NRA: Steppin’ Out With My Baby

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 147-153

Rayford Steele is home alone in his apartment in New Babylon. For just a second, it seems as though he’s about to have a real human emotion:

Rayford thought he had had enough sleep, catching catnaps on his long journey. He had not figured the toll that tension and terror and disgust would exact on his mind and body.

“Tension and terror and disgust” are surprisingly appropriate responses to what he has witnessed over the past 24 hours — hopscotching across America just ahead of the destruction of Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco. But we quickly realize that the scope of Rayford’s concern isn’t big enough to include everyone in those cities — or even to include anyone in those cities, not even the young co-pilot whom he had sent off to certain death without any word of warning.

In his and Amanda’s own apartment, as comfortable as air-conditioning could make a place in Iraq, Rayford disrobed to his boxers and sat on the end of his bed. Shoulders slumped, elbows on knees, he exhaled loudly and realized how exhausted he truly was. He had finally heard from home. He knew Amanda was safe, Chloe was on the mend, and Buck — as usual — was on the move. He didn’t know what he thought about this Verna Zee threatening the security of the Tribulation Force’s new safe house (Loretta’s). But he would trust Buck, and God, in that.

Rayford’s circle of concern includes his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law — the four members of the “Tribulation Force” — and that’s it. Even Loretta exists only parenthetically, as the source of something he needs more than as a person. After witnessing the destruction of several major cities, including his own home town, Rayford thinks of only one refugee from that violence, and then only to worry that her finding refuge with Loretta might jeopardize Loretta’s ability to provide a refuge for him.

It seems the only way Rayford is able to acknowledge other people is when he imagines he has some cause to resent them.

Rayford stretched out on his back atop the bedcovers. He put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. How he’d love to get a peek at the treasure trove of Bruce’s computer archives. But as he drifted off to a sound sleep, he was trying to figure a way to get back to Chicago by Sunday. Surely there had to be some way he could make it to Bruce’s memorial service. He was pleading his case with God as sleep enveloped him.

Getting back to Chicago by Sunday could prove difficult, what with Chicago no longer being there.

By “Chicago,” of course, Rayford really means the Chicago suburbs — which were miraculously unscathed by the non-radioactive nuclear bombs that fell inside the city limits and on O’Hare International Airport (killing an untold number of Rayford’s former colleagues there).

But Rayford desperately wants to attend “Bruce’s memorial service” — the ceremony he and Buck have arranged in honor of their late friend, and only their friend. Bruce was one of dozens killed in the first wave of missile strikes on Chicago, which destroyed the hospital near the church where he had been a patient. Other members of the New Hope Village Church congregation may also have been patients there, or health workers, and it seems unlikely that Bruce would be the only person the congregation would need to memorialize even just from that first attack.

But that attack was quickly followed by the destruction of the airport, and then the all-out assault on the city of Chicago itself. The authors, like their heroes, never seem interested in how many thousands or millions might have been slain or injured in these attacks, but surely it must include so many people — including so many personally and directly beloved by members of NHVC — that the idea of a memorial service focused only on Bruce would have to seem absurd and appalling.

Keep in mind that the authors told us about “a huge aerial attack on the city of Chicago” on page 63. We’re only on page 148. In Chapter 3 they destroyed the city of Chicago and here we are, opening Chapter 8 with Rayford Steele “trying to figure a way to get back to Chicago by Sunday.”

That’s not merely a continuity error. That’s a rejection of the entire principle of continuity.

(I’m trying to do justice to how very, very wrong those two sentences are, but all I can come up with is: “As she drifted off to a sound sleep, Leia was trying to figure a way to get back to Alderaan by Sunday. Surely there had to be some way she could make it to Obi Wan’s memorial service.”)

After a short scene between Buck and Chaim Rosenzweig (which we’ll return to later) Rayford is jolted from his sleep by — what else? — a ringing telephone.

It’s Hattie Durham calling. This provides Jerry Jenkins with a chance to review and rehash Hattie’s history in this chapter the same way he did Chaim and Tsion’s history in the last chapter. First, though, we get one of those unnecessary phone conversation scenes in which characters belabor all the logistical details of when they will next meet to talk in person.

There’s a full page of that here, but here’s the important bit:

“Rayford, I really need to talk to you. Nicolae … said he didn’t have a problem with my talking with you. I know you want to be appropriate and all that. It’s not a date. Let’s just have dinner somewhere where it will be obvious that we’re just old friends talking. Please?”

Rayford warily agrees, then says:

“Hattie, do me a favor. If you agree this shouldn’t look like a date, don’t dress up.”

“Captain Steele,” she said, suddenly formal, “stepping out is the last thing on my mind.”

“Stepping out” has many meanings, but it seems the authors are only aware of the sense of the phrase as sung by Fred Astaire in Easter Parade. I choose to think this is meta-Hattie briefly asserting herself, subtly mocking the middle-aged Rayford by tossing in some antiquated 1940s slang.

The odd thing here is that it would make sense for Rayford to worry that this meeting appear “appropriate and all that” and that it mustn’t “look like a date.” Hattie Durham is the fiancee of the global potentate — a man whose word is law and who annihilates whole cities on a whim. It could be very dangerous for anyone to get the misimpression that you are stepping out with his girlfriend. Rayford should be nervous about this meeting for all the same reasons that Vincent Vega had to be nervous about taking Marsellus Wallace’s wife out to dinner in Pulp Fiction.

Yet none of those very reasonable fears seem to occur to Rayford Steele. He isn’t worried about angering the potentate. He isn’t even worried about providing what could later be a pretext for his disappearance/detention/dismemberment by his boss the Antichrist. (Although, to be fair, the Antichrist of these books doesn’t seem devious and conniving enough for that to be something Rayford would have to worry about. This is disappointing. I prefer my super-villains more on the devious and cunning side.)

No, Rayford wants to be sure that this dinner “shouldn’t look like a date” because he is a married man and he doesn’t want to give any hint of moral impropriety.

And that’s just kind of weird. He doesn’t have to worry about Amanda getting the wrong idea about this non-date dinner meeting, because Amanda presumably knows him and trusts him. And it seems odd that he would worry about setting a bad moral example for the Antichrist.

The sense I get, actually, is that Rayford’s insistence on keeping up appearances here has to do with some idea about not damaging his “Christian witness.” It seems to be an attempt to “abstain from all appearances of evil,” as 1 Thessalonians 5:22 doesn’t actually say, but the KJV-toting authors think it does.

But that, again, is odd because once Rayford and Hattie actually meet, he spends most of their conversation elusively dodging her questions about God and the Antichrist and the whole End Times prophecy business that Rayford and the authors think of as “the gospel.” Rayford takes great pains not to do anything that would damage his “witness,” but he takes even greater pains not to “witness” when he’s given the chance to do so.

This seems like the confused behavior of a man who’s decided that appearing “good” is more important than doing good.


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  • Lori

    By making the jump I mean signed by a publisher and actually selling books to at least some general readers who didn’t follow them from fanfic.

    I mean good in the fairly broad sense of “not total crap”. Not inspiring rage and/or things like this:

    Just to clarify, while I have said almost that exact thing about Those Books, but I did not write that note and that is not my hand.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, in that case I don’t know of any. Though like I said, I don’t know if McGuire and Novik were fanficcers first.

  • J Neo Marvin

    David Bowie would make a great Antichrist character. Picture it: when he first gains power he’s in his blond, overly-tanned Let’s Dance period; then, as his corruption is gradually revealed, he becomes the gaunt, coke-damaged Thin White Duke character; finally his full “evil” (by fundie standards) nature is revealed when he appears in full Ziggy Stardust drag.

  • J Neo Marvin

    Maybe it’s divine margarine.

  • Lori

    I’m pretty sure it’s been done.

  • J Neo Marvin

    How fortunate that nuclear explosions have no effect whatsoever on a hard drive.

  • arcseconds

    Well, the protestant churches are even more diverse than the Roman Catholic church. :-)

    I imagine this stuff is almost completely alien to most Anglicans, for example.

  • Lori

    I have no idea if CC is still plagiarizing or not, but from what I’ve seen I don’t think that scrutiny would necessarily make her or her publisher hesitate to put out plagiarized material.

    I recall a plagiarism scandal from a few years back where an author was found to have stolen bits of pretty much every book she ever had published. The whole kerfuffle didn’t even delay the release of the book she had in the pipeline at the time the story hit, so I assume it had plagiarized bits in it too. She stole from writers with no power, some of whom were dead. I got the impression that the publisher figured that the risk of actual monetary loses was low so they didn’t give a crap.

  • Chase

    People are actually more likely to litter where there’s already litter, and a no-littering sign with litter near it attracts more litter than just ground with litter but no sign. This might be because when people see the sign has already been disobeyed, it subconsiously gives them licence to disobey as well. Social norms are powerful. Your son might also have a similar effect- by dropping things on the ground, he provides a taboo-breaking model for other people to follow.

    ht tp://

    It would be an interesting experiment to do.

  • Amaryllis

    Well, Adah didn’t much approve of having herself fixed, after the fact, either. So why did her author feel it necessary to fix her? Was it another step int the redemption of Leah– having Adah’s disability be due at least as much to incompetent medical care as to Leah getting more than her fair share as far back as her mother’s womb?

    As for Leah, I don’t think that she felt herself absolved of whiteness or Americanness: no matter how long she lived in Africa as the wife of a black revolutionary, she was still white and still American and still guilty by both action and association. If she finds any redemption, it’s not in the marriage in itself, I don’t think– it’s as the mother of four shades-of-black sons.

    Which, of course, has its own set of issues. Why did her author give her only sons, no daughters? Is this mother of four living, healthy sons a better mother than her own mother, the mother of four damaged daughters? Or just luckier?

    And are we to take her fantasy of redemption, if that’s what it is, as representative of her author’s views? Any more than the more obviously clueless Rachel — a more interesting character than she appears on the surface, even though she’s almost all surface– represents the author’s views?

    Anyway, interesting book.

  • Another thing. One thing I’ve noticed about instructions is that sometimes being told not to do something makes someone want to do it anyway.

  • Lori

    No, I was thinking of Cassie Edwards who continued to have books published even after it was proven that her idea of research was copying word for word from other people’s work.

    The entire Edwards flap left me with a really bad taste in my mouth, including killing my respect for another author whose work I had previously liked and making me really POed at at least 2 publishing houses. It was one thing for dipshit fans to make excuses and act like Edwards should be coddled and excused because she was an old lady. It’s another thing for a published author to take the side of a thief against other writers and for publishers to continue to sell the work of a thief.

    With rare exceptions publishing doesn’t give a good god damn about plagiarism as long as the result makes them money. If CC is no longer stealing from other writers it’s not because she couldn’t get published if the work she was selling wasn’t original.

  • J Neo Marvin

    “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Manna”.

  • I’m praying for you all. Best wishes for your father & here’s hoping there are options available that will bring him peace.

  • J Neo Marvin

    Well, in all fairness, one should assume that Nick would be monitoring all e-mail correspondence, so a file transfer might not be safe. But seeing as how he’s probably bogged down right now reading the entire Internet in alphabetical order, it might be a risk worth taking.

  • Jamoche

    Have you seen his latest video?

  • aunursa

    Rayford is the only one of the original four members of the TF to survive to the Second Coming. Many other Tribbles survive, including Chaim, Mac, Abdullah, Leah, Hannah, Ming, Chang…

    “The odds are, only one of the four members of the Tribulation Force will survive the next seven years.”
    Tribulation Force, p x

  • She wanted to be touched. By men to whom she wasn’t married!

  • It’s been speculated that the simultaneous fear of and obsession with “illicit” sex is one reason why there are so many sex scandals involving social conservatives.

  • Lori

    So of course exactly one of the original four survives, because that’s totally how odds work. /sarcasm

  • aunursa

    And at the beginning of Book #11, Jerry Jenkins decided that he had to kill off two of the remaining three.

    Holly—Jerry, since none of the main 3 characters died in The Remnant, I’m wondering if you have feelings towards these characters and also hate to find them dead?
    Jerry Jenkins: I’d hate to find any of them dead, but soon two of them will be.
    hattielover: are buck and chloe going to make it all the way to the glorious appering?
    Jerry Jenkins: Only one of the original Trib Force members (Bruce, Rayford, Buck, Chloe) will survive till the GA. And one of them is already gone
    kgreen20: I don’t want Rayford, Chloe, or Buck to die! Couldn’t they all survive to see Jesus return?
    Jerry Jenkins: They could but it wouldn’t. Wouldn’t be realistic… Fiction, ironically, has to be believable.

  • Beroli

    Are there any good authors who have made the jump from fanfic to non-fan publication?

    Lois McMaster Bujold.

    One of her friends talked at some length about the Star Trek fanfiction she used to write.

  • Abel Undercity

    Our priest in parochial school referred to this as “Pac-Man theology” (this was the early 80’s so it was a surprisingly hip reference for him), treating people as dots to be gobbled up for points rather than actually tending to the state of their souls.

  • Lori

    I had totally forgotten about that. Which makes sense since if the books are good that becomes the focus instead of how the writer got started writing.

    I feel better now. I don’t read fic (just not my thing), but on geek grounds I sort of hate it when the only attention fic gets is as the starting point for incredibly crappy books.

  • Lori

    I’d hate to find any of them dead, but soon two of them will be.

    Again with the stupid crap about finding characters dead.

    Fiction, ironically, has to be believable.

    The man has truly amazing powers. He’s able to say something true and still so totally miss the point that it becomes just another giant FAIL.

  • FearlessSon

    Are there any good authors who have made the jump from fanfic to non-fan publication?

    Peter David. Started out writing things like Dr. Who fanfics. Then branched out into Star Trek novels (which are honestly just licensed fanfics) and then moved into comic books and original novels like Sir Apropos of Nothing.

  • FearlessSon

    For my part, I feel more comfortable in hot climates wearing something light but covering, like some pajama pants and a short-sleeved shirt. The discomfort for me comes mainly from my sweaty limbs rubbing against one another while I try to relax, and it makes sleeping difficult. If I keep my limbs out of rubbing contact, I am more comfortable despite the slight additional insulation the sleeping cloths provide.

  • Dash1

    Well put! I’m assuming he was an older priest, since I haven’t seen any evidence that priests can’t be appropriately hip. (Sometimes, when they’re seminary students, they’re a bit too hip. I recall one to whom we gave the nickname “Evil.” No idea whether he went into the priesthood.)

    But back to the point: I can sort of see the argument from that position. If your theology holds that there’s a ferry (or an ark) leaving the dock and everyone not on it is going to drown, then the point is to get people their tickets, and you don’t worry about the niceties. I think the analogy most people with that theology would make is with someone like Raul Wallenberg or Chiune Sugihara desperately trying to get Jews out of Nazi-occupied areas. The point was to get the passports into their hands, leaving no time to waste on making sure they understood the Swedish democratic process or had the kinds of ideas about respect that would make them good Japanese citizens.

    And, to tie in with comments on another thread, that is why Fred is much better at this kind of deconstruction than Christopher Hitchens would be. Fred understands the theology and can identify precisely where the conclusions have pulled free of the foundations, so to speak. Hitchens would take a wrecking-ball to the whole thing.

  • Jamoche

    The first Vorkosigan book started out that way: Cordelia was a Federation officer, Aral was a Klingon.

  • Jamoche

    Their social life could be like that, though – they’re so self-absorbed that all those people they meet through business and social activities just don’t register as anything beyond background noise.

  • Jamoche

    But ‘disrobed’ is more Biblical! Or more King James English, anyway.

  • Littering was considered an absolute taboo among my cohorts in Michigan. You just Did Not Do It — it wasn’t risky or roguish, it was fucking vile. It was pretty rare to see litter in parks, and it wasn’t even common along the road.

    Then I move to Florida, and litter is everywhere. Teenagers throw things off the trail at parks. I believe this is due to two things: 1) where I live in Florida, there is no sense of community. I’m not talking about wanting some Mayberry thing — there is literally no sense of community whatsoever. I don’t know how to describe it, it is very, very strange. 2) Littering in Michigan = $500 fine. Littering in Florida = $50 fine which is obviously never enforced.

    There is something similar going on with drunk driving. People drove drunk in Michigan, no question: but they didn’t admit it. They made excuses. In Florida, I have heard multiple conversations between people griping about how dare a cop pull me over when I was driving drunk, and how do you escape the penalties for drinking and driving. This just was not something one admitted to in Michigan, at least not where I lived.

    I don’t know why this part of Florida is like this, but I think someone should study it, because we need to know why it happens.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    You and your father have my best wishes.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Boy, fanwank is srs bizness

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Fiction, ironically, has to be believable.

    How the hell would you know, Jerry?

  • I read several chunks of Matt Taibbi’s The Great Derangement (in which, among other things, he went undercover to one of John Hagee’s Bible camps), and he describes people being taught a script that starts with, “Do you think you’re a good person?” The expectation is that the mark will say “Yes”, which is the evangelist’s cue to use the “he hath committed adultery in his heart” passage to claim that if the mark has ever had any sinful thoughts then he or she is destined for hell and therefore needs Jesus.

    Trying this approach “in the wild”, Taibbi was astonished both by how much random Americans are willing to tell complete strangers about their lives, and that he didn’t get a single Yes or No answer.

  • This is a world where people are told that an affair could always happen to you if you aren’t careful…

    “I’m telling you, it just happened! I slipped and fell onto his penis!”

  • I read that Colleen Doran’s A Distant Soil started out as a fan comic. Young Colleen really liked Aquaman, so she created her main character to be his girlfriend, and the protagonist’s backstory grew into its own thing.

  • There are a number of problems with the “good person,” script. For starters it assumes (1) that people choose to be a good person in order to gain favor in the afterlife and (2) that people believe that “being good” has something to do with one’s fate in the afterlife.

    Neither of those assumptions accurately reflect someone like me.

  • Plagiarism is serious business. Telling a cancer patient you wish she’d fuck off and die already because she’s just so annoying wanting any attention is serious business. If you’re not a Fandom_Wank member, you can’t see that latter thread; the people defending Heidi and that whole group were vile on a level you probably can’t imagine. I’m not going to quote it, because it’s hidden for good reason.

    What happens on the internet involves real people.

  • Another theory could be that they think that, since she’s sleeping with the guy, she’s “too far gone” as it were?
    Yeah, when I first read these books, I just figured that the lack of evangelism is because the characters they’d be evangelizing too are too close to the Antichrist.
    The problem with that theory, I now realize, is that it only shows yet again how unheroic our protagonists are. When the hero of the story discovers that their old friend is too close to the bad guy and is going to get hurt, they have the opportunity to PROVE their heroism by risking their own lives to warn their friend.
    But not Our Buck and Captain Steele. It doesn’t even occur to them to risk their lives and their spiffy job titles to save their friends. Aside from, “Well, too bad I can’t warn this person,” I don’t think they even consider the option.
    Some heroes.

  • Are they engaged by this point in the books? I forget. Either way, I suppose it’s evil enough that they didn’t rush off to a church (or whatever Enigma Babylon calls its centers of worship) and get hitched the second they started having lustful thoughts.

  • Praying for you and your family!

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Ugh, Florida sounds horrible. More reasons to never go there, I guess (beyond the climate, the craziness, and the alligators). If it wasn’t for NASA and the manatees, I’d write the state off completely.

    On the subject of litter, I just got back from Tokyo, which has very, very few public trashbins. I hate littering, so I’d be carrying an empty bottle or can for 15-20 minutes before I found a trash can to dispose of it in. Despite this, the city has almost no litter in it. Here in LA, you’ll find litter only a few feet away from a trash can. People just can’t be bothered to walk a few feet.

  • And to think I thought Chloe had managed to avoid inheriting Rayford’s sense of utter self-righteous snottiness. :(

  • Daniel

    I thought it’s more “I turned around quickly and ended up inside her!” whereupon he’s forgiven and she’s rightly held to account as a harlot and possessor of internal genitals. I may have misjudged said believers though.

    Obviously it never happens between men, no matter how much we may admire the aesthetics of them carrying our heavy luggage…

  • Daniel

    Men like meringue. That’s just a fact. It’s often commented on as the one point where evolution and Creation Science agree. If your house looks like it’s full of meringue, why would you go elsewhere?

    Either that or the filling of the place with frilly knick knacks is actually a deeply tragic cry for help- shield yourself Irene, shield yourself from the brutal reality of a husband who doesn’t care and is stringing along a woman slightly older than his daughter… just compensate with doilies. And antimacassars. You can never have too many antimacassars.

  • Daniel

    Have you also noticed that she’s the girlfriend of the Antichrist, yet he’s loyal to her, and in TF when Buck and Ray learn that she’s with him they are horrified “they may have already been intimate!”

    This is supposed to be the most evil man in the world, and Hatty is supposed to be a floozy. Yet it never occurs to Buck and Ray, or the writers, that she might quite happily sleep with him and that’d be that. If she sleeps with him, then she’s got to stay with him. THAT MAKES YOU HIS NOW! Even the Antichrist doesn’t have casual meaningless sex.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Orwell didn’t invent Doublethink, he just gave it a name.