Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose credentials include U.C. Berkeley, Caltech and Cambridge, has written quite the clarion call for us to return to sound science in Undeniable. As the subtitle How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed indicates, a central focus is the debate on the successes, or failures, of Darwinian biology to explain life as we know it. Indeed, Axe brings some detailed and technical science to bear on this topic, but he is using that discussion to explain how science is not unreachable or unknowable by the masses. We need not blindly follow experts or celebrity scientists unquestionably. To do this, we first must rid ourselves of flawed views of science.
Fantasy tales are often populated with a wide array of beings. Elves, humans and dwarves are a common trio, along with trolls, orcs and countless other variations. Not all authors have filled their stories with these fantastic races to purposely tell stories of diversity or race-relations. However, long before terms like diversity were buzzing in everyone’s minds, two masters of fantasy had made a statement on equality among people. Joseph Loconte writes in A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War:
[J.R.R.] Tolkien and [C.S.] Lewis encountered the horrific progeny of [eugenics] in the trenches and barbed wire and mortars of the Great War [World War I] — and it gave them great pause about human potentiality…the characters in their novels possess a great nobility, creatures endowed with a unique capacity for virtue, courage, and love. Indeed, a vital theme throughout is the sacred worth of the individual soul in Middle-Earth and Narnia, every life is of immense consequence.
The “races” of Narnia and Middle-Earth are very much like us, always at odds with each other: Elves hate dwarves; elves look down on humans; hobbits are obviously different from their larger human cousins; orcs once were elves. And yet the fellowship of the ring throws together polar opposite, feuding races in a quest to the save the world.
Against all odds, they succeeded. A powerful message among the many in these stories.
Tolkien and Lewis began writing during a time when eugenics was on the rise. This misuse of science and philosophies pretending to be science was rationale to cleanse humanity of undesirable races, beliefs or attributes. People remember the result of this horror in World War II under the Nazis, yet don’t know that this thinking had been promoted among the “elite” thinkers and governments across the world for decades.
While many many post-WWI writers saw hopelessness, and others turned to Progress as a god to right humanity, Tolkien and Lewis saw the importance of every life. They wrote of evil that couldn’t be reasoned away — and could be hidden behind “science” and “progress.” The equality of peoples doesn’t automatically equate to the equality of ideas and actions. Even Tolkien’s “dreadful orcs are presented as rational beings” — but being rational isn’t the same as being on the side of virtue.
Middle-Earth and Narnia showed how mankind, even with its capacity for wrong, has innate qualities that can defeat the most terrible of evils; qualities that transcend superficial differences among people, and show that we are much more than a result of randomness and fate.
Why do myths from centuries and even millennia in the past still fascinate us? Why does the quest of the Hero find its way into so many stories? Can these legendary tales still help us find our purpose? The new 6-part documentary series, Myths & Monsters explores these questions and the myths that have endured for countless generations. Check the trailer out here:
The past few weeks has seen the endless parade of deviants being outed in Hollywood and government. This nuking of the swamp is long overdue and hopefully marks permanent change, but in-depth discussion of all that has occurred is lacking. I know this is a bit off-topic for me, but for those who are interested, what follows are some reflections on some of what has been debated in the media.
The following is an all new story — a Lost Tale of sorts — set in the world of the Watchers of the Light that was first revealed in Among the Shadows. Readers of AtS will have met Milena before. Those who have not are about to learn why the Darkness fears her. Enjoy…
Moby Dick. The Hobbit. A Tale of Two Cities.
All have classic beginnings, ones many readers know by heart. And therein lies one of the great challenges of writing: The beginning. The hook. Finding a way to convince people to continue past the first sentence in your Moby Dick length epic in this soundbite world
So are there hard and fast rules to help your catchy first sentence to not turn away readers? There are many recommendations that can keep your first lines from sounding clichéd, as Joe Konrath lists in “How Not to Start a Story.”
After reading his article you may, like I did, start pulling books off the shelf and seeing how many examples of rule violations you discover. There are always exceptions, but many of his points concern avoiding clichés and not boring the reader. Creative writing should be, well, creative. However, be careful to not throw the baby out with bathwater.
Take the “no prologues” rule that many swear by. It isn’t that prologues are bad book structure, rather it’s that many people don’t know how to write one correctly. The Prologue, like a Chapter 1, must kick off your narrative, but it does so while adding some additional layers. Quite often, it’s part of the story that is out of time sequence with what follows. The connections should be clear in the chapter that follows the prologue, or it isn’t a prologue. This, combined with the fact that the prologue must also launch the story, makes execution a little more difficult for the writer. The payoff can be worth it, especially if you also include elements that foreshadow plot points deep in your narrative.
Typically readers could care less how you label your chapters, but a writer can use this old school, traditional structure to set something apart. It’s a subliminal way to place something in your reader’s mind. Ultimately, if your Prologue works as a Chapter 1, it probably isn’t a prologue.
A good one, though, may help pull your reader into your Hobbit hole from word one and not let go.
The fantasy genre has exploded in popularity over the past twenty years. From the big screen adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, to endless new novels often directed to teens and young adults. Fantasy has always appealed to younger readers as escapism, but is this the only reason, or is there something more for the current generation?
Rebecca LuElla Miller writes of deeper reasons in The Appeal Of Fantasy For Young Adults, in that these readers have been:
…expected to do little more than have a good time and do their homework, [now they] long for significance. They want to do something that matters, that has eternal purpose…long for a life that matters, and they find in fantasy a world that needs someone who will step up and do just that.
Then too, fantasy helps young people organize the world. There is moral right and wrong, and the characters in fantasy must align themselves with one or the other. There’s also history that makes a difference in the here and now, prophesy that tells about the future, and decisions that make or break a destiny.
So I suspect that these, and the other reasons that LuElla details, are not all that different for all age groups. Finding your true purpose, your place in the Story, is the desire that burns in all people.
Younger readers just haven’t given up on that quest. They haven’t allowed societal forces to tell them where to go or what to do. Yes, one could also argue that flawed materialistic and relativistic beliefs have replaced solid and logical worldviews.
Perhaps a good dose of fantasy is, ironically, needed to show us reality.
Kat Bloodmayne was experimented on by her father. Now her soul is dying and an uncontrollable power within her threatens all around her.
When we last left Kat in Tainted, she had learned of the darkness infecting her father. He seeks to capture her and take her power for an insidious Frankenstein-esque goal — and is willing to sacrifice his daughter in the process.
Awakened is set in a steampunk era that almost was: Victorian style, merged with the industrial age, and one of airships and mechanized war. So are you ready to enter this world where the Darkness is rapidly descending? Will Kat control her power and restore her soul?
Or will she destroy all those around her, even those she loves?
The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins. This was years ago, when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films. Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).
The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own. Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.
In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available. There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.
So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.
Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.
Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.
Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.