July 24, 2008

Angel Falling Softly "uproar"

My novel, Angel Falling Softly, has purportedly caused an "uproar." (Start here and work backwards.) Well, to be proportionally accurate, a tiny tempest in the teapot of Mormon letters. Get out your microscopes. A Chad Hardy scale of controversy would be more useful in terms of publicity.

I wasn't even aware until I caught a mention on another blog. I mean, about five people outside my immediate family read the paperback version of The Path of Dreams (more have downloaded the free ebook, but aside from a few bloggers, I can't say how many have actually read it).

And it's not like Parables and Zarahemla are straddling the LDS literary world like modern colossi. I wish it were so. Which is why I harbor the sneaking suspicion that my supposedly offensive book has escaped a truly close reading by those offended (if it's been read at all).

Though while composing this response, another element of orthodox "Mormon fiction" occurred to me: that the narrator must always be an objectively reliable source of the "truth." My narrators are always reliable about what they believe to be the truth. I see where this could prove problematic for some.

In that light, I would like to point out a few of the "orthodox" narrative elements that I do not consider "subtle," but seemed to have escaped the attention of some. Perhaps I should have underlined them.

1) There are two explicit references to Saul and the Witch of Endor. Rachel makes one herself, so she is aware of the thin ice she is treading on. Like Saul, Rachel is one big rationalizing machine. So is Milada.

2) Milada believes herself damned because she committed horrific crimes in her past, not because she is a vampire (her guilt argues for the existence of her soul). I use vampirism to illustrate the problem of a sinner "tak[ing] also of the tree of life, and eat[ing] and liv[ing] forever."

Note the references to "good vampires" in The Silver Kiss and Angel.

3) I didn't want to Milada to degrade into what Erica Friedman calls the "Evil Psycho Lesbian" character, but this is a facet of her personality she wars with (hence her conflicted reaction to Laura). She manages it by drawing lines for herself that she will not cross.

Frankly, she's come a long way in four centuries. And along the way, she has made some terrible yet noble sacrifices on behalf of her sisters. She is not unworthy of grace.

4) Kamilla stands as a stark contrast to her sister. Kamilla lives by a firm moral code. She is a genuinely good person. She despairs at Milada's obsession with their sire. In this case, a vampire's soul is the product of nurture (and personal discipline), not nature.

5) Jennifer's condition in the end is no less manageable than, say, type I diabetes. Her soul is not in jeopardy. Again, see Kamilla's example. Note who ends up as her guardian. (Hint: not the two people who rejected the possibilities of God's grace.)

6) My mom liked it.

Now, to be sure, King Lear shouldn't have been such a chump. It'd be nice if he could have patched things up with his daughters. And nice if Hamlet could have gotten some counseling to get over his "issues" and married Ophelia. But me thinks the plays wouldn't have turned out the same.

UPDATE: The controversy continues here.

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# posted by Anonymous MoJo
A Chad Hardy scale of controversy would be more useful in terms of publicity.


Caught a little of the microburst over at my blog, but thought it was a one-off.
7/24/2008 3:51 PM

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
I think the demarcation between "clean" fiction and "unclean" fiction amongst LDS readers (and possibly other religious readers) often ends up as a literal principle--a book is clean because it is technically clean, not because it is really clean or, to get more precise, moral. After all, if you want a book about nothing BUT sex, check out Twilight. Which we read in our church bookclub in all its technical cleanness.

However, we don't read Harlequin romances in the club: Harlequin romances are obviously unclean. But we have read books in which there is just as much explicitness as in a Harlequin, only the explicitness is wound into the plot; it isn't marked in highlighter.

I actually think our book choices come down to taste, rather than cleanliness. That is, our bookclub leader draws the line at plotless sex and paperdoll characters (not counting Twilight). However, her reasons have always been the uncleanness, not the bad writing. I suppose we live in a world where it is difficult to declare morality based on taste (that way lies elitism). Unfortunately, the accusation of technical uncleanness doesn't really help since in narrowing the issue to such a tiny, literal field, it kind of misses the point. Besides, demanding that people react using taste rather than "uncleanness" as a criteria would force people to READ the stuff they protest.

So, in a just world, Eugene, sales of Angel should go up!
7/24/2008 4:31 PM

# posted by Blogger Joe
Kate's comments remind me once again of my brief foray into software which edited DVDs. It still cracks me up to think about people editing the very brief nudity and vulgarity out of Brosnan's version of The Thomas Crowne Affair while ignoring the fact that it's still a [fantastic] movie about a guy who gets away with a crime! (Two, in fact.)
7/24/2008 5:12 PM

# posted by Anonymous MoJo
I cackle madly when I hear the phrase, "Twilight has no sex." I say we make a full-caffeinated drinking game out of it.

Perhaps Barq's.
7/24/2008 8:12 PM

# posted by Blogger C. L. Hanson
This is a bit of a tangent, but I know of at least one other person who has read Path of Dreams through the free e-book download. I just know this because she read Exmormon, and when she emailed me about it, she mentioned she'd also read Path of Dreams.
7/26/2008 4:57 PM

# posted by Blogger Eugene
Thanks! Good to know! I read somewhere that politicians count every letter or phone call they get on an issue as representative of the views of X thousand of their constituents. I wonder if somebody's calculated the ratio of (free) music downloads to music actually listened to, or (free) ebook downloads to ebooks actually read.
7/27/2008 8:04 AM