July 19th, 2007

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James Stoddard's The High House: A Review


I do not yet know what book has been kicked out of my Top Five list, but one has in order to make room for James Stoddard's The High House (Aspect Fantasy: 1998).

Imagine if you will, a huge mansion that within its walls and halls and rooms holds worlds upon worlds, mysteries upon mysteries, with no end in sight. Imagine a Master of the House with three main responsibilities: maintain order within the House's myriad realms; protect all of this creation against the Anarchists, a group of people dedicated to overthrowing the house; and maintain a balance between Old Man Chaos and Lady Order, two archetypes that dwell within the house and in their absoluteness are creatures of surprising horror. Also, imagine a house where the Last Dinosaur, untamed and hungry, lives in the attic and the basement is filled with man-eating creatures that disguise themselves as furniture.

And there is still much, much more.

The High House is not a Christian allegory. It is a novel set about a fantasy world immersed in the reality of the Christian worldview with the basis for its paradigms solidly Christian:
" ... like all of Creation, the High House is a Parable. As for who built it, some say God is the Great Architect; some say the Grand Engineer." Brittle gave his wry smile. "And some say He once was a carpenter as well. I can explain no better."

Yet, the message of the book is not beaten into you with a crowbar, but explained gently within the relationships of those who have been given the responsibility of caring for the High House. Along the trip we learn that Christianity is not a caricature to be endured, but an adventure to be lived with all of its passions and wonders and, yes, even danger.

I have always been an avid fan of supernatural houses and The High House now forms part of my mental neighborhood sharing property lines with Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, Richard Forsythe's Bishop's Landing, and Charles de Lint's Tamson House (Moonheart).

The High House is a nice place to visit and you just might want to live there.
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Infinite Space and Infinite God: Update


Sometime next month, Infinite Space and Infinite God (ISIG) is going to be released as a hardback and a trade paperback. The electronic sales of the book are doing so well, the publisher has already approached editor Karina Fabian for a sequel and Ken Pick and I have been approached to once again write stories for the anthology.

For those of you not in the know, ISIG is an anthology of hard science fiction stories that take place in a Roman Catholic worldview.

Yes, I know. I'm not Catholic, but two of the twelve stories in the anthology have my name on the byline as they were stories I had written that had Roman Catholic characters.

Mask of the Ferret is actually the first chapter of a novel and makes a very nice stand-alone tale about artificially created anthropomorphics in the far future. The tale's genesis is interesting: Ken had a character in search of a story and I had a story in search of a character. The result is a wonderful partnership where I wrote the story and I then gave it to Ken who rewrote it to match his style and make it orthodox to the universe in which his stories take place (WebFed).

Imagine a far future where the universe is populated with many alien races and where humanity is a recent newcomer. Amongst the races that populate WebFed, one of the many technological benchmarks each civilization must make on its own in order to become a WebFed member is the ability to manipulate DNA. The result is a population of Artificials, creatures made from manipulated DNA, but fortunately, these beings are created with full rights and privileges.

Mask of the Ferret is about Jill Noir, an Artificial with the basic DNA template of a ferret, Having escaped her Terran creators, she is fleeing with an alien artifact being pursued by Father Eric Heidler, a Vatican operative whose job is to recover the artifact. The result is an adventure on board the Coventry, a Terran ship trapped enroute in hyperspace with a deadly alien artifact that is reaching out to psychically feed on the crew and the passengers.

I contributed the plot and most of the characters. Ken made magic with the atmosphere of the story and its WebFed milieu with its diverse races.

Hopefully, you will all see The Adventures of Jill Noir, the novel, completed in my lifetime.

The second story is mine alone. First published in PawPrints Fanzine, Canticle of the Wolf is a hard science fiction treatment of the legend of Saint Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, another "furry" story.

I am delighted that in many of the reviews of ISIG, either Mask of the Ferret, Canticle of the Wolf, or both receives a very positive review. This has puzzled me as many of the other contributors are not literary newcomer lightweights, but now having a prepublication copy of ISIG in my hands, though the other stories are wonderfully written, there are two elements of Mask and Canticle that IMHO make them stand apart:
  1. The stories are easily accessible by those who do not have a Roman Catholic background, and
  2. They both have very positive themes and endings.
Karina Fabian is not only gifted as an editor, but as a marketer, she is a true wizard. As Ken and I ride her coattails, my hope is that ISIG will create a springboard to bigger and better adventures for both of us.
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