Friday, June 30, 2006

Answering the Charges of Anti-Catholicism

A reviewer on Amazon.com posted this:

"First of all, why hasn't anyone mentioned the SEVERE anti-Catholic viewpoint in this book? And don't get me wrong, I'm not Catholic, I'm not even Christian, and I certainly don't mind a good Church bashing on occasion when done appropriately, and I absolutely love a good vampire and/or witch story, but I was STILL offended on behalf of all Catholics. Hallaway created a world wherein the Vatican runs a hit squad of witch killers. Once they identify you, they murder you, viciously, in cold blood. The Church was depicted as hypocritical (using their own witches in order to kill other witches), insane (psychotic obsessive witch killers showing absolutely no intelligence - just passion for murder), and full blown evil (attempting to create a race of master, day-walking vampires in order to continue killing all witches - and likely all other vampires and probably a few humans who just don't like the Church). If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say Tate was either a lapsed Catholic with a personal vendetta against the Church, or someone who stopped reading history at the Inquisition - and didn't pay much attention to the facts even at that. I don't mean to come across sounding like a Catholic apologist, but come on! Her depiction of the Church was so vindictive, it made me what her real agenda was.

My only real agenda ever is to write a ripping good yarn. Honest.

That being said, I don't want to dismiss the concerns this reader has for the biases she's perceived in my book. I will say that she's absolutely correct that I made the Vatican the villains in Tall, Dark & Dead. Another reader (on LiveJournal, not on Amazon.com) pointed out, and correctly so, that I also had my Vatican agents misusing Last Rites.

If Doctor Freud could get his hands on me, he'd probably decide that I do have some kind of deep-seated issue with Catholics. All my writing, even that in my much-referred to alternate life, has some passing reference to Catholics or Catholicism. My extended family are all Catholic. I grew up in a small Wisconsin town dominated by German and Irish Catholics. I went to three years of a Catholic grade school. Both of my parents are lapsed Catholics (for the record, I, however, am a lapsed Unitarian.)

None of this, however, has made me a Catholic-hater (at least outside of my fiction. Clearly something is going on in the subconscious of which I should try to be more aware of in future books.) In the alternate-me books, I worked very hard at not having any anti-relgious overtones, and am happy to count priests (both active and ex) in my fan base. Admittedly I wrote this book a lot quicker.

My reasons for making the Vatican the villains in TD&D had much more to do with the contemporary fantasy feel I wanted the book to have. And it probably does reveal something dark and ugly about me that when I asked myself, "Who, in this day in age, is most likely to have an organization devoted to stamping out witchcraft?" I answered, "I know, how about the people who brought us the Inquisition?" You know, thinking about it, perhaps I should have chosen a more fundamentalist religious sect – the sort who are still actively burning books, etc. – but I made those folks the villains in my last set of books (and talk about something I need to GET OVER.)

Plus, despite what the Amazon.com reviewer implied, I actually like the history of the Catholic church (about which I've read extensively while doing research for my other-me's books). Church history is so fascinating and rich, and full of heretics and dissenters. Perhaps, however, I am a victim of the Catholic mystic. The same misunderstanding of modern Catholicism that has people, by the droves, willing to believe that the Vatican is actively trying to take out Dan Brown's hero for uncovering "truth" about Mary Magdalene. People who can see Illuminati-level conspiracy in the bureaucracy of the Catholic church, simply because it's so ancient and so big.

I don't want to be one of those people.

While I can't fix the problem in TD&D, I (*knocking on wood*) will have the opportunity to correct it in following books. In the proposal for the third Garnet Lacey book I have Matyas and his mother returning (after a somewhat successful exorcism). Matyas has a close working relationship with the Order of Eustace, and I can use him to correct Garnet's assumptions about the witch hunters. Keeping in mind that all of the information about the Order comes directly from Garnet, I can have Matyas tell her, for instance, that, despite what she's heard and what she believes, the Order isn't officially under the aegis of the Vatican and, in fact, may be a splinter group of heretics who still consider themselves Catholic, but who are not. That way their insane evilness makes more sense. I can write in any number of ways for them to get their funding, etc., which could help distance their evilness from modern Catholicism.

Because I do want to fix this perception. It's most certainly too late to make things up to the angry Amazon.com reviewer, but, my mother always told me, it's never too late to try to do the right (write) thing.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had basically assumed that the Order of Eustace was not really operating under the auspices of the Vatican, and that Garnet misunderstood what she saw them doing.

There are all sorts of ultra-conservative splinter groups, from the semi-approved ones like the Society of Pius X and Opus Dei to the truly over-the-edge groups like the one you'll find at truecatholic.org. So I think this could totally work in a future book, though the person who left the review may not ever pick it up.

--Naomi

CV Rick said...

Alright . . .

Sometimes one stakes out a position of controversy in order to favor story strength. In Tall, Dark and Dead, you chose to make the Catholic church an enemy of a Vampire and a Witch possessed of an "evil" Goddess. Hello?!?!? I've got to be smoking something pretty damned (pun intended) strong not to realize that the Catholic church would be an enemy of Vampires and Witches IRL.

Oh the nits to be picked with this inane criticism of your book.

Firstly, it's not the type of book that I would normally read, I think we can agree on that. But read it I did . . . all the way through to the end. Not because you're a friend of mine, because when I read crap I put it down and move on - my reading time is too short to waste. I read it all the way through because it's an interesting and ENTERTAINING read. Entertaining is the key element. I could pick on your ending, which I wasn't that happy with, or I could pick on a couple of minor characters which I felt were 'stock' actors from familiar television shows.

But, you offended the Catholic church . . . give me a break. They make a good villain - ask Dan Brown since he's at the head of a very long line of writers who've used the Church as antagonist.

Further, they deserve a bit of derision:

See

Here

and here

and here

I hope that reviewer reads my story, Hunting Mormons, when it's published.

personal development said...

A typical dictionary definition of hypnosis states that it is: a state that resembles sleep but that is induced by suggestion. However, anyone who has tried hypnosis (and any self respecting hypnotist) will tell you that this is a very simplistic view of the subject!
A much better description comes from the Free Online Dictionary which states that hypnosis is: an artificially induced state of consciousness, characterised by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction. So what does this mean and how can it be used to your advantage?

Well, the subject of hypnosis has been discussed and pondered since the late 1700s. Many explanations and theories have come and gone though science, however, has yet to supply a valid and well-established definition of how it actually happens. It's fairly unlikely that the scientific community will arrive at a definitive explanation for hypnosis in the near future either, as the untapped resources of our 'mostly' uncharted mind still remain something of a mystery.
However, the general characteristics of hypnosis are well documented. It is a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, deep relaxation and heightened imaginative functioning. It's not really like sleep at all, because the subject is alert the whole time. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling you get when you watch a movie or read a captivating book. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the outside world. Your focus is concentrated intensely on the mental processes you are experiencing - if movies didn't provide such disassociation with everyday life and put a person in a very receptive state then they would not be as popular (nor would TV advertising be as effective!). Have you ever stated that a film wasn't great because you just couldn't 'get into it'???
This works very simply; while daydream or watching a movie, an imaginary world becomes almost real to you because it fully engages your emotional responses. Such mental pursuits will on most occasions cause real emotional responses such as fear, sadness or happiness (have you ever cried at a sad movie, felt excited by a future event not yet taken place or shivered at the thought of your worst fear?).
It is widely accepted that these states are all forms of self-hypnosis. If you take this view you can easily see that you go into and out of mild hypnotic states on a daily basis - when driving home from work, washing the dishes, or even listening to a boring conversation. Although these situations produce a mental state that is very receptive to suggestion the most powerful time for self-change occurs in the trance state brought on by intentional relaxation and focusing exercises. This deep hypnosis is often compared to the relaxed mental state between wakefulness and sleep.
In this mental state, people feel uninhibited and relaxed and they release all worries and doubts that normally occupy their mind. A similar experience occurs while you are daydreaming or watching the TV. You become so involved in the onscreen antics