SF/F Saturday: His Dark Materials

There's a lot of fantasy fiction that I enjoy in spite of its religious themes - C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. But sometimes I'm in the mood for fiction that takes an explicitly atheist and humanist point of view, which is why I've lately been rereading one of my favorite series, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.The first book in the series, The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights outside the USA), is set on an alternate Earth that … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Anathem


I found out this week that my books have been getting ratings and reviews on Goodreads, without any prompting or even knowledge on my part, which is pretty cool. So, I now have an author page on Goodreads, which you can use to shower accolades upon my literary endeavors. (Or just add me as a friend. Either way.)This is a good chance to kick off a new post series on Daylight Atheism, SF/F Saturdays. Since I'm going to be publishing more fiction in the future, I've been wanting to talk more … [Read more...]

A Two-Sentence Halloween Horror Story


I really liked this article on Salon showcasing two-sentence horror stories written by professional authors. Notwithstanding the current popularity of blood-and-guts horror (more of an appeal to disgust than to fear, I've always thought), a good horror story is always scariest because of what it implies, not of what it reveals, and this challenge just carries that principle through to its conclusion. I thought I'd try my hand at it, so in honor of Halloween and everything that lurks in the dark, … [Read more...]

Repost: The Theodicy of Narnia


[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from December 2006.]When I was a child, I read and devoured C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia books. I was too young then to understand most of the religious symbolism, and didn't realize that Lewis had intended the series as a Christian allegory until the end of the very last Narnia book, The Last Battle, which makes the comparison explicit. I will say, however, that I enjoyed … [Read more...]

A Dialogue with the Tempter

At the end of a long and weary day, with the last drops of twilight bleeding out of the darkening midsummer sky, I turned my key in the lock of my front door. I set my bags down, stepped inside... and paused, one foot on the threshold. I was certain I had shut off all the lights before leaving that morning, but my home wasn't fully dark. From the door of my office came the unmistakable blue glow of a computer screen, and in that harsh light, I could see a long shadow thrown on the … [Read more...]

Never Quote Discworld to an Atheist

The other day, I found this article from a Google alert: an essay on the religious website First Things by the author and Catholic apologist Elizabeth Scalia (who also blogs as The Anchoress).The post was about Terry Pratchett, the celebrated fantasy author and secular humanist. Since his personal beliefs come through clearly in his writing, I was surprised to find out that Scalia's a fan of his Discworld series. She quotes with approval the following passage from one of the Discworld books, … [Read more...]

The Contributions of Freethinkers: Ursula K. LeGuin

Although I've highlighted the lives of some amazing feminists on Daylight Atheism, I don't want to give the impression that the only thing women can be famous for is fighting for the rights of women. Today's post is a reminder that freethinking women have made their mark in other areas of human culture as well.Science fiction and fantasy have always been heavily male-dominated fields of literature. A 1966 reader poll of sci-fi's greatest novels didn't list a single entry written by a woman, … [Read more...]

Return to the Desert IV: The Xenophobe

I kept walking, leaving the canyons behind. The eerie stone pillars and rugged topography of the badlands faded away like a mirage, and soon, the land was flat and featureless again.This part of the desert was what geologists called a hamada, a low, level plain of boulders and stony soil. Low, wind-carved dunes rose in the distance, and far beyond them, hazy with distance, stood the ever-present mountains in whose rainshadow this barren land lay. My steps crunched on the rough gravel, whose … [Read more...]

Return to the Desert: The Eschatologist

The salt-crusted stone shack disappeared before I had been walking more than a few minutes, swallowed up in a sandstorm gust. Squaring my face to the wind, I kept walking.The salt flats soon fell away behind me, and I entered a new region of the desert. It was a badlands: a barren landscape of mesas and canyons, steep slopes and sawtooth ridges, all sculpted into fantastic, unearthly shapes like the topography of an alien planet. Tall, twisted spires and jagged outcroppings rose all around me … [Read more...]

Return to the Desert: The Scholar

A gust of stinging wind assailed me as soon as I passed through the portal, blowing fine grit into my face. I coughed and staggered back a step, tasting a bitterness in my mouth. It was a few moments before I could clear my eyes and look up, and when I did, the lay of the land was different than it had been. Instead of steep, rising dunes, it was a flat plain of barren red and brown, cracked and crazed in unearthly patterns by the pounding of the sun. Weathered red mesas rose in the distance … [Read more...]