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Guardians of Imagination!

la-et-ct-projector-guardians-of-the-galaxy-get-001I sat in a dark theater embraced by the cool dankness waiting for what was promised as a miracle. I had suffered through the drought of science fiction films from 1968’s 2001 and Planet of the Apes until the late seventies and this movie promised to end that drought. I doubted it. No one had any idea of how to make good science fiction movies anymore. Spielberg had approached that possibility with Jaws, but it wasn’t really a scifi movie. Would this obscure George Lucas deliver?

I sat slack jawed, weepy eyed and stunned through my first viewing of Star Wars. In 1977 the scrolling introduction mentioned something about a “new hope” but I had no idea this would be the fourth installment in what would become six films. I just knew that everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again. Over the next 12 months, I returned to my local cinema (this was in the days before VHS so movies would stay in the theater for months) and watched Star Wars over 33 times. Sometimes, I would show up in the middle and watch to the end. Sometimes I would watch until the trash compacter scene. It was pure scifi addiction.

In the years that followed, the movie studios tried to reproduce Lucas’ achievement and failed. Star Wars knock offs proliferated but they never got it right. What made this movie work so well?

First, Lucas just dropped us smack into the middle of a galaxy far, far away. He did not explain the alien lifeforms, the planets, or even the politics. He allowed me, the moviegoer, to join him in the work of figuring out the backstory and setting. He trusted me to figure out the story without having to feed it to me. This was classic “show, don’t tell”.

Second, he created characters who were real and stand alone and defied stereotypes (Leia was the first female action movie figure instead of a typical damsel in distress) and at the same time had enough of the scifi tropes in their personalities that there was a sense of familiarity. Take the cliche and adopt and adapt it.

Third, he used classic storytelling elements — a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Fourth, he created moments of hilarious humor followed by deeply moving emotional moments. The scene where Luke gazes over the dead, burning bodies of his foster parents and then looks away in disgust is still simple yet emotionally gut wrenching.

Fifth, he gave us the Laurel and Hardy comedy pair in the droids. One of them was over the top silly and the other silent and subversively serious. R2D2, would save the day always with his hidden talents.

As I have watched the stories unfold regarding this new movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy” I began to sense the same kind of potential. Here was a movie based on a very obscure Marvel comic book line. There would be no familiar characters from the rest of the Marvel Universe. And, there would be no anchor of familiarity with the galactic civilization in which this story was based. But, I knew, in my heart and in my soul and in my mind this movie could be another “Star Wars”. I could only hope and I think I was right.

I took my daughter, Casey and our friend, Lisa to the first showing last night. There were no scrolling narratives at the beginning but the opening 5 minutes were some of the most gut wrenching introductions to a movie I have seen since J. J. Abrams killed off James T. Kirk’s father in “Star Trek”. Wow, I was stunned at the depth of this scene and I knew, I just knew that this movie would play off of that opening scene and if it pulled that off, it had to be great.

I laughed. I laughed some more until it hurt! I clapped with joy. And, I wept more than once. All of those classic elements from the original Star Wars were there but in their own, unique and singular fashion. The musical score from the 70s and 80s was perfect. I found myself singing along as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord mimics Karaoke with a handheld critter. Don’t ask. It was brilliant! And, the comic team of a certain genetically enhanced raccoon and his friend,  a walking plant took the relationship with C3PO and R2D2 to a new level. In fact, everything about this movie was familiar. But everything about this movie was totally foreign and different. They pulled off one of the most daring and risky moves in recent history.

I predict Guardians will make the most money of any of the recent Disney/Marvel movies. I predict that moviegoers, like me will go and see it over and over and over to enjoy every nuanced line, every missed moment because our eyes were watering with joy, laughter, or sorrow. I predict Guardians will usher in another round of wannabes, but they will be pale reflections.

I was concerned about the future of space opera scifi when Disney announced new episodes of Star Wars. But, the team from Marvel that worked with the team from Disney has created such an epic, classic movie with Guardians I am now in eager anticipation. I can’t wait until I can sit down in front of a dark screen and listen for that familiar fanfare and see that scrolling intro to J. J. Abrams’ next Star Wars installment. The fact that Marvel/Disney has reached out to young, enterprising directors who think outside the box for the next few Star Wars movies as well as these wonderful Marvel movies gives me hope that imagination is new again; that nostalgia has been resurrected and given a new hope, a new skin for future generations.

I cannot give Guardians of the Galaxy enough positive stars. It was fantastic, fun, moving, exhilarating, alien, bizarre but the most satisfying movie experience I have had in many years. Go see it and bring lots of tissue. You’ll be laughing so hard you’ll cry and then you’ll be crying so hard you’ll laugh!

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Can Fiction be Christian?

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This past week the Christian publishing world was shaken by the announcement from Broadman & Holman (B&H) Publishing regarding their new Christian fiction strategy. Steve Laube, a major voice in the Christian publishing industry, commented on these changes at this link. This may seem like some mundane industry-babble but it has grave implications for the reader of Christian fiction. The bottom line is this: a major Christian publisher has decided to back off of fiction unless it ties in with some other media initiative (such as a movie). In fact, all contracts for future fiction that would have been released  beyond April 2014 are now null and void. Kaput! Gone! And, I know that feeling!

Hennigan_The 12th Demon 1-24C

Why? In September 2012 just a few weeks before the release of my second book, “The 12th Demon: The Mark of the Wolf Dragon” by Charisma, I received a notification that I was being released from my five book contract after the second book. This didn’t catch me totally by surprise. I had already heard from a couple of my fellow authors at the Realms imprint (an imprint is a division of a publishing “house” focused on a particular “genre”) who had suffered the same fate. As of September there were two of us left, myself and Mike Dellosso easily Realms bestselling author. Mike has now moved on also. At least I was in good company! I know this was a business decision made because of the downturn in the economy but it had a lasting impact on my personally as well as many Christian authors.

What does all of this mean for you, the reader of Christian fiction?

It will mean a much smaller selection of books and a much narrower range of genres. Major publishers will not be taking as many chances with new authors and will not be looking to branch out into “strange waters” such as Christian speculative fiction. Frankly, this frightens me. I am already a victim of the troubled economic times coupled with the sea change in traditional publishing trying to adapt to newer digital technology. However, I followed the advice of Michael Hyatt, once CEO of Thomas Nelson (which has been swallowed up by the larger HarperCollins publishing behemoth along with Zondervan). He suggested I self publish. The good news for authors like myself is there are many reputable self publishing ventures available. The bad news is I have to fund the book and all of the prep work myself. Let’s just say it makes for a tremendous tax right off! But, I am hoping the momentum of two previous books will help “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” sell enough copies to keep the series going.

Read the rest of this entry

Swinging on a Star

 

A tribute to Ray Bradbury

SWINGIN’ ON A STAR

by Bruce Hennigan

 

The wind whispered secrets down the cold, dark alleyway and Tasha listened.  The secrets came from the lips of angels.

“Listen, Suzie, cain’t you hear the angels talking?” Tasha whispered.

Suzie pulled her little sister closer to her.  “Ain’t no angels, Tash.  Ain’t no angels anywhere in this world.  Only devils.  We got to get out of here.”

Tasha wiped her runny nose and glanced back down the alleyway.  Mist swirled around the trash containers and pulsed with the red and green of exit signs.  “But, they gonna tell us how to get home.  We lost, ain’t we?”

Suzie stopped at the opening to the city street and her eyes were drawn to the huddled figures moving monotonously down the neon splashed sidewalks.  Grizzled faces with tinted eyes bore down on them.  “If we can just find the subway, we be all right.”

The tinkle of metal and glass echoed from behind them.  Tasha hugged her older sister’s leg.  “The angels done gone, Suzie.  They ain’t behind us no more.  I’m scared.”

Suzie glanced over her shoulder at the menacing maw of the alleyway. Its dim eyes glowed in the mist and its jaws paused to close.  She stepped out onto the open street into the arms of perdition.

The man jostled them and his smell encircled them in warm, redolent odor.  His toothless grin shown through a cloud of gagging mist.  Suzie pulled away from him with her hand gripped on Tasha’s. They ran.  They bumped down the street from body to body, bouncing against the grim reminders of humanity caught between divinity and condemnation.

Suzie pulled them into an alcove. A dirty glass window was behind them plastered with obscenities.

“What we gonna do, Suzie?” Tasha sniffled.

“We ain’t going back, that’s for sure.  Toby gonna sell us for drugs.”

“I miss Momma.”

Suzie pulled the tiny face against her stained overcoat.  “Me, too, Tash.  Momma up with the angels.”

Tasha’s face lit up.  “If we listen to the angels, maybe Momma can tell us where to go.”

Suzie frowned.  “Maybe so, Tash.  But, we ain’t going back to Toby.  We don’t even know if he our daddy.”

Tasha pulled her knit cap up to expose her ears and glanced skyward.  “Maybe we ain’t listenin’ hard enough.”

Suzie’s eyes drifted upward, above the misted detritus of humanity shuffling down the street, above the crumbling bricks and mortar of a dream gone bad to the clear, star filled night.  The space station arced in perfect serenity.  She remembered the dead dreams of a tiny, idealistic girl, eyes drawn to the possibilities of worlds virgin with pristine future.  Dreams that had died in a crack haze of insanity and evil.

“I think those angels done got tired of listening to us humans.  We done worn out our welcome.”

“Tasha!  Suzie!” A hoarse voice echoed down the street.

Suzie’s heart raced and she pulled Tasha to her.  “Toby!”

They pulled back into the darkness of the alcove. Her feet were paralyzed with fear and suddenly the promising stars were eclipsed by chipped paint, crumbling brick, and misty haze.  A hulking figure shadowed the sidewalk and Toby stepped out of the mist.  His yellow eyes glowed with drug fever as he scanned the streets until they fell on the girls.

“There you heathens are.  Why you run away from Toby?” He leaned forward and his rancid breath filled the alcove.  “I got some candy for you.” His hands were behind his back.

Tasha looked up at Suzie.  “We don’t want none of your candy.”

“Leave us alone, Toby.  We don’t need you no more.”

Toby’s grin faded to a leer of insane resolution.  “Then you won’t be needing this candy.” His hands came out and Suzie saw the glint of light on metal.  A gun and a pair of handcuffs.  “Now let’s put on these bracelets, little girls.  I got some friends want to meet you.”

Light cracked somewhere inside Suzie’s mind; star light, hope light, angel light and through the cloying mist she watched a star move across the cityscape, promising hope and redemption.  She kicked out viciously and drove into her foot all the anger and desperation of a world that had lost its promise, lost its heart.  Toby collapsed in sudden pain and writhed on the ground.  Suzie jerked Tasha behind her and they ran over Toby’s writhing body out into the mist.

“We got to run, Tash.  We got to run and never stop.”

Tasha clambered after her as her eyes misted with tears.  “But I can’t hear the angels, Suzie.  We gotta stop and listen.”

“We ain’t stopping, Tash.  We ain’t never gonna stop.”

Figures began to materialize out of the mist, down the street, across the street. Somewhere behind them, Toby’s angry cursing bounced from brick walls.  Tash stumbled and Suzie lost her. The tiny girl disappeared into the mist.  She slid to a stop and ran back along a chain link fence.  No Tasha.  Toby was coming.  A gap in the chain link fence appeared from the mist. A tiny shred of fabric from Tasha’s coat was caught on the rusted metal.  Suzie squeezed through the gap and pulled it back together. Furiously she knitted the rusted, twisted metal edges together.  She backed away into the mist and prayed that Tasha was somewhere within the fence.  Toby’s hulking figure rocketed by them, mist swirling behind him.  She held her breath.  Toby didn’t come back.

Suzie stood suspended in the low lying haze with her breath coming quickly and her heart racing.  She calmed and paused to listen.  To listen for an angel.  A creaking sounded somewhere behind her.  She stepped out of the mist into a clearing.  A playground surrounded her. It was long abandoned filled with rusted metal frameworks like skeletons of dead beasts, dead hopes.

“Tasha.” She whispered loudly.  The creaking continued.  Tasha sat in an old swing with her head bobbing down and then up. “Tasha, what are you doing?”

Tasha turned her face and her eyes bright with hope.  “The angels, Suzie.  They told me to reach up.” The words waxed and waned as Tasha swung up and back.  “See that star.  See it way up there.”

Suzie squinted in the darkness and spied a bright, pulsing star halfway up the horizon hovering above the misty horror of this world.  “They say if I can touch it with my foot, if I can swing high enough, I can go there.  Momma’s there.  She’s an angel and she’s helping them learn about God and goodness and all.  They want us to go there, too.”

Suzie moaned in sorrow and collapsed on the ground.  Tasha moved higher and higher.  “Tasha, that ain’t gonna happen.  Momma ain’t no angel.  She ain’t on no planet in the sky.  She dead.  And, so are we.  We can’t go on running.”

Tasha seemed not to hear, stretching her foot farther out on each upward swing.  “I almost got it, Suzie.  I almost touched it.  Come on, you gotta go, too.  Momma’s waiting.  All you gotta do is try.  Don’t give up hope now.”

Suzie felt the tears begin and the dam broke on months of hidden sorrow.  Her heart fell as the cadence of the creaking swing increased.  “There ain’t no hope, no more, Tash.  There ain’t no angels.”

Light gushed around her, brighter than noonday sun, burning away the mist in a sudden gulp of warm air.  A giggle echoed in the air and darkness returned.  The swing tumbled down and was empty and stilled.

Suzie rushed to the empty swing.  “Tash?  Tash?” Her eyes darted around the playground.  It was empty and barren.  She blinked away the burning aftermath of light as her heart raced.

“No!  Don’t leave me, too.  Tasha, don’t leave me!” Tears clouded her vision.  Behind her, out in the desperate street she heard metal screech.  Toby had found her.  She glanced up at the star pulsing with hope and promise in the night; the star holding out the welcoming hand of a future and a hope.  She climbed into the swing.

CSI Golgotha Available in Faith & Family And Upcoming Conference!

My wife wanted pizza. I’m dieting and can’t eat pizza. She called our favorite pizza joint, Smitty’s and ordered two pizzas and sent ME to pick them up. All the way over I was debating whether of not to get off of my diet for one night and eat some hot, luscious, cheesy pizza. My diet prevailed. I walked into Smitty’s and there in front of me on the counter was this magazine:

I picked it up and waved it in the air before the tired eyes of the two harried women behind the counter. “Hey, I wrote this! Right here! This article! I wrote this!” They looked at me like I had quoted John 3:16 in Klingon. I nodded meekly and paid for my salad and two pizzas and grabbed a handful of the FREE magazines as I headed out the door. You can find this magazine for FREE in most stores in the Shreveport and Bossier City area.

Check out my article on a forensic analysis of the death of Jesus Christ. It is based on a presentation I’ve given about two dozen times in the past year. In fact, if you can’t find the magazine or don’t live anywhere near northwest Louisiana, you can see my presentation for FREE.

That’s right, for FREE. Go to the website of Athanatos Ministry’s Online Apologetic Conference (link) and register for the FREE day and you can sit back and relax and watch my presentation in the comfort of your favorite computer, laptop, or tablet. And, if you like what you see and hear, then I will be speaking again on Saturday on Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics. I’ll be talking about Christian horror, fantasy, and science fiction books that illustrate the Christian worldview. That’s right. Horror. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Didn’t think such a thing existed with a Christian worldview. Guess again and sign up for this most excellent conference and find out all about the literary legacy of a defense of the Christian Faith. Anthony Horvath, the founder of Athanatos Ministry has put together a fascinating look at the intersection of these two ideas. Check it out. I hope to see you there. Well, I won’t see you, but you can see, or more importantly, just HEAR me.

ResAliens — A Website Review Day 1

It was September, 1966 and I was sitting in front of our new color television set, a short, stocky kid on the soft side of puberty waiting breathlessly for this new show that promised to deliver what Lost in Space had so squandered: real, hard edged science fiction. The opening scene came and left me breathless. The stars filled the screen and a swooshing space ship flew past to the words: “Space, the final frontier . . .” By the end of that episode, the one about Doctor McCoy and the salt vampire, I was thrilled beyond words. Here was a real, honest to God science fiction television show that was gritty, adult oriented and had some pretty scary, but believable monsters.

I was reminded of that day and the feelings evoked in my young mind and heart when I began to read some of the stories on the website, Residential Aliens. Good, old fashioned science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. A combination of Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits with a good portion of Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man thrown in.

Where does the name, ResAliens, come from. Here from the website is the explanation:

ResAliens is short for Residential Aliens. A resident alien is, of course, a foreigner who is residing temporarily in a country not her own – an expatriate of sorts. Believers in heaven (or a “coming new age”) often consider themselves to be simply passing through this world on their way to a better land. The idea is that, although we’re currently inhabitants of earth, we’re really citizens of heaven and thus pilgrims, or aliens, on this planet. 

The editor of ResAliens, Lyn Perry, defines his scope of publishing in his guidelines:

“In that I am a believer and follower of Christ, yes. The authors and audience, however, may or may not come from a position of faith. But what I think you’ll find here is a collection of quality stories with a moral or spiritual thread that appeals to the broad and varied interests of fans of speculative fiction.

In fact, we accept stories from people of all walks of faith or from none. From my submission guidelines: “I’m looking for quality speculative fiction with a spiritual foundation. Submissions need not be religious in nature. However, we are looking for engaging stories that are truthful to the human experience while offering the reader something of the eternal.”

I downloaded the Collection Issue 5.5 and spot read some of the stories. I also read “Some Assembly Required” and “Snow Angels” to get a taste of the type of fiction you can find on this site.

Today, on day one, I want to discuss the website content. Then, for the next two days, I’ll review the stories I read listed in the paragraph above.

ResAliens is not just another pretty site. It publishes short stories and the author gets PAID for the story! That ‘s right! You can actually get published and get some cold hard cash. Here are the guidelines and payment options:

ResAliens accepts…
+ Flash Fiction (900 to 1500 words)
+ Short Stories (1500 to 6000 words, firm; 7k to 9k stories are too long)
+ Query First: Serials (2 to 4 episodic installments; up to 20k words)
+ Query First: Poetry/Verse (Limited! Note: This is a very hard sell.)
+ Query First: Artwork/Artist Interview. Email: lyn at resaliens dot com.

We Pay…
We offer a one-time payment of $5 per story or artist interview upon acceptance via PayPal (or $4 via USPS), with the option to waive this payment. We’ll also provide a link to your website and/or project page in your Author or Artist Bio. Upon acceptance, your story will appear in an electronic issue, including but not limited to this online venue.

I counted 86 authors and there are short biographies of each author. If you lie one of the archived stories, you can find out what other works these authors have available. There are also some free downloadable anthologies and a store front for buying more of the site’s work.

Here is ResAliens’ Facebook page:

There is also a discussion forum, a Facebook page, a Storefront, and a Twitter feed.

What kind of fiction can you expect? Here is Lyn Perry’s own words:

Combining spec fic and spirituality, and wanting to contribute to faith-informed genre fiction, ResAliens Press offers fans of science fiction, fantasy, and spiritual & supernatural thriller a quality venue in which to share their passion.

After sampling some of the stories, this idea excites me to no end. Here, in one place are dozens of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative stories with a spiritual center. These are stories that push the edge of inspirational fiction and yet, provide the reassurance that there will be a spiritual focus somewhere in the story. Check out the site! Read some of the free stories.

Tomorrow, I will review the story “Some Assembly Required” by T. M. Hunter.

Web site link    http://www.resaliens.com/

Editor’s blog – http://residentialaliens.blogspot.com/

Editor Lyn Perry’s personal blog – http://blogginoutloud.blogspot.com/

CSFF Participants’ links

 Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
D. G. D. Davidson
Dean Hardy
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Lyn Perry
Sarah Sawyer
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

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