First of all, I'd like to let you know about my Church, and my faith. My Christianity has a profound effect on the way I look at the world, and it influences every area of my life. Personally, I've found my faith molded by a number of different authors at different times in my life. C.S. Lewis was an early influence, with his Chronicles of Narnia giving me my first glimpse into the heart of the gospel message, separated from the King James language and the often too-familiar bible stories from Sunday school. Later on his space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength again reinforced my grasp of the important themes and doctrines of the Bible, but in a fresh perspective. I've also learned a lot from Lewis' apologetics, like Mere Christianity but I consider his fiction to be his strongest, and most persuasive, work. Likewise Calvin Miller's Singer Trilogy has been a help and an inspiration.
I attend Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, where I attend (and sometimes teach) the Sunday School class taught by Shawn Madden, the librarian at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Our Sunday School class is a live one. In the past weíve covered Systematic Theology using Millard Erickson's Christian Theology and Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology as our texts. Weíve just completed a "Quadriphonic version of the four gospels" in which we followed the life of Christ by reading sequentially through the gospels and looking at both the words and life of Christ, as well as understanding the historical background to gain a better understanding of the gospel text. We're used Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah and took additional background from Josephus, the Apocrypha and other ancient writers to help illuminate the gospel text.
Iím a smalltown boy, who grew up in rural Sims, Illinois, and attended Wayne City High School in Wayne City, Illinois. I tend toward rather sedentary pursuits, so it won't be a surprise that my favorite hobbies are reading and listening to music. In particular, this is where I'll let you know about the books and music that interest me.
I've been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy since high school, like most other folks in the computer profession. However, I've found that my favorite novels have a similar theme -- the exploration of the question of "What If?". Alternate History is a Science Fiction sub-genre that posits what would happen had some particular event in history turned out differently than it did. There are many of these "Turning points" in history, like the Battle of Marathon, the D-Day invasion, about a half-dozen battles in the American Civil War, etc. This is also the branch of literature that deals with questions like "What if Hitler had never been born?" Personally, this meshes my fascination with history with my love of a good sci-fi novel, so these kinds of novels tend to dominate my fiction reading.
A good place to start with some plot synopsis and discussions of Alternate History novels is Uchronia (see link below). Here are some of my favorite Authors and novels:
Harry Turtledove is probably the acknowledged master of this genre, with several series of books that masterfully play this "What if" game. He's written a great series based on the idea that the South did not lose the American Civil War. That starts with "How Few Remain", moves into the ďAmerican EmpireĒ trilogy and continues into World War I with the three "The Great War" books (Walk in Hell, American Front, Breakthroughs) and ends in World War II with the Setting Account tetralogy. Finally, he combines the alternate history and alien invasion genres in his series "World War" and "Colonization".
Another Favorite of mine is Eric Flint, whose wonderful novel 1632 traces the ramifications of a small town from modern West Virginia being transported to Germany during the 30 years war. His description of Grantville, W. Va. is so close to my own home town that I sometimes wondered if he was watching me at the time. Eric and his co-authors have written several more novels developing these themes in the 1632 series.
S.M. Sterling is another great author of this genre. He has written a four-part series of novels that posited that the losers of the American Revolution and the American Civil War emigrated to Southern Africa and created an "Anti-America" called The Domination of The Draka. He then traces that development forward into the 21st century, with horrifying consequences for mankind.
Nearly every Science Fiction author has at least tried to write a short story or novel in this genre, some with more success than others. For instance, Allen Steele's "The Tranquility Alternative" is a great examination of what might have happened had Von Braun's plans for the U.S. space program described in Collier's had literally come true as he outlined.
This kind of novel has recently began to show up as mainstream fiction. For instance, Robert Harris' book Fatherland is written with the assumption that Hitler won the second world war, and is written from the perspective of a detective who stumbles upon the truth behind all of the Jews who "went East".
Lately, this kind of "What if" game has taken on a life of its own among historians, who call this kind of analysis a "Contrafactual". Examples include "What If? The World's formost military historians imagine what might have been" and "The Hitler Options: Alternate Decisions of World War II".
Variations on this theme are the "Time-travel" and "Alternate Universe" genres. In the "Time-travel" genre a time traveler consciously makes a change to the time stream, while the "Alternate Universe" genre explores several alternate timestreams at once. While this genre arguably started with Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", it reached its stride in the mid 20th century, starting with L. Sprague DeCamp's classic novella of a changed Roman Empire that avoids the dark ages, "Lest Darkness Fall". Harry Turtledove's book "The Guns Of The South" is a good example of the "Time-Travel" genre;. It explores what use Robert E. Lee could have made with several thousand AK-47's. It is both good fiction and an excellent analysis of the political and military history of the Civil War period. Likewise, S.M. Stirling's Nantucket series beginning with "Island in the Sea of Time" explores what would happen if the island of Nantucket vanishes from the 20th century and appears in the year 1250 B.C. The resulting emergence of Nantucket as a superpower and its "Pax Americana" drastically changes the course of ancient history.
The Alternate Universe genre usually explores a traveller moving through different parallel universes, each with different courses of history. Robert Heinlein's "The Number of the Beast" was probably the novel that firmly established this genre, a theme he never really left in any of his novels that followed. Recent variations include John Barnes's "Finity" and Michael P. Kube-McDowell's "Alternities". I would heartily recommend John Barnes' "Timeline Wars" series as probably one of the best alternate universe series around.
There are several bands that I really enjoy, mostly those who combine a Christian worldview with thoughtful lyrics and no-nonsense rock-and-roll. My favorite band of all time is The Call Other bands and artists I enjoy include Kings X, Steve Taylor, Michael W. Smith, and Sam Phillips. I also enjoy Clannad in my more reflective moods.
Over the past year Iíve been able to pick up a hobby that I abortively tried to develop when I was in grade school, but was foiled by a combination of poor equipment and lack of guidance -- Amateur Astronomy. I now have the telescope of my dreams; a Meade LX-90 8íí Schmidt-Cassegrain Go-To telescope, which is perfect for most types of visual observing. For more information on the LX-90, see the two LX-90 sites referenced below. Iíve just started doing Webcam astrophotography, with only a couple of decent astrophotos to show for it.
- Providence Baptist Church
This link takes you to our churchís website, which is very complete and well kept-up and gives you lots of information about its ministries.
Uchronia is the place to start looking for reviews and information on Alternate History science fiction.
- LX 90
This LX-90 site has links to other sites, as well as a link to the wonderful Yahoo! group devoted to the LX-90.
- Janís LX-90 Site
Janís site is the best on on the LX-90 Iíve seen. Itís a wealth of information in one place.