The Intersection of Personal Faith and the All Myths Are True Model of Contemporary Fantasy — by David Pascoe

*I’ll post a chapter of Rogue Magic Tomorrow.  Yes, I’m having issues with it, mostly because it has reached that middle point where I need to go back and read through and make it coherent before I can go on.  Not sure that will happen this week, to be honest.  But I should be able to do a couple more chapters before I’m in deep water and HAVE to go back.

The fact that Ginevra is SUCH an unreliable narrator doesn’t help. Nor the fact that our furnace quit in the first bitterly cold day of the year, so that we have had repairmen around most of the week, while I’m trying — rather unsuccessfully to write.  I don’t know what it is about repairmen in the house, but they steal my brainz.  This morning I feel a bit like there’s a thick fog on my brain and there just ain’t enough caffeine to wake me. So, I’m doing chapter tomorrow, and today I’m turning the floor over to David E. Pascoe, aka Kilted Dave, aka #3 son (by adoption.)*

The Intersection of Personal Faith and the All Myths Are True Model of
Contemporary Fantasy

David Pascoe

The thing about contemporary fantasy (look, mine happens in rural
environments: ain’t nothing urban about it. so far) is that usually,
all myths are true. So you’ve got all the gods of everyplace hanging about
somewhere, with nothing better to do than muck with some poor mortal’s
existence. Or – and this isn’t uncommon – all the gods of one place
in particular, be it the Tuatha de Danaan, classical Greece or even ancient
Khem. But more often, at least with American stuff, you either have
enormously powerful creatures that might as well be gods, or you have the
genuine article. Often both.

What’s a monotheist to do, when creatures that – by current orthodox
theology – should not exist begin crawling from the metaphorical woodwork?
That’s the question I undertook when I started writing the Edge of Faith
stories (see what I did there? ehhh?). My protagonist is a young Christian
hospital corpsman attached to a Marine unit in Afghanistan. At least to
start with.

I decided that I needed a pretty white-bread character with a few
peculiarities. So my boy is a mainline Protestant with some somewhat
permissive attitudes, owing to his time in the military. At the same time,
when things start to get really weird, he has to decide to believe his
Sunday School stories, or his own lying eyes. I won’t tell you how the
encounter goes (there are more after it, though *cough*) but the characters
have to deal with the usual “no, really, Virginia, there actually be
dragons, here,” period. At lulls in the action, they – more specifically,
he – have to figure out how to live life according to their new
understanding of reality.

In many UF stories, we’re treated to an in media res introduction,
often where the characters already know about What’s Really Going On. With
the Con books, they’re generally the only ones who do. The Secret World
motif is a common one, especially with UF. Larry’s hung a fun lampshade on
it in the MHI books, where the government, in the form of the Monster
Control Bureau, has been chartered to prevent the *potentially*
destabilizing information of the existence of the supernatural from leaking
to the general public. Thanks, Big Brother! In other settings, the
supernatural world polices itself, often utilizing a Pratchett Principle
where mundane folk only see what they want to.

For my stories – at least these stories; there are so many others, so very
many – I wanted to look at it from the point of view of someone who should,
by rights, be hostile to it all. A Christian, given a mainline to
conservative theological perspective, should treat anything supernatural
with a great deal of suspicion, if not outright hostility. This is
supposedly our world. Consider it: you’re going about your business,
shopping for groceries, when a too-pretty young man with an air of power
tells you God needs you to do something. Most of us would probably ask,
“yeah? Whose god?” But we’re in the distinct minority. Even among other
Christians, I’m a little odd, and I’d say something like, “prove it,
Sparky.” Point being, how does a person of faith – of any faith, but
specifically a Christian – deal with the physical manifestation of their
belief system?

Christians are often held in low regard in fandom. (Nota Bene: this is not
the place for theological discussions, or discourses on how the current
Church fails. If you want to do that, we can go over to my blog and hijack a thread and beat
each other about the head and neck with blunt parables. “I demand
satisfaction! Sharpened rhetoric at dawn.”) There are plenty of reasons for
this, some legitimate and some less so. But few genre writers are openly
Christian, at least in fantasy, and so the Christian perspective is rarely
explored. Sometimes it’s well-treated. I’m thinking here of Michael
Carpenter and his family in the Dresden Files. Or Miles the Mad Gun Wizard
in the MHI universe, whose faith blew the stuffing out of a master vamp. No
small water, that. In other stories, it’s not touched on. Not really. Oh,
people have faith, but God just doesn’t come into the question. The
characters struggle against principalities and powers more or less on their
own.

As a doubting monotheist of much practice, this has always troubled me.
Science fiction is the literature (NOT lit-ra-chewer, TYVM) of questions. Of
“what if?” And nothing has felt nearly as “what if” to me – personally, down
at the core of me – as “what if there was proof of other gods, but not of
mine?”

That’s the core question of the whole series. What happens when a believer
encounters phenomena that seem to defy his understanding of reality? How
does he deal with it? And since that’s the stew I’ve swum through my entire
life – I don’t know about others, but God’s never spoken to me; at least not
audibly, despite claims from otherwise reliable folk – I chose to explore it
through fiction. With fight scenes and eldritch monsters and demons and
angels and fey creatures light and dark.

I’m still not certain how it’s all going to work out. But that’s the thing
about faith: I choose to believe.

That said, I’m coming at this from a distinctly Western Protestant
perspective. While I’m certain of what I believe (mostly. most days. more or
less) and am going to use that to inform my fiction, there are plenty of
people who have a very different understanding of Christian scripture. Many
of whom wouldn’t even remotely consider themselves Christians. Recently,
Mrs. Dave and I discussed this in relation to the long-running vampire
huntress series, where the primary character is a natural raiser of the dead
and a faithful Episcopalian. (In the interests of full disclosure, I haven’t
read the books. Urban Fantasy interests me. Paranormal Romance – generally –
does not.) I asked, “how does she reconcile her faith with behaviors
introduced in later books?” Mrs. Dave told me the main character assumes
that as long as the cross she wears around her neck continues to glow in the
presence of vampires, she and God are still tight.

I’m not satisfied with this answer, and so I’ll probably end up reading the
books to get a sense of it myself. But it doesn’t seem to explore the knotty
theological questions that crop up from my irritatingly fertile imagination.
Mrs. Dave pointed out that the Roman Catholic tradition is just a wee bit
different than even the atypical Protestant understand to which I cleave.
That being the case, and with the understanding that we’re all Odd, how
would people of various faiths treat sudden incursions of Old Ones,
spiritual entities of all stripes, the Undead, or even deities of other (to
the point of contradictory) traditions?

343 responses to “The Intersection of Personal Faith and the All Myths Are True Model of Contemporary Fantasy — by David Pascoe

  1. Have you read Ringo’s Special Circumstances books–Princess of Wands and Queen of Wands? They deal with your issue and more.

    • One of my favorite literary motifs is the character confronted with an unbelievable reality: supernatural events, aliens landing, whatever. I never care much for the “in media res” approach. I prefer the classic disaster movie style: you start with a slice of life for a number of characters, and then throw in the wrench. Like “Lucifer’s Hammer.”

      • The trick is that you need some bridging conflict to draw us in and keep us reading WITHOUT misleading us about the story it is.

        • That may be why movies get unsubtle titles like “The Towering Inferno” and “Earthquake” instead of “One Day in the Life of a Guy.”

          “Miracle Mile” was a great example of ordinary characters who had a terrible time coming to believe that their world was about to be turned upside down.

          • Back during the early ’90s, there was a video game that fell into this sort of thing. The protoganist (i.e. the player) was a police detective in the modern French police department who was investigating a murder on the set of an opera house. Said opera house was the same opera house that the notorious Phantom of the Opera operated out of one hundred years prior, and the murder looked like it might be some sort of copycat killing.

            This is how the game was advertised. This was around the same time that the Phantom of the Opera craze was in full swing, so a game plot like this made a certain amount of retail sense.

            Apparently once you started playing the game, however, you quickly ended up accidentally traveling one hundred years back through time…

            iirc, the reviewers were slightly irritated by the bait and switch. And they all made sure to mention the time travel in their reviews (which made sense – it was relevant to the reviews), which pretty much instantly made anyone who was paying attention aware of what the game was really about. Kinda like a certain spoiler about a certain movie and a certain sled that’s pretty much common cultural knowledge these days.

            I never played the game myself, so I’ve no idea if it was actually fun. I thought it was an interesting idea, but I understood how people could get annoyed by it. And I also noted how quickly the secret was spoiled once the game was released.

    • I have read them, and greatly enjoyed them. They don’t deal with my questions at all: Barbara has direct, immediate evidence of God’s existence and of His personal approval of her actions. My protagonist has none, which is really what the stories are about. They’re about working out faith in a world of ambiguous correspondence to the tenets of one’s chosen doctrine.

  2. That is an interesting question. Not sure how other faiths would handle it, but…
    Mormonism actually has a sort of “prove it, Sparky” built in to it if something claiming to be an angel shows up. It’s laid out in D&C 129 for the interested. See here.
    But if something non-Christian showed up, that would be… interesting. For myself, because I have read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy, I’d probably default to the “well, maybe a lot of myths really do have some basis in fact” or “ALIENS”. (If I knew how to embed a pic in this comment, you would now be treated to a picture of that guy with the crazy hair in all the memes. You know the one.) I don’t think it would put me off my chosen faith, though. I’ve had too many experiences where my own faith has been confirmed, where I’ve felt things or seen things, to jump off. I know what I believe, and while I don’t always live UP TO that standard, I’m not getting pushed off my track by any bug-eyed whatchamacallit or six-armed avatar of Kali.
    But it would be interesting to see them try.

  3. Dorothy Grant

    I’ve seen too much to not be aware G-d is bigger than I can comprehend, stranger than I can imagine, and more forgiving than I could ever hope to dream of understanding. The faults in my faith are in my own flaws, not in G-d, so if my worldview gets broken by utter strangeness… well, that’s just me. I already understand I’m small-minded, hyper-focused, and unable to comprehend the scope and scale of the universe, much less its creator. What’s new? Oh, the need to make sure I always carry, not just sometimes, and perhaps to upgrade my ammo, as well as my prayers. Okay, I can handle that detail.

    • Yes! And, by extension, other Men — of however great wisdom — may have made similar errors in their forming of theologies. What REALLY happened when Og encountered his own personal burning bush? How many divine visitations started with a teenaged girl trying to avoid punishment for sneaking out to snog with her boyfriend? And so-forth. Not knocking anything off old I yam that I yam at all. Just thinking there’s plenty of wiggle room in the stories we tell ourselves about him. Her. It.

      M

  4. I think you misunderstand Christian beliefs. Christianity doesn’t, as far as I know, say that other gods don’t exist, just that we can’t worship them. I personally don’t believe they exist, but that’s my rationalistic side doing the thinking, not my religion.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Correct. “Powers” may exist that aren’t worthy of worship. Only God is worthy of worship.

      • True. L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, a contemporary fantasy, has a nice bit about a secret order that suppresses knowledge of magic. Miranda works at the business that keep the elementals happy and acting in order. This, for once, is justified in-story: they want people to stop going to worship some beings unworthy of it to solve their problem and instead resort to science. Its being most active in Europe is why the Industrial Revolution started there.

        • Dorothy Grant

          Besides, if you can kill it, it’s just a little oddity or minor demon, not something worthy of worship. Best way to find out? Kill it! …or am I channeling MHI again?

    • I understand theology just fine, as well as commonly held/taught dogma. That’s the divide I’m getting at here. Commonly accepted Protestant cosmology is that there are no spiritual powers that aren’t subject to either God or the Enemy (Adversary, Satan, Lucifer, w/e). Angelic powers will either conceal their nature or be quite open about it (Lot, Mary, Daniel). Infernal powers are going to behave similarly, given their origins. The question I’m pursuing is what happens to someone taught that who is then faced with the existence of powers and entities unaddressed by mainstream understanding. Powers, perhaps, that aren’t immediately inimical. Does the protagonist assume they’re demonic? Angelic and “confused?” Basically, it’s contemporary Christian faith – with a heavy influence of my personal experience – with magic, monsters and such. Gives a bit of a different experience to “work out your faith in fear and trembling.”

      • One notes that a lot of the monsters could be covered under Augustine’s observation that monstrous births are not unknown among humans –he describes what is clearly a pair of conjoined twins — and so satyrs and like monstrous races might be human. The author of Beowulf of course describes Grendel and his ilk (such as elves) as descendents of Cain.

        An entity would have to be a power to be questionable — something more than a simple rational creature.

        • There’s a story about one of the desert monks (St. Anthony?) who met up with a “monster” or “satyr” who asked him to pray for his soul. (It was just a fairly deformed guy, it sounds like, but lets assume the other way.) So the desert monk did. Pretty simple.

          Given that “all Creation was groaning” to be redeemed, and given that there was a fair number of weird inhuman beings with strange powers in the classical/medieval category of “men,” pretty much anything that isn’t pure spirit (ie, an angel/devil) and isn’t just an animal (like Rover or a strange beast) would potentially be just an advanced alien “man” with spiffy abilities. And such beings would be subject to ordinary moral laws, potentially able to be evangelized and baptized, etc., etc. Mr. Flynn talks about this a lot in his essay on dog-headed men, monopods, etc. (and the medieval legends of St. Christopher being just such a dog-headed man).

      • Commonly accepted Protestant cosmology is that there are no spiritual powers that aren’t subject to either God or the Enemy.

        One of the story ideas I’m currently exploring, which may or may not ever get written depending on how I manage to flesh it out, involves the idea “Yes, but what if some of them were… neutral? Or hadn’t chosen sides yet?” It’s the nature of spiritual powers (at least as I would have them in the story) that once they pick a side, they don’t turn away from it… but that doesn’t mean that all of them have picked a side yet. Oh, eventually they will be forced to, because The War is going to end up encroaching on their own little realms — but for now, both sides in The War are busy elsewhere and haven’t gotten around to demanding that the dryads of Sherwood Forest (for example) choose which side they’ll join. And thus, there are still neutral spiritual powers in the world.

        • Robin, that’s a little close to one of the old Irish explanations for the existance of Elves… they were the spirits who were too bad for heaven, but not bad enough for hell.

          But they had multiple explanations. And the Tam Lin legend hinged more or less on the idea of elves as being in league with infernal powers.

          I suppose a lot would depend on how hostile the elves/spirits were viewed, which in medieval Europe was rather often.

          • Not so much in league with, as paying feudal taxes to. (A “teind” is a tithe or tax.) This could have been by conquest. (And actually, the Tam Lin version of the land of Faerie is very similar to the medieval accounts of Purgatory in the St. Patrick’s Purgatory vision poems, and there’s also some similarities to the Muslim Hell/Jahannum/judgment stories. So it’s a bit weird, to say the least.)

            • Usually in Ireland or Scotland, you didn’t pay feudal-type taxes to people you voluntarily got involved with. For example, the Boruma or cattle tax to the high king in Ireland. This was legendarily paid to the high king at certain points because he’d kicked certain clans’ butts, dropped at a certain point as a sign of goodwill, and resurrected by my ancestor Brian Boru/Brian Boruma because he wanted to be a real pain in the butt to certain clans (as a punishment) and could make them pay up.

              OTOH, if you take the teind as an analogy to parish tithing, obviously you’re in a different moral ballpark altogether.

        • At least as the writer, and likely more-or-less permanently off-camera, I’d want to have an iron-clad reason for it. What do either of the major powers get out of allowing some to remain undecided?

          • Well, the Good Guy wants us to have free will and use the brains He gave us; the Other Guys doesn’t….. if the Good Guy regularly showed up and did stuff, we’d be conditioned to follow just because He’s bigger and stronger, which would leave us ripe pickings for the Other Guys.

            From a kind of perspective, the whole history of Christianity is God holding our hand and trying to gently lead us to where we don’t have to be led by the hand.

            Picture Himself as a rather harried parent who is trying desperately to get His kids to think…..

          • Bother, distracted typing…. but some of the reasoning holds on.

            The Good Guy is the only one that could force a change, and He’s big on picking for yourself.

            I don’t much care for the idea of “hanging angels” myself, much prefer either non-human people or forces of nature. (The latter would work much the same, and wind isn’t good or evil.)

    • I am the Lord thy G-d, thou shalt have no other gods before me.

      Pretty much indicates that there can be “other” gods. Standard interpretation as meaning generally examines such false focuses of worship as :”Power”, “Fame”, Money”, “Self” and so on, but nothing in that phrasing precludes actual “gods” — it just say they are not for you. Certainly Lucifer is not precluded from disguises that dissipate attention from his foe?

      Thus a Christian (or Jew) can, consistent with his Faith, accept other entities of god(little “g”)-like power as not refuting the bargain made with the One, True, upper-case G-D.

      • And yet, if these gods accept worship that rightfully belongs to the Big Man alone, then – according to doctrine – are false gods, and in league with the Adversary. Or, at least, are contra the decreed order. Another issue my protagonist will be dealing with, as it happens. I see it as along the lines of theodicy arguments. (evil exists because of sin, sin continues because we continue to choose other than the will of God, etc, etc.) All of these pieces can be made to “fit” a comprehensive understanding of reality, but there are parts that just don’t satisfy us limited human-type mortals. I mean, the logic of Pascal’s Wager is solid, but nobody likes it. (except me. I like it)

        • What’s the difference between a Supernatrual accepting worship and a “god-king” doing it?

          To ask a question you probably already poked at. 🙂

          • The supernatural character can presumably back up his edict with thunderbolts.

            • It makes sense modern-wise in “pretending to be God” sense, but was the traditional that or more a difference of degree rather than kind?

          • ” say by promising him lower cost, better health insurance.”? I’m just completing the thought for you.
            Actually the kinds of Europe were not god-kings, just “Kings by divine right.” Supposedly.

            • I was thinking more… well, non-Christian sorts, like the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs and Japanese. (Chinese, too?)

              • Okay. But those weren’t Christian, so it’s harder to bring it into congruence.

                • Presumably the Things That Go Bump In The Night who claim to be gods aren’t Christian, either. 😀

                  I’m aiming at a more universal moral constant than individual mythology thing– it’s wrong for things that aren’t Him to be worshiped, and it’s true for everything from a sports team to a Sufficiently Advanced Technology.

                  • Yes, but it’s also a Universal Human Temptation to claim to be a god, or to TRY to be one. In that, the whole Garden thing seems to be right.

                    • Pace the Ghostbusters, of course.

                    • Really? I don’t remember much of the movie which I first watched in Germany. Maybe I need to re-watch it. Am a little afraid though because those old effects look SO dated. I wish someone would redo lady hawk.

                    • The Ghostbusters, when asked by a demon/god whether they were gods, were all ready to say yes except Ray, who of course is the most honest one (and the engineer type). Therefore they were attacked by the demon/god.

                      This led to the famous line, “If someone asks if you’re a god, say yes!”

                      It’s a good joke, of course, but Ray was morally right. (And probably tactically right, too. I mean, how were they going to prove they were gods? And didn’t Sumerian gods believed in god vs god warfare?)

  5. I suspect that for most of the older faiths, they’ve got enough flex built in that enabled to get them this far that there are coping mechanisms for dealing with just about anything.

    From a Catholic perspective (Byzantine Catholic specifically but here it shouldn’t matter) there’s the teaching authority of the Church, which is what we lean on to believe the Bible is legitimate as scripture. That same teaching authority lets us work out new circumstances as God tosses them at us. Protestants, generally lacking a magisterium, have to take a different road to deal with the fundamentally novel. Orthodoxy has the magesterium but also a number of differences in how the magesterium expresses itself which are likely to show up in significant differences in approach to Catholics.

  6. It’s the “symbols of faith repel evil” angle that’s been floating around in my head for a while. Consider the Biblical verse that says Man is created in God’s image. If you take that seriously (figuratively or literally makes no difference) you’ve made yourself immune to vampires &c.

    If you focus on certain religions (hey, I wanted to write myself into a fanfic story) the story problem gets worse: Every morsel of food that’s become part of my body has been chosen according to the rules of my faith. Before and after eating I say a short prayer that (in one interpretation) is a promise to dedicate the benefit I derive from this food to furthering God’s intentions. I am, in a very real sense, an object/symbol of my faith. Dump me into the Buffyverse or the Dresdenverse and I crash the system. (One reason I never wrote the story.)

    But—what if such immunity was an intended aspect of the rules?

    • We may be made in His image but most of us so reek of sin that there is great need for deodorant (or, at a bare minimum, incense.) Thus one whose Faith is great/pure would indeed be immune to vampires and other creatures susceptible to the Light of Faith.

      And certainly such immunity is intended — by keeping his laws we are made holy, according to His teachings.

      • That’s a tough one. Old Testament style, yes (a la practicing the Law and the Prophets, etc.), but with the New Covenant, faith in Christ is enough to impute holiness, at which point the Holy Spirit begins the work of sanctification. This starts to get into really squirrelly bits of theological knottiness. My read is that any genuine Christian should be immune to direct, supernatural evil. No possession, no vampiric touch or influence, no spells or similar. Which makes for somewhat boring fiction (or just an opportunity for stretching of the imagination, perhaps), but then it also removes the need for faith. If you know that He’s got your back, instead of having faith that He does, then what’s the point of the whole thing?

        • Knowing he has your back, either without proof or before he proves it in that particular instance is faith.

          • And putting it to the test falls under the category of sin.

            • St. Athanasius was totally okay with pagans walking down the street near temples, saying the Name of Jesus, just to see the havoc that would be wreaked upon pagan rituals or magic by the holiness of the Name. He invited his readers to try it, and was perfectly sure about what would happen.

              Yes, I know that’s not really the take-home from On the Incarnation, but it is an awesome, fun side point.

              • Reading Cyn’s point below, however, I should point out that St. Athanasius also wrote St. Anthony the Abbot’s biography. St. Anthony was constantly afflicted by demons, to the point that he got pretty bored by them, but his being “unharmed” by them was not necessarily what others would consider unharmed. He never lost his faith or was made intolerably afraid; but he did get beaten up to the point of almost getting killed, at one point in his early career. He was then miraculously healed and had great experience in how to resist demons’ nastiness; but there are some pretty unpleasant and dangerous things that happened later, too.

                There’s a big speech he makes to the monks in the biography, in one of those typical “let’s sum up the teacher’s teachings” bits you get in classical lit. Basically, a monk who stays in spiritual training, receives the Sacraments, confesses sin, resists vice, and trusts in God is not going to get spiritually harmed by demons. But then, this presupposes that you’re okay with getting brutally persecuted by demons as severely as Christians earlier were brutally persecuted by pagans, and that being tested to the point of being almost a martyr is a great outcome. (Demons generally were considered unable to kill humans, but very able to trick them into falling off cliffs or that sort of thing. Hard-training monks didn’t usually get killed by demons, but breaking your leg was just business.)

              • The Diocletian persecution was caused, wrote a man who lived through it, by Christian companions of the emperor using the sign of the cross while his haruspices tried to divine the future in their sacrifices. It bollixed up the auguries, the haruspices blamed the Christians, and the persecution began.

        • Dave– Personal experience. I spent almost two years in South Africa as a missionary. I was pretty naïve btw and believed that particular bit of knottiness until I saw it in action. No, most people are not as genuine as they think they are. I saw curses and voodoo in action. The Christians in South Africa (I met several races and they had the same attitude) were very careful to stay away from direct evil. They felt that if you walked into evil that you were opening yourself up to evil. Plus there are times when you are tested– He might have your back when you are in the fire… but you still go through the fire.

          We went in with the attitude that there was no supernatural evil hence no curses or hexes. We had one missionary break his neck and one missionary go mental before the mission president and his wife told the missionaries to leave a certain section of the city alone.

        • ” … any genuine Christian should be immune to direct, supernatural evil.”

          Sidestepping the “no true Scotsman” elements of that, remember that He is interested in our immortal souls, not our mortal bodies. So we can still be in mortal peril from supernatural evil. Given how much sin the average person must wash away ere they can approach holiness, there would be very few whose strength is so strong as to permit them to confront the forces of darkness. Accepting salvation is the lighting of a candle which needs much nurturing to grow into a great light unto the world. Knowing He has your back means knowing He will welcome you with a “Well done, good and faithful servant” — which is not the same as “knowing” he will protect you against physical harm.

          Further, as Job’s story illustrates, He does permit indirect action against His charges. Vampires might not be able to sink their fangs into your Christian’s throat but they can lead him astray, say by promising him lower cost, better health insurance. Consider how many prayers of the Faithful consist of “lead me on the path of Righteousness,” thus indicating the susceptibility of humans to going astray.

          • In addition to which, He seems to be a lot more concerned with what we’re doing than in what is going to happen to us. We can’t stop bad things from happening, but it’s always in our power to do the right thing.

          • “say by promising him lower cost, better health insurance. ”
            You ARE a bad man. Please never change.

          • Excellent, excellent article, and I’m just now getting into the comments.

            I think most of you are missing one key element: God sometimes puts us in situations we normally wouldn’t find ourselves in, in order to do His Will. It’s kind of like what a writer does when he puts his character in a difficult situation to enhance the plot. God does something similar to either help US grow as believers, but also to show His Will through us. We seldom really see that part of what’s going on while it’s happening, but it exists. Occasionally we determine that’s what happened afterwards, but not always. I know I’ve been in some of those situations, and I HOPE I did what He wanted me to do. It’s all a part of that little bit there at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will be done”. Not everything God does has to be a miracle, nor does everything He wishes to be done have to be done by saints — OR HIM. He uses every tool He possesses, including us battered and broken ones here on Earth.

            In that vein, I acknowledge that God has been pushing me for some time now to be more active for Him — not so much as one who spreads the word, but as one that comforts the afflicted and the troubled, and to serve the Internet communities I belong to as a friend, listener, and someone who will pray for those that request it. I have never restricted God in my books (in several places, I’ve even pushed His message), but at the same time I know pushing, especially pushing HARD, will detract from the message of hope that’s there, even in the midst of bad times.

            • Right in line with my favorite quote from my favorite Stephen King book, The Talisman (co-written by Peter Straub). In it, there’s a very strong if not explicitly Christian belief, then close enough that it makes little difference. God is explicitly referred to as a carpenter. And the quote is:

              G-d pounds His nails.

          • Consider how many prayers of the Faithful consist of “lead me on the path of Righteousness,” thus indicating the susceptibility of humans to going astray.

            Probably because the signage for the Path of Righteousness was subcontracted out to the Texas Highway Dept.

        • Works OK with Catholic thought– how long can you stay in a state of perfect grace? (Now there’s a way to get folks into confession, AKA “reconciliation”– vampire-proofing!)

        • This does edge toward comparative theology, but… You’re thinking in terms of New Testament interpretation of the Old. (IIRC, the Biblical text is an commandment to be holy, not a promise of consequences.) From an orthodox, if idiosyncratic, Jewish perspective, things are different: You can do terrible things with your free will—the image of the Free-Willed God (“I shall be as I will be”) within you—but that doesn’t change that the image is there.

          So I may have broken the model even worse: have someone with this philosophy step into the room and every human being becomes a vampire-repelling symbol of faith. 🙂

          Of course, this requires that the defense be the faith in a symbol, rather than the symbol’s actual holiness. I wouldn’t care to test this in reality, but this is the only model that’s really workable in fiction. Using the holiness of a symbol can be tricky, since it requires the readers to share your faith or suspend belief in their own to make this work.

          • Using the holiness of a symbol can be tricky, since it requires the readers to share your faith or suspend belief in their own to make this work.

            I’ve long wondered about the reaction of a Jewish vampire* to the cross.

            Test of faith(s)? A rabbi, a priest and an imam walk into a vampire den …

            *Would have to be reform, as blut ist treyf.

            • No reaction at all.

              • Stipulating that Yeshua was/is as claimed, the Messiah, his symbol ought not only affect the vampire but cause more than ordinary pain. In this case it is the truth of what he represents that matters, not the beliefs of the vampire.

                Of course, a great deal depends on the conceptual underpinnings of the story. A golem ought be able to wreak great harm on a Jewish vampire as it is in many ways the antithesis of the vamp. If the vampires are manifestations of demonic possession (the demon occupying the body at the moment the soul exits but before the body fully expires?) then the Seal of Solomon would be an exceptionally potent symbol, capable of compelling the vampire. (Non-evil vampires compelled to perpetrate acts of unspeakable horror by evil sorcerer who possesses Solomon’s Ring. Name the sorcerer Renfield …)

                • Jesus is not recognized by Jews as a holy figure. I would think that a Star of David would affect a Jewish vampire like a cross would a Christian vampire.

                  • That is why the stipulation is critical — granting that Yeshua is Messiah, his authority/power is intrinsic and ought affect supernatural beings who would be incapable of denying his claim (a power reserved* for the living.)

                    Thus a vampire’s reaction to the cross is inherent in The Cross, not in either the faith of the mortal or the undead (although it may be that the power of The Cross is only present for one who believes, that it is the faith of the wielder which activates the power.

                    *Assumes Unlimited Free Will is a property of life and is denied those not mortal. Supernatural entities ought be capable of perceiving the supernatural nature of their foes, thus incapable of acknowledging their authority.

                    • Thus a vampire’s reaction to the cross is inherent in The Cross, not in either the faith of the mortal or the undead (although it may be that the power of The Cross is only present for one who believes, that it is the faith of the wielder which activates the power.

                      Ooh, perhaps the intention matters? Anybody– even one who doesn’t believe– can do a valid baptism. (yes, the situation has apparently come up)

                      That would explain situations where, say, a Jew pulls up a crucifix and is protected…..

                  • In Being Human the Jewish character does use a Star of David for that purpose; but it’s not really a sacred symbol or a symbol of faith; see Wikipedia on the subject. They Didn’t do the Research.

                • Grandma swore by the seal of Solomon against all forms of demon. We still have a silver one kicking about somewhere. (Last seen in Robert’s possession. Er…)
                  I’ve often been confused by the idea of an unwilling Jewish vampire. Would he starve?

                  • Yes– I have heard stories about the seal of Solomon–

                  • It was (according to lore) Solomon who bound the demons of the Earth and put the jinni into bottles (yes, when you open a carbonated drink …) and it is his seal on the stopper which holds them within.

                    A Jewish vampire would not starve, he simply would not be able to keep kosher and would despise himself for it. (Am now contemplating vampire Woody Allen, or vampire Mel Brooks being interviewed by Carl Reiner.)

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    On an “unwilling Jewish vampire”, here we’re getting into the nature of the vampire. In some of the actual legends (not books or movies) the vampire is a demon that has taken over a dead body and feeds on the living. So in that case, the religion (or lack of religion) of the “dead body” is not relevant to what the vampire fears. Since it is a “demon” then holy symbols would have power against it. Of course, here we get into the matter of “what symbols would be holy”. As a Christian, I’d say Christian symbols and Jewish symbols would be holy. I’d also suspect that the holy symbols would have more power in the hands of a believer in those symbols.

                • The stipulation is fine in conversation, but if it showed up in a book I was reading there would be TBARage.

                  • If it were done in a book the author would have to invest considerable time in the establishment of it as intrinsic and inherent to the universe of the tale. That, or make it such a throw-away that the reader felt in on the joke.

                    ANY time a writer involves seriously held religious beliefs it is necessary to be especially respectful. That, or make it clear from the outset that it is “that” kind of book and if that kind of book annoys you, don’t carry this one home.

                    Playing rude games with Faith is just being a smart-a**, which is okay if you like that sort of book and don’t mind annoying folk.

                    (One of the things annoying me about the Dresden books is the lead character has more than ample evidence that the G-D of the Bible exists — he has not only dealt with angels, fallen and arch, he has fairly direct testimony from numerous supernatural entities — yet remains unbelieving. Butcher has eight more books planned, so perhaps that will prove a vital plot development as the series concludes.) (This is just a side comment using a popular series for an example; it is not an invitation to discuss that series at length.)

          • Well, darn it. I never realized back in Highlander fanfic days that if a Christian’s body is a temple, them immortals ought to have a heckuva time finding suitable dueling spaces.

    • I’ve played a time or two with the question of “What happens if a Vampire of a type that is repelled or damaged by Holy symbols encounters a Samurai”, whose symbol of his Faith is also his primary weapon.

      Say, 36″ of razor sharp holy symbol. Could ruin Vlad’s whole day.

  7. There’s a great bit in John C. Wright’s Chronicles of Chaos trilogy where a Greek goddess explains how she became a Christian. (A Donatist, to be precise. She is not entirely accurate in her description of the orthodox position vs. the Donatists, but it’s the sort of minor slip you might make especially about someone you’re angry with.)

    • There is a reference I once ran across about a dragon who repented, converted, lived a Godly life and became a saint. I wish I could find it again.

      • Spike, to Celestia-worship?

        (*runs*)

      • “There is a reference I once ran across about a dragon who repented, converted, lived a Godly life and became a saint. I wish I could find it again.”

        Perhaps the Tarasque?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarasque

        “The king of Nerluc had attacked the Tarasque with knights and catapults to no avail. But Saint Martha found the beast and charmed it with hymns and prayers, and led back the tamed Tarasque to the city. The people, terrified by the monster, attacked it when it drew nigh. The monster offered no resistance and died there. Martha then preached to the people and converted many of them to Christianity. Sorry for what they had done to the tamed monster, the newly-Christianized townspeople changed the town’s name to Tarascon.”

        “The story of the Tarasque is also very similar to the story of Beauty and the Beast and King Kong. The monster is charmed and weakened by a woman and then killed when brought back to civilization. A similar idea is found in the myths of Enkidu and the unicorn: both are calmed by sending them a woman. The description and legend of this creature is curiously similar to other dragons of French folklore such as Gargouille and Peluda.”

        • It’s not exactly the same idea, but it’s broadcasting on roughly the same wavelength.

        • No. It was a female dragon. And it wasn’t killed after converting. It lived “a Godly life.” AND attended mass. 😛

          • Oh. So my HalfDragon Roman Catholic who harbors a suspicion that the Vatican went overboard with the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s doesn’t count? Darn. Back to the keyboard, then.

            • Oh, no problems with that. I meant that there was a “real saint” in medieval tradition who was a female dragon. I have the book of saints around here somewhere. (My friend Charles gives me the oddest gifts.)

            • Please please write that story! I’d love to read it.

              If a man who is sometimes a wolf, is a werewolf, then a puppy who is sometimes a boy, is a wereboy?

              • Emily, the stories are written, it’s just a matter of publishing sequence at this point. If I have trouble keeping track of chronology and continuity, I’m pretty sure my poor readers will be utterly confoosed.

                Wereboy sounds right to me, since the convention seems to be that you use the change form and not the original form. (So Rada is a werecat, RES is a werewallaby {werllaby for short} and so on.)

          • (Contemplates the typical communion wafer. Considers the communion cup/thimble. Considers the doctrine of transubstantiation when applied to a dragon communicant.)

            I suspect some adjustments in the mass were necessary, unless she was a very ‘umble dragon.

          • Was it Ste. Vermine? 🙂

            No, I hadn’t heard of this dragon saint you’re talking about. I’ve been collecting patristic/medieval stories of “good Christian dragons” (just as exceptions that prove the rule, because I like exceptions), and I don’t recall running across this Mass-going one.

        • Carl Henderson

          It sounds like the Tarasque died a martyr to his faith. I think the next RPG world I create that incorporates a Catholic or Catholic style church will include a “St. Tarasque”. St. Tarrasque will be the patron saint of missionaries to intelligent non-humans.

          • Also against deafness and of gentlemen….

          • “Patron saint of missionaires to intelligent non-humans”

            Oh. My.

            • Ok, this begs the question, who is the patron saint of missionaries to non-intelligent humans?

              • The venerable brother Giles, the third companion of Saint Francis at Assisio, said one day to Saint Bonaventure: “Father, God has shown us great mercy and bestowed on us many graces. But we who are poor and ignorant idiots, what can we do to correspond to his immense goodness, and to be saved?” Saint Bonaventure answered: “If God were to bestow on any one no other talents besides the grace of loving him, this alone suffices, and is every spiritual treasure.” B. Giles said: “Can a dull idiot love God as perfectly as a great scholar.” Saint Bonaventure replied: “A poor old woman may love him more than the most learned master and doctor in theology.” At this brother Giles in a sudden fervour and jubilation of spirit went into a garden, and standing at a gate towards the city (of Rome) he looked that way, and cried out with a loud voice, “Come, the poorest, most simple, and most illiterate old woman, love the Lord our God, and you may attain to a higher degree of eminence and happiness than brother Bonaventure with all his learning.” After this he fell into an ecstacy, in which he continued in sweet contemplation without motion for the space of three hours.
                http://saints.sqpn.com/butlers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-bonaventure-cardinal-bishop-and-doctor-of-the-church/

              • I don’t know. The patron saint of science fiction writers is Saint Leibowitz. In some universe, he exists and that’s enough.

                • I’ve been under the impression that science fiction writers are beyond redemption, even by the power of a saint?

                  • Well, Saint Leibowitz was, after all, Jewish, and you know how stubborn Jewish people tend to be. 😉 (runs. Oh, does she run!)

                    • Shoots her with a cannon grade matzo ball. Thwap, Thunk!

                    • Cannon-grade matzo ball

                      I’ve made those by accident. I stopped making them when I learned to use seltzer when making the matzo ball mix.

                    • My husband is a good ol’ goy from Montgomery, AL. He’s never seen seltzer. He was wondering if it was tonic water. In his defense there are very few Jews in Montgomery.

                    • Safeway has a very nice line of flavored seltzers these days. (Hey, zero calorie fluzzy water that has some flavor? Sign me up!)

                    • He thinks that they are flavored carbonated water. I explained to him the differences between club soda, tonic water and seltzer.
                      What I find hard to get in Portland (OR) is flavored still water, especially my favorite brand, fruit2o. It helps me chug water.

                    • I think I’ve only seen that at Costco– the ones in Bend and Wenatchee.

                      It MIGHT be in the mixer’s isle, but I think you’d have to leave the People’s Republic of Portland to find it.

                      Or maybe some of those “water flavoring tictac bottles” thingies?

                    • I’ve tried the Fred Myers in Tigard. Where are you?

                    • Up by Seattle. Bend is my sister (and a couple of uncles) and Wenatchee is the nearest Costco to my folks’.

                    • OK, now I have to ask, what IS the difference between seltzer, tonic water, and club soda?

                      As far as I am concerned they are all fuzzy water, although when I was a kid they used to make these fruit and berry flavored seltzers that were just like the good store brand* pop.

                      *store brand being the only ones that came in fruit and berry flavors like blackberry, black cherry, and kiwi strawberry.

                    • I don’t know the difference between seltzer and club soda, but tonic water is the stuff with quinine in it, and is bitter as heck.

                    • and you can get addicted to it.

                    • Don’t know about addicted– in drinking volumes, I mean– but it’s definitely an acquired taste. My grandma always made her “half sugar, half lemon juice” lemonade with tonic water, so I love it. (I also order gin and tonics because they smell like Christmas– we had juniper trees for Christmas when I was a kid, so lots of emotion tied up in liquid form.)

                    • Club soda has salt.
                      Tonic has quinine and sugar
                      Seltzer may have flavors.
                      All have carbonation, suitable for clowns or the Marx brothers. Seltzer (plain!) is what gets stains out of fabric.

                      A great mystery of life is that gin is nasty, tonic is nasty, but a gin & tonic is delicious.

              • Barack “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period” Obama?

            • What if you reverse it and we are considered the intelligent non-humans. Or they believe in Jesus by that name but their crucifixes have a body that looks like them?

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, it’s unlikely that their Redeemer would have the same name/title as the Christ and it is unlikely that His Sacrifice would be by the same method as the Christ.

                Hopefully (especially if they’re more advanced technologically than us), their theologians and ours would realize that their Redeemer and ours is the same being.

                By the way, the Way Of The Redeemer, in one of my story universes, is the alien version of Christianity.

    • Cool. Donatists are an odd group… I’ve always thought that they somehow reject salvation through confession and forgiveness. If the priests and others who turned over their scriptures during the persecution couldn’t repent the act and be again in the body of the church, then how is a believer to tell what previous acts he can and can not be forgiven for?

      Fortunately, for me, as a Baha’i, the issue is moot, but intellectually interesting none-the-less.

      • The precise thing she slipped up on was in fact an argument over what was a sin. She said that the orthodox view didn’t care if believers handed over sacred writings to be burned, which in fact was universally regarded as apostasy. In fact, the argument was because some soldiers in charge of the burning were illiterate, and some were sympathetic, so you could get away with silently handing over some other books — the orthodox view was you could do it, the Donatist that it was still apostasy.

      • But yes, they also rejected repentence from apostasy. This belief perhaps springs from the nature of apostasy, which involves rejecting the source of the forgiveness.

  8. I’ve recently read two series on the — ehem — Good Folk. In one, British fairies are endangered by iron, prayers, and church bells, but Greek ones (satyrs and centaurs) do not fear iron, and a genie is a pious man who prays regularly. In the other, peris and kitsune are as vulnerable to iron as any other fey.

    Both of them have a jarring aspect to it.

    Hmm. . . perhaps what was needed was someone working on a unified theory of fairiology. Would have to have some convincing notions, though.

    • Does anyone else here enjoy the TV series “Supernatural”? They treat fairy lore as a substandard handbook for dealing with all kinds of bad guys they run into on a regular basis. God is AWOL, and Jesus is never acknowledged even obliquely, but angels, demons, Heaven, and Hell are often wound into the storyline. Our heroes take for granted that there is a moral code that must be obeyed even in extremis.

      • I liked the first couple of seasons, and watched for a bit longer after them, but then it started to get a tad too angsty for my taste and I started to lose interest. People keep dying. Same people. Repeatedly.

        That tends to be the same problem I have with most long running series where one point is high drama, or great danger, or big villains, or whatever. They have satisfying high drama or danger or scary monsters or villains or something in the plots in the beginning, but then they need to top that in the next season, and the next season, and after a while I lose interest and mostly just hope for that world to end, or for everybody to die already if I still bother to watch. And I also would need occasional genuine big wins for the heroes if something lasts for a long time – and genuine ones, not those where it seems they just achieved something important in the end of one season, and then that win gets undermined in the beginning of the next and they are in even deeper trouble than they were before. Usually the direction kind of seems as if the heroes only keep digging themselves into a deeper hole, and then usually the series gets cancelled when the viewers start to get bored and there is never any kind of resolution to the whole thing.

        • Very true. There’s a strong temptation to escalate, and they don’t always know well enough to quit on a high note. I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s series “Angel” and thought he ended it in style. Certainly left me wanting more.

          I’m also enjoying “Revolution,” which is bringing in enough storylines and complications to keep the plot moving. For some reason, though fight scenes normally bore me to tears, I enjoy the ones in “Revolution.”

        • Escalation is like character development. You can only go so far before it’s silly.

      • Not a series I took up, but your statement raises an interesting question: What if the enemy’s purpose is not world domination, subjugation of souls or other such nefariousness, but rather the placing of the hero in such a bind that the only solution requires violation of his (her) moral code?

        The true goal thus being the corruption of the protagonist(s), every plot would turn on developing a situation requiring protagonist(s) to tell a lie or kick a puppy (okay, harm an innocent) else reality collapses. Given a choice of a lesser or greater evil (murdering Hitler or allowing the Holocaust) the MC must ever find a third way committing no evil.

    • I think you’d have to have broad classes of fae….

      Oh, now I’m itching to do this for my Bitch Club story….

      • Have fun!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        IMO one of the problems of writing about the critters of the Faerie Realm is that there are so many different Faerie Realms and possible Faerie Realms.

        Every culture has different “little powers” that could be considered part of the Faerie Realm or Realms. Then there’s “strange critters” that aren’t magical (ie no powers) like fauns or centaurs. Are they creatures of Faerie or not?

        Raymond Feist was talking about his book _Faerie Tale_ and said that he had to leave out much of the results on his research into “Faerie Critters” because IIRC they didn’t “fit into” how he wanted the story to go.

        • I can see that happening!

          I was about to say “where would they all fit?”, but a lot of the “critters” either shift shapes or look a lot like something else.

          Research on the old canard about nobody being attacked by wolves in North America– for something that “everyone knows” doesn’t exist, the level of proof even makes sense!

          I just realized I’m going to have to have Underhill of some sort– highly menacing, at least….

          Dear, wasn’t expecting that.

  9. I’ve been reading SF and Fantasy for around 40 years, and been a Christian nearly that long. I’ve never had, as some do, the idea in my head that the discovery of life on other planets would somehow destroy the Christian “mythos”. God is indeed bigger and stranger than we know, and as far as we know, Christ came to Earth to save humans. God may have done something else elsewhere, or…
    As to vampires, faeries, and other myths, I’ll have to see them to believe in them, and I assign them a pretty low probability of existence.
    As others here mentioned, the evidence of scripture doesn’t deny the existence of other gods and powers, but they are all demonstrated to be far weaker than Yahweh, creator of the universe.
    If I had any talent for writing fiction, I’ve had for years an idea for a series about a Paladin with God-given powers serving (at the beginning) a theocratic state in an alternate U.S. Alas, I have no storytelling gift.

    • Arthur C. Clarke honestly thought that intelligent aliens would wreck Christianity. The problem? Being made in the image of God!

      • That’s only a problem if you take things literally. I have no doubt that the minute that we have actual non-human aliens show up, the theology will immediately adapt to say that “in his image” is meant metaphorically, and that the forms are unimportant, just the ideas mean anything.

        • Don’t be silly.

          Theologians would have no need whatsoever to “immediately adapt” by promulgating something that was already promulgated millennia ago. Anthromorphism was a fourth century heresy and condemned in that time too.

          If by “metaphorically” you mean, “not to a physical image.” If you mean it to mean “having no real meaning,” they would also have no need because that would be silly in itself.

        • I’d always thought (and I’m pretty sure I thought so because that was what I was taught) that the “image of God” had to do with being created with moral agency (unlike angels) and nothing to do with having a head, two eyes, two arms, etc., Christ was incarnate… God isn’t, so portraying Him as incarnate as an old grandfatherly person is an understood and convenient fiction.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Wouldn’t he have been shocked if a Semitic looking fella stepped off the saucer and asked “Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ…”

    • I enjoy C.S. Lewis’s Planetary Triology on this subject.

      • Yes, I’d recommend Dave look especially at the third book, That Hideous Strength, and Ransom’s discussion of Merlin’s middle role between the sides. Lewis didn’t have problems with his Classics and his Christianity. And he was definitely a core Anglican.

        • It’s been years, and I really should do a re-read. I think I even have them in ebook.

        • I’ll have to take a look at those. I read the first one, but haven’t touched the second two.

          • One and two aren’t bad, but three is my favorite, often re-read.

            • I find that Hideous Strength, being set in our world, is the most challenging of the trilogy. I read the first two while in (IIRC) Eight Grade but took years until I felt I was sufficiently mature to process the finale. Beloved Spouse & I read the first pair together (a book club of two!) years ago but found the last one too substantial for our joint reading.

              Obviously, everybody’s mileage differs.

              • None of the trilogy is what most people think of as typical Lewis’ style, and the third is most definitely the furthest outside expectation. Wife and I were discussing the trilogy in context of this blog, and topics from a book club discussion we recently had, and I came up with the following interesting observation:

                Out of the Silent Planet is his attempt at traditional Science Fiction.

                Perelandra is his attempt at Mytho-poetic Science Fantasy.

                That Hideous Strength is actually his synthesis piece done in what starts out as traditional romance/pulp/historical, whatever style.

                (Note: the word attempt above doesn’t contain any idea of success/failure, but rather his choice of various genres).

                THS was my hardest read of the three at first, and yet as the mileage wears on, has some of the best lines of quotes, such as “liking weather” not any particular type, or “an honest criminal” that the “NICE” people weren’t fit to touch.

                • I despised the Narnia books, no matter how many people try and tell me how good they are I just couldn’t read them. Out of the Silent Planet is the only one of the three being discussed that I have read, but I liked it.
                  For a YA Christian fantasy series I would recommend Lloyd Alexander’s Cauldron-born* series.

                  *Not sure if that is the actual name of the series, but if not I’m sure someone here will correct me.

  10. Lars Walker’s books (that I’ve read anyway) have a decent treatment of Christianity in worlds where other supernatural players exist. I’d recommend them.

    From my own, atheistic, perspective (yes, atheism is a religious belief, intellectually I’m an agnostic, viscerally I just can’t accept the existence of the supernatural in any flavor) the appearance of something that seemed to correspond to The Supernatural would trigger my “I wonder how it does that?” reflex. Essentially I’d assume Alien Space Bat (arbitrarily more technologically advanced entity) before I’d assume magic. If the entity corresponded to something non-Divine, but traditionally supernatural, I’d assume some element of nature that has thus far escaped humanities notice and/or understanding.

    I’m much more comfortable with an honest “I don’t know” than with “it must be God!”.

    • Second the Lars Walker endorsement, although you might want to first read everything by Sarah Hoyt (and her myriad pseudonyms – hey, name for a band? Wonder what they would play? Heavy Metal Polka?), Celia Hayes, Alma C. Boykin and so on and so on (failure to name individuals is indicative of the quality of my memory, NOT that of their writing.)

  11. “That humans other than me regarded you or something like you as a god in the past does not prove that you are a god. Nor does the fact that you can do things I don’t necessarily understand…using only the items available for sale at the nearest convenience store, after all, I could work ‘miracles’ far beyond the imagination of the entities that the Pharohs of Egypt worshipped, and I know _I_ am not a god. Many people might be under the impression that if you aren’t entirely imaginary, the only possible alternative is that you’re really divine. I know that this is not the case. So I know that whatever you are, you’re a liar who was trying unsuccessfully to manipulate me. So you’d best either kill me right now (if you can) or back off, because there’s no way I’m helping you.”

    Not that I’m figuring I’m likely to ever _have_ this conversation, of course, but being put into a situation where it was necessary needn’t have any impact at all on my religious beliefs.

    • There’s an excellent passage in one Justice Society of America book where an atheistic character justly rejects the existence of pagan gods as relevant to the question. (He adds that Superman would be a god by that standard if only someone worshipped him.)

      “God” has two meanings: Supreme Being, and being that is worshiped. Obviously very different things.

    • Rick Boatright

      Simply quote the Hulk…. “Puny God.”

  12. While I can’t lay claim to being any sort of Biblical scholar, it would seem to me that it’s more the individual’s interpretation of the meaning of his faith as to how difficult it is for him to accept the so-called “Supernatural” (so-called, because “Supernatural” is a null word. If it exists, it’s not Supernatural, it merely may be outside our current understanding – even Angles, Devils, Fae, or whatever you can dream up).

    If the person is an adamant believer that such things cannot exist, he will probably deny it until it kills him, or, if his belief and will are strong enough, he may very well banish it, or at least be immune to it. On the other hand, if the person is more open-minded, he may believe in it enough to be vulnerable, and need to either protect himself or be protected.

    Oh, and to add another series of books where the main character deals with these kinds of questions fairly well, I’ll mention Stasheff’s Wizard in Rhyme series.

    • I would recommend C. S. Lewis’s Studies in Words to you. Besides being a great book, it has an extensive chapter on “Nature” that may clarify the question.

      It was pre-Socratic philosophers who invented the term “Nature,” meaning “everything.” It still means, more or less, “everything that pre-Socratic philosophers thought exists,” with some details having become more refined.

      • On a tangent: would anyone be interested in having a goodreads Hoyt’s Huns book reading? We nominated books, we poll to choose one for a month, and then we can read and discuss.

        (Group here:
        https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/104359-hoyt-s-huns
        )

      • It was pre-Socratic philosophers who invented the term “Nature,” meaning “everything.”

        I’m of the opinion that everything is natural, and drawing arbitrary divisions between natural and supernatural in the stuff that exists is “unnatural” (meaning – the world in our experience doesn’t work that way).

        On the other hand, whatever your current idea of the universe (or mine, several times in the past few years even) is – the universe is always more than that. It tends to put some strain on a word like Universe or Nature that is supposed to mean “everything”, or at least our best idea of it out to the range of our experience. (Thinking of a few of the types of multiverse that can be considered).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        For the ebook “fanatics”, I found Lewis’s _Studies in Words_ available in e-format. [Smile]

        • That’s the thing: I’m not at all fanatical about it. In point of fact, I love paper books as das ding an sich. But electrons are so much easier to carry and store. Le sigh.

          • I own a massive collection of physical books, and have been working on building a massive collection of e-books, as well. At some point in the near future, my wife and I will have to downsize, and won’t have room for all of the library, most likely, but I can’t be without my books, ya know? Have somewhere around a thousand e-books on my Nook reader at this point, and it takes up less space in my suitcase than a paperback. As long as I have a power source to keep it charged, I’m good.

    • I’ve had the same argument over the definition of supernatural with my father, the pastor. Mostly, he just grins at me and nods. Really, it’s just a useful shorthand for “angels and demons and unseen powers and all the bits and pieces of things that we don’t understand and it’s not fair, n’stuff.”

      • The sign of a good pastor/teacher, grin, nod, silently encourage you to work it out yourself, and occasionally point you in the right direction if you get to turned around.

      • Many of those are things that we can not see by our (human) nature, so a vision of them is literally above our nature, an increase in our ability to perceive things over our natural ability, or supernatural.

        • If any of those entities occupy n-dimensional reality our ability to comprehend their form and their manipulation of causality would perforce be incomprehensible to us.

          • It would be naturally incomprehensible to us. If we were enabled to comprehend it, it would be supernaturally — above our nature. 0:)

      • I used to define it as “Scientists can’t detect it, measure it, nor explain it. And generally decide it doesn’t exist.” These days, what with Dark Matter and Dark Energy, still no test of string theory, and squabbles over how many dimension there are . . . I just shrug.

  13. As an atheist and materialist (of a specific sort whose technical details would be a major sidetrack), I think the presence of any such entities in the observable world would seriously disrupt many of my beliefs!

    • William O. B'Livion

      I’m essentially a shannonist. Right now the available information strongly disindicates any significant “supernatural” activity or presence.

      Once there’s sufficient information that my current perspective on this sort of thing is wrong, I’ll change my perspective. Right after I finish emptying my magazines.

      • I cannot imagine what information would be sufficient to count as evidence for the presence of an omnipotent or supernatural entity. It seems to me that it would require infinite evidence.

  14. When do you publish! Sooner!

  15. This is a question (“How does an Evangelical Protestant Christian respond to a faith-challenging event or situation?”) that I have tried with lesser success to answer in some drawer fiction that I have written. The challenge is to strike a balance that is believable for that character. I’ll pop over to your blog and check it out.

  16. In real life, as an agnostic, I’ll consider anything, and reject most of it.

    As a writer, the lack of religion in my early life has been a handicap.

    In my early writing, it didn’t even occur to me, in world building, to put churches in. It was a hole I was blind to. Filling it in with cults and inquisitions works fictionally, but isn’t the best solution. So I’m still failing to write a mellow, widespread, tolerant collection of religions as a normal part of a society, inhabited by generally good people. Must work on that.

    But, back to real life, coming face-to-tentacles with something supernatural would startle me, but then I’d start looking for the man behind the curtain. The more recognizable the phenomenon, the more certain I’d be that it was a fake.

    I honestly cannot guess what a person of faith would think.

    • “Kill it with fire,” comes quickly to mind.

      As to writing religion … I … may have … thoughts. For one, are we looking at a world like ours? Is/are God/gods real? Do they manifest directly, and is there living evidence of such? Does the Grand High Hierophant speak with his deity regularly, for fireside chats and the like? If things are more like our world, I’d crib from history. It’s also going to depends a LOT of philosophical development. Has a Modern Project happened? Or an Enlightenment equivalent? These, more than anything, are going to influence how the dominant religion(s) treat competing faiths. I must think moire on this.

    • “I honestly cannot guess what a person of faith would think.”

      I immediately imagined St. Martin de Annulera, the first apostle to the tentacled spider people…thingie…clowns….

  17. This is an interesting topic and one that I’ve avoided in my own writing so far. It’s something that I can see com in up eventually
    though. I can see a gefew different ways to deal with this.

    The first and most obvious is a kind of polytheistic approach where God A and God B (C,D,E,etc) all exist and their followers all work together/strive against each other as appropriate based on the relationships of their deities/ situation on Earth/wherever permit. This can go a number of ways.

    The next one is the “Everything you know is Wrong” approach where the character’s religion is totally bogus and they have to figure that out for themselves. Lots of soul searching would occur and maybe some outright denial. Think a modified version of Thomas Covenant and his problems upon discovering The Land.

    Probably the most interesting to me though (YMMV) is the conflicted character type. This is where the character’s deity does exist alongside others, but the realization that thereis more than one god causes a crisis of faith in the character. Doubting faith could cause loss/ddiminishment of power leading to further loss of faith, etc. The story of re-finding faith which then becomes stronger could be a powerful one.

    There are probably more possibilities but that’s my top hits.

    • The conflicted type you mentioned is closest to what I’m exploring, but my protagonist isn’t actually going to get direct evidence that his beliefs correspond to reality. God’s never going to speak to him directly. He’ll have plenty of evidence for the existence of other powers, but most of them are going to be plenty inimical to humanity. At least the portion he represents.

      • As for having “plenty of evidence for the existence of other powers … plenty inimical to humanity” — does the survival of humanity in the face of such opposition constitute a form of indirect evidence of the presence of a counter-balancing power?

  18. Don’t forget Christopher Stasheff.

  19. As far a Chatholic writers of Sci Fi and Fantasy: Robert Hugh Benson, Anthony Boucher, G.K. Chesterton, Jo Clayton, John Crowley, Brian Doyle,
    R.A. Lafferty, Murray Leinster, Julian May, Sandra Miesel, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Michael D. O’Brien, Tim Powers, Fred Saberhagen, Clifford D. Simak, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Charles Williams, Gene Wolfe.
    I should also mention Victor Hugo. Now they may not explicity expose their beliefs but it is submerged in their writing.

  20. Just a clarifying question. Are these events/beings visible to everyone or just the main character? Because if I were the only seeing Eldritch horrors, I would probably check myself into a mental hospital. If everyone else is also experiencing this, I’d talk things over with someone.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Well, in the first story David’s main character is “introduced” to the supernatural world when an ifrit attacks his unit in Iraq and everybody else sees it as well. Oh, the ifrit couldn’t handle being hit with water from a fire hose. [Wink]

      So IMO for David’s character, it’s a matter that he has good reasons to know that the “supernatural” is real but he’s worried about how God fits into this.

      By the way, BAPTISM BY FIRE is the first book and is available for the Kindle.

      • Exactly. “Is my faith (a central identity marker) still in effect, given what I’ve seen?”

        I put a link up a ways, but I have issues with the pretty ones with thumbnail cover shots. Can’t ever seem to make ’em work right.

      • Thanks. I will go look it up.

    • That is one interesting question. What if you were the only one seeing them, but they left results which were obvious to other people – say, you see one tear up a tree, but there are no other witnesses, only the next day the tree is still obviously torn up and everybody sees it? When would it be necessary to start believing that what you see is real, because if you don’t you might even end up eaten, for real?

      And then there are the real world stories, those people who say they have seen something – bigfoot, flying saucers, ghosts… now that tends to be a sure way to get the reputation of being nuts, in our world. But those people who have studied the witnesses claim that many of them seem to be perfectly normal, and while some change their stories later, often after they have gotten that nutty reputation, others don’t. And often the reason for the changed stories may very well be exactly that – having told their story gains them nothing good, and gives them a lot of grief.

      So how many people might there be who see things and never say a word to anybody because they don’t want to end up as the town saucer nut, or something?

      As I have said here before, I don’t believe that there are those types of critters around, but I don’t disbelieve it either. I do believe that people sometimes see them. What causes that would probably be worth studying. That they are some sort of real is one possibility. That the experiences are something caused by a temporary brain malfunction is another, but again, if so, why, how and what might trigger it?

      If real the one comfort is that they don’t seem to be particularly dangerous, lots of stories of people seeing something like wolfmen around (google ‘the beast of bray road’, for example), and stories of them behaving in a threatening manner, no stories of anybody being attacked for real, like in ends up in a hospital real. Except humans sometimes do disappear, of course.

      And yes, things like that are a hobby of mine. Gives ideas for stories, for one thing.

    • Check out this

      A man takes photos to prove to the wife that her hallucinations aren’t real, but she sees the hallucinations in the photos.

      Drug treatment mostly stops the hallucinations. EXCEPT —

      She still sees them in the photos.

      • That’s not only creepy, that reminds me of Charles Bonnet syndrome.

      • Ever since learning of the Yąnomamö* in freshman anthropology I have pondered the idea that there might be drugs which alter our perception — say, by shifting our visual range several % into the infrared and ultraviiolet, allowing (for example) the direct observation of thermal currents in the air.

        *IIRC they snorted a drug which was consistent in the hallucinations observed even for anthropologists not conditioned to have expectations of what visions would occur.

        • High dosages of prednisone over an extended period of time cause hallucinations (known side effect). It depends on the patient whether the hallucinations are visual or aural.

          • The fundamental question is whether the hallucinations are idiosyncratic or consistent, whether they are projections of the observer or are reflective of altered observation.

            • Hard to tell when you are in it… and no one else takes you seriously. 😉

              • Ayup. It is a concept dealt with (somewhat) by Sturgeon (Yesterday was Monday) and Heinlein (They), among others. Even Kuttner & Moore’s Mimsy Were the Borogoves deals with the question of our interpretation of perceived data.

                But the fool on the hill,
                Sees the sun going down,
                And the eyes in his head,
                See the world spinning ’round.

      • That reminds me of the first Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex season, where a hacker gets away with a crime by hacking everyone’s “cyberbrains” (think internet/phone in your head) so that when they look at him, they only see a big logo of a smiling face.
        Later, a person who doesn’t have a cyberbrain draws the hacker’s face, but what everyone sees is the logo.

  21. Interesting. I don’t write fantasy, so I’ve never thought much about how Christians (or Jews) respond to vampires/werwolves/incubi. I’d probably start shooting or throwing silver and revert to that most ancient of prayers, “Oh G-d, please get me out of this and I’ll never [action] again!”

    My MC does have a problem with clergy, but that stems from a medical difficulty instead of supernatural one. And the Archbishop of York rules that Special Creation refers to all sapient beings who chose to believe in G-d and His church, rather than only to humans, so Rada can join the church. Rada doesn’t believe in the supernatural, only in things that she can’t understand yet.

    • The Catholics have that settled. When the Americas were found — well, in Star Trek, there were humans and Vulcans and Klingons and Romulans, and it was obvious that all of the latter were not human, any more than humans were any of the latter. This is because the races did not have a common origin with humanity. Meeting the folks in the Americas raised the question of whether they were really of a common origin with humanity.

      Two Zuni met the Pope, and convinced him of their conversion. He issued a bull declaring that a human was any being capable of becoming a Christian.

      • Well, those Catholics that bother to pay attention to that sort of thing have it settled… for story purposes, any Catholic would at best have some sort of a vague memory about theologians digging into “angels on a pin stuff.”

      • Actually it was a bit more complicated than that. The issue was that earlier a Papal Bull came out stating that, “ …The Kings of Spain and Portugal were granted… full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ.” (1452)
        However, after the discovery of the new world the debate re-erupted due to the enslavement of the Indians which was settled (but not complied with) by a papal bull promulgated by Pope Paul III on June 2, 1537, which forbad the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

        Now about the debate over whether aliens have souls -hey guys that plot is mine-I just have to figure out how to make it interesting.

  22. Consider it: you’re going about your business,
    shopping for groceries, when a too-pretty young man with an air of power
    tells you God needs you to do something.

    I actually had to read this a few times before I figured out what the heck you were trying to say!

    Given the way angels are portrayed in pop culture, I’d definitely be in the “polite blink, back away slowly while saying ‘oh, that’s nice'” camp.

    • Exactly that. I’m of the opinion that if you get visited by an angel, either you’ll know it, or you never will.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        In Scriptures, when somebody *knows* that he’s meeting an Angel, the first words of the Angel are “Fear Not”. [Grin]

      • Yeah. “Fear Not,” “Wait, what do you mean you can’t see him” or “Angel? You mean Fred?”

      • According to the Book of Tobit, Raphael traveled a long time with Tobias before revealing himself.

      • And if your horse, donkey, (or today, dog or cat) starts saying, “No, I’m not going to walk through that angel,” you’d probably get ready to have your world knocked asunder. 🙂

      • There have been a couple interesting TV series exploring this, Joan of Arcadia (starring Amber Tamblyn with Joe Mantegna & Mary Steenburgen) and Wonderfalls (from Bryan Fuller, the creator of Dead Like Me) most notably.

    • Aren’t some of the descriptions in the Bible rather monstrous? Several eyes, partly like burning fire and and so on? Nothing pretty, and nothing much resembling a human, pretty or otherwise. Well, it’s been a while since I last studied Bible, but I seem to remember something like that. And then there were ones who were thought to be just common men at first.

      • Japanese anime has a lot of pretty accurate-to-Bible angels. (Also a lot of pretty boys with wings….)

      • Coincidentally I ran across this link earlier this week:

        under the title “The Box of Crazy.” It appears to be an attempt by a very gifted engineer or draftsman to process some sort of transcendant experience he had in Florida sometime in the late 70’s, and to integrate it with the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelations.

        • And y’all really have to see it, if only for the pages of handwritten explanatory notes that look like they were typed.

  23. Hmm. My own religious ideas are probably a long way from orthodox.

    I think the main sort of supernatural problems that supernatural creatures would pose to religious protagonists would mainly just reduce to variants of the problem of evil. It is probably as resolved or unresolved to said characters after encountering X as the problem ever was.

    For there to be overt Divine help in story against a supernatural problem just puts a finer point on the general problem of evil. Why does God decide to step in when someone waves a crucifix in a vampire’s face, but not when someone does so to a hungry leapord (who has approximately the same motivations – dinner)? For that matter, if God has it in mind to intervene, why do the presence or absence of icons matter?

    • I think with vampires and crosses the idea was not that God intervened, but that the vampire kind of realized or remembered its own situation, and that was too painful for them. Existential angst to the point where they no longer could stand it.

      • When it’s handled that way, it makes more sense.

      • I had a story idea in which the modern convention of all religious symbols did not work. You had to use, in the old style, a crucifix.

        While the characters are trying to ponder this, one vampire claims, rather hysterically, that it’s psychological warfare, because they know that no one would ever voluntarily died if there were any choice in the matter. (Framed so that you could have your doubts about honesty.)

      • Suddenly Google is failing me… partly because there’s too many modern versions of the vampire legend and too many computer/RPG games… I don’t remember all the details, but in the early pre-20th-century vampire legends there were rationales as to why Christian holy symbols worked against vampires that involved vampirism being an evil, warped, and inferior version of the ressurection. I’d say “this was back when vampires were more like zombies instead of being Emo,” but these days even the zombies are emo.

        • It is my understanding that traditionally vampires are repulsed by the cross and not other Christian holy symbols. The cross as a symbol is older than Christianity, just like the swastika is older than Nazi Germany. I read an early vampire novel (can’t remember which) where the characters actually had an intelligent discussion about why the cross works and not other Christian symbols.

          • It might make sense in the story, but the tradition and even Dracula make it pretty clear it’s the Christ that matters.

            What did they attribute the Cross to as a holy symbol, if you can recall?

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IIRC Dracula feared the crucifix (a cross with the body of the Christ) as well as the Communion host.

              • Book, yes; I think several movies just used across, though. (Which makes one wonder about how he was able to be around ANYTHING, since even two branches falling on the ground would be a cross…but nevermindthatanyways……)

                • Oh, well (harumph) if you’re going to accept movies as authentic repositories of vampire lore …

                  Sometimes they limit the cross to silver … I have vague memory of van Helsing holding up two silver candlesticks, one athwart the other …

                  • I’d really rather stick closer to the myths, but I’m trying to find a balance. Kind of like how werewolves weren’t originally cursed, they were more evil skinwalker witch things.

                    My level of tolerance for the “scrub all possible theology” aspect is pretty low. (and that’s something, since I’m defending a guy who used the Body of Christ as window putty.)

                  • If “intention to physically invoke Christ” is what the tipping point is, the “two whatever crossed” would work– maybe limit it to silver for purity, or you can use a wood cross that’s blessed, or any crucifix…..

          • Originally it had to be an actual crucifix and not just the cross.

          • IF I go on faulty memory… it’s that the vampires have their own version of death and ressurection, and even communion, as it were… but nothing works the way it is supposed to, or the way it worked with Jesus. They’re stuck being creatures of the night and having to predate on people. (Which, compared to predating on deer, for example, must… suck.)

            I will leave as an exercise to the student how other traditions of dying and ressurecting gods may fit in with other traditional methods of killing vampires. But off the top of my head: Is the stake-in-the-heart bit descended from the mistletoe that killed Baldur? Does the hate of sunlight tie into sun-worshipping religions?

    • Why does God decide to step in when someone waves a crucifix in a vampire’s face, but not when someone does so to a hungry leapord (who has approximately the same motivations – dinner)?

      A blessed Crucifix would mean Jesus is symbolically present– and the Host would mean He’s there. Vampires are different in kind from the leopard– demonic (or evil soul) animated corpses, which would have to have absolutely rejected God. His being around causes them actual pain.

  24. My own reactions on reading a book where some supernatural encounter occurs are always primarily of curiosity. So we have this nonhuman sapient being. Is it friendly? (Seldom the case in fiction – doesn’t make for interesting stories). Can you ask it questions? Can you find out how it does it’s thing? Can you trade with it? (For reasonable, non-soul or blood of the innocent prices.)

    If it’s hostile, can you still take one alive (/undead /whatever)? What happens if you electro-probe Zeus (properly restrained, of course)? How on Earth *does* a werewolf transformation work, physiologically? What happens to a vampire in a vacuum chamber? Who cares if it’s a devious unreliable witness, odds are you can still find out *something* from questioning. If all else fails, you can figure out how to kill it. Where is the large-animal-control dude when you need him?

    • Electro-probing a god of lightning is probably contraindicated. Just saying. Try sodium-pent instead.

      As for the “vampire-in-a-vacuum-chamber” (brings to mind how tennis balls are packaged which morphs into the idea of a great new product: “Vampire In A Can!!!”) it seems likely that Correia’s Monster Control Bureau would not be above experimenting to find the answers to that and other questions (such as: is silver nitrate in a squirt gun effective against vampires?)

  25. Yes yes, of course there’s MHI. But they tend to be hard on the facilities and difficult to explain to the insurance. 😛

  26. A story that has been rattling around in my head, and will probably never be written, is a Christian paranormal romance. With a werewolf pastor and his daughter (the love interest). The theology being that werewolves are just people with a pair of recessive shapeshifting gene. Of course there are werewolves of different types, and not all of the genes will cross to produce shapeshifting offspring. For example, Asian wolf shifters can have children with American gray/timber wolf shifters, but the genes are located differently, and their children will not be shapeshifters, Mexican grey wolf shifters can produce shifter offspring with with the American gray/timber wolf shifters, and some of their children when mated to the offspring of the Asian/American cross will be shifters, while others won’t.

    The idea and the mechanics of it, as well as the balancing of the Christian theology with the Werewolf world view/life philosophy is interesting. But I don’t think I could actually sit down and write it.

    • In my grandmother’s stories, there was a werewolf priest. Eventually I’ll write it. He’d become a werewolf so as not to pass on the gene.

    • Could not the werewolf simply be an expression of the animal side of man’s nature? Were’s tend to be of two categories, after all: human intelligence/consciousness in wolf body and human turned animal. These are not mutually exclusive, of course, a theme explored in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books wherein the question is: which nature dominates and to what degree?

      There seems no innate reason a werewolf could not be Christian (or Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Assutran … pretty much anything but Muslim*, I think.) Might be a problem keeping Kosher or adhering to Buddhist principles of nonviolence …

      *Do Islamic prohibitions on dogs extend to wolves?

      • Just make sure to only eat animals with cloven hooves when in wolf form. When begs the question, are demons kosher?

        • Kosher also involves the manner of slaughter, a task likely beyond a werewolf’s ability.

          And I cannot thank you enough for causing me to wonder, given the ability of werewolves to regenerate damaged tissue, what problems does that pose to the mohel? Does the process have to be repeated every full moon, or perhaps the use of a ritually blessed instrument (one which, additionally, is made of silver) ensures permanence?

          • It was the full moon and it was time for his circumcision. Again. This alone was enough to make Ben very, very upset. Being on patrol in the bad part of town was just icing on the cake.

            Oh, heaven help me, RES you have no right to infect me. No right.

            • *cough* It was bearcat started it.

              And I did point out that performing the bris mallah with sanctified, silver implements ought make it take. One presumes that silver interferes with the effect of the lycanthropic field, preventing regeneration.

              Of course, that might simply mean he requires an argent penis beaker.

              • wtf is a penis beaker?

                • wtf is a penis beaker is about right.

                  Do not ask if you wouldst lief not know. Possibly NSF, especially if your employer disapproves spewing of coffee across keyboards and monitors.

                  • I mis-read the original question as “penis bReaker”. I’m glad I resisted the temptation to try cracking any jokes about that.

                    • I have seen articles and references about them being breakable but usually find the images prompted by such matters shut down all critical thinking capacity. Let us just note that, no matter how athletic the participants, some forms of coupling are not prudent.

                      It is similar to my reaction when friends who have worked the emergency ward commence reminiscing about things people have attempted inserting into various orifices: no details, there are images I do not want in my mind.

                  • You just broke my mind. Yes, yes, it’s Emily’s fault.

                  • Strangely, my spew moment did not happen (see what I DID NOT say there?) until I saw the Daily Telegraph article linked with the heading, ‘Penis beaker’: why you should never ask the internet about your personal habits. For some reason, that one broke through the wall of shock which previously had me staring dumbfounded at the screen.

                  • “When choosing a nail polish remover dunker to replace your penis beaker, make sure you get the kind with the sponge and not the pink bristles. Unless your dick is coated with glitter, because those things are great for removing glitter.”

                    Apparently glittery hoo-haas are a thing in England also.

          • I’ve appealed to a higher authority to stop you infecting me with characters. Ah!

          • I thought werewolves only regenerated when they were in wolf form, and only new injuries? There are a lot of stories of weres that were gravely injured, shifted back to human form, and didn’t regenerate. (Most that come to mind are Cat Witch types, but some middle ages ones too.)

          • Hunted meat would specifically be treyf, which literally means “torn” – as in “the treyfa and the neveila you shall not eat, you shall give to the dogs (Exodus 23:30)”. So, the implication being, that this would not be permitted to the kosher keeping werewolf while he was in human or half-human transitional form, but would be permitted if he were to shift into full lupine form.

            Thank you, I’ll be here all night.

            • Oooh, can I steal that?!

            • Hunted meat would specifically be treyf, which literally means “torn” – as in “the treyfa and the neveila you shall not eat

              So does this mean that Jews are prohibited from hunting for food? That’s…a strange prohibition. While I’ve been told by Jewish friends and acquaintances that in a survival situation all kosher rules can be disregarded, if hunted meat is generally non-kosher, that would be a pretty strong mechanism for urbanization and agriculture. It doesn’t sound like the kind of rule that would be created *prior* to the development of a non-nomadic society.

              • No, I believe what he was saying was meat hunted *by a werewolf* would be treyf, because it would be torn. Therefore only acceptable to feed to the ‘dog’ half. While I can’t say as I have ever known a Jew, when I was young (as in still in diapers young) my dad used to hunt with a Rabbi, and I have never heard of Jews not being allowed to hunt or eat hunted food. The cloven hoof provision however, does prevent them from eating such hunted animals as bears and cougars.

                • I interpreted his comment to mean that human Jews couldn’t eat hunted meat, but dogs (and wolves, and Jewish werewolves in lupine form) could. I didn’t see anything in his comment to indicate who (or what) the hunter was. Hopefully thegameiam will chime in with a clarification.

                • The only meat which is kosher is that which has been slaughtered in a kosher manner, and that involves drawing a knife which has been inspected (to not contain nicks) in a single stroke across the animal’s throat such that it not get stuck, etc. No hunted meat is kosher.

                  In an emergency, or in a survival situation (the term is “pikuah nefesh” – “to save a life”), dietary laws are completely suspended.

                  It’s possible that the Rabbi was a Reform rabbi – the Reform movement said that ritual matters such as dietary laws were optional about 150 years ago (although there is a resurgence in the uptick in practice in their communities).

              • It isn’t the kind of rule which was created prior to the development of a non-nomadic society. I suspect that’s part of why the phrase “he was a mighty hunter” describing Nimrod or Esau is not viewed as a compliment in traditional Jewish teachings.

                The timeline provided in the Bible is that the rules came into effect during the agrarian period circa 2000 BCE (after the experience at Sinai). The Jews of that period were specifically described as shepherds, and were given lots of rules for setting up cities.

                • ). The Jews of that period were specifically described as shepherds, and were given lots of rules for setting up cities.

                  Just another way Himself is awesome– I’m not sure if you were around for it, but a few months ago Sarah wrote something that made me realize just how blessed many of the often-derided-as-needless rules are familiar…because they’re a lot like what I teach my little kids, because they can’t understand what’s what. Cities are death traps in a lot of ways we don’t even see, because we don’t see the changes.

      • That’s pretty well established. You may not be acting Christian while you’re in wolf form (reminds me of the joke of the priest and the lion), but you can be a Christian werewolf. Why not?
        “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright,” right?

        • Okay, I haven’t heard the priest and lion joke, so you must share.

          • Oh, I love this joke.
            A priest is making his way over the plains when in the distance he sees what appears to be a very large, very hungry lion approaching him at rapid speed. So he says a prayer. “Oh, Lord, let this lion be a Christian lion.” And he continues on his way.
            A moment later, he looks over, and the lion is closer, still approaching, still hungry. So he prays. “Oh, Lord, let this lion be a Christian lion.” And he continues, strong in his faith.
            Then he looks back again, and the lion is almost on top of him. One more time. “Oh Lord, Let this lion be a Christian lion.”
            And the lion pounces, knocks the priest to the ground, then pauses and bows its head and says “Oh Lord, please bless this food…”

      • Let me clarify a few myths and make a few points:

        1. It is NOT haraam to own a dog, though it is not hygienic to keep a dog in the house.

        2. It is NOT haraam to touch a dog or any other animal. If the saliva of a dog touches you or any part of your clothing, then it is required of you to wash the body part touched and the item of clothing touched by the dog’s mouth or snout.

        3. It is incumbent upon all Muslims who own animals, whether for farming or work purposes or as pets, to provide adequate shelter, food, water, and, when needed, veterinary care for their animals. Arrangements must be made, if one is going to be away from home, to have one’s animals taken care of as well.

        4. It is haraam to keep a dog or any other animal on a short lead for long periods without food, water, and shelter. Dogs need exercise and are social creatures who form organized “family” structures in nature. Dog owners therefore need to spend time daily with their dogs.

        5. It is cruel, and therefore haraam, to keep any animal in a cage so small that it cannot behave in a natural way.

        6. Fireworks cause untold suffering to most domestic animals because of their acute sense of hearing.

        7. It is haraam to participate in any blood “sport,” like dog fighting and trophy hunting.

        No animal has been cursed in any way. Animals are referred to in many instances in the Qu’ran. In Surah Kahf, mention is made of the companions of the Cave and their dog. (S18: 18-22)

        End long quote.

        So there’s at least one strain of Islam that doesn’t really have a problem with dogs the way that some folks in this country have professed to have.

        What’s the requirements for locusts and stuff to be kosher? Would cheese work? Then again, if you’re able to prepare enough for cheese to be OK, a nice cured hunk of kosher meat would work. Oooh, or peanut butter! I know dogs eat that!

      • ??? Whence did that — weres — apostrophe apostasy derive?? Unforced grammatical error is abomination. Woe, I must do punance to obviate my sin.

      • Islamic prohibitions on dogs are supposed to not include guard dogs and hunting dogs, mostly because Mohammed allegedly had a hunting dog, and because Bedouins and Arab princes probably get touchy if you take their salukis away. Same thing with Bedouins who let their horses live in their tents….

    • Bisclavret, a nice respectable werewolf, is a tale as old as the Middle Ages.

  27. I recommend reading her first three books (I still believe they are the best and were UF instead of Romance). Somewhere along the line if you are thinking of LKH, she went wrong when she tied her character to a vampire who feeds through sex imho. Every once in awhile she actually writes a mystery/UF and it turns out well– but you have to wade through a lot of yuck in the later books. So yea, I quit reading them. I felt sad about it too, because there was so much potential in the character and writer.

  28. This may be one of the few instances where the unbelievers have an advantage. If one doesn’t believe that any gods exist, then a being claiming to be an ancient Sumerian deity/demigod/whatever is probably not actually what it seems to be. The question then becomes, what is it? And the other important question is, why does it claim to be an ancient Sumerian deity? If it’s lying, then one can assume malicious intent. If it was around back then and got used to being worshipped, then it’s just an alien invader gone native.

    David didn’t touch on the trope in contemporary fantasy which really bugs me: the “All Myths Are True Except The Church You Grew Up In” version.

    • This may be one of the few instances where the unbelievers have an advantage. If one doesn’t believe that any gods exist, then a being claiming to be an ancient Sumerian deity/demigod/whatever is probably not actually what it seems to be.

      I’d say that’s a place where most unbelievers and most monothiests share an advantage…or maybe it’s an assumption, since neither would believe “that thing is a real god.”

    • This probably doesn’t apply to everybody… but I know a lot of people in fandom who thought they were skeptics, who then had one experience that was a little odd or met one person who seemed “gifted.” Very often, these people promptly jumped in the deep end and totally believed whatever they’d run into was super supernatural, even if it was a pretty transparent con job/highly attractive but crazy “psychic” saying generic stuff/natural event.

      Some skeptics really are interested in proof; some skeptics are a big pile of food left out in the open in bear country. Don’t be the latter.

      (And I say this as a religious person. Believers don’t have to believe in _everything_, and sane ones don’t.)

      • A lot of the Father Brown stories turn on his rejecting a mystical explanation on the grounds that it don’t work like that, while vague agnostics about him accept it unresisting.

        Fun fact from real life: the more religious you are, the less like you are to believe in aliens from UFOs.

      • Come to think of it, there’s a lot of people out there who deal with romance the same way. The biggest love skeptic I knew, who was also the guy determined to totally master his feelings and bad habits, wound up in some kind of crazy relationship where he did the chores all the time, and so did the other guy, but the woman they both slept with was doing only what she felt like (and it’s an open relationship, which in this case seems to have meant she slept around but the other two didn’t). Don’t even ask about all the control freak behavior they both put up with (to this day!), in the putative name of love. The only limit on the dysfunction is that the woman decided to have vast numbers of shared cats instead of kids.

        In general, I suppose adverse heelturns affect people who think they have strong convictions but who actually have brittle ones.

  29. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    In one of Harry Turtledove Fantasy Novels, he had a town under attack by pagan based magic. The Jewish community was immune to the attacks and it came in handy.

    • That jogs a memory. I wish I could remember the author, but there’s an otherwise blah novel that starts with a demon attacking a Roman soldier who’d converted the Christianity. The village priest undoes the soldier’s baptism and the demon stomps off, defeated. (And then the book went downhill and got returned to the library right quick pronto.)

      • How or why would undoing someone’s baptism make them more powerful against evil? Or take them out of evil’s influence?

        Book —–> WALL

        • Apparently the demon could only attack Christians. Yeah, book would have hit wall but 1) it was a hardback and 2) I didn’t want to pay the landlord for a sheet-rock repair.

        • I was sorta hoping that was a mis-typing. While no expert on the multiple doctrines of Baptism, I believe none — none! — of the doctrines allows a third party (once done the relationship is between you and Him, ergo priest, even the one who performed the original rite, is a third party outside of your relationship to Christ) to “undo” a baptism. The person dipped may repudiate the relationship to Christ but it is not for an outside official to “undo.”

          If there are doctrines of Baptism that that do not represent formalization of one’s relationship to Jesus as Christ, well, that is a whole different thing and a subject unknown to me.

        • How on earth would none undo a baptism? It’s an elemental change.

          • Yup, Baptism leaves a permanent mark on the soul that nobody can undo, including the baptized person. Pretty much all the Sacramental flavors of Christianity believe that.

            (IIRC, this got defined pretty early in patristic times, because there was this bit early on where some people were re-baptizing folks who’d lapsed, folks who’d sinned since Baptism #1 and wanted to get rid of sins but still avoid penance, etc. So to explain why re-baptism was wrong, there was a lot of theological talk about how “Baptism is permanent.”)

            Christian groups with a different theology of Baptism do vary, of course; so some re-baptize (although usually it’s from a conviction that the first baptism didn’t actually count as a baptism, so technically they don’t re-baptize either). But I don’t recall ever hearing of any group that claimed to un-baptize, except for a group of atheists about a year ago that may have been doing un-baptism as a joke.

          • Put them in a dry tub, fill it with water, and hold them under until the water evaporates?

            Seriously, unbaptizing someone is kind of like unwrecking your car. Of course I have heard people claim to be ‘born again virgins’ because they stopped having pre-marital sex.

  30. Is everybody here familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s “On The Gate, a Tale of ’16”? It was originally collected in DEBITS AND CREDITS. A running conversation between Azrael and St. Peter about the difficulties the Great War has visited on their departments.