*First, it must be understood this is entirely Kate’s and Amanda’s fault. Those of you who know all three of us, know that’s usually the case. I’m the innocent, mild mannered one. Second, when we were accused of being the Church of St. Heinlein, I rolled my eyes. Ginny told me he was no saint, and she would know. I said “Maybe the church of G-d as the Author. Most writers see Him in their own image, after all, and things like “why does evil exist?” are easy peasy explanations. “The plot demands it.” And they said “The Church of The Author, Western Branch, Heinlein Tabernacle.”
The cloaked woman approached the temple timidly. To begin with, it wasn’t what she expected. She knew these people set themselves up as so special, so she expected white columns and marble, not a dinky suburban mall, and a small corner, that had probably once been some sort of florist, because you could still read in the corner of the plate glass window “FTD.” (Someone had crossed out D and tried to make it an L and someone had inexpertly drawn a rocket next to it.)
Above it, across the window, someone had scrawled in bright red paint “Church of the Author, Western Branch, Heinlein Tabernacle.”
At the door stood a man who looked like a carnival barker, in red-striped pants and a blue jacket spangled with stars, hectoring the small but continuously renewing crowd of people, approaching from their beat up cars in the parking lot, by ones, by twos, by families. “Come in, come in, brothers and sisters. Why bless your heart. Come refresh yourself with story and feats of daring-do.”
The cloaked woman shied back before the man could see her. This was all so… uncouth. But the man turned a kindly eye on her and smiled. “Why, welcome sister. You look like you’re in need of a pick me up. Come on in for the reading. We’ll have some hot fudge sundaes afterwards, and there’s always the sharing of the water, in whatever form you’d take it!”
She mumbled the lines she was taught to say. She knew they’d cause these people to turn her away, stupid as they were, “I cannot. I had sex with someone not my husband.”
The man laughed. “Who cares? Perhaps it was part of the plot. Besides, was it a mammal? And did you share water first? It might have been blessed.”
“But, it was another woman!”
“Ah, but Heinlein wrote many so. There can be a good plot there.”
“A black woman,” she said, desperate.
“What does that matter? Do you not know our finest theologians believe that Eunice in I Will Fear no Evil was black? Come in, come in and drink from the water that never stops, and take part in the plot that never ends.”
Shaky on her legs, feeling like she no longer understood the world, the cloaked woman went in. She had a moment of hope that the man at the door was just odd, as she glimpsed a poster that said “Virgin” on the wall. But it turned out to be a poster of Virgin Galactic, and, worse, someone had put an arrow to Virgin and written at the other end of the arrow “A perfectly curable condition” and the initials KP, followed by “Holy Deaconess, by order.”
The cloaked woman took a deep breath and walked into the great space of the temple. It was a large room – probably once a warehouse – and the walls were completely lined with books. She approached and was shocked to see there were female names on those books. Female authors she admired were included here. This couldn’t be right. Were they mocking her?
A woman with a rolling voice climbed on the podium. Was she wearing a live snake? Her words were not immediately understandable – and the crowd shouted Yay! So much – but she caught something about a poet who read their verse in public possibly having other bad habits. That couldn’t be right! What about all the poetry readings at the coffee shop? What could they have against those?
Then she remembered how bored she’d been with that poet who’d tried to deconstruct the language by writing a poem all in possessive articles. Her, his, theirs had gone on for hours, and she’d been ready to faint or cry. Maybe… just maybe the heathens had something.
And then suddenly in the middle of all this, came the words, “As Heinlein said, any artist who has to be supported by the government is a whore. An incompetent one.”
The cloaked woman took a breath like someone drowning. She swallowed hard. How could they? How could they believe that? How could there be fine literature without government support; without government approval? Who would support writers, if not the government? Many of the cloaked woman’s sect were college professors, receiving government money to keep their careers going. What would be the alternative? Getting the common man… She looked around at the people there, with a disdainful expression… to support them would mean you couldn’t preach or raise their consciousness in your books. What would be the point of that? Didn’t these yokels know that literature was supposed to educated and elevate the masses.
She slunk out to the parking lot. Nobody stopped her. Looking dubiously at the mini mall store she made her decision.
That was it. She’d give the orders to have the place torched. That way they could stop preaching their evil story message.
The nerve of the peasants, thinking they could control what writers did, by only buying those who entertained them.
Fortunately her people were here to redirect Science Fiction into the greater temple of literature, where works weren’t actually read, but were praised, because they were good for society!
Improving moral works forever. As it should be.
(If only she’d noticed the Flamewars Won Trophy poster board!)