Lots of new short stories, lots of plays at fringe festivals, several straight-to-DVD films released, and more Ender’s Game at #1 on the paperback list.
News and blog posts
Rachel Ann Nunes reports, “Beloved author Anita Stansfield has Celiac Disease, which went undiagnosed for nearly nine years and caused a great deal of damage in several of her body systems. Through the years of treating it, she also had breast cancer and multiple surgeries for that and other reasons. During all this illness she put out 58 books in 19 years! But because she has a tendency to migraines, that’s how her body responds when it’s not healthy, and now she spends most of her days on bed rest and is unable to write. Her body and her creative brain have just given out. Her publisher did recently release a book, but the advance is already gone and it has been 15 months since the last one, and you can imagine what that has done to family finances and her ability to support her family (the local publishing market does NOT support large volume sales or keep a large backlist available so royalties are really not cutting it). Anita has a great doctor who is helping her become healthier, but it will take a lot of time, and she really will not be able to put out a lot of books. In an effort to help her get through this rough patch, her friends have put up some of her previously unpublished books on the Kindle and now they have drastically dropped the prices to increase sales. All proceeds go directly to the family. There is no publisher involved.”
SLC ComicCon will be held Sept. 5-7, 2013 at the South Towne Expo Center. Among the featured guests are fiction authors Larry Correia, David Wolverton/Farland, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Tracy Hickman, David Farland, Jenni James, Mette Ivie Harrison, Brandon Mull, and Robison Wells, and comic book writers/illustrators Jake Black, Bill Galvan, Chad Hardin, Tyler Kirkham, Ryan Ottley, Howard Taylor, and Sal Velluto.
Segullah announces the A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Shelah: “Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity lying in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries. The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and all forms of poetry for the poetry awards. The contest will accept submissions until March 4, 2014, after which award-winning entries will be chosen by judges Susan Elizabeth Howe (esteemed poet, playwright, and professor) and Herman Du Toit (former head of the Durban Art School and former head of museum research at BYU’s Museum of Art). Winning entries will be announced on May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day) and they, with other merit-worthy entries, will be collected in an online gallery and a printed booklet for all to enjoy. With the kick off of the contest’s website, amotherhere.com, an impressive collection of historical Mormon literature and music addressing Heavenly Mother has been hosted online. It contains works from early Mormon history, beginning with the work of William W. Phelps, up until the present. In addition, the site provides some historical analysis of the portrayals of Heavenly Mother in these and other artworks.”
Ryan McIlvain. “Against Explanation, or How to Write Fiction About Mormons (Or Anybody).” “The kind of knowledge that good fiction can impart is incomplete knowledge, knowledge that admits its gaps and urges a certain caution because of them, a compassion, a suspension of final judgment. The Mormons may be right, the Christians in general, the believers in general. Maybe the veils will fall from our eyes someday, and we will know even as also we are known. But in the meantime, and in the absence of that certainty, I want to content myself with earthly knowledge. Good fiction embraces this limited omniscience; it embraces what Keats called “negative capability.” It lets us enter another’s head, another’s world, more authentically than in any other medium. It lets us overhear the mind in its silent, elliptical honesty, and lets us glean along the way certain glimpses of understanding, empathy, connection. These glimpses are more frequent in some books and less frequent in others, and that’s okay, too. Whenever the vistas do open up, they are startling and beautiful, and they jolt us awake.”
To see or not to see Ender’s Game because of Orson Scott Card, that is the question. Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News. Includes a Mahonri comment in the comment section.
A call for chapters for a scholarly book: Depicting A Mormon Moment: Mormon Characters and Mormon Authors in American Popular Culture. Edited by Mark Decker and Michael Austin.
Prospectus: “Between Romney’s entrance into the 2008 presidential campaign and the present, The Book of Mormon became a Broadway hit, Big Love concluded its run, Cody Brown moved his complicated family to Las Vegas, and Brady Udall wrote another well-received novel about Mormon oddballs. And Mormon writers treating a variety of subjects—most of them not explicitly Mormon—have become more popular than they have ever been. Stephenie Meyer’s vampire novels and their film adaptations became phenomenally popular while causing many to wonder if Bella and Edward’s romance has Mormon inflections. Shortly, the release of the big-budget movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel Ender’s Game will bring increased scrutiny to Card’s politics and religious commitments. While pundits and political scientists can – and should – opine about the political implications of Romney’s Mormon Moment, the cultural Mormon Moment deserves its own investigation. Consequently, this volume will explore what this fascination with Mormon characters and Mormon authors says about American culture. Specific questions might include:
• Does critical preoccupation with an author’s Mormonism create the perception of a Mormon text, or are Mormon authors employing Mormon themes to reach an unsuspecting mass audience?
• What do “reality” programs about polygamist families say about contemporary gender relations? About the concept of family in a postmodern society?
• How do portrayals of Mormons compare to portrayals of other religious groups? Are audiences genuinely interested in understanding Mormon culture, or are Mormon characters best understood in symbolic terms that are largely disconnected from the lived Mormon experience?
• Are Mormon texts inherently conservative? Does an interest in Mormon characters represent a nostalgia for or fascination with more conservative eras in American history?
• Were there earlier Mormon Moments in American cultural history? Do these earlier texts presage the current interest in Mormons, or are they best understood in their own historical context?
The editors encourage submissions from a variety of theoretical perspectives concerning texts that portray Mormons or texts that were written or created by people who self-present as engaged Mormons. Preference will be given to proposals dealing with texts designed to reach a broad audience. Discussions of texts created for a Mormon audience will not be considered unless a strong argument for crossover appeal is made.
1 February 2014: Deadline for proposals (500 words).
Tristi Pinkston, “LDS Authors and Horror—Contradiction or Natural Fit?” Meridian Magazine. Tristi talks to horror authors Jeffrey S. Savage, Michaelbrent Collings, and Andrea Pearson.
The Good Word is an LDS author interview podcast hosted by Nick Galieti, a musician, sound engineer, record producer, and producer of a SLC radio show called The Radio Gold Hour. The podcast is made in cooperation with Eborn Books and Custom LDS Scriptures. Galieti interviews both fiction and non-fiction authors. Recent interviews: James Goldberg, Susan Dayley, and Kelly Nelson.
Shannon Hale talks about Jane Austen and her upcoming movie Austenland on KUER RadioWest.
Maxwell Institute Mormon Book Review Podcast: Steven Peck, A Short Stay in Hell. Episode 32 of The Mormon Book Review features Steven Peck as he talks about his existentialist horror novella A Short Stay in Hell. Interviewer Kirk Caudle explores Peck’s thoughts on exploring other faith traditions, how to find religious truth through fictional literature, and the dizzying vastness of eternity.
Short stories and magazines
Leading Edge #64 is now available. It includes stories by Dakota Brown, Erik Goranson, Cyndy Lively, Annaliese Lemmon, Alan Cafferkey, and Rachel Ann Hanley. It is edited by Nyssa Silvester and Diane Cardon.
The Crimson Pact, Volume 5, edited by Paul Genesse. A fantasy/SF/horror anthology, featuring three stories by Mormon authors. Dan Wells reports, “Paul Genesse started working on a fantasy/SF/horror anthology with a cool, shared-world premise: there was a world invaded by demons, and a righteous army that sought to destroy them, except when they finally banished the demons they learned that they’d been tricked: getting banished was the demons’ plan all along, as they were now spread throughout the multiverse, ready to wreak their havoc on a wider scale than ever. The stories in the anthology are all about demons, in any world and setting you can imagine, all linked by this central concept.” The anthology will include: “Charybdis” by Dan Wells, “Guardian of the Headwaters” by Brad R. Torgersen, and “A Choice of Fate” by Steve Diamond and Larry Correia.
The SF anthology Beyond the Sun (August 20, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt) includes two stories by Mormon authors. It collects stories about human colonists interacting with alien cultures on distant planets. Nancy Fulda. “A Soaring Pillar of Brightness”. “A human government official struggles to convince his alien brother-friend that the burial practices of his species are causing premature deaths.” Brad R. Torgersen. “The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae”.
I just realized that M.K. Hutchins is a Mormon author. Her short fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and Daily Science Fiction. Her debut novel, Drift, a YA fantasy, will be published by Tu Books in Spring 2014. She says, “I studied archaeology at BYU, which gave me the opportunity to compile histories from Maya glyphs, excavate in Belize, and work as a faunal analyst.”
Hutchins’ published short stories are:”Bricks and Sunlight” in Suddenly Lost in Words, Vol. 3. May 23, 2013. “The Temple’s Posthole,” IGMS #32. February 2013. Hutchins blog post about the story. “Raspberry Pudding,” Abyss & Apex, Issue #46, 2013.”Under Warranty,” Cucurbital 3, Paper Golem. Edited by Lawrence M. Schoen. 2012. “Blank Faces”. IGMS #28, July 2012. “Indigestion,” The Gruff Variations,. Edited by Eric James Stone. March 2012. “Canvas,” Daily Science Fiction, Oct 5, 2011. “Cryonic Sushi,” Leading Edge Magazine, Issue #60. January 2011.
Angela Lofthouse. Ripped and Other Adventures. Self, Aug. 4. SF short story anthology. Featuring a new novelette, “Sofie and the Night Eagle,” and all of Lofthouse’s previously published science fiction short stories.
Eric James Stone. “By The Hands of Juan Peron”. Daily Science Fiction, July 26. “Of all my stories, this is the one that most reflects my Argentine heritage.”
Gerald S. Argetsinger, Jeff Laver, and Johnny Townsend, editors. Latter-Gay Saints: An Anthology of Gay Mormon Fiction. Lethe Press, July 7. “Twenty-five short works depicting a variety of perspectives of what it means to be both Mormon and gay. Some portray characters determined to reconcile their sexuality with the Mormon faith in accordance with its constantly evolving teachings and policies. The majority present the realities of gay/lesbian Mormons who have come to terms with their sexuality in a variety of alternative ways. Others are written from outside the Mormon community, commenting on often strange encounters with Mormons who are gay.” Includes Argetsinger’s introduction which traces the history of the intersection of Mormons and homosexuality in literature back to the 1959 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Advise and Consent. The opening essay can be read through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
PW: “Argetsinger, professor of culture and creative studies at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, compiles 25 pieces centering on the experience of gay Mormons. This work, the first arising from the Gay Mormon Literature Project, presents varying responses by Mormon men to their sexuality. Some remain faithful, opting for a celibate life, while others fully embrace their sexuality at the expense of their membership in the church. The diversity of responses as well as age of characters offers up a broad cross-section. The short stories, one complete play, and excerpts from longer novels and plays vary greatly in quality, though each offers insights into the struggle to reconcile faith and sexuality. The exclusive focus on gay men—there’s nothing here for lesbians or the transgendered—does limit the collection, however. The bibliography of gay Mormon fiction, film, and drama is especially useful. Although the work deals with gay Mormons, the struggles and solutions of the individuals will resonate across faith traditions and help readers better understand the cost of excluding gay members from full religious participation.” [PW appears to be wrong, Julie Jensen play is about a lesbian relationship, and the Levi Peterson story is about a man who feels drawn to a transgender identity, and the essay talks about the transgender character in The Backslider.]
New books and their reviews
A Timeless Romance: Autumn Collection. Mirror Press, Aug. 1.Six romance suspense novellas by six different authors. Fourth in the Timeless Romance series. Stories by Heather Horrocks, Stephanie Black, Heather B. Moore, Sarah M. Eden, Rachelle J. Christensen, and Annette Lyon. Mirror Press was formed by Eden, Lyon, and Moore.
Larry Correia. Warbound. Girmnoir Chronicles, v. 3. Baen Books, Aug. 6. Urban fantasy set in an alternate noir 1930s. A tough P.I. battles an interdimensional monster that wants to suck magic power out of the world. Sequel to Hard Magic and Spellbound. Final book in the series, although Correia says he might do more.
Elitist Book Reviews: “WARBOUND has an incredibly diverse cast, populated with awesome characters (any one of which could carry a solo novel) . . . The Grimnoir Chronicles’ alternate history has always been one of its greatest selling points. This is a world that would have carried on much like our own without the arrival of the Power. World War I was even more horrific with the addition of magical powers thrown into the mix. . . . It’s an extremely cool setting, featuring magically augmented technology that is vastly more impressive than anything you’ll find in the Steampunk genre . . . With WARBOUND Correia takes urban fantasy into all out war. No other author I have ever encountered writes action quite like Larry. If you have ever wanted to read about a soldier and a samurai, each encased in Power enhanced armor, engaging legions of warrior-magicians with heavy firepower and explosive magic as an entire city devolves into chaos around them…well here you go! I love the magic system of The Grimnoir Chronicles. It’s interesting and intricate, each ability has limitations and dangers. It’s a system that evolves over the course of the series, almost as if it is given a character arc of its own. Larry succeeds in bringing the series to a close while leaving room open for other novels set in the Grimnoirverse. The plot is full of victories and defeats, and I was personally impressed at the level of problem solving. This is a big action novel but it would be foolish to confuse it with a big dumb action novel.”
Thom Duncan. Moroni Smith In Search of the Gold Plates. Zion BookWorks/Leicester Bay, July 26. YA/LDS fantasy adventure. Second in the Moroni Smith series.
Sarah M. Eden. Longing For Home. Shadow Mountain, Aug. 6. Historical Romance. First in a series. Part of the Shadow Mountain “Proper romance” brand. Set among Irish immigrants in late 19th century Wyoming.
Jennie Hansen, Meridian. 4 stars. “In a departure from her greatly loved Regency Romances, Sarah M. Eden has written Longing for Home, a General Fiction novel which will appeal not only to her romance fans, but to men and women who enjoy historical fiction and to those who simply like a good story . . . I didn’t find Kate a particularly likable character, but it is a mark of Eden’s talent that I felt great sympathy for her and cared what happened to her. Her slow and painful growth as a person who has suffered a great deal is played out in exquisite detail, only marred at the end by a too hasty conclusion to the story. Tavish and Joseph are wonderful characters, though I would have liked more of the story to share their thoughts and feelings. The characters are developed well and show moving growth throughout. The author is extremely talented in her ability to create characters so believable, the reader can’t help wanting to know them on a personal and real level. I didn’t find Kate a particularly likable character, but it is a mark of Eden’s talent that I felt great sympathy for her and cared what happened to her. Her slow and painful growth as a person who has suffered a great deal is played out in exquisite detail, only marred at the end by a too hasty conclusion to the story. Tavish and Joseph are wonderful characters, though I would have liked more of the story to share their thoughts and feelings. The characters are developed well and show moving growth throughout. The author is extremely talented in her ability to create characters so believable, the reader can’t help wanting to know them on a personal and real level.”
Gamila: “One of the best parts of this book is the hilarious banter that the characters toss back and forth between one another. Eden has created a cast of real and interesting characters that are sure to make you chuckle a time or two. Though, I occasionally wondered if Katie’s lack of reserve when it came to snapping comebacks was out of character with her background as a servant who did her best to be quiet and unnoticed. There is also a love triangle that seemed lopsided to me, which left me wondering why it was included as the main conflict for one of the minor characters. I’m kind of hoping it doesn’t randomly come back in the second book and throw everything into chaos. Otherwise, the setting, characters, and conflicts of this story drew me in and I enjoyed the read.”
Nathan Hale. Donner Dinner Party. Amulet Books, Aug. 6. Historical graphic novel. Nathan Hale’s Hazzerdous Tales, volume 3. About the Donner Party expedition.
Jessica George: “I mean, wow, people. Despite the heaviness of the topic (and I was, in fact, in tears at one point), the book is imbued with his trademark humor and the art is, as always superb. He manages to make it real while still keeping it light enough for kids to handle. Tricky, tricky, tricky, and so well done. This might be my favorite (so far).”
Moriah Jovan. Dunham. B10 Mediaworx, June 25. Tales of Dunham #4. Historical romance/adventure. Set in 1780, a pair of ship captains, male and female, compete and fall in love in a chase on the Atlantic, in a story set amongst the privateers of the American Revolution.
Josi S. Kilpack. Shannon’s Hope. Covenant, Aug. 1. Newport Ladies Book Club #5. Women’s fiction. Kilpack’s second volume in the series. The four authors will all do second set of books in the series.
Lynne Larson. In the Shadow of an Angel. Covenant, July 1. Historical. Debut. “Saga of the Chapman women, four generations of Latter-day Saints who have lived in the Salt Lake Valley beneath the comforting shadow of the angel Moroni statue.” The Chapman women from the 1920s to the 1960s, leaving Utah to find war and turmoil, they kee their faith.
Marilyn Brown, AML. “Here is a prime example of the kind of Mormon literature we ought to celebrate heartily. This story of four generations of righteous LDS women who stand in the shadow of the angel Moroni and admire his trumpet call to Zion is a tribute to the efficacy of an entire group’s adherence to gospel principles. Here is a novel honoring the success of righteous, honorable posterity. I was enthralled with the life of the first woman and wanted the entire book to be about her, so I was sad to have to leave her for her daughter. For a while it seemed that I was reading short stories. But soon, enough of the mother’s past entered into the flashbacks that I could see the threads that carried the theme throughout the entire piece. An excerpt from the end gives a taste of the kind of superb writing Mrs. Larson offers about the connections we have with each other. “Stopping at the spires on the east, Christy lifted her eyes to the golden angel, pointing it out to the little girl she held . . .’You’ll learn about Moroni and his message soon enough. . .He’ll be here for you and your children as he has been all these years for us.’” . . . Her style is readable and often poetic.”
Jennie Hansen: 3 stars. “Sweet story. It has a few exciting scenes.”
Brenda Novak. Home to Whisky Creek. Harlequin MIRA, July 30. Romance. Whiskey Creek series #4. Some explicit sexual content.
Julie Bellon (Goodreads): 3 stars. “A romantic mystery that had me turning pages to see if they would find out who was threatening Adelaide and when she would tell him what really happened that night. Great suspense. I loved the characters and how broken and flawed they were and the townspeople are realistic as well. I felt like the end was a bit rushed and I wanted more out of the epilogue since there were a few storyline threads still dangling. There was also a few fairly graphic sex scenes and some swearing. Overall, though, these were easy to skip and I thought the story was well done. Ms. Novak is a master at characterization and sympathetic characters.”
Aprilynne Pike. Earthbound. Razorbill, July 30. YA romantic fantasy. The first in a supernatural adventure series, about a girl can break the laws of physics. “Blends a present-day manhunt with a 200-year-old romance.”
Kirkus: “Pike builds a world that, once established, is captivating but that does not come clear until quite late, running the danger of alienating readers. Readers might also get tangled up in the text’s purple prose; while adding to the overall romance, it can be distracting. A mostly promising start to a new series that offers history, romance and action to patient readers.”
PW: “Pike opens a new series with a plane crash, and soon lays out more themes popular in recent YA—inexplicable survival, loss of memory, an unknown stalker, apocalyptic showdown, and the protagonist’s transcendent secret identity . . . Though Pike’s plot points may riff a little too blatantly on the zeitgeist, her solid writing, particularly in her descriptions, will have readers hooked. Tavia’s low-tech revelation via ChapStick works better than any superbattle to convey what’s at stake in her life and choices.”
SLJ: “This is an action-packed novel filled with longing and secrets. The characters are well developed and the narrative is easy to follow. At times, Tavia’s vacillations are tediously drawn out, and Pike does take a while to get to the heart of the matter, but overall the story is compelling. Readers of supernatural romances will be clamoring for this one.”
Regina Sirois. On Little Wings. Viking/Penguin, May 30. YA mystery/literary. Self-published in 2011, Amazon 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award. Debut novel. Blurb: “Multi-generational tale of loss, grief, first love, and forgiveness . . . Though things conclude far from perfectly, hope in many forms dominates the end of Jennifer’s story. Quotes from famous poems and other literary works are woven into the tale, helping characters express difficult emotions and pulling readers deeper into this thoughtful tale of reconnection and redemption.”
PW (2013): “A wonderful debut novel . . . It’s about a girl who tries to discover why her mother hasn’t spoken to her own sister in years. It is brilliant, mostly on the power of the writing. There’s a bit of first love, which is handled so tastefully that I can recommend it to parents for their kids.”
Kirkus: “A teenage cozy mystery . . . In overwrought prose, Jennifer seeks out her ancestral history and learns unsurprisingly big life lessons without taking much risk or facing down any real danger. Given how safe the tale is, the degree to which Jennifer and the other characters overreact to each plot point—and to each other—is eye-roll–inducing. The melodramatic and occasional awkward first-person narration lacks authenticity; the dialogue sounds like an adult overwriting for children. Nevertheless, the chaste romantic subplot and family-friendly conclusion will satisfy readers in search of comfort rather than action.”
LuAnn Brobst Staheli. Just Like Elizabeth Taylor. Back Yard Press, June 11. MG/YA adventure. 12-year old girl escapes her mother’s abusive boyfriend, tries to save her mother. Winner of the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition, Juvenile Division and the League of Utah Writer’s Juvenile Novel & Diamond Quill.
Mindy, LDSWBR. 4 stars. “This book is so well written. Lu Ann has a talent. She wrote this book perfectly, exactly the way a 12 year old would say the words, that’s how they were written. She portrayed Elizabeth beautifully. My heart would break for her, her mother, and many other characters too, actually. As sad as the story was, I felt the ending did it supreme justice and things tied together perfectly. Sometimes, I am hesitant to read stories on abuse, but it was handled well and the abusers got what was coming to them.”
Anita Stansfield. The Garden Path. Covenant, Aug. 1. LDS romance. Sequel to The Wishing Garden. The gardener husband has been found innocent of murder, but more challenges face the couple.
Howard Tayler. Extraordinary Zoology (Tales from the Monsternomicon). Skull Island eXpeditions, July 24. Fantasy. A novel by the author of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic series.
J. Washburn. ECKSDOT. Self, May 5. YA paranormal adventure. Boy discovers his dreams are coming true.
An Equivalent Centre of Self review: 3 stars. “I thought the story had a lot of promise–the premise was interesting, and some parts of the writing were quite good. But sometimes I found the story lagging a little, as some chapters seemed more long-winded than others. The first fifty or so pages were confusing, as they’re told in alternating POV, from Nate to Ecksdot (one of the Andbots) and it’s not clear for some time what exactly Ecksdot is . . . The voice, too, seemed to fluctuate. Sometimes it was great–vivid, believable–and other times it seemed unnecessarily old or long winded.”
Robison Wells. Going Dark. August. 6. Preview novella for Blackout, which is released Oct. 1. “A series by acclaimed author Robison Wells that combines the high-stakes intensity of television’s Homeland with the lightning-fast action of Marie Lu’s Legend.”
Reviews of older books
Nephi Anderson. Almina (Theric). “This bitty novella for reason took me almost three months to read . . . Almina plays with tropes Anderson pioneered and have been with Mormon lit ever since. Scott Hales spoke about these in the most recent issue of Irreantum, specifically the single Mormon woman who has to choose between the nice Mormon boy and the more exciting but likely dangerous non Mormon boy. Almina is the girl and thus she must choose. The novella is both more and less moralizing than I expected. It’s early Anderson so I expected it to be clearly didactic. It was, but not always as directly as I’d expected. It’s also a nonshortstory of Anderson’s and so I expected more nuance. And there was, but with a sharper edge than I expected.”
Michaelbrent Collings. Strangers (Bibliorex).
Julie Daines. A Blind Eye (Marilyn Brown, AML). “In her first novel, Julie Daines shows us she can write–and in a male voice, no less. With snappy dialogue and some clever metaphors, she develops a young adult mystery/romance that includes insight into the world of the male protagonist, Christian, and Scarlett, a young beautiful blind girl with pink hair . . . The plot of the story revolves around two suspicious characters who chase Christian and Scarlett. With what sometimes seems like a lot of deux ex machina, they appear around every corner in surprising ways to hassle these two young people with frightening encounters that cannot be understood until the mystery is resolved in the end. Is Julie our LDS Mary Higgins Clark? She certainly has demonstrated that she has talent, and we heard she has another book coming from Covenant soon. The audience she reaches with her writing will enjoy this story.”
James Goldberg. The Five Books of Jesus (Steve Peck). “Goldberg’s version of Christ, while true to the text, also is lyrically striking and rich. As I read, the questions his work elicited about Christ’s lived life bubbled up often. Simple things like where he ate; how he moved among the people; what did he find funny? What simple pleasures did he enjoy, all seemed well-offered, but for me even more important, it allowed me to wonder more deeply about the real Jesus–the living, breathing, embodied human Jesus that walked on dusty streets through and ancient land. The other thing that struck me about this book is absolutely how beautifully written it is. The words sparkle with life, creating a texture that makes the text even that much more appealing. After one considers story offered, the gorgeous writing, and the absolute power of the life explored, it’s been easy to recommend this book to everyone I know.”
Dean Hughes. Through Clouds and Storms (Jennie Hansen, Meridian). 5 stars. “I found the first book, The Winds and the Waves, in this new series okay, but not a favorite. This second book is Hughes at his best . . . The author does an excellent job of depicting the people as ordinary people with the failings and short comings of real people rather than the glorified individuals Church members in general have painted them in our minds. The switch back and forth between the two time periods doesn’t feel as choppy in Volume 2 as it did in Volume 1, though I still found it frustrating to become absorbed in one story, then suddenly switch to the other. There have been a large number of books, both historical and fictional, written about this time period. Some are better than others. This is one of the best, perhaps because Hughes lived and served a mission in Nauvoo where he came to love the land, the people–both members and non-members–and felt the history of all that happened there become a part of him.”
Theric Jepsen. BYUCK (Sarah Dunster, AMV). “I found it hilarious, heartwarming, and refreshing. The description of BYU (and Happy Valley) culture from the perspective of someone who wasn’t bred and born in it, who could therefore look at it from an outsider’s perspective, delighted and amused me.” Sarah goes on to talk about the possibilities for LDS novels out of the mainstream to compete in the LDS book marketplace.
Kimberley Griffiths Little. When the Butterflies Came (Marilou Sorensen, Deseret News). “A mystery treasure hunt of clues laden with magical creatures of beauty. A sub-plot woven throughout is the notion that the extinction of these fragile creatures is possible but there are ways to study and protect them. The description of the ethereal nipwisipwis come right off the page in a “tornado of colors, and butterfly wings spin wildly … their velvet softness, the vibration of magic as they circle and enfold me in their world.””
Wm Morris and Theric Jepsen, editors. Monsters & Mormons (Scott Parkin, BYU Studies). Parkin not only reviews the stories, but situates the anthology within a larger Mormon literary context. “Though Mormons are well represented in genre fiction, there has tended to be an essential disconnect between Mormonism as subject matter and Mormons as authors. While there is much room for imagination informed by Mormon thought, the specific trappings of Mormonism have largely been left behind in the broader popular market (though that is starting to change). So it was with a mix of horror and fascination that I approached Monsters and Mormons . . . In attempting to explicitly reappropriate Mormon things from the pulp genres, this anthology actually does function as a statement of both maturity and the state of the literary art, though not in traditional ways. Rather than focusing stories on the Mormon experience, the editors have focused the authors’ own imaginative extrapolation of the Mormon experience as a seed for creating stories. In other words, overwrought and exaggerated stories in the pulp tradition told by us rather than about us; sensational stories with Mormons cast as heroes as well as villains; latent Mormon mysticism animating the phantasms of unique existential horror; and direct permission to mine Mormonism with the same reckless abandon that others have used to create exotic and unusual stories. That level of comfort with creative reimagination of our institutions and practices speaks to a real kind of cultural maturity. These tales exist to explore and entertain, not to explain or proselyte. While many of these stories are somewhat less than literary masterpieces of theme, language, and allusion, they are all comfortable within their very Mormon skin. That is a (generally) good thing . . . The results are uneven at best. Some of these stories do little more than tell traditional tales with simple substitutions—consecrated oil for holy water, or missionaries preaching through the zombie apocalypse. On first approach, those stories frankly bored me; I wanted something new and uniquely Mormon added to the familiar tale. On further consideration, though, I appreciated the powerful desire of some authors to use specific people, places, or details from their explicitly Mormon experience in tales that are not in any way thematically Mormon . . . A few really stood out for me. Perhaps the most obvious is Eric James Stone’s story, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Has Made,” which won the Nebula Award for short story in 2011—the sci-fi equivalent of an Academy Award voted on by fellow professional authors. It’s cleanly written and looks unflinchingly at questions of individual faith and commitment and the nature of God. Another story that stood out for me was Moriah Jovan’s “Allow Me to Introduce Myself ” that features some of the best pure storytelling, imagination, detail, and sense of wonder in the anthology. This is one of those stories whose core conceit (a Mormon monastic order) stuck deeply in my craw, but whose execution ranks among the better stories I’ve read in years. Likewise, Dan Wells’s “The Mountain of the Lord” and Steven L. Peck’s “Let the Mountains Tremble for Adoniha Has Fallen” offered strong looks into Mormon communities facing existential threats from both inside and outside . . . if you want an anthology designed to explicitly expand the bounds of Mormon literature in an act of aggressive cultural reappropriation from both external and internal critics and to assert a deep identity with underlying Mormon culture, there is much to appreciate here. The book represents a dramatic shift in how we can choose to think about Mormon literature. Monsters and Mormons accepts our peculiarities as a given and seeks simply to use them to inform a creative work, where Mormon-ness requires no reason for being except as defined within the story.”
Gale Sears. Belonging to Heaven (Jennie Hansen, Meridian). 5 stars. “It’s Big! I’m not referring to its over four hundred page length. It’s big in scope, in content, in love, sacrifice, faith, and in friendship. It also represents a huge time commitment to research for historical accuracy and for background and cultural accuracy . . . Sears presents a masterpiece in her careful research, not only of the lives of two great men, but in the background, topography, culture, and legends of a once independent nation which became America’s fiftieth state. Not only is the book rich in historical information, but is a captivating story. Sears draws the reader in with characters who are realistic, kind, caring and sometimes naive, but who also exhibit the flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities found in ourselves. Some of the incidents, especially those dealing with the treatment of lepers, are painfully harsh. On the other hand, some of the generosity depicted is almost unbelievable.”
Emily Mah Tippetts. Love in Darkness (Gamila). “I’m not really a fan of stories told from the point-of-view of insane people, because things can get kind of crazy. Too crazy, but Tippetts seems to find the perfect balance between making Alex’s schizophrenia seem real and still gives her main character a solid and likable personality . . . It is very interesting to watch Alex struggle through his problems and see the strengths and skills that he has help people in their lives despite everything. I thought this was a really uplifting read and did an awesome job of portraying a character with mental illness as a real and well-rounded person.
Kasie West. Pivot Point (An Equivalent Centre of Self). 4 stars. “One of the things that made the story work for me was how much I liked the characters, especially Addie. Unlike so many heroines in paranormal romances (and elsewhere) these days, Addie wasn’t extreme: she wasn’t particularly brave, or kick-ass, or confrontational, or rule-breaking . . . she was just Addie. I think that made her more relatable for me. The story isn’t particularly deep: but it’s fun, fast, interesting, and–maybe more importantly–doesn’t feel like a lot of other books out there. Highly recommended for YA fans.”
Natalie Whipple. Transparent (An Equivalent Centre of Self). 4 stars. “If you’ve never read Natalie Whipple’s blog–you should do so. Right now. Especially if you see yourself as an aspiring writer of any type. Her blog is refreshingly honest–and funny. Plus, she does her own anime art . . . I though this story was cute. I liked Fiona as a character and I enjoyed watching her relationships unfold. In some ways, it reminded me of Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy–particularly in the heroine with unique gifts who attends high school for the first time. Fiona’s not quite as snarky as Evie, but I think they’d like each other. Readers who look for a lot of depth in their stories won’t find it here–but readers looking for a fun, clean YA read with dystopian elements will enjoy it.”
Matthew Greene, Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea, Is appearing at the New York International Fringe Festival, August. 9-15. Venue: Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center (CSV) Kabayitos, 107 Suffolk Street. It is a Plan B production, directed by Jerry Rapier, coming after its sold out January-February production in SLC. This is Greene’s second year in a row at the New York International Fringe Festival, after #MORMONINCHIEF last year. ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA is Plan-B’s second production to have a continued life in New York, following the limited off-Broadway run of Carol Lynn Pearson’s FACING EAST in 2007.
NYTheatre.com review: “Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea is an outstandingly beautiful, smart, funny, profound, and heartbreaking play. Even in the FringeNYC, where you have 183 choices, go see this play. You won’t regret it . . . The Adam and Steve in question are the only characters in the play and spend the 70 minutes alone on stage with a single wooden bench as the only set piece. With nothing further, they tell a compelling, deeply moving story. I was riveted . . . The play you expect with that set-up is trite and preachy. The play you get is neither of those things. This one is a brilliantly written, textured exploration of intricate, anything-but-straightforward characters. It’s about the pain of growing up and realizing that the world is more complicated than you thought it was. About realizing that two best boyhood buddies might become men who can’t really be friends. Matthew Greene’s script is, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny (there are one-liners that will make every writer in the audience turn green with envy) and, ultimately devastating as this friendship that you fall so quickly in love with struggles to endure . . . I did have some reservations about Greene’s resolution of the play, it hit some trite notes that were smartly avoided the rest of the time, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. This is one of the smartest and most up-to-date portrayals of a modern “coming out” story I’ve seen. Steve’s coming out is, if anything, less of a big deal than Adam’s decision to commit to Mormonism. But the play wins because, while it reveals both subjects with a gentle, thorough touch, it isn’t ultimately “about” either of them. It’s about a deeper truth, one that every audience member will relate to: the confusion, pain, and bittersweet glory of leaving childhood behind and becoming who you will be.”
Examiner.com review: 4 stars (out of 5). “What is nice about the story of the play, is that although the friends come into extreme conflict, they take the time and effort to find common ground and learn about each other. None of it is easy and in juxtaposition to the ongoing argument, Greene inserts flashbacks to the boy’s childhood before the issue of “gay” came between them. These scenes tended to slow down the narrative and the transition into childhood wasn’t effectively realized. Otherwise, Rasmussen and Tarantino give believable and heartfelt performances in a 70 minute exploration of a potent issue that has been going on for a while, but is addressed here in immediate terms.”
James Arrington. The Farley Family Reunion. Covey Center for the Arts, Brinton Theater (Provo), Aug. 1-24. Arrington’s one-man play premiered at BYU in 1980, and has had over 900 performances.
Christian Cragun, UTBA review: “Is unique in the sense that there really isn’t a plot to speak of. The audience gets the basic outline of “family reunion,” but from there it’s really just a series of monologues that don’t really build on one another. That’s not to say that the show needed a plot, but it becomes more of a character study at that point. It’s almost as if Arrington is saying, “Here’s this character, look at the funny way they act. Okay, now here’s this character, look at the funny things they do.” In a sense, this show almost feels more like a ventriloquist and his dummies. That being said, Arrington is tremendous at portraying the various characters and keeping them separate from one another . . . The show was quite funny as well. Arrington played off many of the small town Utah or Idaho stereotypes perfectly, including Arrington’s flawless accent (“progrum” instead of “program,” “spert” instead of “spirit”). Like all good comedy there was also that element of truth that really sold it to the audience as well. Many Utahns have a grandpa that tells a story like Heber, or a grandma who sings like Viola, or a loudmouth uncle like Uffie. Arrington’s observations of Utah culture were perfectly astute and were the strength of the script. However, for me, the highlight of the evening wasn’t the script at all. It was Arrington’s quick wit. As I have said before, this show didn’t feel quite like a normal play. It felt more like a ventriloquist act or a stand-up comedy routine, or even improv comedy. Multiple times throughout the show Arrington would invite the audience to participate or even come on stage with him and he would interact with us while still in character . . . This style of this show was different than anything that I had experienced before, but the humor was there, the cultural observations were perfect, the characters were fun, and overall it was quite an enjoyable evening. Arrington should be commended on a job well done. If you get the chance, go join the Farley family (literally) for an evening.”
Mahonri Stewart. Prometheus Unbound (Johnny Hebda, UTBA). “Without a strong background in Greek mythology and knowledge of the characters presented in the play, it would be extremely difficult to follow the storyline. The script takes a lot of assumptions and fails to create stand-alone characters with much depth or dimension. The intertwining of the Christian characters into the story made it extra confusing, and I did not understand the relevance or purpose in trying to envelop these themes into the story of Prometheus. These attempts did not serve the story in any positive way. In fact, the attempts felt rather shoehorned or forced in a less than subtle manner. I assume the author’s intent was to make these characters relevant to a Mormon audience. This mix of storylines and characters made the plot and theme very convoluted. I came away from the play unsatisfied and unsure about what was the message or moral that I was supposed to get, because I didn’t get it. The vast majority of the problems of the production lie in the writing, which needed serious revisions and edits. However, several other elements contributed to a less than impressive production. There were many serious director issues with the production. The blocking was unnatural, as characters moved throughout the stage in attempt to create variety, but without any clear motivations . . . It is rare to see a production succeed when a director casts him or herself in a show, especially as the lead character. I have never understood this choice, as it is a choice that will doom a production. It is nearly impossible to see the show from an outside perspective and fine-tune the details of the play. That was certainly the case here . . . The characters were extremely flat and static and lacked the dimension or detail to make them real or interesting. As a result, I did not relate to or empathize with any of them. The emotional moments in the play were very insincere; they felt forced and lacked believability. The characters played states of being, rather than really living in the moment . . . I have seen several of Mahonri Stewart’s plays through the years, and the same recurring problem is prevalent each time I have watched one of his works: the scripts never feel anywhere near being finished and refined. I walk away from the theater somewhat unsatisfied and thinking, “that was a good start to a script” or “an interesting idea” that could perhaps become a solid production one day. However, it seems to me that he moves on to his next new work, while an unfinished script gets shelved and largely forgotten. Prometheus Unbound was a continuation in this cycle—a script that needs significant editing, rewriting, and reworking before it is ever staged . . . Unfortunately, I would not recommend this production. The weaknesses in the script, combined with poor directing and acting, will make this a less than fulfilling evening. The pacing problems and indulgent writing in many of the scenes will make for a very long evening. There are some good moments and interesting concepts explored in the production. However, some major editing and reworking of the script is greatly needed before Prometheus Unbound will have any appeal to a mainstream audience.”
Ben Abbot. Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity. August 15-24, Indy Fringe. Indianapolis. Also was at Cincy Fringe Festival, May 29-June 8. One-man show, based on Abbot’s interviews with Gay Mormons. Premiered in 2011 in Berkeley.
“Wandering/Cut Films, which has produced the two critically acclaimed and award winning indie feature films “…Around”(2008) and ”Things I Don’t Understand” (2012), has acquired the rights to develop and produce a feature film adaptation of the haunting existentialist horror novella “A SHORT STAY IN HELL” by writer, philosopher and PhD, University Professor Steven L. Peck about a Mormon in a personalized hell of an infinite library looking for the story of his life so he can leave. Peck will co-write the screenplay with David Spaltro, (writer-director-producer), who is currently attached to direct the project, and calls the book, “one of the most original and powerfully moving things I’ve ever read. I literally couldn’t put it down, and, in 98 short pages, it’s message stayed with me days later. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and am excited for the challenge to adapt it to the screen with this wonderful author.”
Austenland. The movie will premiere in New York and Los Angles on Aug. 16, with a wide theatrical release slated for Sept. 13. WSJ feature. Screening on August 6 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, then a red carpet premiere in Los Angeles on August 8.
Resistance Movement. Kathryn Lee Moss, writer and director. Nathan Lee, producer. LDS Film Festival, Jan 2013. April 2013 DVD release. Hubener story. Done as a staged play. The trailer looks cheap, but that might be because it was a play. Her first film.July 11 screening at Jordan Commons. Sept. 2012 screening in Bremerton, WA.WINNER of the FAITH BUILDER AWARD at the San Diego Christian Film Festival this weekend!!! Meyer is an actor, wrote it as a play at first. MA in Directing from University of London. Cherry Fair Productions. Play performed in July 2010 in Utah.
Christian Cinema: “The film portrays the story realistically, including a scene in prison in which a teen is punched and kicked several times by a Nazi guard. It might make some uncomfortable but its powerful faith message, which features several characters praying and attending church, and standing for freedom in the midst of the Gestapo, means that this is an inspiring and remarkable movie. We are glad to award it our Dove “Faith Friendly” Seal for ages twelve plus. This movie might inspire many to stand firm in one’s convictions and faith. This is well worth seeing.”
Deseret News (Sharron Haddock). “”Resistance Movement” is told in an unusual way with lots of black lighting and Spartan set pieces. It’s more of a stage play on film than a traditional movie, but it’s very powerful and moving . . . There’s no serious attempt to make the boys look like they’ve been in prison for six months. Their teeth are clean and unbroken. Their faces are unscathed. Their clothes are crisp and tidy. Given that the whole movie is shot almost in silhouette, those details don’t detract from the story, which is well-told and riveting. The audience feels the risk these young men are taking and very quickly comes to care about what happens. Here’s a thought-provoking movie that ought to be shown in history and religion classes followed by serious discussion on what it means to stand for truth and righteousness. It’s worthwhile.”
Elizabeth’s Gift. Rob Diamond, writer/director. 7Films7. May 2013 DVD release. Staring Kari Hawker (The Dance). Girl dies, continues to help family as a guardian angel. Mom fights a villain to help a homeless girl.
The Last Eagle Scout. Kels Goodman, director/writer/producer. DVD Aug. 6, 2013. Solo distribution. Not Mormon specific. Political satire dramedy, imagining political correctness gone amok, with liberals destroying good American values, changing the pledge of allegiance to honor the president and social justice, and banning Boy Scouts.
New York Times Bestseller List, August 4, 11, 18. Also the USA Today (one list that merges all the lists) and the Publishers Weekly lists.
PW: #27, #25, x. Glenn Beck. THE EYE OF MOLOCH (7th week). 2480 units sold, for a total of 62,976. Already fell off the NYT list.
Mass Market Paperback
#1, #1, #3 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card (42nd week).
NYT Combined Print & Ebook. #15, #14, #19 (15th week). Ebook: #25, #21, x (6th week). PW: MM Paperback, #40, #20, x. (2nd week). Children’s: x, #44, #18 (3rd week). 2543, 2504 units sold, for a total of 28,897. USA Today: #23, #20, #29 (20th week).
PW: x, #16, x. Glenn Beck. AGENDA 21 (1st week). 5648 units sold.
USA Today: x, x, #126. HOME TO WHISKEY CREEK, by Brenda Novak (1st week).
x, #13, x. THE FALSE PRINCE, by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
#6, #8, #5. THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (57th week).