“Christian” is a Worldview, not a Genre

By Nathan On August 25th, 2016 | 6 views

U2. Believe it or not, they’re a Christian band.

The beauty of WordPress is I can schedule a blog to be automatically posted, which is what I did with this one. I actually wrote it a few days ago. Why did I do this? Because I’m in the middle of the “fortnight from Hell” at my day job. (Long story).

Anyway, I grew up in a Christian home, so I’m well-versed in the Christian subculture. Honestly, the older I’ve gotten, the more annoyed I am with it. Not so much that I’ve rejected my faith (I think Christian faith and Christian culture are two completely different things and may as well be mutually exclusive), but enough to see how they usually don’t match up.

I’m going to focus only on one particular facet today: the idea that “Christian” is a genre.

This idea was initially sparked a year or so ago when I was talking with a friend on the phone who said she didn’t want to read my books because they weren’t “Christian enough.” As in, they wouldn’t fit into the Christian “genre” as defined by booksellers.

Christians, despite being commanded to go into the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20), have for many years seemed intent on isolating themselves from the rest of the world and creating their own little culture complete with its own brand of entertainment. It goes all the way back to 1970s with the advent of “contemporary Christian music” thanks to the Jesus Movement. This has since expanded in other forms of media. Most recently, “faith-based films” such as God’s Not Dead have been popular the last few years.

While I have issues with the often poor artistic merits of many of these media (that’s a blog for another day), my biggest gripes with the so-called “Christian genre” are the mindsets it creates. First, it makes Christian culture very insular. I’ve known many fellow believers who refused to consume any media that wasn’t obviously Christian. In other words, listening to Carman was fine, but not Run-D.M.C. If it wasn’t didactic about faith, it was “too secular.” Some of it was even erroneously seen as satanic. These were things to be shielded against, especially when it came to kids (it’s always about the children, isn’t it?). So, new media was created by Christians for Christians. Considering the aforementioned often poor quality of their substitutes, it’s no wonder many Christians in the last 30-40 years grew up with bad senses of what makes good art. (Not to mention Christian creators were making obvious rip-offs of “secular” entertainment long before the Asylum. Anyone else remember the Spine Chillers Mysteries books?). It created an “us vs. them” mentality. It was about being “safe” and avoiding risky ideas that might challenge one’s faith.

Second, as I’ve already hinted at, it made “Christian” into a genre. Demon Hunter wasn’t just a metal band; they were a “Christian” metal band. (For the record, Demon Hunter is a genuinely great band). Like any genre, this automatically establishes the intended audience and the content (which, as I’ve noted, was often didactic and subpar). The problem is that “Christian” shouldn’t be a genre. It should be a philosophy, a worldview. Do atheists and other religions turn their beliefs into genres for the sake of marketing? For the most part, no. (Although some may do so in response to “Christian” stuff or as satire). In the history of literature, Christian authors didn’t concern themselves with whether their stories fit nicely into a “Christian genre”; they just told their stories. Think about how classics like Moby-Dick by Herman Melville or Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky or The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (did you really think I’d get through this without mentioning my all-time favorite book?) if they were published in today’s environment in Christian publishing. I have a feeling they’d either be rejected by Christian publishers or watered down in the editing process.

“Christian,” as I’ve said, is a worldview, not a genre. It’s something that, when done correctly, flows naturally into a creator’s work because it’s a part of him. Art is an expression of its creator, so it’s impossible for him to not imbue it with how he sees the world. But, as I’ve said for years, story must be king. The moment someone starts sermonizing in his story, whether it’s about religion or environmentalism or whatever, it brings the story down. The storyteller will lose his audience. Heck, even kids will see through that.

Readers and critics will discuss themes and ideas when dissecting a story, but they usually don’t do something like label Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game “Mormon fiction.” Those elements are part of that book because they’re part of Card. To tell his story honestly, he had to write it that way. He wasn’t trying to proselytize anyone. I know that to my fellow Christian creators that might sound crazy, even sacrilegious, but I believe your witness can be helped by not being didactic with your stories.

I’ve been listening to U2’s Greatest Hits albums while writing this blog. U2 is a Christian band (specifically, they’re Irish Catholic). Even a casual listen to their music makes that obvious. They don’t hide or flaunt that. They make their music and let it impact people. Jesus said you can know someone by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). That fruit doesn’t need to have “Apple” written on it for people to know what it is.

If you’d like to hear more about this, I highly recommend listening to these episodes of the Derailed Trains of Thought podcast hosted by my friends Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal: Episode 57: And the Moral of the Story is… and Episode 64: Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink.

What are your thoughts on this? Should “Christian” be a genre unto itself? Why or why not?

But I Digress…, Episode 39: Interviews with ‘Missing Pieces’ 2016 Authors

By Nathan On August 23rd, 2016 | 7 views

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

Two episodes in one week? What madness is this?!

Anyway, my annual Gen-Con video is an actual, episode of my regular show. I interviewed many of the authors who contributed to the “Missing Pieces” anthology, which is a collection of short stories by authors who sell books at Authors Avenue at Gen-Con.

You can buy the anthology at www.DragonRoots.net or on Amazon.

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

But I Digress…, Episode 38: Suicide Squad vs. Sinister Squad

By Nathan On August 16th, 2016 | 21 views

 

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

“I’m not gonna kill ya,” says DC Comics and Warner Bros. “I’m just gonna hurt ya…really, really bad.”

My friends Sergio and Luke join me to review the newest DCEU film, Suicide Squad. We watched it as part of a “Squad Double Feature”–we watched the Asylum’s “mockbuster” Sinister Squad first. All three of us had choice words about both movies.

What’d you think of Suicide Squad (or Sinister Squad)?

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

NEW BOOK – ‘The Worlds of Nathan Marchand’

By Nathan On August 11th, 2016 | 73 views
The cover that CreateSpace kept refusing to approve.

The cover that CreateSpace kept refusing to approve.

You read that right—the title of my new book is the same as my website. (I guess I’m just that pretentious. :P)

The familiarity doesn’t end there, though. This book is a collection of “unpublished” short stories spanning my entire career. I put quotation marks on “unpublished” (I did it again!) because many of these stories have already been posted here on my website. I learned at a Gen-Con writing seminar that stories posted on an author’s website are considered published. I may have tom rethink how often I post stories on here, then.

Regardless, I wanted to have this book finished in time for Gen-Con last week, but CreateSpace, the website I use for my self-published stuff, kept being nitpicky about the cover. It took me too long to make it happy. (I still had great sales at Gen-Con, though).

What’s the theme of this collection? I’ll let the back cover copy explain:

From the mind that brought you
Pandora’s Box & Ninjas and Talking Trees
comes…a little bit of everything.

  • An amnesiac cybernetic vigilante confronting the man he once called “comrade”—after he was murdered by him.
  • A pro-wrestler accosted in the ring by a mysterious hooded figure the night before his brother takes him to court.
  • A living gargoyle who protects a young wayward woman from her persecutors—and a demon.
  • Santa Claus’ race with a flying saucer on Christmas Eve.
  • A young man flying a hang glider through a ruined city to save his stranded twin siblings from a giant monster believed to be an angry god.

You’ll find these and other fantastical things in this, the first short story collection from Nathan Marchand. This anthology spans the vast breadth of the universe and genre. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll do both again. Herein you’ll find adventure, drama, tragedy, and…ninjas (because they make everything better).

Prepare to enter…

The Worlds of Nathan Marchand

That pretty much says it all.

Barring any more unforeseen hiccups, the book will be available on Amazon within the next few days. The eBook should follow soon afterward.

Sidenote: Speaking of eBooks, I’ve been making eBook versions of some of my other books lately. 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom is now available as such. The next will be Ninjas and Talking Trees.

Hacked and Slashed

By Nathan On August 4th, 2016 | 66 views

Here’s my first proper blog in two weeks. If you’ve been following my Facebook page, I said that my website was shut down by my host because it was hacked. It affected not only me, but Nick Hayden’s website, the Derailed Trains of Thought podcast website, and the Children of the Wells website. To make matters worse, this happened when Nick went on vacation and when he went to a youth conference with his church and when all of our domain names came up for renewal! In other words, I was out a lot of money getting all this crap sorted out—and right before Gen-Con to boot. (Speaking of which, I’m writing this blog from the Hyatt Regency, where I’m staying for Gen-Con).

Thankfully, as you can see, my website is up and running again. We’re all still working out some bugs, but everything seems to be fine. We’re considering moving to a new website host, but no decision has been made yet.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks I’ve been having with my writing career of late. GigaGeek Magazine doesn’t update much anymore, Exaimer.com shut down (all of my content there is gone), and I’ve been inactive so long at IPFW (where I want to get a teaching assistanceship to pay for M.A. in English) that I have to re-apply. Even then, there’s no guarantee I’ll get a T.A. position, and I refuse to take out more student loans. The former will require me to find more clients to freelance for. Honestly, I worked with Giga as a means of building my resume and creating something from the ground up; I wasn’t paid for my content. From now on, I’m not doing that. As a wise (and mad) man once said,

These sorts of things are depressing. I knew the writer’s life would be hard—I was warned of that in college—but I still expected I’d be doing better than this. This will require that I reassess what I’m doing and how I do it. I started the year feeling like God was giving me a positive vision for 2016. Stuff like this has made me question that. But the year is not over. While last year’s Gen-Con was so good, I’m unsure this year’s show will live up to it, I’ve still had decent sales today (the first day). Once I recover from this harrowing but exuberating weekend, I’m going to make new strategies for how to go about my writing. Don’t worry: I’ll still keep publishing books (I have a few forthcoming). However, if there’s one thing I can say for sure will happen before 2017, it’ll be change. That’s been the common theme I’ve gotten from most of my friends when I talk to them about this stuff. I think God is trying to tell me something. Perhaps He ripping the “training wheels” off, so to speak, so I can progress to a new level in my life and career.

I’m confident I can get more work as a writer. After all…

I made this meme myself! :)

I made this meme myself! 🙂

But I Digress…, Episode 37: An Epic ‘Ghostbusters’ 2016 Rant

By Nathan On August 2nd, 2016 | 32 views

(This is my first post in weeks. My host site was hacked, in case you didn’t know. I’ll blog about it more later this week…assuming I find the time at Gen-Con 2016. wOOt!)

 

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

In the longest episode I’ve produced so far, my friend Sergio Garza and I review the “controversial” new Ghostbusters movie. Well, the bulk of this video is our review. We start off by talking briefly about the original Ghostbusters and then try some Ghostbusters Twinkies. But when we start the review…oh, man! I’ve rarely seen Sergio rage this much. This could’ve been a NERD RAGE! episode.

What’d you think of the new Ghostbusters? Agree or disagree?

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

Confessions of a Story Junkie

By Nathan On July 7th, 2016 | 90 views

I’ve written often on time management for writers and my own struggles with making time for writing. I certainly have the desire to tell my stories, but oftentimes life simply gets in the way. It sucks, but it’s true.

Except when it isn’t.

I should clarify: sometimes I don’t make time to write not because of circumstances beyond my control, but because I choose not to write. How’s that?

Besides being a seemingly rare extroverted writer, I’m a self-described “story junkie.” As in I go out of my way to enjoy as many stories as I can. Most of my hobbies—reading, gaming, movie watching, photography, among others—revolve around storytelling (or at least creativity). I eat that stuff up. You might even say I’m a borderline addict. I tend to go through phases. Right now I’m trying to read the pile of comic books next to my bed. Other times I’ll play story-driven video games or read a lot of books. Whatever phase I’m in, I usually inject something else amidst all that (like a trip to the movies to see the latest blockbuster).

The trouble is I get so caught up with other stories that I neglect my own. Consumption is easier than creation. An old adage (erroneously attributed to Dorothy Parker, apparently) says, “Writers don’t like writing—they like having written.” In other words, writing is hard work. Authors may enjoy it, but they much prefer finishing a project than being in the middle of one. Sometimes it’s a chore to grind out 1,000 words or figure out what your heroine will/should say next. I say all that to say that it’s a common trap for writers to procrastinate because they would rather go enjoy someone else’s completed story (or at least an analysis of a story) than work on their own. “Write another scene for my Great American Novel? Maybe after I binge watch a few episodes of Clone Wars on Netflix.”

This is a trap I often fall into. I’m so desperate to get my fix of story, I procrastinate on whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes I even the excuse that whatever story I’m consuming will somehow help with whatever project I’m writing (how a Godzilla movie relates to Children of the Wells, I don’t know. 😛 ). In reality, though, it’s just me making an excuse to not to the hard work of writing. This is why I’ve had to train myself to use my “story fixes” as rewards for accomplishing writing goals. Then I can use those stories as inspiration.

It’s not always easy, trust me. After a long day at my day job (a part-time job that’s been giving me full-time hours lately, making time management even harder), I don’t always want to write. I’ll just want to relax with a good book or a new video game. But as Jack London famously said,

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Are you a “story junkie”? Does it distract you from your work? How do you deal with it?

It’ll Be Fantasticon!

By Nathan On July 5th, 2016 | 106 views

I’ve added another signing to my itinerary, True Believers. In fact, I just bought the table a few minutes ago as I write this. For the first time, I will be attending a local convention as a vendor. In this case, it’s Fantasticon 2016 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the Grand Wayne Center October 29-30.

I won’t be the only noteworthy person there, though. My friend and fellow Children of the Wells creator Nick Hayden will be joining me at the same table. We’ll be selling and signing our individual books and, obviously, some CotW collections. However, my brother Jarod, who has done some great illustrations for my short stories and YouTube show, will be at the table next door selling his artwork. The icing on the cake is if Brian Scherschel and I can get our Godzilla podcast going by then, he may also join us for part of the con to promote that.

This sounds like a recipe for awesome!

According to its website,

Fantasticon is a mid-size show created for true comic book and pop culture collectors and fans. The fans that come to our shows are true collectors that are looking for those rare items for their personal collections. Most leave very satisfied as we pride ourselves on having great dealers and artists at our shows. If you collect it, you will find it at a Fantasticon Show.

Fantasticon is proud to have a presence in multiple cities throughout the mid-west. Currently we are in four different cities in Michigan and Ohio, and expect to expand into Indiana in the near future. We also, are very proud of the fact that our admission price is the lowest of any other comparable shows. And the cost for being an exhibitor or artist at the Fantasticon is far less than any comparable comic cons out there.

In other words, this is a smaller traveling convention. If you’ve never been to a con before, this would be a great one to start with. It’s smaller and more manageable. Don’t be crazy like me and start with something huge like Gen-Con (although I did attend a tiny Star Trek convention in high school in Warsaw, Indiana).

I don’t know who the special guests will be, but at its previous stops the con has featured the likes of Billy Dee Williams (aka Lando Calrissian) and Michael Dorn (aka Worf) as well as some comic artists and writers, among others. In other words, I’ll probably be in good company.

Be there or be square, because it’s gonna be…

 

I’m Starting a Podcast!

By Nathan On June 23rd, 2016 | 142 views
The tentative logo for our podcast.

The tentative logo for our podcast.

Doesn’t this blog’s title say it all?

No? Okay, I’ll explain.

You may recall when I appeared on the 50th episode of Derailed Trains of Thought, the podcast hosted by my friends Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal, that I was featured in several segments. One of those was “Cinema Selections,” a segment that normally featured amateur film historian/critic Brian Scherschel. Since he discussed a Godzilla movie, however, I was invited to join in. While I mostly deferred to Brian since it was his part of the show, we did have a lively talk about the film in question (this one). Tim suggested as he closed the segment that Brian and I should start our own podcast on Godzilla, which I joked would be called “PodZilla.”

That was November 2014. I didn’t think much more about that podcast after that. That is until a few months ago when Brian contacted me and wanted to know if I was still interested in making that a reality. He’d just finished a couple of other projects and was looking to do something new. I told him I was in.

We’ve been meeting almost every week planning things out. I didn’t realize how much work was required to make a good podcast. It’s also because Brian very much wants to make this a high-quality product that people will be interested in listening to. We haven’t had any arguments (yet), but we have had to settle some differences in opinions on how to go about this project. We’ve also been investigating potential copyright/lawsuit issues since Toho, the Japanese studio that produces the Godzilla films, is hypersensitive about protecting its intellectual properties. So far everything looks like it’ll be fine.

PodZillaCast (the name had to change since our first name choices, surprisingly, were already taken) will be a limited series that analyzes and critiques the Godzilla film franchise. It’ll discuss the merits of each film while also putting them into their cultural and historical contexts. Brian and I believe these films are massively underappreciated and underrated by most westerners, and we hope to shed some light on the films that will get more people interested in watching them.

Will we stop after getting through all 30+ Godzilla films? Maybe. I’ve said that if people enjoyed what we’re doing, we’ll turn our attentions to other kaiju (giant monster) films like King Kong or Pacific Rim, but that’ll depend on how our initial project does.

When will the show launch? I’ve no idea. We’re still hammering out some details. I think it should be up and running by the end of the year, I think. So, keep an eye out for us on your podcatcher of choice!

How will this affect my videos? I don’t know that, either. As it is, I’ve been scaling back on how many videos I make, usually limiting myself to one (or two) a month. I simply don’t have the time to make as many. I keep very busy, obviously. “But I Digress…” may go on hiatus. But only maybe.

Anyway, in the mean time…

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Protect Your Writing Time!

By Nathan On June 16th, 2016 | 100 views

I’m once again touching on the subject of time management, but not exactly like I’ve done before. I’ve been reminded in the last few weeks of an important writer’s mantra:

Protect your writing time at all costs.

As writers, our time is valuable. We don’t have more than other people, so we must block out sections of the day (or week or month) to sit at our desk with a keyboard (or typewriter or paper) to do what we love. But, if you’re like me, you have a lot of other things vying for your time. There are chores that need done. Day jobs that must be worked (ugh!). Friends and family who want to spend time with you. It can be overwhelming. It can also be easy to let those other things steal your time, whittling it down until you get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t write any of the 1,000 words you wanted to have completed in your new novel.

Those things, however, are the “good” ones. Writers need to be around people (writers are human, after all), and until they become more successful, they need other jobs to sustain themselves. But trouble comes when other things like social media get in the way. I’m not saying Facebook and Twitter are terrible things that should be avoided, but there comes a point where they become huge time-sucks. You may feel obligated to rummage through 50 notifications and leave 1,000 words-worth of comments on Facebook instead of focusing that energy and time into penning 1,000 words for your current writing project. Trust me, I know.

As Sean Connery said in Finding Forrester, “Writers write.” That requires time. In this (over)busy society we live in, time is even more precious. Writers can’t afford to let it be stolen unnecessarily. It is a treasure hidden in a castle and there are barbarians at the gate seeking to steal it. We writers must stand our ground. We have to set boundaries and, if needed, quote Captain Picard, who said, “This far! No farther!” when something infringes on our writing time. Otherwise, we will miss a deadline and/or regret that we didn’t get anything done.

How can you go about this? I think it depends on your particular personality and situation. If social media is an issue, consider doing a “detox,” i.e. fast from it for a time. If your hobbies are taking you away, discipline yourself to use them as a reward for completing your writing goal. For example, I try not to play video games until I’ve finished working or completed a task. Heck, a friend told me about a couple of apps one can get on a smartphone that turn goal setting into an RPG. I believe they’re called LifeRPG and EpicWin. Those might be great tools for you.

I started this blog by saying writers have to defend their writing time. I ended with talk of role-playing games. Perhaps it’s time for you to “level up” and protect that treasure!