I Would Be a Peacemaker

I would be a peacemaker, if I were more at peace with myself.

I would be a peacemaker, if I were not so quick to anger.

I would be a peacemaker, if I were not so slow to listen.

I would be a peacemaker, if I saw you with the eyes of God, loved you with the heart of God, reached out to you with the hands of God.

I would be a peacemaker, if … if … if.

Easter - iPhone Background
(Image by Patrick Hoesly, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

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P.S. A possibly related post: Peace on Earth Starts with Good Will Toward Men

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It’s Not Illogical, It’s illogiCon!

This weekend is our local Research Triangle, North Carolina, science fiction and fantasy convention: illogiCon!


(Professor Schrodington, the illogiCon mascot.)

Here’s what I’ve got going on:

Friday:

  • 3:00 p.m. — Panel, “Geeky Gateway Drugs”
  • 7:00 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies — I get to play the opening song!
  • 8:00 p.m. — Panel, “They Blinded Me With Science”

Saturday:

  • 10:30 a.m. — “Office Hours” — come by and chat! (and maybe buy a book or CD)
  • 12:00 noon — Baen Books Traveling Road Show
  • 4:00 p.m. — Panel, “Science Clickbait”
  • 6:00 p.m. — Reading

Sunday:

  • 12:00 noon — “Music for the Road” Farewell Concert w/ David Tyberg

I’m glad I only have one convention-related event on Sunday, because I’ll be heading to north Raleigh right after I’m done to host the monthly “Writers Coffeehouse” at Quail Ridge Books — from 2-4 p.m., all writers welcome!

Should be a good weekend!

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A Novel Year

I don’t want to let 2017 close out without one last look at some of the press about my signature accomplishment of the year: my novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds.

Readers have called it:

  • “Faithful and gritty”
  • “Amazingly authentic”
  • “Meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan”
  • “As entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction”
  • “Much like The Martian

Not too shabby.

If you’ve read it, thank you very much! If you’d like to, or know someone else who might enjoy it, you can get your local bookseller to order it for you or you can buy it on Amazon or from other online sources including Baen e-books.


A novel of survival and sacrifice among lunar pioneers. (Click for larger image.)

The novel was, without a doubt, the “big event” of 2017 for me. I hope you had a good year, and that 2018 will be even better — for all of us!

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Peace on Earth Starts with Good Will Toward Men

On this Christmas Eve, some thoughts leading up to Christmas — for whatever they might be worth.

According to Saint Luke’s research, presented in the Gospel that bears his name, angels announced Jesus’s birth to shepherds as they stood night watch over their flocks. We don’t know whether Luke was able to question one of the shepherds who was there that night or (more likely) the story came to him through untold number of tellings and retellings. What did those angels really say? And what did they mean?

The translation I grew up with, the King James Version, closes that episode with the angelic proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” I particularly like the poetic nature of that version.

Another translation I generally like, the New American Standard Bible, renders Luke 2:14 as, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” “Peace among men” gives a different feel than “good will toward men,” though, and leaves me a little cold. Other translations, notably the New International Version and the Berean Study Bible, give the last phrase as “peace to men on whom His favor rests,” which I do not like at all.

I am not a Bible scholar; I know no ancient Greek; so I will not presume to debate the merits of any translation. It intrigues me that in the Greek the difference comes down to a single letter: specifically, the last letter of the verse in the Codex Sinaiticus was erased (apparently the erasure is visible), and that single change made “on earth peace to men of good will” into “on earth peace, to men good will.” How much does that change the sentiment?

I’ve heard it taught that the proclamation is a promise of God’s peace and good will coming to earth in the person of Christ. I’ve also heard that it is more a prayer — it is, after all, a multitude of angels praising God, since the specific message about Jesus has already been related. That idea is particularly worthy: the angels first give reverence and worship to God, and then ask that peace be manifest on the earth.

But of late I’ve come to think of it in a different way. I doubt that mine is an original thought, but I’m not prepared to conduct an exhaustive search to see who else has presented it. To my way of thinking, “Glory to God in the highest” is clear enough. The creator of everything is worthy of praise. After that, I find that I prefer “on Earth, peace; to men, good will” — giving a definite separation between peace and good will — because it turns the entire verse into a triad that moves from the heavenly to the earthly to the individual.

To God, glory: not peace, because the creature is not in a position to offer peace to the creator; and not good will, because the creature’s good will cannot match the creator’s. On earth, peace: not glory, because earthly glory is more a product of victory in conflict than of peace; and not good will, because good will is something best expressed person to person. To men, good will: not glory, because compared to God men deserve no glory; and not peace, because to achieve peace — especially any secure, lasting peace — requires first good will among and between people.


(Image: “Peace on Earth,” by Sam Howzit, on Wikimedia Commons.)

“There is no peace on earth, I said,” according to the poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” — but it seems to me that, if there is no peace, it’s because there is precious little good will.

And so, I will try with the time remaining to me to be a man of good will. No doubt I will fail, and have to try again. I trust that God will forgive me those failures, and I hope my fellows will forgive me as well.

Part of the reason I will fail goes back to the translation that is probably more accurate: “peace to men of good will.” First, that sounds more like a promise of God’s peace than a prescription for achieving peace. Even if it is a promise, it doesn’t absolve us of all responsibility in the matter. After all, Saint Paul instructed the Christians in Rome to, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” — which remains a good principle for all of us to follow.

The second reason I’m uncomfortable with “peace to men of good will” is that it seems no great challenge to wish peace to people of good will or to act peacefully only toward people of good will. It is far more difficult to live peaceably when we are confronted by people of ill will. That’s why “turn the other cheek” is so revolutionary — and so difficult. And, as noted above, I explicitly reject the idea that God’s peace is offered only to those “on whom His favor rests”: I believe God’s peace is offered to all, though unfortunately many reject Him, and it.

All of that being said, tomorrow is Christmas, and tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Jesus’s birth. But even though we are fairly certain he was born in an entirely different time of the year, whenever it happened originally the annunciation still rings out, and the annunciation is fulfilled: Jesus glorified God; Jesus’s teaching, death and resurrection offer a “peace that passes understanding” to any on earth who would accept it; and Jesus empowers us to act as men of good will, i.e., gives us wisdom and strength and discernment to show good will toward others — if we choose to do so.

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!”

Merry Christmas, one and all.

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The Villain is Not Always a Person

This question came up on Facebook the other day, when someone was looking for examples of books without definite antagonists. Many folks said that in stories like The Martian (and another recent book you might have heard about), the antagonist — the villain, if you will — is Nature. Man against the elements, as it were.

This morning, in the latest in his Writing Wednesdays series, Steven Pressfield wrote:

Sometimes the villain is entirely inside the characters’ (almost always the protagonist’s) head.

The villain can be a fear, an obsession, a desire, a dream, a conception of reality, an idea of what “the truth” really is.

That’s an interesting thought.

What this means is that the ultimate antagonist is not a man-eating shark or a monster from space. It is an idea carried in our own heads (we’re the heroes, remember, of our own lives) [and the] turning point for us … comes when we see through the Wizard’s curtain and reject this idea once and for all.

Food for thought!

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Are We Headed Back to the Moon?

On the way home from some errands — which included delivering a signed book, grabbing lunch with my lovely bride, and getting a haircut — I heard on the news that President Trump is supposed to issue (or possibly already has) a space policy directing NASA to start planning for a return to the Moon. I’ll be interested to see what happens with that!

Also, while I was stopped for a freight train passing through downtown Cary, Larry Correia posted a plug for Walking on the Sea of Clouds on his Monster Hunter Nation blog. Thanks, Larry!

Sarah Hoyt mentioned the book on Instapundit last week, and of course there was the National Space Society review that compared the novel to early Heinlein and Pournelle. Between all that, I hope we can generate some pre-Christmas buzz!

Thanks for spreading the word!

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A Surprising and Humbling Comparison

“… as entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction …”

As I mentioned in this past week’s newsletter,* that’s what a reviewer for the National Space Society wrote about Walking on the Sea of Clouds. I never thought I’d have my work compared to someone of Heinlein’s stature — and the reviewer didn’t stop there:

Although as entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction, it is not Heinlein, despite many Heinlein tropes. It seems closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. The style is clearly Rinehart’s own, both readable and involving….

Walking on the Sea of Clouds is the type of story seen too rarely today. It captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again. Those who seek to explore space will read this and say, this is what pioneering space would and should be like.

Not just Heinlein, but Pournelle also? As you might imagine, I was blown away by that!

You can read the whole review on the National Space Society site at this link. I’m given to understand that the review is also supposed to appear in an upcoming issue of their print magazine, Ad Astra.

Success
Being compared to a Grand Master of Science Fiction is one way of defining “success.” (Image: “Success,” by {Flixelpix} David, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

What does all that mean? Maybe nothing more in the grand scheme of things than that my story resonated with at least one reader. But: if you know any science fiction fans who might appreciate a story of survival and sacrifice on the Moon, but either hasn’t heard of my novel or is unsure about whether it might be for them, you can point them to that review. I’d sure appreciate it if you did!

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*You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

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Seeing the Good Before Pronouncing Judgment on the Bad

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

In an essay on Goethe, Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) wrote,

We are firm believers in the maxim that for all right judgment of any man or thing it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.

I like that. Very few people are so reprehensible as to have no good qualities, and when we concentrate so fully on the bad that we ignore the good, it is a very short step indeed to denying the good altogether.

Many of us diehard partisans who snipe incessantly at Presidents or public figures of any kind would do well to take that to heart. That is, if what we are seeking is “right judgment” as opposed to, simply, judgment.

Mahatma Gandhi I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won't presume to probe into the faults of others
(Mahatma Gandhi quote image by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Something to think about. Have a great week!

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Fan Appreciation, “Power Rangers” Style

I told this story in my newsletter, but in case you didn’t read it there:*

Last month I attended the Fayetteville ComicCon, where I had a table on “Authors Alley” and tried to interest as many fans of superheroes and comic books as I could in a certain hard science fiction novel (ahem) and genre-related music. I was moderately successful, and the whole effort was worthwhile, but the most interesting part came from observing the people at the booths across the aisle.

Authors Alley was set up directly across from three actors who had been in various iterations of the Power Rangers franchise: Nakia Burrise, Jack Guzman, and Alyson Kiperman Sullivan (pictured below). Over the course of the weekend I had the opportunity to watch each of them interact with the fans who stopped at their tables to chat or get autographed pictures, and I came away very impressed with each of them.


(Image from http://instey.com/alysonkipermansullivan.)

Without exception, every time a fan—and especially a young fan—came to one of their tables, they paid strict attention to and were fully engaged with that particular person. It didn’t matter whether the fans were young or old, whether they were hale and hearty or arrived in a wheelchair or walking with a cane, these actors remained attentive and surely made those fans feel special. They were present in the moment in a way that was so complete and so palpable that I will reference it from now on as a measure of how well I do in interacting with people at conventions.

And I admit: I generally don’t do very well in those situations. I’m fairly introverted, and find it taxing to be “on” at these events. I would much rather retreat and let my interactions be more limited, but that’s not really an option. (In fact, at that particular event I was guilty of abandoning an interaction with someone; I sent them an apology afterward because I felt bad for having not given them sufficient attention.)

So, until I see a better example, I consider those Power Rangers — Ms. Burrise, Mr. Guzman, and Ms. Kiperman Sullivan — to have reached the pinnacle of fan interactions. Toward the end of the ComicCon I told each one of them separately how much I appreciated the way they treated their fans and how impressed I was. They seemed to appreciate that I noticed and that I told them so, but I don’t think they appreciated my comment as much as I appreciated their examples.

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*Why don’t you sign up for my newsletter? I’ll send you several thank-you gifts for joining! Use the form in the sidebar to the right of this blog post, or this link.

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Authors: Don’t Lie in Your Cover Letter

Or, to be a bit more charitable, don’t exaggerate.

Why do I even have to say this? Because of a cover letter I read today, in which an author claimed that their work had been nominated for (among other things) a Nebula Award.

Nebula Award Logo

A simple search turned up no record of that author having ever made the Nebula ballot in any category: novel, novella, novelette, or short story.* (Sure, it’s possible that they had written something under a pseudonym that was nominated, but that would have been an important detail to mention.)

Pro tip: Having someone tell you that they nominated your work for a Nebula does not equate to being a Nebula nominee. That title applies only to work that made the final ballot.

Pro tip the second: The person who’s reading your cover letter probably has a computer and knows how to do a search, so your lie — or your exaggeration — is likely to be discovered. And when it turns out that you weren’t actually on the ballot for that thing you claimed, your credibility and reputation suffer.

You’re better off not including a cover letter at all than to send one that’s so demonstrably bad.

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*Or even script, back when that was a category.

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