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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

VidAngel is a company in the business of “renting” movies that have been filtered to remove objectionable content. I’ve used their service in the past, as I prefer not to watch movies with profanity, sex scenes, and sadistic violence. If you want to better understand my thinking about this, please read my previous article “Should a Novelist Write Characters Who Use Profanity?

Anyhow, VidAngel is now navigating the expected lawsuit brought against them by some big media companies. As far as VidAngel’s fundamental legal arguments, this short video covers it pretty well:

 

ARK — 2 March 2017

 

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In the media, prehistoric humans are often portrayed as naked savages huddling in caves. This is the image you see even in science journalism.

However, is it possible that ancient peoples had technologies more advanced than we like to acknowledge?

This possibility is part of the story concept of my Biblical fiction series, The Cursed Ground. What if, before the Great Flood of antiquity, the earth had carried a very large population of humans, some of whom had achieved relatively advanced civilizations comparable to the Bronze and Iron Ages, or even to more recent time periods?

This is speculative fiction, so I’m permitted to speculate and ask, What if? So I do.

For this reason, I’m greatly intrigued by a video blog called Primitive Technology. The author is a guy in Australia whose hobby is going into the forest wearing nothing but shorts, and then making amazing things. Using whatever resources he can find in the wild, he gathers and traps food, makes tools, builds structures, and much more. Each of his segments is a beautifully-made video without narration, showing his process for whatever the current project is. The blog also includes a written segment explaining what you’re seeing in the video.

Following Primitive Technology has opened my mind to the possibilities of technologies that could be readily available to humans, even without access to urban environments and manufacturing infrastructure.

Here are some of the blog entries that I have found intriguing:

Building a Wattle and Daub Hut” — To make a small, serviceable hut, with an external chimney and fireplace, Primitive Technology Guy uses various non-complicated tools and materials: a stone hand-ax, small trees, fire sticks, coil pots, bark. Great demonstrations of these basic technologies. That shelter he built in 2013, but then followed in 2015 with a much more substantial project: “Building a hut with a kiln-fired tiled roof, underfloor heating and mud pile walls.” Especially interesting to see how he fires and places the roof tiles.

stone axeAs PTG works on these projects, it’s fascinating to watch him make use of basic tools he has made, such as digging sticks, hand axes, a stone axe, stone chisel, and fire sticks, or the ingenious use he makes of raw materials from the woods around him — sticks, vines, bark, clay, leaves, and mud.

Forge Blower” — My favorite segment, in which PTG uses simple materials like clay and bark to produce a device capable of “supplying forced combustion air required for high temperature furnaces and forges.” In a somewhat related video, we see him “Making Charcoal.” As he points out in his text narrative,

From my research, a natural draft furnace using wood (a kiln) can reach a maximum of 1400 c degrees whereas a natural draft furnace using charcoal can reach 1600 c degrees. Achieving high temperatures is necessary for changing material to obtain better technology (e.g smelting ore into metal).

Part of the takeaway here is that it’s possible to develop processes needed for advanced metallurgy using relatively simple materials.

PTG has made some impressive weapons, such as a “Spear Thrower” and “Bow and Arrow.”

He’s also demonstrated ways to get food in the wild, with all implements made from scratch: “Shrimp Trap” — In which Primitive Technology Guy uses a simple basket-weaved device to trap freshwater shrimp. Then he eats them, of course. Also he plants a “Sweet Potato Patch,” with an enclosing fence to keep out the wallabies.

wattle and daub hut

PTG emphasizes that he doesn’t live this way; it’s his hobby:

Also It should be noted that I don’t live in the wild but just practice this as a hobby. I live in a modern house and eat modern food. I just like to see how people in ancient times built and made things. It is a good hobby that keeps you fit and doesn’t cost anything apart from time and effort.

ARK — 14 November 2016

 

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Satellite image of Durupinar formation

Durupinar site. Credit: Google Earth.

Have researchers proven that this formation in Turkey is the resting place of the massive Ark that was used to save the Biblical patriarch Noah, his family, and many animals from a worldwide catastrophe?

Not long ago, a friend posted on Facebook a link to the article “Noah’s Ark Has Been Found. Why Are They Keeping Us In The Dark?” on the website of Joe the Plumber. The byline identifies the author of the article as Dan Eden, possibly a pen name for activist Rodney Lee Conover (a link to his Facebook page appears at the end of the article).

Joe the Plumber became a kind of political icon during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign.  The article’s appearing on Joe’s website evidently lends the topic credibility for some readers.

The article shines a light on a fascinating chapter in the story of “arkeology,” the search for the remains of Noah’s Ark. I think it also points to some useful questions about scientific research, and our relationship with subject-matter experts: Should we only give credence to the findings of those with professional credentials, or should knowledgeable amateur researchers get a listening ear as well?

The Dan Eden article discusses the formation known as the Durupinar site, a stone structure found in the mountains of eastern Turkey near the border with Iran. The Durupinar formation consists of a ridge of rock protruding from the ground, describing an oval shape with one end pointed in a way that suggests the prow of a ship. For decades, the Durupinar formation has been promoted by enthusiasts as the true site of Noah’s Ark and proof of the Bible’s account of a global deluge, given at Genesis chapters six through nine.

The question whether the remains of Noah’s Ark still exist interests me and my readers (I think), because my Biblical fiction series, The Cursed Ground, takes place in the ancient world before its destruction by a worldwide flood. Whether the Bible account is literally true or not is, in a way, irrelevant to the fictional world I’m developing. It’s fiction, after all. But the historicity of Bible accounts is certainly of interest to many thinking persons, and the ancient story of a society destroyed by a global catastrophe is relevant in a moral and religious sense, and perhaps also to those concerned about the environmental problems facing humanity today.

What Evidence Has Been Found at the Durupinar Site?

The evidence presented by Dan Eden is based on the work of amateur explorer and archaeological researcher Ronald Eldon “Ron” Wyatt (1933-1999). Eden cites several claims by Wyatt in support of the Durupinar site as the Ark’s resting place, including the following:

  • The length of the Durupinar formation is 515 feet, or 300 Egyptian cubits; its average width is 50 cubits. These are the same as the dimensions of the Ark, mentioned in the Biblical account at Gen 6:15. The Bible describes the Ark as rectangular; Eden claims that this only refers to the upper levels of the structure, and that the vessel required a boat-like hull “to enable the huge ship to remain stable in the water and survive tremendous waves.”
  • On the side of the structure can be seen a series of vertical bulges corresponding to ribs of a ship’s hull.
  • Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) revealed a structure under the mud, with regular, “periodic” placements that showed them to be human-made structural elements.
  • A core sample into the structure obtained a lump of petrified animal dung, a petrified antler, and a sample of cat hair.
  • A piece of petrified wood discovered at the site proved to be a large beam made from three planks laminated together with organic glue.
  • Using metal detectors, Wyatt unearthed what he described as a disk-shaped hammered metal rivet, containing iron, aluminum, and titanium.
  • Some miles from the Durupinar structure can be found a number of large, heavy stones with holes carved in them. Wyatt proposed that these were anchor stones used to stabilize the great ship, and that the holes were used to tie the stones to the ark with ropes.

 

Object purported to be a metal rivet

Purported rivet found by Ron Wyatt.

 

Durupinar is possibly the best-known of several sites that enthusiasts have proposed for the remains of Noah’s Ark. The idea that the Ark might still exist fires the imagination of many who take the Bible seriously. In Evangelicals and Science in Historical Perspective (ed. David N. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1999), historian Larry Eskridge writes about the phenomenon of “arkeology” and its connection to contemporary religion:

The hunt for the ark, like evangelicalism itself, is a complex blend of the rational and the supernatural, the modern and the premodern. While it acknowledges a dept to pure faith in a literal reading of the Scriptures and centuries of legend, the conviction that the ark literally lies on Ararat is a recent one, backed by a largely twentieth-century canon of evidence that includes stories of atheistic conspiracy, and pieces of questionable “ark wood” from the mountain. Fortified by grassroots creationist networks and the publicity of a string of articles, books, movies, and television specials, the quest for the ark has spawned a network of committed “arkeologists,” thousands of dedicated supporters, and legions of the just plain convinced. (245)

Eskridge quotes clergyman Timothy Francis “Tim” LaHaye, expressing a powerful theological motivation for finding the Ark:

[H]umanistic ideas would have to change if Noah’s Ark were ever discovered … [A] successful search would ring the death knell to the already fragile theory of evolution … [W]e would be reminded of God’s past method of purging the world of sinful people and our attention would be focused on God’s promise of another judgment in the very near future. (251)

 

Photo of Durupinar formation

Durupinar formation. Credit: Tuấn Lê, via Google Maps.

Wyatt’s assertions about the Durupinar site have been widely popularized among religious audiences.

Counterarguments From a Geologist

However, geologist Andrew A. Snelling, now director of research at Answers in Genesis, wrote in 1992 an extensive argument against the claims of Wyatt and collaborator David Fasold. Writing for the journal Creation, Snelling maintained that:

  • “Hot spots” identified by metal detectors at the Durupinar site were randomly distributed, not in any regular pattern, and were attributable to basalt boulders in the mudflow material.
  • The “molecular frequency generator/discriminator” device alleged to have mapped “iron lines” at the site amounts to a dowsing instrument with no scientific value.
  • Ground-penetrating radar did not in fact identify anything like the prow of a ship, as claimed by Wyatt and Fasold. Geophysicist Tom Fenner was falsely quoted to support Wyatt’s claims, and said, “I was surprised and dismayed to learn that Mr. Wyatt was using my name as well as the name of Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. (GSSI) in order to lend credibility to his unsubstantiated claims concerning the so-called ‘Noah’s Ark site.'”
  • The vertical bulges supposedly forming the ribs of a ship were just hardened mud and boulders, lined with erosion gullies and containing no petrified wood.
  • Contrary to Wyatt’s claims, very little petrified wood has been found at the Durupinar site. The segment claimed to be a deck timber of laminated planks has actually been identified as basalt; a laboratory report cited as proof actually did not test the sample in a way that could identify it as petrified wood.
  • Soil samples from the site contain just the kinds of metals to be expected in soil developed from basalt, not from forged materials; carbon at the site is in mineral form, not the organic form expected from decayed wood.
  • The object described by Wyatt as a metal rivet only exhibited a vaguely round shape. Lab tests “returned results consistent with the chemical composition of the major local rock type, basalt,” writes Snelling.  The object was not subjected to any testing capable of identifying the kind of exotic metallurgy claimed by Wyatt.
  • Wyatt claimed that Turkish archaeologists found a series of metal rods like cotter pins, but Wyatt himself is the only source for this claim, and a leading researcher from the Turkish teams denied this and other claims by Wyatt.
  • Fossilized animal materials found at Durupinar came only from the “walls” of the purported structure, not from deep within it. In any case, points out Snelling, “the finding of such animal residues in association with the site is hardly surprising when one considers that animals are likely to have roamed across these Turkish hillsides for thousands of years anyway.”
  • The stone slabs found in the region and proposed as anchor stones have no proven connection to the Durupinar formation itself, or to the Biblical account of the Ark.

Snelling’s article summarizes the results of a professional geophysical survey of the Durupinar site, which has revealed a thoroughly natural geological explanation for the formation. As far as the formation’s resembling a boat, he writes:

The boat-shape is situated in a sloping valley and is surrounded by deposits of loose soil and crushed rock which is slowly sliding down hill, flowing much as a glacier flows — a mudflow. As we have seen, the stable area around which this mudflow material flows is an uplifted block and erosional remnant of basement rock, including limestone and basalt. Just as water flows around a rock in a river bed, the site has acquired a streamlined shape due to the dynamics of the slowly flowing mud.

Difficulties of Relying on Experts

Associates and admirers of Ron Wyatt, who died in 1999, have continued to argue in favor of his research at the Durupinar site. A set of “frequently asked questions” by an organization called Ark Discovery International presents counterarguments against Snelling and other critics. An interesting but unattributed article titled “The Results of the Subsurface Imaging Project of Noah’s Ark” presents a number of images and comments based on a “resistivity imaging” study done at Durupinar in 2014. John Larsen is named as the person conducting the scans for these images, but his qualifications are not mentioned.

I find Snelling’s refutation persuasive, in part because of his thorough examination of the evidence, but admittedly also because of his professional credentials. However, should every amateur like Wyatt be disregarded simply for not having academic credentials?

And what about these newer subsurface images by Larsen? I looked at them but couldn’t do much more than scratch my head. When faced with complicated technical information and conflicting claims from purported experts, what is the thinking person to do?

I would say, keep an open mind but don’t be credulous.

Just because the evidence has cast doubt on one proposed site for the Ark’s remains does not mean that the Bible account is not historical. Archaeological evidence, free from biased interpretation, has never disproved the scriptural account of the past. But archaeological findings are of necessity fragmentary. Human structures and remains deteriorate quickly, and the older they are, the more likely they are to disappear entirely. In the case of Noah’s Ark, we are considering a wooden structure that existed more than 4,000 years ago. One might wish that such remains could be found, but there’s no virtue in fooling yourself.

For further discussions of archaeology as it relates to Bible history, please see the following articles:

Has Archaeology Proven That the Biblical Exodus Is a Myth?

Oxford scholar: Egyptian history is ‘a collection of rags and tatters’

How Much Does Archaeology Really Reveal?

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Portrait of E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington

Portrait of E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington. via Wikimedia

[Note: This post originally appeared as my Goodreads review of “Aspects of the Novel.”]

I recently read E.M. Forster’s 1924 classic, “A Passage to India,” so I was interested to learn that he had written a book about fiction writing. “Aspects of the Novel” is based on a series of lectures Forster gave in 1927 at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Copy on the back cover describes “Aspects of the Novel” as “Forster’s renowned guide to writing.” However, to me it reads more like literary criticism than guidance. I found it interesting and enlightening but not highly practical for me as a novelist. Forster organizes his treatment around seven themes, or aspects:

  1. Story
  2. People
  3. The Plot
  4. Fantasy
  5. Prophecy
  6. Pattern
  7. Rhythm

Out of these aspects, I found his chapter on people, or characters, most useful, particularly his comments on page 75 about the distinction between “round” and “flat” characters, using Jane Austen as an example of round characterization:

Why do the characters in Jane Austen give us a slightly new pleasure each time they come in, as opposed to the merely repetitive pleasure that is caused by a character in Dickens? … [T]he best reply is that her characters though smaller than his are more highly organized. They function all round, and even if her plot made greater demands on them than it does, they would still be adequate. … All the Jane Austen characters are ready for an extended life, for a life which the scheme of her books seldom requires them to lead, and that is why they lead their lives so satisfactorily.

In reader reviews, I often see critical comments to the effect that a novel’s characters are “flat,” and I usually scratch my head over that criticism, especially when it appears in a review of a book that I have read and enjoyed. Maybe some reviewers are just looking for something to gripe about, and “the characters are flat” is a useful trope to fall back on. Or maybe my standards just aren’t that high.

But in any case, here in Forster is an explanation of flat-versus-round that makes sense to me as a writer and that provides some real guidance for developing good characters.

ARK — 4 September 2015

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

Detail from The Scream, Edvard Munch

This morning I thought about this trope, which I often run into as a reader. But as a fiction writer who sometimes portrays screaming people, I wonder whether it ever really happens. Could I really be so horrified that I might start screaming or crying or otherwise expressing my distress — and then hear the sound of it without realizing it’s coming from my own throat?

I’ve seen this device used in many works of fiction to help the reader sense how appalling the character’s experience is. What he or she sees or hears or experiences is so distressing that he screams or cries without even being aware of it. I can go along with that, but what’s hard for me to believe is that you could hear the screaming or crying and not realize that is your own voice.

This question occurred to me this morning when I was listening to Sinners and the Sea, a work of deluge fiction by Rebecca Kanner (I’ve coined the term “deluge fiction” to describe a kind of sub-sub genre of Biblical historical fiction that includes my Cursed Ground series. I say I was listening to it, because audio books are one of my main methods for consuming content.) At one point in Sinners and the Sea, the following passage appears:

Just after the sun’s rays hit the eastern side of the tent, I heard footsteps. Someone raised the door flap, and there was screaming.

“It is only me, child,” my father said, and I realized that the screaming was my own.

I know I’ve run across this trope before many times. I haven’t kept a record, so I can’t tell you the specific novels where it shows up. However, I did a Google search on similar language and found its usage in a couple of works:

Then I heard someone crying out loudly and realized it was me. (The First Game With My Father, by Michael Tierney)

Then it became so quiet, the only noise was someone crying. It was me. (Faith and Drama: Plays and Readings From a Biblical Perspective, by Montana Lattin)

Suddenly I heard someone scream, “I give up. I’m not going to fight you any more. Do whatever you wish, I give up.” Then suddenly I realized it was me screaming. (My World Passes, by Donovan Harrison)

Yes, that last one beggars belief, doesn’t it?

I even found such a passage in a BBC News article about a man who left his baby for three hours in the car, where she died:

“I heard someone screaming,” he says. “Then I realised the screaming was coming from me. The rest is just a total blur.”

Even though that comes from a supposedly true story, I find it hard to credit. It sounds like a tragic, disingenuous, defensive fabrication.

Because this idea of hearing-your-own-voice-screaming-and-not-realizing-who-it-is has become such a cliché, I don’t plan to use it in my own stories. But my question for readers is whether this is a known psychological phenomenon or just a meme created by some fiction writer years ago and picked up by future generations. Anybody know?

ARK — 31 July 2015

 

 

 

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Statuette of a proto-Elamite horned hero or deity

Proto-Elamite statuette of a “horned deity.” Credit: Camocon, via Wikimedia Commons.

How did today’s culture develop its images of the Nephilim (called “Sunder” in my fiction series The Cursed Ground), that is, the race of super-human “mighty ones” referred to in the Bible account at Genesis 6:4? Some Bible accounts, such as the King James Version, call these creatures “giants.” In my stories, they appear as giants, but only in the sense of larger-than-normal hybrid offspring of angelic “sages” with human women.

Echoes of these characters appear in human stories and legends, particularly in Greek myths, which often feature giant half-gods with violent natures. I’m interested in these mythological images, especially as they relate to the historical-fiction tales I’m writing.

One such image came to my attention during a recent tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The tour guide for Oasis Group Tours stopped briefly at a small statuette in the Met’s “Gallery 402 – The Rise of Civilization: The Ancient Near East ca. 8000–3000 B.C.” The statuette he showed us is similar to the one pictured here, but I’m not sure whether it is actually the same figurine.

The Met’s profile of this exhibit calls it a “Striding figure with ibex horns, a raptor skin draped around the shoulders, and upturned boots.” The Met identifies the figurine as Proto-Elamite, and the detail that our tour guide pointed out is that the copper-alloy sculpture is dated to about 3000 BCE. If the museum’s dating of this object is correct, he said, that would place it before the time of the great deluge of Noah’s day, which occurred in 2370 BCE, according to the Bible’s internal chronology.

That makes the connection to the Nephilim, because the Met’s description identifies the figure as a deity or hero:

This solid-cast sculpture is one of a pair of nearly identical images of a hero or a demon wearing the upturned boots associated with highland regions, his power enhanced by the mighty horns of the ibex on his head and the body and wings of a bird of prey draped around his shoulders.

If the sculpture was created before the Flood, then it was fashioned by an artist who could have known first-hand what the Nephilim and their materialized-angel fathers looked like. That would fit with the enhanced musculature of this figure and other characteristics mentioned in the description:

… the triple belt and beard that define divine beings and royalty … [the] blending of human and animal forms to visualize the supernatural world and perhaps to express shamanistic beliefs …

The Elamites are identified as Semitic in the Bible account at Genesis 10:22, but they could have become mixed in with descendants of Japheth, who were known for their mythological depictions of “mighty ones.”

I intend to post more articles about legends, historical accounts, and other depictions that could related to the pre-flood world, but I thought this image was particularly striking and noteworthy. Some related articles I’ve written include:

ARK — 22 May 2015

 

 

 

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I’m proud to let readers know that the first two books in my historical series The Cursed Ground have been approved by Awesome Indies and listed on their site. Awesome Indies is a volunteer organization dedicated to reviewing and evaluating the works of independent authors. Awesome Indies Approved (AIA) books are “independently published books that meet, or improve on, the standard of books published by major mainstream publishers and their imprints,” according to the organization.

Cover for The Child-Stealers

Book cover for Children of the KeepterThe first two books of The Cursed Ground, The Child-Stealers and Children of the Keeper are now both available on Kindle eBooks. I’m currently working on Book 3 of the series, The Safeguard, which I expect to release in September 2015.

ARK — 12 May 2015

 

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