Daily Archives: January 19, 2010

Brief Administrative Note Re: Deleted Comments

This is a general comment, but goes particularly to the person who I recently booted off a thread and subsequently sent their comments to the trash:

As a point of information, when I’ve decided that you’re done with a thread and that your subsequent comments will not show up on the thread, I don’t actually read any of the comments you attempt to post after that point. They just go straight to the trash, unread, at which point I delete them, unread. So writing ten or so follow-up comments, presumably to make some point or other about something, or to communicate your ire to me, or whatever, is the blog equivalent of you talking to wall. No one is listening, least of all me, because I decided you were done talking here. If you have a problem with that, consult the Site Disclaimer and Comment Policy, which should inform you of my response on the subject.

Also, as a general rule, if I’ve deleted your comment, for whatever reason, if you want to attempt to complain about the deletion, the best way to do it is in e-mail, because bitching about having your comment deleted is just boring derailing nonsense, so I’ll just clip that out too. If you send me an e-mail to gripe, I might respond, but if you try to turn a comment thread into a referendum on how you’ve been wronged, I definitely won’t respond, save to snip out the comment and dump you into “trash” queue. Contrary to your apparent opinion, moderation of the site is not a debatable topic, nor do I care what you think of my choice to moderate the site.

The correct response in a comment thread to a deleted message is to either apologize, if you feel my deletion had basis, or to continue your discussion in a less contentious manner, which I’m generally happy to let you do. Either way, deal with it and move on.

Thanks.

Just Arrived, 1/19/10

Let’s see what we’ve got:

* A Stain on the Silence, by Andrew Taylor. Taylor won the 2009 Cartier Diamond Dagger from the UK’s Crime Writer’s Association, which is going to be awesome in an upcoming game of Clue. In this literary thriller, a middle-age fellow discovers a daughter he never had — on the run for murder! And pregnant! It’s always something. Out 2/16 from Hyperion.

* Wild Hunt, by Margaret Ronald. The sequel to Ronald’s debut urban fantasy, Spiral Hunt, which was featured in a Big Idea last year. Wild Hunt will also be the subject of a Big Idea real soon now. Out now, from Eos.

* An ARC of Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts. Dragons! Among us! As shapeshifters! Debut urban fantasy. Out May 2010 from Tor.

* Jesus Freak, by Sara Miles. The founder of San Francisco’s St. Gregory Food Pantry explores faith and her own late-in-life conversion. Out early February from Josey-Bass Books. Miles will also be contributing a Big Idea essay in the near future.

A Small Piece of Advice to Hopeful “Big Idea” Participants

It is:

Query first, and don’t write up a Big Idea piece until/unless you have a confirmed date from me. Why? Because there are going to be times when I say “sorry, no space,” and you’ll have written that essay for nothing. And I’d hate for you to waste your time like that.

So, please query first. Thanks.

The Big Idea: Mark Teppo

Got faith? This question is more complicated than it seems here in our world — and in the world of Mark Teppo’s Codex of Souls series, of which the newly-released Heartland is the second installment, it’s even more complicated than that. Why? Because in Teppo’s world, faith has a quality to it that’s distinctly different than it is in our world — a quality that, at the very least, makes the world of the Codex of Souls a lot more interesting, in a teleological sense. Here’s Teppo to give you the lay of the land.

MARK TEPPO:

It starts with the idea of faith.  One of the underlying conceits in modern thrillers is the occult macguffin–some divinely blessed thingamajig crafted from technology so otherworldly that our ancestors immediately shat themselves in fear when they realized what it was and then scattered it across the known world like Set hiding the evidence after he dismembered the body of his brother, Osiris. Typically, what separates the rag-tag group of heroes from the band of villains is the idea of faith:  one group believes in the power of the thingamajig, one doesn’t.  These secular empiricists, through the right and principled application of their rational minds, triumph over the apocalyptic dementia of faith and belief.

Or do they?  Because the little trick these writers always pull is to tag on an epilogue wherein they show the reader that maybe–just maybe, if you let them take you down an alternate path a little ways–the zealots weren’t crazy.  Maybe there was something to the mystic device they were seeking.  Maybe God does live in the Machine.

Now, there are two ways to read this technique.  The cynical way, which is to say that writers are aware of the preponderance of some manner of religious belief in their readership, and they don’t want to alienate their audience by sticking to the hard and fast definition of a scientifically discernible universe.  In which case, this little nod and wink at the end is to say, “It’s okay; I understand that you need a little mystery, so here, let me give it to you.”  Or, they actually want to hedge their bets.  They want to leave the door open on the idea of faith.  Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing, religious zealotry aside.  There may be more things in Heaven and Earth than our wee brains can discern, and we shouldn’t discount the possibility.

But the trouble with that tiny quibble is that it is a thread that will unravel everything.  If the author, who has just spent several hundred pages discounting the religious and philosophical implications of the occult macguffin, suddenly flashes you the secret hand signal–It’s okay; I’m in on the secret!–where does that leave the heroes?  It makes their rational pragmatism just another crazy dogma, and their victory dance into the sunset is the Fool dancing off the edge of the cliff.  Indiana Jones stands on the steps of a building in Washington, D.C. and says, “Damnit, the government can’t take the Ark and put it in a box; it needs to be studied.”  Then Marion sidles up to him and says, “Hey, sailor, can I buy you a drink?”  Really?  These two just witnessed the power of the Hand of God, and they’re heading off to the nearest bar for a drink?

If you’re going to suggest the world is not as it seems, why be so coy about it?  Why have only a few of your characters believe that something lies beyond the Veil?  If you’re going to hunt for occult artifacts, then why wouldn’t people who believe in the occult be working for Team Heroic as well as Team Nefarious?

Once you go there, the rest is easy.  Magic is afoot.  The Grail, the Spear, the Ark of the Covenant, the Emerald Tablet:  they’re all real.  Alchemy works.  Astrology and tarot are viable means of charting and seeing the future.  Aleister Crowley’s maxim of “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law” becomes the driving principle of how the world works.  Occult knowledge is knowledge of the secret workings of God, and you had better believe that everyone who is looking for the secrets is going to know how to use them.

This is the basic premise of the Codex of Souls series.  I assume every occult conspiracy theory, every scrap of religious doctrine, every third-world myth, every blood-soaked grimoire, and every justification for sacrificing babies and cute animals is true.  The entire occult history of the human race is up for grabs, and the rest is a matter of finding patterns in that world of crazy.  You know what? After a while, you start seeing some.

The first two are called Lightbreaker and Heartland, and they’re about faith.  Our hero needs to discover how to have faith in himself, because in a world where everything is true (and nothing is permitted, says the Old Man in the Mountain), believing in yourself is the first step toward discovering some real truth.  If, like the Gnostics attest, you can’t trust the Demiurge, then who can you trust?

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Heartland: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Visit the Codex of Souls web site, which includes the short story “Wolves, in Darkness,” taking place in the CoS universe. Visit Teppo’s LiveJournal.