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smashwordsWell, my 3 month term with Amazon’s KDP Select is over. While I’ve given away a lot of free Kindle books [which gave me a lot of exposure], I’m not sure that trading exclusivity with the world’s largest e-retailer was worth sacrificing a broader distribution base. Fortunately, I’m now free to explore other options.

Johnny Came Home is still available on Amazon, but now that I’ve dropped KDP Select I’ve uploaded it to Smashwords.

That’s really, really good news for those of you who don’t own a Kindle. Smashwords offers .mobi [for Kindle devices and apps], ePub [Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others], HTML, PDF, RTF, LRF [for older model Sony Readers that don’t support .epub], Palm Doc [PDB, for Palm reading devices], Javascript and Plain Text.

Check it out at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/269731

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While doing some market research for Johnny Came Home, I came across a post by John W. Otte, author of Failstate, a novel about superheroes who enter a TV show in hopes of winning their vigilante license. Anyway, there’s a good video on his site on what video games can teach us about backstory.

If you write speculative fiction, you’re gonna have to deal with backstory. After all, no one dumps their characters into a vaccuum. Instead, we create entire worlds with their own histories, cultures, buzzwords and politics. These things shape our characters actions and worldviews, so at some point we have to find a way to convey the backstory so our story will make sense.

In the video, Otte notes that video games use cutscenes to convey backstory. The problem with cutscenes, as Otte aptly notes, is that they change the role of the gamer from participant to audience. In other words, it brings us out of the story, out of the action and interrupts the flow of the game [or in our case, the novel]. He invites us to convey our backstory in such a way that our readers aren’t tempted to hit the ESC key [as it were].

He goes on to show us how videogames convey backstory in three particular ways: the info dump, through dialogue and progressively.

From the reader’s perspective, the information dump is basically a wall of text that hurts the eyes. It’s almost always a bad idea.

A better way is to reveal the backstory via character dialogue. Otte warns against the perils of the “as you know” trap (where characters relate or ask about information that they ought to already know), and the pitfalls of the dumb puppet trick (where you introduce a character ignorant of the backstory and basically use him/her to get your readers up to speed).

The backstory in Johnny Came Home is mostly revealed in a progressive manner. You get snippets of backstory from the character’s dialogue and thoughts, but mostly you just piece it together as you go along. I agree with Otte that it’s usually the best way to go about it. Browne & King give the same advice in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

The video contains some clips of cutscenes from video games to illustrate his points nicely. You can check out the full video post at http://www.leastread.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-can-videogames-teach-us-about.html

“We need more science fiction,” writes Paul Chiariello for The NewHumanism.org in a post called Science Fiction vs. The Bible.

As a Christian author who happens to be a rabid sci-fi fan, I couldn’t agree more with that statement. At face value anyway. I could not disagree more with his insistence that this necessarily requires an abandonment of revealed truth, specifically the Bible.

While Chiariello begins with assurances that he likes the Bible, that much of it still inspires him and he can still find value within its pages, and that “it is clear that the Bible and other revealed doctrines have played an important role in society,” he feels we “simply need to move on. And what we desperately need now is more Science Fiction.”

Why? Well, he thinks that the point of sci-fi is “to ask questions about your beliefs and to outline new pictures of the world. When reading Orwell’s 1984 and other dystopias you simply cannot help but wrestle with the warnings they give. The future is not guaranteed to us and it is this complacency that is the real enemy of any dystopian novel.” To a certain degree, he’s right, except that he supposes that the certain truths revealed in the Bible somehow lead to complacency of thought. Has he sampled the bevy of Christian sci-fi dealing with eschatology [the theology of future events] recently? If he bothered, he’d find a wide range of explorations of the possible fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy.

In attempting to make his point that we need more fiction and less Bible, he makes the mistake of comparing and contrasting the terms science and revelation. In his opinion, “while revealtion hands over a set of givens, science provides a method for being justified in discovering them.” But the scientific method doesn’t really apply to imagineering a future possibility, though I can understand his confusion on the subject given the sheer amount of imagineering that’s gone into concoting an all-natural history of the cosmos in the name of science! In any case, Chiariello seems to suppose that a trial-and-error process of discovering the truth is somehow better than truth revealed by God. He complains that “the very word ‘Revealed’, implies a truth outside our grasp.” But why would it matter whether truth was “dictated to us” rather than having been discovered by some method contrived by humanity, so long as the truth was actually true. His problem seems to be that he cannot disagree with revealed truth without being wrong. He laments that “It will never be the case… that new information will prove old revelations false. When the Revealer is omniscient by definition, if your interpretation brings to light some inconsistency in the book, you simply have the wrong interpretation.” To put it another way, “Revealed truth… claims to have no errors or exceptions.”

Chiariello prefers the safety of a future what if or might be to revealed truth, because he supposes that he can then be free to shape whatever future he prefers. He complains that “Within the worldview of most revealed truths, all new ideas must be found consistent with the past through a Habit of Interpretation. When tied down like this, dreaming our own dreams becomes impossible.” This is an odd objection considering the fact that he freely admits that “It doesn’t take much to realize there is only one future and we will face it, no matter what our beliefs are.” I should add that not only is there only one future we all will face, we will face it regardless of science fiction dreams to the contrary!

A good deal of his argument is based on a logical fallacy, an appeal to novelty. Chiariello false assumes that old revelation becomes irrelevant when facing new problems. For example,  noting that understanding revealed truth still requires that we comprehend the historical [and grammatical] context in order to correctly determine the Bible’s intended meaning, he objects, ‘But how do we do that when asking radically new questions, like those we now face about the Internet or Climate Change? When these prophets had no idea even how the climate worked – besides ‘God did it’ – how can we unearth their hidden wisdom?” It sounds all well and good, but he’s completely inconsistent… and he’s inconsistent because he’s wrong. The questions we face about the Internet and Climate Change are simply the same old questions with slightly new subjects. There is nothing new under the sun; despite all the voyages of discovery, new inventions and men who pursued big idea, we are left with the same old all-too-human problems: survival, morality, meaning, purpose, happiness, etc.

It is these questions which revelation addresses authoratively and which science fiction addresses speculatively. To clarify, science fiction might ask moral or teleological questions about an imagined, perhaps even possible future, but the Bible addresses these questions authoratively. Unless of course Chiariello is suggesting that morality is subjective and situational. If he is, does he have any nonarbitrary, logically consistent basis for condemning the Holocaust or even for saying we ought to have more sci-fi and that we “must dethrone the words of dead giants locked in dead contexts.” Anytime, we state that we ought to do something, we invoke morality and if it really were subjective, he’d have no basis for telling anyone else we ought to abandon the Bible for speculative science fictions.

Of course, this is exactly what humanists and other evolutionists have done in embracing millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution; they’ve exchanged the truth of God for all-natural science fictions of their own imagineering!

In his fallacious appeal to novelty, he ignores the axiom that those who neglect the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them. He seems to recognize this indirectly, offering as a concesion that he’s not saying that “devotees of Sci Fi cannot ‘stand on the shoulders of giants to see farther.'” He just doesn’t want us standing on the authority of God’s revealed Word, the Bible.

His closing statements are revealing:

“If it is in fact the case that our future problems will be unlike anything we have already faced, our only real hope lies in preparing for new contexts by dreaming big, focusing on what we know and acknowledging that we could easily be wrong… Without any revealed truths given to us we are confronted with an infinite sea of possibilities.” Of course, it’s impossible to focus on what we know, unless we stand on the shoulders of dead giants, as it were. Our present knowledge consists of what was learned in the past, not speculations on the future.

And as far as “an endless sea of possibilities,” isn’t this the same fellow that admits earlier in his essay that “It doesn’t take much to realize there is only one future and we will face it, no matter what our beliefs are”? As he admits, “Sci Fi is understood as fiction and makes clear from the outset that it is fallible and only a tentative exploration.” So why does he suppose that science fiction speculations better than the certain truth of Biblical revelation? Would you listen to someone who said, “Hey, our guide isn’t always right and you might well perish on this trip if you follow him. It’s soooo much better than a certain and infallible guide”?? Of course not!

To borrow one of Jesus’ illustrations, we’d be better off to build our house on the Solid Rock of His revealed Word than the shifting sands of man’s speculations!

This is not to say that science fiction doesn’t have benfit. In fact, I heartily agree that we need more science fiction. Through science fiction, we can explore enduring human questions and demonstrate that the authority of God’s Word can be trusted in any future imaginable. For example, Tim Chaffey and JoeWestbrook explore both human questions and questions of Biblical authority in their delightful series about four kids in a time-travelling hovercar in The Truth Chronicles series. In Johnny Came Home, my soon-to-be published novel, I explore questions of racism, purpose, what it means to be human, creation and evolution, and Biblical authority in a tale filled with future tech, conspiracy theories, super-powered battles, flying saucers and Biblical truth. It is my profound hope that we are seeing the beginning of a Christian sci-fi boom that will explore the enduring questions of the human  condition while affirming the truth and authority of God’s revealed Word.

Till Christ Comes [a revealed truth of which you can be certain!],

Tony Breeden

In Johnny Came Home, I explore the concept of super heroes [and villains] from a Biblical Creationist point of view.  In that soon-to-be-published novel, John Lazarus must fight for the future of Midwich and possibly the world as we know it. The premise of the book is that the generally unrealized pre-Flood potential of humanity has occasionally surfaced in people we read about in myths and stories who could perform super human feats. These men and women have gone down in man’s writings as demi-gods, heroes, witches and mentalists.

I naturally wondered whether the ability to predict the future could be a potential power.

Of course, Johnny can’t really predict the future, which is why he often makes mistakes. And unlike Superman, he can’t just make the Earth spin backwards on its axis to reverse his mistakes [please, no comments on what a sci-fi blunder that was; it was just a movie, guys].

Lots of  sci-fi television programs explored the possibility of predicting and averting the future, but I want to look at two in particular.  

The first is NBC’s Heroes, which is a bit like the X-Men without the idiot spandex costumes. Pretty cool show, if a bit on the gory side. The basis of the first season was that the Heroes had to thwart a nuclear disaster predicted by the paintings of Isaac Mendez. Over the course of the season, they saved a cheerleader [Claire] to save the world and “stopped” an exploding man, though it wasn’t revealed how until Season Two. By the end of season One, the murderous villain Sylar had killed Isaac to steal his powers, but Isaac had the prophetic foresight to make other paintings, comic books, et cetera to guide the Heroes. With Isaac dead, only two people are known who can paint the future: Sylar and Peter Petrelli, the latter of which collects the powers of those he comes into contact with without having to kill them. [Unfortunately, as when he absorbed the powers of the Radioactive Man and became the Exploding Man, the very nuclear disaster the Heroes were trying to thwart, he initially has less control over his powers than Sylar.] Of course, there are those like HRG, Bob and others who know of Issac’s works and study them to try to understand and attempt to avert the future.

Except they can’t. Everything Isaac reveals is written in stone. It happens.  Sylar kills a cheerleader. New York explodes. The world is infected with a virus that kills off most of the planet. Sylar fakes being Nathan Petrelli in order to finally kill Claire and take her power of invulnerability. A man explodes. HRG is shot in the head and killed. Only sometimes these things are in alternate futures, which can be averted so that the Heroes do not have to live in those awful futures. And sometimes the future occurs as painted but it does not end up as everyone supposes it must. The cheerleader who dies wasn’t Claire. Peter Petrelli explodes, but the healing factor he absorbed from Claire when he saved her resurrects him. HRG dies but a transfusion of Claire’s blood revives him. But in each case, they actually happen.

Then there’s ABC’s Lost. After the Hatch explodes and the sky turns purple, Desmond wakes up buck-naked in the middle of the jungle. He then starts having flashes about Charlie Pace dying. He cleverly averts the first few fates, but finally admits to Charlie that he can’t keep saving him forever. Eventually he will die. While Desmond’s flashes begin like Isaac’s visions, as things to be averted, they do not remain so. Dezz sees a vision of someone coming to the Island, possibly to rescue them. He suspects it’s his sweetheart Penny Widmore. Hurley, Jinn and Charlie are also in the flash. In the flash, Charlie is killed by one of Rousseau’s jungle traps. Knowing Charlie will die, Dezz convinces him to join their camping expedition, but doesn’t tell him he will die as a result! And Desmond used to be a priest! Ouch! At the last second, Dezz comes to his moral senses and warns Charlie, saving him. The future is averted again, though Desmond wonders if he’s made a mistake this time. Especially when Desmond continues to have visions of Charlie dying in various ways, and continues to keep saving him each day…

Yet in the grand scheme of things Desmond hasn’t really made a mistake by saving Charlie. You see, later Desmond has a vision where he sees Charlie push a button and then drown, after which a rescue helicopter comes to get his girlfriend Claire and her son Aaron. This time, Desmond tells him, he has to die. And Charlie goes to his fate willingly for a grander purpose than mere accidental death. That’s where the future vision as a warning becomes instead the future vision as direction or guide for redemption or salvation.

Heroes taps this positive potential for prophecy when it has Peter going to Claire’s high school to save her based on Issac’s paintings. Saving the cheerleader doesn’t really keep New York from suffering a nuclear explosion. The irony is that Peter is actually the cause of the explosion because he absorbed the powers of the Radioactive Man and was unable to control those powers. Before he goes nuclear, his brother Nathan flies him high above New York where Peter explodes harmlessly. The irony for Peter is that by saving the cheerleader so long ago, he absorbed her healing powers which allowed him to survive and heal after he exploded. Save the cheerleader, save yourself… Of course, Peter doesn’t know that by trying to save Claire he’s actually saving himself.

That’s the real rub here. We never know what the future holds, whether good or evil. Even if we had flashes or snapshots of the future, would it be enough to determine whether we should seek to avoid them or fulfill them? That’s what makes shows like these so much fun. They keep you guessing because the future is certain to God alone. In fact, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah: 

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is  none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.” Isaiah 46:9-10

So again, God alone can predict the future years in advance of its fulfillment.  Aside from divine revelation, we can’t know the future at all, much less whether to fight it or fulfill it.

In a real world example, let’s say we go back in time and kill Hitler thereby eliminating the Holocaust and WWII. Would that create a better future? Or was Hitler the lesser of another evil we were mercifully spared from? Or let’s say we go back and save JFK from assassination. Does that create a better future or does it lead us down a darker path? We’ll never know, because alternate futures are only accessible to prophets, time travellers and God Himself. In fact, in the Bible God proclaims that He alone knows the future and uses this as evidence that He is superior to the false gods man has has imagined.

In Johnny Came Home, I realized that if I’m writing from a Biblical worldview, there’s no such thing as an alternate universe, so either a prophecy will come to pass or it won’t. Furthermore, only a true prophet of God would be able to unfailingly predict the future. Of course, there are always some who can fool others into thinking they can really predict the future apart from God: palm readers and carnival fortune tellers, for example. Of course, that’s simply a contrast between a prophet and a false prophet. [For more on false prophets, see my comments on Benny Hinn & the Archko Volume: One Fraud Promoting Another] A true prophet of God really didn’t fit into my storyline [sigh] because true prophecy is the result of special revelation, so it could never be a natural ability.

A third possibility presented itself when I was contemplating statistical probabilities. Supercomputers can calculate what is statistically probable [or improbable] based on the factors they are aware of. Of course, the limitation is that neither humans nor computers are omniscient. We can’t know everything. Only God can know everything which is why God alone can predict the future with unfailing accuracy. So our predictions of the future can only be probabilities not certainties. More to the point, they can be dead wrong if we have not taken into account some critical factor. This is why brilliant military strategists and meteorologists inevitably fail at some point, even if they have an otherwise impeccable track record.

While anyone with this super power would simply be making nothing more than an educated guess, their predictions would seem superhuman when compared to the average guy’s guesses. Especially if they were able to process most of their calculations on a subconscious level.

Thus was born Destiny Pascale’, one of the villains of my book, a mathlete [if you will] who can predict probabilities in the manner I’ve described. Like false prophets of old, the self-proclaimed Oracle takes full credit for her predictions (and makes excuses whenever her prophecies fail).

Sci-fi ruminations aside, you should be aware of the fact that about 27% of the Bible consists of prophecy, both fulfilled and yet-to-be fulfilled. This is a powerful evidence that the Bible is the revealed Word of a God who knows everything: past, present and future.Through fulfilled prophecy, we can see that it is in fact the Word of God, not just a book of stories and moral lessons. For example, King Cyrus of Persia was prophesied 150 years before he was born, as was the fact that he would release the Jews from their first exile and pay for the rebuilding of the Temple out of Persia’s coffers in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy [Isaiah 44:28; Ezra 1:2]. We could also mention Messianic prophecy fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the birth of the nation of Israel in 1967 [Isaiah 11:11] and the fall of Tyre fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great [ref. Ezekiel 26:3-14]. God uses fulfilled prophecy to show that there is no other God besides Him and to demonstrate that we should trust His Word is true in all that it says.

This is the self-authored essay that caused me to seriously think about writing something like Johnny Came Home.

One of the things I do when I'm not being Sirius is writing on my novel, sci-fi tale with fantasy overtones. The subject or plot of said novel is unimportant to this discussion. Now by all accounts science fiction is a bit of a hard sell for the Christian book market. The reason for this is bound up in our eschatology, our beliefs about the End of All Things. End Times views within Christendom come a few clearly defined and argued categories. Mos … Read More

via DefendingGenesis.org

This blog will mostly deal with my up-coming sci-fi novel, Johnny Came Home.

Johnny is an action-packed superhero science fiction tale, complete with conspiracies, mad scientists, awesome powers and even flying saucers. It’s the kind of book I’d pick up at the local bookstore, which is essentially why I wrote it. Unlike most other novels of this genre, I’m writing from a Biblical Creationist point-of-view. Survey the local sci-fi rack, especially superhero books and comics, and you’ll quickly recognize that evolution is the standard assumption. Marvel comics in particular has abandoned the standard Golden and Silver Age comic book explanations of superpowers, namely mad scientists, radioactivity and space aliens, in favor of mutants as the next stage in human evolution.

The question I explored as a Christian author was whether a superhero novel could be done from the Biblical Creationist POV instead of the evolutionary assumption. In a blog article called Faith-based Sci-fi as Exploratory Apologetic, I suggested

Of course, some will shrug and ask, why should we write about such things at all? Isn’t it a waste of time to write amusements and diversionary fictions. Don’t we have more important things to be on about? Like spreading the Gospel. And what does it really matter anyway?

I think Hank Hanegraaff’s reply to the question, “What made you write [The Last Disciple]?” is compelling:

“Fiction is a great truth-conveying medium. As Left Behind has become the vehicle for indoctrinating millions of believers into an end-time theology invented in the nineteenth century,” [aka Darbyism, or the Rapturist view]

Fiction, in general, is the perfect medium to make an argument. The more popular the novel, the more folks are exposed to the ideas and,as Hanegraaff put it, “indoctrinated.” They are at least more predisposed to accept the idea’s validity.

Science fiction has specific power to change the future. Many science fiction writers are considered futurists. Their imaginative exploration of possible futures has resulted in present-day technological inspiration. It has also coloured the wordlviews of those who read science fiction, which is predominantly written with Darwinist, humanist and even atheist assumptions.

But we can write faith-based sci-fi not only as anticipatory apologetic, but to provide the world with an intelligent alternative to humanist imagineering.