Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 5. Chapters 16-18
The First Plot Twist
To Keep My Stories Moving I Generally Introduce Two Plot Twists
A plot twist is a sea change for the characters and the trajectory of the plot. Almost everything is not the same after the twist occurs. In this story, the assault on Coventry lets Jacob, Hanna, and Zeke discover the real, hidden Coventry which has until now remained secret while the surface Coventry was kept up as a front.
Correcting a Potential Misunderstanding
As I thought about some of our group discussions, I thought, perhaps in writing, I had given readers the wrong impression about the Peace, Order, and Good Government (POGG) Tribunals. As I imagined Canada in 2091, I did not envisage that the POGG tribunals would replace all legal functions, but rather this unique innovation from 2051 conceived to solve the problem of sentencing huge numbers of people quickly, would be kept alongside the regular court system. In other words, it was so useful to the government (and to well-connected, powerful officials like Connaught) that the tribunals were quietly kept active for subversives that the government wanted to send to Coventry with a minimum of fuss and publicity. That’s why Jacob was surprised when he found himself at the tribunal rather than at the regular court he was expecting.
Was this a misunderstanding you encountered in the early chapters of your reading?
In Chapter 16, Jacob and his two friends have to decide whether or not to stay in Coventry. I faced many writing questions as I imagined how Coventry would function, given that the population consisted of many disparate groups that likely had different customs, articles of faith, and couldn’t even agree on holidays. How would I keep them from fighting among themselves? I settled on the idea of the Swiss Canton, where each cavern would be its own canton and make many of its day-to-day rules. So if Seventh Day Adventists wanted Saturday to be the day off, in their canton their bylaws would set that day aside.
What do you think of this solution? Could it work?
As Christians we try to find a balance: grace and works, freedom and law. When forced to decide on a governing formula, what would we select? One way to think about this is to think about governance and law in three domains:
- Laws that must be on the books to prevent serious crime and protect citizens. These would be laws against murder, theft, and physical violence.
- There should be no laws against how you dress, cut your hair, or what Christmas decorations you put up etc. These are questions of taste and personal preference and have a minimal impact on others and so should not be legislated.
- In between these two extremes there is a very broad area where there may not be any laws, but society regulates them by social censure. For example, in the 1800s, if a man ran off and left his wife and children destitute, he pretty well couldn’t show his face in his home town again because his reputation was destroyed. As I imagined Coventry, I imagined a society that had the middle domain as large as possible i.e. few laws on the books, yet social censure could inhibit behavior that was thought by many to be deleterious.
Do you think this could work? Why or why not? What kinds of social censure ought to be permitted?
In Chapter 17 we get a glimpse of the technology and society that Coventry has developed. In solving the problems of living underground when one has abundant, clean energy, one encounters many of the problems encountered in the Biosphere2 project, in space flight, and in space colonization.
What technology would they require to live underground? Have you ever heard of Biosphere 2? What do you know about it? Does anyone know what led to Biosphere 2’s failure? Do you think this plan of underground safety is a permanent solution or a temporary one?
In Chapter 18 we find out that Coventry has long realized that their underground solution was, at best, temporary one. Eventually they would be overrun. We find out they have established a giant floating city in the upper atmosphere of Venus and also, along with two other “coventries” sent three starships to Alpha Centauri. Only one ship completed the journey. A big problem with interstellar travel is the relativistic time distortion. Alpha Centauri is “close” by interstellar distances, but even a phone call to Alpha Centauri is impractical. It would mean you would have to patiently wait for over four years to receive a message. In most of SF, one overcomes this with a faster-than-light (FTL) drive and FTL communication. I chose to use something I imagined for my first series (The Halcyon Cycle), a plant called a Travel Oak, which makes use of a contradiction (or inconsistency) between relativity and quantum mechanics. This speculation fascinates me, but if I were to discuss it, likely your eyes would begin to glaze over, so I won’t delve into it too deeply.
How does a Travel Oak work? What other technology(ies) does Coventry require to make this scenario plausible? What surprised you about the Venus colony and the planet Canaan? Why Venus and not Mars?
Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 4. Chapters 8-15
Genre Plot Stereotypes
I had earlier said that I write books that I wish someone else had written, but never did. For SF, one reason for this are plot stereotypes that are very common. Two common Science Fiction background assumptions are:
- Since all religions in general and Christianity in particular are superstitions, they will be destroyed by scientific enlightenment. Curiously, the final demise of Christianity is slated to occur a few years after the SciFi book is written.
- Since all religions in general and Christianity in particular are superstitions, serious religious people and Christians are anti-science and as Luddites oppose science whenever possible.
I don’t agree with the view that Christians are anti-science. Consider the following questions. Why did the age of science develop in Europe? Why not China, Egypt, India? Do you think Christians are anti-science? Why or why not?
What social developments in our Post-Modern culture might be anti-science? If you have trouble thinking of any, think about what science as an activity needs to be productive and successful.
Being sent to Coventry was a hardship and a persecution. Can you think of any ways God turned it into a blessing?
In the Old Testament there have been instances of judgment by enslavement or captivity.
Terrible as the enslavement of the Hebrews was in Egypt, do you see any hidden blessings there?
Were there any hidden blessings in the Babylonian Captivity?
Have you ever experienced God taking a terrible or stressful time in your life and turning it into a blessing? If you’re willing, why not share with the group.
What do you think is going on with Rousseau and his cronies?
Why is he recruiting newer inmates into his circle?
Any guess to what’s coming next?
Supplemental Reading for Further Thought
“It’s a lot like Nature’s [Nature is perhaps the world’s most prestigious science journal] change to the meaning of “ethics” — once meant to protect individuals from overreaching scientists, the concept has been broadened to prevent research that may hurt someone’s feelings.
Canada already lags behind many other industrialized countries when it come [sic] to health research and the creation of new drugs. The problem will only deepen if researchers have to factor social justice into their pursuit of the truth.”
Jamie Sarkonak. National Post, Sept 22, 2022.
Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 3. Chapters 4-7
The Founding of Coventry
Special thanks to a friend for her help with the counseling content of the next chapter(s)
When I first wrote about the sessions between Giesbrecht and Jacob, I was primarily driven by a desire to fill in Kraiser’s backstory, reveal some of Jacob’s character, and, in an unobtrusive way, present some of the details of the founding of Coventry.
I have no expertise in counseling. A friend of mine was very helpful in removing some of the obvious counseling missteps in the dialogue. However, I could not implement all of her advice, so I expect many aspects of the dialogue are likely “sub-best-practice.” These deficiencies are mine.
Chapters 4-7 The Founding of Coventry
As a writer of fiction, I’m supposed to “show not tell,” but sometimes my showing can either be too obvious or too subtle. So some of my questions have to do with my show-not-tell success.
Why do you think Jacob’s nightmares began to surface now, years after the traumatic deaths of parents and siblings?
It’s been a long while since I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I think the dystopia I’m imagining is much more along Huxley’s line than Orwell’s in 1984.
Do you agree or disagree?
One theme here: when God is working to repair us, things often get worse before they get better.
Is this generally true? Have you experienced this in your own life?
Books, especially fiction, have played a significant role in my life. Here I’m relating to George MacDonald’s Curdie children books.
Has anyone read them?
Plausibility of the events leading to the 2051 peaceful protest
It’s important to the success of the story that this peaceful protest and subsequent government reaction is plausible.
Part of the political background to this peaceful protest was the assumption that politically, governments in Canada are chosen and maintained by the votes of the urban population, while the protest was fueled by the sentiments of the essentially disenfranchised (they can vote, but their vote never makes a difference) rural population.
Is this plausible?
Even today, do you think the views of urban voters and rural voters in Canada are sufficiently different to set this kind of dichotomy? Why or why not?
What was the imaginary drug Cerebretocin-21 in the story? Why do you think some were strongly in favor of its use and others strongly opposed?
Was the government’s response reasonable to the unpopular Cerebretocin-21 protests?
Without digressing too far into the arguments in favor or against the justification of the recent Trucker’s Convoy to Ottawa, when it happened, were you surprised by the determination of the convoy participants to stay the course? Were you surprised by the government’s response? Why or why not?
Any other thoughts on the backstory plausibility leading to the founding of Coventry?
Another question relating to the story line in Coventry 2091: we have had many hours of testimony and thousands of pages of documentation released by the ongoing Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) which has shed the light on government thoughts and motivations leading up to the imposition of the Emergencies Act last February.
If you have been following some POEC revelations, have these revelations made the Coventry 2091 plot more or less plausible? Why or why not?
I think, it’s fair to say that most Christians, particularly in a democratic society that expects her citizens to participate in governance, feel a tension between obedience to the government, support of freedom, support of justice, and yet not letting political action become our substitute for building Christ’s Kingdom.
How do you resolve this tension in your life?
How do you relate to Christians who have radically different views on resolving this tension?
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?
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?