Soon: Chapter 1: Flags and Angels and Stars, Oh My!

Well, Christmas may be over for us, but Wintermas is not yet over for the Stepola/Desenti clan.

…Connor kept staring at the Wintermas tree.  “Why do you have a flag on top of your tree, Grandpa?  My friend Jimmy’s mom says when she was little people put stars or angels on top of their trees.  She’s still got some.”

Ranold waved dismissively.  “Not in this house.  And not in yours either, I hope.”

“Of course not,” Paul said.

Connor climbed into Paul’s lap and wrapped his arms around his neck.  Paul sensed the boy’s fatigue.  “Why not, Dad?”

“We’ll talk about it in the morning,” Paul said.  “Now why don’t you and your sister–”

“But why not?  They sound pretty, like they’d look better on a Wintermas tree than an old flag.”

Why does Connor, a child of “36 P.3.,” talk like a 1950’s crew-cutted neighbor of Beaver Cleaver?  “An old flag…”

Ranold stood and moved to the window with his back to them.  “That flag stands for everything I believe in, Connor.”

“He wasn’t saying anything about the flag,” Paul said.  “He doesn’t understand.  He’s just a –”

“He’s old enough to be taught, Paul.”

“It’s never come up before, Ranold.  I plan to tell him–”

“See that you do!  And you ought to check into that mother who’s harboring contraband icons.”

Paul shook his head.

“What’s wrong with angels and stars, Daddy?”

“I promise I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

This passage is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, as I believe the Slacktivist has pointed out with regards to Left Behind, Jenkins does not seem to know how to convey dialogue without constant use of “he said,” “she said,” “he said,” “Paul said,” said…said…said.  It’s really boring.

In larger terms, the passage is symptomatic of a huge problem in Soon as a whole: What is illegal and what is not?  What is “known” about religion by a general population in a world in which religion has been outlawed for 36 years?

Why is a “Wintermas tree” in Ranold’s home, and why are “Wintermas presents” opened, while he takes deep personal offense at the mere mention of angels or stars?

If religion and “contraband icons” are outlawed, how does Connor, a child of five, even know what an angel is?

These questions will never be answered.  Soon is nothing if not extremely confused about what people who have outlawed religion would know, and what they would do.

By the way, a quick Google search revealed more of what I already knew–that some people already put flags on top of their trees, and I’m pretty sure not all of them are evil godless haters like Ranold. 

I wonder if Jenkins thinks that Theme Trees, even Patriotic Theme Trees, are not Really Real Christmas Trees unless they have stars or angels on top.

Posted on December 31, 2010, in Books, Christmas, Google-fu, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Boooooooooo Jenkins 😛

    Sorry, but that’s about all I can really say about his craptastic worldbuilding without a zillion words.

    • Yeah, it looks like world building for Jenkins never went beyond the blurb for the back of the book. He gets as far as: “Imagine a world where religion is banned and believers are hunted like criminals” then figures he doesn’t actually have to imagine any of it.

      • I think that it may be somewhat beyond his imagination. We’ve already seen that everybody in his worldview is either RTC-and-good or deliberately-rejecting-God-and-evil. I imagine that he doesn’t really believe a Godless society could exist, so whatever he writes about it is going to seem equally implausible.

  2. I love the blog and the analysis of all these terrible books. I am stepping out of hiding though because the remark about saying “said”. I read it’s better to stick to that because it is so bland. Using more colorful ways to indicate dialogue might become distracting.

    • It varies from reader to reader, though. I find constant repeating of “said” annoying – both in English and in Russian. Instead of stopping to notice the word after N-th repeat, I *keep* noticing it, and the more often it used, the more it throws me out of the text. It looks redundant and makes characters in my head sound like emotionless robots.
      I know it’s just an idiosyncrasy, and I’d never give anyone an advice to completely avoid “said”. Maybe not to use it *exclusively*…

  3. I should have thought that a Wintermas home-symbol would be practically anything other than a tree, rather than just “Christmas with a different topper”. Perhaps ban them on ecological grounds (what’s the point of killing millions of perfectly good trees, after all) and instead have a symbol of some sort – perhaps a giant snowflake, which could be made out of scrap metal or anything else. In fact I quite like that – every one is slightly different from the others, which is a nicely anti-fundamentalist sentiment.

    I believe the usual writing advice on dialogue would give high marks to the second excerpt here. You don’t want a speech-verb for every utterance, and we don’t get that; but if it’s only for one in three or four, it’s often much less distracting to stick with “said” than to stretch for other words.

    To my British sensibility, putting a flag on a Christmas tree feels like just the sort of mixing of religion and politics that RTCs are prone to; I’m very surprised to see it used as an example of Godlessness here. Perhaps it’s what the other sort of RTC does!

    • “instead have a symbol of some sort – perhaps a giant snowflake, which could be made out of scrap metal or anything else. In fact I quite like that – every one is slightly different from the others, which is a nicely anti-fundamentalist sentiment.”

      What a great idea–I may have to do a variation on that for my own Wintermas celebration next year! 😀

      • I wonder… how popular is this book? And how many RTCs’ blood pressure will spew mercury on the ceiling if they get wished a “Happy Wintermas!” next year?

        .. Yes, that is perhaps needlessly cruel and unusual. And yet sometimes, not always, just every so often, when big candy-red buttons are put in front of me….

  4. I’m kinda stuck on “that flag stands for everything I believe in.”

    What is this “belief”? I don’t “believe in” my country. I know that it exists as a political (and geographic) reality. I study its history. I applaud some of its actions, and condemn others. I respect and admire the ideals on which it was founded, and try to apply and further them in my own life.

    None of this involves “belief.”

    Of course, that’s pretty much the RTC approach towards religious “belief” as well. Some vague acknowledgment of allegiance, without any of the active verbs of learning and understanding and doing….

    • An especially ironic remark on Ranold’s part, given that they are living in…a global society! If that’s the flag of the USSA, it is only a part of the…erg…Global Community…which is headquartered in Switzerland. Really, in context, it’s like flying the flag of Oregon and claiming that it “stands for everything I believe in.”

  5. “some people already put flags on top of their trees”

    And then there are those who turn the tree into the flag, or the flag into the tree perhaps– and then include an illuminated cross for good measure:

    Because nothing says Christmas like a $250 chunk of PVC in red,white&blue, right?


    Anyway, Happy New Year!

  6. And here I thought a Hannukah bush was the stupidest foliage-related holiday concept…

    My little tree has a plastic robot ninja on top of it. Holding a star. Wonder what our atheist utopia’s thoughts on that are.

    • You are clearly a Roboninjaist. Please report to the nearest Crate and Napalm Barrel for… cake.

      • …Prepare for drubbing via six-foot party sub if she accedes to that.

      • Choir of Shades

        You will be baked *static* and then there will be cake.

        Also yet another thing no one mentioned (since I am a necromancer of threads): Why is a star so offensive? If a star is offensive for merely being mentioned in (mostly extrabiblical) religious texts, because I assume this is over the Star of Bethlehem, why isn’t, say, a census considered evil? Chariots? Livestock? Money? Go ahead, think of your own to add.

        • Choir of Shades, I think a star is considered offensive merely because it is something that some Christians used on Christmas trees. (The secular Christmas tree is ignored here, of course.)

          (Thread necromancy? Pah! I have the RSS comments feed.)

          • Choir of Shades

            I wonder then what IS on their tree. Because obviously white or multicolored lights are out of the question, spheres and/or popular culture figures and/or just about any small solid object or hollow object suspended by a metal, plastic, or string hook, popcorn on strings, tinsel…It seems like the only thing that would go on the tree is that friggin’ provincial flag. Why have the tree at all then, since it seems like the only thing they’d actually be venerating is that flag?

            Although, come to think of it, it would in an odd way be rather appropriate to use just a flag, now or then. It demonstrates that there we in a wealthy country have a lot to be thankful for and that we receive many of our blessings due to the country in which we live.

  7. And here I thought “Wintermas” had something to do with celebrating winter. Silly me, I should have realized it was nothing more than celebrating uninationalism.

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