Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The World According to Deviant Art: Literature Edition

Deviant Art is a website for artists. Artists of all kinds: Writers, painters, photographers, etc. I have been a member for many years now and for slightly less time, I have been an active voice in the writing community. I like Deviant Art but like any community it has evolved its own unique culture. Every now and then I like list my observations about that culture.

A few years ago, in my first entry on The World According to dA, I said that nothing interesting ever happens in the forums. This is still largely true. The differences these days is my grip on my sanity is much weaker and so I actually spend more time than any man should on dA's literature forum. And much like the rest of dA, I've noticed certain trends. There are things in the literature community which are true. This is just how it is. This is how things are done, how they have always been done and how they will always be done. I'd like to explore some of these with you now.

1. Don't write until you have permission. You might think your idea is good but you won't know how good it is or if your story will be good until you ask strangers on the Internet if they think it will be good. Whatever you do, put off starting any new project until you've got the go ahead from a handful of literature forumites.

2. On second thought, don't write stories at all. Stories don't matter. Nobody wants plot. Just write characters and settings. All anyone wants in a book is some expansive world-building and characters with long, dramatic histories. Remember those chapters in Moby Dick where Melville just writes about the history of Nantucket and he describes the officers on the Pequod? The whole book should have been that. Only more detail, like what their blood type and favourite food.

3. Stickies are for chumps.

4. Everything is personal. That's why you have to keep reminding anyone you talk to that your disagreement is not a personal attack - even when it is. Because there is no way you can have a debate, a discussion or even a small disagreement without it being a personal attack on a person. So be offensive and get defensive because the shit storm's-a brewin'.

5. Forum regulars are all arrogant trolls out to make you feel bad. This is, of course, related to above. When the experienced and worldly writers of dA try and tell you something, you must respond by calling them names. Then blocking them. Bonus points for threatening to report them or implying they suck at life and ending your sentence with a smiley face.

6. The best way to be a successful writer is to follow trends. Not current trends, mind you, dead trends. Find something that is at least six years old (Twilight, Naruto, The Walking Dead) but you are still obsessed with/just discovered and rewrite it. Bonus points if the setting is psuedo-japanese. The other trends you must be aware of are hate trends. Keep up to date with whatever ancient shit people are still bitching about (Twilight, Naruto, The Walking Dead) and make a point to complain about it whenever possible.

7. Expect feedback. Expect in-depth criticism and review. Expect to be given a "How To Not Write Crap in Ten Easy Steps" manual every time you upload something to dA. You are entitled to help from strangers on the Internet. That help should also be printed clouds, wrapped in rainbows and delivered by unicorns just so it makes you feel extra special good. But YOU don't have to give anyone feedback. You're far too busy wondering why your comments are late to read somebody else's work and comment.

And finally, the most important lesson of all that dA can teach an aspiring writer:

8. Don't write short stories. Don't even write novels. Only plan to write series - three books AT LEAST! Put them up on dA one chapter at a time and submit those chapters to every critique request thread and group you can find. This is both quick and easy because chapters only need to be about two hundred words long. And if, while writing one series, you happen to think of something new just abandon that project and start a new series. Finishing stuff never did anyone any good, anyway.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soap Box: A Christian in Support of Gay Marriage

I'm going to do something I almost never do. I'm going to talk about Religion. More specifically, I am going to talk about my religious beliefs.

I am a Christian. I am an all believing, all praying, church going, God worshipping 100% pure Angus Beef Christian.

And I support gay marriage.

I'm doing this because I feel like I'm in something of a minority and this pro-gay marriage Christian view isn't being heard as loud as it should be.

The biggest obstacle any Christian faces is that some scripture reads a lot like it is forbidding gay marriage. Some scripture seems to come out in plane and simple English and say that homosexuality, or at the very narrowest interpretation homosexual sex between men, is a sin. That is to say it is against the law of God. But there's a problem with that. The bible wasn't written in English, it's been translated that way. And where SOME bibles have been translated to name homosexuality, others have not. Now I won't go too much into this because I am not a bible scholar by any stretch of the imagination. Still, obviously if we've got different translations then the original scripture wasn't so cut and dry and one has to start thinking. I certainly did.

And I did what all Christians should do if they're not sure what to do with the scripture in front of them. I did some research, I did some reading and I did some praying. And in all that time, nothing convinced me that an anti-homosexual interpretation of the bible is the only valid interpretation. The truth just isn't so black and white.

But that's not what I want to talk about. Because “I'm just not sure” isn't a helpful answer. There's also the possibility that I'm wrong. What I'm talking about here is two directly opposed readings of the Bible and in circumstances like this, somebody has to be wrong.

It's important things to remember here that marriage existed before the Church. Marriage exists outside the Church. Christianity in all its forms does not hold either a copyright or a monopoly on marriage. I can't imagine many homosexuals want to get married in a Church that doesn't approve of them, anyway. What they want is legal recognition of their relationship, just like all the heterosexual relationships want. They want the same rights and privileges we get.

But that's not what I want to talk about. The politics of this debate are lengthy and mostly very stupid. So I won't go into that now.

What I do want to do is talk about what I am sure about. This is what I think Christian scripture makes undeniably clear again and again and again.

It is not my place, my duty or even my right to judge. I have no business telling homosexuals that they are sinning and going to hell. I have no authority to tell them that they are in the wrong and that their way of life is damaging to the world.

If God does not want to recognise a gay marriage, He won't. Just because a gay couple have a legal marriage or even if they got married in a church God is under no obligation to accept their marriage as valid. God can do that because He's God. God is a big boy and as much as He appreciates your efforts, in the end, He'll do what He wants and He can take care of Himself.

If I am standing in the way of two people expressing their love then I am at fault. How much more obvious could Christ have made it to us that we must be loving and compassionate? How is the hatred and anger Christians have shown to the LGBT community in line with what Christ taught? How do you love someone while condemning them? How is telling them they are an abomination showing compassion? That's not even tough love. That's just being an ass hole.

Christians are called upon to make more Christians. Sometimes it seems like we forgot that we don't need to breed to make more Christians. There are plenty of people out there who are not Christians. Some of them never will be. Some of them once were and stopped. Some haven't had the chance yet. Some of them want to be but don't know how. God has told us to try and save them. Now I could write a whole extra entry on how being an obnoxious, pushy, holier-than-thou fuckwit is poor witnessing in the modern world. But I'm not going to do that. The point I want to make here is: God wants everyone to be saved and that includes the homosexual community. Do you really think any of them are going to come to God if you keep abusing them? Do you think any of them will want anything to do with God if you can't be nice to them? Or would they much rather hear about Christ if you're an open, friendly, accepting and generous person because of your faith? We must not just believe, we must practice.

I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. Nobody has convinced me that this is God's teaching. But even if I'm wrong, it doesn't matter. Because the treatment of the gay community and denying them the right to a marriage is not what Christ has taught us. I have gay friends in a relationship and I can see, just looking at them, that they understand love more than some Christians seem to. It would be tragic if it wasn't so beautiful.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have something far less controversial to write.

EDIT: I felt that this needed a conclusion. It's a tricky topic and I think it's too important to leave it without being 100% clear. A Christian's first and foremost duty is serving God. God has made it clear how we serve him and what he expects us to do. We have guides for our behaviour.

Marriage equality is not a threat to you, it is not a threat to God, it is not a threat to Christianity. Nobody is trying to change the Christian definition of marriage (we're still assuming the traditional, conservative reading is the only valid reading) and nobody is trying to force Christianity to be something it is not or do something it does not want. We are not under attack by people who want the freedom to express love for each other.

By standing in the way of marriage equality, you are hurting people. Even if hurting people achieved a righteous end, morality is not subjective. If you do wrong to achieve good, you have still done wrong and that goes on your record. But hurting people by stopping marriage equality does not serve any righteous end. Even if homosexuality is a sin, by not allowing homosexuals to have legally recognised marriages, you are not stopping them from being homosexual. By hurting them you drive them away from Christ. You are Christ's ambassadors and don't ever forget it.