Thursday, October 25, 2007

Flashpoint: Action Heroes without a License to Kill

One of the things I appreciate about "Flashpoint" is the use of non-lethal defensive technology by the underground church. From tazer gloves to quick acting tranquilizer rounds the muscle arm of The Body fights the good fight without trying to kill people.

In one of the early scenes of the book the Kids see one of the warriors lay low a a gang of "Nero's" with guns blazing. They are horrified and don't want to be a part of that type of group until they learn that the rounds were tranquilizer rounds intended to stop but not kill or permanently harm the others.

This runs counter to the way the world at large (and even sad to say many Christians) view defending oneself. Lethal weapons are often the first choice. I don't have any numbers, but I'm sure the amount of money spent each year developing non-lethal weapons by the worlds governments is but a small fraction of that spent developing non-lethal ones.

Certainly, some progress has been made. Many of Frank's gadgets are based on current technology. Tazers have been around for years. Tranquilizer darts have been used on animals, but they have so far been too slow-working to immobilize a criminal before they can do harm. However, one wonders how much time and money has actually been spent trying to develop such a drug.

Ironically, some people actually view with suspicion the use of non-lethal technology. There is a thread over at the National Novel Writing Month science fiction forum about non-lethal weapons, but it is assumed that such weapons would be developed not by a humane government trying to control violence without giving into it, but by a repressive government trying to control a workforce of unwilling workers without killing them. When I point out that repressive governments usually resort to just killing a few people in front of everyone else to bring them into line and not worry about subtilties of non-lethal weapons, I get convoluted arguments about why they would find them more useful than a free society.

Perhaps it is a consequence of the fall that we tend to be violent by nature. Yet, as Christians we are called to transcend our nature and embrace the nature of Christ. Okay, I can hear the leaves of the Bibles flipping back to all those battles in the Old Testament. But folks, keep flipping. We don't live under the Old Covenant. That doesn't mean that it isn't useful for us. Paul said it is like a tutor/nanny/babysitter who gets us ready to actually go to school. However, our model for life is Jesus and not Joshua.

When creating Christian heroes, we need to consider how one acts virtuously under the worst conditions. Recently, I've heard disturbing arguments in favor of the use of torture even by human rights advocates which claim, in essence, that in extreme situations, ethics are no longer relevant. The only ethic is that of success. But, ethics and morality are all about the extreme situations. When things are going well, it is easy to act virtuously. It's when things do get extreme that we need our ethical boundaries, when we need our morality to stop us from crossing the line into the realms of evil using the justification that the ends justify the means.

Such is the spirit of our age. As writers, we don't need to transmit that message by creating "holy" but essentially amoral heroes willing to do anything to win the day.

There is also one other disturbing trend in literature and the popular culture (even among some Christian writers). It's a tendency to write off as irredeemable our villains. I'm not sure, with the exception of a demon or the devil himself, that we have the luxury of creating villains without hope of redemption. I'm not saying that they will be redeemed. I rage about the simplistic everyone-gets-saved-in-the-end stories which dominated Christian literature for so long. However, at some level the lost child of God, the prodigal rebelling against his father, the Absolom warring against David, must be seen in even the most vile villain. Remember, most of the New Testament was written by just such a villain, a zealot, an irredeemable murderer, who persecuted the church and who had a rather amazing experience on the Damascus Road.

I wonder what might have happened to Christendom, if some zealous Christian decided to save the church by killing the dreaded Saul of Tarsus.

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is kill your enemy.

Learn more about Flashpoint and Frank Creed at his website or at the Books of the Underground Website

You can order a signed copy of Flashpoint by clicking here or visit

Read what other reviewers are saying this week about Flashpoint on the following blogs:

Fantasy Thyme
Write and Whine
Hoshi to Sakura
Wayfarer's Journal
BlogCritics Interview
Daniel I Weaver
Disturbing the Universe
Grace Bridges
Queen of Convolution
Virtual Tour de 'Net
Christian Fiction Review Blog
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Review
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Interview
Back to the Mountains
MaryLu Tyndall
Cathi's Chatter

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Frank Creed: Living Life at the Flashpoint

Those of you who read this blog know that I never run Q&A Interviews. There's a good reason for this. Generally speaking, I need to cut out a lot that is either repetitious or just plain boring. However, poring over the transcript of Frank's interview, I was having a hard time finding something to cut. So, I'm giving you this interview in its entirety. (Note: You can read Donna Sundblad's review of Flashpoint in the Essays Section of Wayfarers Journal)

Q: Tell a little bit of basic biographical background such as age,
family/school/work background, anything interesting about yourself
outside of writing.

A: The boring stuff. Born in 1966. Some of the cooler stuff with which He
shaped my life:
* 1984-- Achieved the rank of Eagle Scout by the BSA.
* 1984-1985-- Lived in Israel for more than ten months as an AFS
foreign exchange student, visited Egypt for a week.
* 1993-- I'd been a reader of fantasy and science fiction novels my
whole life, but the works of Theologian Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer
launched my reading list into theology, philosophy and history of
western civilization.
* 1993-- Only months later, my sister joined a Grotto of Anton LaVey’s
Church of Satan. Her soul at stake, I entered into a written debate
with her Satanic High Priest. I volunteered an Apologetic article to
the Grotto's desktop published magazine, Diabolic Creation, and
exchanged letters with CoS readers. I've debated a variety of world
views since, and have never found a credible counter to the
Cosmological or Axiological arguments for the existence of God. This
goes on the cool list, because (and I still tear-up at the thought),
after seventeen years of prayer, in January of 07, my sister accepted
* 2004-- Married a schoolteacher from the Vancouver burbs. She moved
here to Indiana and started her own editing business, which grew into
an independent publishing house, Mixed
blessing to be sleeping with your publisher--gives "fear of rejection"
a whole new meaning, I tell ya!

My life's also been tempered by fire--tough times and tragedies
necessary to torture a serious writer's soul as well. I dropped out of
college in my first year to elope, worked no job that paid more than
$8.50/hour until 1995. I was divorced by twenty-two, and lived as a
hedonist until I read Schaeffer in my mid-twenties. I've faced down a
fallen-angel who entered our home after a stepdaughter brought in a
book on witchcraft and tried to cast a spell.

Susan Kirkland (Light at the Edge of Darkness, Higher Honor), and I had
just e-mailed about this--when we look back at our sojourns, it's so
clear how he's shaped us to be exactly who and where we are.

Q: Tell a bit about your writing in general such as awards, previous publications, etc.

A: When I was seven and living in Lombard Illinois, my divorced, working
mom sent me to a creative writing program at this really-cool-humongous
building fulla books: the Helen Plum Memorial Library. Since then, I
loved reading and dreamt of fiction, but never acted on it until High
School. There, I benefitted from the encouragement of a wonderful
teacher, Mrs. Marsha Stewart of Kaneland High School, who entered my
first short-story victory in the U.W. Whitewater Literary conference.
Hundreds of students from three or four states competed and attended
lectures on fiction. At the end of the day mine won Best Short Story--I
was floored.

Between high school and the spring of 1998, most of my fiction
energies were spent creating worlds and characters in role-playing
games. My fiction meandered and jammed. Then on May ninth of 98, a
high-speed head-on collision nearly broke me in half and induced a
severe closed-head injury. That's code for: I've got a real thick
skull. After two weeks, it was the doctors opinion that even with
extended therapy, I'd only recover sixty percent of my mental capacity.

Then my pastor visited.

We enjoyed my first lucid conversation, prayed His will be done, and I
went to sleep. The next morning, I awoke mentally healed. There are a
few lingering symptoms common to closed head-injury victims, but that's
it. A fake hip and pelvis likely dooms me to a wheelchair by age fifty,
so I've got about eleven more years on my vocational-odometer as an
Subaru of Indiana Automotive auto-worker.

We ask ourselves why God drops disasters into our lives. I'm
self-educated beyond 12th grade, and now needed to replace my
blue-collar income and benefits.

Then He turned on my fiction tap. Post-accident, stories flowed. I
finished a Fantasy novella and Flashpoint, but still had to "learn the
craft", and get the polish on.

In June of 06 Lest Ye be Judged was published in Tales for the Thrifty
Barbarian: An Anthology of High Fantasy. Finally published, wahoo!

January of 07, found me jumpin on the bed, as Flashpoint won the 2006
"Elfie" for Best Sci-Fi Novel at Elfwood's the world's
largest SECULAR fantasy and sc-fi art site, boasting over 10,000
members--not a friendly readership for overt Christian fiction.
In April of 07, Miracle Micro, ChairMan, and True Freedom were
published in Light at the Edge of Darkness. These three short stories
share the same cyberpunk setting as Flashpoint: Book One of the
Underground, June 07.

Flashpoint: the Role Playing Game, created by Mike Roop, is based on
my cyberpunk setting and characters, and is scheduled for November of

Last year I founded the Lost Genre Guild for the promotion of
Christian and Biblical speculative fiction: sci-fi, fantasy and
spiritual thrillers. I'm thrilled by our early success--we're networked
with where one may sign-up for the
cutting-edge Latest in Spec newsletter, and

Q: In 25 words or less what is Flashpoint about?

A: The dreaded "elevator pitch" *grumble grumble*:

2036: global government. The One State's only threat? Fundementaliast terrorism. A church bust in the Chicago-Metroplex, sparks Flashpoint in the Underground.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the main characters in the book.

A: Twenty year-old Dave and sixteen year-old Jen Williams are the only two
who evade capture when their home-church is raided by peacekeepers. The
pair are torn from suburban comfort and must integrate into a
muscle-cell: a team of saints working in the underground Body of
Christ. They must use their talents in an attempt to track and free all
their captured neighbors from One-State "Neros", the slang-term for
anti-Christians. Forced into spiritual growth, it comes down to a
confrontation with the antagonist that Calamity nicknames, Nasty Nero,
who ironically wants Calamity Kid to call him "Jesus" (his antagonist
role in the end-times unholy trinity).

Q: You describe this as a "cyberpunk" novel. That sounds sort of grungy like a computer with a safety pin through it's hard drive. How would you define the term?

A: Um . . . it's not a computer with a safety pin through it's hard drive?

Cyberpunk's a sci-fi sub-genre set (say that ten times fast) in a near
future post-industrial dystopia (opposite of utopia), and deals with
the affect of technology on humanity. It's anti-religious, usually
postmodern in worldview, so to write Biblical cyberpunk is *almost*
genre breaking. Two months ago I discovered that Jefferson Scott beat
me to it with Virtually Eliminated, Terminal Logic, and Fatal Defect. I
can't wait to find the time to read these titles.

Q: What was the genesis of this novel, if you have one? Was there an ah-ha moment when you came up with the premise?

Way back in high school, it bothered-me when reporters referred to Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, merely as "fundamentalist terrorists". My sister and I were both "churched", and grew up with the idea that Scripture's fundamentally true. After reading Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth, I began making notes on my cyberpunk setting.

Cyberpunk's the perfect genre for eschatology. Flashpoint's Pre-Millennial, but I'm very open about the Second Coming. Christ fulfilled over three hundred prophecies, yet most of His contemporary Jews missed the Messiah right in front of them.

Q: Were any of your characters modeled on anyone in particular?

A: Nasty Nero is your stereotypical Church of Satan anti-Christian zealot.

A group of teens in a sanitarium were the main characters in One of the
Nightmare On Elm Street films. One of them was a cartoonist. When
Freddy Kreuger attacked the dreaming lad, said lad turned into his
cartoon character--a duster wearin' gunslinger with twin automatic
pistols. That was where Calamity Kid's look originated. I wonder if the
Wachowski brothers had the same inspiration for Neo. My favorite film
to this date is The Matrix, but I cringed as I watched it, cause I knew
Flashpoint would be seen as a Christian copy. Two reviews and one
reviewer have already described it as such. Not a bad film with which
to be associated, but all originality went out the window. *sniffle*
His will be done.

Q: Which character do you personally identify with, if any? Why?

A: Nearly all of them are aspects of or are modeled upon me at various
points of my spiritual sojourn. They say write what you know . . .

Q: You say you write Biblical Speculative Fiction. Could you define that for us?

There's been debate by Christian writers for years about whether we ought to be writing Chronicles-of-Narnia-subtlety, or Space-Trilogy-overt tales. The Editor In Chief has given us all a different job in the novelist Body of Christ, and there's no right answer. Soooo, I call The subtle or symbolic Christian spec-fic, and the overt, Biblical spec-fic. The most complete Bookstore I've ever found for both is located at:

This storefront is Jeff Gerke's AKA, novelist Jefferson Scott's effort.
I guess it's not surprising to find Biblical cyberpunk authors
promoting our lost genre on the Web with high-tech viral marketing.

Q: Some Christians would say that "Biblical Speculative Fiction" is a contradiction in terms. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy and such types of stories they say are inherently demonic. How would you respond to that?

A. Remember when Jesus freaks dragged Christian music into the Rock genre in the 1970s? Believers tend to shun things new to our isolationist sub-culture. It's good to honestly examine anything we do, but it requires less energy to plug one's ears and hum loudly.

Here's the trickiest argument I've seen against Biblical spec-fic:

Jesus parables were set in the real world. Spec-fic is, by definition, is not. Therefore, while some fiction may be virtuous, spec-fic is not. That does not logically follow: you can't prove a egative.

When the Lost Genre Guild blog went up, this was our very first topic. No reason to repeat what's been dissected. For detailed thoughts for and against Biblical spec-fic, start at the bottom of this page and work up:

Lost Genre Guild Blog

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you, as a Christian and a writer of speculative fiction faces in your writing other than finding > acceptance in the "mainstream" Christian publishing world?

A: Finding the fans. I'm forty years old, a lifelong genre fan, and a
Christian. A year ago I could have counted the number of authors listed
in Jeff's bookstore on one hand. I gave-up trying to find spec-fic in
Christian bookstores the year before Steven Lawhead's Empyrion was
published. I scanned shelves for a couple more years when Peretti's
Darkness books came out, and gave up again. IMHO, there are tons of
Christian fans that don't even know we're alive, which was why I formed
the Lost Genre Guild. We're wracking our brains and using the Web to
get the word out--pun intended.

Q: What do you see as the future for Biblical speculative fiction?

A: In my lifetime, Peretti was the only really big Biblical spec-fic
novelist since Lewis'. The hopes of publication has been grim for a
long time. The Lord of the Rings and Left Behind films seem to have
cracked the Dam, and I'm very hopeful. As Jeff's booklist proves,
publishers are more willing to gamble lately. The Jan Dennis Agency
represents Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Jerry Jenkins, Stephen Lawhead,
Robert Liparulo, Eric Wilson, T. L. Hines, Donita Paul, and James
Beauseigner. This man's doing something right, you'd do better to ask
him! Here's an interview with Jan:

Q: Writing an action-oriented book with Christian characters can't be easy After all, they can't just be James Bond with a cross, joking about killing over the corpses of the "bad guys." Still, you have to keep the storyline moving and that may involve some violent elements. How do you as an author write strong action scenes which are still Christian in nature?

A: This goes to motivation. Had I understood the Bible's thunderous answers as a kid, I'd have not lived as a hedonist until my mid-twenties. Francis Schaeffer's The God Who is There, He is There and He is not Silent, and How Shall we Then Live, to use his own phrase, tore my roof off. Using classical reasoning, he laid bare the foundations of meaning, but this wisdom was stuck in big heavy words. I always knew I wanted to write, but now I knew why: to clearly illustrate Biblical answers to the world's great philosophical questions with modern entertaining fiction.

Entertainment is fiction's first job. Even Lewis' Space Trilogy was a little too subtle for what I
had in mind, and his prose too high. My eye landed on action-packed page-turning realistic pulp.

I got into the habit of keeping spec-fic notes from Role Playing Games, so my sci-fi and fantasy gaming folder transformed into two separate three-ring notebooks with organizer tabs. I grew up with movies, and tend to be very visual. In one of my tabs I listed "archetypes". For action pacing, I listed Raiders of the Lost Ark and Die Hard. For strong characters I listed Hannibal Lechter, and Doc Holiday. Then I set about making 1) God pleasing, 2) fast-paced, 3) character driven fiction, 4) in modern English.

One of the slogans at the Subaru plant is "Quality's built in, not added on." You have to start with the intent of glorifying God--everything else conforms to that. We live in a real and fallen
world, but Biblical fiction must conform. The beauty of cyberpunk is that one can use technology, like non-lethal tranquilizer rounds, tazer net-guns, and chipped sunglasses to push the envelope.

Q: If you could say anything you want to our readers, what would that be?

A: Do what He made you to do. Have the faith to live at the intersection of your given talents and passions, and do all things to His glory.

Then again, I say that to everybody

Learn more about Flashpoint and Frank Creed at his website or at the Books of the Underground Website

You can order a signed copy of Flashpoint by clicking here or visit

Read what other reviewers are saying this week about Flashpoint on the following blogs:

Fantasy Thyme
Write and Whine
Hoshi to Sakura
Wayfarer's Journal
BlogCritics Interview
Daniel I Weaver
Disturbing the Universe
Grace Bridges
Queen of Convolution
Virtual Tour de 'Net
Christian Fiction Review Blog
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Review
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Interview
Back to the Mountains
MaryLu Tyndall
Cathi's Chatter

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Terri Marathon's Town Meeting Goes Weekly!

For nearly a year, a few of us have been meeting in second life to discuss spirituality in speculative fiction on a monthly basis. Now, we are going to a weekly schedule. We will still be meeting at 7 p.m. (Pacific, U.S.) at .

Hope to see you there tomorrow!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

New Location in Second Life for Spec Fiction Chat

Next Tuesday is our monthly chat in Second Life. Up till this time we have been meeting in my Chalet on a small lot. It's a pleasant little place, but we have some bigger plans. Our hope is to develop a speculative fiction center in Second Life. So, we acquired a larger location in wonderful neighborhood. I invite you to visit anytime. If you are a Second Lifer, you can use this SLurl to teleport directly to the new place:

If you are not a Second Lifer, you can join for free at Second Life. Once you download the software and log in the first time to customize your avatar, simply paste that URL in your web browser then click teleport on the page it brings up. That will launch the software and take you directly to my place.

We have a lot more room for bigger meetings and eventually a "library" of links to spec fiction web sites and author sites.

Should be fun.