Following Tyler’s lead, I’ve decided to post the proposal for my AML presentation, which will be an expansion of my DBD post on “The New Mormon Fiction” from a few months back. Glenn Gordon is accepting proposals for the conference until March 20th, so if you are interested in presenting, there is still time. Based on Tyler’s proposal, and other proposals I’ve heard about, it’s going to be a great conference.
See you there.
Mormonism has undergone significant changes over the last twenty years, leading sociologist Armand Mauss to declare that the LDS Church now has a different “feel” than it did in the 1980s and early 1990s. Among the changes has been greater transparency from the Mormon hierarchy on controversial subjects, an increase in open dialogue within Mormonism via the internet and social media, an apparent spike in faith crises, and the emergence of new sites of cultural tension.
What effect have these changes had on Mormon literature? In my presentation, I will argue that these conditions have contributed to what I call the New Mormon Fiction. Like earlier works of Mormon fiction, these works are “post-utopian” in the way they continue to reflect Mormonism’s desire to assimilate with its host cultures. However, unlike earlier examples of Mormon fiction, these works are essentially “post-faithful,” or largely unconcerned about fiction’s role as a vehicle for Mormon propaganda (of any stripe). Rather than bearing testimony, they seek to capture both the euphoria and anxiety of Mormonism in the information age.
My presentation will outline several trends that characterize the New Mormon Fiction. For instance, some works of the New Mormon Fiction are absurdist and darkly comical. Others are comprised of fictional documents, document fragments, and interviews that call into question what we know about history and narrative. Still others foreground conflicts between individuals and information rather than between individuals and the Church, its members, or the dominant culture. Collectively, my presentation will argue, these works comprise a new Mormon fiction that foregrounds acts of discovery and recovery, creative production, and paradigm subversion to disorient readers and force them to configure new realities, question long-held assumptions and notions of truth, and confront the challenges having “too much information.”
The liner notes for William’s story Dark Watch, which appears in the fall 2013 issue of Dialogue.
The fall 2013 issue of Dialogue went live yesterday to electronic subscribers. Print editions are in the mail (or will soon be). I’m delighted and a bit awed that this issue devotes more than 20 pages to my story Dark Watch–it’s my longest published story to date. The way I usually describe it is: post-apocalyptic Mormon fiction told in alternating second person.
Dark Watch began as 8 or 9 lines of verse hastily scribbled at least a decade ago, perhaps longer. It continued to percolate. I think I added a second stanza. At some point it turned into the beginnings of a story. Sadly, I can’t find the original source material nor the notes that transitioned it into a science fiction story. I can picture the scraps of paper in the faded manila envelope I had collected them in, but I can’t find that envelope. I can say this the initial image–one member of a couple watching a storm flow across a broken plateau, her spouse startling himself awake–is where it all began and made it all the way through to the final product. Continue reading “Liner Notes: Dark Watch”
An author’s integrity, in the Mormon context, might be defined in terms of how well the author stays true to the Mormon beliefs that the author claims. This definition is perhaps the assumption behind those who criticize Mormon authors for including profanity, sex and other violations of Mormon beliefs in their work. In contrast, many authors believe that integrity refers to writing in a manner that is true to life, instead of what might be more successful commercially. Of course, since these two definitions of authorial integrity are different, at times they conflict.
While initially I would have assumed that the latter view was recent among Mormon authors, the following excerpt shows that the view that authors should be independent of commercial considerations and should write what is true to life is much older than I assumed.
Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Standards and Authorial Integrity”
The beginning of the Home Literature movement brought with it a moderation of the harsh rhetoric that condemned all fiction, in favor of a view that some fiction could be true when it described events that were typical or that reflected the way that people acted in reality, and when, of course, the work promoted the prevailing moral code. I included an excerpt from the Young Woman’s Journal that makes this point several months ago, but the following article from the Contributor is several years earlier. I’m not sure exactly when this view was introduced or who first made this claim, but whenever it was, it does mark a clear turning point in how Mormons perceived fiction.
But after making that observation, the author of this extract goes on to make some wonderful observations about the impact that fiction has on the reader.
Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: The Influence of Fiction”
For some reason I’ve always assumed that the Church’s adult magazine stopped carrying fiction and poetry with the big change from the Improvement Era, Relief Society Magazine and Instructor of 1970 to the Ensign of 1971. For at least a century before 1970 Church magazines had been the primary venue for fiction aimed at Mormons. And given that the Ensign I’ve been familiar with as an adult doesn’t have fiction or poetry, I have always assumed that it never did. [I wasn’t really its target audience in 1971–I was 10.]
So when I came across the following excerpt, I was a little surprised. As is often the case, my assumption was quite wrong. The Ensign was originally designed to have fiction and poetry:
Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: New Adult Magazine”
The fourth of eight posts and an introduction. See also Part III, Part II, Part I, Introduction
The arrival of the transcontinental railroad to Utah in 1869 marked the end of a period of relative isolation for the LDS Church. It also came just at the end of a period of almost no Mormon publishing in Utah and the United States. Continue reading “A Short History of Mormon Publishing: Commercial LDS Publishing Begins”
What are some of the major developments in Mormon literature over the past 20 years? Being under the painfully pleasant necessity of writing a short article (500-1000 words) during the next week on Mormon literature for a forthcoming reference work, this is something I’ve had occasion to ponder. I have an excellent source for up to about 1990 with the articles that were written for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, but there’s an awful lot that has happened since then.
Print copies of my book No Going Back are now available from Zarahemla Books and Amazon.com. (And at a pretty hefty discount off the cover price, too.)
No Going Back is a coming-of-age novel about a gay Mormon teenager who is torn between his feelings and his desire to stay in the Church. The cover blurb reads:
“A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In No Going Back, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.”
(A side-note: Does anyone know the logic that Amazon.com uses in deciding on the size of the discount it offers? My book is now selling for $11.53. Rift, by Todd Robert Petersen, released just a few weeks ago by Zarahemla Books, is selling for $13.22. Both have a cover price of $16.95. Chris Bigelow says he doesn’t know the logic, either.)
First, a quick update: My book, No Going Back, is wending its way toward publication with Zarahemla Books this fall, and should be out (a term I use advisedly in this context) within the next couple of months. Much, much thanks to all of you who read and commented and some or all of it; the book is better for all your input.
As we approach publication, I’m trying to round up people who might have an interest in reading and reviewing the book, not just for AMV but for any other venue (electronic, print, etc.) that might have an interest in the subject matter. Continue reading “Book Reviewers Wanted: Langford, No Going Back”
Since I’ve been making a concerted effort to read more LDS/Mormon books and since I’ve started reviewing them and recommending them, I’ve realized something important: I have a litmus test for Mormon literature. I have one overarching criteria that defines all of my Mormon literary experiences–whether it’s a book, the scriptures, or a General Conference talk. Continue reading “A Litmus Test for Mormon Literature?”