Truth or Consequences

Apparently my review of Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling left Mapletree7 of the blog A Book A Day at a loss for words. I had said the following:

I was also interested in Stirling’s choice of Wiccans as his protagonists. Juniper Mackenzie is kind, intelligent, and clearly sincere about her Wiccan religion; and the fact that she practices what she preaches leads many other characters to adopt Wicca as the book progresses. I find that troubling.

You can re-read the entire review if you like. Mapletree7’s entire response:

I find it sad that a positive description of characters following a different religion is ‘troubling’.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Does he (or she, I know not, and “it” seems rude) think that I’ve transgressed the bounds of politeness by criticizing someone else’s religion? Have I been–gasp–intolerant? Or does she (or he) think that I’d have been happier if the Wiccans in the tale were demonized rather than praised? I dunno, as Maple7 hasn’t indicated. Consequently, rather than imagining what his or her specific concerns might be, I’ll elaborate on my statement a bit.

Frankly, I think Wicca is untrue. Obviously untrue. I might even say ostentatiously untrue. It’s a 19th-century hodgepodge of play-acting and high fantasy that bears almost no resemblance to anything the pre-Christian pagans actually said or did. I can only assume that its devotees are interested in it for reasons other than its truth or falsehood, or have an extremely fluid notion of truth, or are willfully self-deluded. (Please note, I left the Episcopal Church because I rejected its leadership’s embrace of the first two.)

Religion, for me, is a matter of truth, not of psychological utility. I go to church because I believe Christ’s death and resurrection is an historical fact, and that Christianity at its best captures the truth of the cosmos better than any other. That doesn’t mean that I think that other religions, or Wicca in particular, are wholly wrong. We all, by our human nature, are drawn to seek God. And He, in his love and mercy, has left signs of his passing all throughout creation, and not least in our own nature and psyches. All that is good in Wicca is a reflection of and response to those signs, and is, ultimately, of God. But in He has also revealed Himself much more openly and directly, first to the Jews, and then in the person of his son, Jesus the Christ.

The Greeks and Romans sought God everywhere, in the forests, in the seas, in the flight of birds, in the tales of their gods. But even they were aware that the gods were not God (read Plato, if you doubt). It’s interesting to note that Christianity spread from one end of the Roman Empire to the other almost immediately–and was the official religion of the Empire less then 300 years later. It was not spread by sword’s edge, or by coercion; on the contrary, during most of that time, being a Christian was liable to get you killed. But Jesus had come. Once the real thing arrives, there’s no longer any reason to make do with poor substitutes.

Did you get that? The pagans–the real pagans–abandoned paganism for Christianity in droves all over the Roman world.

Which is why I am troubled by signs that a farrago of New Age claptrap like Wicca is moving toward the mainstream of American culture, as evidenced by Stirling’s book. Do you see? It’s not so much the effect the book will have, as the trend of which it is symptomatic.

I’ve undoubtedly offended a number of readers, which I prefer not to do; and doubtless there are a number of readers who feel that the pot is calling the kettle black, and that I’m as willfully self-deluded in my Christian faith as the Wiccans are in theirs. I disagree, of course; but they are entitled to their opinion, as I am entitled to mine–no matter how saddened some may be by it. Ah, well.

  • By Tim Johnson, August 13, 2006 @ 8:00 am

    You are spot on there. I just finished reading Dies the Fire and the follow up, The Protector’s War. I already had the second and went out for the first so I could read the whole thing. If I had to do it over, I would have skipped both.

    The Wiccan religion, or The Craft as it was called in the book, was portrayed as the most reasonable, kind and caring thing you ever saw. And it was portrayed as the thing that saved much of humanity, along with all the SCA people who just all happen to be witches too. It was so obvious that you just had to join in. Yet with the exception of the fundamentalist minister (and his small group) that died in the first book, no one seemed particulary bothered by this.

    It got so bad that I tended to skim over a lot of the sections dealing with the witches. It was so in your face as to be prosyletizing about it. It was Blessed Be this and that. Or Thank the Lord and Lady for there being a chair just as I wanted to sit. Or thank the Lord Hunter for the deer I killed and all the asking forgiveness of the dead animals just killed, yada yada yada. It seemed so forced and unbelieveable. I also found it so hard to believe that so many people would just drop all former beliefs for something so diametrically opposed to the values they supposedly held at one time.

    If this is truly indicative of the trends and beliefs of society at large, then it is doomed and we are in the middle of a great apostasy. Not necessarily THE great apostasy, but significant.

    The only Catholics in the second book are a bunch of monks that are described, not seen, as fanatical and the bishop in Portland who has declared himself Pope and is a puppet of the bad guy.

  • By Banana, August 16, 2006 @ 10:15 am

    Besides the fact that you believe in it, what makes Jesus Christ, an immaculately conceived son to GOD, more believable than Wiccan principles? The idea that GOD would bother to send his son to Earth to save our damned souls is incredibly self-centered.

    I find people like you ‘troubling”

  • By Maxine, August 16, 2006 @ 11:48 am

    Hello, I am a reader of A Book A Day (Mapletree7’s blog) so I came here as she’s posted about the above comments today.
    I can’t speak for what was in her mind, but I have read your whole review, and the comments above. You seem to be saying that you are troubled that people followed this religion, and your commenter that it is wrong that this religion is being portrayed positively.
    Well, if a religion is portrayed positively in a work of fiction, that’s OK isn’t it? I don’t know anything about Wicca as a religion, but I know of books in which witches are portrayed postively, most notably Harry Potter – it is simply a work of fiction. Historically speaking, witches were terribly persecuted, tortured and killed simply becuase of ignorance. I am not particularly defending witches/wicca, just pointing out that there are always more than one side to a viewpoint, and it is important to be aware of that.
    So irrespective of you own views on religion, as you espouse above, I am with Mapletree7 that I think it is a troubling view to write that you find it troubling that someone has acquired religious followers, on an occasion when a religion is portrayed in a positive light. The “name” of the religion is surely not important in a work of fiction, could be Wicca, Christianity, Islam or Chief Biscuit?

  • By Will Duquette, August 16, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

    Banana, fact is, you’re quite welcome to find me troubling. Feel free. However, you might check your terms; the “immaculate conception” (which is not subscribed to by all Christians) refers to the conception of Mary, Christ’s mother, not the Virgin Birth of Christ himself. To answer your question, the Virgin Birth of Christ and his death on the cross followed by his resurrection, and our salvation thereby, is an absolutely preposterous notion–save that it actually happened. Nothing else accounts for the rapid and peaceful spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in defiance of great (and well documented) persecution.

  • By Will Duquette, August 16, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

    Maxine, regarding Wicca and witches. Wiccans like to believe that there is a direct line between their beliefs and the practices of vast numbers of witches who were persecuted in centuries gone by during a time they call “the Burning”. This is, if you look into it, unhistorical nonsense. The numbers of folk who were burned for being witches is much, much smaller than most people suppose; and so far as history records, their beliefs were nothing like modern Wicca. (Most, in fact, of the people who were burned by the Inquisition were from families of “conversos”, former Jews and Muslims who were suspected of practicing their old religion in secret, not witches in the modern sense.

    Modern Wicca is ultimately the product of a number of 19th neopagans who invented it out of whole cloth and their own ideas of what paganism was like. “Histories” that try to extend the movement back past that are simply bogus–and some of the more serious Wiccans will admit this. In short, it’s a lie. It bothers me to see lies treated as truth.

    Now, as you say, this is just a book. It’s a work of fiction. But it’s set effectively in the present day world, with present day people. The work’s conceit is that these are people just like those living in the U.S. today–that the Wiccans in the book and everybody else are presented realistically. Stirling isn’t writing about a religion he made up for his story; he’s writing about a religion that has real adherents in the U.S. today. There’s no fantasy in the book beyond the basic premise that technology stops working. Consequently, the comparison with, say, the Harry Potter books isn’t valid–Rowling isn’t pretending to write about the real world.

    To put it in a nutshell, most of the Christians in Stirling’s book are portrayed negatively; the Wiccans are portrayed as having a positive, life-giving religion. I’m a Christian, and I think Wicca is nonsense–why shouldn’t that lessen my enjoyment of the book?

  • By Banana, August 17, 2006 @ 7:47 am

    Will,

    How do you KNOW that it actually happened? Where you there?

    “Nothing else accounts for the rapid and peaceful spread of Christianity” is a very sad, narrow-minded statement. Hopefully you at least acknowldge that political, economical and geographical (as well as the increased ease of travel) helped non-Christian convert (or forcefully be converted) to Christianity.

    And yes, I’m aware that many people think “immaculate conception” refers to Mary’s conception, not Jesus’s. Nonetheless, calling Jesus a bastard conceived out of wedlock by a trampy young mother who was married off as soon as possible to a carpenter is crude.

  • By Jeff in CA, August 17, 2006 @ 9:56 am

    Ah, the intolerance of “tolerance.”

    Duquette finds Stirling’s portrayal of Wicca troubling.

    Mapletree7 and Banana find Duquette’s comments troubling.

    I find Mapletree7 and Banana’s comments about Duquette’s comments troubling.

    It’s okay to be troubled. That’s what happens when you believe stuff.

  • By Will Duquette, August 17, 2006 @ 4:28 pm

    Banana, clearly you have an axe to grind; would you mind letting the rest of us in on it, or would you prefer to go on making rude remarks?

  • By Will Duquette, August 17, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

    Jeff,

    You said, “It’s okay to be troubled. That’s what happens when you believe stuff.”

    Very true, and thanks for pointing that out.

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 29, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

    I’ve got no problem with your comment. I’m not a believer of any sort myself (tho’ I am a ‘cultural Anglican’), so I’ve got no dog in this fight.

    I do realize that Christianity makes claims to being uniquely true and that Christians are under an obligation to evangelize and to reject those aspects of other faiths which differ from their own.

    As I said, no problem. I respect and understand the viewpoint, even if I don’t share it. (’tis the ‘squishies’ I have problems respecting.)

    Do remember however that the book shows only a small part of the post-Change world. Wicca does well in the Clan Mackenzie’s area because of ‘founder effect’ — the person who organizes survival there and her friends happen to be Wiccans, and an unusually level-headed and capable bunch to boot. Juniper Mackenzie herself is a charismatic mystic, sort of a neopagan St. Theresa, someone who’s obviously both very smart, very good, very grounded, and with a very high degree of personal holiness.

    In the larger world, other religions have that role — in particular, a rather conservative form of Catholicism flourishes, as is shown in the third book. In fact, it comes to predominate in what’s left of the Western world, expanding at the expense of both other forms of Christianity and of Islam. (Orthodoxy also does well.)

    Also, note that Wicca (and you’re quite right that it’s an ecclectic mishmash, a fact which Juniper cheerfully acknowledges in “Dies the Fire”) is not a straight revival of ancient paganism. The followers of the old Indo-European pantheons and their equivalents elsewhere were intellectually defenseless against the ‘religions of the book’ and were supplanted rapidly.

    Wicca is a _post_-Christian religion, drawing heavily on Buddhist and Hindu theology as well as the Western esoteric tradition and pre-Christian pagan symbolism. It’s not even (strictly speaking) polytheistic. The Lord and Lady are dual Aspects of a primal monad which is coterminous with the universe. The biggest difference between it and the ‘ethical monotheisms’ is that it stresses immanence over transcendance.

    Therefore it’s not as vulnerable as the true ancient paganisms in what you might call the Darwinian theo-ecology, and is in fact spreading very rapidly in the Western world — it has gone from a few thousand adherents to hundreds of thousands (possibly going on for a million) over the past two generations.

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 29, 2006 @ 8:01 pm

    Tom: “The Wiccan religion, or The Craft as it was called in the book, was portrayed as the most reasonable, kind and caring thing you ever saw.”

    — some of them are. OTOH, some are shown as flaky nitwits(*), and even some of Juniper’s coven are depicted as having their comic side.

    And there are several favorably described Christian characters; Will Hutton, who’s a convert to Catholicism, for example.

    (*) of the type which mainstream Wiccans refer to as “fluffy bunnies”.

  • By Will Duquette, August 29, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

    S.M., welcome, and thank you for your comments.

    As you say, Will Hutton is Catholic, and favorably described (though his faith isn’t a large part of the book); and even the fundamentalist preacher is shown to be a fair if hard man. I didn’t have a problem with your presentation of Christianity, which is why I didn’t raise the issue.

    There seems to be more going on in the “theosphere” of your book with respect to Clan Mackenzie, though, than simply “founder effect”–I’m thinking of the scene where Juniper leads her troops into battle and practically seems to become an avatar of the Morrigan. That was the one place where anything supernatural seemed to be going on…beyond the maguffin, of course.

    I suspect the reason Wicca is spreading is largely because the mainline Christian denominations (especially ECUSA, my former denomination) have become so terribly squishy. The last generation wanted to feel good about not really believing the things they’d been taught as children; the new generation wants to believe something solid, rather than hearing yet another explanation of why they don’t really have to believe.

    Any chance we might see a sequel of The Peshawar Lancers?

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 30, 2006 @ 12:05 am

    Will Duquette Says: There seems to be more going on in the “theosphere” of your book with respect to Clan Mackenzie, though, than simply “founder effect”–I’m thinking of the scene where Juniper leads her troops into battle and practically seems to become an avatar of the Morrigan. That was the one place where anything supernatural seemed to be going on…beyond the maguffin, of course.

    — ah, well, I can’t say much about that because it’s related to the way the whole story arc is going to play out… in the third book (“A Meeting At Corvallis”, out next week), _and_ in the second trilogy!

    (“The Sunrise Lands”, “The Scourge of God”, and “The Sword of the Lady”. The villains in these are a modified version of a Theosophist cult, the Church Universal and Triumphant.)

    I’d be interested to see your reaction to the third book, btw. Christian characters have a somewhat larger role in that one.

    For me, a devout Catholic monk who’s a good and holy man is just about as much of a challenge as a Wiccan priestess. (I _have_ done a nun as a p.o.v. character in an earlier series and I’m rather proud of the work, tho’ that was in my younger and more Grand Guiginol phase as a writer.)

    >I suspect the reason Wicca is spreading is largely because the mainline Christian denominations (especially ECUSA, my former denomination) have become so terribly squishy.

    — I suspect you’re right. Wiccans tend to come from not-very-pious homes of various sorts.

    Many of them are very flaky, people on the outs with their social environment, but that’s fairly typical of the early phases of a religion.

    Eg., the Mormons of today tend to be almost painfully respectable… but that wasn’t the case in Joseph Smith’s time!

    >The last generation wanted to feel good about not really believing the things they’d been taught as children; the new generation wants to believe something solid, rather than hearing yet another explanation of why they don’t really have to believe.

    — I suspect you’re right… 8-). If you’re going to have a religion, it makes sense to _have_ a religion, not the “Church of God As A Vague Elongated Blurr”.

    >Any chance we might see a sequel of The Peshawar Lancers?

    — perhaps, someday. I’m heavily booked up… so many books to write, so little time!

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 30, 2006 @ 7:42 am

    One thing that a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy lack is enough religion — not any specific faith, necessarily (that would depend on whether it’s an imagined world, the past, or the present) but faith in general.

    If you look at human history, most societies are permeated by their religion. There’s a prayer for getting up and for going to bed, a prayer before eating and one for working, conversation is punctuated by religious references (Good-bye was originally “God be with you”), the year is structured around religious festivals, holidays and fast-days, etc. And that’s leaving aside the (usually very substantial) role played by religious specialists and institutions.

    It’s unrealistic and bad worldbuilding (pardon the jargon of the craft) to neglect this.

  • By Will Duquette, August 30, 2006 @ 8:02 am

    Absolutely true; I’ve frequently said the same myself. And when the author does try to include religion, the results are usually not good…the portrayal is usually either straight Dungeons&Dragons or a veiled commentary on the failings of western Christianity. You get points for presenting religion naturalistically (if that’s the word I want), as a force in your character’s lives, without polemic. My criticism was never really about the book anyway.

    Rarely, someone gets it right. The best example I’m aware of is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series. There’s a coherent theology, and the folks in the book actually live their religion throughout their day.

    I’ve rather enjoyed David Weber’s “Oath of Swords” books, where the hero’s relationship with Tomanak the War God is rather different than even Tomanak’s staunchest followers would expect.

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 30, 2006 @ 9:20 am

    I agree about Bujold, but then Lois is unusually good all ’round.

    The bane of fantasy is the REH(*) tradition, in which you get an occasional “By Mitra!”, rites which are the equivalent of rubbing a rabbit’s foot for luck, and devotees making sacrifices to Various Toad-Like Things.

    I mean, what’s the percentage in worshipping Cthulu? He’s going to eat you last?

    Oddly enough, “religion” as such is wholly absent from Tolkien; the people know about Eru but they don’t have temples (except for the bad guys), priests, much in the way of rituals, etc.

    (*) Howard was a brilliant writer, but a wholly intuitive one.

  • By Will Duquette, August 30, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

    You pretty much have to assume that Cthulhu’s devotees are completely under the influence of dreams sent by Things Which Man Was Not Meant To Know. If they were in their right minds they wouldn’t be doing it.

    The thing about Tolkien is that he was thorough. He was creating a prehistory for England, a mythical and fictional prehistory, granted, but nevertheless a prehistory for the world in which we live. Eru is clearly the creator God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but since it’s set in a time long before Jehovah began to reveal Himself to the Hebrews the inhabitants of Middle Earth don’t know much about Him. And in a time before divine revelation there should be no religion.

    That begs the question, naturally, of why we find some kind of religion in every culture we examine…but that would be another post.

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 30, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

    One of the areas I’m having fun with in the “Dies the Fire” series is the evolution of religion post-Change.

    The Change itself has a massive impact; it pretty much shoots scientistic materialism through the head for most people. Many Christians see it as an equivalent of the Flood.

    Then there are the implications of the accidents of survival in the upheavals that follow. A certain Cardinal Ratzinger becomes Pope, for example… 8-).

  • By Will Duquette, August 30, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

    Ratzinger becomes Pope? Yeah, right, like that could ever happen.

    I’m an Anglican myself, but actually I rather like B16, for whatever that’s worth.
    And I follow very much the Roman Catholic line on science, which might be phrased “Render unto Darwin what is Darwin’s, but render unto God what is God’s.” It’s when Dawkins and company cross the line from science to philosophy that I dig in my heels.

    I’ll be curious to see what you do with Christianity. Things would change, certainly…but in my view, only within certain limits.

  • By S.M. Stirling, August 31, 2006 @ 2:39 am

    “I’ll be curious to see what you do with Christianity. Things would change, certainly…but in my view, only within certain limits.”

    — true enough. There are some institutional developments; an Anglican-RC reunion, frex, resulting in an “Anglican Rite”, analogous to the Greek Catholics. Anti-Pope Leo in Portland turns out to be a temporary phenomenon.

    Oh, and Benedict and the Archbishop preach a Crusade against the Moors. After its triumphant conclusion, they crown William as _Rex Britannia Magna et Imperator Occidentalis_ in Winchester… 8-).

    Granted most of that takes place offstage but I had a good time with it.

  • By Will Duquette, August 31, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

    When the name of the game is survival, I guess you quickly learn who your allies are. 🙂 Well, don’t tell me any more; I’d like to be surprised. Though I admit I’m curious to know how our heroes in the Pacific Northwest have any idea that any of this is going on…..

  • By Jeff in CA, September 2, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    Thanks to both of you for carrying on this fascinating dialogue, which I’m only now getting to.

    On the topic of religion in science fiction and fantasy, may I make bold and suggest that the second and third books in Orson Scott Card’s “Ender” series, “Speaker for the Dead” and “Xenocide,” do a pretty decent and faithful job?

  • By Will Duquette, September 2, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    Jeff,

    Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide do treat religion seriously, not surprising for someone like Card who takes his own faith quite seriously. It’s been a long time since I read them, so I can’t say whether he does it well or not.

    But then, it’s far future science fiction; as I recall, the religious folks in the book are considered somewhat unusual (as they are in some circles today). What S.M. was speaking of, I think, is the typical vaguely medieval setting used in so much fantasy fiction. The Middle Ages were a time when religion was a daily part of everyone’s life–there was much more to it than trying to be a good person and attending church on Sunday. It would show up in countless ways. What we usually see instead are modern folks in medieval garb, folks who don’t care much about religion one way or another except as a source of curses, and the odd cleric/abbey/monastery/etc. for flavor (and, often enough, as a source of villainy).

    I’ve not read Kathryn Kurtz in quite a while, but she actually handles the medieval church thing pretty well, IIRC.

  • By Chip in NYC, September 6, 2006 @ 10:22 am

    Interesting discussion. Just finished reading Dies the Fire, actually. On the topic of religion in science-fiction/fantasy, actually I think there are a number of stories that do a good job in addressing the subject, and in fact in which religion is at times the centerpoint of the story. A few novels that jump to mind: one of the most famous is Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz; another of note is Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. One short story, which I read at least ten years ago but which I still recall to this day is The Star by Arthur C Clarke (it was in an anthology called Science Fiction for People who Hate Science Fiction, which also included another (IMHO) all-time classic – A Sound of Thunder). Found the intro to the Star online: “It is three thousand light-years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed that the heavens declared the glory of God’s handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.

    I have told no one yet, but the truth cannot be concealed. The facts are there for all to read, recorded on the countless miles of magnetic tape and the thousands of photographs we are carrying back to earth. Other scientists can interpret them as easily as I can, and I am not one who would condone that tampering with the truth which often gave my Jesuit order a bad name in the old days.

    The crew were already sufficiently depressed: I wonder how they will take this ultimate irony. Few of them have any religious faith, yet they will not relish using this final weapon in their campaign against me-that private, good-natured, but fundamentally serious war which lasted all the way from earth. It amused them to have a Jesuit as chief astrophysicist: Dr Chandler, for instance, could never get over it.”

    Actually, Will, would be interested to hear your thoughts on the above, to the extent you’ve read any of them.

    It may be that what you/S.M. were getting at was that religion usually isn’t used cohesively and deeply in most science-fiction/fantasy, and instead is referenced on more of a superficial level. Probably true – but I’ll also note that, frankly, and unfortunately, much of science-fiction/fantasy is in general written on a somewhat superficial level – writers like Bujold, Hobb, Martin etc to the exception. One series that I think does address religion as an integral component (but not focus) of the story is Effinger’s Exile Kiss/Fire in the Sun/When Gravity Fails series.

  • By Will Duquette, September 6, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    Chip,

    Yeah, lots of genre fiction is shallow; but even the good stuff often fails to understand the deep role religion has played in the daily lives of most people at most times in most places. By “Martin” I presume you mean George R.R. Martin; his current series, A Clash of Kings etc., is really good on the character and intrigue level but leaves religion largely out of the picture. Hobb’s Farseer and Liveship novels do include religion, of a sort; but for most of the characters it seems to be a religion with very few observances of any kind.

    Of the specific books and stories you mention, the ones I’ve read are “The Star” and A Canticle for Leibowitz (though it’s been decades in either case). I wasn’t as concerned about the religious aspects of “The Star” when I last read it, but I’ve always thought it rather contrived, and not particularly good at addressing the very real problem of reconciling a good deity with pain and suffering. I’ve always imagined Clarke’s motive as simply wanting to score a few points off of the religious folks. (Perhaps I misjudge him.)

    A Canticle for Leibowitz is much more interesting, and seems to be written from a genuinely Catholic (if perhaps not completely orthodox) point of view. I have some problems with the ending–Christ is already incarnate, there’s no need for him to return as any kind of baby. But it’s an interesting book.

  • By TJIC, September 10, 2006 @ 7:23 am

    I just found this blog entry by googling for information on the second trilogy. I, like Will, was troubled not by the presence of Wicca in the series, but by the unfair advantage it seemed to have – at least in the first two books, (a) the Christian characters tended towards the venal and petty, and the Wiccans tended towards the idealistic, brave, and compassionate (I forget the exact details of what I considered the worst offense, but in the first book, near the end, there was a sniveling Christian pastor who tried to horde useful drugs, or some-such); (b) the universe itself seemed to comport more with the Wiccan world view: various characters are possessed of strength, power, or persuasive abilities in tune with their religious beliefs, etc.

    I found the third book much more evenly balanced: the monks militant, the revelation that there was a good and wise pope out there somewhere, and the PPA’s pope was an anti-pope, etc.

    I’m certainly not offended by having Wiccan characters be good and strong – what I (as a practicing Catholic) objected to most was that the playing field seemed to be slanted in the first two books…and I think that things were much fairer in _Corvalis_.

    By the way, I must comment Stirling for his even-natured tone in the comments above – I found his views to be presented quite fairly, and evenly, without any of the ego, defensiveness, and hubris I’ve seen in a few other writers when their positions are questioned. Well done!

    Eagerly awaiting the next trilogy,

    TJIC

  • By TJIC, September 10, 2006 @ 7:24 am

    errr…”I must commend”, not “comment”. sigh.

  • By Will Duquette, September 10, 2006 @ 7:27 am

    TJIC,

    I agree, taken over all Stirling appears to be playing fair; and he also appears to be a class act. I enjoyed having him come visit the blog.

    I’ve not gotten to The Protector’s War yet; I’m waiting for the paperback. But I do have a couple of Stirling’s other books in the queue.

  • By S.M. Stirling, September 16, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

    “there was a sniveling Christian pastor who tried to horde useful drugs, or some-such”

    — no, that’s the doctor. Dixon, the pastor, is the one who offers to share it with the Mackenzies. Dixon is harsh and rather prejudiced, but honest and brave, and is just trying to do the best for his community in an impossible situation.

    “(b) the universe itself seemed to comport more with the Wiccan world view: various characters are possessed of strength, power, or persuasive abilities in tune with their religious beliefs, etc.”

    — well, I’m using the a modified version of third-person omniscient narrative; that means you’re seeing things through the eyes of the p.o.v. character of any given scene.

    Much of the time that means seeing things through Juniper Mackenzie’s eyes; and she’s not only a devout Wiccan, she’s a _very_ devout Wiccan and a charismatic mystic for whom the entire universe is full of a numinous supernatural presence.

    “By the way, I must comment Stirling for his even-natured tone in the comments above – I found his views to be presented quite fairly, and evenly, without any of the ego, defensiveness, and hubris I’ve seen in a few other writers when their positions are questioned. Well done!”

    — thanks. I’ve lost my temper online in the past, but I’ve resolved to keep myself on an even keel, and am trying to do better. For one thing, I’m avoiding unmoderate Usenet forums… 8-).

    The Web tends to promote shouting and conflict, for some reason. Perhaps because of the lack of immediate feedback and the low bandwidth. It requires self-restraint.

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  1. The View From The Foothills » Blog Archive » Much Ado? — August 20, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

  2. The View From The Foothills » Blog Archive » The Discussion Continues… — August 30, 2006 @ 5:57 am

  3. The View From The Foothills » Blog Archive » Island in the Sea of Time, by S.M. Stirling — September 20, 2006 @ 8:11 pm

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