NRA: Don’t smile for the camera

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 135-139

This is an odd little section of our story. The Antichrist has finally arrived back at his capital city after flying half-way around the world while nuking a dozen major cities because … well, because he’s the Antichrist and bombing cities apparently was the first evil thing he could think of to do.

Upon arriving in New Babylon, Nicolae Carpathia decides to have a short press conference on the tarmac at the airport, and Jerry Jenkins gives us a semi-competent account of what such an event might look like as imagined by someone who had never seen a press conference before. Jenkins wants to convey the manipulative sophistication of the Antichrist and his assistants and to show us that Nicolae is a master communicator and politician. But the problem is that Jenkins doesn’t really have any idea what that looks like.

This is a variation on the “greatest orator in the history of the world” problem we’ve discussed before. It’s a trap Jenkins keeps setting for himself, compounding the problem by lazily refusing to do anything like research.

“Leon Fortunato instructed everyone on the plane when to get off and where to stand for the cameras when they finally reached New Babylon.”

Imagine we were all in some kind of writing class and we were assigned to write a short scene describing a surprising upset in an Olympic fencing match. I’d be in big trouble with this assignment, because I know next to nothing about fencing. I don’t know the rules or the language, or what distinguishes the best competitors from the rest. One doesn’t need to have mastered the art of fencing to write about someone who has, but one has to learn enough about it to be able to describe what mastery looks like.

Before beginning to write our assigned scene, then, I’d need to do some research. I’d need to talk to or read some experts who know all about this stuff, and I’d need to watch some fencing. Ideally, I would watch some fencing with some of those experts, so they could help me understand what I was seeing, what to look for, what’s important. Only after doing such research could I begin to write. Then, after finishing a first draft, I’d want to take it back to those experts to allow them to correct, refine and sharpen my attempt to portray their art.

That’s one approach. Jenkins takes the other one. He seems to figure that it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t know anything about fencing, because 99 percent of his readers probably don’t know anything about it either. No need to do all that hard work of research, then, he can just bluff and bluster his way through it. Maybe he won’t be able to write something that would be convincing to fencing enthusiasts, but that’s OK, because most readers won’t know enough to be able to tell if he gets everything wrong.

This bluff and bluster is on full display here in this section, as Jenkins insists that we see Nicolae and his henchman Leon Fortunato as masters of political stagecraft while at the same time revealing that neither he nor his characters has much of a clue as to what such expert stagecraft really looks like.

This is a pattern in these books. We’re told that Buck Williams is a master journalist, but since the authors couldn’t be bothered to learn what good journalism looks like, we’re shown that Buck is a clumsy hack (“like saying the Great Wall of China is long”). We’re told that Nicolae is a great orator, but since the authors couldn’t be bothered to learn what constitutes good oratory, we’re shown that Nicolae is a droning bore (“Afghanistan, Albania …”).

Worst of all, we’re told that Buck, Rayford, Bruce, Chloe and Tsion are devout disciples of Jesus Christ.

And the pattern holds.

The authors clearly could not be bothered to learn what real Christian discipleship looks like, and so while they tell us that these characters are good, Christ-like saints, what they show us, instead, is a bunch of self-centered, oblivious, obnoxious sociopaths who hold all of their neighbors in contempt.

Here again the authors try to lazily bluff their way through, figuring it won’t much matter if they don’t know the first thing about the subject because most readers probably won’t know enough to tell when they’re getting it wrong.

I cannot claim to be an expert or to have mastered Christian discipleship any more than I could claim to have mastered journalism or oratory or political stagecraft. But I’ve seen all of those things done well and I’ve seen all of them done poorly. And even if I’m not an expert, I’ve learned enough about them to recognize the difference. I suspect that’s true for most readers of these books. So when the authors bluff and bluster, telling us that we’re seeing mastery while showing us, instead, the clumsy posturing of ignorant amateurs, I don’t think most readers are convinced. At least, I hope not.

Leon Fortunato instructed everyone on the plane when to get off and where to stand for the cameras when they finally reached New Babylon.

“Mr. Fortunato,” Rayford said, careful to follow Leon’s wishes, at least in front of others, “McCullum and I don’t really need to be in the photograph, do we?”

“Not unless you’d like to go against the wishes of the potentate himself,” Fortunato said. “Please just do what you’re told.”

Is this a thing that happens? Do world leaders and dignitaries arriving at the airport pose for pictures with the pilots who flew them there? Are the flight crews usually asked to stand around behind the dignitaries throughout their tarmac press events? I’m trying to recall ever seeing this. Yet here it’s presented as a customary practice — as something routine and expected whenever a world leader travels by plane:

Rayford buttoned his dress uniform jacket and put his hat on as he stepped out of the cockpit. He and McCullum trotted down the steps and began the right side of a V of people who would flank the potentate, the last to disembark.

Next came the flight service crew, who seemed awkward and nervous. They knew enough not to giggle, but simply looked down and walked directly to their spots.

I might point to this as another example of the pervasive misogyny in these books, but I’m afraid the authors might point to this same passage as part of their defense against that criticism. After all, the little ladies in this scene “knew enough not to giggle” during a press conference following the nuclear destruction of a dozen or more major cities. I’m guessing the authors regard that as a sign that these are exceptionally smart and capable women, able to suppress their natural womanly tendency to be constantly giggling and batting their eyelashes and what not. I’m also guessing that the authors would expect brownie points for not using the word “stewardesses” — even if every aspect of the scene reeks of sexist stewardess imagery from a 1960s “Fly Me” ad campaign.

Before departing the plane, Nicolae reminded everyone not to smile for the class picture they were about to take:

“Remember,” Carpathia said, “no smiles. This is a grave, sad day. Appropriate expressions, please.”

That warning could have been a chilling illustration of Nicolae’s monstrous evil except that, in this story, everyone needed to hear it. Including Rayford.

This is all happening the very same day that New York, London, Chicago and many other cities were destroyed, killing millions of people. If these books were populated with human characters, they would not need to be reminded that this is “sad.” If these were human characters, then Nicolae would be telling them to dry their eyes, to be strong, to not let their devastation show in front of the cameras. But instead he has to remind them not to smile — not because he’s an evil monster, but because everyone is.

When Nicolae finally departs the plane, we get Jerry Jenkins’ best attempt at a description of a polished, sophisticated politician — along with the hint of some vague supernatural mojo at work:

The potentate always seemed taller than he really was in these situations, Rayford thought. He appeared to have just shaved and washed his hair, though Rayford had not been aware he had the time for that. His suit, shirt, and tie were exquisite, and he was understatedly elegant in his accessories. He waited ever so briefly, one hand in is right suit pocket, the other carrying a thin, glove-leather portfolio. Always looking as if he’s busily at the task at hand, Rayford thought.

Rayford was amazed at Carpathia’s ability to strike just the right pose and expression. He appeared concerned, grave, and yet somehow purposeful and confident. As lights flashed all around him and cameras whirred, he resolutely descended the steps and approached a bank of microphones. Every network insignia on each microphone had been redesigned to include the letters “GCN,” the Global Community Network.

The hand in the pocket is a JFK thing — a detail plucked from the same Mad Men era conjured up by the giggling stewardesses, exploding flashbulbs and “whirring” cameras.

What with the still-unfolding outbreak of war, I’d have had Nicolae lose the tie and maybe even the jacket. Rolled-up shirtsleeves tend to convey a leader “busily at the task at hand” better than an “exquisite” suit and tie with “elegant” accessories.

Rayford slept for several hours crossing the ocean, so he shouldn’t be so bewildered that Nicolae appears freshly showered and shaved. But I like the hint here that maybe something else is at work. Maybe this is another part of the Antichrist magic — the ability to appear however he needs to appear in order to sway the masses. I wish Jenkins had pursued this a bit more. Maybe Nicolae is not actually clean-shaven and dressed in an impeccable suit and tie, but that’s how he appears to Rayford because it’s what Rayford expects to see. (Rayford’s divine protection is supposed to keep him from being influenced by Antichrist mojo, but maybe not this particular special power.)

I’m disappointed that the Antichrist still doesn’t seem to appreciate the economies of scale afforded by his one-world government. His OWG owns every media outlet in the world and he controls what all of them print. Is it still necessary, then, to keep paying the expense of a New Babylon desk at every one of those media outlets?

The only person he couldn’t fully control chose that moment to burst Carpathia’s bubble of propriety. Hattie Durham broke from the crowd and ran directly for him. Security guards who stepped in her way quickly realized who she was and let her through. She did everything, Rayford thought, except squeal in delight. Carpathia looked embarrassed and awkward for the first time in Rayford’s memory. It was as if he had to decide which would be worse: to brush her off or to welcome her to his side.

Nicolae is the Antichrist, so unlike a good, godly man, he cannot “fully control” his fiancée. Hattie Durham has rejected the gospel, so she refuses to be fully controlled by her man. Tim LaHaye has written many books describing his ideal for Christian marriage. This book is one of them.

There’s a nasty little bit more in which Hattie — who does not know enough to suppress her constant giggling — tries to “plant an open-mouthed kiss” on Nicolae’s lips during the middle of his press conference. That’s another reminder that Hattie is not a virginal madonna, and therefore she must be the other thing.

(Kind of odd, too, that the potentate’s fiancée doesn’t have any kind of security detail. The whole pretext of all the war and bombing in the previous chapters is that armed insurrectionists are in open rebellion against the OWG. Shouldn’t Hattie have at least a bodyguard?)

The press conference ends with the authors providing yet another example of what they insist is Nicolae’s masterful oratory.

That’s what they tell us, anyway, but here’s what they show us:

“This is a difficult time in which we live, and yet our horizons have never been wider; our challenges so great, our future so potentially bright.

“That may seem an incongruous statement in light of the tragedy and devastation we have all suffered, but we are all destined for prosperity if we commit to standing together. We will stand against any enemy of peace and embrace any friend of the Global Community.”


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  • Zippy

    No flags?
    When a leader 1) wants to impress the audience, or 2) is in Big Trouble, they hold the press conference against a background of as many tidily wrapped flags as can fit into the picture.

  • Lori

    Or one really big one.

  • aunursa

    The place was on the ground and secure in New Babylon for several minutes before the doors were opened and the Carpathia-controlled press was assembled.

    The only person he couldn’t fully control chose that moment to burst Carpathia’s bubble of propriety…

    If Nicolae controlled everyone else, and Fortunato is such a micro-manager that he determined where each person will stand for the media photo, how was Hattie able to enter the area? And why does it matter if she creates a scene? Nicolae controls the press. He could simply order the media to delete any photos and videos of the inappropriate scene.

  • Zippy

    Oh, and as regarding Hattie … does it seem strange that Hattie has managed to plant a big wet kiss on Nicolae when she couldn’t plant one on UnSaved!Rayford for years? We know what they’ve been doing, of course, but it just gives the impression that Rayford can do one thing well: he sure can run faster than Nicolae.

  • aunursa

    In two chapters, Hattie will confide to Rayford that it was all just a big façade.*

    Rayford : So when you saw him at the airstrip…
    Hattie: I was testing him. I won’t deny it. I wasn’t as eager to see him as I let on, but I was giving him one more chance. Wasn’t it obvious I spoiled his big appearance?
    Rayford: That’s the impression I had.
    Hattie: When I tried to kiss him, he told me it was inappropriate and to act like an adult. At least in his remarks he referred to me as his fiancée. He said I was overcome with grief, as he was. I know him well enough to know there was no grief. I could see it written all over him. He loves this stuff…

    Nicolae, p 173

    * Skip to 3:30 in the video

  • Ruby_Tea

    Funny thing is, you’d think Nicolae would be able to milk this moment for the cameras. Hattie comes running to him and he, in a breakdown of protocol that humanizes him and endears him to the audience*, grabs her in a bear hug and desperate kiss–“Darling! Thank GOD you’re safe!”

    But I doubt LaJenkins could even imagine a normal couple behaving that way, let alone the Antichrist and his whore.

    *Rayford could see it as a great display of acting, and could even be proved right later–Nicolae, at this point, does not give a rat’s ass about Hattie.

  • D Johnston

    I’m not even sure what L&J expect a couple to act like. Judging by the shameful display in TF, they’re supposed act like seventh graders on a perpetual first date.

  • Matri

    Well, as Fred’s entire topic today is about, these two keep writing about stuff they haven’t the foggiest about.

    Stuff like press meetings, journalism, piloting, government, wars, church services, marriages, being a human being, Jesus, eating cookies…

  • Rakka as we are on the topic of eating cookies and not knowing better.

  • aunursa

    Do world leaders and dignitaries arriving at the airport pose for pictures with the pilots who flew them there? Are the flight crews usually asked to stand around behind the dignitaries throughout their tarmac press events? I’m trying to recall ever seeing this. Yet here it’s presented as a customary practice — as something routine and expected whenever a world leader travels by plane

    I have to disagree. Based on Rayford’s response, it would seem to be the opposite. Rayford assumed that the pilots wouldn’t be in the photo.

  • Matri

    Actually, based on his past behavior and L&J’s mindset (that of a kindergartener, obviously), Rayford really hates Nicky’s guts so much that he doesn’t want to be seen together.

    But he just has to stay close.

    But he really doesn’t want to be seen together. People might get the wrong idea that Rayford was working for him or something..

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    At least we’re spared a description of the early 1990s communication technology (2400 baud modems, maybe?) used to connect Nicky to the world. I was also hoping for some sort of “teleprompter” reference since that seems to be the wingnuts’ favorite way to portray a public figure as lacking depth. Perhaps they hadn’t advanced far enough to have teleprompters?

  • D Johnston

    No, that’s how they portray President Obama as lacking depth. They never hit Clinton with that. The right-wing media message evolves with astonishing quickness.

  • aunursa

    Even the “wingnuts” acknowledge that President Clinton was and is a great speaker.

  • ohiolibrarian

    They made fun of Clinton for being long-winded (which to be fair, he is).

  • Invisible Neutrino

    According to Wikipedia, teleprompters have been around for quite a while.

  • GeniusLemur

    But it didn’t become a talking point until Obama became president, so as far a right-wingers are concerned, they didn’t exist until then. Kind of like Clinton and guests in the Lincoln bedroom.

  • Deborah Moore

    The whole Teleprompter business began in the 2008 Democratic primaries with a grain of truth. Obama really did give soaring speeches when reading off the Teleprompter and really did stumble more spontaneous formats like debate. His enemies took this to mean that he was just an empty suit reading what his real controllers wrote for him.

    What they failed to notice, though, is that he got better at debates with practice and ended up doing just fine in spontaneous give-and-take formats. This had not yet become an issue in the 1990’s, so Telepromters were of interest.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Also, W. used teleprompters and still stumbled around like a deer with a head wound caught in the headlights.

  • Lori

    In fairness, I’m pretty sure that some form of dyslexia (or something similar) runs in the Bush family and Shrub has it.

  • Geniuslemur

    Yes, his specific form is called “stupid.”
    To be fair, he’s also suffering from “child of privilege that’s been shielded from his failures his whole life.”

  • Lori

    He is an idiot and also soulless and over-privileged, but that doesn’t preclude a learning or speech disorder, which I actually do think he has. Bush 41 has it too and I think I’ve heard signs of it in at least one of the other brothers.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I bet if Al Gore had become President the Repubs would have still tried to dump all over him for being someone who allegedly couldn’t extemporize.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 209 pages

  • aunursa

    I’m also guessing that the authors would expect brownie points for not using the word “stewardesses” — even if every aspect of the scene reeks of sexist stewardess imagery from a 1960s “Fly Me” ad campaign.

    Here’s another peek ahead to Chapter 9…

    Think about it, Rayford. All I ever wanted to be was a flight attendant. The entire cheerleading squad at Maine East High School wanted to be flight attendants. We all applied, but I was the only one who made it. I was so proud…

  • Ruby_Tea

    Wait a minute–not one of the cheerleaders wanted to be a preschool teacher, nurse, OR housewife???
    Oh Jerry Jenkins, I am disappoint.

  • Dogfacedboy

    Or NFL cheerleaders?

  • Sue White

    Of course not. Cheerleaders are all just interchangeable clones in his mind.

  • Lori

    I think it’s probably more that it was a public school, which everyone knows are the devil’s playground. Plus, obviously girls who jump around in short skirts and get the boys excited are all whores so it makes sense that none of them would have wanted to fulfill a woman’s proper role and would instead chose to be airborne whores. /asshat RTC

  • Vermic

    I was never clear on where Hattie was born and raised — always figured her as a Southern belle-type — but Maine East H.S. is here in the Chicago suburbs (Park Ridge), not far from where our other protagonists live. She’s a local girl, as it turns out.
    “Hattie” is an unusual name, but I’d be more likely to buy it if she were from Mississippi or someplace. A fellow Chicagolander named that, it practically borders on surreal.

  • Mr. Heartland

    “But instead he has to remind them not to smile — not because he’s an evil monster, but because everyone is.”

    I’m actually working on a story right now in which nearly everyone everywhere is murderously insane. Something of a satire of White male lone wolf-hero fantasies and authoritarian fears of ‘disorder’, plus a lesson I gleaned from Monty Python that hyperbolic violence can be hilarious.

    Unless you seriously believe that everyone outside your own tribe is like that; then it’s just disheartening.

  • reynard61

    “I’m actually working on a story right now in which nearly everyone everywhere is murderously insane. Something of a satire of White male lone wolf-hero fantasies and authoritarian fears of ‘disorder’, plus a lesson I gleaned from Monty Python that hyperbolic violence can be hilarious.”

    Actually, that’s not a new concept. In the 1980s there was a series of pulp novels called The Survivalist that was pretty much as you describe — only without the satire. Believe me, I doubt very much that; even taken to Pythonesque levels of absurdity; you could match the levels of violence found in those books. (Yes, I actually read a few of them in my more disaffected moments. To use a Python quote: “I got better.”)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Rayford said, careful to follow Leon’s wishes, at least in front of others

    What a fucking douchebag.

    It’s people like that who, as teenagers, were total jerks as long as they weren’t around the teachers, but as soon as a teacher came along they were the biggest asskissers on the block.

    People like that are complete terrors to work for as underlings, but if you’re their boss, they’ll blow so much smoke up your arse you could get the mother of all contact highs.

    They’re like the depictions of strict dog pack hierarchies, where these asshats are like the dogs that’ll instantly bare their throat before the head dog, but as soon as the head dog vanishes they’re off growling at all the other dogs until those dogs bare their necks.

    So because Rayford doesn’t want to risk social oppobrium he actually does what his nominal boss says, but the instant they’re alone he’s this truculent mulish asshole who thinks Leon should be obeying him.

  • Magic_Cracker

    If this is the best he can bear the thousand injuries of Fortunato, Rayford better start stocking up on bricks.

  • Jared James

    For the love of God, indeed.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I’m sorry, I don’t get that reference.

  • P J Evans

    ‘Cask of Amontillado’.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The only person he couldn’t fully control chose that moment to burst Carpathia’s bubble of propriety…

    Even with Jenkins’s attempt to retcon this into a kind of gambit on Hattie’s part it’s still grossly misogynistic and it’s still a put-down of Hattie’s intelligence. I’ve long taken up on Hattie’s part in indignation at the way L&J write her and this is no exception.

    She’s just bright enough to “test” Nicolae, but she’s still committing all kinds of social no-nos in the process, so she’s clearly just a blonde who got an extra brain cell in the allotment process, according to L&J.

    Because clearly a manly man like Rayford can concoct a much BETTER plot to “test” Nicolae!

  • D Johnston

    It’s a vintage piece of sexism all right (“Oh, that silly woman, interrupting her man’s business with emotional frippery!”), but it doesn’t make much sense in context, does it? Nicolae isn’t just a powerful man, he’s a powerful man who can break a person’s will like a twig. Why doesn’t he just mind-whammy her? It’s not like he respects her at all, she’s just a means to an end.

    The real reason, of course, it that this would make her look like a victim, and then we couldn’t hold her up as an object of shame later on, now could we?

  • Ruby_Tea

    Compared to all the other men in Hattie’s life, Nicolae really comes the closest to treating her with respect. At least, in the end, he’s honest with her and treats her like an adult.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    If anything, the standard evil mastermind bag of tricks would include having his arrival videotaped instead of aired live, so he could always mind-whammy everybody into just pretending Hattie hadn’t collided into him.

    (“Hattie, you will leave the tarmac and go into the airport proper. People, you will erase the previous recording and we will proceed as originally planned.”)

  • D Johnston

    Of course, he could have also done that without the supernatural powers. As a normal, albeit conventionally powerful man, Nicolae could have just ordered the press to edit the tape, knowing that they’d be scared of what he might do if he got mad.

    That’s kind of sad, come to think of it – Jenkins misuses his characters so badly that the villain would be scarier if he wasn’t a mind-bending demon of legend.

  • Lori

    Sadly, it’s not all that vintage.

    Oy. That’s scene never fails to make my eye twitch. (I have a love/hate relationship with Love, Actually. There are parts of it that I love unreservedly and will watch any time they’re on. There are other parts that make me want to smack the crap out of Richard Curtis.)

  • D Johnston

    In fairness, I don’t consider the scene itself all that sexist – it is kind of romantic (I’ve experienced a more subdued version of this in real life). But L&J seem to consider it less romantic and more irritating, which is kind of sad. It’s the product of the kind of man who considers any expression of emotion (other than rage, of course) to be excessively feminine.

  • Lori

    I can’t find it romantic given the context which is that David is the PM and the woman climbing him like a tree in front of news cameras is his (presumably former) secretary or whatever her exact job was, who is notably younger than he and from a lower class background. I think Curtis meant for it to be romantic and sweet, but it feels both sexist and classist to me in a really icky way. Maybe it reads differently to British people?

  • Coleslaw

    Catering manager.

  • Lori

    I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.

  • aunursa

    She was a junior member of the household staff, and served his tea and biscuits. When he unexpectedly met his sister (played by Emma Thompson) backstage at the performance, he introduced Natalie as his “catering manager.”

  • Lori

    I remember that now. That’s one of the parts I haven’t re-watched in years because it annoys me. David lies because Natalie is such an embarrassment (never mind that he’s the one who went looking for her). Then later she acts all low-class and girly and it’s romantic because David doesn’t shake her off.

  • Deird

    I never saw it that way – more that he’s just aware that introducing her accurately will
    a) raise a whole minefield of issues they haven’t discussed yet – is she his girlfriend? his date? or what?
    b) ensure that his sister harasses him until he’s told her everything
    so he’s coming up with the first vaguely-plausible thing he can think of to delay discussion until later.

  • Lori

    If that was the point then simply saying that she worked at 10 Downing should have done the job. Why give her a fake promotion? It makes no more sense for him to be at a school play with his catering manager than with any other random staff member.

  • D Johnston

    Fair enough, I know nothing about the movie. The scene in isolation is nice, but I could certainly see it being creepy if she was his subordinate.

    And for the record, I’m not in the habit of hitting on subordinates (not that I’ve ever had one, but still).

  • Trixie_Belden

    I have never seen the whole movie, but I have watched this scene before. I guess, for fans of the film, the scene is supposed to be one of the “romantic” highlights; a “transformative” moment for Hugh Grant’s character as he boldly declares his love for this woman in front of the world. IMO, the scene just doesn’t work. I don’t know if it’s Hugh Grant’s acting style, or his acting choices, or what, but as I watch it, he comes across as being terribly embarrassed and maybe even a little bit unhappy this woman is throwing herself at him in this way, at this time, but he’s decided to carry on as best he can and be decent about this unwanted public display of affection.

  • PepperjackCandy

    I’ve always thought that the whole point of how overly effusive Natalie was that the airport is the contrast between the way that Natalie greets David and the way that Karen greets Harry.

  • Jemmy

    Carpathia does not seem to be able to control Hattie’s mind, even later on in the series when the relationship comes to a bloody end. She seems to be able to do whatever she wants and oppose or defy his wishes and he never uses mind control to make her compliant.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    So Carpathia’s kind of like The Mule from Asimov’s Foundation Novels? Would be an interesting parallel if L&J even knew about it.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Forgive them, Lord. They know not how to write.

  • D Johnston

    Reading through that airstrip bit, my first thought was “This feels like padding.”

    There are really two kinds of padding. There’s direct padding, where you overwrite scenes to make them look more impressive – Jerry Jenkins is a big fan of this. But there’s also indirect padding, where you write something that just doesn’t work, but ultimately leave it in because you can’t afford to lose another hundred words. That’s what this whole part feels like. It’s the kind of thing that should be caught in editing, but obviously the tame staff on this one wasn’t willing to touch the master’s work.

    I sometimes wonder what this series would look like if it was properly edited, with all the doughy non-plot, non-action bits excised. My guess is you could probably cram the first three books into one volume, which is really sad when you think about it. But that’s Jenkins for you. The man doesn’t write, he accumulates words.

  • Tofu_Killer

    You are right that it is padding, but it is padding of a particular kind. This is the kind of writing that you find in books by authors who were paid by the page, or word back in the grand old days of pulp. What you are reading is the usual result of a second tier (or lower) author of a certain age who earned their living taking a single idea and stretching it to story length.
    I love pulp fiction, and my current novel is a piece of hack writing from 1914 that is 350 pages of men on horses talking about what they are going to do to Copperhead the rogue indian when they catch him. It’s the purest form of padding, but it’s READABLE padding.
    Jenkins has the idea of padding, and every good reason to draw things out, but he simply doesn’t write well enough for book length efforts.

  • D Johnston

    The difference is that the old pulp guys knew enough to make their padding interesting. I’d take that posse talking about fighting indians over Our Heroes discussing cell phones.

  • AnonymousSam

    I feel like if you pulled out all the padding, it would resemble the blurb on the back of the cover. Maybe, if someone was feeling overly generous, a plot synopsis you’d find on Wikipedia.

  • D Johnston

    Well, you could fit the thumbnail on an index card, probably. Two men from different background meet in the wake of a worldwide catastrophe. They return to the elder man’s home, where the younger man falls in love with the elder man’s daughter. The whole group discovers that the “catastrophe” was actually God rescuing the innocents of the world before the real horror starts. Subsequently, both men get tied up in international intrigue, only to discover that the man at its center is actually a incredibly powerful supernatural being. Spurred on by this knowledge, the group forms a core of resistance, but they prove incapable of thwarting their enemy’s first evil act – a simultaneous nuclear strike against multiple cities.

    It’s short, but that’s not bad in and of itself (although it is bad that I basically left out TF without losing anything). It’s certainly better than the alternative – I spent last night digging through the plot to a video game where the shortest possible synopsis was thousands of words, which is a sign of a different kind of bad writing. The problem in this case is that the synopsis is the story. That less-than-one-hundred words is everything that happens, unabridged.

    One of my pet peeves when it comes to novels is the bloat the accompanies an obsession with word count and page length. The LB books are a classic example – there is no reason for these things to be over five hundred pages each, given how little happens. So I am genuinely curious as to how long they’d be if they were carved up, Vonnegut-style.

  • Amtep

    Yeah you did kinda skip over everything that happened in TF there. You should edit it to “… the group forms a core of resistance [and infiltrates the enemy’s hierarchy], but they prove incapable of thwarting his first evil act…”

    There, now it includes TF :)

  • KevinC

    They return to the elder man’s home, where the younger man falls in love with the elder man’s daughter.

    Fixed that for ya. ;) (I hope the formatting works…)

  • Starman Ghost

    [quote]I sometimes wonder what this series would look like if it was properly
    edited, with all the doughy non-plot, non-action bits excised.[/quote]

    A novella.

  • Adamlangfelder

    I wish that the guys from mystery science theater 3000 riffed the left behind audio books and movies

  • Magic_Cracker

    The cameras “whirring” is actually the holodeck trying to accommodate Jordi’s request: “Computer, create an adventure that will tie Data’s logic circuits into knots as he tries to figure what’s going on and what he’s supposed to be doing about it.”

  • D Johnston

    So for which of our robotic characters is the android filling in?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Whichever one has displayed the most humanity.

  • D Johnston

    Fair enough. Who was the one that displayed humanity, again?

  • cminus

    The glove-leather portfolio, I think.

  • Magic_Cracker

    He could be one (or all) of those kinda of admirable bit characters Fred points out occasionally He keeps coming back as a different character because Computer keeps writing them out of the story.

  • Marc Mielke

    Carpathia. Parameters of the situation is: You must implement this list of prerequisites before attempting to accomplish (x).

  • Magic_Cracker

    Then again, the whirring could be a cloaked Romulan Bird of Prey that traveled back in time to prevent the Federation ever coming into existence by using their technology to implement LaHaye’s

  • Invisible Neutrino
  • dj_pomegranate

    Mr. Fortunato,” Rayford said, careful to follow Leon’s wishes, at least in front of others…

    He knows how to show respect to others, but only bothers to when other people might be looking. Yup, sounds about right.

  • Jurgan

    ““McCullum and I don’t really need to be in the photograph, do we?”

    “Not unless you’d like to go against the wishes of the potentate himself,” Fortunato said.”

    I read that four times, but I’m pretty sure there was a double negative in there, meaning Rayford was just ordered to stay out of the picture.

  • Ruby_Tea

    “McCullum and I don’t really need to be in the photograph, do we?”
    Heh, and they say the Antichrist is the one with “false modesty.”

  • Rae

    Yep, I re-read it several times, and for the desired effect I think it should be “Yes, unless…”

  • Vaughn Lowe

    Me too. It sounds like he’s ordering him not to be in the picture.

  • PepperjackCandy

    I read it as “(You do) not (need to be in the picture) unless you’d like to go against the wishes of the potentate himself.”

  • Tofu_Killer

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….I’m having Bush era flashbacks!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dogfacedboy

    Here again the authors try to lazily bluff their way through, figuring it won’t much matter if they don’t know the first thing about the subject because most readers probably won’t know enough to tell when they’re getting it wrong.

    Is it possible that Jenkins believes he has mind-whammy powers, and that us readers will mistake these turd-filled pages for competent literature?

  • aunursa

    Not us. The readers who buy the books. And he’s right.
    I trust that I don’t need to copy any more of the tens of thousands of comments posted on and Facebook from L&J’s adoring fans…

  • D Johnston

    His target audience doesn’t care about the fine details, clearly. As long as the “good guys” win and we get to leave with a feeling of superiority, that’s enough.

  • hidden_urchin

    I trust that I don’t need to copy any more of the tens of thousands of commens posted on and Facebook from L&J’s adoring fans…)

    I think if you do then the great Cthulhu will awake and devour us all. Alternatively, it will just break my brain. So, please have mercy and spare us.

  • dj_pomegranate

    That, or he believes that he *has* done sufficient research, that just by being a Real, True Christian, he’s already got all the information he needs.

  • Lori

    He does seem to believe that the books were inspired by God. Presumably he figures the big guy supplied all the details that were required.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    God has a shitty imagination, then.

  • D Johnston

    Think of it as a divine experiment – God inspires two men to write the worst books ever, just to see how we’d react. Tell me you wouldn’t find all of this hilarious if you were omniscient.

  • Matri

    Technically, if we were omniscient we would already know the reactions.

    The word you’re looking for should be “omnipotent”, cause then doing this will be for shits ‘n’ giggles. Like Q.

    Exactly like Q.

  • P J Evans

    We’re not omniscient, but God is supposed to be. So if she inspires the books just to see how we’d react…

    It really is funny, that way.

  • Abel Undercity

    Or a perverse sense of humor. Look at how many Republican no-hopers He convinced to run for the White House in 2012.

  • MaryKaye

    I think I could make a stab at “describe a big fencing upset without knowing much about fencing.” (I did take one semester of fencing in college, but have never been to a tournament.) The trick would be to (a) have a tight POV from someone who also does not know much about fencing, and (b) emphasize reaction shots, not action shots. So you would show the crowd hushing, leaning forward in their seats; the judges no longer glancing down at their notes or up at the clock, eyes fixed on the participants; the expression on the #1 seed’s face as he is driven back; at the end, the moment of silence and then the sudden upswell of sound. You wouldn’t talk about parries and thrusts and beats, because you’d be sure to get it wrong, but reactions to an upset–that you could generalize from other sports or events.

    L&J not only don’t know, but they don’t know that they don’t know, which is much worse. So they don’t realize that they should avoid details they don’t know, and try to replace them with details falling inside their area of competence. (They do have an area of competence. They do Everyman reaction shots pretty well: like Buck recalling the smell of his new baby, or Rayford feeling that something evil is watching him, so he keeps checking the door. These things seem to be within their experience and they can write them accordingly.)

    I have a short story that needs to start with a futuristic doctor looking over records of multiple disastrous allergic reaction cases. I’ve tried writing it a few times, but from his POV I have no way to duck the details, and they aren’t good enough for publication. I need to get out of his POV if I’m going to do it, or else bone up on allergic reactions and the way a professional would go about identifying them. It doesn’t have to be all 100% right–it’s set in the future, anyway–but there has to be enough technical meat on the bones, and I can’t make it all up on the fly, I’ve tried and the results are risible.

    Jenkins doesn’t find anything he does risible, that’s his problem.

  • Ben Lee

    Interesting problem. I’d try to nail down what’s the important detail the audience needs to know. If the important thing is that they’re getting allergic reactions, not what they are, then maybe have a CDC official walk on to say “We’re tracking reports of allergic reactions from…” He would be a good vehicle to explain what’s happening and the patterns in the cases, and has an excuse to not know the technical details.

    If the important thing about the reactions is some particular symptom, then maybe have the doctor notice a pattern in his patients, not in the records? It would be a lot easier to have him say “Wow, all these people have a rash on their right forearm” than to look up the way that would be expressed in medical lingo on a chart.

  • Rae

    Or my solution would be to make it from the perspective of someone who maintains the medical records for the doctor – then he or she can realize that all the cases the doctor is looking for are allergic reactions, or the doctor requests that this person pull all the files with patients who’ve had severe allergic reactions, or even someone in the local medicolegal death investigation (maybe an investigator going out to scenes, or an autopsy tech, both of whom would have a good idea of what they’re seeing but not expertise per se) system notices something.

  • reynard61

    “L&J not only don’t know, but they don’t know that they don’t know, which is much worse. So they don’t realize that they should avoid details that they don’t know, which is much worse.”

    I’m gonna go a step further and say that they just plain don’t *care* about things that they don’t know — nor do they have to — because one thing that they *DO* seem to know is that their intended audience is dumber than a box of rocks. Why suffer for your “art” (or, indeed, expend any great amount of energy at all in the creation of it) if you don’t (can’t?) respect your audience?

  • FearlessSon

    I am reminded of the classic saying that a wise person is one who is aware of their own ignorance, while the foolish person is one who thinks that they know everything.

    L&J could stand to be a bit wiser.

  • FearlessSon

    L&J not only don’t know, but they don’t know that they don’t know, which is much worse.

    A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when that knowledge is as little as L&J’s.

  • Carstonio

    Ellanjay are obviously fascinated by power and status, as if they never read about Jesus eating with lepers.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Just last night at the Maundy Thursday service, we heard about Jesus insisting on washing his friends’ feet (a dirty job that was usually left to slaves) at the Last Supper. It seems to be an object lesson in the importance of serving others. Somehow, I can’t see Call-Me-Captain Rayford embarrassing himself doing anything like that.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Heavens, no. Not with the way he’s so concerned about appearances, even to the point of making sure people see him properly obeying Supreme Commander Leon.

  • Lorehead

    That reminds me of something I just heard. I’m not Christian, and I know less about Christian discipleship than Fred. I haven’t thought nearly as seriously as he has about what living by the example of Jesus of Nazareth would really entail. But it’s something I greatly respect when I see it.

    By way of background. As you mention, in the story of the Last Supper in John, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, and then said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

    Women in the New Testament do follow this example, and one might even have given him the idea. A woman in Luke washes Jesus’ feet (“Do you see this woman? […] she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. […] this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. […] Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.”) and 1 Timothy says that a woman should be “bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”

    So, one way of interpreting this is that only men ever get their feet washed in the New Testament, and therefore women are included in the command to “wash one another’s feet” when it comes to doing the washing, but never get to have their own feet washed because they don’t deserve it. And that is exactly how the Catholic Church has interpreted it.*

    Until this Thursday. At a prison in Rome, Pope Francis became the first pope in recorded history to wash the feet of both men and women.

    The article I just linked had no difficulty finding people who were more Catholic than the Pope. One complained, “What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example.” (Perhaps even “an example that you should do as I have done for you?”) What’s really rich is that a Vatican spokesperson gave the excuse, “Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn’t include experts on liturgical rules.” He said this about his own Pope.

    Something tells me that Pope Francis, who’s been washing the feet of women as well as men for years, knew exactly what he was doing. Something tells me that what his church needs right now is not more experts on theological rules.

    * In responses to this story, I’ve heard many Catholics say that, in their own experience and practice, this rule excluding women has long been ignored. So I should more properly have said that that is how the Catholic hierarchy has interpreted it, which is not at all the same thing as the Church.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Yes – I read what may be the same news story, and was startled by the statement that the Roman Catholic church does not allow women’s feet to be washed. So I asked a Catholic I know about this, and was told that ever since Vatican 2 in the 1960’s, U.S. Catholics have been washing women’s feet. I don’t know whether this is a Europe vs. Western Hemisphere disagreement (keeping in mind that Pope Francis is from Argentina), or whether the news story was just plain wrong.*

    * Like the news broadcast last night that explained that Jesus was crucified by the order of Emperor Pilate – I suspect that if Pilate had heard somebody refer to him as “Emperor”, he would have had them very publicly executed to show his loyalty to the actual emperor, Tiberius, who had become dangerously suspicious of rivals by that time.

  • Lorehead

    Maybe they really couldn’t make up their minds whether he was a prefect or a procurator. (But seriously, he was probably both.)

  • esmerelda_ogg

    True enough – but they called him an emperor. He never made it to that level (and was probably just as well pleased to survive Roman politics as well as he did).

  • Lorehead

    Bet you he’d have shaken his head and thought, “Stupid barbarians. What’s that they’re speaking, anyway? Some kind of West Germanic?”

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Yup. “Mehercule, they can’t even pronounce Imperator!”

  • P J Evans

    Ah, that picture. One of the better past airlines. (PSA: all the planes grinned. The flight crews could be very funny.)

  • flat

    somehow I am thinking of nickie mount tenebrus being played by leslie nielsen in this particular scene.

  • Mrs Grimble

    “somehow I am thinking of nickie mount tenebrus being played by leslie nielsen in this particular scene.”
    With Hattie being played by Pricilla Presley. Wearing a giant condom…..

  • David S.

    One of my problems with Asimov’s mysteries was just this, that he would fake the details of something. He’d often mention in the epilogue that someone had complained about how he described e.g. museum work, but he had no shame about it; he simply said he didn’t have time to do the research.

  • flat

    I haven’t read asimov, but hey atleast he is honest about it.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    To be fair, we’re talking about short stories that are designed to be solved a la Sherlock Holmes (and Doyle is apparently also notorious for being fast and loose about some of his research) so I don’t really hold it against him.

  • ReverendRef

    This is an odd little section of our story.


  • ChristianPinko

    It’s striking how strongly LaJenkins’s world seems rooted in 1969. The idea that stewardesses are sex symbols, the idea that an airline pilot is a remarkably glamorous profession, even comparing Nicolae to Robert Redford (instead of Brad Pitt or a more current leading man) all serve to date the authors’ imagination.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Sounds about right. Frank Abagnale’s book notes that the longest he spent in one uniform was when he masqueraded as an airline pilot circa 1967. In that era it seemed to really help him pick up the ladies, as mass air travel was only just starting to come into its own then.

  • D Johnston

    Air travel was a lot more glamorous in the 60’s. These days it’s just another form of transportation, but back then the airlines put in a lot of effort to make it feel special.

  • aunursa

    I can’t blame Jenkins for not choosing Brad Pitt. Left Behind was published in 1995 — right about the time that Pitt began to be recognized…

    Interview With the Vampire (1994)
    Se7en (1995)

  • Lori

    Thelma and Louise came out in 1991. That was his first real role and it was a small one, but it got everyone talking about him (like, a lot) because the part was basically “walking sex”. I suppose no RTC would claim any knowledge of that though.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Judging by commentary below, the frozen-in-amber portrayal of Left Behind’s universe in a kind of pseudo-1969 would buttress the fact that Jenkins picked Robert Redford as the go-to sex symbol that Nicolae supposedly looks like.

  • Lori

    Oh, definitely. My point was just that the fact that the first book was written fairly early in Pitt’s career is not the reason that L&J went with Redford instead of him.

    I do wonder if they ever saw Spy Game and if so did the obvious passing of the torch aspect make their heads explode.

  • Dogfacedboy

    I’ve got $5 that says neither LaHaye nor Jenkins has seen Thelma and Louise.

  • aunursa

    I would love for one of our writers to compose a crossover scene in which Thelma & Louise meet Rayford & Buck.

  • Abel Undercity

    I’d love even more to have Rayford and Buck in Thelma and Louise’s backseat, just in time for the ending.

  • Lori

    No, but you didn’t have to see the movie to hear the talk about Pitt at the time. It was everywhere. L&J simply stopped having any cultural awareness somewhere in the late 60s or very early 70s.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I thought that A River Runs Through It (1992) was the passing of the torch.

  • Lori

    I didn’t get the same vibe from it as from Spy Game, in part because River was before Pitt became a star and Spay game was after. I wouldn’t argue the point much though.

    Oh and as an aside, a friend reminded me about Legends of the Fall. That was in 1994.

  • J Neo Marvin

    When they started the series, Dan Quayle being constantly (and inexplicably) compared to Robert Redford was a fairly recent memory. Nicolae as Dan Quayle kind of makes sense, in a way.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Interesting how L&J conveniently left out the gaffes Quayle was prone to, except for getting Amanda’s name wrong.

  • Dash1

    Brad Pitt might be too late (as others have noted), but a glance through
    People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive covers shows Mel Gibson, Richard
    Gere and Tom Cruise, among others that would have been more current at
    the time Jenkins was writing. Granted, he’d want someone with some
    longevity–the sensible writer wouldn’t want to cite someone who’d be
    forgotten by the time the book was a couple years old–but I think at
    that point Mel Gibson was looking like he’d be, um, a young Robert

    And yes, I just implied Jerry Jenkins would possibly act like a “sensible writer.” That was wrong of me.

  • Persia

    They could also have gone to the classics – a ‘young Cary Grant’ maybe? That would make it feel less dated.

  • Dash1

    True. The “young Robert Redford” reference has three problems, really. One, as you point out, is that Redford’s heyday is recent enough that the reference does in fact seem dated, in contrast with an actor from an older era. One is the triteness: for a couple of decades every more or less good-looking man was being referred to as “a young Robert Redford” (Dan Quayle, for example) as (lazy) journalists’ shorthand for suggesting that the man was good-looking and sexy. And the third is that it’s simply lazy writing.

    However, I’ve just checked’s “search inside the book” feature to see the context in which the phrase was used–it’s one thing if it’s the narrator, but can be quite another if a character uses it–but none of the first three books is yielding anything for “Redford.” I wonder if they’ve changed it for later editions. Maybe he is now a “young Brad Pitt.” Or, heaven help us, a “young Kirk Cameron.”

  • Greenygal

    They have done just that. In the 2011 edition of the first book Rayford observes that Nicolae is “a strikingly handsome blond who looked not unlike a young Brad Pitt,” and then later Steve Plank describes him as “handsome as a young heartthrob.”

  • Ross

    Don’t forget Bruce Barnes trying to make a topical pop culture reference to a gang of Notre Dame football players from about 40 years before he was born.

  • Greenygal

    Not only that, but suggesting that those football players would be the first thing that his audience would think of when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were mentioned. That’s such an obscure Biblical reference, right?

  • Jessica_R

    The Poison Kiss

    She was giggling, how could she be giggling now? Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the solution starting to work. She began to run, her lips burning, Nicolae and the others appearing in front of her. She picked up her speed, not long now, she strangely began to feel in two places at once. She was here and she was in Georgia. Georgia long ago, the house on Grove Street. Running, running to her grandmother’s arms her hair streaming gold and milk behind her. Her heart was beginning to throb. Nicolae’s detail spotted her and did not stop her, why would they? He saw her now. He frowned. Rayford saw her and frowned even more. Now. Now at last. She threw her arms around Nicolae and pressed her lips against his. He forgot himself a moment and pushed her back forgetting how that’s look to the cameras. Her vision was beginning to blur, her body, her little body was beginning to feel more real on Grove Street. Had it worked? If it had not? It was why she had not taken the antidote. Nicolae’s eyes widened and his fingers began to claw at this throat. Strange. She thought the room would be louder, it seemed everyone was shouting. But they were just shapes underwater now. She smelled grass, the lawn of Grove Street. It was dark now, a peaceful dark. The warm dark of burrowing her head in her grandmother’s shoulder. Somewhere, nowhere, she heard someone call her name.

  • arresi

    And the commentariat continues to show L&J how it’s done.

    (For values of it that include writing, drama, POV, and basic humanity.)

  • Panda Rosa

    Don’t smile for the camera, eh? For no good reason I keep thinking of Paula Abdul, and the way I misremember one of her hits, and how it just made more sense to me that way:

    Don’t sleep in the subway, darling,
    Don’t sing in the pouring rain.
    Don’t sleep in the subway, darling,
    Inste-ead take/ the elavatah-ted,
    Inste-ead take/ the elavatah-ted train!

  • Panda Rosa

    Oop, I meant Petula Clark, not Ms. Abdul!

  • Will Hennessy

    That two-paragraph section you post where Rayford’s POV is describing Nicky’s suit? Yeah… it smacks of meta Nicky-Rayford SlashFic. Or maybe Nicky-Jenkins SlashFic.

    All you Right-Behinders? You have been prompted. Go now. Make it hot…

  • lunch meat

    All I can think is “Suit up!” Which just makes me want Neil Patrick Harris as Nicolae all the more. I mean, “Nicky West Side.”

  • Will Hennessy

    I think Neil Patrick Harris (as Barney Stinson) is about the only one who could pull off Nicolae, the way Jenkins can’t get enough of his clothing…

  • ohiolibrarian

    Don’t forget the accessories!

  • Rae

    Agreed. If I was writing a Manly Straight Man looking at the Most Evil Man Ever, it would be something like “Despite the long flight, Nicolae looked freshly showered. He was wearing a suit that made him look taller than usual – probably an illusion created by some high-end designer, Rayford thought, because he was sure that Nicolae only wore the best clothes that money could buy. He briefly wondered [insert how much of an RTC-approved goal could be accomplished here] with the money that Nicolae probably spent on his wardrobe in a month alone.”

    So it conveys that Nicky is perfectly dressed in super-expensive clothes, while giving off the impression that Rayford only has a foggy idea about men’s fashion, and it takes the opportunity to point out how evil Nicky is by contrasting his opulence with the horrific conditions in the rest of the world.

    A bit more snarky:
    “Nicolae stepped off the plane, looking like he’d just taken a shower. He seemed taller than usual, thanks to some kind of designer suit that the media would doubtlessly be drooling over tomorrow.”

  • Dash1

    OT and late, but I was offline back when it would have been an appropriate time to wish those celebrating Passover a good holiday. So please accept my belated good wishes.

  • Vaughn Lowe

    “Don’t smile for the cameras” This might actually be realistic. A weird thing I’ve noticed about politicians… they’re always beaming, with big smiles. Usually they don’t look fake, but I’m always thinking… no one can be that happy all the time. I think that when you enter politics, you learn to fake the smile and always turn it on when a camera’s on you.

    “how he appears to Rayford because it’s what Rayford expects to see.” Now that’s an idea for a story, a leader that actually appears as the form you most like, like the salt vampire in the Star Trek episode that appeared as different women to different people.

    A press conference only makes sense in a world where there is a free press. Why is Nicky so worried about how he’s portrayed? Doesn’t he just tell them what to say?

  • auroramere

    Appeared as different women to different male officers and as an imposing Black man who addressed her in Swahili to Lt. Uhura. That was neat.

  • Vaughn Lowe

    ““This is a difficult time in which we live, and yet our horizons have
    never been wider; our challenges so great, our future so potentially

    And now I’ve pictured him breaking into song… “I studied nuclear science… I love my classes…”

  • P J Evans

    It does sound a lot like a high-school valedictory, doesn’t it!

  • Tybult

    (Someone could have already remarked on this. I have no idea, the new commenting system is completely opaque to me.)

    After all, the little ladies in this scene “knew enough not to giggle” during a press conference following the nuclear destruction of a dozen or more major cities.

    The quote from NRA doesn’t specifically say that the flight attendants were women.

    So let’s be generous, and assume that Ellenjay are hip, “with it” dudes, and some of those non-giggling attendants are men.
    And male flight attendants, as any Real Man(tm) knows, are the gayest gaynors who ever fabuloused down an airplane aisle.

    And that would fit with Nicolae’s gay agenda. (‘m guessing he has a gay agenda. He’s got to, right? He’s got a pacifist/Marxist agenda already. How can he not be ready to implement the worldwide Fashion Gestapo?)

    (Oh right, because Ellenjay are assholes, and they never think up awesome stuff like that.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The quote from NRA doesn’t specifically say that the flight attendants were women.
    (remainder snipped for brevity)

    L&J are well-known by now for pandering to gender-essentialist constructions of how men and women ought to behave. As a result, I doubt they seriously ever intended “giggl[ing]” to refer to anything but what they perceive women to do.

    That said, it’s probably undeserved brilliance that attaches to L&J for actually achieving subtlety in implying that Nicolae is pushing the Gay Agenda. :P

  • Daniel

    He’s carrying a glove leather portfolio. If it has studs on it we can rest assured it’s a certain type of gay agenda.

  • Gregory Peterson

    Unscientifically judging with a jaundiced eye from the few people I’ve met who loved the series… the authors didn’t underestimate their target audience. I cynically think that the Left Behind readers were reading the series to reassure themselves that Jesus would soon snatch them up to that very exclusive, pearly gated community of many mansions, as a reward for uncritically believing what they were reading in the Left Behind books.

    Charity thrift stores and flea markets have piles of Left Behind books, which may suggest that they aren’t being especially treasured and reread.

  • Matri

    More like they were supposed to be intended as a proselytizing tool (“See what happens when you don’t believe?!?”).

    But the reality is probably that they just weren’t the right thickness to prop up that broken table.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to collect the entire series in hardcover-with-dustjacker, and have never paid more than one dollar per book. (And it’s usually pennies.)
    Then again, it may be because the books were so initially popular. The Underground Zealot and Babylon Rising series are just as bad, but less popular, and thus harder to find.

  • arcseconds

    the photo-op is more barely-dressed narcissism, isn’t it? Rayford, unlike every other chauffeur in the world, gets to appear in a photo shoot displayed in all the world’s major media. But, poor guy, he’s made to do it by his boss, so he gets to go on about how superficial and pompous it all is at the same time.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Of all the badness in this passage, the one I’m getting stuck on is Hattie trying to “plant” an “open-mouthed kiss”. That’s just the wrong verb for that kind of kiss. Makes her sound like a lamprey. Not, I suspect, that the authors have a problem with accidentally dehumanizing her further, but–it’s just the wrong motion. Try to visualize it. It doesn’t work.

  • hidden_urchin

    You’re right. I was trying to figure out what was so odd about how I visualized that scene and realized I was thinking of the Alien facehugger when I read it.

  • Lectorel

    “Nicolai!” Heads jerked toward the back of the airfield. Hattie, Rayford recognized, blinking rapidly in shock. She ran toward the podium, her long, lacy white skirt tangling around her legs. Carpathia stared at her, his expression flickering from shock to confusion, and then surprisingly boyish pleasure.

    “Iubita mea,” he gasped, stepping off the podium. They embraced, and Hattie leaned up to kiss him with tangible desperation. Carpathia slid his fingers into her hair, hands shaking. “Hattie, you’re here…”

    “Always, my love, always,” Hattie murmured. They seemed entirely wrapped up in one another, like they’d forgotten the presence of the cameras. Rayford fidgeted, looking away from the display. It wasn’t proper.

    At long last, the couple parted. Carpathia glanced at Hattie helplessly.

    She smiled, cupping his cheek. “Go, darling. The world needs you. I’ll be here when you’re finished.”

    Carpathia nodded and coughed. “My apologies, ladies and gentlemen. My fiancée was supposed to be in Chicago when the –” he broke off, swallowed. “When the bombs went off. I hadn’t known she’d survived.”

    “It’s no problem, Mr. Potentate,” a young reporter assured, smiling at him. The entire contingent of news crews nodded, a few wiping away tears. Carpathia nodded, a shy, almost young smile on his face.

    “Thank you. As I was saying…” The news conference preceded, a new mood of hope marking it. Rayford was disgusted. Couldn’t they see what an obvious act it was?


    “That was a brilliant maneuver, Iubito,” Nico said, once they were inside the limo.

    Hattie snickered. “I read too many pink-covers as a teenager. People eat up romantic gestures with a spoon.”

    “I saw.” Nico sighed, loosening his tie, and stretched out on the limo seat, his head in Hattie’s lap. “What would I do without you?”

    Nico looked young, as only someone raised and manipulated like he had been could. A little boy in the body of a man. Hattie felt a fierce, possessive swell of love inside her. This was her beloved, the one she had chosen, the one she had schemed and manipulated and deceived to reach. The one she had been promised in childhood dreams, by her dark-eyed father chained above a lake of fire.

    “Don’t worry about that. I’ll always be here,” Hattie Durham, daughter of Lucifer, anti-christ, promised.

    I don’t even know, alright? Best explanation for this I’ve got: If Nicolai can’t control Hattie, and she’s not a christian, then there’s only one other power who could grant her immunity…

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That’s amazing! :D I, for one, would love to see more scenes seen from this version-of-Hattie’s perspective :)

  • Anton_Mates

    He waited ever so briefly, one hand in his right suit pocket

    No word on which hand it was. I hope it was his left one; the image is better.

  • Robert

    The guy just plain can’t write.

  • KevinC

    I don’t think that Did Not Do the Research is Ellenjay’s problem in this case. LaHaye is/was a powerful political figure in his own right. I’m guessing he probably held press conferences, or participated in them with other prominent Religious Wrong figures. Wasn’t he one of the guys Reagan and the Bushes had on speed-dial? At the very least, he must have watched press conferences on the news, Presidents getting off of airplanes and walking to a waiting podium. Plus, he’s probably flown around on private jets (if not his own, then those of big donors to his “ministry”). I doubt he’s ever seen anybody use a flight crew as an honor-guard either.

    I think this is just one more consequence of the abysmal decision to make a rule that nothing is real if Ray-gun or Camshaft aren’t there to see it and/or hear about it over a phone. Otherwise, Ellenjay could have just shown this scene with omniscient P.O.V., with Ray-gun and crew still on the airplane. Get rid of that, and the “Never Miss An Opportunity To Be A Misogynist Psychopath” rule, and the books would have been greatly improved.

  • depizan

    But in order to learn from your own experience (or even what you see on television) you have to pay attention to things that aren’t you. I have no trouble believing that Ellenjay wander around in a fog of “I am the most spectacularly awesome person ever.” From their writing, anyway, I wouldn’t expect them to notice anyone not more important than themselves. I also wouldn’t expect them to notice open manholes, but apparently real life is kinder than fiction.

  • KevinC

    This is another one of those scenes where the “written by a space-alien 5th grader” vibe comes out. It does make me wonder what it’s like to be in LaHaye/Jenkins’ heads, living among people but never really being one of them. “These humans…their eyes get wet when one of their larvae dies. How odd. If I liked them, I would wonder why. I do not have time for that now. I shall simply have to write my post-Rapture novel as if they would be sensible and return to work the next day. Perhaps I shall have some of my characters spawn more larvae in the story, so that the humans will understand how foolish they are. If only the process wasn’t so…disgusting!”

  • Makarii

    Years ago, I made it through Book Four (I think). When it came to the part where astronomers report the arrival of Apollyon, a giant angel from space, I remember noticing that the NASA scientists in the book did not seem to know the first thing about astronomy.
    For effective Antichrist oratory, check out Sam Neill in “Open III: The Final Conflict.” His repetition of “Slay the Nazarene…!” recalls the Beatitudes.