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Faith-Filled Fiction

January 2007

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Welcome to the First Issue!


Welcome and thank your for subscribing to "Faith-Filled Fiction."  I've started this newsletter as a result of the wonderful response to the "Faith in Fiction" workshop I held with Maya Bohnhoff, Rose Dimond and Colleen Drippe' for the MuseOnline conference.

Religion and faith are an integral part of the human condition, and as authors, we need to recognize that in order to give our created worlds, characters and stories believability.  Even more, people are again looking for faith-filled fiction.

To truly be effective, faith or religion (the practice of faith) should feel organic to your story, world or character.  It needs to feel as if it belongs there, not as if it was stuck on as an afterthought or done so shallowly that it reads like a cartoon version of the real thing.  After all, whatever our goals in our story--to entertain, to inform, even to evangelize--we cannot accomplish them if our readers leave the story to think, "Oh, please!"

I want this newsletter to help you--and me--learn to write religions that are rich and believable (even the ones we make up.).  Together, we'll explore different religions and how to write about them, especially those different from the one we practice.  Too often, because of lack of understanding or skill, agenda, or just laziness, religions or religious people come off as stereotyped caricatures.  Not only does that hurt the story, it insults your reader--even if they aren't of the faith you're portraying.  I also want this to be a place where writers can share their faith-filled successes.

I'm starting small with this issue, but eventually, I'd like to have a section highlighting a particular religion, a section on tips, a book review section, a readers' news section and maybe even some contests, links, calls for submissions and other useful tidbits.  You'll see a definitely Catholic flavor to this one.  With NaNo, Christmas and getting ready to move, I've been a busy camper, so I'm writing what I know.  I hope to broaden my scope as we go on.  Please also let me know what you want to see.




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Writing:  Show Religion Through Actions Not Words

So we're told this from Day One of writing school:  Show us, don't tell us.  Yet how many of us are tempted, especially in short stories, to try a shortcut?  "Miles Chauncy was a good man, with Christian morals as strong as his shoulders were broad…" 

Resist the temptation, my brothers and sisters!  Turn away from the den of mediocrity.  Show us, I say!  Show us that the faith is true to your world and not some fascade!

How?  Let your characters' actions speak for them!

Think about it.  Very few people quote the Bible in casual conversation, speak in mini-sermons, or begin a complaint with "Allah be praised but…"  Yet often, that's how many writers choose to 'show" their characters follow a certain religion.  Unless it's part of your character's personality--in which case, you'd better show us that same characteristic shining through elsewhere--take a subtler approach.

For example, in the novel I'm shopping around right now, The Miscria, I have a very Catholic character, Joshua; nonetheless, in 108,000 words, "Catholic" is only mentioned 8 times, and only once by him when he asks a psychiatric patient (who turns out to be psychic) "How did you know I was Catholic?"  But when a patient he's become close to dies, he  deals with the grief by going to church and saying the rosary, then heading out to a restaurant and eating the biggest chocolate dessert on the menu.  The psychic figures out he's Catholic because he picked up on an image of receiving Communion wine.  And Joshua's boss tries to hint at Josh's new girlfriend's checkered past by saying, "It doesn't bother you being Catholic and all…?"

Even in my Catholic science fiction, my characters don't talk Catholic so much as act Catholic.  For example in "These Three" (from Infinite Space, Infinite God, Twilight Times Books: 2006), the Blessed Gillian (meaning she's not been declared a saint yet) appears to a badly injured spacer to motivate him across to travel across his ship in zero gravity to activate the attitude controls before the ship collides with L5 station.  At one point, he has a long ladder to climb, and she suggests they recite the Stations of the Cross as they go--"Come on:  hand over hand.  Good.  Three more rungs, and we'll say a station."  But that's not her only way of motivating him--not even the first.  She yells at him, nags him, distracts him with jokes, talks to him about being a spacer--whatever she can to get him to keep moving.  She reminds him that hundreds will die and only when he's too far gone to believe he can continue does she tell him to let God work through him.  Even then, she has to command him to trust--then push off to the controls!

Here are some tips for keeping actions realistic and within character:

1.  Know your character.  Everyone expresses faith in different ways according to their personality.  We wouldn't expect a shy, non-confrontational person to suddenly start talking about Jesus in the check-out aisle of Walmart, but she may have a pocket Bible she pulls out to read in order to avoid the eyes of others on the subway.

2.  Make religion a natural part of their lives.  Don't go out of your story's way to portray someone's faith.  In The Miscria, the only time I mention Joshua going to church was after a patient died and when he invited his girlfriend to come to Mass with him.  He went every Sunday, but it wasn't vital to the plot to mention it.

3.  Don't make your character act unrealistically for the sake of their religion.  A Muslim in demolitions wouldn't stop in the middle of defusing a bomb just because it was time for prayers.

4. If using an actual religion, check your practices with someone of that faith or who is very familiar with the practice of that faith.  Knowing the theory of a faith and knowing its practice are very different.  Religions change in minor (and sometimes major) ways depending on history and location.  For example, Catholic women were once to cover their heads in church, but that practice changed in my lifetime.  Now, it's an individual decision.

5.  Keep culture and history in mind.  An American is going to swear differently than a Saudi, even if both are Muslim.  A Chinese Christian will have a very different point of view than an English Christian.

6.  When you have someone critique it, do not ask if they "like it" or if it "sounds real."   Instead, have them mark where they found themselves thinking more about the religion than the character.  Where did they think of the person as a religion and not a person with a belief?  Then decide--is that what you wanted?


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Research:  Catholicism

There is no easy answer to "What is Catholicism?"  Believe me, I looked!  Since I am a lifelong Catholic, I'll do my best to summarize the beliefs, but (as with all faiths) if you want to know more, do the research.

Catholicism is the oldest of the Christian religions.  Indeed, we can trace the roots of the Church back to the apostles and recognize Peter as the first Pope (though the title came later).  The easiest way to summarize our beliefs is with the Nicene Creed, which we recite and re-affirm every Sunday: 

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

There is only one God, who is love and existence.  God expresses Himself in three Persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We understand the Bible as our Salvation Story--how God loves us and wants to be loved in return.  From it, we learned how Mankind fell from perfect friendship with God through the sin of Adam and Eve (original sin), and how afterward, Mankind was unable to return God's love as we once had.  Thus, God became Man, taking on a dual nature to lead us back to a loving relationship with Him.  After His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and guide us in grace.

God gave us tangible signs of his grace through the seven Sacraments:  Baptism, Holy Communion (also known as Eucharist), Reconciliation (also known as Penance or Confession), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders (i.e. priesthood) and Anointing of the Sick. He gave us the church to guide us.  The head of the Church, whom we now call the Pope, speaks with the authority of God when he speaks ex cathedra.   These are very specific and carefully considered occasions and are binding on all Catholics for all time.

We believe that while Jesus died to save us from sin, that did not mean we were now exempt from doing good works in his name, and that keeping his commandments and doing good works while in a state of grace with God are a necessary part of our salvation.

Catholics believe that those who die in a state of sin but not of total rejection of God enter a place called Purgatory.  Here, we are cleansed and made ready to accept the glory of Heaven and the pure love of God.

Saints are very special people who have found a near-perfect relationship with God in their lives and who have a special ability to intercede with Him on our behalf.  The Church takes great care in determining who is a saint:  the person must have shown extraordinary faith (even if in ordinary things) and must have two post-mortem miracles proven to have happened through their intercession.  Catholics do not worship saints; we do not pray to them as we would to God, but rather to ask them to intercede or pray on our behalf, much as you might ask a friend or minister to pray for you.  Similarly, the icons in the Church are not God, but a focus or a reminder, like a photo of a loved one or a favorite memento.  We do believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (the bread and wine), for he said himself in the Last Supper:  "This is my body.  This is my blood."

We recognize Mary as our spiritual mother, but we do not worship her.  The rosary--the series of prayers and meditations Catholics pray using a chain of beads--serves to help us focus on the life of Christ and of our relationship with God, through Mary, His human mother.

I think I'm overflowing my nutshell, so I'll stop here.  Please, if you have questions, feel free to contact me. 

Sites to check out:  Covers basic info, including misconceptions.  A searchable document of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which outlines all Catholic beliefs and practices Frequently asked questions  The Catholic Encyclopedia  news, opinion, events


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Review:  Infinite Space, Infinite God

(Yes, this is my book--the summary is mine but the reviews are from others. If you'd like to review a book or send me a review of yours please contact me.)

Interstellar exploration.  Genetic engineering.  Time travel.  Alien abduction.  The Vatican. 


Explore the possibilities with Infinite Space, Infinite God, an anthology of fifteen stories about the future Catholic Church. Experience the Church's struggle to evangelize aliens and lost human colonies and to determine the soul-status for genetically modified humans, genetically-designed chimeras, and clones made from the Martian sand. Discover religious orders devoted to protecting interstellar travelers or inner-city priests.  Experience technical advances allow monks to live in solitude on the Moon and help one criminal learn the true meaning of Confession.  Learn about the present and future advances that will affect Catholic doctrine in introductions by the editors.


Is there religion in your SF or SF in your religion?  Either way you look at it, Infinite Space, Infinite God is fast-paced, absorbing fiction that makes you think.  If you're tired of science fiction that ignores human faith or religious fiction where the technical elements are sacrificed for "the message," then ISIG is the book for you.

Gabriel Mckee for "SFGospel"

Infinite Space, Infinite God, edited by Karina and Robert Fabian is billed as an anthology of Catholic SF, but it’s much more than that. The 15 stories cover broad thematic ground, and though the Catholic Church plays a role in all of them, each story offers a vastly different perspective. This volume isn’t just of interest to Catholics—it’s good SF that engages in exactly the kind of speculation that keeps the genre vibrant. The editors’ introductions to the stories are intelligent and informative, giving some excellent background data on the specific aspects of the church that the stories explore. It’s a great anthology, and it’s fitting that it was recently nominated for an EPPIE Award.

PJ for Scottieluvr’s “Chewing the Bone” reviews


Infinite Space, Infinite God is an excellent collection of science fiction short stories. These authors’ imaginations are astounding, pulling me into each and every story from the first paragraph, and then masterfully entwining their writings with Catholicism. The characters come alive in vivid detail making each story’s uniqueness stand on their own merit. Highly recommended, not only to devoted sci-fi readers, but to those who have never read the genre before.

Find out more at

Special for Faith-Filled Fiction subscribers!  Get an autographed copy of Infinite Space, Infinite God months before release date and at a reduced price!  Contact Karina for details.  Please put ISIG in the subject line.

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