On the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival

Over one week has passed since I’ve written a proper blog.  (See “Examining Old School Anime: The Saints Point to Christ“)  I still need to comment on the new season among other things, but this post will be on my trip to Greenwood, Wisconsin in order to attend the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival.  Placing third in their short story contest of 2009, being a semi-finalist of the 2015 Novel Contest, and counting as a great friend of one of the contest judges ensured my invitation to the event.  Part of the idea behind the festival was that attendees would camp on site, but my friend (the blogger of Dusty Thanes) and I declined this opportunity in exchange for a comfy hotel room.  At a high of 81°F, the weather was appreciably cooler than here in Alabama, for which I was grateful.

Martha and Mary

Besides enjoying a reunion with my friend and his delightful family, the contest brought me in contact with several fiction writers and thinkers.  The most interesting of the bunch were Joseph Courtemanche, Robert Cely, Paul J. Bennett, David Zach, Bernard Bull, and Jamie Greening.  (I’m afraid that I skipped the apologetics part of this festival and focused more on the fiction writing aspect of it.)  Courtemanche, a former member of Navy Intelligence and a former police officer, stood out as the largest personality and person there; but, a deep humility made him very approachable.  Meeting the author of Assault on St. Agnes, whom my friend coached for countless hours on how to improve his novel, was a great honor.  (The preliminary judges act as editors after the initial cut before submitting their final recommendations to the deciding judge and founder of Athanatos Christian Ministries, Anthony Horvath.)  Assault on St. Agnes concerns a main character who is essentially a fictional version of the author: a “polyglot Rambo” called Bobby Kurtz.  Kurtz prevents Jihadists from committing a massacre in a church and soon finds himself enlisted again in the ranks of the U.S. military in order to prevent a bloodier attack from taking place.  Courtemanche’s experience makes for a very accurate and exciting novel, and I find myself enjoying every minute of it.

Robert Cely and I share interests in history, fantasy, single malt scotch, and craft beer, which makes him an amusing fellow to converse with.  (I only regret that I have read too little fantasy of late and but poorly remember the works I used to delve into.  Well, that can be fixed to some extent, and I mean to finish off the Fionavar Tapestry series now.)  I’m a little less than one-third into his contest winning novel, Beyond the Steel Wall, and I can’t fathom why he did not get more attention among the authors present there.  Unfortunately, I missed his talk on zombie fiction because it ran simultaneously with Dr. Bernard Bull’s discussion of how technology is affecting our society and technology’s “affordances and limitations.”  The talk fascinated me both by how many of these themes appear in anime and by how certain technologies–especially iPhones–have messed up the way human beings interact with each other and view the world.

wisconsin farmlands

Anyway, I was grateful to Robert Cely and Paul J. Bennett for giving me free signed editions of their novels.  (Of course, the two Southerners I met at the conference would do this.  I bought the signed edition I have of Assault on St. Agnes.  I only have to review Robert Cely’s Beyond the Steel Wall and Paul J. Bennett’s A Fall of Sparrows in return.)  I have but perused the opening paragraph of Bennett’s A Fall of Sparrows, but I expect a beautifully written tale of the Civil War by an aficionado of the War Between the States.  The long sentences stuffed with dependent clauses remind one of Faulkner, but unlike Faulkner’s prose, these adhere to the rules of grammar.  Bennett has spent much time touring battlefields, reading history, and handling and firing Civil War era replicas; so, I expect an accurate and fascinating story from him.

My friend gave two excellent talks: one on the importance of accurate scientific information in fiction and the other on how to write science fiction from a Christian perspective.  He used the talks as an excuse to mix chemicals which produce purple and green smoke and to ignite soap bubbles filled with hydrogen gas.  (Yours truly also took part in igniting said bubbles.)  The second talk was the most fun as four of us smoked pipes as we discussed how to introduce Christian ideas in science fiction.  To tell you the truth, I have a poor opinion of the genre (except in anime, at any rate), and acted as the pessimist of the group, which stimulated more positive ideas–such as using science and space exploration to give the reader a feeling of awe and wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

tolkein smoking

But, David Zach (futurist, member of the American Chesterton Society, and only other Catholic there) stood as the most brilliant speaker of the conference.  (This gentleman has a career in giving professional presentations among other things.)  I now have several books added to my reading list due to his influence, including The Art of X-Ray Reading and Kindly Inquisitors.   He gave a very interesting perspective on the future: we walk backwards into the future–not forwards.  Even a futurist like him cannot predict exactly what the future will hold.  He did point out some troubling points about our present society and the problems inherent in how technology causes people to interact with the world.  Outside of his speech, it was fun to talk to him about G. K. Chesterton, zinfandel, and a whole host of topics.

Besides the long drives, seeing my brother on the way, wining, dining, drinking awesome Scotch, and watching anime (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is essentially how Attack on Titan ought to have been), that sums up my little vacation.  I hope to have an article about what I’m watching from the current season up soon, and maybe I’ll also get to those other topics I wished to get around to.  May some of my dear readers be able to join me up in Wisconsin for next year’s festival!

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15 comments on “On the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival

  1. debbiejt says:

    I think that the authors most featured were the most recently published. Of course, had Sam Pakan come, he would have had a featured spot being the most recent winner, but he was unable to come. Maybe next year. You might still be able to try to win one of his books, Jesse’s Seed. Find him on FB or through me.

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    • That makes sense. If Pakan’s work is as good as the other contest winners I’m reading, I’ll certainly try to obtain a copy of his book. It was a real treat to be among so many fine authors and interesting thinkers. May the festival attract larger crowds in the coming years!

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  2. Samuru says:

    Nice post, I’ve never been to a Christian writing conference, not even any kind of writing conference for that matter. I need to check these out one day.

    Also, where did you find that cool image of Jesus in Japan? I assume it’s Japan….

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    • Thanks! Perhaps, you’ll be able to make it up to next year’s writing and apologetics conference. It was brimming with unique and fervent Christians united by the Faith and a dedication to art.

      I found that image by searching “Chinese Christian art.” I enjoy Oriental representations of Scriptural scenes and saints, especially the Madonna and Child in Japanese art.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] On the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival by Medieval Otaku […]

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  4. […] have written before on my trip to Athanatos Christian Ministries Arts Festival.  In the following paragraphs, I would like to write a little about two works written by award […]

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  5. jikosenden says:

    You’re probably a person I could ask about this, since the Athanatos web page doesn’t list an e-mail, their FB page is defunct and I don’t really Twitter. I’m wondering exactly what they require for the “1 page outline” and “1 page summary” in their writing contest submissions. What do they consider an outline? How is it different from what the yconsider a summary? What are the formats they prefer?.Thanks in advance.

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    • Sure. For your outline, concentrate on on the action of the story and use any outline you have on your word processor. I prefer the standard I,. A., 1., a. sort of outline. You can organize it by the key event of each chapter (I.) and major details within the chapter (A.) or overarching events (I.), then the major event of each chapter (A.), and then perhaps major details within that particular chapter (1.). Whatever you need to do in order to fit the whole plot into one page. The outline is there to prove that you have a compelling plot.

      In the summary, you should give a general summary of the events side by side with the major themes of the novel. While the outline proves that you have an interesting plot, the summary ought to reveal you as a Christian writer with theological and/or moral themes going on in the tale. Is the character trying to do the right thing? What are the ramifications of his actions and beliefs? The summary should answer questions like that. And, if–for the sake of example–they discover that your story glorifies bloody revenge, hedonism, or other non-Christian ideals, don’t expect to be considered further.

      By that point, your draft is there to prove that you are a competent and entertaining writer, i.e. whether you have technical skill in addition to an engaging plot and solid Christian ethics. Eliminate as much bad grammar and typos as possible–especially in the first several chapters! (Though, the judges don’t mind if you bend the rules of grammar here and there–this is fiction!–but be deliberate in those cases.)

      I hope that the above helps. Good luck to you!

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      • jikosenden says:

        I will think on this. Standard Word docs have 57 lines. Even if I consolidate my manuscript to 28 chapters, that still only allows one sub point per chapter. Maybe I’ll do it by acts or story beats. And…single spaced for the entire manuscript? That will be hard to read. Do they want chapters that start 1/3 the way down the page?

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      • Yep, stick to the instructions and you can’t go wrong. One of the judges can comprehend two lines of print at once, so single spacing is ideal. Start chapters at the top. Any specialized formatting will come if you win and they decide to publish your book.

        Once again, good luck to you!

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  6. Maryann says:

    Will you kindly leave your review of Athanatos Fest on its Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/pg/ACMArtsFestival/reviews/

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