Posted on 3 Comments

Love Song to Denver

This is my home. And this is a love song someone wrote to my home, my city, my place.

Watch it. And you will know why I love my home.


Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 1 Comment

Yes. So much Yes. (Homeless Jesus)

Here you can read about the appearance of a Jesus the Homeless statue and how that appearance is upsetting some well-to-do believers.

Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban's Episcopal, in Davidscon, N.C.

For my own part, I welcome the statue. Even as I was penning No Lasting Burial — in which the appearance of a homeless Yeshua rocks a small Galilee fishing town to its core — this sculptor was working on an even more direct, blunt, and moving portrayal of the man who walked the length and breadth of a bitterly divided land to remind its people that it is in caring “for the least of these” that we care for God, and that what keeps us from the peace we long for is our “hardness of heart.”

I am moved.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 3 Comments

Dante’s Heart


Available in ebook (kindle) and paperback.

When Dante falls asleep, strange creatures burst from him, intent on murder; waking, he pursues them across the world. Dante’s Heart is a story about violence and the marks it leaves on us. The story has elements of magical realism. Here is an excerpt:

It was unlike any bone country Dante and his companions had ever seen. For one thing, the graves were not in the earth but above it, a field of metal boxes perched on their ends, like standing stones, or like silent prisons, holding captive a thousand decaying monuments to the violence that is on the earth. Some might have held actual bodies, others only a symbolic remainder: an autobiography, a famous coat, a bloodstained axe, a boot. In each metal surface had been sculpted a screaming face. Beneath each face, a single name:

CLONE 7719-B.

Some Dante recognized, some he didn’t. He and the others—the dwarf with the eyes like hard gems, the nymph whose hair today was the deep red of algae—stopped in silence at the border of this field of the dead. Then Dante walked silently on, alone at first, his feet carrying him quietly down the long rows. He stared, aghast, at the faces, and mouthed the names he read as he passed.

I am excited to bring you Dante’s Heart! The cover and illustrations are by the remarkable Roberto Calas.


(Note for the fans: The title Dante’s Heart is taken from an online literary journal that I ran, under a different name, from 2007-2009, and which issues one ebook each year. This story evolved out of the idea that was my original inspiration for Dante’s Heart.)

Posted on 3 Comments

The Zombie Bible gets a mention over at NPR

Surprised by a mention over at NPR…

K. Tempest Bradford shared her five picks for John W. Campbell award nominees in an NPR article today, and to my surprise and delight, my recent release No Lasting Burial was one of them! You can read Bradford’s article here:

Bradford wrote that she was selecting “stories built from the elements of great SF: Prose that isn’t just competent, but engaging, surprising, and alive. Ideas that delve deep into the themes the authors are exploring. Characters that crawl right up off the page and yank you into their worlds.”

The chances of becoming a finalist and official nominee are slim, but today’s NPR mention — and learning that at least one prominent editor/writer had selected me as one of her picks in the first-round nominations — definitely made my week.

More generally, I’ve been really pleased with and surprised by the good reviews, the good mentions, and the growing fanship around my novels. I am not a “well-known” writer, but it has turned out that I am a well-loved one by those who know my stories. I am delighted at that.

Time to write some more stories!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read No Lasting Burial, check here. It is out in kindle, and the audiobook and paperback editions will be released on April 8 and are available for preorder.

I also highly recommend the FREE Campbellian Anthology, which is only available to download for a few more weeks; the Campbellian Anthology offers a vast sampling of the newest science fiction and fantasy, with fiction from 111 writers who are eligible for the Campbell and a word count that would make George R.R. Martin blush. This is the anthology that the picks in the NPR article are drawn from, and you can find it here.

Stant Litore

Posted on 1 Comment

This Winter’s 2 Must-Read Novels

And the results are in. My two favorite reads from this winter are:

arecommend_Morganfield THE BONE FLOWER THRONE by TL Morganfield.

Aztecs. And that title. And a strong, unique heroine. A completely different take on religion and magic. What’s not to like?

You can get the novel here.


arecommend_VanderMeer ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer.

When is the last time you read a work of speculative fiction and, page after page, your internal response was “Wow… wow… wow…”

This book.

You can get it here.

Seriously, if you’re following my blog, I’ll consider you to be just lollygagging about and not paying any real attention if you don’t go read these two novels. They’re good. Really, really good.

Stant Litore

Posted on 3 Comments

Zombies in Pompeii and Crusaders in Sicily: A Visit from Scott James Magner


Wondrously, I’ve discovered another novelist who is working with zombies in Rome. So naturally I invited him over for a beer and a chat.

Readers, I’d like you to meet novelist Scott James Magner, another writer with 47North, the publisher of my series The Zombie Bible. Magner has released several installments in the Foreworld saga, a historical fantasy shared-world series reimagining the Middle Ages from a martial-arts perspective. I recently read his high-action debut, Hearts of Iron, and am about to sit down with his new release, Blood and Ashes, which is–yes–about zombies and Pompeii. You can see why I’m interested!

Here’s our recent conversation:


7 questions for you! I was really struck by the way you moved back and forth so easily from action to nearly lyrical moments in Hearts of Iron. Chapter XI was quite beautiful.

Scott: Why thank you!

1. What drew you to stories of the age of Outremer, the Crusades, the age of Tancred?

Scott: The nature of the Foreworld Project is to document the hidden history of Western martial arts. For me, that has to include the Normans, specifically the Kingdom of Sicily. It’s such a brief moment in time that’s shaped so much of the centuries that followed. When Mark Teppo and I were looking for something to write that wasn’t already in the lexicon, I suggested Sicily, and we had a great meeting of dueling Wikipedia searches that eventually uncovered the twelve sons of Tancred. Since neither of us had ever heard of Tancred before, diving in to research him and his family was a real treat, and almost from the moment I heard the name “William Iron Arm” the plot for Hearts of Iron was born.

2. Scott, I was struck by this passage in Hearts of Iron: “I saw many things in that golden chamber, Humphrey. Wonders of the age scattered like sand to feed the appetites of a vain and stupid man.” If you could tell your readers one thing about history and its artifacts, what would that be?

Scott: Nothing is ever as it seems. It seems odd to be cagey about the plot of a book that’s been out almost a year, but Hearts of Iron is at it’s heart a “caper.” The tag-line I use when introducing people to it is “The Dirty Half-Dozen.”  They’re going in to steal retrieve an object of some value, but what William refers to in that line is that there was that when he saw the assembled treasure, he know that there was a lot more going on than he’d been told.

It stung his pride somewhat that the owner of the collection had such things hidden away from the world, and that distaste spurred him to action.  The previous paragraph had him outlining his plans for the future, and the next line is/was, “In time, I mean to share them with the world, and so much more.”

3. You have two novels out, and I know that preceding them, you have a long history of writing for role-playing games. How has that shaped you as a storyteller?

Scott: Technically they’re novellas, though at 37K words Blood and Ashes does push the edge of that envelope. Although the shameless self-promoter in me demands that I at least mention that my full-length novel Homefront will be out this fall from Resurrection House.

Whew. Now that that’s done, I’d like to say that writing roleplaying games, card games, and video games taught me to distill meanings down to the essential elements, and then build up from there. It’s certainly the approach I take while doing localization work (taking a product meant for one part of the world and preparing it for customers with different cultural referents), but what I’ve found in my fiction writing is that the one thing I usually don’t get to do in games is have really compelling characters interact with one another.

When you are writing games, you always want to keep the focus on the player and the player’s actions. You do a fair amount of world-building for both, but in straight fiction you get to control all aspects of the action, and it’s really important to make everything as believable as possible.

4. Which scene in Hearts of Iron did you find hardest to write?

Scott: Hands down, it was Humphrey’s “big” action scene, aka Chapter V. It has no spoken dialogue, and takes place mostly in the dark. My codename for that scene was “Bat-Man and batman,” and it was a challenge to keep it interesting when most of what was happening with just one person “on screen,” with limited perception. Almost a quarter of all the editorial comments I got on the book were in that chapter, and it’s the one I’m proudest of overall.

5. Your William of Hauteville is almost Sherlock-like (or William of Baskerville-like) in his observation of detail. He is constantly assessing, noting, observing, and acting. Quickly and efficiently. He lives life in a sort of combat stance. What drew you about this character?

Scott: William is the oldest brother of twelve, and the most like his father of all of them. At least, that’s how I’ve chosen to write him, since very little is recorded about either man. I cover this topic in depth in a previous article, but in essence William is driven to be the best at everything because his family depends on him

6. Hearts of Iron is a story set in the historical fantasy world of the Foreworld Saga – what is it like, writing and creating inside of worlds created by others?

Scott: It’s a lot easier than you might think. I used to write Dungeons & Dragons adventures, which have a lot more rules about what you can and can’t do. Hearts of Iron was fairly “siloed” in terms of shared world content, but I still was able to work in the “bad guys” while presenting a different look at the medieval era.

7. What can you tell us about your new release, Blood and Ashes?

Scott: Zombies vs. Gladiators. In Pompeii.

What more do you need to know? It’s an unapologetic action story, with a mustache twirling villain, a hero with a troubled past, ZOMBIES, a not-damsel who in no way needs rescuing, ZOMBIES, and an exploding mountain.

Did I mention ZOMBIES?

Lord, but I am going to enjoy zombies in Pompeii. You know that my own next novel is set in the same period, a sequel to my earlier Rome novel?

I’m buying Blood and Ashes today, and I can’t wait to read it! Readers and fans, I hope you’ll check out Scott James Magner’s new release here.

Scott, thank you for joining me on the blog today!

Stant Litore

Posted on 1 Comment

Guilty Pleasures

“We’re on the edges of our seats. Can the good white men of Athens withstand the authoritarian forces of women and brown people from Persia? … You’ll relish his nuanced representation of the Persians, who are thoroughly humanized when they put on their bondage outfits and golden chains…” – io9

Yes. It’s pretty much exactly like that.

The 300 sequel is Zack Snyder's greatest intellectual masterpiece

This review of 300: Rise of an Empire on io9 is hilarious. Is it terrible of me to admit, though, that the neanderthal side of my brain wants to see this visually delicious, high-budget shlockfest, anyway? I want to throw popcorn at the screen while beating my chest. No joke.

Even though I know the history-scholar side of my brain will be curled into a screaming, fetal ball of horror in the back of my head throughout the film…

The 300 sequel is Zack Snyder's greatest intellectual masterpiece

I don’t know how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture, but there is a part of me that is wired to love submarines, explosions, gratuitous sex scenes, shambling hordes of hungry zombies (with, or without, Nazi outfits), and high-testerone, high-special-effects epics that make absolutely no sense in terms of their script or their representation of our history. These are my guilty pleasures: modern sword-and-sandal epics…

That said, the historian in me would love, love, to see more films that capture the drama, panache, and heartbreak of a more multifaceted take on history. That’s what I try to do, on paper (or e-ink) in The Zombie Bible: bring out the stories that are untold, that linger beneath all the bravado of our proclaimed history like ghostly remainders, like dead that won’t quite rest, unburied dead demanding our attention. All those “women and brown people,” for instance. Like the aging prophetess who led an army in Strangers in the Land, who has as much “face-time” in the Bible as Samson or Gideon or Noah, but whose story we choose rarely to tell. Or like the enslaved Canaanites, struggling to survive in a world in which their land and their own bodies have been made strange to them, a world in which the living, no less than the dead, will want to devour them…

(But since the neanderthal part of my brain also needs to be satisfied, there are also many gory, chop-them-up zombie scenes in my novels, too. It’s just that I don’t want to stop there. I want my readers to throw popcorn at the screen at appropriate moments, but I also want to make them cry. And remember.)

The machismo of the sword-and-sandal epic, whether in the sixties or in its modern 3D, IMAX version, distract us from the archaeological act that reading history actually is — the act of uncovering the stories that we have nearly forgotten, stories that can enchant us, move us, disturb us, and demand that we reconsider the edifices, the beliefs, and the buildings we have built on top of the graveyards and tombs of the slaughtered, the despoiled, and the forgotten. In wrestling not just with our founding fathers, heroes, noble ancestors, but with the moaning, suffering remnants of the never-quite-buried, we learn anew how to wrestle with the living. We remember that every foe we face has a history in which we, too, are implicated. We learn that every battle we fight comes with real costs — besides just those that we can (or are willing to) see. We learn that the story of the world in which we move is a complicated one, one that needs to be excavated with care, interpreted and reinterpreted, read and reread. That’s an important lesson that we have been unlearning.

The 300 sequel is Zack Snyder's greatest intellectual masterpiece

Dear Hollywood, please do give us more over-the-top, high-budget, sword-fire-sex-explosion shlockfests, because the neanderthal side of my brain craves them. But please also give us more — many, many more — films doing serious historical storytelling. Because the other side of my brain is starved for them. It’s famished. It’s desperate. It’s churning out novels just to fill a big, gaping void. Give it something to eat!

Do not just leave us moviegoers as never-satisfied, moaning zombies, drawn to the rippling abs of your Spartan warriors and the wanton gasps of your warrior queens and the crack of Persian sails in the wind — as moths to a flame — only to be left afterward shambling about, dazed, unsure of who we or our ancestors actually are…

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 3 Comments

Inara and the Giraffe Club


Like her namesake, Inara lets very little faze her. And after long troubles, she is growing fiercely and making up for lost time. She has a whole range of vocalizations now, more mobility, and is using her hands a lot more. She is shown here with her favorite toy, a giraffe that came in a cardboard box covered in French script. My wife tells me that la girafe is named “Sophie,” wisdom, which seems to me a good wish for our youngest. Whatever the years ahead bring her, I expect she will be both wise and feisty.

There is a special resonance in this toy for me. In second grade, my teacher, Mr. Giono, taught us about “the Giraffe Club,” which contained historical figures who “stuck their necks out,” taking risks on behalf of others or in the cause of justice. One week, we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. Other weeks, we studied the lives of Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Cesar Chavez, and many other activists from varied centuries and cultures. Being a writer, I sat down at the Apple IIe computer during class and pounded out scripts to short plays about the Giraffe Club members, and my classmates performed the plays for the school. Mr. Giono helped us construct a life-sized wooden giraffe to stand outside our portable classroom, as a symbol; we all had a hand in painting its spots. We had a four-page newspaper called The Giraffe Club News that we sold for a nickel, and I led a small team of second-grade reporters around the school and community to interview potential Giraffe Club members. We wrote letters to President Bush (Senior) demanding action in response to the Exxon oil spill in Alaska, or pleading on behalf of endangered species. I have a vivid memory of typing out a letter to the White House pleading for help in “saving the eagles,” and of enduring the scorn of a tall fifth grader who snatched up the printout and read it aloud. I remember that our class adopted an orca. We learned all about being Giraffe Club members.

I think that stuck with me. I think I have tried to write novels about Giraffe Club members. If there is one governing, thematic impulse in my fiction, it is that. I write about people who become aware, desperately aware, of injustices, and who cannot remain silent. “Do you think I haven’t tried to be?” Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) demands in Death Has Come Up into Our Windows:

“I am silent, and my bones groan within me. I cannot sleep all the night for the roaring of the words rushing through me. I cannot be silent.”

Seeing Inara playing with Sophie, I am reminded that I need to share those stories, and the ideals of the Giraffe Club, with my children. Inara’s own life is full of Giraffe Club members: talented physicians, advocates for the blind, and teachers and therapists who have devoted their lives to children with special needs. We stand in an open path that has been carved from hard stone by other Giraffe Club members — such as Louis Braille, who was censured for inventing Braille but who helped other blind students smuggle makeshift books in Braille under their beds…

Ours is a world filled with illness and dismay and decay, but there have been (and are) many more giraffes than we realize.

Stant Litore

P.S. I am still coming to terms with the likelihood of eventual brain surgery to treat Inara’s mesial temporal sclerosis. Seeing her playing with her giraffe seems a miracle sufficient to the day, and I am trying just to focus on that. Her name means a blessing, a beautiful and shining gift, and her name is deeply true.

You can read more of the story of Inara in Lives of Unstoppable Hope.

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 1 Comment

An Old Story “Made Dangerous Again”

“Something is happening, Cephas. And whatever is happening, it will be like sword and like fire and like bread in the mouths of a thousand, thousand children, and nothing will ever, ever be the same way again.”

StormMy new novel, No Lasting Burial, undertakes the admittedly audacious task of retelling a story from the New Testament in the context of a world being devoured by the ravenous dead. I set out to retell a story that had always moved me deeply — and to do it by stripping away everything familiar and comfortable, forcing my readers to encounter the story in all of its raw, even shocking impact. I wanted the story to be new and unsettling all over again. I wanted readers to have their expectations turned upside down, and then to find themselves moved.

A reader from the UK wrote this to me today:

“About half way through No Lasting Burial and am struck by how it makes the Gospel message dangerous again. This is no comfort blanket prosperity gospel, but about a burning change within. The stranger turns up on the shore and immediately people have their preconceptions on what is good and just shattered. I love the scene of a stunned Shimon sharing a basket of fish with the boat people feeling his heart turned inside out. You can feel change spreading like a fire from the stranger on the shore.”

It meant a lot to me to receive this note. I am thrilled to find that some of the fire I feel in this story, readers are feeling, too. This is not a novel that is likely to be welcome in some churches. But in writing it, I could feel the heat of that fire; I could see why the story that served as source material for No Lasting Burial has burned hot as a torch many times in the past. I invite you to that wild moment on the shore, where the dead rise and where the voice of a stranger — who may be a prophet, witch, madman, or deity — turns all the world on its head.

You can read No Lasting Burial here.

Stant Litore

P.S. This is what The Zombie Bible is about. It’s time to take back these stories, these ancient, fiery, passionate, demanding stories. Not so that we can put them to the service of a particular cause or creed, but instead to strip away the bulky clothing of political ideology or theological preconceptions and let the stories stand as naked and raw and shocking and powerful and human as they have stood in other centuries, on other continents. That’s what I (I hope) am about.

Biblical stories often shamble through our culture like zombies themselves, all flesh with no spirit; by making the stories strange and new to us again, The Zombie Bible might perform (if it works) a dangerous act of resurrection.

“There is great enjoyment to be found in it, but there is also the clarion call of challenge in it. No Lasting Burial invites us … to rediscover the wonder and strangeness of the God made flesh. … This is why I found No Lasting Burial intensely troubling and sharply beautiful.” – from Timothy Widman’s review on Wandering Paths.


Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Surprise in the Mailbox


Look what the postal service brought me!

Author’s copies of No Lasting Burial!

It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve written so far. (Or did it write me…?)

I wrote the first draft of the first chapter in summer 2009, and at the time I thought I was writing a 60-page novella with a total of 3 characters with speaking parts.

Boy was I wrong… This book has a CAST. A beautiful, broken, varied cast.

You’ll want to read this with me.

Posted on 2 Comments

The Womenfolk are Storming Our Rocket Ships!


Pictured here: One of them nefarious women folk infiltrating our rocket ships.

So a number of influential voices in the science fiction community have recently been making disdainful comments about women writers on a public forum.

But come now. Women writers who love rocket ships and alternate histories, don’t you worry your pretty little heads. We menfolk will gather and protect the mighty Canon of SciFi and its proud Progenitors, manly writers of virility and imagination like Isaac Asimov, Ursula K LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, C J Cherryh, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey … er, wait a minute … wait, wait, something’s not quite right here … this whole canon thing isn’t working out quite as expected … *shuffles list quickly* … er, let’s try this again, here we go, Philip K Dick, James Tiptree Jr., Octavia Butler, er, no, no, no, wait a minute, more phalluses! More phalluses! Time travel then! H.G. Wells, Connie Willis … never mind, time travel’s for wusses … MILITARY scifi, that’s where it’s at. Ha! we own this one at least … Robert Heinlein, Harry Turtledove, Lois McMaster Bujold, wait, what! what!

Boys, I hate to break this to you, but I think the ship done sailed on this one a long time ago.

Stant Litore

P.S. Who do you think invented science fiction? As near as I can tell, it was a Shelley. And her first name wasn’t Percy.

Posted on Leave a comment

Writing Jesus

Cover: No Lasting Burial

A man walks along the Sea of Galilee and calls back the fish out of a watery desert. He carries a lamb under one arm and


A man hears a town starving and he approaches in an unstained white robe, hands benevolently lifted to heal and


A man shouts words across the dark water, filling his listeners with an inner peace and joy


A man gives a sermon, speaking with great authority, such that everyone’s doubts melt away like ice in the


A man walks along the Sea of Galilee.

He can hear screams.

The screams of all the living. The screams of all the dead.

He can hear the suffering and the hunger of everyone who has ever lived or who ever will. It drives him nearly mad. He pleads for the cries to stop, for someone, anyone, to do something about the pain. He sweats blood. He calls up fish and feeds starving people, he straightens maimed limbs, he pleads and demands that the people around him clothe and feed each other. He speaks of the things he hears, the pain he hears at all hours, at every hour, and men drive him from the town, stoning him with hard rocks. He drags himself to the next town, his clothes torn to rags, his body bruised, his mind torn by the shrieking of every living thing. The pain… the pain… He takes off his rags and wraps them around someone shaking by the edge of the sea. He tries to reason with the people in the town who still have houses. He rages at them. He begs them. He tells them a story, trying to help them understand. “Why can’t you hear?” he says. “The screaming, the screaming…why can’t you hear it? Why are you doing nothing?”

Litore_NLB_smallThe dead stumble after him, all the corpses that died in their hunger and that hunger still, and he can hear their pain, too. He stands to face the oncoming dead, as those around him flee in horror. These are the men and women who have been given No Lasting Burial, no lasting rest. The priest of the town calls Yeshua a madman, but he stands on the shore as the ghouls rise, trailing lake-weed, their faces eaten away by the water. He cannot do otherwise. He cannot look away from their pain. He may not survive. His sanity may not survive. But he cannot do otherwise.

He wears no white robe. He commands no legions of devoted followers. He founds no churches or temples. He doesn’t “have it together.” He is torn apart, yet he stands. He just stands barefooted in the sand, bleeding, tears on his face. Refusing to run. Refusing to stop his ears. Refusing to look away from the dead.

No Lasting Burial.

Posted on Leave a comment

Speaking for the Dead

“Litore knows how to speak for the dead as well as for the living.”

That is one of the kindest comments I have received from a reader (who reviewed Death Has Come Up into Our Windows). It humbles me, too. Many try to speak for the dead, but I wonder if anyone can. The comment makes me think of Ender traveling the universe to tell the story of a dead species, and the haunting loneliness of his task. My own work is far less lonely than Ender’s — to tell the stories of our spiritual ancestors, and to do so in a way that both entertains and (hopefully) enlightens.

But I wonder what it means to “speak for the dead.”

In reading their stories, is it just an arrogance to think that we can connect with people whom Time has severed from us? In the end, do we resuscitate only their shambling corpses, emptied bodies moving and imitating life? Or can those we have forgotten–those who came before, those who, to some degree, made us–can some part of their spirit be called up out of the decaying flesh of the past, to peer out at us through dead eyes? In telling stories, can we borrow Father Polycarp’s Gift for a while?

How different those who came before are! How far away! And yet… And yet…

All of us storytellers, little or big, we are all speakers for those who have ceased to live or those who have never lived. I do not know if any of us succeed in speaking “for” anyone. Maybe all we can hope for in sharing a few stories around the fire is to keep back the cold and the dark for a little while. Yet even that is something. Maybe the best something.

In any case, “knows how to speak for the dead as well as for the living” — that is a truly humbling and beautiful compliment.

I will keep telling stories.

Stant Litore

Posted on 2 Comments

When J.R.R. Tolkien Was Asked if He Was Jewish


Novelists often acquire reputations for becoming, well, not the nicest people, but there are some who have both wisdom and class. A friend shared this with me today. German publishing house Rütten & Loening Verlag, in planning to release The Hobbit in 1938 Germany, sent Tolkien a letter inquiring whether his family was “of Aryan origin.”

Tolkien actually sent a different letter than this one — which remained unsent — but I have to applaud his first response:

If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject—which should be sufficient.

I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army.

I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.


Presumably the letter he actually posted (which I have not read) was toned down. But I can understand his dismay and anger at the letter from his German publisher. It must have bothered him as a person, as a man of German descent, as a philologist (he was known to get quite irritated about Hitler’s appropriation of the linguistic term “Aryan”), and as a storyteller.

I believe, personally, that a novelist’s job is partly to open our eyes to other lives, to let us not only live more lives than just our own, but to live lives that are profoundly different from our own. It was for this reason that Percy Shelley suggested that imaginative storytelling was a source of empathy, because it can train us to “put ourselves in another’s shoes,” as it were. In An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien’s contemporary and (sometimes) friend, wrote:

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

Lewis goes on to wish that he could experience the world even more diversely — if only he could know what the world feels like to a bee or to a dog in all its olfactory wonder!

As this essay points out, stories can destroy (by making others’ lives invisible) or create and bond (by making others’ lives visible). That’s why — even though, as contemporary theorists have argued convincingly, the author as a monolithic authority on his/her own work is “dead” — the choices the author made still have serious impact and significance. I think Tolkien understood this deeply. When Merry and Pippin arrive in Fangorn Forest and meet the oldest living creature in the world, they react with some resignation when they find that this oldest living creature has no mention of their people in his “Lists” of all living and free creatures. (They hurry to suggest he add a few lines to the Lists.)

When Samwise Gamgee discovers a fallen warrior who was fighting on the other side, in a memorable scene in The Two Towers, he yearns to know the man’s story:

He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would rather have stayed there in peace.

To me, a paradox of storytelling is that, as a storyteller, I am simultaneously very free (I can invent anything) and yet I have a great responsibility. The stories we tell matter. The way we represent others who are not us, whether they are real or imagined — it matters. Our choices as to whether to allow or deny those others agency in our stories — that matters. It is partly in our stories that we battle out how our culture will react to and feel about women, Jews, black people, white people, men, Russians, Iraqis … how we will feel about everyone who is not “us” and how we will feel about ourselves.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 2 Comments

A Daughter Builds a Valentine’s Day Castle for Her Mother

As it turns out, my beautiful wife Jessica is ill this weekend, which rather limits the Valentine’s Day festivites. River, our four-year-old, wandered the house this morning looking a little sad. “Mommy, are you sick?” she kept asking. Then she had a good, creative idea. She decided to make a Valentine’s Day castle for her mother. She enlisted my help in shoring up structural weaknesses, but the design and color scheme were her creation.

I have taken this photographic record to show her mother later, because the towers have a way of toppling, and I don’t want Jessica to miss what River built “for mommy”:

She designed the castle as an add-on to her schoolhouse:


And she peopled it with her teacher, the other preschoolers, and members of her family. The blonde standing inside the tower below, River tells me, is her sister Inara, who is disabled but who, in all of River’s drawings and creations, is always depicted standing tall. The red-haired boy in the foreground, I’m told, is River herself:


“River and Inara,” River says proudly. “Two sisters, together!”


My wife Jessica is the most beautiful brunette, and just seeing her takes my breath away. That said, in River’s block castles, the blonde on the far right always plays Mommy. She stands on the tallest tower in this Castle of Play and Good Health. The woman in the center is the teacher from River’s schoolhouse:


My own favorite part is this stack of blue triangles, spiraling upward like a stair, or like some alien creature rising from an unknown deep. “It’s a hexagon!” River says. “I built a hexagon!”

I’m not sure it’s a hexagon, but I really like it:


Pictured here, the artist herself:


That’s my little River!

And even as I post this, I can hear the cracking of towers in the other room and the wild giggling of my four-year-old. So I believe the Castle has fallen. Good thing I have this documentary to share with Jessica when she feels a little better! I will go check on her now, kiss her forehead gently, and see if River needs any help building another castle. Or maybe a den for dragons. Or maybe an airplane. Or whatever she has in mind.


Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

Posted on 2 Comments

“We Have Always Fought”

the-huntress-by-s-ross-browneMy favorite read from this week is “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley. It’s a powerful essay — and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.

Devora from Strangers in the Land might have really appreciated the essay, I think.

Hurley discusses the women who drove tanks and flew airplanes in WWII, the women who ran with Shaka Zulu, the statistics that every revolutionary army tends to consist of 20-30% women, and she talks about how hard it is to hear their stories (when you search for information on Shaka Zulu’s warriors, you’re likely to hear about his “harem”) because we are conditioned to expect a different story. And she talks about how hard it is even as a modern fantasy writer to write something outside — truly outside — the stories we expect.

The essay speaks passionately about the power (destructive or creative) of stories:

When we choose to write stories, it’s not just an individual story we’re telling. It’s theirs. And yours. And ours. We all exist together. It all happens here. It’s muddy and complex and often tragic and terrifying. But ignoring half of it, and pretending there’s only one way a woman lives or has ever lived – in relation to the men that surround her – is not a single act of erasure, but a political erasure.

Populating a world with men, with male heroes, male people, and their “women cattle and slaves” is a political act. You are making a conscious choice to erase half the world.

As storytellers, there are more interesting choices we can make.

Go read it.

Posted on Leave a comment

An Interview with River

Why should people read The Zombie Bible? River has the answers.

My daughter has taken to carrying copies of The Zombie Bible around the house and paging through them, so I decided to go the next step and interview her about her experience of the novels.


Stant Litore: River, what do you think of it?
River: It’s a book. ZOMBIE book. Lots and lots of book.


Stant Litore: Is it a good book?
River: Yes. Thank you for helping! It’s green. It’s a green book. It’s a very green book. GREEN book.


Stant Litore: Thank you, River! Can I have the book back? I’ll put it on the shelf.
River: No, no, not at all! River keep it. River’s book.


Well, there you have it. She couldn’t put the book down, it has zombies, and it’s very green. It’s also a gripping retelling of a story from the Old Testament, in which our ancestors thousands of years ago faced the ravenous dead.

River would like to add that, if you do sit down to read The Zombie Bible (she is pictured here perusing Death Has Come Up into Our Windows), you should bring popcorn.

As a responsible adult (which I am on occasion), I feel I should add that these novels are not for children, except for children as awesome as River, of course. The necessary disclaimer is that they are intense and contain scenes of graphic zombie violence (which might alarm children), and the novels deal with adult drama and adult issues (which, frankly, bore most children to death. Silly adults with their silly problems…).

For the rest of us, these novels will prove riveting. I hope you’ll check them out.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!