Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Zenna Henderson: She Held Wonder

The first time I read any science fiction with a spiritual foundation was when I picked up C. S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet in high school, when I took it upon myself to organize their paperback book collection. It was another decade before I ran across any other science fiction which carried with it a sense of the divine.

The writer was Zenna Henderson. She is most famous for a series of stories about The People, A group of humanoid aliens who crash landed on earth during the 19th century. Along with certain "persuasions" or abilities like levitation, telepathy and healing of emotions, they had a everpresent awareness of "The Power." They praise the power, pray to it (him), and follow a morality which flows from this Power. Scripture references mixed with paranormal abilities and a bitter sweet story about a people a long way from a home that had been destroyed a century ago.

Her other short story collections Holding Wonder and The Anything Box contained stories ranging from the serious to the whimsical. Henderson wrote about a teacher giving instruction to a little girl's invisible friend, about angels in coveralls repairing rips in time, about a tonic "for what ails you," about a child who is "the believing kind," and one of my personal favorites about a separatist religious community and a scientific research center just 20 miles apart and the lesson in faith a skeptic learns.

"The Effectives" takes place in the future after a space probe has brought back a deadly disease. The only somewhat effective treatment is a total blood transfusion. There are several research centers, but EDRU - 14 has a much higher recovery rate than elsewhere. A researcher arrives to find out why. The only difference is that much of the blood used came from the town of Away, the home of an Amish-like religious community of "Detachees." The difference? Well, I'll let you try to find the book in your library or purchase it from an online out-of-print store, but it has to do with something the Detachees do while giving the blood.

Another wonderful story is about a couple trying to duplicate some wonderful concoctions by an eccentric relative. But they miss the main ingredient which gives the story it's name "Love Every Third Stir."

These stories are not edgy. Indeed, some would call them syrupy sweet. Sometimes the stories are a bit predictable. But the strong moral basis of the stories, the intriguing premises, and the memorable characters have made these stories favorites for fans over the past 30 years.

The only book currently in print is a 1995 collection of all the stories of The People called The Ingathering.

The other out-of-print books, many of which are available at sites like and Barnes Nobel include:

Pilgrimage: The First Book of the People

No Different Flesh

Holding Wonder

The Anything Box

If you are looking for edgy, socially troubling, apocalyptic type of science fiction, these books are probably not for you. But if you like a good uplifting read touched with the fantastic, pick up one of these books. You might find yourself HOLDING WONDER.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Wayfarers Journal Seeks Writers

This February a new science fiction e-zine will launch. We are looking for a few good writers willing to produce quality science fiction and literary essays about science fiction and spirituality.

Wayfarers Journal seeks to publish quality science fiction with a spiritual dimension. This does not mean that every story seeks to teach a moral or tries to convert anyone. Indeed, if you want to send a message use Western Union, as the old saying goes. We are seeking stories with strong characters and engaging plots in the best tradition of science fiction. The spiritual component may come as part of a plot twist (discovery of sentient beings who seem to live free of original sin) or as a character trait (the only devout Christian on an interplanetary survey mission). In general, the spiritual aspect should be present, but not overwhelming.


I have sometimes referred to this type of writing as Christian-Influence writing. The story does not necessarily revolve around Christianity or spirituality, but rather one of the characters may simply be a Christian just like s/he might be a professor or have blond hair and blue eyes (or in science fiction, the reverse). It will influence how he reacts within the story, but not play a major role in the working out of the plot.

Science Fiction Only

We are not looking for all types of speculative fiction. I love reading fantasy and sword and sorcery stuff. I make my way through the Lord of the Rings Trilogy every few years and The Chronicles of Narnia have a special place in my heart. I even read George McDonald whose work influenced both Tolkien and Lewis. However, I believe in maintaining a focus within any publication. Our focus is science fiction. Dragons are fine if they are part of the natural fauna of a planet in the Orion Nebula and you can build a good biological basis for the fire that comes out of their nostrils. Science fiction takes a kernel of scientific research and extrapolates from that research.

If you do not read the masters of the genre begin to do so. Good models are Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlien, Clifford D. Simak, C.L. Moore, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Silverberg, and Arthur C. Clarke among others. These are the ones who mastered and created the genre. Learn from them.

Our Needs

Short Stories. We will include 1-3 short stories per issue depending on the quality of the submissions. Short stories should be between 1000 – 5000 words. Payment: $10 – 20 for first rights. $5 – 10 for reprint or one time rights. The story will remain on the site indefinitely. However, after six months you may request removal of the story from our archives. This does not imply exclusivity during that six month period. You can sell the story elsewhere during that time as a reprint.

Short-Short Stories. I have always loved the short-short science fiction story. These stories run from 500-1000 words and usually end with a little surprise or a punch line. Payment: $10 for first rights. $5 for reprint or one-time rights. The story will remain on the site indefinitely. However, after six months you may request removal of the story from our archives. This does not imply exclusivity during that six month period. You can sell the story elsewhere during that time as a reprint.

Novella. A literary form almost unique to science fiction is the novella. These are not just long short stories or short novels, but contain elements of each. They tend to develop plot and character more deeply than a short story, but they usually do not have the subplots that are involved in novels. The length we are looking for are 8,000 – 20,000 words. Novella over 10,000 words will be serialized over two issues. Payment: $20 for first rights for each issue in which the story is serialized. $10 for reprint or one time rights. In other words, if the novella is serialized over two issues, you will be paid $40. ($20 if reprint) The full novella will remain on the site indefinitely. However, after the full novella has remained on the site six months you may request its removal from our archives. This does not imply exclusivity during that six month period. You can sell the story elsewhere during that time as a reprint.

Poetry. Science fiction oriented poetry is welcome. Any form is welcome, but if you decide to pursue rhyming poetry be sure the rhymes are not contrived, that the meter scans consistently, and that the line endings are not predictable. Payment: $5-10 for first rights. $5 for reprint or one-time rights. The poem will remain on the site indefinitely. However, after six months you may request removal of the poem from our archives.This does not imply exclusivity during that six month period. You can sell the story elsewhere during that time as a reprint.

Reviews, Essays and Industry News. I am interested in receiving objective reviews of Science Fiction books, films, websites. I am especially interested in reviews of those which have some sort of spiritual emphasis. However, I am not interested in any reviews of L. Ron Hubbard or other scientology related materials.

Literary essays related to the field of Christian or Christian-Influence science fiction are welcome. Discussion of themes, theology, controversies in the field, or the philosophy behind the writing are welcome. Likewise, discussion of spiritual themes found in secular science fiction are welcome. Essays on the future of the genre and it’s acceptance by either the literary or ecumenical community would be appreciated as well.

I am also seeking personal essays about the impact of speculative fiction on one’s own spiritual journey. I know, the science fiction trilogy of C.S. Lewis affected my sense of the numinous, but personal nature of God. What speculative fiction has influenced you?

These reviews and essays may be between 500 – 5000 words. Payment is $10 – 20 for first rights. $5 – 10 for reprint or one-time rights. The review will remain on the site indefinitely. However, after six months you may request removal of the poem from our archives. This does not imply exclusivity during that six month period. You can sell the story elsewhere during that time as a reprint.

Question: What is the difference between reprint and one-time rights?

Reprint rights refer specifically to the publication of a story or article which has been published previously. If you are submitting a previously published item, you must tell me the name of the publication or website which published the piece been published before, but does not guarantee to the publisher that the author will not sell the piece before it is published by the original purchaser of the story. For instance, we are a bi-annual publication. That means we publish twice a year. So, if you sell me an article in March, it will be June before it makes it into print. If you sell me first rights, that means you have to wait until I publish the piece to attempt to sell reprint rights to someone else. However, if you sell me one time rights, you can sell it again in May without any problems.

Question: When do I get paid?

You will be paid within 30 days of acceptance of your manuscript for publication. Payment may be made by check or through a PayPal account (preferred).

Special Guidelines

While the spiritual element in some of the stories may be subtle, remember when you write that this is a Christian publication. That means your work needs to abide by some basic spiritual guidelines.

1. Basic Doctrine. While I do understand that in the working out of your plot, an alien theology may be quite different than orthodoxy from a human perspective. Indeed, this might be one of the wonderful things about speculative fiction from a spiritual perspective to think about ways God may have dealt with other worlds differently than our own.

However, when dealing with human doctrine, you need to conform generally to the Apostles Creed. I’ll allow some flexibility in terms of minor doctrinal issues. For instance, I don’t expect a Catholic Priest and a Pentecostal Missionary to present identical doctrinal statements, but the core of the doctrine needs to be basically Christian orthodoxy.

2. Avoid Capricious Violence. Certainly, you may have an occasion where your main characters need to defend themselves against attack. However, violence for it’s own sake is to be avoided. Likewise, a disregard for sentient alien life forms needs to be avoided. Remember, alien life is often an unconscious metaphor for differences in human cultures. Treat all sentient life in your stories as if it was human. The Christian characters in your stories may participate in violent acts as a last resort, but they should not relish the violence.

3. Avoid Profanity. I know many writers, even Christian writers, feel they need profanity to add realism to their stories. However, this is not true. If you read some of the master science fiction writers of the early 20th century, you will find that they do perfectly well without the profanity. Read the supplement to these guidelines entitled “Realism with a G Rating” for more details.

4. Avoid Explicit Sex Scenes. Yes, people have sex. I also don’t expect all of your characters to practice celibacy. However, you can close the door metaphorically while the act is in progress. Likewise, your Christian characters should reflect Christian values as regards sexuality. If they commit illicit sex acts, then they should feel guilt because of it. Promiscuity should not be treated as a good thing.

5. Write Well. Yes, this is a spiritual issue. One glorifies God through excellence. Don’t just churn out 2500 words of unpolished prose and send it to me with the assumption I should publish it because it “came directly from God.” God’s word says, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.” (Col. 3.23). Don’t look at your work as the work of God, but rather as an offering of work you are giving unto God. Pray about what you write, then use your skill and your labor to create a work worthy of being read by The King.

Submission Guidelines

1. Send your manuscript to me by email to

2. Send the manuscript in one of two ways. First, send it as an attachment in MS-Word, Rich Text or Plain Text formats. No Wordperfect or MAC formats please.