Fall Issue 6
In the Image of the Author
By Sam Chee
It’s with some trepidation that I ascribe God the title of Author, as there are other titles more befitting to his name. Nevertheless, I hope this title does not inflict a great injustice, as it draws me time and again on account of my own affinity for storytelling. As I see it, God is the Author. The Author of the cosmos, of our world, and of our life stories. We are figments of his imagination, and having been penned to his cosmic narrative, we are in a sense his fiction.
This metaphor might edge on fatalism if taken too seriously: if God has written out our lives, aren’t we merely playing the part of what has already been dictated in the Book of Life, and the Book of the Dead? But I take this metaphor seriously, and I say the fatalism doesn’t faze me. In reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, a line on character building struck me:
Everybody is a hero in their own mind. Fully realized characters don’t see themselves as part of YOUR story at all. Whatever you throw at them is just part of their OWN story—and how it affects THEM is their primary measure of each moment’s importance.
The pessimist in me whispers that my agency is a delusion: Nature and nurture dictate me and what agency I exert, if it exists, is inconsequential. But if I can will a suspension of disbelief, an ingredient to any kind of storytelling, even my own, I can fool myself a hero, or at least pretend to be a supporting cast member to someone else.
As a writer, there is a deep satisfaction when you imagine a fully realized character, and they begin to “write themselves.” Whatever my contentions with God, I’ll concede that he’s written me well enough that I accept myself as fully realized, so if I do end up in the Book of the Dead, I’ll take responsibility for having written my way there.
When I am able to conceive of a character of the caliber where they begin to “write themselves,” it starts to feel that I am bearing witness to them. They may not exist, but they become real to me, and whatever hardship they face in actualizing their importance, I feel bound to treat them with respect and love.
To treat characters with such solemnity would appear to court idolatry. But through a conversation I had at Regent, I’ve arrived upon the sense that my obsessiveness is not idolatry turning me from God, but an iconography that helps me appreciate God all the more.
For if God is to be apprehended as Author, there is a trope, which at a glance seems cringeworthy, that God unabashedly revels in: Self-Insert Fic.
As TV Tropes defines it:
Self-Insert Fic is one where the author has made a simulacrum of themselves in the story's world as a key character [...] The self-insert is very often a Mary Sue. In the most extreme cases, which are usually but not always quite bad, the insert character gains some degree of godlike power, or retains considerable knowledge of the series in which he's been inserted, or both, and uses them to adjust things to his or her liking.
The Biblical story is arguably the most blatant Self-Insert Fiction in all of fiction. The Author inserts not merely a simulacrum of himself (that would be Docetism), but inserts himself in true form, with Christ as the ultimate Mary Sue. Having condescended through the fourth wall, the Author commits the supreme act of absurdity and dies for the sake of his fiction.
I now see how easily I could have fallen in line with the Gentiles and Jews that Paul speaks against 1 Corinthians 1:22-23—the story of the cross is foolish and a scandal to the nature of authorship. It is pathetic, but precisely because it is so astoundingly pathetic—not in its derisive sense, but in its monumental pathos—that it overwhelms me. Against the faculties of logic and reason, it is a story I want to laugh at, but as a narrative paradigm that overpowers those faculties, it is a story I find myself laughing with. And by the end of it all, I laugh at myself. For as incomprehensible as it is for the Author to suffer to the point of death for the sake of fiction, it is perhaps the residue of this divine that I cannot rid myself, nor do I want to.
God is the archetype Author, and I as an ectype author, can only hope to tell stories according to a fraction of his truth. Though I cannot survive a true death on behalf of my tales, in imago dei, I too must suffer for the sake of my fiction.
By Peter Cheung
Righteous Legacy is Peter’s attempt to put the story of Dr. Ho Feng Shan, a diplomat of Republic of China, on stage. Better known as the Chinese Schindler, Dr. Ho issued thousands of visas to Shanghai to Jews to help them exit Nazi-controlled Austria before the tragedy of the Holocaust. The last installment documented his diplomatic activities in Vienna.
5 | Education
Burg haus. Early March 1938
Burg and Monto enter.
BURG: ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah (singing in scale)
MONTO: ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah (fails)
BURG: Monto, I know you can sing this, what is stopping you?
MONTO: Mrs. Burg, this is so hard, I don't understand how this works.
BURG: Ok, Monto. Here's a question. Remember what is the basis of music?
BURG: Right, and what is sound?
MONTO: Energy waves created by vibrations.
BURG: Good. And what changes how high or low these vibrations sound?
MONTO: The frequency of the wave?
BURG: Correct. But what is needed for us to actually hear what you sing?
MONTO: Enough aptitude
BURG: And how do you make sure that happens in your mouth?
MONTO: More air?
BURG: That's it. Do you understand now?
MONTO: Hmm, yeah.
BURG: Good, let's try again. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah (singing in scale)
MONTO: Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah (success)
Freeze. Shan enters.
SHAN: Mrs. Burg liked Monto very much. She takes him to operas and symphonies, and impresses on him that mathematics is the basis of science. She had Monto drawing a map of the neighborhood in Grinzing. He had to measure the distances by counting the steps while walking. Mrs. Burg, or Dr. Burg, loves Chinese history and philosophy. Learning from her is the special class I have arranged for Monto.
Shan walks close to Monto, Monto and Burg unfreeze.
SHAN: Monto, are you ready to sing this coming Saturday? Have you practiced according to what Mrs. Burg taught you?
MONTO: Yes, Father.
SHAN: What about the Chinese? Do you need help with the words?
MONTO: No, Father. I am Chinese; I know Chinese.
BURG: (laughs) Dr. Ho, don't be so tough on Monto! I am sure he can handle the song well. He said you always tell him to study Chinese.
SHAN: Of course, like he has said himself, he is Chinese.
BURG: Well, my mother always tells me to learn my Hebrew. I have enough trouble trying to read from right to left.
SHAN: That I guess Monto can help you a little. And don’t be so hard on yourself, you are quarter Jewish?
BURG: Well, my mother and her mother are Jewish, though. But yes, the rest of my grandparents aren’t. So Monto, listen to your father and do your best.
SHAN: Thank you for your help again, we will get going. See you soon.
MONTO: Bye bye, Mrs. Burg.
MRS. BURG: Bye
Burg and Monto exit. Shan narrates during transitions
SHAN: It is the role of a diplomat to represent his sending country's interests and political agendas. But it is also important to have cultural exchange. Even though times were tough, people still need art! I formed and chaired the Chinese-Austrian cultural association. And I have arranged Monto to sing a Chinese song at one of the meetings.
6 | Shocked
Performance hall at hotel. March 12, 1938
Enter Monto and Bach.
BACH: (recite Li Po in stage center–in Chinese) 床前明月光，疑是地上霜，舉頭望明月，低頭思故鄉。thank you! (applause)
SHAN: (approaches) Mr. Bach, that's a great lecture on the "beauty of the Chinese language."
BACH: I am sure it could be a lot better, I look forward to visiting China to learn more.
SHAN: You taught yourself to speak Mandarin?
BACH: Yes, and also in writing as well. Dr. Ho, if you don't mind, I would love your feedback on this article I have drafted.
SHAN: Sure. (Shan takes the article, reads it, so as Monto. Monto watches with awe, amazed by how a foreigner could write such beautiful Chinese.) It's good. What do you think, Monto? (Monto couldn't respond, still in awe.)
BACH: (breaking the silence) Thanks for the praise; this must be your son, Dr. Ho? I heard he will be singing later today!
SHAN: Indeed. Monto, are you ready?
Shan pets Monto on the back, exits with Bach. Monto sings an old Mandarin song, A Chinese instrumentalist plays in the background.
In the middle of the song,thesoundof marching begins!Enter staffer from theatre entrance/front of house.
STAFFER: The German army has crossed the boundary and entered Austria! They will arrive in Vienna in the morning!
Loud noise, cry of panic among the audience.Play the radio news about the Anschluss.
By Yehuda Mansell
I hear the silent, primal scream behind the cigarette-stains
eyes that ache like muscles overused, having seen so many terrible things
I am loath to lob pithy slogans of hope—I empathize with your weariness of existence
a spinning tortured brain, knowing that for you, nothing really changes,
except for the interjection of fleeting slices of joy.
I wish I could lob those in your direction, but I fear that my own supply
is dreadfully low
as I empathize with your weariness of existence
if I said I'd pray for you, that would insult us both
for reasons that neither of us could dare articulate
and yet somewhere in this darkness, I ache
for some kind of light to break through and
convince me, overwhelm me, silence me,
prove us wrong, me and you,
as I empathize with your weariness of existence
(מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ ... הוּא יְבָרֵךְ וִירַפֵּא אֶת (פלוני בן פלונית
Solution to Last Week’s Crossword
Crossword by Embolus
8. Division in Bosch is mentioned (6)
9. I never intended to irritate any late starters. (8)
10. With no embarrassment, in sauna he steamed with MD…. (9)
11. … undressed and incomplete locker repaired (5)
14. A noble sports revolutionary servers (11)
15. Imitate primate (3)
18. Look back after stand onto saw (11,4)
19. Tree remains after fire (3)
20. Like half the world, here is chimp playing (11)
22. Dated and chic (5)
24. Helix contains it, university is concerned with the non-material (9)
26. Marks saint, one good mother thanks (8)
27. Emma and Kim (5)
1. Flimsy footwear holds hundred where French start singing of ill repute (10)
2. Barbara or Michelle or Eve (5,4)
3. Devil and idiot charge editor with great fervour (11)
4. Discharge labour, princess’s theatrical work lights up the sky (8,7)
5. Correct fine 9 (3)
6. Heads for intuitive nuance at last (5)
7. Sad description of profanity (4)
12. Expected repayment (3)
13. Rather dull marriage ring was lost, I am in season (11)
16. Leading academic, computer-literate, makes a bomb (10)
17. A mobile home has time, I’ve become aware (9)
19. Atmosphere for broadcast (3)
21. Rocky outcrop climber reaches after gentle gradient to start with (5)
23. Devours beef, lamb and pork without misgivings at first (4)
25. Quality assured first treatment is narcotic (3)