Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looks Like ABANDONED TOWERS is Folding

I ran across some news that is personally very bad, at least in terms of my list of forthcoming publications.

From the Abandoned Towers site:

"We’re sorry, but at this time Abandoned Towers Magazine is closed to submissions and will be closing soon unless a different publisher wishes to take it over.
If you are interested in doing so, please email us at cwizprod@gmail.com.
If no one steps forward, Abandoned Towers by August 1, 2011, the magazine will be taken offline.
Any previously accepted submissions that have not been published are released back to the authors."

Note especially that last bit about accepted submissions being released back to the authors. The next print issue of Abandoned Towers was to be built around my article "The Darker Side of Fairy Lore". In addition to my article, the issue was to contain seven of my fairy-themed poems, my illustration of a "Redcap", and my art on the cover. I also have a plethora of art and poetry on Abandoned Towers on-line, which will apparently vanish from cyberspace come August 1st, barring any last-minute miracles. Even if another publisher steps forward to take the reins, what is currently on-line at Abandoned Towers may not remain there. My poem published in Fear & Trembling vanished from the net when that zine closed and was subsequently re-opened by another publisher.

What makes matters worse is that I didn't receive word of this from the soon-to-be-former publisher of Abandoned Towers, a publisher and editor I thought I had a good working relationship with. I didn't hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were. Instead, I happened across it on-line when I began to wonder about the lack of news concerning the Summer 2011 issue of the zine and performed a Google search for Abandoned Towers. I discovered that Duotrope's Digest had the message about the magazine being taken off-line if no one decides to take it over by August 1st. I then went to the Abandoned Towers site, where I found the message I quoted above.

To say that I'm upset and angry right now is an understatement. On the positive side, I was already paid for everything, so I'm not out any money. I'm just out almost half of my list of forthcoming publications, and a good chunk of my publications on-line. Time to start sending those pieces elsewhere (I already have something in the works that may pan out in the end - more on that as news develops).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The History of Christian Intolerance

A discussion that has wandered toward the idea of the Christian ethos making tolerance a practiced virtue got me thinking about what the historical record says regarding Christians and tolerance of other faiths. While I agree that the Christian ethos ideally contains the concept of tolerance (after all, Jesus said that "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" is the second greatest commandment), I can't help but to question the historical record of Christian tolerance. It seems to me that, in the past, Christianity has shown a marked trend toward intolerance, intolerance of other faiths, or even intolerance of other branches of Christianity. While this may seem at odds with the Christian ideal of peace and love, the historical facts are hard to ignore.

In ancient Rome, Christianity moved from a position of tolerant co-existence with the older Greco-Roman paganism to a position of intolerance. Constantine I (reigned 306 to 337) went from proclaiming religious toleration in his Edict of Milan of 313, to ordering the destruction of pagan temples during the final years of his reign. The Christian Emperors Constantius II (reigned 337-361), Gratian (reigned 375 to 383), and Theodosius I (reigned 379 to 395), all took various official steps to repress paganism in the Empire. In an edict issued in 356, Constantius II banned public pagan worship. After a period of relative tolerance under the reigns of Jovian, Valentinian I, and Valens, Gratian returned to a policy of repression. In 382, Gratian did away with the privileges enjoyed by the pagan priests, confiscated the revenues of the pagan temples, and had the Altar of victory removed from the Senate House in Rome. Theodosius I banned paganism in his "Theodosian Decrees" of 389-391. He outlawed private pagan ritual and declared Paganism a "religio illicita". Various Christian emperors that followed continued these policies, and enacted yet more laws repressing paganism.

In the early Middle Ages, Charlemagne fought a series of wars to convert the pagan Saxons at the point of a sword. In 772 or 773, Charlemagne destroyed the Irminsul, a tree or pillar sacred to the Saxon tribes. In 780, at the Elbe and Ocker rivers, the Frankish King himself assisted in several mass baptisms. However, the Saxons did not remain Christian for long. In 782, in a particularly infamous episode from this time, Charlemagne ordered the beheading of 4,500 bound prisoners for defiantly reverting to paganism.

Tales from the various Crusades show us that Christians can be very intolerant of those of other faiths. On its way to the Holy Land, the ill-fated People's Crusade of 1096 committed acts of violence against Jews in France and Germany. Upon the taking of Jerusalem in 1099, the victorious armies of the Princes' Crusade massacred Muslim and Jewish civilians.

In the thirteenth century, Pope Innocent III called for a Crusade against the heretical Cathars. In a series of battle and sieges waged from 1209 to 1229, the northern french nobility sought to eradicate this anti-clerical ascetic sect based in southern France. A number of massacres were carried out in the name of orthodoxy under the leadership of Simon de Monfort. A papal legate's response when one soldier wondered how to tell Catholic from Cathar gave us the modern phrase "kill them all and let God sort them out".

After the Middle Ages, a series of wars followed the Protestant Reformation. Catholic fought Protestant for control of various European nations. Civil wars erupted in France between the Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots, which began with a massacre of a number of Huguenots at Wassy on 1 March 1562. Catholics killed hundreds of Huguenots at the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572. With the Edict of Fontainebleau, Louis XIV declared Protestantism to be illegal, and the Huguenots either had to convert or emigrate.

The Catholic Philip II of Spain sent the Duke of Alba to the Netherlands in 1567 an attempt to quell the troubles stirred up by the Calvinists opposed to Spanish rule. Alba's Council of Troubles, also known as Council of Blood, sentenced thousands to death. In 1588 Philip II sent an Armada against Protestant England, which was famously defeated by English and Dutch warships and the weather.

Much more recently, the United States forcibly converted Native Americans to Christianity. Until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in 1978, there was a law on the books in the US that stated Native American spiritual leaders could be jailed simply for practicing their traditional religious rituals.

In "The Troubles" of 20th century Northern Ireland, Catholic fought Protestant in conflicts that have repercussions to this day. Discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland eventually led to violence and bloodshed. While the political aspects of "The Troubles" cannot be ignored, they still retain the religious element of Catholic versus Protestant, an echo of those earlier religious wars of the 16th century.

There are, undoubtedly, more examples I have not covered, but I think these are enough to make my point.

So, does history bear out the notion that the Christian ethos has made tolerance a practiced virtue? In theory, the Christian ethos does indeed contain the concept of tolerance. However, in practice, history has taught us that the reality may be quite different. Christianity, as with many other systems of belief held to be absolute truths, has had a record of intolerance toward other beliefs. To deny this is to deny the lessons of the past. As George Santayana said:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

History and Same-Sex Marriage

In the course of discussions about how attitudes toward marriage, and the involvement of religion in marriage, have evolved over the centuries, I ran across a few items from history indicating that the concept of same-sex marriage is nothing new. A lot of this has undoubtedly been talked about before, but as a student of history and a supporter of same-sex marriage, I found these items to be of great interest.

Apparently, there were such things as same-sex marriages, albeit with no legal standing, in Ancient Rome. The Emperor Nero reputedly castrated and "married" a male slave:
http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/nero.html
Of course, the latter Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans made same-sex marriage illegal, upon pain of death:
http://hnn.us/articles/21319.html

Even so, skipping ahead to the medieval period, the medieval church was apparently not always opposed to same-sex marriage. The priest of a small chapel in Rairiz de Veiga, Spain, performed the marriage ceremony for the two men Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz on April 16, 1061. A record of this marriage between two men was found in documents in the Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova:
http://www.farodevigo.es/portada-ourense/2011/02/27/primer-matrimonio-homosexual-galicia-oficio-1061-rairiz-veiga/522378.html)


Much later, We'wha, a revered late nineteenth-century Zuni leader, was man who dressed in women's garb and was married to a man:
http://www.jstor.org/pss/1073379

Based on this, I would conclude that same-sex marriage isn't such a dangerously revolutionary concept after all. It seems to be just another aspect of the complexity that is the human condition.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on Marriage and Religion

- Historically, marriage has had social and legal elements as well as religious. Check out marriage in ancient Rome.

- In a nation of laws, with separation of church and state, there are certain rights that married couples have by law. These are completely separate from the concept of marriage as a religious rite. There are certain legal privileges and financial benefits granted to married couples in the USA.

- In a secular society, there are such things as civil marriage ceremonies, as is right and proper in a nation of laws instead of a nation of religion. Such ceremonies do not necessarily have to have a religious component.

- Marriage is a contract between two people, and in the eyes of the law (of the USA), it is a contract dealing with legal rights and obligations.

- The USA may be headed toward a theocracy, but last I knew laws, not religion, rule in this country. The USA is still a secular nation of laws.

A couple of questions:

- Why is it that those professing to be Christian, those claiming to love Jesus and what he preached, seem to miss that very important bit he preached about love?

- Why is it those bible-quoters who frequently cite Levitical Laws as a reason to hate homosexuals and deny same-sex couples the same rights granted to other couples always miss the law that Jesus thought was the second-most important commandment of all, "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"? (See Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:35, and Mark 12:28.)

I personally have no problem with same-sex couples wanting those same legal rights and financial benefits granted to other married couples. I think it's perfectly reasonable that they want the right to enter into that same legal contract. In a supposedly free and equal society, the denial of such rights, privileges, and benefits is wrong. Denying such things is not a sign of love; it's a sign of hate. I also don't see it as a threat to my two-decade old marriage to my wife Michele; such a notion is absurd beyond belief.

I don't mind people who are willing to have a dialogue, to discuss the issue and listen to what others have to say. I do mind the haters who are unwilling to listen to reason.

Yes, New York has legalised same-sex marriage, but the idiocy that is DOMA still stands. The federal government still denies same-sex couples the legal rights granted to married couples. Why, in a secular nation of laws, should this be the case?

(If we are strictly following Leviticus, then we may have male and female slaves, right? Unfortunately, for those prospective slave-owning Christians out there, the laws of the USA abolished slavery in the 19th century.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quiet June (Publication-Wise)

The month of June has been quiet for me, publication-wise. Unless some of the outstanding publications without a firm publication date come out between now and the end of the month, which is doubtful, the only thing I will have published this month is a reprint poem in the June issue of Aphelion (if they manage to get THAT out before July 1st). I haven't even had any acceptances so far this month; the last acceptance I received was on May 12th, for my poem "Shroudeater", slated to appear in the Panic Press vampire anthology Bleed - And They Will Come (if that anthology ever gets published, that is).

July, on the other hand, will be less-than-quiet. I am supposed to have previously unpublished art in Bete Noire and Bards and Sages Quarterly, a previously unpublished poem in the July issue of Aphelion, and a reprint poem in Dark Metre. In addition, I will be having an article, several poems, and art in the Summer 2011 issue of Abandoned Towers, which may just come out in July. I was also told recently that the Residential Aliens While the Morning Stars Sing anthology might also be coming out in July. I will be having a previously unpublished interior illustration and three reprint poem in that particular publication.

Of course, if I don't get some acceptances soon, the latter months of the year will be as quiet as this middle month has been. I am currently awaiting reply on several story, poetry, and art submissions (not that I'm overly hopeful of positive news regarding my prose submissions). I have kept busy in the month of June, but not everything I've been working on lately has been for submissions to the realm of publication. There were those colossi for entry into the deviantART RIFT Create a Colossus Contest, and right at this very moment, I'm working on Doodle speaker designs to add to the items in my Zazzle store.

If I'm extraordinarily lucky, maybe some really good news will break the doldrums, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. One has to be realistic about one's chances of making that pro sale or winning that contest. One just has to take it one month at a time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Azure Lion Productions Collage


I added this collage to the front page of my on-line Azure Lion Productions Portfolio, in place of the plain logo I previously had. I'm hoping this is more distinctive and eye-catching than the logo all by itself. It's certainly a way to showcase some of my art right on the front page.

Now, to send out more art queries!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not the Right Style (Again)

Alas, a reply to one of the art queries I sent out earlier this month stated that "the style of your work is not what we are looking for at this time". This isn't the first time that I've received a reply like this in regard to an art query, and it wasn't completely unexpected, but I still found it to be a bit disappointing and frustrating. I know my "incomparable" style can be a difficult sell at times, especially to publications that prefer a more "realistic" approach.

On the plus side, this particular publication apparently keeps an on-line list of artists and their links, as a resource for publishers looking for illustrators and cover artists. They asked if they could add me to their list. I had better reply in the affirmative. You never know, something may eventually come of it. Another art director, editor, or publisher may run across my link and decide that my style is right for them.

Anyway, this latest example of "the style of your work is not what we are looking for at this time" gives me further incentive to look beyond the realm of publications. I think I must expand my horizons beyond the rather restricted world of publications if I am to see any real success with my art. There are at least two greeting card companies I'm thinking of sending some sample to, once I complete enough samples to send (gonna be drawing lots of flowers and holiday-themed stuff). Additionally, good ole Zazzle now sells Doodle Speakers, and I have at least a couple of speaker designs in mind for eventual sale through my Azure Lion productions Zazzle Store (once I get to draw those designs).

I'm determined to work hard at making something of my art, even if all that hard work doesn't always pay-off in the end. That's the really frustrating part of it; doing all that work for relatively little gain.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eternal Silliness: The "Sci-Fi Versus SF" Debate

Here we go again: I have run across yet another discussion about the debate over whether or not it is proper and appropriate to call "hard" or "serious" or "literary" science fiction "sci-fi". From what I've gathered, in some genre writing circles it is seen as improper and even downright offensive to call such science fiction "sci-fi". According to this camp, the label "sci-fi" should ONLY be applied to "softer", "less serious", "less literary" stuff like space opera and science fantasy. Some "serious" science fiction writers actually get offended if you call their works "sci-fi". According to these overly-sensitive writers of science fiction, SF is the more proper and appropriate shorthand for their serious literary works.

Good grief! The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and some genre writers get all worked up over the "improper" use of shorthand labels? Sheesh!

Looking at this debate from a broader perspective (an "outsider's perspective", perhaps?), this whole thing sounds an awful lot like a bunch of silly BS.
Compared to all the serious real-life problems in the world today, the eternal debate over whether or not to call certain brands of science fiction "sci-fi" or "SF" is truly trivial. I think those that make a big deal out of such a trivial topic (especially those that get offended when one shorthand version is used over another) have a serious problem with perspective. Compared to floundering economies and endless wars, a changing climate and environmental disasters, failing educational systems and scandal-ridden governments, continued inequalities of various sorts and the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, calling "hard" or "serious" or "literary" science fiction "sci-fi" is simply not that big a deal. Those that think otherwise, those that get all worked up over it, had better get a grip on reality and start taking a closer look at the truly important issues.

Having had a rather unpleasant encounter over this very same issue a while back, it's something that I have thought about every now and then. To be quite honest, I've probably spent far too much time thinking about it, but such unpleasantness tends to stick in my head for a long time. Having mulled over this subject for a while now, I'm struck by the sheer silliness of it all. I simply don't see it as a big deal.

In my opinion, some genre writers take this whole labelling thing way too seriously. Why make such a big deal over such a silly little thing? Writing serious genre literature may be the centre of a serious genre writer's world, but it ain't the whole effing universe! Last I knew, no genre writer, no matter how serious and literary, is God.

Father Figure? What Father Figure?

Once in a while, I feel the need to go places I don't normally go here and face my personal demons and past hurts right on my blog. There are occasions I must speak my mind and say what's in my heart, as a catharsis if for no other reason. This is one of those times.

I saw a "Writer's Block" question over on LiveJournal that asked "what's the most memorable piece of advice your father has shared with you?", and it stirred up all sorts of dark emotions and reopened old wounds. My response on LiveJournal is as follows:

What father?

I know what a father is because I am one, and I try to be a damned good one, but I never really had a father in the emotional, supportive, or truly familial sense.

I do not have a father that gave me advice. I really don't have a father at all.

Of course, I do have a biological father whom my mother divorced when I was but an infant. I have a biological father who gave me up without a fuss when my mother re-married and her new husband decided (or was persuaded) to go through the motions of adopting me as his son.

I have a legal father who did not know how to be a parent. I have a legal father who rarely acted like a true adult (let alone a real father). I have a legal father who eventually made my life a living hell.

Growing up, I had a legal father who was incapable of being much more than a glowering authority figure. I had a father in name only. I had an alleged father who never really made me feel like part of his family.

When I was a youngster, I had a legal father who had very little patience with a klutzy kid who showed more aptitude for art and academics than for athletics. I had a legal father who could not play pitch-and-catch with his supposed son without the experience almost invariably degenerating into an irate "episode".

When I was a pre-teen and teenager, I had a legal father who refused to show me how to start an unfamiliar push-mower, even though using the old push-mower was one of my chores. I had a legal father who absolutely refused to have "THE talk" with his curious pre-pubescent son (something my mother is equally guilty of - she said "go talk to your father", while he said "go talk to your mother", and that was the end of that). I had a legal father who put a stop to teaching me how to use the riding mower on the first day of instruction, claiming that I did something wrong, even though he never told me what it was I did wrong.

When I was an older teen, I had a legal father who refused to teach me how to shave. I had a legal father who began to act threatened by my presence. I had a legal father who could not wait to get me out of "his house", one way or another.

When I still had contact with my evil witch of a mother, every so often she liked to point out that, thanks to a piece of paper, my step-father was my "legal father". What is written on a piece of paper, no matter how legal that piece of paper is, doesn't truly make a man a father. What is inside the heart determines whether or not a man is truly a father. If the emotional connections, supportive attitudes, and familial attachments are simply not there, that piece of paper means nothing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Colossi

In case anyone has been wondering what I've been up to for the past week or so, I've been busy drawing and colouring colossi for the deviantART RIFT Create a Colossus Contest. I started off by creating a colossus from the plane of death (imagine that?), but I wasn't sure if the concept for my death colossus was imaginative enough. So, my doubts about the one colossus kicked the creative gears into overdrive, and I came up with ideas for two more colossi.

In the end, I entered three separate colossi into the deviantART RIFT Create a Colossus gallery, "Death Colossus Magomort", "Air Colossus Typhogigas", and "Water Colossus Gorgopogon". Magomort has some features of interest, especially a really creepy cloak that "spreads death and un-death", but I think the other two are even more imaginative. Typhogigas is an especially cool design, with its four heads symbolic of the four winds, while Gorgopogon may be the most skillfully drawn and coloured of the three. Inspired by the colour artwork in a book I recently purchase (The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures by Dempsey, Collinson, and Elvin), I did something I normally don't do and added a little bit of shading when I coloured in my water colossus drawing. I'm pleased with the results. If nothing else, it is a good example of what I'm currently capable of.

I don't know if any of my three colossi stand a chance of being picked as semi-finalists. I know my chances of winning are very slim indeed. Of course, I would stand no chance at all if I didn't try. Who knows? Perhaps my "incomparable" artwork will actually stand out from the rest. I do think I have a fairly unique style, although that's not always a good thing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I am not my Characters!

I know a writer sometimes puts a lot of themselves into their characters, and I have done that from time to time, but I'm not my characters! Last I knew, I'm not a blood-sucking alien creature ("The Iltrox"), or a member of a legion of lonely ghosts ("Souls Adrift"), or a woman involved in a fatal love affair with an incubus ("The Incubus"), or a malicious jilted wizard ("Vengeance of the Alpe"). I'm especially not Daniel from my dark poem "The Damnation of Daniel Brewster". I have not lived "decades of debauchery". I certainly wouldn't return to my childhood haunt "searching for scraps of solace" or "hoping to find warm comfort"; I know I would find neither in my cursed home town. I certainly don't have "throngs of cast-off lovers" holding "never-born sons and daughters / snuggled against bloodied breasts".

So, don't mistake me for my character. Don't call me Daniel; I might get rather offended. I'm Richard. Have been all my life.

I know editors and co-editors are dreadfully busy people, but still, my name is usually plastered all over my submission e-mails (including my by-line). Besides, this is the sort of mistake that, in reverse, might annoy editors to no end. Maybe I should just start calling all editors "Charlie", because I feel like it, and because it's easier to call them "Charlie" than to dig up their real names.

(I'm not REALLY as annoyed over the whole thing as I seem to be, I just find it mildly amusing.)