This Week in Mormon Literature, November 9, 2013

The release of the film adaption of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is the big news of the week. Reviews are mixed, generally people think parts feel rushed, but rate it at least a competent adaption. Some of the reviewers do little to hide their personal animus towards Card as a person. In any case, it is an opportunity for several personal essays about connections with Card’s work, and media interviews with Card. Meanwhile, The Saratov Approach continues to garner strong reviews and do well at the box office, and a family Christmas movie based on a Gale Sears book, Christmas for a Dollar, is being released this week. The New York Times has an article about Mormon authors’ success in genre literature and lack of much in terms of “adult literary fiction”. It is a discussion we have had before, the author is oddly dismissive of genre fiction, and misidentifies Terry Tempest Williams, but it is interesting to see these issues discussed in The Grey Lady. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Ender’s Game

The film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game was released on November 1. Its Rotten Tomatoes aggregate fresh rating is 60%, and its Metacritic: 51.


Michael O’Sullivan. Washington Post. 3 stars. “There’s a moral heft to “Ender’s Game” that lends ballast to the science-fiction adventure about futuristic military-academy cadets. The film doesn’t need added suspense, bigger action or a better dramatic twist; it’s got all of those, in more than serviceable amounts. But it benefits greatly, at least for those who care about such things, by actually being about something — the morality of war and its methods — in a way that most movies of this type are not . . . “Ender’s Game” is more than a parable about bullying, or a disquisition on the concept of the “just war.” It’s also a rousing action film, especially in Imax. You may come for the candy coating, but you’ll ruminate on the chewy nougat filling all the way home.”

Kenneth Turan. Los Angeles Times. “”Ender’s Game” gains a lot from the ability of its story to touch a nerve. A film for young people to which adults can eavesdrop if they are so inclined, it’s not any more sophisticated than it needs to be. But its strong special effects make its simulated battles effective and, echoing the book, its story line touches on a number of intriguing issues . . . It also helps that Card’s 1985 novel was prescient about issues that still trouble us. Not only are video games considerably more sophisticated today, making the story’s key premise that much more plausible, but issues of drone warfare, preemptive strikes and the morality of child soldiers are on society’s mind more than ever. “Ender’s Game” turns out to be our game as well.”

Chicago Sun-Times. Richard Roeper. 3 stars. “At times “Ender’s Game” throws so many metaphors and moral dilemmas our way, we almost forget to appreciate the stunning and gorgeous visuals covering every inch of the screen. Almost . . . It is a bit of a gloomy mess at times, and there were moments when it almost imploded under the weight of its own self-importance. But director Gavin Hood and a first-rate cast of wily veterans and fresh-faced youngsters deliver a rousing, challenging adventure that should satisfy most young fans of the book while keeping the adults engrossed as well . . . What a great-looking film this is. The simulated battles are beautifully shot and expertly choreographed, with teams facing off in video-game type battles in which they’re the actual players. When Ender gets lost in that hand-held game that seems to be tapping into his own subconscious, “Ender’s Game” gets pretty freaky and even a little Freudian. It’s all pretty awesome, if it at times a bit confusing for someone who hasn’t read the books.”


New York Times (Manohla Dargis). “Childhood can be tough in movies, but rarely do screen children suffer for our sins as they do here . . . He’s rational and brutal, which is a harder sell on the screen, where every punch carries an unsettling intensity that the director, Gavin Hood, has trouble managing. Mr. Butterfield is one of those young performers whose seriousness feels as if it sprang from deep within. And while he’s an appealing presence, little Ender can’t help feeling like a pint-size psycho. Mr. Hood, whose script winnows the novel into two hours of mostly action and a fair amount of talk, does better once the story shifts to space. (Ender’s home, where crammed bookshelves line one wall and his mother bustles alone in the kitchen like a 1950s housewife, has a pointless antediluvian quality.)”, Eric D. Snider. C/6.5. ““Ender’s Game” is about as slick a spectacle as fans could have hoped for, blending futuristic wonderment with recognizable human behavior. The zero-gravity capture-the-flag games are convincing (and fun), and the various spacecraft involved are rendered with crispness and clarity. This sucker was obviously not just slapped together. It’s the storytelling that feels hurried . . . The training facilities are on a space station orbiting the Earth, and the technology is advanced, but otherwise it’s not much different from a prep school or a Hogwarts . . . Why are we putting all our eggs in the Ender Wiggin basket? That’s the sort of thing that might be addressed if the movie weren’t constantly chugging from one plot point to the next, rarely stopping to explore or ponder. Elements that were critical to the book (like the “mind games” Ender plays, the dreams he has, and his relationship with his siblings) are glossed over or omitted so the movie will have time to hit the required story beats — never mind that those story beats don’t mean anything if the film doesn’t help us understand why they’re happening . . . By all appearances, this should be an excellent sci-fi adventure. But Hood keeps such a steady, unvaried pace that the revelations of the final act — which should be HUGE — have the same dramatic heft as everything else. And when everything weighs the same, nothing weighs anything.”

AV Club. B-. “Ender’s Game is a tightly plotted, un-bombastic sci-fi movie that has the bad luck of being a relatively faithful adaptation of a novel by Orson Scott Card. Though it can’t overcome the source material’s problematic themes—namely, Card’s intentionalist morality, which prizes a character’s ideals over their actions—or its all-too-convenient characterizations, the film manages a sustained sense of momentum and tone that is rare for a contemporary, big-budget movie. The less viewers think about the movie’s ideological underpinnings, the more likely they are to enjoy its restrained performances and immersive science-fiction visuals . . . Though Hood significantly compresses the source novel’s epilogue and simplifies its background politicking and violence, he retains the central idea that makes Card’s book so troublesome. Ender is portrayed as a tragic superman who possesses immense destructive power, but can never be held accountable for his actions. He is a victim-hero who can do evil, but remains morally unblemished because of his good intentions—a characterization that appeals to the closet fascist lurking inside every angry teenage boy.”


Wall Street Journal. Joe Morgenstern. “Who could have guessed that “Gravity” would be topped—or bottomed—so soon after its release? Not only does “Ender’s Game” have many scenes in zero gravity, but this zero-sum fiasco has zero drama, zero suspense, zero humor, zero charm and zero appeal . . . The geniuses who made this soulless spectacle have mistaken training, in which little is at stake, for genuine action. After Ender and his classmates go into training, they go into another phase of training, which is followed by more training for further levels of training through war-game simulations, all of it as involving as the video-game abstractions of “Speed Racer.” The games in zero gravity are meant to evoke Quidditch and Harry Potter, but I kept thinking of splurge guns and Bugsy Malone.

News/features about Ender

Box Office Mojo: “At 3,407 theaters, Ender’s Game took first place with a decent $27 million. While that pales in comparison to the likes of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight, it is a bit of an improvement over past young-adult adaptations like The Golden Compass ($25.8 million) and Eragon ($23.2 million). It is worth noting, though, that adjusting for ticket price inflation those two titles had slightly higher initial attendance. Ender’s Game also opened on the low end for big-budget sci-fi in 2013. It was way off from Pacific Rim and Oblivion (both over $37 million), and was about on par with After Earth ($27.5 million). Overall, this isn’t a terrible start, though it’s not a particularly good one either. Marketing emphasized Harrison Ford‘s gruff military commander while failing to show what it is about Ender that makes him worth rooting for. This kept the movie from really connecting with those who aren’t familiar with the source material, which is the key to success in the adaptation game. According to distributor Lionsgate/Summit, the movie’s audience was 58 percent male and 54 percent over the age of 25.” As of Nov. 7, Ender’s Game has made $33,751,300.

Variety: Murky Outlook for ‘Ender’s Game’ Sequel. “The future of a sequel to Lionsgate’s “Ender’s Game” remains in limbo, following  a solid rather than specactular start for the sci-fi title. Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said Friday during a conference call with analysts that the studio will “wait another week or two” before it decides whether to make another film based on the Orson Scott Card series of 13 novels. He also said that an “Ender’s Game” TV spinoff was under consideration. “Ender’s Game” has taken in $32.5 million in its first five days at the U.S. box office and another $9 million overseas.”

Orson Scott Card Won’t Make Squat From ‘Ender’s Game’ Box Office – Boycott the Book Instead. Mmultiple sources from both inside and outside the companies that produced the “Ender’s Game” film – distributor Summit Entertainment, visual effects company Digital Domain and book-rights holder OddLot Entertainment – tell TheWrap that Card’s fee has already been paid through a decade-old deal that includes no backend.

Endgame: The ‘Unfilmable’ Ender’s Game’s 28 Years in Development Hell. By Matt Patches, Grantland. A very detailed explanation of the history behind bringing EG to the screen.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Ender’s Game, its controversial author, and a very personal history. By Rany Jazayerli. “It was in the context of trying to find my place in the world, of struggling to reconcile my faith with my country when I had no role models to show me the way, that I encountered the following passage about Ender and his Battle School classmate Alai. It stopped me cold. [Quotes a passage where Alai shows his friendship to Ender with a kiss on the cheek and a whispered “Salaam”, which Ender does not recognize in his religion-forbidden world, but realizes must be religious, and it brings to mind a blessing his mother gave him as a child.] If you don’t see the importance of this passage, I envy you. Alai is clearly a Muslim, and in the 1980s, Muslims were portrayed in American popular culture as one of three categories, if they were portrayed at all: crazy ayatollahs, greasy lecherous oil sheikhs, or bomb-wielding hijackers. Ender’s Game was literally the first time I had encountered a positive portrayal of a Muslim character in American fiction. It floored me. I finally saw a positive image of myself in print, and it came not from a fellow Muslim but from a wildly popular Christian author who could trace his American lineage for generations. I learned that I had more in common with Card than I had thought. Card is a Mormon; that lineage of his traces back to Brigham Young himself. Card and I were both devout believers in religions that were shrouded in stereotypes and inaccuracies. As white guys we were members of the racial majority, but we were also part of the religious minority, giving us the weird and vaguely uncomfortable ability to define ourselves depending on the needs of the moment . . . In 1996, he published Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, an alternate-history novel in which researchers from the future attempt to change the events surrounding Columbus’s journey to America in order to prevent the Native American genocide. The novel contained two Muslim characters, Hassan and Kemal, both much more integral to the plot than Alai was to Ender’s Game, and both portrayed with sensitivity and nuance. At no point did it occur to me that Card was homophobic. Quite the contrary, in fact: Much as I encountered my first sympathetic portrayal of a Muslim in Ender’s Game, the first book I read that featured a gay man as an integral character was Songmaster, which Card wrote in 1980. Card portrays the brief and doomed relationship between Josif and Ansset, the title character, lovingly, even poignantly. Throughout the 1990s I regarded Card with a sort of distant wonder. He was somebody who embodied everything I valued in others and strove for in myself. He was devoutly religious but seemingly tolerant of and empathetic toward other religions and lifestyles. He was unapologetically American and refused to let the prejudice that some Americans had about his faith diminish by one iota his belief in the miracle of the American experiment, our commitment to religious pluralism, and our genuine belief in e pluribus unum. And he could write prose like a wizard.” [The author goes on to talk about his email correspondence with Card, then his disillusionment with Card over his writings about homosexuality.]  . . . I still have trouble believing that the same man who wrote fiction full of such empathy and understanding would suggest that a civil war is preferable to legalizing gay marriage . . . I think 9/11 changed Card in some fundamental way. It changed all of us in some fundamental way, but instead of responding to a collective psychic trauma by reflecting inward, he seems to have turned bitter toward the outside world, seeing enemies everywhere. A month after 9/11, Card began a regular column on his website, which he called “War Watch,” since renamed “World Watch.” In his first column, he referred to a theoretical Palestinian state as a “barbarian power,” and then went after American academia . . . I read all of his columns because I read everything he wrote, but I quickly realized that Card the op-ed columnist was very different from Card the storyteller. He suddenly seemed to be getting his information about Islam from conspiracy websites, writing that “Even the Q’uran names Christians and Jews as shaitan, satan, the enemy” (it does not; he retracted the comment seven weeks later), and then misinterpreting certain verses of the Quran that deal with warfare by claiming they exhort Muslims to kill their enemies indiscriminately (they do not). After a year of this, I finally decided to pipe up. Whereas three years earlier I had emailed Card to thank him for his presentation of my faith, I now emailed him calling him to task. I don’t have these emails, either, but thankfully I don’t need them, because Card not only engaged me but asked permission to turn our email exchange into its own column, which you can read here. I felt I had set the record straight; we agreed to disagree on a few things, and I hoped that I had moderated his views a little. [He goes on to talk about Card’s recent extreme political positions.] I don’t recognize the Orson Scott Card I see today, but I refuse to believe that the author whose stories helped me navigate my teenage years has disappeared entirely. Others may hate him, but I’m still struggling to understand him. That’s the least I owe him for gifting me with an ethical compass when I needed one. How strange and how sad, then, that Card’s compass pointed me in one direction while he strode off in another. But maybe that’s what he had given me: a gift so sacred that even Card himself could not be allowed to understand what it meant.”

Deseret News very long interview with Card.  DN: Do you feel that you’ve paved the way for other LDS authors?

OSC: Oh, no. This has nothing to do with LDS. In fact, Stephenie Meyer has had way more film success than I’m ever likely to have. The Twilight series — if anything, she paved the way. But I don’t think anybody says, “Let’s find another story by a Mormon writer.” No one actually cares. What they look for is, did it sell, does an audience like it, is it a strong story, do we know how to market this if we make it. If the answer to all those questions is yes, then there’s a good chance that they’ll at least make the attempt.

DN: Do you feel like “Ender’s Game” is your best piece of writing?

OSC: No, far from it. But it’s my most resonant story. It was written in 1984, and I was 33. I’ve learned a few things since then. I’ve written many books that I consider to be better works of art and even some stories that I feel more emotionally involved with. I think that the two series that I just began — “Lost Gate” is the first of the Mither Mages books, and “Pathfinder” is the first of a young adult trilogy — they’re as good as anything I’ve ever done. “Pathfinder” is probably my best science fiction. Period. Better than “Ender’s Game” for taking the possibilities of the science fiction genre and spinning a yarn. And they’re building up their own audience, each of them. … They have a life of their own, so we’ll see where they go.

Wired interview with OSC.

“Q: Much of your work is edgy for Mormons, yet the fact that you’re a Mormon is edgy for a lot of other people. What’s it like being in the middle?

A: In a way, being a Mormon prepares you to deal with science fiction, because we live simultaneously in two very different cultures. The result is that we all know what it’s like to be strangers in a strange land. It’s not just a coincidence that there are so many effective Mormon science fiction writers. We don’t regard being an alien as an alien experience. But it also means that we’re not surprised when people don’t understand what we’re saying or what we think. It’s easy to misinterpret us. I understand it. So, you know, I don’t get upset by that.”

Nathaniel Givens. “Children Like Ender”. “That’s part of what appealed to me most about Ender’s Game in my most recent read through. The sense of being overwhelmed and vulnerable, of being a child, is not something that I’ve ever grown out of. A couple of decades of experience have given me the kind of context that makes it easier to maintain my equilibrium when facing experiences similar to what I have felt before, but I find that life has ways of throwing you new experiences no matter how prepared you think you are. And also that some old pains–and also joys–can strike again in the most unexpected of times and places.”

BYU’s Lee Library opens “Ender’s Game” exhibit Nov. 1 to coincide with film’s premiere. The exhibit will follow the transformation of “Ender’s Game” from a manuscript short story submitted to Analog in 1977, to the revised novel manuscript from 1984, through a screenplay.

Other Films

The Saratov Approach nearly doubled its theaters to 43 in its 4th weak, and stayed at that level in its 5th week. Its average gross did not go down much between its 4th and 5th weeks. It is currently has a box office of $999,643.

Eric Samuelsen review. “In many ways, The Saratov Approach marks the next evolution in Mormon cinema.  It’s intelligently written and directed by Garrett Batty.  Production design, cinematography, editing: they’re all Hollywood standard, state of the art.  The music is better than that: Robert Allen Elliott’s score manages to enhance the action without intruding–I thought it was one of the great strengths of the film. Saratov features four outstanding acting performances, and several creditable supporting performances.  And the story is both compelling and powerfully told . . . I found the film both faith-affirming and powerful.  I also think it’s a film that’s unlikely to make any sort of national break-through.  I may be wrong–it’s possible that other Christians will also find it affirming and moving.  But it seems to me to be a film intended primarily for LDS audiences, without much cross-over appeal.” Samuelsen then goes on to explain how two key scenes would be unbelievable and distracting to non-Mormon audiences, although Mormon audiences would appreciate them.

Bruce Bennett, St. George Spectrum. Grade: B. “A better than average drama . . . Avoiding most, if not all the mistakes of similarly limited-budget, faith-based films (“Ephraim’s Rescue” comes to mind), “The Saratov Approach” doesn’t preach too hard or lazily seek to only entertain its built-in religious audience. It also wisely sticks to the unique details of its story, which are gripping enough . . . For a low budget film, director Garrett Batty and crew do an admirable job of capturing the intensity and desperation of the two young men involved . . . A riveting tale that affirms the faith of the already converted without insulting the intelligence of the skeptic who primarily wants a high-caliber movie with a great, even miraculous, payoff.”

Austenland is still in 35 theaters in its 12th week. Total box office of $2,056,638.

Christmas For A Dollar (John Lyde, director, based on a book by Gale Sears) will premiere on December 15th, 7 p.m. EDT on the UP (Uplifting Entertainment) channel. DVD release on Nov. 12. “The Kamp family is struggling to get by, particularly since Mrs. Kamp’s untimely death. The older children do their best to take care of the family, but the younger children — straight-talking little Ruthie and Norman, a fan of fictional cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy – struggle most with a bleak-looking future. With their father facing mounting debts resulting from Norman’s battle with polio, the siblings expect a Christmas without presents. But when father scrapes together a dollar to use for gifts, things change. As each child comes up with a special gift to give another member of the family, they soon begin to see many of their dearest wishes come true. Perhaps a boy who struggles to walk can become a real cowboy after all. Based on the book by Gale Sears. Stars: Brian Krause, Nancy Stafford, Danielle Chuchran, Heather Beers, James Gaisford, Jacob Buster, Ruby Jones, Ethan Hunt.”

Catholic, LDS members collaborate on Christmas film (KSL feature).

Doug Gibson on the state of Mormon movies. “Although I tend toward skepticism on miracles, as an active Mormon, I’ll give “Ephraim’s Rescue” a thumbs up. It does what it seeks to do — raises the testimonies of many of the faithful. It’s moving to see an historical overview of the sufferings of the handcart companies and a review of the desperate efforts to rescue the stranded handcart pioneers. However, let’s be honest, the film is a slick, better-produced reproduction of the filmstrip LDS history movies we’ve seen in Mormon primary and Sunday schools . . . Mormon cinema that makes it to theater screens has evolved to meet the needs of its chief audience, active Mormons. That need is faith repetition, or perhaps more optimistically called faith-promoting. As mentioned, I enjoy the films, but I miss the challenges to our assumptions in the earlier films, in which characters who deeply believed in Mormonism sometimes succumbed to the temptations of passion, loneliness, and rage. Even the silly films, “Singles Ward, ” “Home Teachers” or “Church Ball,” have more honesty. They riff on the Mormon culture, which is a safe but tempting target. The only “riffs” in “Ephraim’s Rescue” are a couple of mild jokes on polygamy.”

News and blogs

Mormons Offer Cautionary Lesson on Sunny Outlook vs. Literary Greatness (Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times). “In 1888, speaking about the possibility of Mormon literature, the church leader Orson F. Whitney made an audacious promise to his fellow Mormons: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” Yet 125 years later, there is no Mormon Milton. There is no Mormon Milosz, no Mormon Munro. Mormons are, on average, better educated than most Americans, and they have written popular fiction. But Mormon authors tend to cluster in genre fiction, like fantasy, science fiction, and children’s and young adult literature. Orson Scott Card, who wrote “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi novel on which the country’s current top-grossing movie is based, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So is Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series. In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare — who has, lately? — have all had literary renaissances. Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore. And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing. They have a range of possible explanations . . . Ms. Hale’s theory is that literary fiction tends to exalt the tragic, or the gloomy, while Mormon culture prefers the sunny and optimistic . . . “I think Mormons tend to have hope and believe in goodness and triumph, and those portrayals can ring false in a literary world,” Ms. Hale said. Rachel Ann Nunes writes in the romance, paranormal, fantasy and young people’s genres, and she founded LDS Storymakers, an organization for Mormon writers. She said that Mormon theology makes otherworldly and escapist genres natural fits for church members . . . “A lot of writers who might have gone another way have gone to children’s or young adult because of the strong communities,” Ms. Hale said. But there is a specifically Mormon logic to the trend, too. Realist literature for adults often includes aspects of adult life like sex and drinking, and the convention is to describe them without judgment, without moralizing. By writing for children and young adults — or in genres popular with young people — one can avoid such topics. Mormon authors can thus have their morals and their book sales, too . . . Another factor is possible church disapproval. The novelist Brian Evenson said he was forced out of Brigham Young University for writing fiction that displeased church leaders, and in 2002 he was excommunicated. When he was a child, he kept a journal, and his parents told him to “only record the happy things, and not the negative things.” . . . Patrick Madden, who teaches English at Brigham, says that there are Mormons who write excellent poetry — he mentioned his colleague Lance Larsen — and intellectually ambitious fiction. But he agreed that Mormon writers were comfortable with genre conventions. “I think there is a pretty thriving LDS book culture,” Professor Madden said. “But a lot of it is faith-affirming and uncomplicated-type writing. Maybe that’s why there’s a pretty strong thrust of LDS genre writers. Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.”” [Calling Terry Tempest Williams a fantasy author was an odd mistake.]

Some Twitter replies:

A Motley Vision@motleyvision  Why we need not worry about the great Mormon novel: …

Dan Wells@TheDanWells  1) The NYT have never taken genre seriously, and probably never will. That’s fine: read what you want to read, NYT, that’s what we do. 2) To say that genre will never be as good as Shakespeare because we write about magic is a pretty hilarious misreading of Shakespeare. 3) Genre fiction will earn its legitimacy the same way Shakespeare did: public opinion. Your grandchildren will study Card in school.

Judge allows ‘father of Mormon cinema’ Richard Dutcher back into his Salt Lake house (Deseret News). “Part of a restraining order was lifted Tuesday against the so-called “father of Mormon cinema.” A judge ruled that Richard Dutcher, 49, could move back into the Salt Lake house that he shared with a woman who filed a protective order against him on Oct. 22. But other than being allowed back in his house, the remainder of the restraining order is still intact pending his next scheduled court hearing. “We feel very good about what happened today. We feel so far Mr. Dutcher has been vindicated. And we feel next week when we come back he’ll be fully vindicated of these false allegations in what is a completely fabricated story,” his attorney, Morgan Philpot, said outside of court Tuesday. Dutcher . . . had been living with a 37-year-old woman for about a year. In August, they moved into a home in Salt Lake City. On Oct. 22, the woman filed a restraining order against Dutcher. Outside of court Tuesday, neither side commented on what prompted the ex-parte order to be filed. Dutcher, however, said in a prepared statement that he never physically assaulted the woman. “I do feel the need to state publicly that I have never hit a woman, choked a woman, never kicked a woman, certainly never sexually abused a woman. So these are very painful and worrisome allegations. But I am grateful for how things worked out today, that at least I am able to return to my residence,” he said. In making her decision, the judge noted that Dutcher’s name was on the lease, he was the one paying the mortgage and the woman was currently unemployed. She noted that Dutcher had stated his office, including his entire film history, was inside the house. Salt Lake police detective Dennis McGowan said five police reports have been filed involving Dutcher since Oct. 20. Two of them were filed by Dutcher himself. But all of the incidents were “non-criminal,” he said. All of the incidents involved “civil matters.” Philpot declined to talk about the specifics of the allegations, but noted: “We expect there will no criminal charges filed. And if there are criminal charges filed, they will be against the other party in this case. “This should give you a good indicator how we feel about the case. He’s back in the residence because the court found he should not have been removed in the first place. Very good sign for us,” Philpot said. Philpot said he expected to talk more about the allegations after the next scheduled hearing, set for Nov. 12 to address the rest of the restraining order. “The past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. And what I’ve been thinking is knowing how it all turned out, if Scott Fitzgerald would have gone back and done it again. I’ve decided that in retrospect, on the night of their first meeting he would have gone running screaming in the opposite direction,” Dutcher said, referring to the tempestuous marriage of the American novelists.”

KSL. “These are very painful and worrisome allegations,” Dutcher said. “I do feel the need to state publicly that I have never in my life hit a woman, never choked a woman, never kicked a woman — certainly never sexually abused a woman.” . . .  No criminal charges have been filed against Dutcher. Salt Lake City Police said they are not currently investigating any criminal allegations against him.” Dutcher is represented by Morgan Philpot, a Utah lawyer and politician.

Kent Larson. “Literary DCGD #41: Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes”. Thomas Ward’s 1843 poem in honor of a missionary who died in the field.

The last day to nominate a book for the 2013 Whitney Awards is December 31, 2013.

Doug Gibson interviews Steven Carter about the iPlates series and the Kickstarter campaign that funded it. Theric also wrote about the campaign at AMV. The Kickstarter campaign has gone well so far, they have $2778 out of the $3500 they need, with 26 days still to go.

MJ Pritchett at the Berkeley Institute is doing a series on Mormonism and the Arts. Theric has been leading discussions on Poetry, Fiction (lit), and Fiction (sf/f).

Also at AMV, Kent’s Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #77: Orson F. Whitney on poetry and religion, Patricia’s You Say You Want a Creavolution? Well, You Know …, and Tyler’s News from Your Friendly Nayborhood Sonosopher.

Patricia Wiles’ My Mom’s A Mortician middle grade series, which won AML awards in 2004 and 2005, have been out of print for a while, but they are now available again in ebook format, with new covers.

Short stories and anthologies

Space Eldritch II: The Haunted Stars. Cold Fusion Media, Oct. 26. Short story collection. Space opera meets Lovecraftian cosmic horror.

A Darklight Call’d on the Long Last Night of the Soul – Michaelbrent Collings
Dead Waits Dreaming – Larry Correia
The Implant – Robert J Defendi
Plague Ship – Steven L. Peck
From Within the Walls – Steven Diamond
Space Opera: Episode Two—The Great Old One Strikes Back – Michael R. Collings
The Queen in Shadow – David J. West
The Humans in the Walls – Eric James Stone
Seed – D.J. Butler
Full Dark – Nathan Shumate
Fall of the Runewrought – Howard Tayler

“My Favorite Christmas” by David Farland and “The Christmas Noun by Larry Correia appear in A Fantastic Holiday Season, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. “18 Magical, Imaginative, and Haunting Tales of the Holiday.”

New Books and their Reviews

A Timeless Romance: European Collection. Mirror Press, Oct. 28. Historical Romance Anthology. Timeless Romance series #5. Six novellas set in Europe, by Annette Lyon, G. G. Vandagriff, Michele Paige Holmes, Sarah M. Eden, Heather B. Moore, and Nancy Campbell Allen.

Amie and Bethany Borst, Cinderskella. Jolly Fish Press, Oct. 26. Middle-grade humor/fantasy. Scarily Ever Laughter series #1. Authors are mother-daughter, the daughter is 12 years old. First novel for both. Cindy is just a normal 11¾-year-old. At least until she wakes up one night and finds out she’s dead. Well, she isn’t technically dead-she just doesn’t have any hair, eyes, or . . . skin. Yep, she is a skeleton—all bones and no body. Human by day and skeleton by night, Cindy is definitely cursed.

Jaleta Clegg. Jericho Falling. Self, Oct. 17. Science Fiction. Fall of the Altairan Empire #6.

Frank L. Cole. The Guardians of the Finisher’s Fury. Bonneville/Cedar Fort, Nov. 12. Middle Grade Fantasy. Guardians Series #3. Amber and Dorothy have found the Wrath, the last artifact of the Weapons of Might.

M. L Forman. The Sands of Nezza. Shadow Mountain, Nov. 5. Middle Grade Fantasy. Adventures Wanted series #4.

Donna Hatch. Perfect Secret. Mirror Lake Press, Oct. 21. Regency Romance. Rouge Hearts series #3.

Cindy M. Hogan. Adrenaline Rush. O’Neal Publishing, Oct. 20. YA Suspense. A madman with a mission is kidnapping groups of thrill-seeking high school seniors across the country, and it’s up to Christy to stop him.

Cindy M. Hogan. Gravediggers. O’Neal Publishing, Oct. 20. YA Suspense. Seventeen-year-old Billy thinks his father’s murder will never be solved until he stumbles across an old ammo box while digging a grave in his small-town Tennessee cemetery.

Wendy Knight. Warrior Beautiful. Astraea Press, Oct. 14. YA Fantasy. Riders of Paradesos series #1. Working with the ex you secretly love to save the souls of the innocent is almost as bad as working with a mighty battle unicorn who would be thrilled to watch you plummet to your death.

Brenda Novak. Take Me Home For Christmas. Harlequin MIRA, Oct. 29. Romance. Whiskey Creek series #5.

Lehua Parker. One Shark, No Swim. Jolly Fish Press, Sept. 21. Middle grade fantasy. Niuhi Shark series #2. Set in Hawaii.

RaeAnne Thayne. Christmas in Snowflake Canyon. Harlequin HQN, Oct. 29. Romance. Hope’s Crossing series #6.

Reviews of older books

Julie Coulter Bellon. Pocket Full of Posies (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Mystery/Suspense novels usually begin with a piece of exciting action to begin the story, then build the mystery or suspense as the story proceeds, then feature a huge dramatic resolution scene. A Pocket Full of Posies follows this pattern, but the tension remains high throughout the book with one exciting scene after another. Be sure to block out enough time to read this one from cover to cover because there aren’t any good places to stop.”

Stephanie Black. The Witnesses (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Black makes her characters come alive for the reader and the growth each of the major character makes enhances the story . . . The author is a master at creating suspense and the technique she uses so well in her suspense novels is evident in this pair of dystopian novels. She also knows how to end this type of story by resolving the issues of the particular volume, but leaving open the possibility of new issues that might be the basis of a future volume. The story’s weakest point may be in the area of technology. For a story that takes place approximately a hundred years in the future, there’s a noticeable lack of advanced technology. Transportation and communication are pretty much the same as that of the present time . . . Dystopian novels are often found in young adult literature, but this one has a more adult theme with its excessively controlled socialism brought about by political extremism. The misery, distrust, and emptiness of a people who reject God and self determination is brought about by their own apathy and forfeiture of rights more than through the militaristic or psychological force often found in YA dystopian novels. Still the force is there, underlying all; conform or die. Black’s fans will certainly pick up this book and I recommend it for all those who enjoy a well-told story, those who like a little science fiction, and those who revel in subtle moral or religious messages.”

Stephanie Black. The Witnesses (Gamila). “I really liked experiencing another adventure with these characters and seeing how they were able to change their country for the better even if it happened in a way they would never have expected. I love how layered and complex Black’s characters are, especially her villains. She did a superb job of showing their motivations and revealing their fascinating decisions. I really enjoyed getting back into this intense dystopian world.”

Larry Correia and Mike Kupari. Swords of Exodus (Nick Sharps, Elitist Book Reviews). Loved. “Of all Larry’s books DEAD SIX has probably been the one I’ve liked the least. That’s not to say that DEAD SIX is a bad book, but I didn’t consider it up to Larry’s standards. It was fun and action-packed but the writing was a little rough around the edges, the collaboration between Correia and Kupari wasn’t seamless, I wasn’t sold on the characters, and I couldn’t find any merit in either of the romantic relationships. That said, I wasn’t discounting the series as the second half of the novel runs a whole lot smoother than the first. I’m quite pleased to say that SWORDS OF EXODUS by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari is infinitely better . . . SWORDS OF EXODUS is a bit of a slow burner compared to DEAD SIX but I’d hesitate to call this a bad thing. Correia and Kupari set up an epic final assault that is well worth the price of admission alone. Once again it is clear that these two authors write what they know and the action is as crisp and clear as has come to be expected. In a recent article it was suggested that Larry Correia is eligible to be one of several possible successors to the late great Tom Clancy. It’s not just the action that proves this, but also the eye for technical detail, politics, and conspiracy. I’d like to add that if Correia is a potential successor than Mike Kupari certainly deserves to be credited as well. That problem I had with the collaboration in the first book? It’s non-existent in SWORDS OF EXODUS. It would be difficult to find where Larry’s writing stops and where Mike’s starts. It is a seamless product and I commend the two for making it so. And you know what? If we’re lucky the third book in the series might be Correia and Kupari’s equivalent of Clancy’s RED STORM RISING, what I consider to be the single best techno-thriller, military fiction book ever written.

Shannon Guymon. Love and Dessert Trilogy (ending with My Sweetheart) (Jennie Hansen, Merdian Magazine). “The individual books each have a well plotted story arc and comfortable conclusion. As an overall trilogy, a few points such as the pushy would-be buyer changing motivation direction causes some loss of realism, and the problems with their father are too easily forgiven. Even with the few picky points I’ve mentioned, I recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys a good love story and believes good people deserve a little happy ever after.”

Nathan Hale. Donner Dinner Party: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales (Betsy Bird, New York Times). (reviewed with another book) ““Donner Dinner Party” is, as it boasts, “dire and disgusting, but a testament to the human will to survive.” The book is the third in a series with an inherently ridiculous — though entertaining — premise. Nathan Hale (the historical figure, a spy during the Revolution) has been given the gift of seeing America’s future. While waiting to be hanged, he tells tales to his hangman and the British provost marshal in order to postpone his inevitable death. The two previous “Hazardous Tales” — “One Dead Spy” and “Big Bad Ironclad!” — were set during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Hale now moves on to the tragedy of the Donner Party, a group of emigrants who left Illinois for California in 1846 and were forced to spend the winter in the Sierra Nevada, where about half of them died and some are said to have resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. For those readers who assumed the horrors of the Donner Party began and ended with the conspicuous consumption of human flesh, the spate of attacks, murders and other tragedies along the way will come as a surprise. One notable aspect of this book — aside from the graphic-novel format — is how Hale tackles the actual eating of people. It’s clear that to the hangman (a childlike figure who is a perfect stand-in for young readers), the prospect of eating pets to stay alive is more unnerving than the idea of eating people. You can eat 65-year-old Jacob Donner, sure, but don’t you dare take a nibble out of Towser the pup! The end of the book yields fascinating facts, including a grid showing who died, who survived, the causes of their deaths and whether or not they were cannibalized. There’s also a flow chart tracking how likely you, the reader, would be to survive the trip based on your age, sex and the size of your family . . . Of the two graphic novels, Brown’s is clearly more dedicated to using strictly sourced facts to weave an accurate historical narrative. Hale, on the other hand, is happy to jump back and forth in time, using the characters of Hale the spy, the hangman and the provost marshal to keep things lively. And while Brown does his best, most children will probably prefer Hale’s blood-soaked adventures over Brown’s careful and grim account of an environmental catastrophe.”

Jack Harrell. A Sense of Order and Other Stories (Blair Hodge, By Common Consent). “Harrell is a Mormon author, but not all of the stories include distinctly Mormon elements. A few of the ones that do tilt too far in didactic directions for my taste, although usually in a way that complicates rather than reinforces typical Latter-day Saint perspectives. The element I appreciated most about Harrell’s writing is his ability to distill haunting ruminations into one-liners that echo in my mind long after I put the book back on the shelf. “Dear God, blind me to the pain of others.” “There’s a lot of things that’s left upset in this world.” “Do you ever wish for something different?” The stories that back these lines up give them a weight you might try lifting.”

Tracy and Laura Hickman. Swept Up by the Sea (Denice Stiles-Mounce, AML). “This is the story of young Percival who follows the advice of a self-serving seer to go to sea to seek his fortunes. During his misadventure to do just that, he spies the lovely Tuppence who is every bit as romantically illusioned as himself. What ensues is a delightful adventure with engaging characters, disasters, and true love that kept me turning the pages . . . A delightfully engaging story for the teen or young adult reader, the authors turn sappy romance, overdone fairy tale creatures, and the human condition into a joke we can all enjoy, and include a story within the story that warms the heart.”

Ryan McIlvain. Elders (Lisa Locascio, Los Angeles Review of Books/Salon). [The author starts with a long history of her own religious life, from a doubting Catholic, through experimentation with a variety of faiths, including Mormonism for a brief time. This is a brief snippet from a long review.] “The canon of literature about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is slim. Books about Mormonism fall overwhelmingly into one of two pulpy categories: evangelical Christian conversion narratives, lurid exposés like Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints, and the endless ghostwritten memoirs of escapees from polygamist compounds. Barring inspirational literature, there are few Mormon novels worth remarking: Halldór Laxness’s Paradísarheimt (Paradise Reclaimed), the indelible fiction of Judith Freeman, and Walter Kirn’s Thumbsucker . . . Mormonism lacked a novel of the disaffected, the suffering and rage of the deserting and deserted — and because I couldn’t read this story, and because it was not my own, I got how little I understood: my latter Latter-day revelation. Ryan McIlvain’s Elders, published this year by Hogarth, finally fills this gap. Inlaid with darkness and violence, it is the story of disaffected young men’s machinations towards adulthood through the apparatus of the Church . . . In their youthful idealism, Passos and McLeod are familiar figures, and I hoped against hope that the elders would peaceably resolve the issues between them and their Church. This was a selfish desire, a wish to see LDS as still fundamentally good, or honest, or both; they are not the same thing. But McIlvain is too clear-eyed to give me my happy ending . . . My favorite verse from the Book of Alma — “experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” — is the animating principal of Elders, haunting both McLeod and Passos, taunting them to continue their exhausting quest, an indelibly American idea: try it and see, give it a go, try your hardest and see if you don’t win. This challenge is not only dangerous, McIlvain shows; it is also cruel. Life offers few sure bets. If we must experiment on faith, we must also understand that the experiment is the leap itself.”

Kelly Oram. Chameleon (Rosalyn). 3 stars. “The plot really has some interesting and engaging ideas. I think what I struggled with was that some of the elements were just too much. The love triangle, for instance. Oram does such a great job making you care about Russ, that when Gabriel gets introduced, it’s hard to love him as much–particularly when Dani’s situation with Gabriel is something imposed on both of them from the outside. There were also some major plot twists that I saw coming. The book does read quickly, and, as mentioned above, Oram has a great YA voice. The book is worth reading for the interactions between Dani and Russ alone. So if you have a reasonably high tolerance for dramatic love triangles, you’ll probably really enjoy this book. I couldn’t get into the love triangle, which ultimately made the book less enjoyable for me.”

Aleesa Sutton. Diary of a Single Mormon Female (Emily Belanger, Patheos). “By the end of the book Sutton’s perspective has shifted from the lovesick little girl who first wrote in a diary, to a woman who recognizes the nuance and complexity of a goal that once seemed as simple as saying “yes” to dates. As honest and brave as some of Sutton’s journal entries are, I find myself most interested in the recommendations she makes for ways that we can develop a more supportive church culture, especially for singles.”

Dan Wells. Fragments (Rosalyn). 4 stars. “I thought the book was incredibly well done. It did drag a little in a couple of parts, but given that Kira travels from the East Coast to Colorado, that’s not entirely surprising. But mostly I found the novel to be clearly written, fast-paced, and the world built was amazing. Most of the time I find post-apocalyptic stories to be a little depressing or predictable big-brotherish. This was neither. In addition to good storytelling, the book also raises interesting ethical questions about humanity and to what extent it is ethical to save oneself at the expense of others.”


Eric Samuelsen. Nothing Personal. Plan-B Theatre, SLC. Oct. 24-Nov. 3. World premier. Based on the imprisonment of Susan McDougal, jailed for contempt of court for her refusal to lie before Kenneth Starr’s grand jury. Directed by Jerry Rapier.

KUER Radio West interview with Samuelsen and Rapier.

Salt Lake Tribune interview with Samuelsen and Rapier.

Eric on opening night.

Dave Mortensen, UTBA. “Jerry Rapier’s productions at Plan-B always bring a cohesive mix of acting, script and design . . . The script is only seven scenes long, but it’s a wild ride. It begins simple enough—Susan is imprisoned so that Kenneth can convince her to contradict her testimony to suit his needs—and it quickly turns on its head. Samuelsen’s script verges on expressionism. He takes the question of “What is the truth?” and makes the play one large metaphor on that theme. For example, the audience becomes accustomed to a strict physical boundary between Kenneth and Susan, and then Kenneth breaks that and enters the cell. Additionally, the play becomes a battle of words and logic. However, the matron, played by Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin, later speaks in tongues. Everything the audience can trust in the play is questioned. Nothing Personal no longer is about which of the characters is right, but rather which of all the things we’re seeing are real, and which are just hallucinations. Nothing Personal is a wild cage match between two goliaths. Everything is on the table. Everything is worth doubting. Whoever ends up the victor decides what happened inside.” The Selective Echo review.

SLCene review. “It’s a complex structure, but Samuelsen’s script rewards the audience with great dialogue and a succession of thoughtful ideas delivered by both McDougal (April Fossen) and Starr (Kirt Bateman). Joined by Dee-Dee Darby Duffin as a prison guard with a subtle but vital presence to the proceedings, both Fossen and Bateman succeed in keeping the audience engaged through the dialogue-heavy, largely action-free production.”

Next in the “Year of Eric” will be RADIO HOUR EPISODE 8: FAIRYANA (Rose Wagner, SLC, December 3, 2013). A holiday show about a holiday show (performed as a radio show) about the writers of a children’s television show possessed by their own characters.  Also broadcast live on KUER’s RadioWest.

William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” translated and updated by Orson Scott Card. November 7-10th. Performed by Panara Theatre, National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY. In English and American Sign Language. For ticket information email


November 3rd, 10th, 17th

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

USA Today #9, #7, #10 (49th week)

PW Mass Market #11, #9. #19 (5th week). 7620, 8183, 8444 units, 35,843 total.

PW Childrens #7, #4, #5 (5th week). 6011, 6895, 8228 units, 28,374 total.

NYT Trade Paperback #13, #13, #10 (9th week)

NYT Mass Market Paperback #1, #1, #2 (55th week)

NYT Ebooks #7, #4, #3 (14th week)

NYT Combined Print & Ebook #7, #3, #3 (16th week)

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale

PW Childrens #14, #15, #15 (4th week). 5134, 4573, 4886 units, 19,680 total.

NYT Middle Grade #11, #12, #11

Spirit Animals #1: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull

PW Childrens #17, #21, x (7th week). 4677, 3881 units. 39,035 total.

NYT Middle Grade #3, #3, #5 (8th week)

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

NYT YA #7, #9, x (5th week)

The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner

PW Childrens #23, x, x (2nd week). 3267 units, 7631 total.

NYT YA #14, #12, #14

Christmas in Snowflake Canyon, by RaeAnne Thayne

USA Today x, x, #53 (1st week)

PW Mass market paperback x, x, #15 (1st week). 10,149 units.

NYT Mass-market paperback x, x, #14 (1st week)

Take Me Home for Christmas, by Brenda Novak

USA Today x, x, #81 (1st week)

The Four Doors, by Richard Paul Evans (non-fiction)

USA Today x, x, #9 (1st week)

NYT Times Advice, How-to & Miscellaneous x, x, #7 (1st week)

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

USA Today x, #133, #103 (2nd week)

NYT Paperback Mass-market x, #22, x

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2 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, November 9, 2013

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    Thanks again for your yeoman work in compiling this. I’m particularly grateful to you for pointing to the Stranger in a Strange Land blog post, which makes a thoughtful contribution to a painful current controversy.

  2. Andrew Hall says:

    Added a Ryan McIlvain Elders review I had missed, and a couple of replies to the NYT article.

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