Yes, My story starts in a brothel

Scavenger-Evolution final frontYes, I also went to seminary, and still love Jesus very much. So what happened? Am I trying to tempt people into lusting after prostitutes? Do I enjoy the look when people look up from the first page and think, “What kind of story is this?”

The story is about a husband who has lost his infant to a catastrophic accident and in his mourning, instead of turning to his wife for healing, he turns away. As a new father nearing my sixth anniversary with my wife, I can testify to the very real temptation of turning away from my wife in the tough times.

Scavenger: Evolution is the story of a character a mile down a path I’ve yet to tread. In the small town surrounded by sand dunes, he has rejected his profession as a sand diver and in his misery, picked up the only job that would allow him to maintain his depression: being a janitor at a bar and brothel. (It’s also one of the locations mentioned in the world my story is inspired by, Sand by Hugh Howey.)

I didn’t come to this decision because I looked forward to explaining to my Christian friends why I was so sinful as to write a story about such abominable living. I came to the decision because, like I always try to do in my fiction, I was trying to be as honest and genuine as possible about my character. In his state of depression, this is where he would have ended up. And then, as would likely happen after spending time away from his wife and in the company of prostitutes, he has developed a lustful addiction.

I’ll say up front that I believe you can be honest and genuine without being explicit, but then everyone’s idea of explicit is different. For me, I have no guilt before God. I don’t see this setting and his struggle as glorifying anything. It is a glimpse into his life in all its horror, honestly. My goal in showing that was to create the empathy needed to want to join him as he tries to fight his way free.

So, yes, my debut novel starts off in a brothel. Yes, it has a little swearing in it, too. I didn’t include these elements to impress anyone. I included them because the heart struggle they illustrate is one I know well and look to overcome.

I don’t pretend to write about Christian characters. I write about characters that struggle with what I struggle with. Rush, my main character, must find a way to go on when he feels he’s lost it all. This is inspiring for me because I sometimes hit a lesser form of depression, and when I fantasize about adventure, I want to ideally see someone who understands depression and can yet still be a hero.

As Rush sand dives for love, for treasure, and within chaos, I’m ultimately hoping he ends up on the surface holding his wife’s hand, smiling, and planning to start over. But, because I’m honest, I don’t know if it will end happily ever after. I go on, as I do in real life, in hope that it will.

This is a kind of farewell for me at New Authors Fellowship. I haven’t blogged in awhile, ever since taking over Adventures in SciFi Publishing in the summer of 2013. We were recently nominated for a Hugo Award, btw. Pretty awesome, if I may say so. I stepped down as executive producer last August to focus on my family and novel, but the show has been passed on to the very able hands of Brent Bowen.

I still have thoughts about what it means to be a Christian author writing stories that deal with things many Christians find offensive and inappropriate. On the other hand, if I told another section of my online friends that I’m Christian, I would then become the offensive and inappropriate one.

So, where do I go from here? Have I successfully ostracized both sides of the spectrum of the people I may be writing for?

I don’t know. I write about characters that reflect struggles and longing in my heart. Because I have the safety net of them being fictional, I can take them to lower places than I’d go, but this is beneficial in seeing a kind of warning before I end up there. I don’t as much write for people as I write for my self. I hope people will support that endeavor, obviously, but the focus is on writing inspired fiction.

TfP_e-cover_1200I have some short stories that are less offensive (though I still don’t classify what I wrote in Scavenger, offensive, I can’t deny that some people have put the story down because of a bit of moaning and an image of a prostitute in her lacing.) I have a story, “The Bomb in the President’s Bathroom,” in the Tales from Pennsylvania anthology, a shared world collection of stories set in the Amish Scifi world of Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker. I have a story, “Staring Into,” coming up in the Masters of Time anthology. So it’s not that I’m trying to push people’s buttons. I just write what characters come to mind.

I have a novel waiting in the submissions inbox that I’m very excited about. Caroline is the story of a young woman who steps into the magical rift between Iowa and the Abyss. It explores the philosophy of worship and survival in its many well intentioned and darker forms. It’s my best attempt of describing faith and violence in a way that makes people examine the heart and not the label, movement, or reality of past experience. It’s also pretty scary (see, The Ring), and full of action (praying mantis apocalypse).

Thank you to New Authors Fellowship for being a place to hang and chat about faith and writing. I hope to come back and let you know how it’s going. I’m currently plotting out Scavenger: Evolution Book Two (title a secret), waiting on the audiobook to be turned back in from my producer, David Robison of Wonderthings Studios, and enjoying evenings with my wife and son.

He's getting harder and harder to keep still for photos these days.

He’s getting harder and harder to keep still for photos these days.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant; and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss.

6 comments on “Yes, My story starts in a brothel

  1. I read the first installment and found nothing inappropriate about it. In fact, I think it did a great job of showing how we flirt with temptation when things get hard, and I appreciated that Rush made the right choice. I think you did a great job of showing what it looks like for a Christian to write science fiction. As opposed to writing Christian science fiction.

  2. “So, where do I go from here? Have I successfully ostracized both sides of the spectrum of the people I may be writing for?”

    Ah, that trail that leads between the bubble-worlds. I can’t tell you much about it, except that I walk it with you, and there are people who live it every day and want to hear from writers in the same space. It’s sort of a weedy trail, with not much of a vista much of the time.

    “…it’s not that I’m trying to push people’s buttons. I just write what characters come to mind.”

    And if people want to take it as button-pushing, or if they’re more interested in misconstruing your motivations than being entertained and possibly enriched by your stories, they’re simply not your core audience. You’re not obligated to them.

    Your limited hours go to constructive engagement with the people who are. About the first thing I learned on social media is that who you are is a filter. It naturally filters out non-affinity just as much as it connects you to your authentic group of colleagues, readers and friends.

    Something I learned in becoming a Christian as an adult is that our faith means becoming more yourself, the way God intended, not getting deconstructed into a set of behavioural templates created by church culture — or any other culture. This surprised me, because the message from the church was more one of self-annihilation (which isn’t a Christian concept at all!) than self-control. Walking with Jesus means gaining the ability to trust yourself *more* over time, because the Spirit is transforming you. Granted we never see ourselves or our lives with perfect clarity, but there’s grace for that as well.

    And as you say, writing is a part of how that grace operates. It’s a place to wrestle with things, and there will be others who need to connect with those wrestlings and know they’re not alone.

    It’s weird, but put it all together, and it teaches you to cut a swath through the social landscape and not waste time apologizing for it.

    As always, you have my support, my respect and my admiration for all your accomplishments over these past many years, and going forward as well.

    -Catbert the Evil Editor

    • Hi Catbert. Thank you for sharing. Very well said, especially the part about being our own filter, even if I feel like my filter has been a scythe with wide strokes. Thank you for your support!

  3. Love this. Thank you for a wonderful post. I came to a similar decision and place with the Lord when I was getting ready to release my first novel, Nameless. It’s hard to explain sometimes why as a “Christian” you are at peace with God writing about “un-Christian” things, but I believe that softening the edges of our sin cheapens God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. We need to be the light that challenges the darkness of our world with God’s truth.

    • Thank you, Amy. It is hard to explain. At the same time, I don’t have any ill will toward those who are offended and unfriend me. The last thing I want is to write something that will make another stumble. At the same time, I know I can’t prevent that 100 percent and still write about sin. Who knows if I’m writing a violent scene that someone who thrives igniting anger will lust after. Well said about softening the edges. I still struggle about how hard to make my edges. Good to meet you, Amy. I look forward to seeing you around.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: