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 →
Part 1, wherein I muse upon the similarities between Darwinism and creationism, may be found here. In Part 2, I muse some more.
And yet . . . and yet. The longer I lived, the more I recognized that I had a tendency to settle into patterns of thought and behavior and into known, comfortable surroundings and not budge unless some act of God demonstrated to me that I could not survive—psychologically, at least—dramatic changes in conditions unless something gave. What had to give? Me. I needed to take another step outside my comfort zone and adapt to the new stresses on the old habitat. Based on my own desires for peace and quiet, I came to suspect that, barring a radical change in that Everlasting God whose power made and sustained Eden, the first breeding pair of hominids would likely have stayed in their garden stasis forever, all innocence and naked ignorance. Our own continued, expressed wishes for a return to the Peaceable Kingdom confirm how deeply that environment still interests us. So I suspect that had not some serpent of change appeared in paradise and coiled itself around Eve, triggering a sudden shift in direction for mankind and precipitating all that “sweat of the brow” stuff, leading to the production of copious offspring capable of adapting to environments down through the generations, we might still be who we were—whatever that may have been.
Steven Pinker, an evolutionary psychologist, linguist and the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, sees the Old Testament as a “celebration” of the kind of commonplace yet horrifying (to modern sensibilities) violence that characterized mankind’s behavior during early stages of its social evolution. more →
This two-part post is from a chapter titled “Gardens” in my book Crossfire Canyon, under construction. I haven’t posted on AMV for a while and thought I’d run this out there.
As a reliable account of the origin of life on Earth, the Old Testament story of the Garden of Eden may itself stand only a hair’s breadth from being cast out of the paradise of credence. “It didn’t happen, couldn’t have happened that way,” scientists say as they pronounce the Eden story indefensible. Over the last century and a half, they have promoted science-based and evidence-supported stories to supplant the Creation Story: narrative strains of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism, the yet-developing evolutionary tale.
The degree of interchangeability between the two storylines could be framed as a boxing match between contraries—Creationism v. Darwinism—with each side claiming to have landed multiple knock-out punches. Or perhaps, given both sides’ claims to Higher Truth, the contention is more like a jousting tournament. Despite the pageant’s being over a hundred-and-fifty years old, sterling knights on either side continue to try to unhorse each other, resulting, at times, in such heated language as to lay the nobility of both sides open to doubt. Rampant name-calling and disrespecting of persons abound, along with the dusting-off-of-feet on each other’s narrative grounds. more →
It seems to me that Mormon literature as a field is difficult to approach. Unless you are one of the few who have the chance to take the Mo-lit class at BYU, there’s no real easy way to get an overview of the field. This makes it difficult to enter into the conversations that happen here and at Dawning of a Brighter Day and elsewhere. Some of these conversations have been going on for a long time, and it’s hard to know how and where and when to jump in. I aim to change that in a low-key, non-scholarly way.
Here’s the plan:
I am going to write The AMV Guide to Mormon Literature. I’m going to do so by writing short entries on a variety of topics in Scrivener, which is a fantastic tool for dealing with lots of information and allows one to easily output writing in a variety of forms. I will post each entry as it is complete to AMV and ask for feedback. I’ll then do a brief edit of the entry based on the feedback and move on to the next topic. When I hit the point where I’ve covered everything that needs to be covered (with the caveat, of course, that there could always be more), I will then compile the whole set of entries in Scrivener, add a simple cover, and publish the complete guide as an ebook which I will then offer for sale through the standard channels. Profits from the sale of the book will go to pay for web hosting for AMV, Wilderness Interface Zone and LDS Cinema Online.
While this guide will be my (personal) voice, my (radical-middle) concerns, and my (idiosyncratic) perspective, I will also welcome feedback on each entry that I post. Anyone who provides it will be added to a list of co-conspirators that will be published at the back of the book. more →
At the beginning of 2012 when I decided to both increase my writing rate and focus on science fiction and fantasy, I wondered if I would continue to write Mormon fiction. I ended up writing quite a bit more than I thought I would — mainly because of the two Everyday Mormon Writer contests. But even so, the porportion of non-overt Mormon fiction to overt Mormon fiction that I produced last year was the most un-balanced ever (while at the same time my total word count was the highest ever). When 2013 arrived, I figured that I would cut back on the Mo-lit even more. But then a) I got an excellent idea for a story and b) I decided that I would tithe my creative energies and go ahead and write it.
We’ve discussed this idea in bits and pieces here and there over the years. I’d like to raise it again. I’m particularly interested in hearing from anyone who feels compelled to devote a certain amount of time to projects that speak directly to a Mormon audience.
I realize all the arguments against it: those in other professions aren’t required to tithe their labor, why should we? It’s hard enough to scrape by as an artist and Mormon work doesn’t sell. What if you just aren’t interested in Mormon-themed art?
I also don’t think it needs to be a 10% thing. For artists, especially writers, who make their living from their art, devoting 10% of what they produce in a year to Mormon-themed works that likely wouldn’t sell (or sell for much) seems crazy. Maybe it’s 1 in every 20 works or 100. Or 1 or 2% of a yearly word count. Or whatever.
Nor, in my opinion, does it need to be a tithe in the sense that we give it to the Church for free. If you can make money off it, awesome.
What if you already write Mormon fiction (or nonfiction) or create Mormon visual art? Then maybe your “tithe” should be for a different Mormon audience than you currently write for. Or in a different genre. Or in a more experimental mode. Or in a more devotional mode.
The bottom line for me is that I ‘d like to see more LDS who have artistic talent intentionally addressing Mormon themes/creating overtly Mormon work and see this as possibly a framework to encourage that engagement.
Not exactly. But he is forced to explain in more details what he means, which furthers the conversation. He begins by pulling out a key line from Jorgensen’s address–”Essentialism is the problem”–and saying, essentially, “Nuh-uh! We’re the problem”. He writes:
In my review of Harvest, I assert that which is apparent to any right-thinking, red-blooded, and sanctified Latter-day Saint who reads the poems sequentially, attentively, and–big gulp here–spiritually and essentially, that a surprisingly large number of the poems written by Mormon poets and included in the “New Direction” section of Harvest selected by Dennis Clark are skillfully executed poems grounded in the “earth-bound humanism” (Cracroft 1990, 122) of our contemporary secular society, but reflecting little or no essential Mormonism. It seems to me, as I state in my review, that such poems, mislabeled Mormon, lack, ignore, repress, or replace the Mormon “essence” so essential to distinguishing a work of Mormon letters from a work that is merely Western or American or Protestant or Jewish.
These two sentences summarize the entire approach of the address/essay, which puts the responsibility for deciding what is Mormon in the hands of the (some? certain?) Mormon people and then shows how literary critics don’t really count as the Mormon people because they (we) are tainted by secular humanism. That’s a blunt way of putting it, but Cracroft lays it all out rather bluntly and, in some sections, cleverly. Note, for example, how he uses the language of social justice in his appeal to essentialism. The poems aren’t just not Mormon–they “lack, ignore, repress, or replace the Mormon “‘essence’”. But also note how the reasoning is ultimately circular: works of literature are Mormon because they have a Mormon essence, which is the same as saying that they are Mormon because they are Mormon. more →
Wilderness Interface Zone is issuing a call for nature-themed prose: creative nonfiction or environmental nonfiction, eco-criticism, interviews, hybrid literary forms, and short fiction, including novel excepts, that reflect on your relationship to the natural world, wherever you engage it.
We’re especially interested in writing that demonstrates the need for and effects of what I call “green language”–rhetorical prowess that taps into the fertile realm of language’s most vital energies. One of WIZ’s foremost goals is to advocate for better behavior in the teeming yet at-risk environment of human language.
Please consider sending your work to Wilderness Interface Zone. Before submitting your writing, please read our About and Submissions pages.
AND poets, please continue sending your poetry. WIZ loves poetry!
ALSO, in the past,WIZ has launched its Spring Poetry Runoff, an annual, themed poetry competition celebrating spring’s highly anticipated arrival. This year, Jonathon and I have chosen not to run the Runoff. We’ll bring it back in 2014 in new and improved form. But we will host an informal spring fling featuring poetry and prose that revels in the arrival of warmer and brighter days, the annual emergence of life, and onset of spring migrations that change life’s scenery.
Spring arrives early on March 20. Feel free to add a streamer to WIZ’s literary maypole. Even if your poem, essay, short story or novel excerpt merely mentions spring and nature, please consider submitting it to the festivities.