they’ll actually start to believe the absurd notion that mere human legislation—no matter how costly—could actually do something about the fact that people are dying.

  1. In the original version of this article, I referred here to “the consistent materialist.” A friend pointed out that (in summary) the argument ended up self-defeating. That’s because I then went on to say, effectively, “the materialist is not really a materialist.” That, coupled with the implication that any particular person is a “materialist” (when these are actually very rare) rendered the label confusing at best.

C. S. Lewis Effectively Remarks on Mueller Report Reactions

If we hear that our enemies actually didn’t do a terrible deed, do we “wish that black was a little blacker”?
| Mar 28, 2019 | No comments |

This isn’t a political site, but certain responses to the Mueller Report™ sparked this remembered C. S. Lewis quote.

This quote is verified, and comes from Mere Christianity.

C. S. Lewis observes a characteristic of human behavior. It cuts across all faiths and political parties, and it challenges us especially when we are tempted to feel disappointed about some terrible enemy being proven not-terrible in at least one way.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper.

Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out.

Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?

If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.

You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.1

  1. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. I’ve added a few paragraph breaks.

Do the Mad Scientists Quoted in ‘Love Thy Body’ Watch Any Sci-Fi Films?

“Personhood theory” is the great lie behind many of today’s real-world, would-be mad scientists.
| Mar 27, 2019 | 4 comments |

My wife and I are reading Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body.

In this nonfiction work, Pearcey explores the notion of “personhood theory.” This oft-hidden belief divides mind/”person” from material/body. It’s a blatantly Gnostic religious view. And as Love Thy Body explores, it’s the theory is behind many of today’s social ills, such as abortion, transgenderism, euthanasia, and the entire sexual revolution with its worship of self-identity.

Also, as Pearcey shares in chapter 3, the theory is behind much real-world mad science.

Note that the term “mad science” is mine, not Pearcey’s. But I use it because so many of Pearcey’s quotes bring many dystopian and supervillain stories directly to mind. If these activists had advanced tech and a secret lab, they would—if they acted on what they claim—literally become mad scientists.

For example:

One of the most prominent advocates of transhumanism is geneticist Lee Silver of Princeton University. In Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, Silver spins out a scenario in which humanity will bifurcate into two separate races—genetic übermenschen (super-persons) who rule over untermenschen (sub-persons). The first group will become the controllers of society. The second group will become the low-paid laborers and service-providers.1

As Pearcey herself can’t help remarking, “This prediction calls to mind the plotline of countless dystopian novels and movies.”

Another:

. . . There are transhumanists who hope to transcend the body altogether. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, hopes that advances in artificial intelligence will enable us to download our brain to a computer, making possible a kind of digital immortality.

This last quote is the most overtly chill-arious:

Futurist James Hughes advocates what he calls “uplifting” chimpanzees genetically to give them human intellectual capacities . . .

What are they thinking?

Are these folks at least somewhat self-aware? Have these advocates watched any sci-fi movies at all?

What would happen if someone came to these transhumanist activists to say, “Um, you do realize you are literally proposing the very same mad science that led to the terrible events in these speculative stories?”

I imagine the transhumanist activist would reply with something like, “Oh, come now. Those are only fairy tales. I’m about the real world.”

Which is, of course, exactly would a mad scientist would say.

  1. All quotes from Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body (2018), pages 98–99.

Zack Snyder v Justice League and My Conflicted Reactions

DC director Zack Snyder says he would have made two “Justice League” films darker and more epic.
| Mar 26, 2019 | No comments |

Embattled DC film director Zack Snyder is strongly and publicly defending his vision for Justice League.

First, some background for casual readers. It’s been three years after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice polarized fans. And it’s been two Christmases since Justice League left fans heaving a collective, “Meh.”

Snyder directed BvS (2016). He only sort-of directed Justice League (2017). Producers re-edited the latter film after Snyder left the project. Instead, substitute director Joss Whedon oversaw extra scenes to add “lighter” moments. As I remarked in my Justice League review:

Few aspects of Snyder’s hallmark style actually feature in the final product, however. In his previous films, Snyder favored a “tear-down-and-rebuild” approach in which minimalist, struggling protagonists bulk up, confront critics, scream loud, and punch hard in the dark to become heroic in a world that doesn’t always respond favorably to them.

The film would have originally been full “Snyder.” Justice League would have shared troubled heroics, awesome visuals, darker palette, and revels in the “nobledark” genre.

Or so we thought.

Per Snyder himself, it turns out that producers had already revised his original vision for a two– or even three-part Justice League epic.

“The original Justice League that Chris [Terrio] and I wrote, we didn’t even shoot,” he confirmed.”The actual idea, the hard, hard idea, the scary idea, we never filmed because the studio was like ‘That’s crazy.'”

“When this movie came out, understand that Chris Terrio and I had finished the script to Justice League before Batman v Superman came out. Some people didn’t like the movie. A vocal minority. So they said ‘There’s a lot of stuff we don’t want you to do,’ so we did a rewrite from that script.”1

I kind of knew some of this, especially when the announced two-part Justice League suddenly turned into one movie.

But the original plan details sound bonkers epic. Still—a lot darker than audiences would have been prepared for.

Well, Darkseid had taken over the Earth and Superman had succumbed to the Anti-Life Equation, thereby explaining why he had turned evil in the flashforward sequence from Batman v Superman.

The Man of Steel’s fall from grace would have led to Batman, the Flash, and a “broken” Cyborg attempting to send the Fastest Man Alive back in time to warn Bruce about what was to come, and that explains what the Caped Crusader saw in the Batcave when Barry Allen told him that “Lois is the key.”

Snyder didn’t elaborate on how all this would have worked beyond confirming that he and Terrio figured out a complicated time-travel formula, and while Warner Bros. was initially on board, “the details of how and why” the Justice League broke up made them nervous and had to be changed.2

Anti-fans protest Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, just before real-world anti-fans protested the film with claims of “they wouldn’t do that.”

My early reactions

I might explore this a bit more in the future. But for now I have only a few fragmented thoughts.

I defended and will still defend Batman v Superman as pretty amazing. Not perfect. But it’s not a “failure” from storytellers who “hate” characters. That’s amateurish and trope-y criticism that ignores years of comic-book history, and often the film itself. I reviewed/defended the film here. Austin Gunderson, Kerry Nietz, and I have explored this at length here and here.

As part of my defenses, I always pointed to behind-the-scenes quotes and promises. I said (short version): the nobledarkness in Batman v Superman, and its predecessor Man of Steel (2013), could be for greater purpose. These darker moments and themes are likely intended to help construct these heroes and make them into who they were always meant to be. For example, Superman is forced to kill his enemy in Man of Steel, but fights to stay heroic in Batman v Superman and ultimately gives his life to save others. That’s a progression from struggle to heroism. And I argued that the final film could show Superman finally become the hero we always wanted to see.

However.

It looks like the original two-part Justice League would not have fulfilled my hopes in that regard.

Or, at least, the films would have delayed (by two or three installments) the inevitable reconstruction after the deconstruction.

Which leaves me feeling conflicted.

Pros:

On one hand, I love the audaciousness of Snyder’s original vision.

I would have loved the sudden escalation to intergalactic peril.

And I would have very much enjoyed such a huge threat that would bring these heroes together into this grand epic.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Do not want.

Cons:

And yet …

I feel “it’s Superman! but he’s EVIL” has been done to death in other media. It seems a cheat to avoid actually doing something new and inspiring with the Man of Steel, to honor his past but also update him for new generations.

Even if the two– or three-part Justice League series would have finally “rebuilt” Superman, that would have been too great a delay.

Meanwhile, other heroes’ character would have suffered in the meantime. Worse, audiences would not have responded well. That includes casual fans and DC fans. Both groups would have felt denied the chance to get great versions of previous hero versions (Superman and Batman) interacting with heroes new to the screen (Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman).

What we got instead: classic origin-story heroes

Ultimately, I’m content with the new direction of the DC film universe.

Nowadays, Marvel films seem to be winding down, or at least coming to a natural break. That’s the inevitable result of following a years-long serial story across multiple splinter franchises.

Zachary Levi as the teen-boy-turns-hero Shazam. This is already triple-A perfect casting.

However, DC films are trending upward. Audiences loved Aquaman (which just arrived on home release today). They’re primed to make Shazam! (releasing April 5 in the U.S.) another smash success. Folks are now more curious about these heroes, who now aren’t following yet another serialized story, but occupying their own universes that might—someday—come together.

At such a moment (Justice League 2?), people would be more ready for the surprise. It would be the characters, not promised plot, that would have won fans. We’d all go in wanting to see Mera react to Wonder Woman, or Shazam meet The Flash.

Well. Perhaps that will happen someday. I certainly hope so.

And I still hope for a release of the original Justice League Snyder Cut.

But, unlike before, I don’t mean I want to see the original Justice League two-parter, which was never filmed. I mean I want to see the Snyder Cut of the original, revised, single-film version. The one we would have seen before Snyder left the project (because of his daughter’s suicide), and before Joss Whedon (backed by committee?) edited the film.

I think that final Snyder film, before the franchise’s “soft reboot,” could have made everyone happy.

But. All of these events are exclusive to a now-aborted timeline. And (to spoil the ending) we know that neither villains nor speedsters are actually able to change history. We serve the true Time Lord, who lovingly and perfectly controls everything—even mild disappointments in our favorite fandoms.

Lorehaven’s Next Issue Reviews Fifteen Good Christian Fantastical Novels

Tomorrow, Lorehaven Magazine’s new issue reviews Tosca Lee’s “The Line Between” and other novels by fantastical Christian authors.
| Mar 25, 2019 | 1 comment |

Last month I said that Tosca Lee’s latest novel, The Line Between, was already great and you should definitely read it.

Since then I finished the book. I also wrote and edited the featured review for the next Lorehaven magazine issue. (Both these links go live on Tuesday, March 26.)

The Line Between was still great, and you should definitely read it. Here’s why:

Lee mixes chilling, cracking suspense with thoughtful character growth, as readers follow Wynter’s frightening present while also recalling her perma-frosted past. Each character leaps from the page, pressed by experienced storytelling hands. . . .

Truth glimpses give The Line Between surprising heart-warmth amongst the chill, while its road-trip quest drives fast through mad territory and never once feels bogged down in snowbanks. Even by the finale, we get hints that our heroes have learned that yes, sometimes you must stay preserved from a world gone mad, but for the greater mission of helping others in that world.

You should also read the next Lorehaven issue. It releases tomorrow to free subscribers, and includes the full The Line Between review. Plus you’ll get the cover story with Lee, and reviews of fourteen other good or great fantastical-genre novels by Christian authors.

By the way, Tosca Lee will award two copies of The Line Between to two Lorehaven Magazine readers. Soon we’ll announce this contest.

Preview more Lorehaven reviews

The Edge of Over There, Shawn SmuckerMeanwhile, these other reviews stood out to me:

With The Edge of Over There—sequel to The Day the Angels Fell—Shawn Smucker unveils a masterwork of lyrical grandeur. . . . In the tradition of Perelandra and A Wrinkle in Time, this story cracks the spacetime doorway to reveal a reality far richer than the world we know.

[Bailey] Davenport has assembled a cast of characters who genuinely care for each other despite disagreements and hardships. Overall, Eilinland: Through the Wall serves a light, entertaining read, with good thematic substance to accompany the fun.

Heir to the Raven, J. Wesley BushJ. Wesley Bush’s Heir to the Raven deftly creates classic high fantasy. Its large array of characters tread disparate paths, nations and armies tangle together, and abundant detail builds up the world’s complexity without cluttering the story.

[Lindsay A. Franklin’s The Story Peddler] spins a perfect array of delightful characters living with complex magical abilities in a truly unique world. Its adventure, political mayhem, and just a touch of romance reach into the hearts of creatives whom God has gifted to use their talents to serve others.

Download Lorehaven‘s spring 2019 issues, and get access to all four 2018 issues, exclusively at the website’s free subscriber side.

Lorehaven’s Spring 2019 Issue Arrives Tuesday, March 26!

Subscribers can get Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue this Tuesday at Lorehaven.com.
| Mar 22, 2019 | No comments |

Subscribers can download Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue this Tuesday, exclusively at Lorehaven.com.

I publish the magazine and serve as its editor in chief.

For each issue, we keep finding even better novels by Christian authors.

Each novel shares a fantastical genre tale in fantasy, science fiction, and beyond.

Our review team loves finding great stories. We emphasize fair yet positive reviews, which match the best stories with the readers who will most enjoy them.

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.

Here’s a preview of Lorehaven’s spring 2019 issue:

Captain’s Log

E. Stephen Burnett

Young fans are slowly guiding Christian fiction toward fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

Book Reviews

Lorehaven review team

Explore twelve new fantastical novels from Christian authors.

Sponsored Review: Outbreak

Lorehaven review team

Outbreak will doubtless thrill readers who enjoy a good zombie yarn.

Sponsored Review: The Reluctant Disciple

Lorehaven review team

The Reluctant Disciple tours popular thematic attractions via disquieting paths.

Featured Review: The Line Between

Lorehaven review team

Tosca Lee’s thriller quests toward truth among apocalyptic madness.

‘Come With Me! I Have A Story To Tell You’

Interview with novelist Tosca Lee

In Tosca Lee’s fictional worlds, heroines find new identities of grace.

Fanservants: How to Geek Out with Godly Purpose

Paeter Frandsen

Does our investment in stories build the kingdom or waste our gifts?

Fanservants: ‘When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain’

Marian Jacobs

Should parents make their kids only play as heroes and good guys?

Get more details, including a complete list of the books we’ve reviewed, at Speculative Faith.

Subscribe for free only at Lorehaven.com and download the issue Tuesday, March 26!

Yes, Christian Publishers Already Tried Selling Fantasy, and It Didn’t Work

Christian publishers selling fantasy is a great idea, but for one little hitch: It didn’t work. For several reasons.
| Mar 21, 2019 | No comments |

Radio hosts gotta repeat their call-in number for new fans, and similarly, I need to repeat my answer whenever people re-re-re-re-restate:

Traditional Christian publishers haven’t really tried fantasy! They really should try that sometime. It would Change Everything!

Great idea. It’s just—there’s one problem: It doesn’t work.

But for more of this answer, I really must e-cycle. (And not just because we’re wrapping design tomorrow on Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue.) This comes from my SpecFaith article “Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy?1

I know a little about The Industry. At least, I have seen some things mainly from the “just short of being actually published in The Industry” side; I’ve been in orbit for a few years.

I’ve done much advocacy for Christian fantastical stories at SpeculativeFaith.com, where a team of fans/writers and I explore fantastical stories for God’s glory. We’ve also put together the Lorehaven Library of every fantastical Christian-written novel we know about, from any publisher. I think that’s helped give me a perspective on what’s available.

Here are a few points I’ve gathered and tend to harp on.

Q. Why isn’t there more Christian fantasy?

Answer 1: There has been, but it failed.

I know many Christian editors and authors who did or do publish fantastical titles, e.g. supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi. And that effort went over like a dead drone. Not because the publishers were not willing. But because the readership did not respond.

Oxygen, John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson

Without exception, the Christian fantastical titles I enjoyed in the 90s and 2000s are now out of print at their original publishers. Some, such as Oxygen and the Firebird series, ended up being republished by Marcher Lord Press, now known as Enclave, which is now an imprint of Gilead Publishing.2

Answer 2: There is, but you haven’t heard of it.

Some Christian authors who tried fantasy/sci-fi at larger publishers ended up jumping genres. Or they moved into indie or self-publishing. In some Christian circles, this means even less opportunity for the Ministry platforms a traditional publisher might afford.

Even apart from that, you likely haven’t heard of an author’s self- or indie-published works.

From here it appears that a new author must be able to  be a full-time author/marketer to work at making a living from being a full-time author/marketer. Catch-22?

3. There is, but readers aren’t there.

This question is not about the writers/publishers not giving the supply.

It’s about readers and what they demand.

That’s why I overtly push against the “why don’t Christian publishers and writers do X” line. Fact is: Christian publishers and writers have done X, and readers did not respond.

I’ve begun to wonder, among some of the “Christian fantasy” circles I know, whether some writers simply do not know of the many, many writers and publishers who have tried this, and are therefore led to conclude “Well, someone should try it,” e.g. reinventing the wheel.

After I wrote this material, an editor with a Christian publishing house commented:

It’s not that publishers haven’t tried to publish speculative fiction before, but the Christian readers didn’t respond to it. I actually have on my desk a fantasy trilogy that [my publisher] did in 2007; no one bought it and it’s out of print now.

And while Christian publishers definitely should be more willing to take risks, Christian readers (and Christian stores, even in the age of Amazon it’s actually amazing how much they influence what gets published) have often punished those who took risks. That’s why we’re stuck in a never-ending vortex of Amish Romance (and now coloring books).

So here’s the real question we ought to ask:

Q. Why don’t more Christians want more Christian fantastical stories?

Follow the exciting conclusion at the original SpecFaith article, “Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy?

  1. I’ve edited this article only slightly. This article kicked off an incidental series, Why Christian Fantasy? The series included “Why Do We Need Christian Fantasy?” and “Why We Don’t Need Christian Fantasy.”
  2. This statement was true at the time I originally wrote it (May 2016).