Author-y Stuff


Various and sundry author updates:

• I recently had the opportunity to buy several copies of my first book, “Homesteading Space” for $15, and would be glad to sell a few at that price. A few people have contacted me already, but if you would be interested in one, let me know. (Out of town folks would have to pay shipping, also; I would be glad to sign/inscribe books per request.)

• I will be giving a couple of “Homesteading”-inspired talks in the next few weeks; one at the public library in Decatur on July 28 at 6:30 p.m., and the other at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center on August 13, time TBD. I would love to see some familiar faces in the audience. I’m planning on revamping my standard talk a bit, after giving an updated version at ISDC in May, to tie history in to the current state of American human spaceflight.

• On Monday, I reviewed the new index which will be included in the forthcoming paperback version of “Homesteading,” which will be published this fall.

• We’ve gotten notes back on the manuscript of our early-space-shuttle history book, “Bold They Rise,” and are working with the publisher on how best to address those. God willing, we’ll be able to begin work on those edits before too long and get that book turned around as well.

Kind Words


I was flattered recently to see this exchange on Twitter:

20110513-091742.jpg

As an author, it’s pretty hard to see that as remotely merited, but it’s also hard not to be very flattered by it.

And speaking of Homesteading Space, I’ll be giving a brief talk inspired by the book at the ISDC conference in Huntsville tomorrow.

Congratulations, Bo Bobko


Because I’m woefully behind on blogging (and, yes, we will get back to that eventually), this post is coming about two weeks after I should have written it. Apologies.

Earlier this month, Bo Bobko was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

If you don’t know who Bobko is, follow the link to the collectSPACE article. Long story short, he’s one of the early shuttle commanders who flew on the maiden flight of two orbiters.

He’s sufficiently accomplished that a few years ago, talking to him, I made the faux pas of assuming he was already inducted. I’m glad that oversight has finally been rectified.

On a personal note, I’m glad to see Bo recognized, since he helped me with both of the space history books I’ve co-authored.

Back when he was still a fairly new astronaut, long before the shuttle commander stuff, he supported the Skylab program in several ways, including, most notably, as a participant in the SMEAT “simulation,” where he and two other rookie astronauts spent almost two months locked up in a altitude chamber testing Skylab equipment. It was a singularly unrewarding task — a full-duration space mission without leaving the ground — but vital to the success of Skylab. I got to sit down while working on the Skylab book, Homesteading Space, with Bo and SMEAT-mate Bob Crippen and have a great conversation that turned what on the surface might have been on of the drier chapters in the book into an entertaining and often hilarious story.

Bo helped me again with the space shuttle book Heather and I recently submitted to the publisher — at one point, he was going to serve as co-author of the volume. That fell through, but he was a huge help in shaping the book early on. In particular, as a pilot astronaut, Bobko gave me a perspective that was very key to understanding the development and early flight program of the shuttle. I’d always thought of the space shuttle orbiter primarily as a spaceship. To Bo — and, it turns out, others of his background — it was “the airplane.” Despite it’s very unusual flight profile, particularly during development it was just the latest and greatest airplane he was going to be flying. He talked to me less about the microgravity operations than about the avionics (pronounced with a short a). The discussions with him provided me with a foundation that proved hugely helpful later on in understanding the experiences of the astronauts involved in the early shuttle program.

So, Bo, congratulations on a well-deserved honor, and thanks again for all your help!

Review: David Levithan’s “The Lover’s Dictionary”


Heather gave me David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary for Valentine’s Day.

I moved it pretty high up my reading list (I still haven’t read the book she gave me for my birthday) because it looked interesting, and it looked like a quick read.

I was right on both counts.

As an author, I’m jealous.

In part, I’m jealous because, through the clever formatting of the dictionary-entry-esque approach of the book, Levithan has turned what is, at best, a novella’s worth of writing into “A Novel,” as it declares on the cover. It’s a clever approach; I’m much more comfortable calling the book novel than a novel.

I’m jealous in part because Levithan has captured the mood of a novel I’d hoped to one day write better than I could. The book is the story of a relationship, the good and the bad, both told with equal weight and believability. The out-of-chronology storytelling approach portrays the relationship as a series of moments, set in a variety of emotional landscapes, that captures the ups and downs of love without weighting the one through the filter of the other. In a relationship, it’s hard to remember the good during the bad or the bad during the good, but here both coexist side-by-side.

Finally, I’m jealous because it’s a good book. Levithan is talented. The book may be sparse, but it’s nuanced. There’s great emotional depth in the interwoven vignettes. The dictionary motif places a lot of focus on words, and Levithan is well aware of their power, and uses them well.

Review: “Understanding Four Views On Baptism”


I wrote a post a while back about baptism, in which I basically said my thoughts on the subject were limited by the fact that I didn’t understand other people’s views on the matter.

Take, for contrasting example, the issue of predestination. I have my views on the matter. And I feel comfortable with those views because I’ve studied other people’s and felt like I understood them enough to say, “OK, I understand why you believe that, but here’s why I don’t.” It’s a complicated issue with lots of good arguments from the different sides, and I can respect the diversity of beliefs. Even the ones that are obviously wrong.

With baptism, on the other hand, I have a harder time. I, for example, don’t believe in infant baptism. It would be easier for me to say, “OK, here’s why I disagree with people who believe that,” if I understood why they believed that. But I don’t. I don’t feel like I have enough understanding of the arguments to evaluate them.

So my co-worker Johnny was kind enough, after reading my post, to loan me his copy of the book Understanding Four Views on Baptism.

I don’t know that it really changed my thinking, but it sure was fun.

The way the book works is this. It’s written by four experts representing four different belief sets, and is divided into four sections. In each section, one of the four experts explains what his group believes, and why. The other three then get to write why he’s wrong.

The problem with this approach is that you never get an unbiased look at anything, you just get a variety of biases to average out. I came out of the book with the same viewpoints I had going into it. I read the arguments supporting differing views, and still didn’t really understand how people could believe those things. But that may be as much a reflection of me as it was the book. It seemed a lot of the arguments involved adding things to scripture, which raises the question of whether those things were good things to add. Shockingly, the person writing that particular argument thought they were. The other people, shockingly, did not.

The discourse, however, was quite entertaining, in very much a polite “with all respect, I have no respect for this” tone. To be honest, I found it more enjoyable reading from a debate perspective than from a baptism perspective.

The book is part of a series, and I very well may have to go back and look into other volumes in the set to see what it looks like for other topics to get this treatment.

Remainders of the Dave


I’m not really big on the whole having-goals-in-life thing.

It’s not that I’m lazy or unambitious.

It’s just that I’m not creative enough.

There’s rarely been a period of my life when what I could have hoped for would have been better than what actually ended up happening. God’s more creative than I am.

Instead, I believe in working each day to put yourself in the best place possible that day. That way, when the doors open, you’re ready to go through them. And the doors are more likely to open in the first place.

And I believe in smaller goals. Not the “what I want to do when I grow up” type stuff, but the “I want to go skydiving” type goals.

BUT …

If …

Just if …

If I were to admit to having a real goal in life, and I’m not saying I do, I’m just saying it’s something that seems like a good candidate for the job …

… save for the fact that I don’t know I could accomplish it, which seems like an important factor for a life goal …

… it would be this:

I want to be remaindered.

I want for somebody to be able to go into their local big-box chain bookseller, and go to the discount book section, and find, there, with the markdown sticker on the front and the black marker line on the pages, a book by David Hitt.

A bit silly, perhaps, but it requires something on my part — writing more books — and is somewhat of a measure of success — Homesteading Space didn’t print enough copies to be remaindered.

I’ve been saying for a while that I like the idea of this goal, so it was very cool to me when I went into my local Books-A-Million and saw the sight in that picture.

A book that includes something I wrote,on a remainder table.

I just wrote a few words for the book. In fact, arguably, just one.

And it fails the main requirement of having the name David Hitt on the front.

(Even if it does say David.)

But, hey, it’s a start, right?

Welcome to the Golden Age of Heresy


Rob Bell in the "Love Wins" trailer

OK, for those not in the sorts of circles to know this, I’ll summarize.

There’s this guy, Rob Bell. He’s a preacher. And he’s written books with hip-sounding names like Velvet Elvisand Sex Godand Drops Like Stars.

I’ve read Velvet Elvis. I own others, but haven’t read them yet. I’ve also seen some of his video stuff.

So he’s got a new book coming out, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

He made a video trailer for his new book. In the video, he questions whether Gandhi’s in hell.

This has made many people upset.

These upset people have tweeted and blogged a lot about being upset.

People were upset because saying that Gandhi might not be in hell is heresy.

And heresy, they say, is bad.

Saying that Gandhi might not be in hell, they say, means that Bell may not be a real Christian.

“Farewell, Rob Bell,” they say.

For those people, things are just going to get worse.

Welcome to the Golden Age of heresy.

Everything I’ve heard about the book, including watching the video, makes me think it probably is, in fact, heresy.

And, personally, as much as it sucks, I think believing Gandhi is not in hell is a dubious belief, Christianity-wise.

But I’m not upset about Rob Bell saying it.

See, people use the word “heresy” like it’s a bad thing.

Me, I believe heresy is going to save the church.

Some people would say it has before. Ironically, some of those are the same people condemning Rob Bell for heresy.

All heresy is, is saying that you believe something outside the mainstream orthodoxy.

Sometimes heretics are the people who twist religion to fit their own purposes. I’d agree that sort of heresy is a bad thing.

Sometimes, however, heretics are the people who stand up and say that mainstream orthodoxy is wrong, that it’s the result of someone twisting religion to fit their own purposes. I’d say that sort of heresy is a good thing.

If you believe that the elements of communion do not literally transubstantiate into the body and blood of Christ, thank a heretic. John Wycliffe died for that belief.

If you believe that the Earth orbits the sun, instead of vice versa, thank a heretic. Galileo was threatened with death for this belief.

Heresy is how the church matures, how it evolves, how it grows, how it rights itself when it is wrong.

It can also be how the church goes wrong in the first place.

How do we decide which a given heresy is? By listening to it. By evaluating it. By comparing it to scripture. By praying about it.

The same way we evaluate any new belief we’re exposed to.

So why do we live in fear of heresy?

Because we’re told to.

Because heresy is a threat to those in power in the church. Church leaders are only church leaders to people who believe the things they’re teaching. If people read Rob Bell’s book and think about it and evaluate it and compare it to scripture and pray about it and end up deciding it has merit, some church leaders will lose followers. They will lose power. They will lose influence. They will lose books sales and tithe money.

Those people don’t want you to read and evaluate the book. They want to stop you from hearing what it has to say. They want to dismiss it as heresy. They want to dismiss Bell as un-Christian.

Five hundred years ago, reformer John Calvin said of heretic Michael Servetus, “If he comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight.” Servetus was the originator of the now not-uncommon doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” or the “perseverance of the saints.”  Seven years later, Calvin testified against Servetus in a trial that resulted in Servetus being burned alive at the stake for heresy.

We live now in a different world. Today, John Piper, perhaps Calvin’s best-known modern follower, tweets to his hundred thousand followers, “Farewell, Rob Bell.”

Today’s established leaders have new tools for silencing those who would share ideas.

Unfortunately for them, we are entering a new Golden Age of heresy.

We are living in an age where heretics can be heard like never before. They can tweet. They can write blogs. They can write books. Their ideas can spread. And those who agree with them can say so. Just like those who don’t.

Like never before, Christians have the freedom to explore new ideas. They have the freedom to evaluate their beliefs for themselves. They have the ability to explore the scripture for themselves, aided by vast resources from generations of experts. They have literally volumes written by competing schools of thought to peruse and compare.

You don’t have to take John Piper’s word on Rob Bell. You can read his book yourself. You can read Piper’s books. You can — you must — read what scripture says about both of their arguments. And you can decide.

Until I can read the book, I won’t know for sure what Bell says in it.

From what I’ve seen so far, it flies in the face of beliefs I consider important.

What I have seen, I would call heresy.

It’s not uncommon for me to read books with heretical viewpoints and consider them without merit.

It’s also not uncommon for me to read books with more orthodox viewpoints and consider them without merit.

I can’t guarantee what I’ll think of Bell’s book. But I’ll be interested to see what it says.

You don’t have to agree with Bell. You don’t have to read his book. But you also don’t have to dismiss him because someone says to. The choice is yours.

The days of silencing heretics are over.