Category Archives: Speculative Fiction

Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 2. Chapters 1-3

Facilitators Notes for Part 2

In our discussion, we covered Parts 1 and 2 in a single session. There was more than enough discussion to fill two hours (our planned discussion time).

One of the questions that came up during the discussion: “Was the protest that led to the founding of the Coventry Penal Colony motivated or inspired by the Freedom Convoy that took place in Canada in January and February 2022?”.

The simple answer:  The chronology of the writing of Coventry 2091 makes that connection impossible.

  • Coventry 2091 was published in June 2021, a full 6-7 months before anyone, including me, even heard of the Freedom Convoy.
  • The events in Coventry 2091, thought to occur in 2049-2051 were imagined before my previous book, The Dragons of Sheol was published in June 2019.
  • This connection is simply one of those coincidental things that happen as one does one’s best to imagine the future.

The Opening Chapters of Coventry 2091

My hope about our discussion

When paddling your kayak in a channel in a strong wind, it’s not enough to point the boat’s bow toward your destination, since the wind will blow you off course. You have to take the wind into account by paddling against it just enough to reach your goal. The assumptions made about the future in this book and others in this genre are like the wind blowing us off course (unless the wind comes directly from astern—unlikely). Let’s focus on how we change our paddling rather than thinking about changing the direction of the wind.

What is the Coventry 2091 “What if?” Question?

Most Science Fiction, particularly if it’s extrapolated from the present, begins with a “What If …” question. So does Coventry 2091.

What if, in 2051 in Canada, a politically unpalatable, peaceful protest occurred that was so extensive and enduring that the government had to take extraordinary measures?

The Coventry 2091 story is set some forty years later.

Are there any other “What if” questions embedded in the extrapolation from your reading of Speculative Fiction as well as Coventry 2091?

Chapters 1-3

When writing fiction, it’s important to make the fictional invention plausible enough that the reader isn’t constantly saying “no way!” or “I can’t believe that would happen!”

How plausible do you find the back story leading up to the founding of Coventry Penal Colony and its operation? Do you think it could happen in Canada? Why or Why not?

What do you find least plausible in the back story resulting in the non-violent protests in 2050 and the founding of the Coventry Penal Colony? Why?

At the end of Chapter 3 (pages 18 and 19), Jacob, Hanna, and Zeke talk about the difference in teaching between their brief experience at Coventry and their public education.

How do you see our public education (at all levels) changing and if you were to look into your crystal ball? How will these changes affect future generations of students? How will these educational changes affect Christian students in particular?

How do we change our paddling, as it were, if we:

  • Saw changes in our educational system that we found very disturbing and deleterious?
  • Concluded that our children or grandchildren were no longer adequately prepared for life through their education?
  • That the educational system increasingly becomes more antagonistic to Christianity?

Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 1. Introduction to Speculative Fiction

Introduction to the Coventry 2091 Discussion Question Series

I was privileged to be invited to facilitate a discussion group on my most recent novel, Coventry 2091. I thought there might be readers who could benefit from the time I invested in crafting questions for the discussion. I hope this proves to be of value.

The group I facilitated was interested in discussing the implications of the world view that under-girds much of the world-building and character development. Many of the questions were designed to encourage that particular type of discussion by the group members. I was not always sure how active and far reaching the discussion would be. In practice, I covered two parts in each session. If the discussion in Part 1 by your group requires more time, it’s easy to end after one part and reserve the second part for the following session.

Introduction to Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction is a general term encompassing both Science Fiction (itself a broad term) and Fantasy. The easiest way to understand them is to look at some concrete examples:

  • DUNE by Frank Herbert is Science Fiction
    • Has anyone read it or seen the movie?
    • Any characteristics of SF you can identify?
  • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien is Fantasy
    • Has anyone read it or seen the movie?
    • Any characteristics of Fantasy you can identify?
  • HARRY POTTER by J. K. Rowling is a subcategory of Fantasy that some call Urban Fantasy.
  • OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon is a Time Travel novel, but also a Romance and Historical novel.
  • Dystopian novels such as 1984, BRAVE NEW WORLD, and A HANDMAID’S TALE are Speculative Fiction because they are set in the future (future at the time of writing).
  • Are there any other books you have enjoyed, that, on reflection, might be Speculative Fiction?
  • Given the examples we discussed, any thoughts on a comprehensive definition of Speculative Fiction?

So, you might be reading Speculative Fiction without knowing it.

Why Do I Write Science Fiction/Fantasy?

There are a number of reasons:

  • There are books I would have liked to read, but no one has bothered to write them yet. So, I had to write them.
  • Most SF books are based are based on a Materialist world view. When I read them I don’t truly feel “at home” in them, and often wish there were books more in line with what I believe.
  • I read a lot of SF in high school and university and these books helped kindle my love of science. I would like to connect with that age group of readers, who normally don’t care what an old guy thinks, but might read a story by an old guy if it were well-written enough.
  • Did anyone else read Science Fiction and/or Fantasy in high school and university? What made you stop (if you did)?

If you were to write a novel, what would you write about?

THE HALCYON DISLOCATION Has Just Listed on Hoopla

Hoopla Listing at the Leeds and Thousand Island Public Library

If you’re interested in trying a new author, but don’t know if their writing is consistent with your taste, why not try a book from a library? The Halcyon Dislocation, the first book in The Halcyon Cycle, a Science Fiction story that reads like Fantasy, has just been listed by Hoopla, a major library lending service.

Here is the North America coverage map for Hoopla, https://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=661471 .

North American Library Coverage Map for Hoopla

So, if you have library privileges at the Seeley’s Bay Public Library, the Lyndhurst Public Library, or the Lansdowne Public Library, why not download The Halcyon Dislocation and give the book a try?

Library Branches and Contact Information

DRAIG a Fantasy Novel by Anne C. Miles

Draig is the second book of the Call of the Lorica, a series written by Anne C. Miles. She continues to build her world and we enter into a phase where there is conflict between the forces of harmony (Majisters and their allies) and the forces of dissonance (the Conclave driven by the Eighth of the Cyntae—the dragon Doran). Several major victories are won by Dane and the Majisters, but will they be enough? Toward the end we see the battle lines for the next book take shape. In a truly terrifying scene, the dragon Doran, detaches himself from a tattoo on Modric’s arm, and tortures the Conclave leader to teach him the importance of success. Will the forces of good be destroyed as Modric fully expects? Who will be the next king? Is Sara (a person from our world who interacts with the world of the Majisters, primarily through Dane) facing a battle of her own in our world with her boss, Bastien?

It is difficult to write a sequel as compelling as the original story, yet Anne Miles has done a masterful job. Although much of the story line is set by the first book, there are many surprises and some animosities surface as the forces of evil masquerade as the good. Draig left me eager for more and I look forward to the third book. I recommend reading the stories in order. My rating: four stars.

Review of Glen Robinson’s THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE (HERETICS#2)

Having read, Heretics#1, I must say that THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE did not disappoint. Like its predecessor, it was an action-packed thriller full of suspense, heroic action, peril, as well as intriguing plot twists. The Heretics, as an organization, are about to go international and respond to training requests from teams in other countries.

Betrayal from within the organization leads to deadly strikes against the new teams and forces the Heretics organization to go into hiding until the betrayer can be discovered. Key to the disaster is a person called Veritas who uses human pheromones (a topic of scientific debate and speculation) to great effect.

This is a well-written story that kept me reading. I cared about the main characters and the suspense was handled well. Until the end, I was looking at rating it five stars, but I ended up at four. The author is clearly setting the reader up for the sequel, but there were so many loose ends that it left me somewhat dissatisfied. I, of course, expect some loose ends to make room for a sequel, but this story felt as if there were too many for my taste.

Perhaps, when the next book is available, and I have read it, the loose ends that trouble me now, will be the appetizer that will cause me to enjoy the sequel more thoroughly.

Becoming a Truth-Seeker in an Age of Propaganda

My well-used copy of THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH

In C. S. Lewis’ novel THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, published in 1945, he foresaw the age of propaganda. An unobtrusive organization, the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), was engaged in implementing its program of  eliminating undesirables. Although not well-known to the public, the N.I.C.E. controlled parliament. It didn’t really matter whom you, as a voter. elected. Once elected, the MP would be beholden to the N.I.C.E. for their success. Similarly, the media organizations were also under the thumb of the N.I.C.E.

At one point the protagonist, the malleable Mark Studdock, in his quest to always be part of the progressive element at his college, is roped into writing propaganda pieces for the N.I.C.E. for its many initiatives destined to remove people’s freedoms and liberties. Studdock’s template propaganda pieces appear in customized form in all of the nation’s papers. Lewis presents a brilliant picture of how a well-educated, articulate, academic can write convincingly and compellingly on almost any subject. As a reader, who knew the true events behind the story, I could nevertheless only marvel how a clever writer could twist the context to make the facts fit the wholly deceptive perspective desired by the N.I.C.E. The malevolent Progressive Element in the N.I.C.E. goes on to stage fake protests, use the media to mislead the public to rage against the innocent, all for the purpose of eliminating those people who oppose their pragmatic agenda of efficiency and control. Lewis has a real knack for making the propaganda so persuasive that the reader would be taken in if he didn’t see the actions behind the rhetoric. To me this prophecy is happening before my eyes seventy-five years after this book was written.

How does one, then, become a truth-seeker in an age of propaganda?

Before beginning a discussion of a difficult subject about truth and propaganda, it is important to define the terms.

Truth is a very important word in the New Testament. In the Greek the noun, transliterated, is ALETHEIA.

ALETHEIA: “The reality lying at the basis of appearance; the manifested veritable essence of a matter”

W.E. Vine; Cremer

PROPAGANDA: “An organized programme of publicity, selected information etc. used to propagate a doctrine, practice, etc.; the information, doctrines, etc. propagated in this way, esp. regarded as misleading or dishonest”

Oxford English Reference Dictionary

As I work to be a truth-seeker, two important points stand out to me:

  1. Truth (Aletheia) is connected to reality. It is quite dangerous to ignore truth because reality, by its nature, will win out.
  2. Truth is not always easy to identify, since appearances may be misleading. Often appearances can be created by what people say.

With regards to propaganda, it is not the opposite of truth, but often is a caricature of it. As the definition indicates, propaganda uses publicity and selected information with an end in mind. They may want you to buy a product, vote for a particular party, censure some group, or believe a particular message. The publicity and selected information is chosen in order: to get the audience to accept the teaching or take the steps desired.

So how do I become a truth-seeker in an age of propaganda? I think there are four steps that are important for me to take:

  1. If I am given information driving me to a particular belief or action, argue against it. If the information is part of a propaganda initiative, the propagandists are likely telling me half-truths and omitting all counter arguments. If the information is true, I won’t find any compelling counter arguments and the information will become even more convincing.
  2. Look for data and make the discussion about data. Often the most convincing propaganda is based on emotion, perhaps appeals to sympathy. That is to say, the propagandist avoids asking whether the statement under question is true or false. Instead they focus on how someone has been hurt or denigrated by the assertion.
  3. Look at the presuppositions. In propaganda, often the assumptions behind the information is never discussed, much less critically evaluated. Yet the whole argument rests on the validity of these assumptions.
  4. Become a two-column person. By that I mean, assume there is data for and against any position. If none is presented, as is often the case with propaganda, seek it out. Don’t be satisfied to leave one column empty.

Review of Bowen Greenwood’s Science Fiction Love Story ONSLAUGHT

Langston Wheeler is a member of the Brotherhood of the Gentle Hand. That is to say he is a telepath with extraordinary powers that has pledged to use these powers only for good and in service to others and never to aggrandize power.

On being sent to the planet Felicitas to investigate a rogue telepath, he meets the beautiful, courageous, and brilliant Tia Dynn. As a Gentle Hand, Wheeler is only permitted by his order to marry other telepaths. As he struggles with his feelings for Tia, it turns out the rogue telepath is actually part of a preliminary incursion, preparing Felicitas for a full scale invasion by telepaths and their army of hybrids. Langston and Tia are thrown into a fight for survival. The terror, the fight sequences, and the narrow escapes are well-handled and contain some interesting surprises.

In summary, this is an interesting, entertaining love story and thriller in a sub-genre that might be termed superman meets supermodel. It’s a story I will likely read again. I heartily recommend it to others.

I rate Onslaught four stars.

A Review of J. K. Bailey’s ZEALOT FINALE #1

J. K. Bailey’s first book is a wonderful testament to his vivid imagination and story-telling ability. The story follows the adventures of a boy Chen and is full of wonderful imaginative inventions: Zoas which are animal human hybrids, Wryym which are dragon beings, there is a creature called Bio-Weapon, and a mobile plant-being called, appropriately enough, Venus (reminiscent of the Venus flytrap).

I enjoy books that not only tell an imaginative story, but also make me think. At one point Chen, when talking about fear, makes the counter-intuitive observation that “strength does not do away with fear, love does.” I thought about that for some time and came to agree with him.

My rating: 4 stars

Review of C. S. Wachter’s A WEIGHT OF RECKONING

The fantasy Worlds of Ochen are seven planets linked by portals. Although the worlds are linked, the actions in the series occur on seven islands, one on each world. The islands differ by climate, by the presence or absence of magic, among other things. If you read these books be sure to look at the beautifully illustrated maps on the Wachter Website (https://cswachter.com/).

A Weight of Reckoning is the sequel to the Seven Words series. The action begins quickly with plans for human sacrifices designed to bring back a guardian demon that had been banished. The focus and the capstone of the increasing number of weekly human sacrifices, is the blood and ultimate sacrifice of Prince Rayne who was instrumental in banishing the demons from Ochen in the first place.

The fast-moving story is replete with personal sacrifice, hard choices, desperate actions, and self-sacrifice as it moves from world to world in its march to the final conflict. Reminiscent of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis’ writings, I loved how the author thoroughly anchored this story in a world view that recognized Good and Evil.

Wachter is a superb story teller and world builder. Her writing is clear, concise, and precise. The characters are well-crafted and detailed descriptions of the landscape put the reader right in the middle of a vivid action scene. I highly recommend this series. Although I began with this book, I plan on returning to the first story and read them from beginning to the end.

My rating: 4.5 stars

 

The “What If?” of COVENTRY 2091

Science Fiction stories often begin with a “What If?” question. Coventry 2091 is no exception.

What if …

In the year 2051, an unpopular, Canada-wide, non-violent protest erupted that overwhelmed the capacity of the Canadian prison system. Canada’s response was Coventry. This is the story about what happened forty years later.

The “What if?’ for COVENTRY 2091

Link to Peter Kazmaier’s Author Page at Amazon … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JB0IWE6