‘Are My Books Biased?’ (2013)

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It was going to be my big break. My books were going to be reviewed by a big-name critic I had actually heard of.

Until he decided they were so crawling with subliminal Calvinism, he shouldn’t even mention them.

Are My Books Biased?

These are fantasy novels. They depict an imaginary world. I detest fantasies that remind me I’m only looking at words on paper. For me to load Bell Mountain with sly Calvinist insinuations would be to break my own rules.

Who we are is always going to have a bearing on what we write. Otherwise we wouldn’t be writing in the first place. If I wanted a Greek Orthodox slant to my story, I’d have to work and study hard to acquire it. Much of who we are is what we’re used to.

I don’t think my books are biased against one particular branch of Christianity or another. I try not to be. This blog serves readers of many different denominations–or no denomination. I rather hoped my books would do the same.

‘Escape!’ (2012)

Image result for images of map of the shire

The hobbit’s home turf

Why do we watch fantasy movies, or read fantasy novels? I mean, who wants to see the good guys win and the villains lose, problems get solved, dragons slain, bad guys run out of town, etc.?


Wouldn’t you rather watch nooze? Or at least some Gritty Realistic Drama in which everybody dies?

Yes, we read fantasy for escape. We can’t really tunnel out of this POW camp of the 21st century, but at least we can imagine doing so. True, the imagination is a big box with a lot of bad items in it: all the trouble starts there. But every now and then we can imagine something better, by God’s grace.

And if nothing else, a well-done fantasy is a sanity break!

(I admit that there are few things as bad as a bad fantasy.)

Where can I buy a ticket for the Narnia Local?

‘Lost on Venus’ is… Lost

I’ll never outgrow Edgar Rice Burroughs–best known as the creator of Tarzan, but that was only one part of his achievement. Still when you write as many novels as ERB did, some of them are bound to turn out… well, not so good as others.

Lost on Venus–which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1933, and as a book in 1935–is full of stuff that reminds us that a lot of loopy ideas were floating around in the culture, back then. You can’t say they were spawned by the Depression, because they all have roots easily traceable into the 19th century.

Burroughs swallowed ’em all, hook, line, and sinker.

I’d say the biggest howler in the book is a single line: “Nothing is impossible to science.” It is spoken by an official in the city of Havatoo, a utopia created by rigorously breeding human beings, like farm animals, to yield a better product. This is the now-discredited pseudoscience of eugenics. Back in the 1930s, all the smart people believed in it. You were a real ape if you questioned it. But it kind of fell into disrepute when Heinrich Himmler took it literally and became the eugenics poster boy.

On Venus, as Burroughs followed the Progressive will-o’-the-wisp, there’s no religion because all the people are way too smart to believe in God, and anyhow they don’t need God because their Science has given them an immortality serum and they all get to stay young and beautiful and healthy forever. Yeah, right.

The best thing about the Venus books (Lost is No. 2 of 4, with a posthumously published novelette tacked on) is the physics and cosmography cooked up by Venusian scientists who have never seen the heavens, the sun, stars, etc., because of Venus’ impenetrable cloud cover. Absent these observations, what they come up with is simply astounding: and all of its contradictions can be resolved by multiplying all the numbers by the square root of minus one: an imaginary number, and a wonderful little joke by Burroughs.

Hey, wait a minute! Was he the sucker, or am I? Like, didn’t he just show that the whole Venusian system of science was based on a completely erroneous model of the universe? Was he having a long, long laugh at all the wise men of his day?

P.S.–If you don’t see what I’m getting at, try it yourself. Multiply any number by the square root of minus one and see what you get.

If You Can’t Find a Centaur, Look for a Mermaid


Just so you know the real news still goes on, in spite of all the politics, the town of Kiryat Kam in Israel is still offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can corral the local… mermaid ( http://www.livescience.com/5642-mermaid-sightings-claimed-israel.html ).

Since 2009, various tourists have claimed to see the mermaid swimming in the blue waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. They say she does tricks. But so far no one has been able to claim the reward. Apparently the mermaid is hip to all the techniques of mermaid-fishing.

Hey, if you need a quick million dollars, why not buzz off to Kiryat Kam and try your luck?

Sometimes we fantasy writers are not so sure we’re writing fantasy, after all. People keep saying they see centaurs. And mermaids. They’re not members of the American political establishment, so we can’t assume they’re all just lying.

Can we?