Tag Archives: religion

Archon 41: Come Say Hello!

The flying castle will be dropping me off in your realm this fall to attend Archon 41! Women and nonbinary authors, please be sure to submit your original (no reprint) stories for Artemis Rising before you head out, as our submission window will close on Sept 30.

Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2017
Gateway Convention Center and DoubleTree Hotel
Collinsville, IL

This convention promises the usual from me — religion, fighting, and the inescapable lure of human darkness — capped off on Sunday with a reading chock-full of all three. Come say hello!


The Cinematic Wonder Woman’s Badass Predecessors
20:00 – 20:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

A discussion celebrating Ripley, Xena, Buffy, and more.  Why do we love women who kick butt?
What a question.
With Claire Ashgrove, Tom Stockman, and Ethan Nahté


Alternate Religions
11:00 – 11:50, Salon 4 (Gateway Center)
An open and respectful look at real-life alternate or non-mainstream religions.
I’ll be moderating, with Christine Amsden, Ms Joy Ward, and Walt Boyes

Writing Modern-Day Monsters
12:00 – 12:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Discuss what a “modern-day monster” is (or can be), and how to write an effective one.
With Mr Michales Joy, and Guy Anthony De Marco

Recurring Themes in Speculative Science Fiction
16:00 – 16:50, Marquette B (Gateway Center)

Speculative fiction has become more and more popular in recent years.  Come participate in a discussion on themes in spec lit and what’s on the horizon.
I’m moderating (the fantasist snuck in! Shh!), with Celine Chatillon, Dr Pamela Gay, and Tom Carpenter

Comparative Mythology
19:00 – 19:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

How do myths from different cultures compare?  What are some recurring themes?  What myths seem to be culturally unique?
I’m moderating, with Michael Benjamin, Lloyd Kropp, Walt Boyes, and Kasey Mackenzie



Short-Story Podcasting for Writers, Readers, and Voice Actors
10:00 – 10:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

Escape Artists represent — woop woop!  Podcasts are a huge opportunity to publish and listen to short fiction, and engage with the fan community. They can also provide an avenue into audio book narration and voice acting. Join us to discuss the podcasts we love, how to build a recording setup, and the path to publication.
With the ever-brilliant Benjamin C. Kinney of Escape Pod

Making Friends in Fandom
13:00 – 13:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

It’s hard to make new friends, but it’s easier when you have common interests. Get tips on how to make friends as adults.
With Mrs. Susan Baugh, Cindi Gille-Rowley, Tom Meserole, Steve Lopata

Author Readings with David Benem and Setsu Uzume
14:00 – 14:50, Cahokian (Gateway Center)
Tag-teaming with David Benem



Purity, Story Ideas, and God on the Rag

I was reading about a holiday called Ambubachi Mela, which is observed by Hindus for three days during monsoon season. This is the first holiday I have come across which marks not the birth or death of a divine being; but their menstrual cycle.

Gods: they’re just like us!

I kid you not, the goddess Kamakhya has a period once a year, when the holy river goes into a flood. The rains and water rushing everywhere represent a positive, renewing force; but there was one fact that brought me to a screeching halt.

For three days, because the goddess becomes impure, she has to go into seclusion the way women traditionally did when they had their cycle. The temple closes during this time. On the fourth day, after the goddess is ritually bathed and re-purified, people can go into the temple and worship. Perhaps this is a matter of art imitating life, but it got me thinking about our perception of blood.

There’s a thick association between blood and primal forces. Blood is life. Blood is sacrifice. Blood is the mark of adulthood, either by ritual or by surprise in your pre-teens. I understand that that blood corrupts. If you hunt and kill something without cleaning it of organs and fluids, it will quickly rot. Open wounds and infections kill us. The thing is, women aren’t meat. It’s not an open wound. Where does purity come in? Just because it’s gross? Blood sacrifice is pretty gross too, but some Aztecs and Vikings still thought it would be a cool present for a divine being. Technically, it’s poor scholarship to compare what’s happening in India with what happened in Mexico and Scandinavia during different eras, but there’s something about symbolic blood that seems to resonate across time and distance.

That said, it seems counterintuitive, or unjust, to say that blood is both powerful and holy during ritual, and then it goes back to being gross and shunned in an everyday context. Ambubachi Mela is a time of austerity and cleansing in the hopes for future fertility, and menstruation is a pretty good mythological metaphor in this case. The thing is, if all ritual is arbitrary, based on our own recognition and application of nature’s patterns, why observe blood (represented by water) as impure rather than divine? It’s part of a divine story, in a divine context, coming from a divine being. It has me thinking not so much about that particular myth, but the idea of purity.

A lot of subjugation has happened over perceptions of purity, but purity doesn’t last. All food turns to shit, eventually. All peoples intermix, eventually. There is a huge difference between looking at a biological function and saying, “that’s gross,” and looking at the person whose chemistry produced it and saying, “you’re gross. You’re so gross you can’t participate in society for three days.”

I understand why a woman would want to peacefully retreat during that week. The sequester isn’t the issue. It’s the specific mark of “impure” that niggles at me as a writer.

So when a writer goes out, settles in, whips out his or her pencil and starts to create a world, that world might include arbitrary rituals. They look great, sound cool, and you come up with a myth and it helps ground you in that world. Purity will come up at some point in the context of the world you’ve built. Call it virtue if you like, but there will be a social stratification between those who do things correctly, and those who will not get the holy high-five.

When someone offers blood as a prayer, is it the blood that holds the power, or the idea of sacrifice itself? Is menstrual blood considered non-sacrificial because it just happens?

If blood is universally divine because it’s an offering of oneself, then surely there are other offerings on par with it. Imagine the kind of world where blood and fine craftsmanship are equally divine. Where the endurance of suffering is all well and good, but the labor and effort of creating something marvelous is more precious — the giving of oneself, rather than the sacrifice of oneself. If knowledge, creativity, and excellence were as valuable as flesh and blood, what then defines impurity?

To be empty. To lack. To starve.

This is the story I’m working on now.

My Godmother, KAOS, on Accessing Divine Love

It’s interesting to note that as much as I make a lot of noise about writing and warriorship, I don’t much mention war on this blog. Or fighting, or technique or research… I’ve been awfully remiss on that score.

It doesn’t much redress the balance to put up this link. Except that it does.

A warrior’s path is a constant struggle. We love it. We challenge ourselves and grow. We seek out our fears in order to track them down and annihilate them. We want to know our enemies as well as we know our lovers. It’s a never-ending uphill battle to be better… whatever one’s definition of “better” is.

Part of that struggle is a well-rounded education. As proud I am of my darkness, I seek, with equal enthusiasm, teachers of peace. I want equal access to compassion and cruelty. I want to be ready when I need to defend myself, and I want to know what peaceful folk know: as complete a feeling of love as can be accessed on this mortal coil.

The link below is a [lesson? Sermon? Storytelling?] that was written and spoken by my godmother, KAOS. I know it was uploaded by her younger son. I don’t know the prompt or context.

KAOS once told me that Irish families gave one child to the church. That is, most children go on to marry and have children, and one of them goes off and dedicates himself to a spiritual path. My brother and sister have children, and I’m off doing my thing. Her son, the one who uploaded this, is who she was talking about when she told me that legend.

Please give it a listen, especially if you’re feeling down or isolated. I downloaded it so I can hear her whenever I miss her.

My heart to yours.

Intuition, intention, imagination.”

Saying YES to life, by Rev. Kathy O’Sullivan

Damning Orson Scott Card

I’m a little late to the party with this issue. I wanted to wait until I had a solution rather than just a gripe.

There was some activity in the media a little while ago about Orson Scott Card’s conservative politics. He’s religious, and I’ve found that religion and conservative politics frequently go hand in hand, so I’m a little surprised that anyone was surprised.

Shortly after Card’s anti-gay sentiments became public, there was a call to boycott the film version of his most famous book, Ender’s Game this coming November. Good. Great. I applaud people for getting to know the artists, and also for taking a stand on issues they believe in.

I’d like to argue for the other side.

While hiking with another writer friend of mine, we stumbled across this issue and weren’t sure how to proceed. We both loved the book, the goodness of Ender, the subtle evil of Peter and the heartbreaking ending. We loved the moral ambiguity of the piece, and the harsh reality that children must own their responsibilities as they grow start to impact the world around them.

When I was a kid, I loved any story in which a child played an active role in the adults’ world, so I was very receptive to this tale and what it had to say about the different types of conflict from bullying to all-out war.

On the other hand, my friend and I are pretty liberal and don’t agree with Card’s lifestyle or politics. As we turned around and started back down the hill, we asked ourselves: can you love the art and not the artist?

It’s a tricky question, especially when money’s on the line. Presumably if we buy the product, we support the entity in its entirety. This is exactly how I feel about Nestle products, to name an example at random; but with art I feel it’s a little different. It’s easy to love artists who embody and express our own beliefs; but art, like life, won’t always work out that way.

The purpose of art is to express ideas. Uplifting ideas bring us together. Controversial ideas force us to debate, paring away at our perceptions of ourselves and the world we live in. Both forms of expression are valuable.

Do I support homophobia and religious conservatism?
No, I don’t.
Neither does US law, thankfully, which renders such opinions functionally private/moot.

Do I support the idea that kids will have to grapple with hard choices, and should be presented with stories that reflect that?
Yes, I do.

Do I think that in order to damn the man I must damn the art?

Is damning the man worth the loss of the art?

I heard something interesting while listening to the Pseudopod. Neil Gaiman had to grapple with a similar issue when his fans were distraught to find out that Gaiman, (a young, hip guy) listed Rudyard Kipling (a fascist) as one of his literary heroes. To paraphrase, Gaiman responded by saying that the point of the writing was exactly the opposite. The fans were missing out on Kipling’s inspiring work (rather than his uninspiring life) because they were probably told not to read him. Gaiman went on to say that he doesn’t agree with Kipling’s politics; but it would be a sad world if we never engaged with those who disagree with us.

I think we have a tendency to get too wrapped up in our ‘team,’ whatever that may be. From politics and religion to sports and comics, our obsessions have the capacity to destroy friendships, families, and lives and communities. “Destroy the opposition” hits the ear much more neatly than a call for harmony. It sucks. It’s a waste. We’re better than that. We have more common ground than we think. We might be better served – as artists and audiences – to show more sophistication when it comes to interacting with opposing ideas.

In fact, wouldn’t the opposition be more willing to hear us out if the discussion had its foundations in our common ground?

Even if the characters and authors fade from our memory, the lessons from the stories stay with us as we grow. Looking at context, understanding motivations and solving problems by thinking critically are all lessons taught in English classes and in Ender’s Game. Opposition and debate help us grow, help us think, and teach us how to recover when we’re wrong. If you don’t respect others’ autonomy, they will have no respect for yours. The results can be devastating.

Better to learn the lesson early, through a story, than to wait for that horrible moment when the game becomes real.

Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles. Know yourself but not your enemy, find level of loss and victory. Know thy enemy but not yourself, wallow in defeat every time.”
― Sun Tzu

Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.”
― Virginia Woolf

Opposition flowing in and out of itself in harmony.


Addendum:  Card’s original statements on the subject of homosexuality can be found here.