Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thoughts on Religion and Cherry-Picking

One of the odd side-effects of my religious beliefs is that I've been accused of cherry-picking by both atheists and fundamentalist Christians.

The atheists seem to feel that my keeping only a subset of Christian beliefs is intellectually dishonest, and that Christianity is a monolithic, indivisible unit which can only be accepted or rejected as a whole. In dissecting it and choosing which parts I like I am not a "real Christian."

Interestingly, conservative Christians make the same sort of accusation. If I don't believe and profess every aspect (of their particular version) of Christianity, I am the worst sort of blasphemer.

Both of these extremes see religion as all-or-nothing, and those who decide for themselves exactly what they believe are breaking the rules. You can't just make up your own faith! It's not like some kind of metaphysical cafeteria where you can choose an omniscient god with a side of benevolence, you have to take the prix fixe meal.

What both of these sides don't realize is that everyone chooses what they believe.

Sure, they might have been born into a family that practices a particular faith. As a child they may have been flooded with a particular viewpoint, and even threatened if they say or do anything that contradicts it. Still, at some point they have to decide.

It could be caused by doubt, and they start to question the beliefs they've been taught. It also could be caused by something completely secular, like moving and needing to adjust to a new environment. There are thousands of possible decision points - marriage, graduation, personal tragedy, arguments, experiences - and all humans encounter many of them throughout their adult lives.

That's when, on some level, they evaluate what they see and think ... and make a choice.

If they're the introspective sort they might examine every little aspect of their belief system. They might discard some parts and keep others. If they're not so inclined to minutiae they might throw out the entire system in favor of a different one that better meets their needs. Both of these are perfectly reasonable behaviors. Some people are loners and others need a degree of external validation. There are also some who really don't care and want to focus on whatever is in front of them, and philosophically speaking that's ok too.

The thing is that none of those options - or the beliefs they lead to - excuse behavior that is harmful to others.

An individual who cherry-picks from one or more religions has no one to deflect blame onto. If they say, "This seems mean, but my belief says that it must be so," they know full well that they chose that belief. They're also likely to go on and question that aspect of their belief system.

However when someone adheres to a belief system "whole cloth", this situation does not change. They can say, "This seems mean, but this doctrine or that person says this must be so," but at some point they still chose the beliefs, the doctrine, the person. Therefore they must find it to be morally acceptable.

"This seems mean, but this doctrine or that person says this must be so, and I agree."

If they didn't agree then they'd choose a new belief system ... or cherry-pick the parts of their current system that they can accept.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Gen Con 2017 Schedule


Gen Con Indy 2017,  August 17 - 20

It's just a few weeks until Gen Con and I realized I hadn't posted about it yet. My two regular seminars are part of the Writer’s Symposium this year, which means they'll be in bigger rooms and close to the convention center. It looks like the tickets for them (both free!) are going fast

SEM17121102 – Author Education: Medieval Cooking and Fantasy Foods
Have you designed a richly detailed fantasy setting for your game or story, only to have a gaping hole show up the first time a character needs to eat? What do you serve at a hero's feast? What does it take to cook that? Medieval food historian Daniel Myers compares the reality of cooking in medieval Europe to what is typically presented in fantasy books, movies, and games. Topics include common myths, medieval kitchen technology, realistic feasts, and rampant fruititarianism. 08/17/2017 (Thursday), 8:00 PM, Westin : Capitol I   (94 tickets sold so far) 
SEM17121113 – Author Education: Believable Fictional Languages
Fictional worlds often include their own languages, but creating an entire language can be a daunting task. Learn tips for word generation, common pitfalls, and how to steal from the real world.  08/18/2017 (Friday), 8:00 PM, Westin : Capitol I  (62 tickets sold so far)

I'm also on one of the Symposium panels. I love doing these - the exchange of ideas and viewpoints always charges up my creativity.

SEM17121187 – Worldbuilding: The Impact of Cataclysms, Disasters, and the Apocalypse What happens to a world and its people when cataclysm strikes? Learn how to use disasters to make a more interesting new world. Featuring Lucy A. Snyder, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Daniel "Doc" Myers.  08/17/2017 (Thursday), 5:00 PM, Westin : Caucus   (sold out) 

This year's convention looks like it's going to be really, really big.  I expect it to be really fun as well!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Origins 2017

Origins Game Fair is just over a week away and (as always) I'm really psyched about being part of the writer's track there - The Library . Partly because I just got the cover for this year's anthology ...



Isn't it pretty?

... and it looks fantastic.  Jean Rabe did an awesome job of putting this book together.

Another reason I'm looking forward to the con is the list of panels I'm on this year. It's an interesting assortment of subjects and I'm always up to a good mind-stretching.


Thursday, June 15

Realistic, But Better - 11:00 a.m.
Dialog is a great way to increase pace, divulge information, and provide key insights into character motivations. But when you’re pounding away on arguments, discussions, and sweet nothings muttered between characters, it needs to feel realistic, even when it edits out all of the pauses, false starts, and repetition of actual conversation. Effective and sparkling dialog can make the readers turn pages and reach for your next novel. But while your characters may be smarter, taller, faster, stronger, braver, and more skilled than you, the only way they can be better conversationalists is with a lot of work. How do you achieve it? Our pros talk about dialog techniques, attribution tags, what they do to keep the conversation real, and tips and resources that will help in your stories. Thomas Gondolfi, Daniel Myers, Sheryl Nantus, R.L. King
Setting as Character - 3:00 p.m.
Where and when you place a story might be as important as the characters who populate your pages. Whether a massive city, an overgrown jungle, an altered timeline, or a desolate base on the moon, the setting can be a living thing with its own peculiarities and agenda. Whether the setting merely provides context and obstacles, or acts as a hero, villain, or crucial sidekick, it deserves care and crafting. Donald J. Bingle, Tracy Chowdhury, Daniel Myers, Jaym Gates

Friday, June 16

The Basics of Worldbuilding - 11:00 a.m.
Craft a rich and believable backdrop for your fiction. Discover the necessary, basic ingredients for constructing your fantasy, science-fiction, or horror setting, and how to make that world an integral part of your story or adventure. Sprinkling fantastical elements across your continents is fun. But how do you do it without making your world look like a mirror-image of what’s already in print? Our panelists show you how to apply your own magical signature. Gregory Wilson, Tracy Chowdhury, Dylan Birtolo, Daniel Myers
A Dime a Dozen - 4:00 p.m.
There is an old saying that ideas are a dime a dozen. But sometimes you don’t have the 10-cents you need to get a plot. Learn how to brainstorm ideas for fiction writing and how to craft those ideas into exciting storylines.Tracy Chowdhury, Daniel Myers, Thomas Gondolfi

Saturday, June 17

It’s In the Details - 11:00 a.m.
Sprinkling details in fiction—the style of clothes, the vintage of wine, the feel of a red dwarf sun on your villain’s skin, the taste and texture of the casserole your heroes are eating—breathes life into a tale. Our veteran novelists discuss when to add the sprinkles, how much, and how to tell if you’ve gone too far. In addition, they’ll cover helpful resources for getting the details right. Daniel Myers, Addie King, Sheryl Nantus, Gregory Wilson
The Author’s Website - 12 noon
If you write books and games, you need a website. That’s a given. We’ll cover the elements you need to include in that website, software, hosting, and how to make it stand out.Daniel Myers, Aaron Rosenberg, Jaym Gates
Getting All Romantic - 5:00 p.m.
It doesn’t have to be a romance novel to have romance in it. A romance can tug readers through your science fiction or fantasy epic. Whether it’s a mere hint of love or a detailed description of what goes on between the sheets, you need to write in convincingly and know when and how much smooch to put in your prose. Origins’ Sheryl Nantus is a veteran romance writer. She’ll lead a lively discussion of passion in writing with Addie J. King, Daniel Myers, James Daniel Ross

Sunday, June 18

The Pros and Cons of Cons - 12 noon
Origins’ librarians have attended plenty of science fiction, fantasy, horror, writing, and gaming conventions. Well chosen, conventions can be an author’s great friend. Our panelist lead a discussion of how to use conventions to promote your writing, find work, and gain contacts. They’ll cover what cons to attend, how to use them to better your writing career, and how not to go overboard with expenses. Donald J. Bingle, Addie J. King, Daniel Myers, Aaron Rosenberg, Gregory Wilson


All that being said, the biggest reason I'm looking forward to Origins is that it's my favorite convention - all the best games, people, and stuff in one place. Hope to see you there!


June 14-18, 2017
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, Ohio, 43215, USA