Fahrenheit 451: Burning Words

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Fahrenheit 451 is a book about burning words and ideas.  Instead of putting out fires, the Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 start fires, and burn books.

This book sizzles.  Its words crackle.  Listen:

It was a pleasure to burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.  With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.  With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black.  He strode in a swarm of fireflies…  While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

Montag was a Fireman.  In the beginning, his face was gripped with a fiery smile.  But through interaction with someone who contemplated life, he realized his emptiness.  In his search for meaning, he began to steal and hide the very books he was supposed to burn.

His wife told him to find distraction in something fun.  That is what everyone does.  Don’t think, just have fun.  But Montag would not this time.  He wanted to hold onto his emptiness, he wanted to find meaning.

17470674Montag held possibly the last copy of the Bible in his part of the world.  And he knew if they found it, they would burn it.

He could hear Beatty’s voice.  “Sit down, Montag.  Watch.  Delicately, like the petals of a flower.  Light the first page, light the second page.  Each becomes a black butterfly.  Beautiful, eh?  Light the third page, from the second and so on, chain-smoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the secondhand notions and time-worn philosophies.”  There sat Beatty, perspiring gently, the floor littered with swarms of black moths that had died in a single storm.

They would burn the Bible, one page at a time they would destroy the words and ideas.

Montag brought the last physical copy of the Bible to Faber.

Faber’s hands itched on his knees.  “May I?”

“Sorry.”  Montag gave him the book.

“It’s been a long time.  I’m not a religious man.  But it’s been a long time.”  Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read.  “It’s as good as I remember.  Lord, how they’ve changed it in our ‘parlors’ these days.¹  Christ is one of the ‘family’ now.²  I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down?  He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.”  Faber sniffed the book.  “Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land?  I loved to smell them when I was a boy.  Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.”  Faber turned the pages.  “Mr. Montag, you are looking at a coward.  I saw the way things were going, a long time back.  I said nothing.  I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself.  And when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with me, by then.  Now, it’s too late.”  Faber closed the Bible.  “Well—suppose you tell me why you came here?”

“Nobody listens any more.  I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me.³  I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.³  I just want someone to hear what I have to say.  And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense.  And I want you to teach me to understand what I read.”

¹  Parlors are TV viewing rooms.  ²  The ‘family’ are the characters on the television programs.  ³  When Montag says “walls” he means the giant interactive TVs that are the walls of the parlor.

Montag’s experience reminds me of the so-called Church Growth Movement.  Within that movement, nobody listens, nobody pays attention.  The glowing giant television transfixes.  And nobody cares what it says, it just feels good.  It makes them feel like they are doing their part to grow the Church with their attractive sugar-crystal “Jesus.”

The world is that way too.  Everyone wants to feel good, and feel like they are important, and feel like they are making a difference.  So we play video games, watch TV, take drugs, go to church, or whatever we need to get that high feeling.  Meanwhile, we trample the truth.  We trample the real Jesus, a Jesus not of sugar but of human flesh and blood.

But every once in awhile, someone wakes up.  And they start to realize something is wrong, but because we live in an age where the truth has been almost completely obliterated, we cannot quite put our finger on it.

Fahrenheit 451 continued:

Faber examined Montag’s thin, blue-jowled face.  “How did you get shaken up?  What knocked the torch out of your hands?”

“I don’t know.  We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy.  Something’s missing.  I looked around.  The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years.  So I thought books might help.”

“You’re a hopeless romantic,” said Faber.  “It would be funny if it were not serious.  It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books.  The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today.  The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.  No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! …  Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget.  There is nothing magical in them, at all.  The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Faber continued by saying that books like the Bible are important because they tell the truth and the whole truth, showing even the pores and dirt.

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared?  They show the pores in the face of life.  The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.  We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.  Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth.  Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality.”

Finally, Faber said that not only is truth important, but just as important is the time to think and ponder.  The television and the culture tell us what to think, and they do not give us time to process what they are saying.

“If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor.  Why?  The televisor is ‘real.’  It is immediate, it has dimension.  It tells you what to think and blasts it in.  It must be right.  It seems so right.  It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”

The truth has time.  The truth is real.  The truth is not afraid.  The truth brings freedom.  (John 8:32).

That is why I love the liturgy.  Its words come from the Bible, and it gives us time to ponder, years even.  For a lifetime, the words sink in, and they change us because they are always with us.  Christ promised to be with us in his word, not the latest innovative creed, manipulative video, or man-centered motivational speech masquerading as a sermon.  The truth comes to us through his clear, pure word.

Through word and sacrament alone is how he comes to us.  Our fathers fought for this principle in the Reformation.  But now those who are trading God’s word of truth for mere emotionalism and pragmatism will receive a bowl of pottage for their inheritance.  (Genesis 25:29-34).

Montag asked,

“Where do we go from here?  Would books help us?”

“Only if the third necessary thing could be given us.  Number one, as I said, quality of information.  Number two: leisure to digest it.  And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

Fahrenheit 451 is about burning books and ideas.  But they do not have to burn books no one reads.  Faber admitted as much.  The Firemen were just for show.  The Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 were made possible because no one knew the truth anymore anyway.

600px-Ingsoc_logo_from_1984.svgToday, we do not burn books, instead we ignore them, or “translate” them into Ingsoc.  (Coined by George Orwell, Ingsoc is English corrupted by socialism.  An example of this corruption is the attempt to erase biological gender distinctions from the English language so that we start calling men women and women men or start saying that 2+2=5).  Ingsoc makes telling the truth impossible, and hearing the truth incomprehensible.  The purpose of deconstructing our words is not just to obscure truth, but to destroy the English language, and make it incapable of communicating the truth.

Regarding the Bible, they do not have to burn a book no one reads.  And if someone does read the Bible, they try to give us gender-confused and other Ingsoc translations to obscure the truth.  Consider for example Psalm 8:4.  The NIV (2011 version) says:

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Why does God care for human beings?  Why is God mindful of us?  The true answer is Christ, the son of man.  (Daniel 7:13-14).  Here is the English Standard Version:

what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Christ is the son of man.  (Daniel 7:13-14).  Christ alone is the man God cares for.  He is the righteous one.  Moses and the prophets wrote of Christ; but for him they had nothing to say.  (Luke 24:44).  But these “translators” have obscured Christ, so in the end, what they leave us with is a question without an answer:  Why does God care for human beings?

The most important question is not, Who are human beings?  Who are they?  The question God wants us to ask is, why does God care for the son of man?  Who is He?

George Orwell said, “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”  (Politics and the English Language).

The translators of the NIV (2011 version) did not burn the masculine and feminine gendered books, but they are burning the idea one verse and one version at a time.  As Beatty would have had Montag burn the Bible one page at time, so also the ever-changing translations would surrender the English language, and obscure Christ one idea at a time, starting with certain gender-clear passages about Jesus in the Old Testament.

Christians must wake up, and stand against the intentional destruction of our language.  Do not let them burn words, mistranslate, or obscure Christ in any part of the Bible.

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On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave to the Church the gift of tongues and the understanding of languages.  (Acts 2).  The purpose of language is not to control minds and prop up totalitarianism, but rather to communicate the truth.  The truth sets us free.  (John 8:32).  Let us hold fast to Jesus, the Word of God, and the Truth.

Kirkus Reviews Magazine Reviewed My Brother’s Book

The Death You DeserveKirkus Reviews magazine reviewed my brother’s book, The Death You Deserve.  He was one of only 35 indie authors to be featured in their 15 November 2015 issue.  That is an honor in and of itself.  They said his story was, “An adventurous, deeply moral tale with all the trappings of high fantasy.”

I almost cannot conceive of a higher compliment for a book than to call it, “An adventurous, deeply moral tale,” and am proud that they thought so highly of the story my brother penned.

In this first volume of his series, Techlin effectively addresses such weighty issues as forgiveness within a family, faith and what it takes to regain it, and even what happens when people in power betray their souls for other aims…  Overall, the author has created a world that readers will want to spend time in, filled with characters who aren’t necessarily sympathetic but are always fully human.

Kirkus Reviews magazine.

Click here to read the entire review.

Realm Makers 2015

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The Realm Makers held their 2015 writers conference on the University of Missouri, St. Louis campus from August 6-9.  The Realm Makers are Christians who write and illustrate speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction refers to stories containing elements that are fantastic, futuristic, or supernatural; in other words, science fiction, fantasy, allegory, steampunk, and time travel.

The reason I enjoy speculative fiction is because it often expresses a sense of wonder.  Children have a natural sense of wonder about the physical world, but as adults we sometimes lose that wonder.  We forget to look around, we forget to notice the immensity of the universe or the smallness of its particles.  We forget the almighty God becoming one of us as a small baby.  We forget the mercies of God.  We forget.  But speculative fiction can sometimes take us outside of ourselves, and help us to remember.

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All the pictures in this post are from the costume awards banquet held on Friday evening.  Almost everyone wore a costume.  I didn’t have much of a costume, but I did have a hat.

During the conference, there was a great feeling of camaraderie, shared purpose, and friendship.  I enjoyed and also benefited from the conference.  Others did as well:

At the costume awards banquet, the Clive Staples Award for best Christian speculative fiction for a novel released in 2014 went to The Warden & The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson.

The Parable Award for Excellence in cover design went to The Ghost Box designer Kirk DouPonce.

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The Jedi Twilek family was chosen to have the best costumes at the awards banquet.  The Jedi-Twilek baby might have won it for them.

God bless the Christian authors.

Physical Books

Ashlee Willis has published a delightful article about her love for physical books called, “Paper and Ink: 3 Reasons I’m not an eBook Girl.”  She followed that post with another featuring phenomenal pictures of old books from Ireland.  One can almost feel the texture and breathe the old book scent right through her pictures.

She loves physical books because they are real.  They appeal not just to our intellect, but also to our senses.  We are real.  We are physical bodies, and our physicality has purpose.

We are not just spiritual creatures.  God came in the flesh.  (1 Timothy 3:16).  God gave us sacraments.  (Luke 22:19).  God redeemed our bodies.  (Romans 8:23).  God did this because he loves who we really are.  We are not ghosts in machines, but rather we are bodies and spirits united as one.

Further, because we are made in the image and likeness of a maker, we can make.  We can create stories and characters through physical words and books.  The physical expression of ideas is what makes them communicable and real.

Just as there is pleasure in the physical sensation of reading a book, I imagine an author must also feel pleased to hold their first book.  Writing a novel often takes years of effort.  So there must be some satisfaction in interacting with that first physical copy.

Here is a Facebook post with a picture of the very first physical copy of my brother’s book, The Death You Deserve:

May God bless the Christian authors.

Are book covers important?

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Writing is the most important part of any book.  However, book covers are also important in their own way.

Realm Makers has announced the finalists for the Parable Award in book cover design for Christian speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction refers to stories containing elements that are fantastic, futuristic, or supernatural.  The winner will be announced at the Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis in August 2015.  I’m planning to be there, and look forward to seeing which cover is chosen to win.

Is book cover design important enough for its own award?  Are art and design important?  Yes.

First, any art that communicates truth is innately valuable.  Therefore, any cover that is truthful about the content of the book, has succeeded.

Second, a poorly designed book cover says “unprofessional.”  Potential readers might reasonably conclude that if the cover is unprofessional, then so is the writing.  At a minimum, a book cover should not turn away potential readers.  The professionalism of the cover is a marketing tool.

The cover should invite the reader to ask, “Am I interested in the subject matter of this book?”  From there, the reader can make their own decisions.

I am not familiar with the nominated books; however, my favorite covers are for The Fatal Tree and Dream Treaders.  The cover for The Fatal Tree makes me want to check it out because its subject matter also seems interesting.

Soli Deo gloria.

Book Cover Design

The Death You DeserveAshlee Willis has published an interesting interview with authoress and book designer Anne Elisabeth Stengl regarding book cover design.  Anne Elisabeth designed the cover for Ashlee’s novella, A Wish Made of Glass.

Stengl said the most important part of cover design is the readability of the text.  The text should be designed right along with the image so that the image does not overwhelm the text.

Stengl is an accomplished author and book cover designer, however, she does not design her own book covers.  “I feel much too close to my own stories to dare design covers for them,” she said.

I would struggle to get out of my own head and think in terms of dynamic imagery rather than specific scenes or character looks, etc.  These days, I am often very much involved with the talented artists who create my cover images … but ultimately I try to let the creative invention and imagination be theirs.  I’m usually much happier with the covers I end up with as a result.

On the other hand, my brother designed and produced the cover for his own book, The Death You Deserve; and it turned out very well.  Almost from the first sentence, it is easy to tell which character is depicted on the cover.  However, designing one’s own cover might not work so well for authors whose novels have multiple character perspectives and many beautiful scenes.

What do you think?  Should authors try to avoid designing their own covers?  Are there any good science fiction and fantasy book cover designers that you can suggest?

2015 Clive Staples Award Semi-finalists

clive-staples-sealThe semi-finalists for the 2015 Clive Staples Award have been announced:

  • Blood for Blood, by Ben Wolf
  • A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr
  • Golden Daughter, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
  • Haunted, by Charity Tinnin
  • Merlin’s Nightmare, by Robert Treskillard
  • Reapers, by Bryan Davis
  • Resistance, by Jaye L. Knight
  • Saving Yesterday, by Jessica Keller (Evander)
  • The Seahorse Legacy, by Serena Chase
  • The Seventh Door, by Bryan Davis
  • A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes
  • The Warden and the Wolf King, by Andrew Peterson

The second round of voting is still open to the readers.  Qualified voters must have read at least two of the semi-finalist books, and must vote for at least two.  Voters may vote for three books, if they have read at least three of the nominees.  This makes it so that the followers of only one author cannot dominate the nomination and voting.  Voters must enjoy the genre, not just a particular author.

The semi-final voting period is short, and closes on June 8, 2015.  Click here to read all the rules, and then vote.

Lutheran Artists

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We glorify God through art because through it we reflect the image of God.  Our art reflects us, and we reflect God.  We make because we are “made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”  (J.R.R. Tolkien).

In pursuit of my interests in art, specifically the visual, liturgical, and writing arts, I’ve discovered other Confessional Lutheran novelists and artists.  Here are some worthies:

If there are any worthy Confessional Lutheran artists that I missed, please leave a comment letting me know.  Thanks.

2015 Clive Staples Award – Reader Nominations

The Death You DeserveThe time period for reader nominations is now open for this year’s Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction.  Speculative fiction refers to stories containing elements that are fantastic, futuristic, or supernatural.  This is a chance for readers to nominate their favorite Christian novels published last year in the categories of science fiction, fantasy, allegory, and time travel.  The nomination period closes Friday, May 29, 2015.

Clive Staples refers to the C.S. in C.S. Lewis.

This year, the award is open to self-published authors.  However, authors, agents, and publishers are not allowed to nominate their own books.  The nominated book must have a Christian theme or worldview, be at least 50,000 words, written for adults, published in English, and its first publication date must be in 2014.

Click here to read the instructions, and vote for your favorite books.  (The survey link is below the instructions).

This year, I nominated two books: The Death You Deserve by my brother Jonathan Techlin (self-published) and Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Rooglewood Press).  Anne Elisabeth’s novel Starflower won the Clive Staples Award in 2013.

Readers can nominate up to three books.  Nominations are open until Friday, May 29, 2015 A.D.

God’s blessings.

Under Creators

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, …

— Genesis 1:1-3, ESV.

In the beginning, God created everything from nothing.  He is the original creator.

We are sub-creators.  We create only from what has been created.  One of the reasons I enjoy outdoor photography is because it embodies the very concept of capturing or reflecting the reality of what has already been created.

Because we are made in the image and likeness of a Maker, we can all make.  (Genesis 1:26).  Using our creative imaginations we can step into the picture above, stand on the shores of Lake Winnebago, and ponder the glory of God.  We could even write a short story or description of the experience.

Near the waters,
he hovers,
we stand.

He creates,
so do we.
He blesses,
we receive.