Author's Note: Predicting the future on the Web’s 25th anniversary Experts say the Internet will become ‘like electricity’ over the next decade – less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people’s lives, with many good and potentially bad results. This statement, thanks to friends at #DBW: sets up why such historical, biblical web books as The Messiah Scrolls are important to read and keep for reference, or (indeed make a film about*). Because it tells in a single, scriptural, imaginative narrative what we need to know about Christian beginnings and the lessons to be implemented for today. But when will this story be told. The Messiah Scrolls was lost in an expanding digital blizzard. "Between 2000 and 2010 the (digital) explosion in self publishing raised the number of new books issued per year to 3.1 million from 122,000." Quoted from a new book, "Sharing Stream and Stealing" by Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang
Background: This web site presents an on-line novel in which Christian beliefs and history are explored within historical fiction. Publishers, elitist authors and secular essayists tend to dismiss Christian fiction and Christian themed movies. Nonetheless, our readers are exploring with excitement the pleasures of reading online. Web-books such as mine involve different kinds of interaction, in contrast to print books (which require only simple eye movements or the turning of a page). To fully enjoy them, readers must interact with the living pages, by choosing their preferred reading paths and level of detail, and in the case of my book, by actually following pop-up definitions, links to source materials and by an interactive annotating of the text.
Digital techniques can facilitate on-line reading, but the most important driver is providing "content with utility", according to Daniel Roth, Executive Editor of LinkedIn, in a video interview with Meghan Peters, Mashable's Community Manager. In my opinion, although many people over 40 (Christian or non-Christian) do not read online books, my digital media web-book is a good example of fictional/historical Christian "content with utility" for the believer. The pay-offs for those who persevere include understanding the origins (content) of the first Christian community as well as a deepened understanding of Scripture.
I argue that in the digital world (just as in the print world) scripturally based story telling or movie telling, nonfiction or fiction, will rule the religious day for both believers and skeptics. In agreement, Edelman PR has produced a YouTube introduction to the importance of stories: content is more important than context, bandwidth, networks, big data, social media, or virtual experiences.
*I also argue that the Messiah Scrolls is destined to be scripted, produced and viewed as a movie for a time and age, truly appropriate, as the world culture shreds and absorbs the heritage of the Christian culture. My father, Arthur B. Chatelain (20th Century-Fox Studio), received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1946 for the design, construction and use of the 20th Century-Fox film processing machine. I dedicate any effort or success in selling movie rights or participating in any film production related to the Messiah Scrolls, to him.
The Messiah Scrolls' organizing question in the novel is, "How did ten to twelve rag-tag apostles and their cult leader, Jesus, not only stand down the Roman Empire but, by 74 AD, build two hundred Messiah Communities that eventually established Christianity as a dominant personal, social, cultural and literary force for the next two thousand years?"
In other words, the goal of the full Messiah Scrolls novel is to show in a Biblically inspired fictional narrative the formation and stunningly rapid growth of the original Christian community. I was saddened by what Paul Elie wrote in his article "Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?": "This, in short, is how Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time: as something between a dead language and a hangover. Forgive me if I exaggerate. But if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature." Christian literary fiction, more so digital media, is alive and well if authors will remain with variations within the confines of the basic Christian story, it's history and historic characters.
Scott Turow's essay about the slow death of the American author argues that “a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.” In his concern for the livelihoods of authors, particularly the elite caste of authors who dominated the “diverse literary culture” prior to the e-literature revolution, Turow fails to mention that the hallmark of a diverse literary culture will be content utility, whether fiction or non-fiction.
Where Christian content is concerned, I see a pitched battle between Evangelicals, both Catholic and Protestant, and secularists, both atheistic and non-affiliated. TM Luhrmann calls for a dialogue between skeptics and believers, from which both sides would benefit. My contribution to this dialogue is the Messiah Scrolls online novel hosted on this web site.
Essayist James Wood has his own idea about why novels themselves can be regarded as post-Christian: "It was not just the ascent of science but perhaps the ascent of the novel that helped to kill off Jesus' divinity." Wood's implication is fiction has not just lost, but crucified, its faith. Channeling Paul Elie, I would say the spirit of Wood with counterpart elite publishers and authors eliminate the believer as well. According to Elie, ". . . literary fiction has all these things. All that is missing is the believer." According to New York Times Book Review editor Parul Sehgal, James Wood was, "...raised in the evangelical tradition . . . He (Wood) reads messianically, with a hunger for fiction to answer the questions religion once did." Along with Martin Heidegger who believed that natural types of theology were never salvific, I wish Woods good luck with that.
In summary, given this bias by the literary elite, and given that static print still dominates book culture, digital genres, again thanks to larger mobile reading screens, are rapidly gaining reader acceptance, and will continue healthy growth as application entrepreneurs, users, readers and players further experiment and produce successfully with them. The ninth wave of digital content utility has come (The digital blizzard mentioned in the introduction). Again, thank you my readers for your encouragement and support of my contribution to this dialogue and adventure. If not already a Scrolls online reader, you are invited to register (no charge, email confirmation required) and read part of the novel.
MESSIAH SCROLLS PROJECT SCOPE