NRA: The imminent Rapture is not imminent

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 167-174

During a long, rambling conversation over dessert with Rayford Steele, Hattie Durham reminds her former non-boyfriend that he was always too old for her anyway. “[Buck] and I are closer in age,” she says.

She underscores the point on the following page, saying of Nicolae Carpathia: “He was only about as much older than Buck as Buck was older than I.” At that point I felt like I was reading a word problem from the PSATs (“Rayford is twice as old as Hattie. Nicolae is as much older than Buck as Buck is older than Hattie. If Hattie is 22 years old, what color is the Norwegian’s house?”).

This discussion of the characters’ relative ages got me to thinking about my own age relative to theirs — and that’s a disastrous line of thinking when it comes to the central claim of these books. Buck Williams was 29 years old in the first book of this series, which was published in 1995. In 1995, I was 27 years old, so Buck is two years older than me.

Bladerunner (1982).

That would mean that today, in 2013, Buck is 47 years old. But Buck Williams doesn’t get to live to see 47 because seven years after these books begin, Turbo Jesus comes back and destroys life, the universe and everything. So the world was supposed to end in 2002.

Spoiler alert: The world did not end in 2002.

Heck, in 2002, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins hadn’t even finished writing this series of books.

But wait, that’s not entirely fair. That first book wasn’t set in 1995. It was set in an undefined not-so-distant future. The problem is that the not-so-distance between 1995 and this future is asked to serve two contradictory functions.

On the one hand, this distance must be very, very short because the story begins with the Rapture. LaHaye, like everyone who believes in the idea of the Rapture, believes that it is imminent. Type “Imminent Rapture” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of results, even though the phrase is redundant. To believe in the Rapture is to believe that it could occur at any second — maybe this very day, maybe this very hour, maybe before you finish reading this post or even this sentence! (Phew — looks like we’re all still here.)

A Rapture-believer like Tim LaHaye cannot provide one of those sci-fi introductions when telling a Rapture story. It cannot be specific, like the first lines of John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York: “In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. …” No one knows the day or the hour of when the Rapture will come. But it is undoubtedly imminent. No one knows the day or the hour, but it must always be possible that it is this day and this hour.

The imminence of the Rapture means that this book, published in 1995, also had to, at least in a sense, be set in the world of 1995. The story couldn’t include any elements that would have seemed “futuristic” in 1995 — flying cars, rocket packs, domed cities, cell phones, wi-fi, a black president, etc. All of those would have signaled that the Rapture is not imminent, but some future event still years or even generations away. They would serve to increase the not-so-distance of the book’s future setting, contradicting the imminent-Rapture requirement that this not-so-distance be as short as possible.

The imminent Rapture requires that this story be set in a present that’s just about to happen. That presented Jerry Jenkins with a bit of a dilemma as it took the authors 12 years to finish publishing their narrative of how they believe the final seven years of history will unfold. Jenkins needed to preserve the Rapture’s imminence by avoiding futuristic technological details and only including the technology of the present day, but the present-day technology of 2007 was quite different from the present-day technology of 1995. Jenkins’ cleverly pragmatic response to this problem was simply to incorporate new technologies as they arose while pretending this doesn’t create any anachronistic conflicts between his earlier books and his later ones. So in the first book we have airport pay-phones (ask your parents) and by the third book we have cell phones. That can sometimes be jarring, but I give Jenkins a pass on this because telling a story set in the imminent future is a difficult business.

The one bit of futuristic technology the authors do include in their story is Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig’s Miracle Formula. The chemistry and biology of this seems so unlike anything possible today that the presence of such a formula in our story seems to push its setting decades further into the future, destroying the whole sense that the Rapture it describes might be “imminent.”

I suppose the authors might counter that Rosenzweig’s formula wasn’t so much a scientific breakthrough as it was an actual miracle. Like the Rapture itself, it was an act of divine intervention in the natural world and thus, like the Rapture itself, something that might be regarded as imminent. That’s a bit unsatisfying, though. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, any act of miraculous intervention is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology.

The larger problem for the authors and for their insistence on the imminence of this story is that their focus on avoiding futuristic technology didn’t extend to an avoidance of futuristic politics. The political world in which Left Behind (1995) is set has as much relation to present-day politics as the technological world of Star Trek has to present-day technology. Peace in the Middle East, for example, is presented as a fait accompli. Israel is said to be at peace with all of its immediate neighbors — a state of affairs the authors describe as somehow involving Israel absorbing all of its immediate neighbors, annexing much of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt without disrupting or disturbing the residents of those countries while also not altering in any way the distinctive identity of Israel as a Jewish nation.

Such a development doesn’t seem particularly imminent. It seems utterly unlikely, if not impossible. For the authors, though, this is something that will and must happen — a fulfillment of what they believe is divine prophecy. They also believe this to be a necessary precondition for the “imminent” Rapture. Let’s play along with that idea as best we can. Forget about 1995, start with today, July 26, 2013. How long do you imagine it would take to get us from where we are today to this prophesied future world of a Greater Israel beloved and unthreatened by those neighbors it hasn’t yet absorbed? Can you imagine this happening in a single decade? A single generation? A single century?

I can’t. And if this development is a prerequisite for the Rapture — if this must be accomplished before the Rapture can occur — then it seems to me that this Rapture cannot be in any way described as imminent. If this is a necessary precursor to the Rapture, then — based on Tim LaHaye’s own rules of “Bible prophecy” — the odds are that we’ll see a colony on Mars long before this “imminent” Rapture could ever occur.

And keep in mind that these books are about prophecy, not playful prediction. If the future they foretell does not come to pass as they foretell it, then these books utterly fail. That is their central claim.

That makes for a very different sort of problem than the fun-but-mistaken discussion of the supposedly failed predictions of science fiction stories. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. I quoted from Escape From New York above, which described a future world of 1988 in which Manhattan had been transformed into a penal colony. The image above is from the 1982 movie Blade Runner, which portrayed the Los Angeles of 2019 (getting close!) as a cramped city wracked by climate disruption and police drones (getting close!). But Blade Runner also predicted “off-world colonies” and androids indistinguishable from their human creators — developments that seem more than six years distant from our present. Or consider one of my favorite books, Infinite Jest, which depicted the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment as a 2009 that wasn’t even called “2009.” David Foster Wallace nearly predicted Netflix, but northern New England hasn’t been transformed into a concavity overrun with mutant feral hamsters, so he loses points for “accuracy” there.

But this game of spot-the-failed predictions misrepresents what those stories are about. They’re not about the future, but about the present. The point wasn’t an attempt to make an accurate prediction about where we are inevitably headed, but a way of using such predictions as a mirror to reflect and examine where we are now. The words on the screen in that still from Blade Runner really mean just the same thing as the words at the beginning of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil: “Somewhere in the 20th Century.” Those stories aren’t predictions about the future, but rather commentaries on the present (and on the perennial).

That’s also true for the alleged source material for the Left Behind series — the apocalyptic literature of the Bible. Apocalyptic literature is not making predictions about the future, but rather it attempts to unveil (“Revelation”) the true reality of the present or perennial human condition. It is prophetic in the sense that, like the prophets, it passes judgment on the world and renders a verdict. But it is not meant to be “prophetic” in the carnival-huckster sense of foretelling future events.

Unfortunately for LaHaye and Jenkins, their books are meant to be predictive “prophecies” in that latter sense. These books are fictional, but they’re meant to provide a fictionalized description of future events that will occur just as described — a kind of historical fiction about the future. That means the standard for accuracy that it would be unfair to apply to 1984 or to Blade Runner must be applied to these books. By fudging on the precise year in which their story is set they don’t allow us to state conclusively that their predictions have failed and that their prophecies have gone unfulfilled. But we can state conclusively that the imminent “Rapture” they continue to prophesy was not and is not and cannot be “imminent.”

This may seem like an overlong response to just a couple of sentences from Hattie in this section of Nicolae, but her whole conversation with Rayford is infused with her nostalgic musing about her past. That past, even as sketchily and carelessly described by Jenkins, is situated in time. Combined, then, with Hattie’s discussion of all the characters’ ages one gets a clearer sense of when the imminent present of this scene is set — and that actually seems to be earlier than 1995.

“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. …”

Hattie is supposed to be a member of Generation X, but Jenkins describes her childhood dreams and teenage fantasies using his own Baby Boomer imagination. This seems like something out of the world of Bye Bye Birdie or Mad Men. If Hattie grew up reading Vicki Barr Flight Stewardess books as a child and she’s in her early 20s, then this story can’t be set much later than the Reagan years — 1985 rather than 1995.

Back in 1985, of course, Tim LaHaye was preaching about the same “Bible prophecies” he later fictionalized in 1995 and that he’s still preaching today in 2013. He was preaching that the central focus of every Christians’ life ought to be the Rapture. And the Rapture, he said in 1985, is imminent.

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  • aunursa

    “Schoolgirl” in the Left Behind series…

    [I’m removing this comment, because I think our host will explore these pages in more depth in the coming weeks … and it will be more appropriate to post it in a future thread.]

  • aunursa

    Jenkins’ cleverly pragmatic response to this problem was simply to update the series to incorporate new technologies as they arose that had been developed since the original books were published.

  • aunursa

    How long do you imagine it would take to get us from where we are today to this prophesied future world of a Greater Israel beloved and unthreatened by those neighbors it hasn’t yet absorbed?

    Secretary of State Kerry has invited the Israelis and Palestinians to Washington next week for face-to-face negotiations. They could have a final peace agreement completed by the end of this year.

    NOTE: The second link explains what I mean.

  • Fusina

    And pigs can fly too. I would love to see peace in the middle east. I have no hope left that it will happen.

  • Daniel

    Perhaps both sides can start by agreeing a no fly zone for pigs over Israel, so no one is offended by them polluting their airspace. If they can cooperate on that, hopefully they can build on it and peace can be brought about through a shared distaste for pork.

  • Turcano

    Not only will the “peace process” not work, but it can’t work, because it is founded on assumptions that do not square with reality.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I think I’ve heard this song before: Washington announces that a peace accord is imminent, the media report that it’s a sure thing, someone makes a demand that someone else finds unreasonable, both parties storm off, we’re back to square one.

    I’ll believe it when the ink is dry.

  • Zornorph

    John Kerry needs to take his ugly long face and go somewhere else. All this unseemly obsessing about Israel/Palestine while the rest of the Middle East is going to hell…worst SOS since Cyrus Vance.

  • P J Evans

    Half of Congress is being paid by the lobbyists for Israel. If he didn’t put it high on his list, they’d be screaming even louder.

  • Zornorph

    Well, the Israelis want no part of this false ‘peace process’ so their lobby must not be as effective as you think.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You’re assuming that the lobby for Israel actually wants what the Israelis want.

    I’m no expert on Israel or it’s people, but assuming this could very well be like assuming that the Bishops reflect the general Catholic attitude on birth control.

  • Zornorph

    Yeah, the ‘Israel lobby’ is lobbying against Israel. That makes so much sense. Unless you are talking about JStreet, which nobody considers part of the Israel lobby.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    I think you’re talking past each other. The pro-Israel lobby in the United States does not know or much care what actual Israelis want. They’re in it for the Chaim Rosenzweigs, the idealized People Of Christ in their heads. It’s the Republican equivalent to yuppies who hang dreamcatchers over their dashboards but vote against better healthcare on reservations.

  • reynard61

    It doesn’t help that a certain sector of the pro-Israel lobby (primarily made up of Defense contractors and the *seriously* batshit insane portion of the “Jesus will come soon to smite the Godless Heathens!” crowd) seems to see Israel as our 51st State and has no compunction about sending both money and arms to them — which I’m sure that the Israeli government is quite happy to accept since that frees up *their* money to let *them* trade technology with China. (No, I’m not against Israel trading technology — even military technology — with China. Who Israel trades with is Israel’s business. I just object to *our* subsidizing that trade.)

  • Mark Z.
  • The_L1985

    The “Israel lobby,” as far as I can tell, only wants Israel to become more stable so that the world can end. Since Israel is mostly Jewish, not Christian, a PMD Rapture would not be in Israel’s best interests.

  • Zornorph

    I would suggest your understanding of the issue is quite limited.

  • teglet

    And even if it does happen, there’s a whole lot of distance between “the Israelis and Palestinians have made an agreement to end open hostility” and “a Greater Israel beloved and unthreatened.”

  • Mary

    Exactly. And it doesn’t help that there is a lot of propaganda against the Isrealis. I watched a PBS program where they showed excerpts of a Muslim movie where Jews were sacrificing a young muslim boy by slitting his throat over a bowl and collecting the blood. Then they baked the blood into their bread.
    As long as they believe this crap then they will naturally consider Jews to be their enemy. So their hatred goes far deeper than just property rights or even religious differences. They literally believe that Jews are evil.
    I see no possibilty of peace under these circumstances. I am 50 years old and I have seen no progress in the time that I have been alive.

  • Mary

    I want to add that it is very likely that the Israeli’s have the same misconceptions about the Muslims. Think of all the rumors that we hear in this country. I have seen people post such junk as how 80% of Muslims molest children and it is a part of their religion. Unsurprisingly the anti-Jew people say the same thing by “quote mining” the Talmud. One quote taken out of context supposedly says that it is okay to molest a child under the age of nine. Actually what it is refering to is a legal definition as to what age a child should be in order to understand that homosexuality was wrong if he was caught in the act (mind you I don’t believe that homosexuality is wrong) Thus what the passage says is “Intercourse with a child of nine and a day, is not the same as a child of nine.”
    Badly misinterpreted although they did stone people to death for engaging in homosexual acts which is wrong, however the Talmud is mostly commentary on the Torah and ancient laws that they do not follow anymore.

    I suspect that a lot of religious wars are started and kept going by misunderstandings like these. The early Christians were persecuted partly because of rumors of human sacrifice and canabalism sparked by a misunderstanding of the communion ceremony.

  • EdinburghEye

    Nobody clicked your second link. (I did.) (I was amused.)

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Yes, I noticed that too.

  • Mary

    I did!

  • Jamoche

    I rolled over it :)

  • criswell

    Future events such as these will affect you in the future!

  • reynard61

    “You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

  • Abel Undercity

    “He tampered in God’s domain!”

    (Whoops, that’s Bride of the Monster)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Why don’t they look? Why don’t they look?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The phones! They’re coming!

  • Michael Pullmann

    You’re deep, Ern.

  • Sue White

    “He was only about as much older than Buck as Buck was older than I.”

    Who the hell talks like that??

    If I had a drink for every time someone in these books harps on relative age differences…

  • Jamoche

    Who the hell talks like that??

    Points one comment up (at least until disqus notices) at @criswell :)

  • Launcifer

    To be fair, I have a suspicion that’s an Ed Wood reference…

  • Jamoche

    Yeah, I think the username gives it away. :)

    (Of course I made an explicit Ed Wood reference before I saw someone do it in a more clever fashion)

  • ReverendRef

    “Rayford is twice as old as Hattie. Nicolae is as much older than Buck
    as Buck is older than Hattie. If Hattie is 22 years old, what color is
    the Norwegian’s house?”

    This is actually a trick question. It’s impossible to know the color of the Norwegian’s house because we’re really talking about Romanians.

  • Daniel

    The Norwegian’s house is a prism. It splits light into all its constituent colours. The Romanians live on the very cusp of dream space. Their house is so round colours cannot adhere to it.

    So Hattie’s birthday is in Spain.

  • ReverendRef

    And THIS is why I was never good at story problems.

  • Mary

    I actually haven’t read these books. Maybe I shouldn’t. I think I might have a stroke trying to understand them. Thanks for the warning Fred…

  • Guest

    And Imhotep is invisible.

  • aunursa

    At the beginning of Book #1: Rayford is 42, Nicolae is 33, Buck is 30, Hattie is 27.
    At this point in Book #3: Rayford is 44, Nicolae is 35, Buck is 32, Hattie is 29.

  • Zornorph

    Yes, but how old is Loretta?

  • aunursa

    Loretta was “an older woman” at the beginning of Book #1 and is “now nearly seventy” at this point in the series. She’s not important enough to Jerry to merit a specific age.

  • chgo_liz

    Translation: not “do-able” (trying to keep it PG here) and no longer fertile, thus worthless.

  • aunursa

    I just checked: No one celebrates a birthday in the entire series.

    Who knew they were actually Jehovah’s Witnesses? (It does explain why Rabbi Tsion Ben Judah refers to God as “Jehovah” in Book #2.)

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    No no no, don’t you see? It’s the one detail of the world ending in a catastrophic apocalypse that works! Sure, the trains still run on time, the airports still operate smoothly, the cops are still out in force, the newspapers still get published without any input from their one-world-news editor, apparently*, but at least – at least! the heroes protagonists are too busy doing End-Times stuff (mainly phone calls and contemptuously judging people, from what I can tell) to celebrate their birthdays.

    …of course, in a well-written series, the protagonists being too busy dealing with the End Of The World to celebrate their/each other’s birthdays would be a point of note, perhaps alluded to in a bitter internal monologue… but hey, take what small triumphs we can, aye?

    *I’m still trying to figure out whether to call that a win. Our editors at this campus paper were awesome folks, but I used to work under an editor a lot like Buck, and I’ll wager the entire staff breathed a sigh of relief when he took his massive ego and title-dropping and left Verna Zee in charge.

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net/ TheOldMaid

    No saved person celebrates a birthday. Cendrillon Jospin’s 100th was celebrated (off-screen). The bigger surprise is that the party was organized by her saved relatives … a month in advance just in case everyone couldn’t be there … in a world where planes fly at 1,000 m.p.h. (or faster; I didn’t include boarding times).

  • aunursa

    True. I was referring to the original 12 books. They celebrate little boy Rayford’s birthday in the prequels.

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net/ TheOldMaid

    Your point stands, though. Rayford wasn’t saved at the time.
    See also: episode “Lisa’s first word” on The Simpsons, the show that really does tackle everything …

  • banancat

    Well, they’re RTCs now, so they celebrate conception days instead of birthdays because they believe that’s when their lives really began. But because RTCs are a poor persecuted minority, they have to hide these celebrations lest they be attacked the commieliberalnazifascists who want to make it illegal to even have a thought against abortion.

  • bad_cook

    But how tall is Imhotep?http://youtu.be/6L0xT8lMyss

  • aunursa

    If Imhotep is both shorter than Jean and taller than Jean, then Jean’s height varies. During the period of time it took to state Problem One, the monster bit Jean in half. Then Imhotep was crushed by the monster’s foot, so his height is now 2″.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Well, Charles I began his reign at 5’6″ and ended it at 4’8″, so …

  • arcseconds

    because of… (* cue Chopin *)

  • Daniel

    He was the most efficient monarch ever- he severely reduced his own overheads.

  • general_apathy

    Imhotep is invisible. :D

    (Hooray for Look Around You references.)

  • tatortotcassie

    Write that down in your copybooks now. ;)

  • Daniel

    When ever Nicolae appears there’s a distinct whiff of ulphur. Ulphur?

    Sulphur.

  • The_L1985

    We might as well ask, “what are birds?” We just don’t know.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Hilariously, in Soul Harvest, Chloe says that she wants to be Hattie’s sister. Chloe means her sister in Christ, but Hattie takes it literally and says she is too old. Because apparently sisters can’t have a seven-year age gap.

  • Lori

    This will be news to my sister, who is 15 years older than I am.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I’ve been doing some genealogy with my mom, so I just got curious and checked the family trees. Biggest age gap between siblings on my mother’s side: 20 years. On my father’s side 36 years (half-siblings, but still). I think Hattie and Chloe will be fine.

  • Lori

    The idea that 7 years is too much of a gap for sisters doesn’t fit the old coot mentality of these books at all. My parents are roughly the same age as Tim LaHaye. There’s almost 20 years between the oldest and youngest child in my dad’s family, all full siblings. He’s one of 12 kids, and there’s only so quickly that you can crank out that many children. Even when my dad was young that size family wasn’t a given or anything, but it also wasn’t unusual.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Perhaps it’s meant to show what an of-the-world, unsaved person Hattie is, immersed in a fallen world full of birth control, where all families have 2.4 children, each three years apart.

  • Lori

    That makes about as much sense as anything in these books. Which is obviously to say, none at all.

  • Sue White

    I should think big age gaps between siblings would be pretty common in the quiverfull cult.

  • Lori

    Oh for sure. The Duggers have at least one child who is younger than their oldest grandchild.

    This is one of those little details that really bring it home that Jerry Jenkins is a terrible writer. It not only doesn’t make any normal world sense, it doesn’t make sense within the fictional world he’s created or within the subculture to which the book is marketed. I’m not sure what he was trying to convey by it, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it was, he failed.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It’s not a “gap” if it’s full of more siblings.

  • ohiolibrarian

    It is if all the intervening siblings are boys.

  • banancat

    Both of my grandmothers had a “menopause” baby, in one case unplanned, and in the other case probably tried for although I’ll never know for sure because she died before I was born. But in that case, I suspect she was actively trying for several years and simply didn’t manage to get pregnant because she was perimenopausal and fertility was declining but still good enough to catch that lucky chance right at the end. So even with the quiverfull mentality of actively trying, it could still have a gap that wide. Not that my grandparents were quiverfull or anything; they had three older kids and just wanted to do it one more time.

  • Mary

    My Dad’s half-siblings are in my age range, around fifty. That is because my grandfather took a young wife in his later years.It is too complicated to explain to people that my aunts and uncles are younger than me. I refer to them as my cousins and actually they are distant cousin’s through their mother’s side. Plus I had a grandmother(step) younger than my mother and she became a grandmother before she became a mother.
    And if you can understand that then you probably understand the old Hee-Haw song “I am my own Grandpa.”

  • ohiolibrarian

    A girl I work with who is in her early 20s has a great niece.

  • Mary

    Ah, I was going to reply that it is nice that she has such a wonderful niece but…and then it hit me: wrong definition of “great” I think it is time to go to bed now…

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    And mine, who’s 10 years younger than me.

  • Sue White

    *ROFL* You’re kidding. Too old to be sisters? That would make, oh, *every one* of my aunts and uncles too old to be my mom’s brothers and sisters. Sheesh!

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I never need to kid when we’re talking about Jerry Jenkins:

    Tears slid down Hattie’s cheeks, and her eyes closed. “Just let me die,” she said.

    “No!” Chloe said. “You promised to be my baby’s godmother.”

    “You don’t want somebody like me for that,” Hattie said.

    “You’re not going to die,” Chloe said. “You’re my friend, and I want you for a sister.”

    “I’m too old to be your sister,” she said.

    “Too late. You can’t back out now.”

    -Soul Harvest

    btw, I like how Chloe doesn’t dispute that Hattie is too old…

  • Daniel

    “too late. You can’t back out now”.

    She never actually says yes. She’s being forced into godmotherhood.

  • banancat

    Well she certainly couldn’t abort her plans for being a godmother. Once she hesitantly agreed to it, that sperm was sailed and she was obligated to see it through to the end. Maybe she could be a godmother for 9 months and then give it up for adoption by a different godmother?

  • depizan

    Maybe she thought Chloe meant sorority sister? *grasping at straws*

  • Daniel

    Actually, she says she wants her for a sister but she never says whose sister she wants her for, nor what that sister would do with Hattie should she get her. Probably make her clean the convent.

  • Lunch Meat

    She’s too old because she has “a past.” Like in the stereotypical olden days how if a woman is “fallen,” no one will want her anymore so she’s basically an old maid even if she’s only 18.

  • Daniel

    Worryingly though a ten year age gap between spouses is totally fine.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    A few people mention the ten-year age gap between Buck and Chloe (notably Buck, who seems a bit desperate to convince himself it’s okay), but add a mere four years, and the fourteen-year age gap between Rayford and Hattie is utterly untenable.

    Going back to the family trees again, my great-grandparents, who I had the good fortune to know, had a thirteen-year age gap, and were very happily married. Family lore has it that an even bigger age gap (55-year-old marries 22-year old) was also a happy marriage. Now, obviously, that’s quite an outlier, but it is an actual case of “old enough to be her father,” unlike Ray-gun and Hattie, unless Ray had her in middle school.

  • Daniel

    Basically, once again the major flaw in Timkins’ writing is an inability to treat characters like actual people- in real life there’s no reason that a fifty five year old woman and a twenty two year old man can’t fall in love and have a totally stable and satisfying relationship, it’s just rare. But Rayford isn’t interested in Hattie as a person, nor is he interested in the personality of any woman. Women are tools to breed babies, men are there to make that happen. So a model ten years younger than the operator will still work, but a model fourteen years younger is beyond his ken.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think the problem is that they treat their characters exactly they way they treat actual people.

  • Jamoche

    I thought it might be because of the vaguely defined Hattie/Rayford relationship – “I could’ve been your stepmother” – but that doesn’t work because Rayford is totally the type to marry someone younger than his daughter.

  • Carstonio

    Dumb question – how would Fred or anyone else know that the Bible’s apocalyptic books (Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel) aren’t meant to be read as prophecy? For all we know, the original authors might have believed that all those things would happen, and seeing the accounts as commentary on their own societies at the same time. Most of these were written down much later, so for most practical purposes the original context is lost.

  • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

    They obviously are meant to be read as ‘prophecy’, but the difference of opinion is what ‘prophecy’ consists of.

    On the one side we have the common definition of ‘prophecy’ as the simple prediction of future events (with that future ranging anywhere from ten minutes to a thousand years from now, or beyond). For example, this group says that when John predicted X in the Revelation, it will happen no matter what at an exact, predetermined point in time. It’s all just future prognostication.

    On the other side we have the more academic definition of ‘prophecy’ as social-religious-political commentary of current events. Prediction of future events isn’t required, and when predictions do occur, their conditional fulfillment is of secondary importance to how people in the present respond to the commentary. This group says that when John predicted X in the Revelation, it was rooted in criticism of people or events in his own day, and its fulfillment was contingent upon how people reacted to that criticism. The future is involved, but it’s more about the present.

    L&J (and almost all dispensationalist Christians) follow the first definition. Fred (and a hefty number of other people who study and analyze the Bible, including Christians and non-Christians) follow the second definition.

  • Carstonio

    While that makes sense for contemporary readers, it doesn’t explain what definition of prophecy the original authors used.

  • Mary

    You have a good point, however If you read the bible closely it is evident that they expected Jesus to return within their own lifetime. Jesus said this specifically and also Paul alludes to it strongly enough so that it is pretty evident that he believed this as well. I believe that the book of Revelation was intended as a prophecy, but it was talking about the Roman Empire. I think that is what Mark was alluding to. Basically it is a revenge fantasy. They had expected the Messiah to overthrow the Roman Empire and when that didn’t happen then they had to come up with a senario where that actually would happen,

    There is a book called “The History of the End of the World” which talks about how in every generation since this book was written people have seen “signs” of Jesus’ return so the obsession we have going on now is nothing new.

  • alfgifu

    As I understand it (I Am Not A Biblical Scholar), there is actually a fairly well-represented genre of prophetic books from the time period that fit into each category.

    So you can compare the Sibylline books on the one hand with Revelation on the other and draw these sorts of conclusions about what their authors intended.

    In the same way as you can compare 1984 and Left Behind and conclude from internal and external clues that George Orwell was writing a Jeremiad and LaJenkins have produced a fortune-telling piece.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve never heard of the Sibylline books. If they were from the Revelation period, they would have little relevance to Daniel and Ezekiel.

  • Winter

    The Sibylline books were a set of prophecies sold to Tarquinius Superbus, the last King of Rome. The story goes that the Sibyl offered a set of books at a rather high price, then started burning the books and ultimately sold a smaller set at the original price after disasters and bizarre omens started popping up. Or something like that. The Senate would consult the Sibylline books in times of crises or when particularly ominous events were reported (two-headed calves, rains of stones, that sort of thing) and then carry out its instructions to avert disaster. Temples were built, sacrifices performed, even new gods introduced on the Sibyl’s recommendation.

    Oh, and they’re pretty much completely lost. The point is that they were a set of predictions in Greek hexameter that probably resembled the famous Oracle of Delphi in ambiguity and in their ability to be applied to just about anything if you squinted hard enough.

  • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

    As a side-note, the Sibylline Books mentioned by Winter here are not to be confused with the Sibylline Oracles, which we do have, and were written in stages between the second century BC and the fifth century AD (with further alterations after that). The Oracles represent a mish-mash of religious thought (but especially Jewish, Christian, and even Gnostic), smashed together as a long series of apocalyptic predictions.

  • Mark Z.

    They were all writing in the tradition of Hebrew prophecy, so you can read the other prophetic books (Jeremiah is pretty representative, I’d say) and see what sort of material their culture sees as “prophetic”.

  • reynard61

    Yes!!! This!!! *SO* this!

  • The_L1985

    Ah, but you have to remember that most ancient Hebrew prophecies were supposed to fail. If the things warned about come to pass, then that means that the prophet did not do his job of successfully warning the people to change their ways.

    The book of Jonah does a good job of showing what a successful prophecy would have looked like: Jonah warns the Ninevites that their evil will bring down divine wrath; the Ninevites repent; God decides that they’ve learned their lesson and doesn’t destroy Nineveh.

  • Carstonio

    So you’re saying that one can extrapolate from Jonah that Daniel and Ezekiel had the same intention?

  • The_L1985

    Yes. Their intention was, “If you obey God, good things will happen. If you disobey God, bad things will happen.”

  • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

    Going off those two definitions I mentioned above, most Christians today (and especially dispensationalists) rarely consider that prophecy is meant to be conditional like this. By the various prophets’ own definition, their prophecies are inherently If-Then claims. But this is perfectly encapsulated in Jeremiah 18.7-10. What the author says here applies to all ‘prophecy’ according to how the original writers intended. Reading their books as just a checklist of predictions that absolutely must happen at some predetermined point in time was not their original intention, and is where most people seriously go off the rails when trying to read them.

  • J_Enigma32

    “A kind of historical fiction for the future”

    There exists a genre for this sort of thing in SF called “future history”. Olaf Stapeldon’s The Last and First Men and Starmaker are good examples of this – probably the Ur examples and genre codifiers.

    Worth remembering as we lurch towards the Millennial and the Thousand Year Reich… er, Reign of TurboJaysus, is that this sort of future fictional history is very important for dystopias.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    this sort of future fictional history is very important for dystopias.

    Shame that more writers don’t realize that. I can’t tell you how many dystopian novels I’ve seen where the history doesn’t go much farther than “…And suddenly things got really bad!”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And all future histories have the same problem:
    How to fit the defined future into an ever-changing present.
    Which is why future histories usually become alternate histories as the future keeps changing things. Remember how the Second Russian Revolution block-obsoleted future histories both Secular and Spiritual?

  • Patter

    future they foretell does not come to pass as they foretell it, then these books utterly fail

    Also — and this is biblical — the authors and their entire families have to be stoned to death. Just sayin.

  • Hawker40

    It takes a lot of weed to get someone stoned to death.

  • Daniel

    In most places enough to prove intent to supply, but I hear in Texas you can get stoned to death for a teenth.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    *groan*

  • teglet

    What kills me is that if they were competent, they could have written believable peace in the Middle East within our lifetimes–hell, within the YEAR.

    I mean, is Nicolae the AntiChrist, an absurdly powerful demonic thing with mind mojo, or isn’t he?

    Just…a subtle revelation over the course of the books that the miraculous peace in the Middle East, initially both dumbfounding and wonderful because people aren’t killing each other anymore let’s throw a PARTY!! is actually kiiiiinda suspicious and then it finally becomes clear to the audience (and/or various characters in the book) that, holy shit, it was all orchestrated by the AntiChrist in order to bring about the end times, a horrifying transformation of peace into disaster. That would improve these books immensely.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Yes, but the prophecy requires the formation of Greater Israel to precede Nicolae’s rise to power. You’re trying to approach this problem like a writer, whereas LaHaye was approaching it as a man with a cause.

  • teglet

    …But that would add another possibility of juicy reveal to the whole shebang! I mean–provided I’m following things correctly (always questionable) if Nicolae used his ~demon magic mind powers~ while he was still obscure and unknown and *then* rose to power, you could write it initially as discovering an unseemly connection between this up-and-coming international figure and peace in the Middle East, and then dig a bit to try and figure it out, and then DUN! expose to the world or confront him with evidence that the middle-east thing isn’t what it seems and THEN there’s the “…oh holy shit this guy is the antichrist” reveal.

    (You’re absolutely right though, I’m approaching this problem like a writer and not a propheteer |D heh).

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I always figured Nicolae’s “demon mind magic powers” were just a back hack writer’s attempt to show rock-star charismatic force of personality (with good PR backup) such as a certain Barack Obama demonstrated in his 2008 Presidential campaign.

  • Zornorph

    I never understood why they didn’t make better use of Nicolae. I think it was because they were afraid of glamorizing him or something. Or perhaps they were too afraid to risk trying to get inside the head of the Anti-Christ?

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Simple – Jenkins is a bad writer. Good writers know that the villain is the most important character in any story, and strive to make him/her/it/them interesting. Bad writers are afraid that an interesting villain will overshadow his self-insert leads, and must reduce the baddie to cackling from afar.

  • SkyknightXi

    Fear of glamorization has quite an influence here. As Headless Unicorn Guy has pointed out, this particular genre cannot afford to really portray unalloyed malevolence up close and personal, even when making it abundantly clear that it’s something that Ought Not Be Done. After all, all too many of the readers would be incensed at feeling disturbed–making one feel disturbed is the opposite of wiping every tear away! End result: Villainous malevolence must be greatly abstracted and zoomed-out, so the story winds up focusing on the protagonists’ virtue, valor, and Incorruptible Pure Pureness (which I guess is what the target audience is really interested in, anyway).

  • themunck

    And even then it fails, as our protagonists fail to display any virtues or valor.

    OT: I hate Disquis. I was typing a reply to a post above, decided that it didn’t really and wanted to close the reply box, only to find that I can’t. Why do I have to update the entire thread just to close a box? All proper forums have a frecking “cancel reply” button.

  • SkyknightXi

    Well…Incorruptible Pure Pureness seems to auto-imply (passive) virtue and valor with RTCs…

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and offer, if not a defense, at least an excuse for what L&J have done here.

    We’ve all been assuming – based on the style of the book – that Jenkins is a fan of political thrillers. If that’s the case, then he’s seen this exact same thing done many, many times before. Thrillers are generally based in a fictional version of the real world, but many of them also depend on political systems that are different from our own. That’s fine if the author wants to write about the future – if he wants the setting to be a touch dystopian, for instance. But if the author doesn’t want to write about the future, he has a problem.

    There are a few ways around this. One, the author can make it an alternate history of sorts, with the story set in a different version of the contemporary world. Two, the author can go try the conspiracy angle, with the “real world” being a fiction cooked up by a secret elite. Or, three, the author can set the story in the near future, assuming that the system has changed dramatically but that everything else is basically the same.

    Option three – the one that L&J went with – is easily the laziest one. However, the fact that I think it’s ridiculous doesn’t change the fact that it is generally accepted within the genre.

    Actually, I’ve run into this problem myself. I’ve been planning a story that’s based around a radical change in U.S. adoption law. Problem is, the story requires an adult main character who was born after that law went into effect, so the story has to be set at least twenty years in the future – and I don’t want to set it twenty years in the future. Right now, the plan is to go with option one and have the law put into effect in the past, coinciding with some humanitarian crisis (provided there was one in the early 90’s that would work).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    LaHaye seems to pick coauthors who like using “in the near future” devices.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I thought his last writer was more of an Indy Jones-inspired pulp adventure guy? Or was that “near future” too?

  • Alden Utter

    That’s what Jerry’s been up to. Tim has been writing Babylon Rising, which is I guess how the End Times will *really* happen.

    There’s a sporking blog for them, as well: http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/babylon-rising-intro-and-a-message/

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I think you have those backwards. Babylon Rising is the pulp globe-trotting adventure, whereas Jenkins’s Soon is more or less him saying “Okay, this is what it would have looked like if I didn’t have to follow LaHaye’s stupid guidelines.”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Jenkins Soon is an attempt to retell the story of the Apostle Paul in a contemporary/near-future setting. Specifically, a near-future persecution dystopia as written by a hack who doesn’t understand the concept of dystopia, crapscack world, or crapsaccharine world.

  • christopher_y

    LaHaye seems to pick coauthors who like using “in the near future” devices.

    I’m waiting for the LaHaye/Charlie Stross collaboration.

  • Ross Thompson

    What would Stross get out of that deal?

  • P J Evans

    A good laugh and a lot of amusement horrifying the co-author? (Stross is more of an atheist.)
    Also Charlie is much better at writing apocalyptic stories. (If you haven’t read his ‘Laundry’ stories, please do.)

  • christopher_y

    Nothing that I can think of, except maybe a cheap giggle. But he’s pretty good at near futures.

  • christopher_y

    He wouldn’t get anything out of it that I can think of. That’s why I’m still waiting for it. But he is the best “near future” writer around at the moment.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And the Uwe Boll/Kirk Cameron movie version.

  • arghous

    Split the difference. Go with the Elian Gonzalez crisis in 2000. Senator Patrick Leahy, after consultation with the unicorns dophins that miraculously saved Elian but couldn’t save his mother, pushes through a change to U.S. adoption law to allow Peggy Noonan Janet Reno to adopt him. Crisis averted, and everyone lives happily ever after.

  • reynard61

    There are at least two that I can think of: The Rwandan Genocide and the Yugoslavian Breakup and the wars that followed. Hell, there’s probably enough material in both of those events to write a book and several sequels.

  • chgo_liz

    So you know, adoption law in the U.S. is unlike anywhere else in the world, and there are some variations state by state. So, you could set your story in a different country that had already changed their laws, or (depending on what your changes are) possibly even in a particular state.

  • Charby

    I think it’s actually fine to do any of those things. You could have a major event in your real world setting causes changes to the adoption law, some high profile scandal that either didn’t exist in our world or (like the Elian example that arghous used) had a different effect than it did in our world.

    The problem that L & J run into is that they want to create the impression that these major changes are about to happen in our world. The books are meant to be seen as semiprophetic; Rayford, Nicolae, and the others don’t exist, but something like this will happen and all of the pieces are falling into place (the EU/UN, one world currency, decline in religious faith worldwide, sin running rampant). It’s OK to make changes to the real world in your story, but the more changes you make to the real world the harder it is to tell people that your story is a portrayal of something that is going to happen in the real world pretty soon.

  • Donna McCrimmon

    Bosnia?

  • Lunch Meat

    To believe in the Rapture is to believe that it could occur at any second — maybe this very day, maybe this very hour, maybe before you finish reading this post or even this sentence!

    Or, you know, in 100,000 years. That’s the thing about “no one knows the day or the hour.” (I’m not sure if the probability of the rapture occurring at any given time is even calculable, given the fact that the time in which it hypothetically could occur is infinite, but once it occurs it will be finite because time will end after that…Any math nerds want to try to figure it out?)

  • Lunch Meat

    Whoa! I just thought of something. If birth control is murder because it prevents potential people from existing, doesn’t that mean TurboJesus would be committing murder if he came back (and thus ended reproduction) before every possible combination of human DNA was conceived?

  • aunursa

    Birth control isn’t murder because it prevents potential people from existing. Birth control is murder because only God is allowed to commit murder.

    It can make your head spin if you try to think about it for too long.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote
  • Becca Stareyes

    I bet someone who knows Bayseian statistics better than I do could do it, since I recall seeing similar estimates. I recall the expected end time is usually on the order of the duration and highly uncertain because your prior is pretty much ‘well, it hasn’t happened yet’. (So tens of billion years using the time since Big Bang, 5-10 thousand years assuming the Rapture and Young Earth Creationism always occur together.)

  • Andrew G.

    Laplace, who basically reinvented Bayesian probability independently and did all the interesting foundational work on it, addressed exactly this question (though in his terms it was phrased as “what is the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow?”).

    His solution can be summarized thus: if you have a process with two outcomes (“success” and “fail”), and you know nothing about it except that either outcome is possible (no matter how improbable), then your estimate for the probability of success on the next trial should be (s+1)/(n+2) where n is the number of trials observed so far and s is the number of successes observed so far. So if I know nothing about what the sun is and why it rises, but have observed (directly or via records presumed to be reliable) that it has risen at least 730500 times without failure, I estimate the probability of the next sunrise succeeding as being at least 730501/730502 (= 0.999998631).

    Of course, if you do know something about the process, that alters your probability estimate.

  • arcseconds

    Thing is, from the perspective of the believer the ‘end times’ stuff, they take themselves to indeed know something about the process.

    Take the standard case to show the problem of induction: the bird being fattened for Christmas. (content note: butchery)

    Say it was born on Christmas day last year, and on the 23rd of December it considers its probability of living another day. It’s lived 353 days so far and is ignorant of the process, but for some reason is a rational Bayesian turkey, so calculates the probability of living through Christmas eve at 355 / 357 = 0.9944. Not as high a probability as you have, but still pretty good!

    Of course, it’s in for a rude shock.

    An end times believer of course takes themselves to know about Christmas and what’s on the menu, like we do in the turkey example.

  • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

    Here’s where L&J troll logic comes in. John opens the Revelation with the statements that his visions ‘must soon happen’ because ‘the time is near’. Obviously these don’t mean John expected his visions to soon happen in his near future… he meant they were supposed to soon happen in our near future. ‘Soon’ didn’t mean soon for John, it meant soon for L&J.

    I call this idiotic interpretation ‘perpetual imminence’, and it is mind-boggling how common it is among Christians. Something can’t be perpetually imminent, but for some reason very few who already hold to such a view stop to think about how self-contradictory it is.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Some end-times believers actually try to come up with logical reasons why the Revelation books mean now and not 2000 years ago.

    In one case, the assumption was that the 200 million man army in one of the Revelation books meant a literal human army of 200 million men. Now you can only get that kind of an army when the worldwide population is well over a billion.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Even now, it’d be a bit of a headache.

  • Alden Utter

    It’ll still be difficult. I’d say for an army of that size, we might need to go 40,000 years into a grim dark future!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Maybe TurboJesus isn’t a human deity at all, but in fact an incarnation of Gork (or Mork); leading the Greenskinned Chosen to the promised land – wif lots of lootin’ an fightin’ an rokkin’.

    In other words:

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

    Amen.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Well, it would fit in with Rapture fanboy bloodthirstiness. (Didn’t LaHaye say he “did the math” on how many dead it would take to fill the Valley of Jezreel with blood “up to the horses’ bridles”?)
    “WAAAAGH! DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!”

  • Lunch Meat

    Yeah, but symmetry (and here I’m showing how little I actually understand math terms) means that the people in the past had all the same information I had and expected it to happen and it didn’t, so I should not expect it to be more likely to happen for me, right? To assume that because it hasn’t happened yet, it’s more likely to happen now, is the gambler’s fallacy…I think. Or is it not if we assume that it will happen eventually?

    You know, I’m going to let the math nerds handle this one.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Basically there’s a difference between a dice roll where the dice remember the previous rolls and where the dice don’t.

    Roulette, for example, is a good example of a history-free gamble.

    Poker, on the other hand, has some elements of history-dependent gambling, because the cards you remove from the deck change the odds of subsequent cards you get. This is why card counting works the way it does and why poker places tend to get really annoyed about card counters.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Oh, but it is close!

    We know this because of time machines:

    http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/time-changer-part-iii/

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Heathen Critique’s getting a lot of mileage in this comment thread…

  • Lori

    There’s a difference between “could” and “will”. One of the major problems with L&J’s brand of Rapture huckster-ism is that, by necessity, it obscures that difference.

  • Daniel

    I feel this is possibly relevant, but at the moment my head feels like someone’s washing their clothes in it so I’m not thinking very clearly. Anyhow-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_hotel
    In this hotel there are many mansions.

  • The_L1985

    The way I used to think about it when I was still Christian was, “Prepare your soul in case Jesus comes in 10 seconds, but keep the earth nice in case he decides to wait 10 million years.”

  • Panda Rosa

    That’s still not such a bad idea.

  • Evan

    I’m still a Christian, and I thoroughly agree with that.

  • banancat

    I think I accidentally broke the rapture when I was a teenager. I heard this verse and predicted that the Rapture would happen the very second that literally no person living was expecting/predicting it to happen. I didn’t realize I had a created a logic paradox until much later, but apparently an omnipotent god is rendered unable to act based on an accidental paradox that a teenager came up with. I guess it could still happen after I die, so long as other people don’t come up with the same paradox.

  • Daniel

    It says a lot for the standard of someone’s theology if it follows the same rules as The Game.
    Incidentally, you’ve just lost.

  • P J Evans

    “No one knows the day or the hour of when the Rapture Big One will come. But it is undoubtedly imminent. No one knows the day or the hour, but it must always be possible that it is this day and this hour.”

    Living in California gives you perspective on the situation. You keep it in the back of your mind, because there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid it, and survival isn’t guaranteed.

  • Fusina

    One word. Yellowstone. You know, the big magma pool that usually erupts every 65 thousand years or so? And is overdue? I’m on the east coast. We might survive…

  • aunursa
  • Hawker40

    My father was a Ranger-Geologist at Yellowstone. The big magma pool was erupting for as far back as we can detect (about 70 million years, +/- 2 weeks) every 2-5 Million years. We aren’t due for a ‘big one’ for another 1.5 Million years, give or take a couple hours. Now, minor ones seem to happen more often, most recently 13 thousand years ago.

    Now, if we do get a ‘big one’, you’ll certainly survive on the east coast, but the crops of the midwest will be ruined and the following winter will be horrendous (Take that, global warming!). The problem is going to be less ‘instant death in a eruption’ and more ‘slow starvation in the cold’.

  • Fusina

    Well. That is good to hear. The last I’d heard was that it was overdue. And yeah, I figured we’d all freeze to death.

    I have an Uncle who does canoe and horseback tours through Yellowstone. Your Dad probably doesn’t know him, Yellowstone is a damn big park. On the other hand, his name is Terry. In case. And he and his sons made a 35 foot cedar canoe, which for some reason they portaged using a VW Beetle. Yeah, it was pretty funny looking.

  • Lori

    And he and his sons made a 35 foot cedar canoe, which for some reason they portaged using a VW Beetle.

    I love both that they made the canoe and that they transport it via Beetle.

  • Hawker40

    Dad (“Ranger Tom”) did 12 years (summers) at the ‘Old Faithful Geyser Basin’. He retired 3 years ago because his feet wouldn’t stop hurting, even after a full winter to recover. That, and he was beginning to hate tourists. (“No, if you swim in the hot spring you’ll die. No, don’t try to feed the bears. Bison way over two tons, what did you think would happen when your car hit him?”)

  • Mary

    Ah see we only need to seed the volcanos to stop global warming. Either that or have a nuclear war….

  • Hawker40

    A temporary fix, as the ash will settle out and there will be increased CO2 output as everyone tries to keep warm…

  • Mary

    Oh darn…I should have taken more science classes in school…

  • ohiolibrarian

    Well, we can always eat Twinkies! They’ll survive anything!

  • P J Evans

    You’d get a nice layer of ash. (We have Long Valley caldera. It’s blown up at least once. Most people know it for fishing and skiing.)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Mammoth Mountain is just a side cone of the Long Valley supervolcano, California’s answer to Yellowstone. The last time it blew big-time, pyroclastic flows went over the High Sierras and all the way to Fresno. The accompanying volcanic field stretches down the east slope of the Sierras from Long Valley through Owens Valley to the lava domes and cinder cones above Ridgecrest/China Lake.

  • aunursa

    I live within 50 feet of a major California fault line. My world could collapse at any moment of any day.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    My boyfriend and I often joke about the fact that Seattle was built in the shadow of a volcano. I’m still not sure what it says about humans that we can build a city, look around a few decades later and realize it’s on a fault line, or under a volcano, or about to fall into the ocean, shrug, and not only continue to live there, but keep building.

  • Jamoche

    I’ll take California with its possible earthquakes over Texas and its tornadoes any day.

  • reynard61

    Tornadoes?! Earthquakes?! The way things are going it’ll be the *politicians* who destroy both those states long before Mother Nature can do the job!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    IL has both beat on that count I think… the worst we get as far as natural disasters go tends to be flooding; and other states do that a lot worse than we do by and large. Likewise our earthquakes are minimal compared to most, and while tornadoes can be an issue in places, they aren’t really a statewide scourge (and my area in particular they miss – the worst we usually have to deal with is a downed tree or two.)

    Our politicians however are a whole ‘nother breed. Our last two governors have gone to jail; oh sure our politicians are saner than most – but that just makes it worse because even when they do the right thing you’re always wondering in the back of your head “What’s the catch?”

    I grant that’s always the case with politicians to some degree, of any stripe; but here it’s like freaking clockwork.

  • Lectorel

    Amen to that. Anyone who wants a quick primer on our political situation should read up on the Chicago Machine for a perfect encapsulation of our approach. Also:
    http://youtu.be/GvWVxHEaWDU
    “My dead grandma always votes for the wrong candidate.” Only in chicago.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Didn’t a certain Barack Obama come out of Illinois politics?
    Specifically, the Chicago Machine?

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Right – I shouldn’t be so general and vague, I’m doing a disservice to my state to be honest; It’s just very easy to be VERY cynical about the local pols here when your last two governors have been complete jackwagons, and the current governor keeps trying to grab your mom’s pension.

    I guess the old slacktivite saying “It’s more complicated than that” applies.

  • Randall

    http://youtu.be/L8-BI89mb9A

    The name of the song is “The Merry Minuet”.

  • Chris

    Just remember: Mount Rainier is overdue, and if the mudflow is anything like the last time, it’ll wipe out most of the Seattle metro area.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    So I have been told. For the moment, I’m trying not to think about it; I’m east of the Cascades, and I trust my boyfriend to get the hell out of here and come this way if something happens.

    In the meantime, I will just live on the something-like-pride of living under the shadow of a real and dangerous Mount Doom.

  • P J Evans

    I heard that Orting is more likely to get the mudflow. They have a siren. Whether they’ll get enough warning to make a difference is another question.

  • christopher_y

    I’m still not sure what it says about humans that we can build a city, look around a few decades later and realize it’s on a fault line, or under a volcano, or about to fall into the ocean, shrug, and not only continue to live there, but keep building.

    Ask anybody in Naples. Herculaneum today is a thriving modern suburb, only in the middle of it there are these ruins that have been dug out of the lava that the tourists come and look at. When you get off the local train that takes you there, you’re greeted by taxi drivers offering you a ride to the summit of Vesuvius.

    But it’s a thriving modern suburb, just the same.

  • NelC

    I saw a documentary a little while ago that pointed out that we tend to inhabit areas near fault lines and volcanoes, because that’s where the best soils are. These days, though, urban sprawl tends to cover the good soil up, so maybe we should think about moving our biggest cities away to less fertile (and safer) areas.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also, I’ve read that human beings feel optimal in cities of <100,000 people. That said the decentralization of human civilization is decades or centuries in the making.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Except decentralizing cities might well starve us all. I’ve also heard that the reason we now have cities of 30+ million is because people move there because they (correctly) believe it will better their lives. Even if they live in slums, this still improves their prospects.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That being said, the increasing technological improvements we have been making and the pervasiveness of computers and long-distance communications will ultimately make it unnecessary to densify like that.

    As I said it is not the work of a day, or a week, or even a year. But ultimately I think it would be wonderful if people could feel like they didn’t have to live in a city if they didn’t want to, and still enjoy the benefits that come with the kinds of jobs open to city-dwellers.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I thought so too, but perhaps the density of humanity is necessary for the benefits. See this To The Best of Our Knowledge episode on Cities.

  • The_L1985

    I saw a documentary about this. There are farms and vineyards on the slope of Vesuvius. Not just in the shadow of an active volcano, but on an active volcano.

    You have to hand it to the people of Naples, they have some serious cajones.

  • The_L1985

    One word: Vesuvius.

    There are farms and cities not just in the shadow of Vesuvius (Naples/Napoli, for instance), but on the slopes of the volcano itself. Turns out the soil made by that big Pompeii-destroying eruption is insanely fertile.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    There’s a difference between “inevitable” and “imminent” though. I’m going to die eventually, but I don’t pore through medical texts after every twinge in my shoulder or night spent awake with heartburn to show how it means I’m gonna go Real Soon Now.

  • Lori

    I’m not sure what it says about me that even though I lived in California for well over a decade when I read “the Big One” my mind immediately when here and not to earthquakes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stdi-1tIUhM

    Do you hear that Elizabeth? I’m comin’ to join you, honey.

  • Mary

    I live about 10 miles away from the San Andreas Fault in the high desert. and we are north of LA. We always joke that we will have “beach-front property” when the Big One hits.

  • reynard61

    Have any bald guys tried to buy your land lately?

    (No-prize if you can guess the reference.)

  • Hawker40

    “Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack!”

  • reynard61

    Where the hell is the “Like” button on this thing?!

  • Jamoche

    It’s the ^, unless Disqus is being wonky. And using the techniques listed upthread (downthread? some non-Euclidian direction-thread?), I’d put the chances at 99.99942%

  • reynard61

    Yeah, I know; but I tend to use it more as a “checkmark” (i.e. with certain exceptions, using it to designate posts that I’ve already read so that I can skip through them when the threads reach 100+ posts) than an actual “Like” button since it turns blue when activated.

  • Mary

    Ah, I didn’t get it. It has been eons since I saw that movie.

  • P J Evans

    The stairs down to the beach are going to be loooong.

  • Mary

    Yeah well you know how fit us Southern Californians are (NOT)

  • P J Evans

    Yeah: tell me about it. People think I’m nuts because I’ll be out walking in the middle of the day and it’s, oh, 90 or 95. (Over 100m, and it gets bad. at around 105 or so, it’s really too hot. Sweat gets in your eyes…)

  • Carstonio

    “Greater Israel” sounds like Ellanjay’s rationalization of European imperialism, like they believe that the UK and France should never have given Israel’s neighbors their independence.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    Gah! I actually forgot it was Friday! Ye gods.

    (Excuse me while I jaw-drop at the fact that Fred is literally twice my age. (Sorry. I know it’s terribly rude to acknowledge that time continues to pass for people in general, but damn, my mental age for you is pretty much perpetually early-thirties or so.) I’m finding it vaguely uncanny that you’re better at being this generation than some of the people I know OF this generation.)

    The writing in this series is so perpetually, almost predictably clunky that it stops being remarkable sometimes. And then it descends into territory like this – is this supposed to be dinner conversation? Or is this what was “pressing urgently on her mind” from the previous entry? Is Rayford still sneering with contempt at– oh wait, that one’s a given, isn’t it.

  • Lori

    If Fred is anything like my friends and I his mental age for himself is also perpetually early-thirties. On a certain level none of us can believe our ages begin with 4, let alone that most of us are now closer to 50 than to 40. It’s weird.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Tell me about it. Heh.

  • Lori

    The first of us turned 50 this year. I can’t express how wrong that seems. I was a late-in-life baby, but I remember very clearly when my parents were the age I am now. We are nothing like they were, therefore we can not be that age, you know?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Very much so. I don’t want to reveal my exact age but for all intents and purposes I’m circling middle age and it’s like WHAT I CANNOT BE THAT OLD.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    I was going to carp about how I can’t believe I’m nearly mid-twenties, but that suddenly looks a lot less impressive. :P

  • Lori

    It’s all downhill from here :)

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    I’ll take your word for it! *g* (I’ve been informed aging is the Worst Thing, but still beats the alternative.)

  • Lori

    Honestly, if you do some basic maintenance early on it’s not that bad. In many respects my life is enough of a disaster that I’ve taken to saying that, like Homer Simpson, I exist only to serve as a bad example, so I don’t indulge much in the game of giving advice to the young ‘uns. I will say two things–floss regularly and use sunscreen like it’s your religion.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    :P I’m not that young. (I learned about flossing regularly when I got my teeth broken in half, four years or so back – right before I started coming here, actually. The dentist put some kind of cap on them, took a closer look, and went “…you’re not flossing well enough, by the way.” And then the scare stories.)

    Also, if you’re a bad example of a person-growed-up, I’m the bloody queen of England. You’re one of the better people I know, and to hell with physicalities and affluence.

  • Lori

    Thank you. You’re very kind. Having spent a great deal of time this week on the phone with the student loan people explaining why I am not able to pay them their money, I am not feeling particularly positive about how I’ve managed my life.

    I stand by the sunscreen thing though, and be sure not to forget your hands. You’ll thank me for that one later. If you’ve gotten at all lucky in the genetic lotto and you’re diligent about the sunscreen (and don’t smoke or drink too awfully much) you can spend much of your 40s being mistaken for being in your 30s. Shallow, schmallow, that’s a nice thing.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    I’m not kind* at all, and certainly not the type to compliment people. Just statin’ facts. And I maintain that someday, civilizations – maybe even this one – will look back at our model for higher education and shake their heads in wonder at how archaic and barbaric it was that we demanded people put themselves in lifelong debt for an education. Perhaps even scoff at the very idea that one would need more than reasonable ambition to get through university or college!

    I don’t much mind the idea of looking old, to be honest. I’m pretty lucky with genetics – I keep getting mistaken for the middle school day-campers currently overrunning the campus, and my aunts were all getting carded well into their thirties. But I never much cared about which gender I look like, nor what class, nor… much else, really.

    *f’real! Careful about that, I’ve got a reputation to keep, dammit. Improbable insults and threats of bodily violence, that’s me.

  • Lori

    There comes a point where people start treating you differently because you’re “too old”. That happens well before you are actually “too old” by any even vaguely reasonable definition. (Assuming there’s even such a thing as too old, which I think there isn’t for most everything but reproduction). There are real, tangible benefits to postponing that as long as you reasonably can.

    I’m still generally more anti- than pro-plastic surgery and Botox gives me a wiggins, but I’m very much in favor of things like sunscreen, drinking lots of water and if at all possible finding some exercise that one is both able and willing to do. Take care of your gums, your skin and your bones when you’re young and, barring bad luck, they’ll repay you when you’re not so much.

    All of this assuming of course that Turbo Jesus doesn’t show up and render the whole aging thing moot.

  • http://vmthecoyote.tumblr.com/post/56439695124/names-on-the-internet VMtheCoyote

    …ye gods and little fishies. That sounds immensely frustrating. I shall bear it in mind.

    I’ve been doing the whole “taking better care of your body” thing recently, mainly because it turns out that not doing so + stress = average bipolar –> severe and awful bipolar. Whoops. But I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have extra motivation.

    And it sure as hell beats throwing physical, mental, and environmental well-being to the wind in the hopes that TurboJesus will show up and exempt me/us all from the consequences.

  • Jamoche

    When my then-70 year old grandmother had hip replacement surgery, I went to the hospital for hand-holding support. If you want a reminder of how important it is to take care of your bones, go to that section of the hospital – most of the patients were literally little old ladies because calcium loss had them hunched over and shrunken.

  • Amaryllis

    I have two responses to this thread– or rather, as so often, I shall borrow my responses from the poets.

    1: Dear young people, please be more careful about money than I was:

    Make the whole stock exchange your own!
    If need be occupy a throne,
    Where nobody can call you crone.

    No memory of having starred
    Atones for later disregard
    Or keeps the end from being hard.

    Better to go down dignified
    With boughten friendship at your side
    Than none at all. Provide, provide!
    – Robert Frost

    2: Money only goes so far:

    Already I am no longer looked at with lechery or love.
    My daughters and sons have put me away with marbles and dolls,
    Are gone from the house.
    My husband and lovers are pleasant or somewhat polite
    And night is night.

    It is a real chill out,
    The genuine thing.
    I am not deceived, I do not think it is still summer
    Because sun stays and birds continue to sing.
    It is summer-gone that I see, it is summer-gone.
    The sweet flowers indrying and dying down,
    The grasses forgetting their blaze and consenting to brown.

    Tin intimations of a quiet core to be my
    Desert and my dear relief
    Come: there shall be such islanding from grief,
    And small communion with the master shore.
    – Gwendolyn Brooks

  • Alden Utter

    Is your repeated sunscreen commentary supposed to be a reference to the old Baz Luhrmann spoken word piece, or is my brain going there for no reason?

  • The_L1985

    I love that song-ish-thing so very much. I was actually somewhat disappointed when I realized it wasn’t going to be on the radio anymore.

  • Lori

    Your brain is going there on its own. I just actually think people should wear sunscreen :)

  • chgo_liz

    Drink lots of water and be prudent about alcohol. Exercise, even if it’s “only” walking. And don’t take your friendships lightly: they’re the ones who will be there for you when the medical stuff starts happening in your 50’s.

  • The_L1985

    My mind occasionally runs up against the thought that I’m nearly the age my mother was when she had me, then goes NOPE and runs toward the fact that I still think of myself as being basically a more-independent teenager.

  • Mary

    Sometimes I think I am 50 going on 20, other times I feel like I am 50 going on 80 because of physical problems. But yeah mentally it is a little mind-boggling that I am now half a century old.

  • Hawker40

    Having recently celebrated the 11th anniversery of my 39th birthday myself…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Try being my age in Bronydom sometime. While most Bronies are the age where Hanging Out at the Mall is the main interest, I’m more the age where the main concerns are Retirement Planning and Prostate Cancer Screening. It’s amazing we can communicate as well as we can.

  • P J Evans

    I would just like to say
    ‘You kids get off my lawn!’
    except I don'[t have a lawn.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    I turn 30 next month – in some part of my brain I’m still 18 and that’s never going to change. I’m not saying that’s a good thing necessarily, but there’s a part of me that simply cannot accept being 30. How I’ll cope with 40 and beyond I have no idea.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    “none of us can believe our ages begin with 4” – Lori
    Just you wait. Heh.
    (Edited – it occurs to me this could be read as “Oh it’s going to be horrible” – what I meant was more “As far as I can tell, you’ll probably still feel as if you ought to be twenty when you hit ninety.”)

    Also, yes yes yes use plenty of sunscreen and drink plenty of water and exercise, any way that you enjoy. And don’t smoke, and do laugh a lot.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Yep, I see myself unexpectedly and I still expect to see a much younger person. And thinner.

    OTOH, I’m about to have a birthday and the people I work with guessed younger than I actually will be, so there’s that.

    BTW, I’m going to be 56. I’m kind of proud of getting older. Survived another year.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Yay you!

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” – Terry Pratchett.

  • Jamoche

    future events that will occur just as described

    Anyone else jump to Plan 9 from Outer Space? “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. “

  • Baby_Raptor

    The Norwegian’s house is lime green, clearly.

  • Hawker40

    No True Norwegian would have a lime green house. Obviously, her parents were Norwegian-Swedes.

  • Daniel

    Seriously, don’t open that can of worms. Lime green is a very politically charged colour in Norwegian-Swedish relations, obviously her parents were out to make a point.

  • Randall

    Well, my quick google search showed that most Norwegian houses are white. However, more important than that, if we are to believe John Lennon, it is on fire.

  • Daniel

    Panting their houses white- either to blend in with the snow to be environmentally sympathetic or in tribute to their favorite Beatles album. I suppose Norwegians Would.

  • Matri

    Nope. The correct answer to that question is “Tuesday”.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Since when is the answer not “42”?

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    Sorry. Trick question. The answer is “all of the above”.

  • http://www.natureofaservant.com/ Andee Z

    My husband and I always say we’ll be okay if we’re here after the rapture because we’ll have the same super-secret, satellite bypassing, anti-Christ fooling cell phones that Buck and Rayford had. AND, if we’re upset with each other, we shall refer to each other as “rascal” or “scalawag” because, apparently, we will use the language of my grandfather during the apocalypse.

  • Launcifer

    Due to a combination of Fred’s post and the sheer banality of the writing in these novels, I have decided that Nicolae pick-a-mountain is no longer the Most Potent of Potentates. Henceforth, my personal headcanon dictates that he will be known as the Grey Imminence…

  • Lunch Meat

    Grimminence?

  • Daniel

    Well, the Grey Imminence is Jesus… so Christian Grey Imminence?

  • Launcifer

    Now that sounds like the name of a crappy bronze-age comic book hero. You can almost guess his angst. Though it does make me wonder if his main foe is a failed string theorist known as The Procrastinator..

  • Daniel

    The Procrastinator would be the greatest super villain ever. He’d be like Moriarty in that no one would ever know he existed as he’d never get round to revealing himself. This comic must be written. It must be written now.

    I will not pretend I have any understanding of string theory at all, but I have just looked on Wikipedia and I’d suggest the Procrastinator was perturbed by bosonic strings whilst working in the lab late one night, and now he is taking his cruel revenge on the world. Will melancholic teen Christ Grimminence be able to stop him? Only once he gains the awesome power bestowed by taking a radioactive Eucharist, whereupon he turns into the mighty Grey Imminence, always there before you expect it.
    Which is a problem I’m sure we all had as teenagers.

  • Launcifer

    Does that mean this business with the end of the world is a crossover with Hellblazer?

  • Daniel

    It can only make both things more profitable. So yes, yes it is. Although I’d be reluctant to include a Scouser.

    *edit- just clarifying no racism intended there, more an attitude of local pride- I’m Manc and Constantine’s from Liverpool, so I can’t have him as a hero*

  • Samantha C.

    Except that totally sounds like the name of a spooky, Spectre-like vengeful Superhero

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I have had to seriously LOL at the way Jenkins tried slipping in “Euros” in the prequels when LB Book One clearly indicates “German marks” as one of the troika of world currencies.

    Bad retcon, L&J! BAD!

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I’m still trying to get over teenage retcon Ray having a cell phone which he didn’t have twenty-five years later in the first book.

    This is what happens when you don’t plan for a series. And no one bothers to edit for continuity. And you’re a hack.

  • Jamoche

    It’s really common, to the point of cliche, for young/inexperienced fanfic writers to do things like have cell phones in Harry Potter “Maurader’s era” fics – which would be the 70s.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    That’s impressively inept given that they don’t have cell phones in the “Modern Era” Potter.

    (Which is, technically, the 1990s. Though there’s at least one place, don’t offhand recall where exactly, that it’s clear Rowling forgot that time was passing for her faster than it was for the characters and referenced something that wouldn’t have happened yet)

    ETA: To clarify, it being the 90s is entirely irrelevant to there being no cell phones at Hogwarts. There would be no cell phones at Hogwarts even The Philosopher’s Stone were set in 2018.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Well, there were a few phones available in ’96/’97. She also had Dudley get a PlayStation once.

  • Czanne

    There were phones available in 1986. They weighed about three pounds, cost a couple bucks a minute to use, and were practically bullet-proof.

  • Daniel

    And you could buy lunch for a pound, and Wagon Wheels were bigger. You used to be able to use them as manhole covers. And, oh my children, there were proper Monster Munch, and indeed, even the inside of a Milky Way was different.

    I used to have a pencil case that was made to look like one of those big bastard mobile phones. I was about five and I used to pretend it was a real one.

    I had and have few friends.

  • Launcifer

    Weirdly, my mum had whatever the first line of Motorola car-phones was called. It had a battery the size of a flippin’ briefcase. And Wagon Wheels may have been bigger, but they still tasted like arse.

  • Daniel

    I agree about the wagon wheels thing. But I swear Opal Fruits tasted much, much better than Starburst.

  • Launcifer

    This is a truth we hold to be self-evident ;).

  • Daniel

    Which leads inexorably to the Marathon/Snickers issue…

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Not at Hogwarts there weren’t. Technology doesn’t work there, plus, your typical wizard is so completely out-of-touch with the muggle world, they’d probably have a gag based around wizards thinking they’re called “Foam-mobiles” or something.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Well yeah, I wasn’t talking about at Hogwarts. I was talking about Dudley having one (you coul get an Ericsson 388 back then) or Hermione possibly having one at home when not at school.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Someone might always think to enchant one up to work… though I suspect anyone who tried to get close enough to Hogwarts to set up a cell phone tower within range is liable to be fragged into nonsapience.

    And, of course ‘someone might enchant one to work’ would rely on wizards demonstrating an inkling of intelligence…

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but wizards are explicitly shown to not understand an old-fashioned land-line phone, which have existed for over a century. I highly doubt that anyone in the wizarding community would have a cellular phone.

  • Jamoche

    Oh, a cell phone they’d just consider to be magic. Clarke’s Law in reverse.

  • Jamoche

    Which, by the best guess at her chronology, was also an anachronism. But it’s well known that arithmetic is not one of her strengths.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    More like what happens when your series goes on too long and your fixed future history drifts farther and farther from an ever-changing present. I wouldn’t rag on them for that; happens with most attempts at near-future SF. (There’s a reason why “all records of that time were destroyed in a Nuclear War” is a popular backstory for far-future SF.) But I WILL rag on them for being hacks.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 174 pages. (We are officially Halfway There!)

  • aunursa

    Turns out there is an actual Christian book called Sensible Shoes

    Meg Crane has never had a longing for adventure. She’s never even traveled more than two hundred miles from home. But when she receives an invitation from the New Hope Retreat Center to travel deeper into the heart of God, Meg finds herself saying yes.

    Against her better judgment.

    What will she discover if she begins to walk the winding path through the broken pieces of her past?

  • Lori

    W.T.H?

  • Jamoche
  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Sounds like the blurb for a bodice-ripper. Similar style and phrasing.

  • Ryan Hite

    All the Christians have the entire idea of the rapture wrong…

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    Yeah. This is it.. Rapture

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    Au contraire, this is Rapture.

  • Daniel

    Thanks.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    Nah, that one is “The Rapture”, Blondie did just “Rapture.”

  • Daniel

    Seriously, I can’t stop listening to this. Thanks for telling me it exists.

  • christopher_y

    Gilbert and Sullivan get it exactly right.

  • The_L1985

    “Heaven, I’m in Heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…”

  • Donalbain
  • Daniel

    Anyone quoting Look Around You is automatically in the right. Thanks Donalbain. Thonalbain.

  • Daniel

    Rayford Steele sat in silence staring at the woman who he knew wanted him to touch her. She couldn’t know he never would. He had a Wife now and A Daughter to think of. They were waiting for dessert, for Hattie. Rayford was a man, and did not enjoy sweet things.

    Rayford was proud of his mind, although he knew pride was a sin he also knew that there was an exception if it was about a gift from God. Rayford had a gift, and it would be wrong not to celebrate it, wrong not to be proud of it. God had not given him his storehouse of knowledge, that had come from the highways and byways of life- literally, he had no time for metaphor- but God had given him his ability to know, and his ability to use that ability to ensure others knew he knew the things he knew, and, more importantly, to impress upon them that they did not know those things that Rayford knew, that they could never hope to know those things, because they had not been given his gift. Pride was wrong, and for others to assume they were Rayford’s equal would have been pride of the worst kind. One of the things Rayford knew, for example, was that Hattie was trying to talk herself into believing a lie. He felt sorry for her.

    She had stopped bleating on about banalities- Nicolae’s plans for a radical change to wheat and barley pricing, the grant he’d given to Welsh geneticists to investigate the possibility of locusts serving as hosts for transplantable human faces- and had started, finally, to talk about something that mattered.

    “Rayford”

    he bristled. Since she’d been intimate with the Antichrist he recoiled whenever she used his first name. It made him feel sullied, violated that something so central to his personality as his rugged name should be treated so casually. His name had been chiselled from rock, it should be spoken like a hammer blow. To hear it from those voluptuous soft lips, pouring like honey and sounding like music from that pink and perfect mouth… It sickened him. There was no way this pretty, airheaded twenty nine year old woman could understand how important this was. It was a question of respect, he thought, noticing again how well the new outfit suited her, and how beautiful she was, and wondering what she’d have accomplished had she not been so vapid. All she was now was the unwed consort of the most powerful man in the world. She was not A Wife, she was not a Proper Mother, she was, Rayford mused, nothing.

    “Rayford” she said again, and he felt himself stiffen. Respect. Just a small word, but it meant so much, and here was this twittering consort of evil treating him as her equal. The Lord taught us to be humble, he dimly remembered, but there were limits. The waiters would have fallen over themselves to bring Rayford dessert. Though he was in civvies the bearing and demeanour of the pilot of Global Community One is impossible to disguise. The same waiting staff were dragging their heels with Hattie’s order though. They’d told her the dessert would be here soon, but that had been minutes ago. Rayford smiled- he had thought of Buck. There’s no way Buck’s razor wit would have missed a chance to make a pun about the setting of the restaurant and the sweet course- desert dessert. It was just too perfect, just too witty, just so… Buck.

    Hattie began again, launching into a prepared speech about how she’d never really wanted anything from Rayford, but she’d been in a very vulnerable place… Rayford’s anger at the obvious lie was tempered by pity. It was sad that she should humiliate herself in this way, unable to admit that he had been beyond her grasp, and that no matter how hard she’d tried he would never have cheated on his Wife with a twenty-something blonde air stewardess. He had been kind, he knew, he had always let her think she’d had a chance, and maybe he’d been too kind. He’d encouraged her pride, and that was nearly a sin itself. Nearly, but not quite. He teetered on the brink and watched sadly as others fell, but he knew he’d done nothing to help them on their way.

    He drifted off as she was talking, looking at his watch every now and again, wondering about how he’d get to the New Babylon Airport to fly the Antichrist to one of the several other ancient cities he’s been rebuilding of late. This investment in eccentric public infrastructure- the OWG had paid all the labourers and architects and town planners etc to construct New Memphis and New Carthage, to name two- demonstrated again the pure evil of Nicolae, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of people who weren’t even aware that the world was ending. This was pride on the scale of Babel.

    Rayford knew that the 4.30 express leaving from New Babylon would take forty minutes to get to the airport, travelling at a constant speed of 50 miles an hour. However, the local train would take sixty minutes, assuming it didn’t stop at the Ziggurat Parkway where it usually waited to change ticket inspectors. It left at 4.20, meaning Rayford would have to rush a little to get to the station in time. The local train’s average speed was 45 mph, and it stopped on average for one minute at each of the three stops on its route. Given that Ziggurat Parkway was only a stop for three of the seven journeys the local train made in a day, Rayford thought, what was the probability of his arriving at the airport in time to stop at duty free?

    Rayford cursed himself for forgetting his New Babylon Local card, which would have given him a 20% discount on train travel within the region, as well as at a fine selection of restaurants and shops. Everyone in New Babylon had one, and the plan was to roll something similar out world wide quite soon. It would ensure the OWG controlled all purchases, but it was worth it for 20% off at TSI Friday’s.

    He nearly lost himself and asked for a pen, before realising that Hattie wouldn’t have one. She didn’t respect him enough to call him by his title, how could she respect him enough to bring him a pen? And what would she need a pen for anyway? They were still waiting for Hattie’s dessert as Rayford remembered his car was outside.

    “Think about it, Rayford…” She said, ignoring his obvious discomfort “As far as you were aware 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. But not because that’s the job I wanted, but because I wanted to get out. The world then wasn’t as kind to women as to men.” Rayford shook his head. She had swallowed all that Nicolae had given her- now she was a feminist too. There was
    truly no hope. She mistook his despair for sympathy- was there no end to her
    pride? “I know, Rayford. Chloe is so lucky, she’s so clever. She’s what I wanted to be, you know.”
    Rayford puzzled for a moment over who Hattie was talking about. Then he remembered. His Daughter. HIS Daughter.
    “Yes, she’s made Buck an excellent Wife.”
    “I know, but I mean- she went to University, she’s bright, she’s self reliant, she’s brave, and- well I’m not as clever as she is. But I made the best of the opportunities I had, and here I am. I just wanted you to know, what happened- or nearly happened- it wasn’t your fault. I was frail, and I was grateful for the attention, I guess.”

    Rayford went quiet. He’d never imagined it was his fault. How the power of the Antichrist had corrupted her frail mind.

    “I wonder where your dessert is?” he said, trying to change the subject and save Hattie’s face.
    “I’m sure it’ll be here soon. To be honest, I like the anticipation more than the actual pudding- it’ll make it all the better when it does finally arrive!” she said, happily.

    Rayford had no idea what she meant.

  • Lunch Meat

    “Pride was wrong, and for others to assume they were Rayford’s equal would have been pride of the worst kind.”

    Genius.

  • chgo_liz

    Thanks for reminding me that the only way to get through the series without going stark raving mad is to let others do the reading and check in here for the weekly commentary instead.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    Rayford is an evil, evil man.

  • Daniel

    I think Rayford is a ridiculous man. The pompous, self important arse with nothing to support their self image but that is still somehow sympathetic is a central character of so many British sitcoms (Captain Mainwaring, Tony Hancock, David Brent, Alan Partridge etc etc). If those characters were real and they were to write a novel, Rayford would be the character they’d come up with. He has no awareness of others, and no awareness of himself, he sees everything as a contest, and regardless of the actual outcome turns himself into the victor. That’s why I have a problem believing he and Buck would be friends- they are both so wrapped up in the idea of “winning” even when there’s nothing to be won. It’s why they love the secrecy of being tribbles, it’s why they sneer at and deride all their superiors, it’s why neither of them respect women. Each of them is, to quote Seymour Skinner “a small, petty man”. But I couldn’t call them evil. Just negligent, boorish, boring, misogynist, arrogant, self important, superficial, lazy, self involved and willfully ignorant. But not evil.

  • themunck

    I am afraid I need to ask where you draw the distinction between that and evil, though.

  • Daniel

    Without wanting to get into it in too much depth, I don’t believe there is such a thing as “evil”.

  • themunck

    Fair enough, although if you wish to avoid in-depth discussions about off-topic subjects, I’m sorry to inform you this may be the wrong forum for you XD

  • Daniel

    I’m recovering from my previous hair splitting discussion from a couple of weeks ago about Hegelian dialectics. I only don’t want to get into a discussion of evil and its non-existence because right now it’s twenty five to one, I’m listening to Bauhaus and there’s every chance I won’t know when to stop dissecting perfectly ordinary English phrases like the excessive pedant I am. Bauhaus+evil=awesome, though.

  • Daniel

    (recovering in the sense of “from an addiction”- once I get started I won’t stop and I’ve got work in 42 hours…)

  • Frazer (thinking of a pseud)

    Excuse you. Captain Mainwaring is adorable, brave as a lion, hardworking, and deeply patriotic. It’s estimated that the most the Home Guards could do in the event of invasion would be to delay the Wehrmacht for a few hours, and *that’s* what Mainwaring signed up to do.

    The point of such stories can be that the pompous, petty, self-important, silly man has unexpected humanity and grandeur…that Rayford or Buck or any other LaHaye and Jenkins character never could express. Where Mainwaring would be out there giving his pitiful best to defend what he cares about, Rayford would be bunkered down in a safehouse droning about his own superiority. Captain Mainwaring once had a blow to his ego when he was demoted to private, but he chose to continue to participate in the Home Guard as a private because he thought that his ideals were more important than his ego. Rayford would never even be given such a blow to his pride, and if he were he would sulk in his tent until his authors returned his prestige to him and had all the other characters grovelling.

  • Daniel

    I apologise- I meant no disrespect to Mainwaring. As I mentioned, these characters are still likeable and sympathetic, lovably pompous rather than obnoxiously so. But I was just citing Mainwaring as a stock reference- you’re right that he is brave and dedicated, and as the film shows he did give as much as he could when the Germans actually landed.
    Rayford sulking in his tent- I wouldn’t put the allusion past him but I think Rayford sees himself less as Achilles than Buck does. Rayford would be more like Ajax, whining incessantly about how great he was while someone else worked out how to actually win.

  • Frazer (thinking of pseud)

    Mainwaring is a great character to bring up as a compare-and-contrast to Rayford. I applaud your first post and this one. :)

    Rayford = Ajax; Buck = Achilles; Hattie = Helen? Desired by men, unfairly blamed for matters beyond her control, and in the hands of more sympathetic writers given more humanity back to her?

  • Daniel

    Irene= Iphigenia. She had to die so Rayford could undertake his great adventure.

    I think Hattie/Helen is about right, and that makes Nicolae Paris- succumbing to temptation and thus bringing about the destruction of the world. Bruce Barnes is actually the Delphic Oracle because he says stuff that’s so ambiguous he always has an excuse when it doesn’t happen, though he imagined he was Laocoon. He can’t be Cassandra because he never bothered to tell enough people.

  • Daniel

    And the characters’ self perceptions are something different again- Rayford imagines himself as Agamemnon, complete with the sacrifice of a child for his own benefit, Buck imagines himself to be a weird hybrid of Achilles and Odysseus, and Chloe has gone kick-ass self reliant Amazon to Penelope…just waiting. And waiting. Until eventually Margaret Atwood writes about her.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “A ridiculous man” is the big risk with an Author Self-Insert Hero. And becomes a certainty with bad hack fanfic.

  • flat

    well written article Fred, I couldn’t react earlier because I just moved to a new house and I don’t have internet.
    But still a very good post.

  • Jamoche

    So I took the idea of Buck projecting a Reality Distortion Field in Night Vale and ran with it: http://archiveofourown.org/works/901518

  • Ouri Maler

    If, for some reason, I ever was to write a Rapture-centric story à la Left Behind…I’d set it about a century or so from now.

    That approach would offer several opportunities. You could have a sci-fi explanation for all the weird going-ons, to the point where the reader was never sure if any of the events were actually supernatural. In addition, it would mess up the expectations of readers who were in the “the Rapture means we won’t need to ever die!” mindset.

  • Kagi Soracia

    But you are also thinking like a writer. That isn’t the point of these books at all. These books were intended to reassure people who already believe this that these things are going to happen and they are going to be so obviously supernatural that nobody CAN come up with a decent scifi explanation – they’ll try, as a few minor characters in LB do, but they’ll be so lame as to be laughable, because that is the point. Messing up the expectations of the readers is the very last thing these books want; they were designed to cater to those very expectations.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    This is called “Fanservice”.
    Or “Masturbating your Target Audience.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Try the Christ Clone.

  • rizzo

    None of the cheerleading squad at Main East High School wanted to marry a nice rich man? I find THAT hard to believe.

  • Maria

    I wouldn’t be too sure about the peace in the Middle East. History has surprised us before.


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