On Shameless Self-Promotion

By Nathan On April 28th, 2016 | 80 views

This may or not not be an artist’s depiction of one of my book signings. :P

I’ve made it no secret no secret that I’m a shameless self-promoter. In fact, it could be argued that I sometimes flaunt it. However, this week I had two interesting thoughts related to that this week. Well, more like one thought and one realization.

First, my self-promotion got me in a bit of trouble. I shared my latest blog in a Facebook group I’m in, and not one but two admins messaged me after deleting my post telling me not to do that since the group had a rule against self-promotion posts (because otherwise the members would be bombarding the group with them). It wasn’t the first time this had happened. Admittedly, it was kinda my fault since I’d forgotten about that rule.

One admin asked me why I promoted myself. “I’m a writer,” I replied. “It’s what I do.” She said she wrote haikus but didn’t go around saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” I had to fight the urge to start an argument.

“Why?” you ask. Because the difference between me and this admin is—at the risk of sounding rude—I’m a professional and she’s a hobbyist (as far as I know). I don’t know if she has a blog where she posts her haikus, but if she’s okay with only a few people reading her stuff, that’s fine. I, on the other hand, want to grow an audience because writing is my trade and vocation. If I am to be (more) successful, I must get people to read my stuff. I figured that since I’d built a community in this Facebook group, that’d be a great place to generate interest. Apparently not. I understand why they have the rule, but I didn’t like the attitude I was getting from the admin. However, I can forgive it because she may not understand where I’m coming from. I know promotion can come across as arrogant—just look at Donald Trump (yes, I went there)—but it’s necessary in my line of work. If you have the right attitude, though, it can work. It may seem paradoxical that self-promotion and humility can go together, but I do believe it’s possible.

Ironically, I learned that even I have limits on my self-promotion, which brings me to my second thought. I realized that when I’m trying to get people interested in books (or anything I make/do), I’m filled with passionate adamancy. I’m a one-man hype machine. But when people come back to me and say they loved my stuff, I almost want to refuse their praise. But…I have friends who are more talented and/or successful than me! I think.

Yeah, I’m weird.

I’m not 100-percent sure why I think like this. It might be because I feel like I’m the lesser of my peers. I’m in awe of their talent and think they’re more deserving of people’s attention and adoration. Or I think that if I was as talented and/or savvy as my more successful peers, then I’d deserve the praise. In other words, I see a disconnection. Does that make sense?

What do you think, True Believers? Do you have similar struggles? How do you deal with these thoughts?

An Open Letter to Nathan Alberson

By Nathan On April 26th, 2016 | 229 views

Dear Mr. Alberson,

Hi. My name is Nathan Marchand, and I’m a freelance writer/author. You don’t know me, but I shared your recent blog post “An Open Letter to Rey from Star Wars” on my professional Facebook page, and it’s become one of the most shared things I’ve ever posted. Sadly, neither it nor you were getting much love. Heck, one or two people erroneously thought I had written it because we share the same first name. (Guilty by name association. Gah!)

When I first read your article, it did make me stop and think. I, too, am not fond of militant neo-feminism (let’s call it “misandry”) and its effects on modern culture. But after seeing the reactions to your article and discussing it with people, I’ve concluded that, honestly, you’re full of crap.

Your post is full of so much misinformation and misunderstanding, I’m not sure where to start. Perhaps I’ll start with your so-called “biblical evidence” since I’m also a Christian.

You cite three verses—Isaiah 19:16, Jeremiah 51:30, and Nahum 3:13—that describe the armies of nations being judged by God as “becoming like women” when facing His wrath. You cite these and 1 Peter 3:7 as evidence of how God designed women as vulnerable creatures. (Ironically, the now more politically correct rendition of the New International Version [NIV] uses the word “weaklings.”)

First, these passages aren’t meant to denote gender roles. In the ancient world, women usually didn’t fight in the army. They weren’t allowed. Culturally speaking, that was a role for men. In such an environment, they didn’t receive training and/or upbringing that made them into fighters. So, if they were to be accosted by enemy warriors, they should shrink back in fear. But that would be true of men who didn’t receive the same training. You’ve missed the point of these passages. 1 Peter 3:7 describes women as “the weaker partner,” which is talking about physical strength. Yes, generally speaking, men are physically larger and stronger than women. In the ancient world, this was why men did the fighting.But at the same time, it doesn’t mean women are helpless.

An artist’s rendering of Deborah from Judges 4-5.

Case in point: you neglect whole Bible stories that feature women being directed by God to take on traditionally masculine roles. Remember Deborah from Judges 4-5? She became the Judge (i.e. leader) of Israel. She liberated her people from King Jabin.

Jael killing Sisera in Judges 4. Art by Felice Ficherelli, 17th century.

Yes, she had Barak as her military commander, but he still deferred to her. It was her who spurred him on to victory. Despite his prowess, he was hesitant to fight. In other words, he was the one acting “like women,” as the verses you cited would say. But Judges 4 features another heroic woman: Jael. Deborah prophesied that Sisera, the enemy commander, would be delivered into the hands of a woman, but it wasn’t her. Jael brought final victory to Israel by driving a tent peg into Sisera’s skull.

You might argue they’re the exceptions to the rule, but the fact remains that these women showed that God is more than willing to use women is traditionally masculine roles if no men will step up to the plate. To paraphrase the Other from Marvel’s The Avengers, “They are not the cowering wretches” you seem to think they are. “I could quote more scriptures about women being vulnerable in ways that men aren’t,” you condescendingly wrote. “I’m not going to bother doing that because you ladies are all capable of reading your Bibles.” Well, I could say the same when it comes to biblical examples of strong women doing exactly what Deborah and Jael did, too. But I know you’re capable of reading your Bible, right?

Which brings me to this point: women, especially in the modern world, have had to learn to take care of themselves. Not because they’re raging feminists who think they don’t need men, but because they have to. They’re single and don’t have a man to protect them. They might live in a dangerous neighborhood. So, they go learn martial arts and/or self-defense. Most hope this is a temporary situation, but even if they do get married, their husbands can’t be with them 24/7 to make sure they’re safe. A married woman could be mugged while walking home from work. What should she do then? Nothing because it means she’s violated her so-called “biblical gender role”? Absolutely not!

Speaking of martial arts, you seem to think that fighting is all about strength. It isn’t. As this video shows, it’s also about speed and technique. Martial arts like judo and jujitsu teach practitioners to use the power of their opponents against them. This is why women learn this and similar martial arts to defend themselves (read this article for more). They don’t require practitioners to be stronger than their opponents. These could be used by small men, too, by the way.

You seem to think that “action heroines” started with Ellen Ripley in the original Alien. This shows a gross ignorance of literature. Perhaps it started in pop culture with her, but female warriors date all the way back to ancient mythology. Ever heard of the Amazons? They’re just one of many examples dating back millennia. Need I also bring up Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia and Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings, both of which were written by devout Christians (C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, respectively)? If I had daughters, I’d want them to look up to fictional heroines like that. (Heck, I’ve considered naming a daughter Eowyn for that reason!)

You note that many of these action heroines fall back into their “traditional”/”biblical” roles as mothers because it’s their God-given nature. You cite Ripley defending Newt like a mother in Aliens and Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron regretting that she was forcibly sterilized as examples. You bring them up like they’re proof that something was violated. I don’t think so. There are countless examples in nature of mothers violently defending their young (ever try to anger a mother bear? You’ll regret it). Human females will also fight to defend their children. The fact that childbearing is biologically wired into them is an undeniable part of their identity, but it isn’t their entire identity.

But this happens with male characters, too. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings isn’t just a rugged warrior—he’s also a tender lover. That seems to go counter to hyper-masculine heroes like Rambo. Some might even call it feminine.

You want to argue with the great C.S. Lewis about creating an action heroine?

Witch King: “No man can slay me!” Eowyn: “I am no man! You look upon a woman!” ::stab::

You wrote, “[Men] certainly don’t feel very inspired to fight for a woman trying her best to be just like us. She’s worth dying for used to mean something. If there’s nothing precious or exalted about women, why should men bother?” This is difficult for me to address because I have known women who fit this description. I even went on a date with one. I don’t think I’d have described that girl as “trying to be just like a man,” but she was a lady pastor who knew martial arts. Her position, biblical knowledge, and self-defense skills were intimidating because she seemed so self-sufficient, I didn’t know what I could offer her. She seemed to have all the major bases covered. I’m not saying I have to be smarter, stronger, and/or more capable at everything than a wife, but I do want to feel like what we offer each other is equal. So, in other words, I can see where you’re coming from, but I think you take it too far. If anything, it seems like an expression of self-deprecation and self-loathing, which is sad and kind of pathetic, to be honest. I don’t know if you’re married, but if you aren’t, I think I know why. (I hate to make personal comments like that because I despise ad hominems).

Are the heroines you speak of influenced by misandry (or militant feminism)? Possibly. Some have certainly been claimed by neo-feminism. However, all good stories are written in such a way that individual readers/viewers can interpret the characters through their own lenses. I don’t see Rey or Ripley or Black Widow as feminist icons that declare, “I am woman! Hear me roar for I hate men and don’t need them!” Rey is young girl trying to survive alone on a harsh desert planet. Ripley is a space trucker who’s forced to defend herself against a hideous monster. Black Widow is a secret agent trying to recover her humanity after it was stripped away from her. Those are universal human struggles. The fact that they’re women is immaterial. There are many, many examples of the same sorts of stories featuring male characters.

I could probably say more, but this blog has already gone long, and I’ve spent way more time writing it when I should writing my next short story or novel.

PandorasBox04

I bet you’d *love* my first novel!

(Speaking of which, Mr. Alberson, I should send you my first book, Pandora’s Box. It’d make your head explode because it features a tomboyish, redheaded, butt-kicking but still feminine heroine).

If you read this, thanks. I hope it gives you some things to think about.

Your Pal,

(The Original) Nate

Falling Through the Cracks

By Nathan On April 12th, 2016 | 80 views

Get it? :P

I’ve written many times before about time management and how I tend to take on more projects than I possibly could. Well, this week, that bit me in the butt—hard. Remember how I was supposed to have a book signing at the North Webster Public Library Monday?

I completely forgot about it.

You read that right. I didn’t even show up at my own book signing. That’s never happened before. I’m the kind of person who keeps his commitments. I feel terrible if I don’t. I don’t like letting people down. Yet despite seeing promotions for my signing and even blogging about it, it completely slipped my mind. Since I was scheduled to work at my day job, I couldn’t even show up late. I spent the next 24 hours beating myself up over it until I talked with the librarians this afternoon and found out all is well. I’ve been rescheduled for June 6 from 3:30pm-6:30pm.

Me yesterday when I got the call from the library.

I had no excuse or justification for forgetting it. The problem is I’ve had a hundred other things on my mind, from writing/creative projects to family concerns to a ballroom dance showcase this weekend, and everything in between. Something was bound to get lost in the shuffle, to fall through the cracks. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it was never something this major. It was usually just something like forgetting to blog (I’ve apologized many a time for that) or neglecting my writing time (a greater crime for writers). Never have I neglected an entire event centered on me that was promoted for several weeks, if not longer, beforehand. My only solace is the library is too nice to make me wear the proverbial bag of shame over my head whenever I’m there.

At the height of my metaphorical self-flagellation over this, I told myself I should just cut out everything that isn’t work or writing from my life to avoid more gaffs like this. Now that I’m in my right mind, I don’t think I’ll go that far. I’ll certainly put some thought into cutting back on some things, though. More importantly, I’m going to be smarter about remembering my own schedule. Put it on my calendar or in my iPhone as a reminder.

Or marry a secretary. 😛

The point is I can’t afford to make a mistake like this again. It was unprofessional and irresponsible. At least it only happened for relatively small event. If I forget Gen-Con….

So, be it known that future events will not sneak up on me like one of Master Heeyah’s ninjas. 😛

But I Digress…, Episode 35: A Review of ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

By Nathan On March 31st, 2016 | 57 views

“But I Digress…”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand

“And there came a day unlike any other”–

Oops. Wrong company and franchise. 😛

Anyway, in this episode I review DC’s much-hyped Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m not alone. I’m joined once again by my buddy Sergio. Guess which one of us liked the movie and which of us didn’t.

(By the way, Sergio’s awful couch makes skinny people look fat and fat people look…fatter). 😜

Please subscribe, comment, and share! Thanks!

My text review of the movie.

UPCOMING BOOK SIGNINGS: Gen-Con 2016 and National Library Week

By Nathan On March 24th, 2016 | 125 views

You get two posts today, True Believers! A new story and an announcement.

I currently have two book signings scheduled for 2016 (more will probably be on the way). The first will be at the North Webster Community Public Library in North Webster, Indiana. It’ll be held April 11 3:30pm-6:30pm. It’s part of their celebration of National Library Week, which starts that day. I’ll have most, if not all, of my books with me, but I’ll be focusing on my newest ones, Ninjas and Talking Trees and 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. You can find out more on the library’s website.

The big one as usual, though, is Gen-Con. The “best four days in gaming” will be held at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium August 4-7 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’ll be in Authors’ Avenue in the vendor’s hall, but you’ll probably also see me attending events and enjoying the con. I’ll hopefully have added one or two more titles to the long list of books I’ll be selling there. I can’t wait to see all my Gen-Con friends! You can find out more about the event on its website.

When I have other signings scheduled, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Resolution

By Nathan On March 24th, 2016 | 108 views

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to “The Christmas Dance,” a story I wrote and posted back in December. Like that story, this one was inspired by a writing prompt from one of my writers’ group, which was to write a sequel story. I enjoyed it so much, I think I might do a series of 1,000-1,500 word stories about this young couple celebrating different holidays over the course of a year. Perhaps it’ll end with them getting engaged the next Christmas. ;P Anyway, enjoy this entry!

Resolution
By Nathan Marchand

“Welcome to the New Year’s Eve Bash in Central Park!” booms the emcee over the microphone. The crowd surrounding the stage cheers. I’m always amazed at how the local parks and recreation department finds ways to emulate New York City’s holiday celebrations just because our little city also has a “Central Park.” This year they have a stage with a giant screen showing Dick Clark’s famous giant disco ball.

They’ve outdone themselves, I think. Almost as much as I did last week with Kara.

Kara. My…”almost-girlfriend”?

I hadn’t seen her since she gave me her number at the Christmas dance. The holidays are busy for both of us. But we’d talked on the phone and texted almost every day since. It was her suggestion we come to this event. We were to meet at the park office to rent some ice skates at 8 p.m.

I’d just arrived—at 8:05 p.m.

It’s cold enough for snow, but none falls. I pull my sock cap an inch lower over my frozen ears. The crowd is thick, but I push my way through it wishing I could part this sea of humanity like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. I say, “Excuse me,” more times in the next two minutes than I have in half of my life.

I cut through the last of the throng, emerging triumphant.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Goodwill!”

My heart jumps into my throat when I hear that.

“I swear you’re stalking me, Jimmy,” I retort as I look to my left.

There stands my old rival clad in a three-hundred-dollar coat and with a giggling blonde on his arm. He looks as smug as ever.

“No, I’m just Sir Fate’s little way of putting you in your place.” The blonde giggles more.

“Whatever. I have better things to do,” I say, smirking before I let him have it. “Like a date with Kara.”

Jimmy scowls. The blonde glares at him.

I look away and start walking toward the park office, but Jimmy shouts his parting shot: “She’ll be disappointed at midnight when she learns you resolve every year to kiss a girl because you never have!”

I stop dead, feeling like I’ve been hit in the back with an arrow. He laughs at me. I huff and walk on.

It’s not long before I see Kara, the prettiest girl in town, standing at the back of the line for skate rental. She’s wearing a bright blue wool coat with matching leather boots. Her red-gold hair braid hangs out of her hood across her collar bone. Before I can call her name, she waves at me with a gloved hand.

My heart jumps back into my throat.

“I’m so glad you made it, Ethan,” she says when I join her in line. “Even if you are a little late.” Her smile is as radiant as the sun.

“Yeah…sorry. I…ran into someone I used to know.”

Her smile flips. “You mean Jimmy?”

Hesitantly, I nod.

“Ignore him. He’s just jealous.”

“I’m sure.”

Within ten minutes, we get our skates and head to the frozen pond. Dozens of couples, some of whom we saw dancing last week, look graceful circling hand-in-hand around the ice. Kara and I sit on a park bench to put on our skates. She laughs when I pull off one of my shoes and reveal the Superman socks underneath. I blush.

“No, no! I think they’re cute,” she says, seeing my embarrassment. “Besides, I used to watch Lois and Clark as a kid. It made me want to read comics, but I always got geek-shamed when I walked into a comic shop, so I never read any.”

“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.

Her smile brightened. “Don’t be. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to start reading comics.” She finishes lacing up her skates. “What about you? Any resolutions?”

I bite my lower lip. “Not…really.” I grab her hand to distract her. “Let’s go!” I say, motioning toward the ice. She beams, and we hurry out. Her jacket’s hood flies off, unveiling her beautiful hair.

Now I wish I could kiss her.

The next few hours are a blissful blur. I hadn’t skated since I played junior hockey in middle school, but it was like riding a bike. A few times I had trouble stopping, but I didn’t fall. Kara, on the other hand, despite being a great ballroom dancer, wasn’t as surefooted on the ice. She held my hand for dear life. Well, for balance, anyway. One time, though, she started to fall, but I caught her. “My hero,” she called me. I’ve never felt such awkward excitement.

“I need a quick break,” I tell her.

“Okay. I can take a few solo laps. But don’t be long!” she says, winking.

My heart thunders in my ears.

I skate to the edge of the pond and sit on a bench. My calves are burning, but I don’t care. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. Kara waves at me as she skates by, nearly losing her balance. I snicker, admiring her bravery.

“Only fifteen minutes until midnight!” booms the emcee over the microphone on the stage. “Have your sweethearts ready to kiss when the ball drops!”

Suddenly Jimmy and the blonde appear in front of me, pretending they’re oblivious to my presence.

“Why wait until midnight for a kiss?” the jerk says to the poor girl.

Before she can reply, he grabs her, dips her like a professional dancer, and plants a long-lasting lip-lock on her. I look away like a grossed out schoolboy. They finally come up for air and walk away, Jimmy laughing the entire time. I feel like throwing up.

“Ethan!” calls Kara.

I look up and see her sliding by, so I spring to my feet and jump onto the ice. It doesn’t take me long to catch up and grab her hand.

Minutes later, everyone stops. 11:59 has come too soon. We all turn our attention to screen above the stage. Dick Clark is rattling off numbers.

“It’s the final countdown!” someone belts out, adding a terrible impersonation of the song’s guitar riff.

I glance at Kara. Her eyes practically sparkle. She smiles knowingly, expectantly, at me. My stomach is turning in knots like it did last week. Does she want me to kiss her?

“Thirty!” the crowd cries in unison with Dick Clark.

I should—no, I can’t. I’ll just disappoint her. I can’t start her New Year like that.

“Twenty!” cries the crowd.

But I want to impress her, to make her happy. But should I be that forward? It’s only a first date!

“Ten, nine, eight,” begins the crowd.

Kara wraps her arms around my neck and her jade eyes look deep into mine. I’m breathless.

“…five, four, three…”

I blink. My head hangs.

The crowd screams, “Happy New Year!” Noise and confetti fill the air.

Shame stabs me with a knife. I unclasp Kara’s arms and skate away as fast as my tired legs can carry me, not stopping until I reach an isolated bench. I flop onto it and bury my face in my hands. My tears are barely kept dammed.

You’re a coward, Ethan, just like Jimmy thought you were, I think. Your first date with her will be your last.

But just as I’m about to drown in a sea of self-pity, a soft hand squeezes my shoulder. “What’s wrong?” says that wonderfully lyrical voice.

I glance up and see Kara sitting next to me.

May as well come clean. You owe her that, I think.

“I thought you wanted me to kiss you at midnight. I wanted to, but…I just…couldn’t. I’m sorry, Kara. I ruined everything.”

“Why couldn’t you?”

I look away. “Because…I…I’ve never kissed anyone before.”

I brace myself for her to leave.

After ten seconds of silence, she’s still here.

Her warm fingers touch my chin. She lifts and turns my head toward her, unhanding it when our eyes meet. “You didn’t have to kiss me if you weren’t ready. I wouldn’t have been disappointed.” She snickers. “Honestly, I might’ve been weirded out. It’s jerks like Jimmy who pull numbers like that, and I know you’re better than that.”

“So, you’re not upset?”

Kara sighs, rolling her eyes. “No, silly!”

My hand touches hers on my shoulder. “Thank you.”

She just smiles.

“Tell you what,” she says. “I’m exhausted from all that ice skating, so how about you escort me home and we talk about this tomorrow over lunch?”

“Deal!”

“Oh, and one more thing.”

Kara presses two fingers against her puckered lips and then places those fingers on my cheek. I feel it burn.

“A preview of things to come,” she says.

I sigh to fight back tears. Then I reciprocate.

Magic is No Different Than Science in Fiction

By Nathan On March 11th, 2016 | 165 views

That guy wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey,” so he should know! :P

This is a subject that I’ve been pondering for a while, but it was brought to a head for me this week when I, once again, heard a new host on a podcast I listen to make the typical “magic is always bad/evil in fiction” comment that all-too-many Christians have made for years. I’m shocked there are still people adhering to this anti-Dungeons & Dragons propaganda that was prevalent during the ‘80s (the ‘80s, people! Thirty years ago!) What made this even more ironic was this particular host was my age or a little younger.

This host (who shall remain nameless) has made it clear on several occasions that he thinks magic, particularly when presented in a dark fashion, should never be presented in fiction. He even said when he guest-starred on podcast run by one of his co-hosts while discussing Wonder Woman’s origin in the animated film Justice League: Gods and Monsters, that he liked her “more science-based” origin. The more I hear him, the more I realize that it isn’t just “dark” magic he opposed, but all magic. It makes me wonder if he hates Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings just because they include magic, despite them being written by Christians.

Admittedly, I once held to similar views, so I can’t fault him too much. But with age (and education) came new ideas. I’ve now concluded that magic is no different than science in speculative fiction. In other words, they aren’t evil in and of themselves.

First—and I owe my college chum Aaron Brosman for pointing me toward this—while magic is regarded by many Christians as evil, they forget that evil is incapable of creating. This idea comes from J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings (I wish I could remember where he said it). Here’s the logic behind it: 1) God is wholly good. 2) Everything was created by God. 3) Everything God created was good (Gen. 1:31). 4) Everything that is now “evil” was once good. 5) Ergo, evil can only corrupt what was once good.

By extension, this means that God, not Satan, created magic. One only has to look at the miracles performed by prophets like Elijah, the Apostles, and, yes, Jesus Himself to see “magic” at work. They call fire from the sky (2 Kings 1:10), healed the sick (Acts 3), and even raised the dead (Elijah – 1 Kings 17:17-22; Jesus – John 11:1-44). In other words, fire magic, healing magic, and necromancy (sorta). And these were God-fearing men and the Savior Himself, not people like the Witch of Endor (no, she didn’t hang out with Ewoks).

The difference here is twofold: 1) the source of the “magical” power, and 2) the motivations for using it. The purpose of magic, whether in real life or in fiction, is ultimately to acquire power. This manifests as command over the elements, animals, spirits, and/or people (curses, love spells, etc.). This grants the user certain abilities and/or privileges. So, the reason God forbade the practice of magic in passages like Deuteronomy 18:9-12 isn’t because the practices themselves but because mankind would use it to seek power separate from Him. This has been humanity’s tendency since Adam and Eve sinned. God knows this and doesn’t want anything to come between Him and His creation. Along with that, the source of much of those magical powers was demonic, so it’s also a form of protection. The Devil and his angels may promise power to those willing to ally with them, but in the end they will only exploit and torment those who fall into their clutches.

Now, that isn’t to say that all depictions of magic in fiction should be forbidden. The sources of the magic aren’t always demonic. Even when they are, they’re presented as evil, or at the very least in a negative light. For Christians to shy away from the realities of evil is arguably naïve.

So, I have a question for you: If magic is about the acquisition of power, how is it “holier” than magic?

Stop and think about it. In both real life and fiction, sinful people use science to acquire power apart from God. Some perhaps think that by using science they can become gods themselves, in some way. Stories like Frankenstein by Mary Shelly touch on this theme. Dr. Frankenstein seeks to overcome death itself by conducting experiments to reanimate dead bodies. He uses science to violate the natural laws put in place by God Himself (mind you, death didn’t exist before the Fall, but I digress). In real life, humanity used science to create the nuclear bomb, a weapon whose power rivals that of mythical gods, if not God Himself. Speculative fiction is replete with mad scientists who seek power through the use of science. Are they any different from the sorcerers in fairy tales? But just like magic, God created science, so science isn’t inherently evil.

This is why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that it wasn’t enough to simply not murder or commit adultery. No, it someone was angry at his fellow man or lusted after someone, he was already guilty because he sinned in his heart. It’s relatively easy to keep rules. Even the Pharisees did that. But Jesus cut through that and went straight to the, well, heart of the issue. It wasn’t enough to keep rules: what truly mattered was one’s motivations and thought life. He later said, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:18-19).

So, no, magic isn’t the Devil’s creation. Writing characters who utilize supernatural power that isn’t demonic and for the right reasons isn’t immoral. Writing characters who do use demonic magic for acquiring power for evil purposes is true to life.

I would encourage you to take a closer look at what the Bible says about magic. It’s not as simple as you think.

P.S. I understand there are people who may choose not to read/watch/play such stories because they were once involved in the occult, and I can respect that. That’s like an alcoholic avoiding beer.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Are magic and science no different?

In Defense of Extroverts

By Nathan On March 8th, 2016 | 134 views

You may find it strange that I’m blogging about this. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage, would have you believe that we live in an “extroverted world” since one in four people are introverts.

Then I, somehow, made friends in most of them. Seriously, most of my friends are on the introvert side of the spectrum. I have no idea how or why that happened.

It’s these sorts of statements that upset me. >:(

Sadly, I’ve also known pretentious introverts who did nothing but sing the praises of introversion—and, by extension, themselves—to the point of negatively stereotyping extroverts (insensitive, unintelligent, etc. Heck, one introvert I know even called them “vampires” since they re-energize being around other people). There are numerous articles saying that introverts are attractive and sexy—one even comparing them to James Bond—using descriptions that I thought were what any man should be in order to attract women. While they don’t come out and say it—and I admit I could be reading into this—the implication seems to be that introverts make for superior spouses. Perhaps even superior human beings.

So, while I apparently live in an extroverted world, I’ve run in circles that derided extroverts or at least my extroverted tendencies. I’ve often hated my own personality because of it. I wasn’t allowed to get animated or boisterous: these were always unattractive social faux pas, no matter the context (I was even accused of being homosexual because of it, since, apparently, straight men are always introverted [note the sarcasm]). I can recall playing video games with a particularly pretentious introverted “friend” (who later stabbed me in the back) telling me the excited squeal I made when I pulled off something crazy was a sound that was meant only for the bedroom (I’m sure you get what he meant). Disliking loneliness was a weakness. Being talkative was a sin. It even seemed at times that introversion was the “more Christian” personality to have.

Stop it with the stereotypes! Extroverts (and introverts, for that matter) are far more nuanced than many people realize. Just read this article on extroverts. It dispels the myths. Just because extroverts like being around people doesn’t mean they can’t stand being alone. Extroverts are human beings, and that means they sometimes lead some time to themselves. The opposite is true of introverts: humans are social creatures, and studies have shown that they are happier when connecting with each other, so introverts can’t hide in their rooms forever. One is not superior to the other. Anyone who says so is a narcissist trying to obliquely brag about how awesome he thinks he is.

Maybe this blog, in the long run, will serve less as a defense of extroverts and more a defense of my own personality. I admit that I take it personally any disparaging things said about extroverts. As you can see, it’s something that didn’t happen in a vacuum.

It’s time extroverts and introverts alike learned to appreciate one another and learn from one another. We’re all wonderful people with much to offer. We are equals.

Don’t silence the extroverts—silence the prejudice.

Leap Day Blog: It’s Not Easy, Being a Dreamer

By Nathan On February 29th, 2016 | 180 views

Yes, I promised I’d post two blogs Thursday. I didn’t get around to the second. I felt bad. Then I realized Monday was Leap Day. I couldn’t miss a chance to post something on a day that only comes once every four years. So, here’s the bonus blog. 😛

Anyway…

I’m a dreamer living in a world that seems hostile toward such people. I’m not the only one, though. I’ve heard many stories about artists (though dreamers can also be scientists and missionaries, etc.) in particular who grew up in blue collar families/communities and were discouraged from pursuing their passions. “Get a real job!” they’d be told. They didn’t understand the dreamers’ aspirations, their desire to do extraordinary things. No, these naysayers knew only of clocking in and out at their easily understood and quantifiable jobs and bringing home a paycheck.

I don’t say this to demean blue collar (or white collar) types. In fact, I admire their work ethic and down-to-earth attitudes. Many, if not most, are full of common sense and free of the delusions that pervade certain demographics of society.

However, oftentimes they are so down-to-earth, they can’t understand people who, for lack of a better term, has their heads in the clouds. Actors, writers, and directors, to name a few, often came from families like this who, at best, tolerated their kids’ unusual interests or, at worst, tried to force them into the “normal” mold. This was usually done with good intentions—wanting to make sure their kids could provide for themselves—but it came at the expense of crushing their children’s souls. It was a forced denial of who they were. It made the dreamers live while dying inside.

I know this from experience. My father has a blue collar mentality. When I said I wanted to go to college to study writing, he was supportive. He even helped pay for it. But then a couple years ago, he revealed to me that when I made that decision, he thought I was crazy. He didn’t think I could make it as a writer. I was flabbergasted, disappointed, angry. This was the man who, just a few years before, read my first novel, Pandora’s Box, and liked it; who read my newspaper articles and thought I was an ideal journalist because I didn’t put any biased spin in them. It was, to say the least, a bit of a blow, especially since I was (and am) a struggling artist.

My theory is people like this don’t understand dreamers for two reasons: 1) The dreamer’s path to success is more abstract, less direct, and less certain, and 2) the dreamer’s aspirations and goals are too “pie-in-the-sky.” Going to a factory or office and putting in one’s eight-hour shift is simple and direct. The most such workers have to think about is perhaps moving up in the company and/or getting a raise. Dreamers have to take risks and think outside the box. Someone who aspires to start a nonprofit to, say, help inner city kids has to do fundraisers. Writers have to submit stories to publishers and agents. Actors have to attend auditions. In all these cases, there’s no guarantee of success, and initial success doesn’t always guarantee ongoing success. They don’t get paid a salary or an hourly wage. The closest equivalent are independent contractors. It’s also usually a slow, gradual process to becoming “successful” for the dreamer. This is why most, including myself, hold down “day jobs” until they reach a point where they earn a living doing their “unorthodox” dream jobs. These aren’t usually the most glamorous or high-paying of day jobs, which doesn’t reflect well on the dreamers. (I’ve heard many stories of now-famous actors who worked at restaurants until they became successful).

Dreamers walk difficult roads, but if they stick it out, the results not only include a satisfying career for them, but changed lives for many others. Nonprofit organizations save lives. Writers and artists entertain and, most importantly, enlighten audiences with their art (if done right). Actors can do the same. The notoriety they gain through these can give them platforms from which they can do other great works.

This is why I’m a dreamer. This is why I support dreamers.

If you’re a dreamer, don’t give up!

If you know dreamers, I hope you will encourage them.

Are you a dreamer? If so, what are your “lofty” aspirations?

My (Overdue) Alma-Con Report

By Nathan On February 25th, 2016 | 155 views

I’m getting into a bad habit of not blogging in a timely fashion. Or on time. My friend/co-author Eric Anderson definitely kicked my butt on this one since he blogged about it two weeks ago! Hence why you’re getting this and another blog today.

Anyway, Eric asked me to join him at Alma-Con, a small but growing anime/fandom convention held at Alma College in Alma, Michigan (seeing a pattern here?) 😛 He purchased a table to promote his nerd/geek outreach ministry, Nerd Chapel, but he was selling copies of our devotional book, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom, so he wanted me present. He’d asked me to attend other cons with him, but I wasn’t able to make it, so this was exciting.

What follows will be similar to write Eric wrote about, but we did have some different experiences.

I arrived an hour or so after the con began. The vendors’ hall—at least the one we were in—was only open for a few more hours. Not much happened while I was there except we met a panelist (whose name escapes me) who saw the title of our book and said, “That sounds like something Vic would say.”

Quoting Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy, I said, “Who?”

He explained he was friends with Vic Mignogna, a popular anime voice actor (among other things). I was surprised to (re)learn that Vic was a Christian and went to panels to discuss faith in anime. This gentleman, Eric and I learned, was a practitioner of sect of Buddhism strangely similar to Christianity. He shared his story of how he came to this faith. He said he’d come back later to talk with us, but sadly, he never came. (If you’re reading this, please contact Eric and/or I!)

Eric (right) and I (left) as Martian Manhunter and Superman, respectively.

Eric (right) and I (left) as Martian Manhunter and Superman, respectively.

Saturday was the long day. Eric and I cosplayed. He was Martian Manhunter and I was Superman. I enjoyed wearing the costume because I’ve gotten into better shape since the last time I wore it, and given that it’s, well, spandex, I was glad for that. The most interesting stories that came from that day was meeting a young man who was a member of the “Church of Satan,” yet they didn’t worship Satan or even believe he existed, which was interesting. While Eric was gone, though, a belligerent cosplayer dressed as some blue-haired anime mad scientist (or something) came over and proceeded to insult me and denigrate Christianity while in character. I wasn’t sure what to think of it, so I just ran with it and smiled.

Two Alma College students were kind enough to give Eric and I their lunches from their meal plans, so we got some food from the college diner, Joe’s.

The Alma College students who kindly offered their lunches to us.

The Alma College students who kindly offered their lunches to us.

I, too, wandered around. It was then I learned one of my few gripes with the con: the buildings it was held in were too far apart. It was a Michigan winter, so obviously it was cold, and tights provide little protection against such weather. I did go check out the other artists and vendors, and as usual, I had to refrain from buying a bunch of stuff (including a book self-publishing comic books). I did purchase a replica of the fob watch used by David Tenant in two episodes of Doctor Who, though. It went great with my cosplay.

Speaking of which, once the vendor hall closed for the day, I changed into my 10th Doctor cosplay. Eric and I got dinner at Joe’s, where we met a fellow Whovian/cosplayer.

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The fob watch I bought for my 10th Doctor cosplay.

Me with a fellow Whovian cosplayer.

Me with a fellow Whovian cosplayer.

We then went to see MacSith, a play performed by a traveling theatre troupe from Chicago. It is Shakespeare’s MacBeth if it took place in the Star Wars universe. It. Was. FANTASTIC! It combined two of my favorite things—Shakespeare and Star Wars—in a seamless and wonderful fashion. Thankfully, I don’t have to describe it all to you since, unlike most theatre, they allowed (non-flash) photography and video to be taken. The costumes, the fight choreography, the little Star Wars flavoring to the original dialogue—it was amazing.

Sadly, I couldn’t say the same for the next event Eric and I attended. It was billed as a “masquerade ball.” Since we’ve had ballroom dance training, we were interested in going to this unlike the rave that was held the night before. The con program even said there was a dress code, and the organizers reserved the right to turn people away if they didn’t abide by it (hence my 10th Doctor cosplay). But when we arrived, this “ball” was essentially a rave with fancier clothes and no glow sticks. Seriously. The attendees broke off into a few cliques like this was a school cafeteria and gyrate to the music…sometimes. The liveliest they got was during a line dance I didn’t know. I asked the DJs to play “Tank!” by the Seatbelts, which is the theme song to Cowboy Bebop, since the Pokemon theme song was played earlier—and almost nobody got excited! “Haven’t they seen this show?” I wondered. The kicker, though, was every girl Eric and I asked to dance either didn’t know how or flat-out turned us down. The best I could get was doing a line dance when “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show played, and even then people didn’t seem that excited and even fewer knew the line dance, so I wasn’t able to learn it. Eric and I left after an hour.

Seriously, Alma-Con. If you say it’s a “masquerade ball,” make it a masquerade ball! You have a swing dance group on campus: try appealing to them a bit better to run this event.

::steps down from soapbox::

The next day was gonna feature our big event: the Nerd Chapel worship service…

…and nobody came. L

So Eric and I shared communion and I recorded his sermon (which, come to think of it, I need to send to him to post online…).

I left soon afterward so I could return in time to go to work that evening.

All in all, not a bad weekend.