Archive for November, 2011

Blog Tour: Interview with Rachel Starr Thomson

Book Reviews, Writing | Posted by Shannon
Nov 23 2011

November’s CSFF blog tour has been moved to early December, but no fears – we’re still going to have a blog tour this month. This tour’s book is Worlds Unseen, book one of the Seventh World Trilogy. It is written by Rachel Starr Thomson, a freelance editor and writer who has authored numerous fiction and nonfiction books. And that’s only the beginning of her artistic endeavors. In her other life, she is a poet/storyteller/narrator/singer for Soli Deo Gloria Ballet, a Christian performing arts company.

I will be reviewing Worlds Unseen later in the tour. For today, I will be posting an interview with Rachel. Here’s a quick synopsis of the book, just to give you a little background info:

The Council for Exploration Into Worlds Unseen believed there was more to the world and its history than the empire had taught them. Treating ancient legends as history, they came a little too close to the truth. Betrayed by one of their own, the Council was torn apart before they could finish their work.

Forty years later, Maggie Sheffield just wants to leave the past behind. Memories of the Orphan House where she grew up are fading; memories of her guardians’ murder are harder to shake. When a dying friend shows up on her doorstep bearing the truth about the Seventh World–in the form of a written covenant with evil–Maggie is sent on a journey that will change her forever.

Now the main event itself, an interview with Rachel Starr Thomson:

(1) For starters, can you tell us a little about the Seventh World Trilogy?

The Seventh World Trilogy (Worlds Unseen, Burning Light, and Coming Day) was born when I asked what might have happened if the the Protestant Reformation came about in a fantasy world. It has changed a lot since that initial idea, but the underlying idea is still one of reforming life and rediscovering truth. It’s a story about people who find out that the world as they know it is built on lies; that their real history is contained in myths and legends that have long been suppressed—but that the truth is about to break into their world, in the form of great forces that are at war. Maggie, Nicolas, Virginia and the rest find themselves challenged and transformed as they take their own places in the story.

(2) There seems to be Scottish influences in Worlds Unseen. Is there any culture, or any folk tradition, from which you drew inspiration in writing the book?

The Seventh World as a whole is based on Europe, so there are traces of different cultures and regions all throughout. The Highlands, where Lord Robert and Virginia come from, is definitely based on Scotland. Cryneth and Midland roughly correspond to Wales and England. Once Maggie crosses the channel onto the mainland, most of the story takes place in regions that mirror France and Eastern Europe. The connections are always loose, but they’re there. I wanted to create a world that felt vaguely familiar, while still being strange. But it’s interesting that you should mention the Scottish influence in particular, because Celtic ideas definitely influence the book in other ways as well. The whole concept of a “Veil” separating the natural and supernatural worlds is very Celtic.

(3) Of all your characters in Worlds Unseen, which one would you try hardest to avoid meeting in a dark alley? And if you did meet him (or her) in a dark alley, which other character would you choose to have at your side?

Evelyn is by far the scariest–not only in this book, but also in Coming Day (where she shows up again in a rather changed role). She is evil and gifted and ambitious, not a good mix. If I had to face her, I’m pretty sure I’d want Gwryion, the elemental lord of the Wild Things, with me!

(4) Which element of the book did you work hardest to get right?

The rebellion in Pravik. I had to dig into politics and underlying conflicts and past events, and that took a few drafts to figure out. When I first wrote it, it was much more surface, without enough motivation to really make it work.

(5) While creating your Gypsies, how closely did you pattern them after the Gypsies of our world?

Not closely, I’m afraid–they’re more symbolic in the Trilogy than they are a real look at real Gypsies.

(6) Are you up to anything else in the fantasy genre?

I have several things getting ready for publication, plus a handful of ideas I’m kicking around for new books. Taerith, one of my favourites, has just been released as an e-book (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82687). Two more, Angel in the Woods and Lady Moon, will probably come out in the next couple of years. And of course, Burning Light and Coming Day finish off the Seventh World Trilogy.


To read Worlds Unseen as an e-book, go to SmashWords. A hard copy may be obtained at the author’s own site, and at Amazon and B&N. More information about the book can be found at those sites, as well as the rest of the blog tour:

Phyllis Wheeler (Nov 21)

Carol Keen (Nov 26, Dec 2, and Dec 9)

Bluerose’s Heart (Nov 28)

Lindsay Franklin (Nov 30, Dec 7)

Sarah Sawyer (Dec. 9)

And, finally, here again, for a review on December 5.

A Poem and its Parody

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Nov 14 2011

Years ago, while reading through an old volume of G. K. Chesterton poetry, I came across this poem:

THE PHILANTHROPIST

(With apologies to a Beautiful Poem)

ABOU BEN ADHEM (may his tribe decrease
By cautious birth-control and die in peace)
Mellow with learning lightly took the word
That marked him not with them that love the Lord,
And told the angel of the book and pen
“Write me as one that loves his fellow-men:
For them alone I labour; to reclaim
The ragged roaming Bedouin and to tame

To ordered service; to uproot their vine
Who mock the Prophet, being mad with wine,
Let daylight through their tents and through their lives,
Number their camels, even count their wives;
Plot out the desert into streets and squares,
And count it a more fruitful work than theirs
Who lift a vain and visionary love
To your vague Allah in the skies above.”

Gently replied the angel of the pen:
“Labour in peace and love your fellow-men:
And love not God, since men alone are dear,
Only fear God; for you have Cause to fear.”


I wondered about that apology; later I found that “The Philanthropist” is based off a famous poem by Leigh Hunt called “Abou Ben Adhem”. A Book of Treasured Poems, published in 1928, features Hunt’s poem (but not Chesterton’s, go figure):

ABOU BEN ADHEM

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:-

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
‘What writest thou?’ – The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’

‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said ‘I pray thee then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.’

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names who love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.


With my own apologies to the beautiful poem, I have to say I like the parody better. Over at Chesterton and Friends, “The Philanthropist” is posted with some interesting thoughts.

Mankind a Bridge

Culture, Writing | Posted by Shannon
Nov 04 2011

Writing broadens your horizons. Recently it broadened mine to nanotechnology.

I already had a vague idea of what nanos are – gleaned mostly, I admit, from science fiction. Those sci-fi writers have crazy ideas, some of which are borrowed from scientists.

A good number of scientists are hoping to create artificial photosynthesis. “Yes,” you may say, “but what for, artificial plants?” The idea is to build artificial life forms, much like simple bacteria, that will use artificial photosynthesis to produce fuel for human use. Yes, there are people being paid to try and do that.

By far the strangest aspiration for nanotech is to enhance humanity out of existence. If some people can dream of nano-medicine that will restore the whole body, other people can dream of nantechnology that will enhance it. And when nanotechnology meets cyber technology – when science manages to integrate machines with the human body – the limits of biology are broken.

Some might worry that too much nano-altering and cyber-enhancing may eventually destroy humanity. For others – transhumanists, they call themselves – that is their plan. “Humanity,” Max More wrote, “is a temporary stage along the evolutionary pathway.” And the Transhumanist FAQ explains: ” ‘Posthuman’ is a term used by transhumanists to refer to what humans could become if we succeed in using technology to remove the limitations of the human condition.”

“Transhuman” is a new term, but something in the idea sounds very old. I think it once went under the name “Superman”.

Before he was a movie, before he was a TV show, even before he was a comic book, Superman was a nihilistic dream. The dreamer was Nietzsche, and this is how he told it:

I teach you the Superman. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?

What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

Lo, I teach you the Superman!

The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall he the meaning of the earth!

I conjure you, my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.

Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth! …

What is the greatest thing ye can experience? It is the hour of great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becometh loathsome unto you, and so also your reason and virtue.

The hour when ye say: “What good is my happiness! It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence itself!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my reason! Doth it long for knowledge as the lion for his food? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my virtue! As yet it hath not made me passionate. How weary I am of my good and my bad! It is all poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my justice! I do not see that I am fervour and fuel. The just, however, are fervour and fuel!”

The hour when we say: “What good is my pity! Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loveth man? But my pity is not a crucifixion.”

Have ye ever spoken thus? Have ye ever cried thus? Ah! would that I had heard you crying thus!

It is not your sin- it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven! …

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman- a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.

A transhuman might be kinder than Nietzsche’s “Overman”, part of whose strength was that he did not pity the weak. George Bernard Shaw’s Superman was. But whether kind or cruel, whether created by nanotechnology or the Life Force or evolutionary progress, they all dream of the Superman. They all dream of going beyond humanity.

And it’s a dark dream, where God is dead and mankind is only a bridge, and the earth is weary of superearthly hopes.