Monday, September 27, 2010

No Pretteh Zerg Babiez! (Starcraft 2 Spoilers)

This blog entry is adapted from a post I made on a few days ago.  Posting it here because I found on Google Analytics that at least one person came across my blog while searching "Raynor and Kerrigan child" or something like that.  The lolcats-esque title comes from something I saw on SCArmory, another Starcraft forum, about this topic.

On other Starcraft forums and to a limited degree on itself, there are some people (probably the hardest-core Raynor/Kerrigan supporters) who think the two of them ought to have a kid now that Kerrigan has been de-infested (or "fumigated," as someone cleverly called it).  At least one person said this hypothetical kid would play some kind of messianic role in defeating the Dark Voice.

Is it just me, or would that be a really bad idea, both logically-speaking and story-wise?

Several reasons:

1. They're not married. Moral considerations aside, it would also be out-of-character for Raynor. Little Johnny Raynor (Raynor's son who died in what was in all likelihood the Ghost program, mentioned in the novel Liberty's Crusade) was born in wedlock, after all.

2. If they were ever officially a couple prior to New Gettysburg, it wasn't that long. Rushing into things of this nature is a very bad idea. Especially since going back to the way things were before Kerrigan was captured by the Zerg at New Gettysburg would be impossible (see below).

3. One word: Fenix. That's a really big elephant in the room. Plus, if something resembling Kerrigan's human personality is in charge post-deinfestation, she's going to be a mess.  She felt bad about calling the Zerg to attack the Confederates at Antiga Prime and objected strongly to Mengsk calling a much large group of Zerg in to attack the Confederate capital of Tarsonis.  She's going to look at what she did as the Queen of Blades and be thoroughly horrified. I imagine Raynor would be willing to be try to work this out, but still.

(And the "Queen of Blades" is in my opinion Kerrigan's unrestrained dark side, not some usurper entity using her body. Some aspect of the Queen was always there and will always be there--and it might well be stronger than it was before.)

4. They both have more important things to do right now.  Mengsk is still on the throne (and due to the revelations about Tarsonis, he's probably weakened enough to kick off it) and the first Hybrids have already arrived in the Sector. The End of Days is coming and it's coming soon.

5. Per my comment about coming soon, there won't be time for some red-headed telepathic redneck to become the Savior of the Sector.

6. Pregnancy would sideline Kerrigan, who (assuming she's on the side of the angels again) would be one of their most powerful fighters, at least in its later phases.

7. Both characters are intelligent enough to realize how tremendously impractical this would be.

Now, I did make comments in my earlier posts on Starcraft 2 that I would like to have a happy ending for both of them and brought up the notion of them retiring to Mar Sara and having red-headed telepathic kids who play with Zerglings like most kids play with puppies.

However, that's for later, as in, after Mengsk is overthrown and the Dark Voice and its army of Protoss-Zerg hybrids is defeated.  Right now, there's a war on.

News Article Round-Up: Iraq and Minimum Wage Laws

Here are some interesting news articles, with my comments:

"Sunni Awakening" Officers Kicked Off the Force in Iraq

Now this isn't a good idea.  These guys switched sides during the worst of the insurgency in Iraq to fight against the al-Qaeda foreign fighters alongside the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government, never mind the sectarian divide that existed between them and their newfound allies.  The "Awakening" program brought peace to the Anbar Province, previously an ugly running sore claiming many American and Iraqi lives.

That being said, if they're not qualified for the positions they've got, perhaps some training or education is in order.  That appears to have been done in at least some of the cases here.  Having unqualified police officers and officials (at least some of them have been given the option of being beat cops, so they're not all being tossed out onto the street) is a bad thing, but depriving people who are likely to be al-Qaeda targets of the protection the police force has provided is a poor reward for what these men have done.

Wage Laws Squeeze South Africa's Poor

This is an example of the law of unintended consequences and why a minimum wage, or at least one that is too high, is not a good idea.  Businesses that cannot pay the minimum wage will employ fewer people or close down entirely, producing a net increase in human suffering.  And in South Africa, being unemployed is a heck of a lot worse than being unemployed is over here in the USA.

The image of the workers in the factory protesting the police coming to close the factory for violating laws intended to benefit them is rather telling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thoughts on "Law and Order: SVU" (spoilers for 9/22 episodes)

I admit I'm drawing the following conclusions based on relatively little data, but here goes...

Is it just me, or do episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit throw everything but the kitchen sink into their plots?

In the episode "Witness," which ran in mid-March and I watched while working out late at the gym, a woman with a not-so-great reputation is raped by some lowlife who claims she'd led him on and the only witness is a woman who it turns out is an illegal immigrant from the Congo.  She had been raped repeatedly, in really bizarre ways that I'm not going to describe here but actually do happen in real life.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service tries to deport her in the middle of the trial, claiming she's married to one of the perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide.  It turns out she had been forced into this marriage after being carried off to a camp where coltan, a mineral used in the developed world's cell phones, is mined by slaves controlled by militias.

(Let's see--blaming the victim in rape cases, illegal immigration, terrorism, the Congo, and conflict minerals.)

Tonight was another late night at the gym and an episode entitled "Locum" was on.  In this one, a 10-year-old girl named Mackenzie adopted from foster care runs away and the police initially detain a man they think is a pedophile who had lured Mackenzie away from home.  The man claims to have had a sister who was raped and committed suicide and was part of an anti-pervert advocacy group who had befriended Mackenzie online with the goal of keeping her from running away and falling into the hands of a real pervert.

(The man--Erik Weber--is much more than he seems, but that doesn't pop up until the next episode, "Bullseye.")

Mackenzie's ludicrously overprotective adoptive parents are apparently trying to use her to replace their biological daughter Ella.  Ella disappeared while on a hiking trip with them several years before at the age of 10 after going off to play with a mysterious red-haired teenager.  An elaborate trail of investigation leads to a young prostitute who had been involved in underage pornography who it turns out was the red-haired girl. 

What happened was, she had been ordered by her drunken father to lure Ella away from her mother.  Her dad, whose wife had left him weeks prior, intended to use Ella as a replacement wife.  The redhead ran away from home after watching her father apparently beat Ella to death, becoming an underage porn star in order to survive.

The SVU gang arrives at the pervy dad's house out in the woods and it turns out Ella is there, still alive and convinced the redhead's skanky redneck dad is her husband.

(Let's see--"helicopter parents," creeps befriending girls on the Internet, dysfunctional adoptions, kids bouncing from foster home to foster home, underage pornography, prostitution, and screwballs kidnapping young girls and brainwashing them into captive pseudo-wives, like that case in California involving the girl missing for over a decade.  Yikes.)

I do admit these complicated plots do make for interesting viewing, which I guess is the point.  I spent a lot more time doing cardio to watch "Locum" and less time doing weights, since I could not see the television from the weight machines.

Perhaps I'll swim 20 laps tomorrow, to make up for the neglected upper-body workout.

"Tomorrow, When The War Began" Trailer

I've never read the books on which this was based, but it looks really cool.  Unfortunately, no U.S. release date set thus far.  There still hasn't been a U.S. release of the Solomon Kane film either, despite it being based on the stories of an American writer, Robert Howard, so I'm not optimistic.

If it came out here, I would see it.  I haven't read the books (I don't think the entire series has been released in the U.S.), but they're well-reviewed and the series has been extremely successful in Australia and New Zealand.

The invading country still isn't named, but an Australian member of one of my Internet forums said they recognized a J-10 (a Chinese fighter aircraft, one of the most modern) shooting down an Australian F/A-18.  I was under the impression that, in the books, the invading country was Indonesia (something that many Australians used to fear), but in the movie, it's described as being a coalition of countries.

And despite the sheer non-PC-ness of the concept (an Asian nation invading Australia, teenagers becoming insurgents, etc.), I've only seen one criticism of it on those grounds online, which claimed it was a base attempt to appeal to the Australia First Movement.

(According to Wikipedia, AFM was a pro-fascist organization during WWII.  However, some more googling indicates a newer organization by that name that is strongly opposed to non-white immigration.)

I really doubt this movie is racist.  Heck, the trailer features the group's one Asian member, Lee Takkam(Chris Pang) making out with a white girl, who based on the Wikipedia articles, is probably the protagonist Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stacey).  Given how a great deal of racism is fear of "The Other" getting their hands on "our" women (Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman in the Jim Crow South, for example), it is improbable in the extreme that a movie intended to be racist would depict the female lead's love interest as being non-white.

Heck, that makes it more interesting.  According to TVTropes, Asian male characters never "get the girl," whereas white male characters get with non-white females all the time.  This is a nice subversion of that.

(BTW, the thought processes spinning off this led me to a make one of Andrew's allies who appears later in Escape from the Wastelands father-in-law to a military officer of an indeterminate Asian ethnicity and grandfather of a mixed-race toddler.  Hooray for subverting tropes!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

John Monds and Why He Could Be Good for the GOP

I read about John Monds, the Libertarian candidate for the Georgia governorship, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution this morning.

Here's the article about him:

Although voting for a third party with a similar position to an established party tends to benefit the established party's rival (Greens hurt Democrats; Libertarians hurt Republicans), the circumstances of this particular Libertarian candidate indicate he could do significant damage to the Democrats this time around.

For starters, the Democratic Party has been very strong among African-Americans for the last several decades.  Monds was a leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and many African-Americans believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Republican Party is racist.  A black Republican could be branded a token, a sellout, or window-dressing, but Monds is not a Republican and he was the president of the Grady County NAACP.

Some African-Americans are already interested in him, for that reason:

Furthermore, I believe research has shown that African-Americans are incarcerated at a higher rate for drug crimes than whites are and it is the incarceration rate (and the consequent difficulty in getting jobs or education after being jailed) that has hurt the African-American community, particularly men, rather badly. 

Given how the Libertarian Party has historically been opposed to the War on Drugs, this position could help make Monds attractive to African-American voters (in addition to him being black and involved in the NAACP).

Also, of the two policy positions Monds takes in the article, one of them is a socially-liberal defense of allowing horse-racing, casino gambling, and Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia on the grounds that although he may not like them, it's not the state's job to enforce his moral notions.  I don't think socially-conservative members of the Georgia Republican Party, the ones who picked Nathan Deal over Karen Handel, are going to be defecting en masse to Monds due to this issue.

However, those who are leery of social conservatism but also leery of the Democratic candidate Roy Barnes due to his previous term might be willing to vote for Monds.  See the book The Emerging Democratic Majority and the strong showing of Karen Handel, a more socially-liberal Republican who did well in Metro Atlanta, where half the Georgian population lives.

In short, Monds might be able to keep the Democrats from making inroads among independents and could divert black votes from Barnes, weakening him but affecting the Republican Party less severely.  And since he is an effective campaigner--he got over a million votes running for Public Service Commissioner in a prior election--he could do some real damage.

Even if all he does is force a runoff, this would force the Democratic Party to spend more money on Georgia, money that could be spent elsewhere.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Anyone Having Problems With My Blog?

Over the last few days, I've noticed that when I go to the main link for my blog (, it gets a "cannot display this web-page" white screen.  When I hit "refresh," it loads normally.

I've tested this out at work, on a Mac computer, and I get something similar, with the suggestion the site must be very busy.

I haven't changed anything on either computer, so it's not something I've done that's been causing the problem.

Earlier this evening, I emptied the cache and deleted the cookies after seeing that as a troubleshooting suggestion on the Help page and it loaded normally on the first try.  However, after a bit of surfing, it went back to the same old problem.

Has anyone been having problems viewing my site?  If so, post them on the comments section of this page.  I'd like to get more data and try more solutions before reporting this situation to Google.

Lead Me Not Into Temptation... (Starcraft 2 Spoilers)

I said I wasn't going to write anymore fan-fiction when I was finished with The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot, but an idea has occurred to me that would make a nice post-Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty story.

It's extremely derivative of the ending cinematic of the human campaign of WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos, but that's part of what makes it awesome.

So here goes...

On Korhal, capital of the Terran Dominion, we see that the army has returned from the great victory over the Zerg at Char.  Ranks of Marines, tanks, fighters overhead, etc. form a gigantic victory parade headed by Prince Valerian Mengsk, General Horace Warfield, a Marine in black armor, and a Ghost.  The common folk of the capital cheer, throw flowers, etc.

The four of them lead the parade to the doors of the palace of Emperor Arcturus Mengsk and go inside, where the Emperor receives them in his throne room.

Then Valerian orders the doors to the throne room closed.  Daddy Mengsk starts looking a bit nervous.

Then the Marine and the Ghost remove their helmets.  It's Raynor and Kerrigan respectively.  Mengsk's Marine guards raise their guns, but Warfield orders them to stand down.  They do so.

Kerrigan gets a funny look on her face and snaps her fingers.  Two Ghosts who were hiding in-cloak around Mengsk's throne, fall down, de-cloaked and psionically-immobilized.  It turns out one of them is Nova.

"You're out of your league, little girl," Kerrigan says.  "Stay out of this."

"What are you doing?" Arcturus asks Valerian.

"Succeeding you," Valerian says.  He turns to Raynor.  "Commander?"

Raynor steps forward and draws the pistol he intended to kill Mengsk with but ended up using his one bullet to kill Tychus Findlay instead.

"I want you to see this coming," he says.


Given that there are hints in SC2 that both Mengsk Sr. and Mengsk Jr. are involved with Duran and his creation of an army of Protoss-Zerg hybrids, I don't think Arcturus will go down that easily.  Also, since in the first game, he said he would rule the Koprulu Sector or see it burn around him, I can easily imagine him and whatever loyalists he's got going over to the Dark Voice and its hybrid army if Valerian or Raynor looks like they're going to unseat him.

Still, the tyrannical SOB certainly deserves something like the above scenario happening to him.

However much fun it would be to write that, I should probably focus more on Escape from the Wastelands and other projects that could make me some money.  I've got maybe a fifth of Escape done after all.

Got To Give Credit Where Credit Is Due...

In the immortal words of the country song, "I've got to give credit where credit is due."

I acknowledged Matt Schafer by name for helping me out in regards to my Starcraft project, but did not do the same for the gentleman from my other writing group who clarified for me "show, don't tell."  Given the importance of showing and not telling, this is an oversight.

So, thanks to Gary Henderson for clarifying that, which should be helpful not only in Chapter Seven of Escape from the Wastelands but in future writing endeavors and, if need be, revising older writing endeavors.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Late Productivity Update

I promised a productivity update on my personal writing the past couple of nights, but I had a church function one night and caught up with an old friend the other night, so I'm writing this now, before work.

I went to DragonCon with the goal of making contacts with Blizzard in regards to a proposed Starcraft novel entitled The Calm Before the Storm.  It would take place in the aftermath of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and before Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, which is slated for release 18 months or so from now.  I figured it could be a good way of bridging the two games, much like how StarCraft #2: Shadow of the Xel'Naga filled the gap between the first game and Starcraft: Brood War and the Dark Templar trilogy filled the gap between Starcraft and Starcraft II.  If released just before Heart of the Swarm, it could build buzz for it, just like Starcraft II: Heaven's Devils did for Wings of Liberty.

Mike Lee, who writes Warhammer 40K fiction, told me how to get in touch with Andy Chambers, who used to work for Games Workshop but is now the creative development director at Blizzard.  However, he said that typically, publishers bring authors to the gaming company and not the other way around.  And Simon and Schuster, which has published all the Starcraft novelizations, only accepts agented submissions.

(Mr. Lee, by the way, is a really cool and funny guy.  He'll be in another blog post later.)

I have still not heard back from Mr. Chambers.  However, Matt Schafer went to the Blizzard web-site, found their Legal FAQ section, and informed me that Blizzard does not accept unsolicited ideas.

Looks like I'll need to find an agent, then.  Schafer suggested I find out who represented Heaven's Devils author William Dietz on that particular book and try to contact him.  Time is of the essence--it typically takes a year to publish a book.  I haven't had time to go to a bookstore and look in the acknowledgements section, where I could possibly find the agent.  I can also e-mail Dietz himself, since he does have a web-site and a contact e-mail.

As far as my original work is concerned, I just finished Chapter Eight of Escape from the Wastelands.  This is the chapter where Andrew finally gets out of Carroll Town, although we have not yet met Alonzo Merrill.  I had put Escape on the back burner while I worked on the Starcraft project and rushed to get this chapter ready for review by my Kennesaw writing group this coming Saturday.

I also had Chapter Seven reviewed by my Lawrenceville writing group last Sunday.  They gave some good advice, including finally explaining the show/tell distinction as applied to certain episodes in the chapter and pointing out that having two of Grendel's sons having names beginning with "Ha" could confuse the reader.

Revisions ahoy--once I've got time!

I finally added a new chapter to The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot, which I had let sit for three months without an update.  The human cast is now in North Africa for the final battle with the Decepticons.  It's almost done, and after that, no more fan fiction.

Well, maybe.  I had an idea for a one-shot Starcraft fan-fic that would basically be an alternate ending for Wings of Liberty.  However, I might post that later, perhaps in a thread entitled "Lead Us Not Into Temptation."

U.S. Cartoonist In Hiding Over "Draw Mohammed Day"

U.S. Cartoonist in Hiding After Cleric's Threats

Damn it.

In my last Islam-related post, I said the Koran-burning was inflammatory and risked alienating Muslims who might otherwise support the U.S. in the war against al-Qaeda.  I have recently defended the Cordoba Center--the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque"--as well, even though I caught hell from that from a fellow conservative (albeit one much less educated and more zealous than I).

So anyone who wants to accuse me of being some kind of anti-Islamic bigot, take note.

Now it's time to criticize the over-sensitivity in certain quarters of the Islamic world.  I'm not a big fan of concept of the play "Corpus Christi" but I'm not going to make death threats or try to encourage terrorist attacks on the creator of it.

And although the creator of the play did receive death threats and a recent production in Texas was cancelled due to concerns about safety, Christians worldwide did not react to "Corpus Christi" with the same degree of outrage and violence as Muslims have reacted to depictions of Mohammed, especially unflattering ones.

Did any country block chunks of the Internet?  Did gigantic street protests break out?  Did the creator of the play have to disappear and establish a new identity?  Did anyone actually die?

No, to all of those.  There is not a moral equivalency between the reaction of Christians and Muslims in this situation.

Granted, there is precedent for this kind of behavior among Christians--a very long time ago!  We've since learned to lighten up. 

It would do well for the Islamic world to learn the same lesson--one reason the West once ruled most of the planet and is still the dominant civilization is our open society in which, as Voltaire said, we may not agree with what people say, but we will fight to the death to defend their right to say it.  Open societies encourage technological innovation and the creation of wealth, after all.

And Anwar al-Awlaki can take his threats and shove them pointy-end first somewhere sensitive.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Some Interesting Fan-Fics (Starcraft 2 Spoilers)

I've come across some interesting fan-fics lately and I figured I ought to share them.  Two of them take place in the aftermath of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, which some of my friends haven't played yet, so I'm putting the spoiler tags in the title so they don't read this article and get spoiled for the ending of the game.

The first one is Emergence, a crossover of the Draka and Mass Effect fictional universes in which some Prothean artifacts are discovered on Draka-settled Mars in the 1980s.  I do like many of the places it goes, even though, with a divergence from the canon timeline 18-odd years before the Final War (and some major consequences of the divergence, like the early deaths of Yolande Ingolffsson and Marya LeFarge), the Final War goes very similar how it did in the The Stone Dogs, the only major difference being the continued survival of Ceres (the Alliance for Democracy's capital in the asteroid belt) and the Stone Dogs-induced destruction of the Alliance submarine that, in the canon timeline, nuked Cape Town.

Despite this, there are some really awesome moments, like the evacuation of the surviving Alliance spatial forces through the mass relay on Pluto or the fact that on Samothrace, the Earth-like planet colonized by the Alliance survivors, they use old-school airships as a low-tech and cheap means of transportation, ironically like how the Draka used them to colonize hostile Africa early in their history.

This second one is entitled A Healing of Hurts and was written by JamesP81, who posted on some of my Starcraft-related blog entries.  It takes place after the scourging of the Zerg on Char and the de-infestation of Sarah Kerrigan.  I didn't like how he made the Queen of Blades some separate entity holding the human Kerrigan a prisoner in her own mind--the way Kerrigan behaves in StarCraft: Brood War indicates the Queen of Blades is essentially "evil Kerrigan," complete with her grudges (Mengsk, Duke, the Protoss) and her attachments (Raynor).  As a result, Kerrigan is a lot more responsible for her actions as QOB than, say, Captain Picard was for his actions as Locutus of the Borg.

(That being said, given the fact her altered mental state was brought about by being forcibly infested by the Zerg and the massive contrast in ethics between human-Kerrigan and the QOB, one could make a good case for temporary insanity.)

Zeratul showing up to essentially play psychiatrist also comes off as really deus ex machina, although to be fair, it is entirely possible he was on the Hyperion the entire time between him warning Raynor of the coming Armageddon Kerrigan will be necessary to stop and the victory on Char.

That being said, he did a good job depicting the probable psychodrama that will take place in Heart of the Swarm (Kerrigan's guilty feelings for the murders committed as the Queen of Blades, for example).  There's so much opportunity for character stuff taking place in HOTS; I hope Blizzard doesn't drop the ball.

The third one is Next Steps, which also takes place after WOL.  This one isn't as well-written as "A Healing of Hurts" and it also depicts human-Kerrigan as being asleep the entire time and not even remembering her actions as QOB until Zeratul probes her mind to see if she's really reformed or if she's indulging in some backstabbing scheme like she spent most of Brood War doing.  I also didn't like it's portrayal of Valerian Mengsk as betraying Raynor soon after the victory on Char (although he's manipulative like his father, he isn't evil like he is), the return of Fenix from the dead, Stetmann having some medical-ethics problems, and the author making Nova Mengsk's illegitimate daughter rather than using her canonical back-story.

That being said, there are some fun moments in this one, like a catfight between Nova and Kerrigan, Zeratul flat-out telling Raynor he historically has not been a very good judge of character when he wants to probe Kerrigan's mind, an extended confrontation between Raynor and Tychus prior to Raynor shooting him (in which Tychus points out how much he's sacrificed for Raynor and Raynor's acknowledgement of that), the possible ways Mengsk could secure his position in the aftermath of the revelation that he deliberately brought the Zerg down on Tarsonis, and an angsty Kerrigan using action figures to replay her torture and killing of General Duke.  Plus, although the author hasn't said so in his replies to my reviews, it seems like he is foreshadowing Kerrigan using her psionic power to take control of the Zerg again.

(Nova suggesting Kerrigan "call" the Zerg on Aiur and her angry response, the fact that creep tumors infesting humans respond to psionic attempts to slow their growth, and the fact that a gigantic Zerg attack that the joint human-Protoss forces intent on reclaiming Aiur might not be able to fight off is coming indicate something could happen relatively soon.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Koran: Bad Idea

This weekend, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida plans to burn several copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, on 9/11.  Although he has been denied a burn permit, he announced he will go ahead with it anyway.

I have heard some defenders of this cite Acts 19:19-20, whose text I will quote below:

"Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men and they counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."

These people burned their own books to show how strongly they rejected their prior involvement in the occult (I guess fortune-telling, "sorcery," and the like).

Obviously you could say this church is showing how strongly they reject Islam, but I strongly suspect they aren't former Muslims who are breaking with their Islamic past in the same way the people from the above episode were breaking with their occultic past.  Jones is doing this to show his general-purpose disdain for the Islamic religion.

That is problematic for reasons I will explain below:

Here is a link to a letter from Will Patin, a Christian missionary active in Pakistan, about how the Koran burning will put Christians there in jeopardy--even more so than they are already--and interfere with the spreading of the Gospel, which is already pretty dangerous in Pakistan.

Here is the text of the letter itself, bolded:

As a Christian minister with a very large Christian ministry presence in Pakistan – A ministry with 5 city churches, a ministerial fellowship of over 1,800 pastors and church leaders located throughout every province of Pakistan and a wide following within the nation through Christian pastor and leadership seminars which I conduct regularly; let me unequivocally state -

The burning of Qurans by Pastor Terry Jones and Dove World Outreach, is not only one of most asinine and non-productive, un-Christian-like stunts by any church that claims to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ, but his wrong-headed beliefs are dangerous to all of us on the front lines of Christian outreach to the Muslim World.

We attempt to build trust within the Muslim community and attempt to foster a ‘debate’ of ideas and beliefs; and you may find this surprising, we are successful with such a strategy as Muslims come and attend our open meetings, finding solace in the ‘Good News’ message.

But now, as Pastor Jones and his congregation of Dove World Outreach Church sing “Hallelujah!” while burning Qurans, my staff of 30 Christian Pakistani workers spread across the nation, as well as every Christian in Pakistan are put at greater risk and danger through the proposed actions of Pastor Jones and his church. Instead of building bridges to reach Muslims with the Gospel message, we will now have to travel with armed security and be burdened by heightened threats because of his “carnal actions”.

I will not be grateful to Pastor Jones and his theologically deranged church, as I make a trip to the city of Quetta on the Afghanistan border in October to hold a regional pastor seminar; instead I will be watching my back by the heightened risk posed by this so-called “Defender of the Faith”!

Kind regards,

Will Pantin

Dr. Will Pantin


Great Joy in the City Ministries

Bangalore, India
Also, there are two different verses in the Bible that state Christians should, when possible, live at peace with all men, Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14.  Although the Bible commands us to stand up for the Gospel, what is right, etc. even if it costs us our lives, this act is deliberately obnoxious and unnecessary.  In addition to the jeopardy it puts Christians in the Islamic world, that is another reason to call it sinful.
Not only is this act not Biblical and also puts Christians in the Islamic world at risk, it jeopardizes American soldiers fighting Islamist terrorists and provides a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda.
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, stated that this act will encourage anti-American sentiment abroad and endanger U.S. troops.
Already there have been massive protests in Indonesia, one of the more moderate Islamic nations (they brew their own brand of beer, after all), over the matter.  There have also been protests in Afghanistan, which prove General Petraeus's point.  Osama bin Laden and company think the US is this evil empire that hates Islam and this kind of thing plays directly into his hands.
In my earlier post critical of efforts to stop the Islamic community center--the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," even though it's more akin to a YMCA--I pointed out how this behavior could alienate American Muslims.  American Muslims have, in the past, been very helpful in dealing with the Islamist elements in their midst, especially the attempts to recruit young men of Somali extraction to fight in the Islamist jihad there.  If they conclude that American society is hostile to them, regardless of their efforts to be good Americans, that cooperation could dry up.
(And then I imagine certain people will claim the resulting decline in cooperation by American Muslims showed they were right about Islam being evil and un-American.  To make a Harry Potter analogy, it would be equivalent of the teen James Potter and his friends bullying the teen Severus Snape.  Then, when he joins the Death Eaters, they say this proved they were right about him being evil all along and their treatment of him was justified.  Terrorist groups like to recruit insecure young men and make them feel powerful and bullying someone is likely to make them even more insecure.)
In the same vein as the opposition to the "ground zero mosque," this behavior is counterproductive.

Monday, September 6, 2010

John Ringo and Deidre Knight on Writing

I went to DragonCon pretty much all day Friday through Sunday and spent most of the time at writing panels. Last night, on the way back to the MARTA station where I'd parked after church, I turned around and headed back for the "In The Beginning: What You Need to Know" panel.

The most memorable author present was John Ringo, a military science fiction author who writes for Baen Books, and to a lesser extent Deidre Knight.

Ringo described how he had a 47,000-word first novel that was truly, horrifically bad and will never see the light of day.  He described it as a hybrid of fantasy and cyberpunk and how it did not have consistent tenses, among other problems.

(Apparently his bad first novel was not the infamous Ghost, first in the series The Paladin of Shadows and the origin of the "Oh John Ringo No" Internet meme.  I thought that one was the bad first novel that someone persuaded him to sell, but it turns out Ringo didn't want it published under his own name but Baen himself insisted on taking a look at it first.)

He then described how he wrote A Hymn Before Battle on a yellow notepad while pulling all-nighters as a security guard.  He'd submitted it to Baen, where he was a regular member of the company's internet forum, and made a reference to being in the company's slush pile while debating the "aquatic ape hypothesis" with the late Jim Baen, the founder of the company.

(If you want to know more about that, just google it or check out this well-reviewed book: Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.)

Ringo received a rejection letter and then an e-mail from Baen saying that the manuscript had been lost.  Ringo sent the manuscript back and mentioned that it had already been rejected.  Baen read and line-edited the entire manuscript in 24 hours, fired the reader who'd rejected it, and told Ringo he'd buy it if Ringo made the edits he wanted.  He also wanted the manuscript for the sequel Gust Front, which Ringo had already begun writing.  Ringo sent in the manuscript as it was, which ended in the middle of a battle in the middle of a prepositional phrase.

At this point in the discussion, Knight took over.  She described several "false starts" over the years before writing fan-fiction for the TV program Roswell got her back into writing permanently.  She said it was good practice with plotting and other disciplines and reader feeback encouraged her to write more.  Her later fan-fiction diverged greatly from the original series, to the point that although her protagonists were named "Max" and "Liz," they were radically different from the show's characters (living in Los Angeles, among other things).

I think I've got a bit in common with her.  My first two finished novels are actually alternate-universe Harry Potter fan-fics, The Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince and Lord of the Werewolves, which I co-wrote. 

One reason I was able to finish those while my original novels languished is because I had a horde of readers wanting updates soon.  Thanks to my writing group and the need to produce chapters for each meeting, I might be able to finish my post-apocalyptic steampunk Western Escape from the Wastelands in a similar manner.

But back to the panel...

"What what you like and try to find the market," Ringo advised as the discussion took a different turn.

He said not to dismiss the eBook and small and medium presses.  He said he knows people who make more money with those than with the larger presses because although they sell fewer copies, they make more per book.  He said the iPad will hurt traditional publishing, especially on the distribution side.

Knight described how her first book was sold via a small press and released in digital form before being printed.  She cautioned the writers against self-publishing via Kindle to get 80% of the revenues, since traditional publishers provide line-editing and other services.

Ringo agreed, citing both professional line-editors and cover artists.  He said good eBooks are also hard to find--it's like reading a slush pile.  He predicted that the future of writing will be via "web-scription" services like those provided by Baen.

He also described how distributing content for free can be, in the long run, financially beneficial.  Apparently the first Wheel of Time novel, The Eye of the World, was given away at WaldenBooks (then the biggest bookseller) for free.  The sequel, The Great Hunt, sold massively, as did the many successors.  He said the free distribution of the first book ultimately made the entire series more financially successful than the series would have been ordinarily.

Overall, that was a fun and useful panel to attend.  I guess the fact that my church friends were out of town and thus not available for dinner afterward had a silver lining.