Speculative Fiction by Carizz Cruzem

The Road Less Traveled By

Ding-dong! Ding-dong!
The grandfather clock strikes twelve.
It is where reality meets fantasy.
Calm wind breezes.
Trees sway.
Leaves fall.
Grass dotted with morning dew tickles my barefoot.
My feet guide me to the huge tree by the glistening stream.
I kneel down.
I dip my hand in the cool water.
I lift my fingers.
Water drips down my elbow.
Someone taps my shoulder.
I do not need to look back.
It is him.
His heart beats in sync with mine.
He grasps my hand.
We walk across the meadow.
I stared at him.
He looks back at me, beaming.
I smile back.
He grips my hand firmer.
If you find yourself so low that you almost need to look up just to look down, just come in this place and I’ll be always here with you. OHFT…,” he says to me.
I sigh.
He steers my head to his chest.
I close my eyes.
Tears trickle down my cheeks soaking his shirt.
He caresses my hair.
This is our secret hiding place.
It is always morning here.
No one knows this place but the two of us.

I just realized the beauty of speculative fiction. It’s becoming a supernatural being with the power to fly and getting lost in a place where no one knows who you are. You can even make the people who hurt you become aliens with balloon heads. You only have to be armed with a needle to defeat them.

There was a time in my life when I greeted everyone I met on the street with a smile. And they smiled back. It was a nice time—no assumptions, no doubts in your heart—just a simple unadulterated smile.

Somehow, through the passing of the years, the smile turns to a frown. And like everything else that is changing gradually, I didn’t realize it until I saw this girl on the bus.

That day, I was on the bus with Mark Galang. As a gentleman that he is, he also paid for my fare that day. He is such a kind-hearted guy. Bless him.

Well anyways, he pointed me this girl. But even before he mentioned the girl, I already noticed her the moment she came up the bus. There was something different about her. She smiled to everyone. The driver knew her, the bus conductor knew her, and the street fruit vendors knew her and even gave her some lanzones— it seemed everyone knew her, apparently except me. She wasn’t that beautiful. I mean, not stunningly beautiful like Demi Moore or Catherine Zeta Jones, but she was nice to look at. At first though, I raised an eyebrow at how she acted. Well, in the course of time, I’ve developed a negative attitude of doubting everyone’s intention. I guess that would explain the frown.

Mark told me that they met the girl in Chowking, where he works. As I’ve suspected, the girl has a very high self-esteem. She is the kind who’d be the first one to approach you and introduce herself. She doesn’t need a middleman.

I’d like to have that kind of attitude. But then, you can’t help but to doubt everyone if you’ve been hurt too many times. I don’t know but… I just thought it would be nice to go back to the time when I don’t carry even a hint of a grudge to anyone—the time when I have a smile ready for everyone.

Until that time comes, I guess writing speculative fiction will be my cover.


Writing What Is

Writing What Is

I often get into some quite animated discussions about the shape that the writing of a Christian should take. There are several schools of thought, which I’ll condense down to two main ones:

1) Christians should write only explicitly Christian stories.

2) Christian should not write explicitly Christian stories, but rather bury hidden meaning that an unknowing secular audience will dig up and point them in the direction of God.

Both points are valid. Many people have come to Christ through Christian films, Christian concerts, and all those explicitly Christian things that get scoffed at. However, the power of the Gospel in them is enough for God to use them for His purposes.

Others point to the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who spread elements of the Gospel through their stories like bread crumbs that guide you home in the midst of a thick forest. I’ve heard several people at least say they came to know Christ through a journey that began with one of these books.

So, who’s right? Neither is. While both heavily religious and more subtle works have been successful in reaching people for Christ and being commercially viable, neither is the be all and end all.

The key is to write what’s in your heart and the stories you have, not to play your stories one way or another. The question shouldn’t be, “What’s the right approach to take to a story?” The question ought to be, “What’s the story I have and what’s the best way to tell it?”

God is always a part of most of my stories, particularly the good ones, but how he appears varies. In both my short stories for the anthology, God is talked about, but never shows up. In my novel, “Two Sides of the Hill,” God is at the center of the entire story, while in “Super Hero,” he’s only discussed every few chapters. I’ve written stories of great miracles and the chronicles of the mundane. Both have a place in my world.

The danger we face when we adopt a rigid view of what our stories will look like is that in that rigidity, we kill imagination. We try and fit our characters, our stories, and even our portrayal of God in a box and we end up unhappy with what we produce and stuck in a rut, because we’ve limited ourselves.

I write what I see in mind’s eye and I make changes to the plot if it makes it better or flows with my vision of the story, not to please a school of thought. The critical thing for Christian writers is to tell the stories we’ve been given, because if God is guiding us, they have an important purpose, no matter what form they might take.

Santa Claus, Just Another Great Fantasy Fiction

The holiday season always creates a strange dichotomy, secular celebration versus religous rejoicing. With very small children, I am often torn between the obvious conflict of the concept of Santa Claus and whether I should expose my children to the mystical fantasy surrounding Christmas.

While it is imperative that they learn about the birth of Jesus Christ, understand that the holiday is a celebration of that blessed day, and a day to give thanks to God for the most precious, most intimate gift that could be offered to the world, there may be a benefit to the Santa Claus story. Is it possible that the idea of Santa Claus is nothing more than a fantasy fiction character, created to encourage good behavior in children? If they are good they will reap a benefit, if not, well, coal in the sock. But, what actual benefit, if any, could Santa Claus really have on children? The concept that a strange man will enter their house bearing gifts may not be comforting to some. As an African American woman, there is also the cultural emhpasis recently, (past 10 years), to celebrate Kwanzaa instead, or along with. More importantly, the focus on gifts and material things drastically narrows the actual purpose of the holidays, distorts its intended nature, completely removing Christ from Christmas.

I internalize all of these problems every year, but do not have the courage to deny my children participation in America's most festive celebration of the year. The reality is that I have to find some justification, some reason to believe that I am not harming them, not diluting their faith or our religious beliefs, by allowing the Santa Claus theme to reside in our house. So here is what I came up with:

1. Santa Claus is another character that exercises a child's imagination. Look, I know this is a stretch, since we pretty much tell them exactly what they should believe, with innumerable television shows and movies. There is something to be said, however, in the idea of Santa, what he looks like, where he lives, what type of toys he will deliver, how his reindeer actually fly, will he come to my house, what does he like to eat, etc...Alright, if your not buying that one, then on to idea 2.

2. Santa Claus is a good exercise in faith. A child must have belief that an entity they have never met will somehow be able to monitor them, judge them, and reward them accordingly. They must trust that there innermost desires will be known to this person and he will deliver them. Is it possible that Sant Claus is a smaller demonstration for our omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God, who is aware of our needs, wants and desires and judges our behavior? Can Santa Claus be a miniature model that demonstrates the hard to fathom concept of faith, belief in the unknown, manifestation of the unseen?

3. Santa Claus is an exercise in trust. Every year, Santa makes his rounds and deliveries, no matter what. The recent The Santa Clause movies are a great example of this, the goal of the movie focuses on how Santa and his purpose must go on, no matter what.

4. Santa Claus is no more than positive fantasy fiction character, created to serve a good purpose or accomplish the good deed against all odds.

If I am able to believe in the concept of Christian speculative fiction, if I can advocate that it's very existence is not contradictory because fantasy can be inspired by Christian themes, then shouldn't the idea and concept of Santa Claus be easily acceptable. Actually, shouldn't it be unquestionable. Where the real story is the birth and celebration of Jesus Christ, then aren't Santa Claus, his elves, the North Pole, Mother Claus and the flying reindeer no more than Christian speculative fiction?

I don't know; but it is the reason I will swallow this year to allow my children to sit on a stranger's lap and take the Santa picture, put up the tree, leave out the cookies and experience frenzied gift openings. A new year, a new fake explanation. I'll work out the guilties in church Christmas morning.....

A Message from cyn

Just wanted to point out the new feature on the Lost Genre Guild blog . . . if you scroll down, on the sidebar you will see a little form for your email address. Sign up and you will receive each new post in your email inbox—saves having to go to the blog site daily and is a good reminder about what's happening in the guild. Another beauty of receiving the feed via email is the ease with which you can respond to a post—just click on the title and shazaam! you are at the site (if you have dial-up, the "shazaam" aspect = wishful thinking).

The Writers' Café Press
The Lost Genre Guild


The Revised Version

My last day to post came up right after an emotionally-exhausting election and my article got rushed off to press without adequate editing. I realized later (hat tip: Frank) that it probably wasn't coming across the way I intended it to at all and did a rewrite, which follows under a new title. I replaced the last one with this version, but with the interruption of thanksgiving, it got buried, so at Frank's encouragement, I'm reposting it. Please read it. I apologize to anyone the poorly thought out version may have offended, and for dragging my feet. No excuses here, but believe me, my article only hits the tip of the ice berg of what I've been through in a quarter century. My old defense mechanisms keep coming back to hurt good people and I need loving, gentle people to keep me balanced as my craft has gotten by far more polish than my social graces.

Let me end with Merry Christmas to all and a blessed New Year!

Now onto the article....

Strength in Weakness

by Andrea Graham

I, like many, struggle with the huge pressure exerted on us to measure success by the numbers-oriented, if not dollar-signs-oriented, measures the world uses.

Let me start by laying it all out. I am not effective, and I am not wise. I am not the sharpest debater, and shun apologetics. I struggle with a tendency towards being foolish, lazy, prone to self doubt, gullible, easily tossed about by the winds of emotion. I lack confidence, self-esteem, endurance, and patience, especially with faults in others. I am not good at making friends, indeed, I’ve lived in Boise about three years now, and still wouldn’t know who to call in an emergency, other than 9-1-1 and the Church office, who would send whoever happened to not be too busy. I have a difficult time trusting in God, let alone man. I’m prone to coveting, especially babies. Take the worst traits of the extrovert, combine them with the worst traits of the introvert, and you’ve got my temperament. Only in terms of over-correcting, am I Queen. When I’m not being bossy, manipulative, and controlling, or just obstinately opinionated and all too eager to share my beliefs, I’m huddling in the corner, terrified to speak at all.

In school, I was not the popular child, the smartest child, the prettiest, or the most athletic. You want to find who I was, slip out to playground. See the little red haired girl, the only one, sitting alone on the bench, watching all the other children? See her pretending she doesn’t care as her classmates tear her to shreds, mistaking freckles as a symptom of the AIDS virus (it was the eighties, coodies had a new name). That little girl, that was me. I had no friends, until a friend of my mom’s took us to church, where I met a Man who wanted to be the friend of a rejected little girl. His name was Jesus. He was a King and God Himself. He was my only friend, the only person I knew beyond doubt cared about me. To this day, He bears the scars to prove it.

With that in mind, let’s remember what the Lord said at the end of first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, starting in verse twenty-six:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of
the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in
His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from
God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

Let me propose a question we need to ask ourselves. This is entirely between you and the Lord. We say with our lips we glory in the Lord, but do we honor him in our hearts? Yes? Good! That's important, because, at least for me, the heart has a way of ending up on paper whether I intend it to or not. Too often, though, I find myself relying on my knowledge, and slipping into worldly thinking, all the while patting myself on the back for my cleverness. True, the Bible says, "be wise as serpents," but are we using God's wisdom, or the wisdom of man, which God, speaking through Paul, declares foolishness? I can't answer that for you personally, but I'm sure we can all think of such in a world where even Christian publishers balk at putting the name "Jesus" on the cover. Let's consider what Paul had to say about wisdom:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or
of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know
anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in
weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were
not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God.

Wow. How did Paul accomplish so much? He sounds about as marketing-savy here as me. Guess that gives us hope, doesn't it? He continues, though:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

So we need to rely on God? I suppose we already knew that, those tacky bracelets made sure of it. But I spend way too much time trying to pretend I'm not shaking in my boots, so I opened with my own version of Paul's why-not-to-hire-me-as-a-public-speaker query above, taking in consideration Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 12:6-10:

For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the
truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be
or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with
the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace
is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore
most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may
rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am

A challenging passage, in a world that compels us to boast of ourselves! Yet scripture teaches we’re strongest when we’re weak. Why? Because when we think we’re strong, we rely on our own strength and instead of His, and he is by far stronger, wiser, funnier, more clever, than any of us could ever hope to be. So when I rely on my own limited strength, I cut myself off from a much greater strength. And in my weakness, his strength comes with an added bonus, as in Isaiah 55:11, He promises His word will not return to him void. I guess that's why it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. Like the sower, we scatter our seed, never knowing where and when it will take root. Thanks be to God, that He can make use of one as weak and foolish as I.

Let me leave you with a few more words from the Apostle Paul to meditate on.

1 Cor 3:18-20:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age,
let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own
craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are

1 Cor 4:10-16:

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you
are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we
both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And
we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the
world, the offscouring of all things until now.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not
have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Therefore I urge you, imitate me.


Characters we love AND hate!

by Deborah Cullins Smith

Why do my daughters always do this to me? I don't have -- or for that matter, WANT! -- cable television. I have a huge movie collection, which gives me the freedom to watch what I want, when I want, without commercials, and I can fast-forward past any unsavory clips if I'm offended! But my girls feel duty-bound to keep me apprised of the newest, hottest series available on prime time. They both agree that "Grey's Anatomy" is the best new series on the block -- now in it's 3rd season. Well, okay -- it's not 'new' anymore. But it's new enough that Daughter #1 has Season 1 and 2 on DVD now. I've been crying my way through #2 for the past week, and I encountered a startling revelation as I knitted my way through about 5 episodes.

Season 1 was basically character introduction. Five young interns begin their residency in a hospital in Seattle. Meredith Grey is the main character. Mommy was a brilliant surgeon at this same hospital, so Meredith has some big shoes to fill. But Mommy now has Alzheimers and rarely even recognizes her, a fact that Meredith tries very hard to hide from her coworkers who still idolize the famous Ellis Grey. Then there's ambitious, competitive Christine, who is about as lovable as a barracuda. George, a cute, cuddly, insecure sweetie, has an enormous crush on Meredith, but she is already having a fling with one of the residents known as Dr. McDreamy. Yes, you've undoubtedly seen Patrick Dempsey pictured on the front of People magazine or any one of a dozen other tabloids with that particular little tag! We also have fashion-model-turned-surgeon Izzie, a goofy blond you have to love just because she tries so hard to be everyone's friend. And the egotistical Alex really needs a close encounter with a baseball bat, preferably upside the head. And just as Meredith makes great headway in her relationship with McDreamy, Season 1 ends with the appearance of his wife. Abrupt end of affair.

Yeah, this isn't a series I should probably recommend, particularly to an illustrious group of Christian writers! But bear with me --- I really DO have a point to make.

As I watched Season 2 last week, I developed some pretty harsh opinions about some of the characters. McDreamy's wife, Addison, I labelled as a cold-hearted, calculating witch (with a capital 'B'...) and she deserved to be dumped. McDreamy was crazy to even contemplate giving up Meredith for this woman. She didn't deserve a second chance. And Meredith more or less proceeds to go from one man to the next in Season 2, which didn't exactly endear her to my heart after all. She's a sympathetic character, but give me a break! There are other ways to deal with heartbreak (believe me, I KNOW...) than to bed-hop.

Christine is still hard-boiled, but she has a blunt directness that I have to give grudging respect. However, when her boyfriend, one of the hospital's top surgeons, is hit by a stray bullet, Christine can't handle it and pretty much bails out emotionally, leaving this poor guy to deal with some severe neurological damage to (of all things) his hand. I wanted to go through the screen and shake her.

George finally finds a woman who adores him, which makes up a little for the fact that Meredith still thinks of him in a brotherly way instead of a 'lover-ly' one. But I can't say that I'm favorably impressed with this gal, because she just seems to be a little too trashy. And Izzie falls for a patient in need of a heart. But a heart becomes available, and the coin-toss falls between her patient and another man who was added to the national register only 17 seconds quicker. Izzie, showing the effects of too much peroxide, cuts the cord -- literally -- between her patient and his life support! When he crashes, she can honestly (in her shattered judgment) state that her patient is more critical than patient #2 --- and she manages to 'steal' the heart.

By now, you are sick and tired of this night-time soap opera and are probably drumming your fingers on your desk, wondering if I'm ever going to get to my point. So I'll try to rally my thoughts and put you out of this roller-coaster misery!

I liked alot of these characters in Season 1, but by the end of Season 2 .... well, it was tempting to try to "adjust" them by taking a baseball bat to my tv screen. And there were a few that I utterly detested in Season 1, but by the end of Season 2 I had alot more sympathy for their plights. Just about the time I thought I had a character tagged, tried, and sentenced, something else would happen and my perspective changed. It's really hard to separate them into 'good' and 'bad' because EVERY ONE of them is both --- and neither. Just like real life.

In my own writing, I find that I tend to create 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. Of course, my bad guys are usually demons, so there really ARE no redeeming qualities! (Although I have had some comments that my demon Fumbleblot, soon to appear in "Light at the Edge of Darkness" is a far too sympathetic creature!) Personally speaking, I tend to be something of a 'people-pleaser' in personality. I was an only child, and the type of little girl who hated to displease or disappoint my parents, teachers, or other authority figures. Then I grew up and still tried to please not only Mommy and Daddy, but a husband as well. Now a divorced woman for many years, I feel freed from a little bit of that people-pleasing-in-vain stuff (because there are some people you will NEVER please no matter what you do), but I recently came face to face with the uncomfortable fact that my own Mother hates spec fic, and wishes I would "write something else". (that's a completely different topic, so I'll save it for another day....) Back to my point. In looking back at my stories, most of them contain characters with those same people-pleasing qualities. I relate to that, so I suppose that's what I characterize best. But, by and large, they are likeable!

"The Rider" features a young woman named Alice, a bit of a dreamer, tired of living under Daddy's strict rules, but for the most part, an obedient daughter. "Fumbleblot's Task" tells of woman dominated by her fears. "Allison" is a little girl who wants to meet her Mommy, even if only for a few minutes. I was more than a little disconcerted to discover that they all contain a portion of the people-pleaser in me.

What has this got to do with "Grey's Anatomy", after boring you to tears with all the sordid details? I've become emotionally invested in these characters, be they good, bad, or in-between. For the most part, they are each a bit of both. I've roared with laughter, and I've sobbed through hour-long crying jags. (when the plots have hit a little -- or alot-- closer to home than I was prepared to see....) I cheered them on, and gritted my teeth in frustration at their stupidity. I've applauded when they got it right, and screeched when they pulled stunts no moral person would think of doing. But I kept on watching!

When we can give birth to characters as brilliantly dimensional as that, we WILL be successful authors! Each and every one of us! That's my goal.