The Praying Man

Gurara Waterfalls

Gurara Waterfalls © Samson Rohan Google Maps – 2017

“Daddy, who’s that man by the river? He looks strange.”

“Just some of the local color, Janet. Don’t pay attention to him. They all beg.”

“George, stop being racist. We’re here at Gurara Falls for a vacation. Nigeria is his country, not yours.”

George Dukes rolled his eyes. Thousands of miles from home and she was still nagging. He looked back and saw a couple walking toward the native. Probably felt sorry for him, the saps.

Buba the Hunter continued praying to his gods in this strange place as the two outsiders approached, a man and woman. The woman was speaking to him, but used the language so oddly.

“Please, you must come with us. You don’t belong here. We can take you home.”

He looked up. For two days, he had prayed to Gura and Rara for a way back to his village. Were these people their emissaries?

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image and location as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Gurara Waterfalls in Nigeria. I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered the falls were thought to have been discovered in 1745 by a Gwari hunter named Buba. The falls and river are believed to have been named after the two deities Gura and Rara.

In keeping with my recent science fiction stories The Devil from the Fire and Blood Libel, I decided to dislocate Buba in time, though not in space.

Today, the falls are a tourist attraction complete with a resort boasting a recreation center and seven-star hotel. I populated that hotel with modern “ugly American” tourists, but also with physicist Everett Carson and his companion, historian and linguist Aiyana Zheutlin (originally a character from my “Time Traders” books, written as a homage to the works of Andre Norton [the late Alice Norton]). They’ve come to take Buba to the phenomenon (out of public view in this wee tale) and back home.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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Resistance

resistance

Actor Christian Bale as John Connor in the 2009 film “Terminator Salvation.”

The words blurred into one another, every yellowed page like the one before. Joe Kelley had been confined in the Detention Center for nearly a week and compelled to read and view all manner of anti-Christian and progressive texts and films in an effort to “correct” his views on the existence of God and particularly the God of the Bible.

He was surprised they hadn’t simply arrested him, beaten a confession out of him (or “disappeared” him like so many of his friends), and then sentenced him to a long prison term. Then he realized that with his son Gabe being a high-ranking official on the local Public Education Council, the Progressive Enforcement (PE) Police didn’t want to embarrass him by having the news media report that his Dad had been convicted of seditious religious beliefs.

At first, his Counselor Mx Torres considered “converting” him to a state-approved inclusive Christian church, but when the psychological test results came back, the recommendation was to completely reprogram him to deny all faith in Christ.

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The Light is Alive

55 Cancri e

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“You can’t be serious.” Marshall Arnold was the Surface Team Lead for the Tyche expedition and his Science Officer Bertha Rose had just told him something impossible.

“I would have missed it if I hadn’t compared my readings to Marco’s stellar observations.”

“But what made you take readings of dying Tiagos?”

“Blame Gracie. She has this weird intuition and made a connection between the Tiago religion and death rituals with their screwy biology.”

“So wait a minute, Bertha. Gracie…”

“Call her over and ask her, Marshall.”

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The Last Festival

desert crossing

Found at a travel blog

“…I’m trying to erase you from my mind …you’re my religion and my belief…”

This wasn’t Yunin Obia’s first pilgrimage to the Holy City for the Festival of Qet but it would be her last. Every devotee of the God Slaz was required to travel to the great city of Shilarbor once every year for the Qet when Barkon’s orbit brought the planet closest to its sun. Motorized ground or air transport was allowed but it was considered a greater act of piety to make the journey on foot.

Yunin was healthy and relatively young and so encased in her skinsuit with the required possessions for the festival strapped across her back, she trudged across the soft sand from dusk until several hours after dawn each day stopping when it became too hot to go on. Then she slept in her insulated body tent until the desert permitted her once again move forward.

Occasionally, she would see another pilgrim in the distance. Sometimes they travelled in groups of three or four, but again, the greatly pious made the trip on foot and alone. Yunin had chosen an approach that was distant from aircraft flight paths and vehicle roads to accentuate her solitude. It also made it possible to hear the God Slaz’s voice a little sooner. She wanted to see if He knew what she was planning.

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One Cold Saturday Morning

log sofa

© Fandango

He had to make a few trips from the house to the rough-hewn log bench his son had carved out for him. He took first his books and reference notes, then a pillow and warm blanket, and finally his large, steaming coffee mug.

He made himself comfortable in the center seat with his mug and books on the left, then took a sip of his coffee savoring the flavor.

Then he picked up his Chumash. He always studied alone both because he enjoyed solitude and because he had few if any like-minded companions. The older man found a greater appreciation of God sitting on the wood, beneath the trees and sky, feeling the chill of a winter’s morning. The world had grown cold, like the season, and only at home could he be free to acknowledge a Creator greater than humanity.

He opened the Chumash to where he left the bookmark and began. “Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines…”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 23, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

The “log sofa” actually looks pretty physically uncomfortable, particularly in winter, but it also looked “emotionally” comfortable.

When the weather is nice, on Saturday mornings, I take my Chumash, Tanakh, Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, and perhaps my NASB Bible and various study resources out onto the front porch to read and study. A cup of coffee also goes with me.

I don’t have log furniture, but I do have a wicker sofa and table I can use. It’s pleasant and warm in the morning sunshine.

Although my wife (who is Jewish) calls me a Christian, I study the Bible using the traditional annual Torah cycle and tend to interpret even what most people call the “New Testament” in a more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel perspective rather than what is preached in most churches every Sunday (which is just one of the many reasons I don’t attend formal worship services).

The Torah reading for this coming Shabbat is Beshalach from which I quoted the first sentence as found at BibleGateway.com (I used the NASB translation because the Stone Edition Chumash is not online).

My understanding is that Torah or Bible study is considered in Judaism as a form of worship and drawing nearer to God, so some of my Holiest moments occur on my front porch in the morning sunshine. I decided to create this sort of experience for my character as well, particularly given a world that indeed (my opinion) has gone cold to morality, decency, and devotion to the Almighty.

For those of you who have a different religious preference or who have none at all, what I’m presenting here is a personal perspective. I am not preaching or expecting to “evangelize” in any way. In the spirit of “inclusiveness,” if you don’t agree with my viewpoints, please allow me have them nonetheless, for as much evil as the mainstream media has blamed “religion” for, people of faith have also done a great deal of good. I’m not all that good, but having faith isn’t about being perfect. It’s about striving to become a better person toward other people by drawing closer to God.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Wairua

christchurch

© Steve Withers – Google Maps

The block in downtown Christchurch was being demolished. The buildings around the public parking lot had been abandoned for a decade. Anyone who wanted, could indulge themselves with cans of spray paint. Some graffiti was elementary, other projects were expertly artistic. A shame the heavy equipment would destroy the good with the bad.

The indigenous Māori people thrived in New Zealand until the arrival of Europeans. To this day, they suffer the fate of indigenous populations all over the world.

It looked like a clown’s face, a fearsome one. Wairua or spirit was from the old Polynesian beliefs, and the art gave it a form with which to act. Wairua would turn the Māori away from Presbyterian, Mormon, and Islam faiths and back to the old ways. Wairua would teach them tapu, noa, and mana again, to preserve who they were, who they are, who they will be one day.

I wrote this in response to J. Hardy Carroll’s What Pegman Saw photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo above, taken from Google Maps, as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

I’m playing fast and loose with the history of Christchurch and of the Māori people, so don’t look too closely for reality or historic accuracy.

I considered making the spirit vengeful, but as I recall, I already wrote a story about that. Instead, I decided to incite a revival among the Māori people, a return to their original spiritual beliefs, a reunification with who they were before the Europeans arrived. So many indigenous people all over the world have had their cultures, their languages, their spiritual beliefs destroyed by colonizers. I thought it was time some of them got all that back, at least in fiction.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

A Small Commentary on Politics, Religion, and Science Fiction

controversy

What discussing religion online is like sometimes

The other day I came across a “rant” written last year by Arthur Chu at Salon.com called Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards) which caused me to think (well, I think anyway, but this article initiated a specific set of thoughts).

While I can see how the Hugo awards may not generally represent the entire body of science fiction readers in the world (and I suspect many or most awards are manipulated one way or the other), if I’m reading Chu correctly, he seems to think that all science fiction (and maybe all products of the entire entertainment industry) should and must represent a socially and politically liberal world view.

If that’s true, then my response is “why?”.

Here’s the most relevant statement Chu made:

I will point out that if you look at the Hugo Awards’ slate for this year you’ll see a record-breaking six nominations for John C. Wright, including three out of five of the best novella nominations being stories written by Wright.

Wright, a man so essential to the state of science fiction in 2015 that he doesn’t have a single bestseller, he’s signed with a micro-publisher based in Finland with a total of eight authors on its roster, and I’m the only person I know in real life who’s heard of him. Mainly because I hate-follow his incredible rants about how everything from the Syfy Network to “The Legend of Korra” is too gay for him to tolerate.

I’ve never met Wright. I’ve never even exchanged emails with him. I think I left a comment on one of his blog posts once, but he never responded.

The impression I get from reading or watching most fiction is that the creators of these works seem to have the idea that their version of the world, which espouses a progressive ideology, represents the world as it really is (or should be).

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The Evolution of Religious Themes in My Fiction

controversy

What discussing religion online is like sometimes

I mentioned in the comments section of The Good Robot that I’m not so much writing religious science fiction as writing science fiction with certain religious and spiritual elements. The distinction is important. Except for some noteworthy exceptions, religious science fiction, such as Christian science fiction or Jewish science fiction, will appeal to only a limited audience.

Of course, the same can be said of science fiction in general, but the number of people who will read the latter is probably much larger than those who would read the former.

That said, sources such as Amazon and Wikipedia highlight a great number of science fiction stories that leverage religious themes, but these are sometimes fictional religions rather than ones we are aware of in our world, or very fictionalized versions of religions we’re familiar with in our lives.

I came across an interview with Orson Scott Card at Writing-World.com that reminded me that in most fiction, including science fiction, religious people and religion (specifically Christianity and Judaism) are depicted in unfavorable ways.

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