O! Many a shaft at random sent—finds mark the archer little meant! – Sir Walter Scott
Cut Your Hair and Get a Job: A recent article in the Slate Book Review by Ruth Gordon asserts that we grownups (readers older than 18) are reading too many random Young Adult novels instead of Really Important Books, and shame, shame, shame on us. It seems Ms. Gordon spent years of toil grinding through her local library’s YA slum, slogging through an odorous midden of tales pungent with “satisfying endings” and “likable protagonists” to emerge—oh frabjous day!—into a glorious paradise filled with stories that didn’t make her eyes involuntarily rotate in their sockets, over and over and over again. She wonders when the rest of us will grow up and discover Great Literature. I expect she has a very long wait in store.
I will agree with Ms. Gordon on one point: YA books have a tendency to not simply offer a teenage point-of-view, but to “present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way.” I remember enough about my adolescence to understand the limits and dangers of the teenage perspective, and it could stand a little timely critical analysis, even in our recreational reading. Old age and treachery often trumps youth and skill, and that’s not always such a bad thing.
Tome: A book ponderous in its physical dimensions, but perhaps not worth pondering, and thus, random.
A Hermitage by Any Other Name: There was much excitement among Christian science fiction and fantasy writers regarding last week’s formal announcement of Marcher Lord Press’ rebranding to “Enclave Publishing.” New logo is at right—if the pen is mightier than the sword, then the pen-sword is…oh, never mind.
Anyhow, it’s their business and they’re free to assign it whatever random label floats their boat, but my first impression is that the name doesn’t communicate a bold new enterprise so much as it reinforces the idea of a Christian spec-fic genre characterized by a fortress mentality and a fishbowl culture. I think the future of Christian-authored science fiction and fantasy lies more in venturing outward past safe, comfortable boundaries rather than huddling inward for fear that whatever might lurk in the foggy darkness beyond our fortified walls plans to serve us up with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Speculative fiction thrives when it embraces the joy and wonder of what is yet to be discovered “out there” and brings the reader along on that voyage of exploration. That’s a different vision than toiling over musty manuscripts within the abbey vault, emerging occasionally so the peasants might gaze in awe at your glorious illuminations. There’s certainly a depth of camaraderie and intimacy that comes with being locked in a tiny monastery, scribbling away and brewing the same old beer with the same handful of folks year-in and year-out, but it doesn’t exactly cultivate a spirit of adventure.
Oubliette: That lovely little compartment in a castle where you toss random things and people you wish to forget—forever.
Because Science—So, Shut Up: Here’s some sensible, thoughtful commentary from astrophysicist Heino Falcke on the tragically random and rocky relationship between the scientific community and social media. Read the whole thing—it’s refreshing. I’ve recently noticed the rise of a cultish community of self-appointed science-defenders who call for the virtual execution of anyone who dares express skepticism about any idea or policy buttressed by science (or something that sounds scientific), no matter how tentative or slipshod. Doubters are labeled “Science-Deniers.” Maybe my schooling was eccentric, but I always understood that science began with asking questions and challenging assumptions. A science intolerant of questions and challenge is no science at all.
Denier: (n) 1. One who denies (e.g., the truth); 2. A small, originally silver, coin formerly used in western Europe; 3. A unit of fineness for yarn equal to the fineness of a yarn weighing one gram for each 9000 meters.