Category Archives: Speculative Fiction

A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous

8.15.14 | | 9 comments

This image from the Mormon Artist interview with Shannon Hale. Click on over..

Something I haven’t talked about in the main posts on this novel (question, answer) is the nature of the aliens invading Earth and just what makes them so dangerous that Earth needs saving.

Here are their physical details:

They’re pink (if you can see them—and only the person with the Thinker token can see them).

They are repelled by gravity.

They “inhabit . . . and move through solid substances, just as humans can move only through gaseous or liquid environments” (314).

So why are they here? Based on the evidence, Maisie hypothesizes that they

“. . . [take] over all the human body’s functions. After people are possessed by the aliens, it looks like they mostly spend their time eating and seeking out adrenaline rushes.”

“Seriously?” said Luther.

“They’re here to enjoy physical bodies,” said Wilder.

What’s so interesting when doing a Mormon reading of Dangerous? These aliens sound like someone we know. And where Maisie wants to send them also sounds familiar:

“I think if the ship isn’t nearby to suck them back in, the ghostmen would keep floating right out of Earth’s atmosphere into space’s vacuum, where they’d be helpless. That’s where we want them.” (324)

But sending that third to Outer Darkness isn’t just a fun Easter egg. Some more serious and immediate questions come out of it. For instance, when Maisie speaks with one of the ghosts through its human avatar, it poses an interesting—and brutally stated—question:

“So . . . you’re hijacking humans in order to eat apples.”

He shrugged.

“You’re destroying people, taking away lives.”

“Now, now, all we take is your shell.”

“But what if the flesh of our bodies is the extent of our matter? What if you take our bodies and there’s nothing left?”

He seemed to have never considered the possibility. “Why would such a creature matter at all?” (309)

This basic theo/philosophical question haunts Maisie through the rest of the novel. When she risks her death, she simply does not know if there will be anything left of her should she fail:

I was too conscious of my mortality, I guess. . . . Who knew if there was a part of me that never ended, like the ghostmen themselves? I’d . . . found [outer] space. Maybe there wasn’t anything else to find. (372)

Later, plummeting back to Earth and certain that she will die:

My stomach hurt . . . my head pained to cracking, my muscles so tense I wondered if my skin would split open. . . . All I knew was fear and panic.

. . . Even battling terror like being strangled in slow motion, I wanted to experience it. This was life, these few minutes were all that I had left. I didn’t want to die halfway down. I wanted every single second I had left. (379)

Maisie does not know if she will “be sucked up into a God-touched place . . . . Or . . . simply cease to be” and that feels like “a catastrophic hole in [her] education” (380), but she has decided that regardless, this moment of mortality matters and that every single second she has left is worthy of her full attention and shall give her experience—which shall be for her good—whether she lasts another ten seconds or the fulness of eternity.

Of course, Mormon cosmology posits that ETERNITY is the accurate description, but we are a practical people who feel that the temporal world is important and thus we should experience each ten seconds with the same vigor with which we imagine eventual rewards.

Something like Maisie Brown.

 

====Shannon Hales :: Dangerous====

Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (intro)
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Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (post)
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A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous
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Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale?
(part two)

8.14.14 | | 2 comments

This image from the Mormon Artist interview with Shannon Hale. Click on over..

Yesterday, I talked about Shannon Hale’s apparent attempt to make a mainstream success of a novel staring a character who was not “white, male, able-bodied, straight, not too young . . . and not too old“—you know, what we all expect a protagonist to be here in these United States. We discussed the basics of the plot and posed this question:

Does Dangerous succeed at making us identify with Maisie Danger Brown, its home-schooled, geeky, one-armed, half-Paraguayan female protagonist?

Sure. Of course it does. Humans are humans, whatever, no problem. Maisie is fine and we, excepting Klansmen, like her as much as we would a white male two-armed protagonist.

But what’s interesting is how much the novel hedges its bets on our openmindedness—it seems to be a little lacking in confidence that the audience will accept her. more

Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale?

8.13.14 | | no comments

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NOTE: This is a work of cultural and literary criticism, and not a review. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.

This image from the Mormon Artist interview with Shannon Hale. Click on over..

From Shannon Hale’s website,

When I was in the rewrite stage of Dangerous several years ago, a Smart Person read the first 50 pages and immediately let me know her concerns. She said, “Your main character is unrelatable. You made her a home schooled, science geeky, one-armed, half-Paraguayan.” Until this person said all that I had never thought it. I mean, of course I knew knew those things about her, but I’d never strung together all those adjectives in my mind, maybe because the decisions about her character came about piece-by-piece while writing the story, not all at once. . .  more

BYU Studies review of the Matched Trilogy

12.9.13 | | no comments

My review of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy is now available as a free download at the BYU Studies website. If you are not a subscriber, but would either like a print copy of the entire journal or a PDF download, check out the table of contents for the issue (52.4).

And here are the AMV posts that helped inform my approach to the review:

Correlation, Top Tens and Ally Condie’s Matched

A nod to Mormon history in Ally Condie’s Reached

The Matched Trilogy: Teenagers and correlated media

Liner Notes: Dark Watch

11.12.13 | | 4 comments

The fall 2013 issue of Dialogue went live yesterday to electronic subscribers. Print editions are in the mail (or will soon be). I’m delighted and a bit awed that this issue devotes more than 20 pages to my story Dark Watch–it’s my longest published story to date. The way I usually describe it is: post-apocalyptic Mormon fiction told in alternating second person.

Dark Watch began as 8 or 9 lines of verse hastily scribbled at least a decade ago, perhaps longer. It continued to percolate. I think I added a second stanza. At some point it turned into the beginnings of a story. Sadly, I can’t find the original source material nor the notes that transitioned it into a science fiction story. I can picture the scraps of paper in the faded manila envelope I had collected them in, but I can’t find that envelope. I can say this the initial image–one member of a couple watching a storm flow across a broken plateau, her spouse startling himself awake–is where it all began and made it all the way through to the final product. more

Mormonism and the Arts at the Berkeley Institute:
Fiction (sf/f)

11.12.13 | | 9 comments

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[background]

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Today’s readings are:

“The Class That Wouldn’t Die” by Joe Vasicek

“Three Different Mormon Futures” by Eric James Stone

“Avek, Who is Distributed” Steven L. Peck

“Release” by Wm Morris

“Waiting” by Katherine Cowley

and, if we have time, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (free audio)

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Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.

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Other posts in series:

Poetry

Fiction (lit)

A Rambling Review of Assembled Allred

10.17.13 | | 3 comments

Allred, Lee. Assembled Allred: 7 Tales by the Master Sergeant of Alternate History. Lincoln City, OR: Rookhouse Books, 2012. 171 pages. $14.99 in trade paperback, $8.99 Kindle. Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.

Much of science fiction is written in the spirit of What if? What if humans could fly? What if there were aliens among us? What if you could go back in time and marry your own grandmother? (Thanks for that one, Heinlein!)

The best of these questions are never just about science or technology. They invite us, instead, to consider what is real and constant — and what changes — in human hearts and minds and spirits, and societies. They prod us to reflect on our values and challenge our own easy answers about what is right and wrong. For all the conflict many readers and writers see between science fiction and religion, there’s a surprisingly large shared space (in my opinion, and that of many Mormon sf&f readers) between the kind of imagination needed to explore the stars, if only mentally, and a cosmology that sees the bounds of current mortality as merely a proscenium on eternity. Or maybe it’s mortality that’s the strictly bounded stage, and religion — and imaginative fiction — a mental transition space between where we are and the boundless limits of possibility?

Allred’s stories explore that space. They ask not only what if history had been a little bit different, what if the Mormons had repeating rifles during the Utah War, but also what if (for example) a magical implement could remove the signs of cowardice, at the price of blood? Or T. H. Huxley wound up after death in a Hell he didn’t believe in during life? The answers tickle the imagination; at their best, they engage the heart as well.

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