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There are two things I wanted to say, but this is the one that wanted to be written. As part of my obligations of my Residency, I was required to write a press release describing the workshop I'd be running during my stay. I toiled -- not for very long -- and came up with something suitably ambiguous yet workable, sent it out, and waited, as we are wont to do. The premise was simple enough: as readers of genre fiction approach the written work willing to suspend disbelief, so too do the religious faithful approach religion wanting to believe. My workshop was going to look at the similarities between these two mechanisms and how they could be used as tools in writing genre fiction.

Simple, not particularly peculiar in spite of the subject matter, possibly setting myself up for way too much work for no good reason. I could've picked my other proposed workshop, you see. It had seasonings, and tea. Maybe it would've been easier to teach old ladies to write 5-7-5 syllables...

Fictitious Facts: Religion in Genre Fiction with A.M. Muffaz

Exploring how religious belief can inform fiction and how fiction can challenge religious beliefs.

Faith and suspension of disbelief share many similarities in the context of religion and genre fiction. Through the analysis of established authors and critiquing of samples of the participants’ own work, this workshop investigates how suspension of disbelief makes genre fiction the ideal medium for exploring faith. This workshop invites participants to bring along a sample (1,000 to 4,000 words) of their religious genre fiction for group critiques.

A.M. Muffaz is a Malaysian writer based in Perth. She recently completed her Grad. Dip. in Creative Writing at Curtin University. Her short fiction has recently appeared in Chiaroscuro, Fantasy Magazine and The Outcast: An Anthology of Exiles and Strangers (CSFG Publishing), among others. She's currently working on her first novella, Finches, the story of a conservative man haunted by evolutionary theory set in Kuala Lumpur.


Fastforward a bit. The KSP gets back to me with some questions about my press release:

1. Am I aiming this at religion writers?
2. "How might it be of interest to non-religion writers in their efforts to improve their writing, if at all?"
3. "Or is it really a 'reading'or a 'lecture' on a subject the audience might find interesting (ie not a real 'workshop' as such)"?
4. "Maybe there needs to be some reference to which faiths are being referred to in the workshops?"
5. "Some people may come thinking it is an introduction to Islam, given Afifah's Malaysian background - would that be correct?"

...

It hits me that I should be locking this post right now. Like, right now. Before I go around irking someone I didn't mean to by complete and total accident, or because I'm a dork. Then again, I just can't help but be amused every time someone mistakes me for a theist.

Mind, I realize anything I do during my Residency will have the Centre being liable, that given the nature and circumstances of our Present Time, a potential evangelist among the sheep might be a bit dangerous what-have-you, and that maybe my name indicates a certain propensity towards unsavoury characters with beards and turbans. We live in consistently more ridiculous times. I'm willing to live with a few tweezers less on aircrafts.

But, pray tell, entirely how many theists have you met lately hold workshops wording "faith" and "suspension of disbelief" in rather the same sentence? In the context of putting a deity or two within genres built on phantasies, mad science and maybe a few lies?

There's a certain irony to wondering if anything I do would be faith-specific, never mind producing a lecture on a specific faith. But, in response to the questions, I shall put these here as I put these in an email because I think there is a limit to the kind of pigeonholing a person needs to put up with:

1. The workshop is targeted at firstly at genre writers. It's specifically targeted at horror/SF/F writers who write either religious-themed works or who use religious imagery in their works.

2. The premise of the workshop is non-denominational. I don't intend to make it an introduction to any religion, and participants writing about any philosophical belief or religion at all are welcome to attend. However, the nature of the excerpts I'll be bringing in for workshop analysis will be from the Judaic-Christian-Islamic faiths.*

3. Coming from the above, the workshop will focus on two topics. The first is how religion can be used as a tool in writing genre fiction -- religious imagery (eg. angels and demons) is often easily accessible imagery waiting to be used as they are often widely understood without too much need for prior explanation. The second topic highlights how genre fiction is the best medium in which to explore and challenge religious faith. Readers of genre fiction come into the written work ready to suspend disbelief and the religious faithful approach religion wanting to believe. The second portion of the workshop looks at the similarities between these two approaches, how they were used by established genre authors as a tool in their writing, and how these same approaches could be useful to the workshop participants in their own writing.

4. There will be activities throughout both portions of the workshop, apart from the group critique exercise at the end. I plan to have short group writing and individual writing exercises, as many as the time allows, as well as a group analysis of excerpts from established writers before the critiquing portion of the workshop. I don't intend for this to be a lecture more than it is an active workshop.

Fictitious Facts: Religion in Genre Fiction with A.M. Muffaz

Exploring how religious belief can inform fiction and how fiction can challenge religious beliefs.

Readers of genre fiction come into the written work ready to suspend disbelief, much as the religious faithful approach religion wanting to believe. This workshop highlights the similarities between these two approaches, how they were used by established genre authors as a tool in their writing, and how these same approaches could be useful to the workshop’s participants in their own work. The workshop will also look at how religious imagery can be harnessed as an easily accessible and widely understood template for creating genre fiction.

Writers of horror, science fiction and fantasy interested in religious-themed genre fiction are encouraged to attend. Participants are invited to bring along a sample (1,000 to 4,000 words) of their work for group critiques. Short writing exercises will also be conducted throughout the workshop.

A.M. Muffaz is a Malaysian writer based in Perth. She recently completed her Grad. Dip. in Creative Writing at Curtin University. Her short fiction has recently appeared in Chiaroscuro, Fantasy Magazine and The Outcast: An Anthology of Exiles and Strangers (CSFG Publishing), among others. She's currently working on her first novella, Finches, the story of a conservative man haunted by evolutionary theory set in Kuala Lumpur.


* The two fiction samples I've confirmed thus far in my plans will be from Dune and Master & Margarita. I have a story in mind for the horror sampler (Bulgakov is lovely dark fantasy, but I do want a horror sampler in case I have the time for it) -- will have to kind of go out on a limb for that one though.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
eekers
Sep. 22nd, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
But, pray tell, entirely how many theists have you met lately hold workshops wording "faith" and "suspension of disbelief" in rather the same sentence?

Made me chuckle, .....just needed to add in.. "whilst listening to Nirvana :D"

Are you gonna mention.... Dan Brown? *waits to get beaten* :)

mokie
Sep. 22nd, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
Angel Sanctuary! Angel Sanctuary! :P
vampyrichamster
Sep. 23rd, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)
You can get away with that. But only because you can. :P
vampyrichamster
Sep. 23rd, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
Ooo, you horrid, horrid fiend! ;P
Funnily enough, I am banking on Dan Brown to get me this some interest, since one of the topics of the workshop is "How to Use Religion and Cheaply".

And yes, Nirvana. :P
eekers
Sep. 23rd, 2006 10:28 am (UTC)
Dan is the ultimate user of religion "cheaply" :)

1. find a myth/legend/conspiracy theory to do with a religion.
2. write 600 pages on it but following a normal boy meets girl and gets chased alot linear plot.
3. Make big bucks.

I want to attend your seminar! :)

vampyrichamster
Sep. 23rd, 2006 11:23 am (UTC)
Now this is a point! Unfortunately, I'm not sure the Da Vinci code counts as genre fiction. Will I have to read the blummin' thing to make mention of it during the seminar? *ponderses*
eekers
Sep. 23rd, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
okies, not sure on your terms here, what does "genre fiction" include? I would have thought DVC is just that... but then mebbe I dont understand the terminology?

DVC is his utterly worst book.. almost all the others are better, I would mebbe find a synopsis, or... download the movie? :)

vampyrichamster
Sep. 23rd, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
Genre fiction, for the workshop's purposes, is defined as Horror/Science Fiction/Fantasy. :)

Religious fiction on its own would have to depend on its other elements (though Religious Fiction is its own category). In the case of Dan Brown, would he be listed under General Fiction? I fear I honestly wouldn't know, having not read this book. Of course, since my workshop does seem to be suggesting religion in totality is the stuff of phantasy... *thinks evil thoughts*
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )