Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guest Post - Author S. Andrew Swann (Heretics)

Many of you may have seen the fabulous cover posts for S.Andrew Swann's historical fantasy paranormal Wolfbreed series that I posted in recent months. But those of you unfamiliar with his work may be surprised to know that he is the author of over 18 novels in a wide variety of familiar genres including science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Yesterday saw the release of  Heretics, the second book (following Prophets 2009) in the sequel to his epic space opera Hostile Takeover trilogy which was released from DAW in March 2009. Cover art for the new series is absolutely terrific and I do love a good space opera. I read Prophets last year and fans of sweeping space opera will not be disappointed.
Bio: S. Andrew Swann is the pen name of Steven Swiniarski. He’s married and lives in the Greater Cleveland area where he has lived all of his adult life. He has a background in mechanical engineering and— besides writing— works as a Database Manager for one of the largest private child services agencies in the Cleveland area. He has published 19 novels over the past 15 years
Wolfbreed, the first volume in his historical fantasy paranormal series was released on August 25, 2009 and the next book, Wolf Cross is due July 27. Steven will be back for a full interview at that time (check the calendar). Today Steven has prepared a guest post on a difficult theme that lies at the heart of his new trilogy.

Can you write SF about religion?

It’s an interesting question because when people tend to think of Religion and SF, it almost always in terms of opposition. It is a dichotomy that tends to find advocates on both sides, from those of a religious bent decrying the inherent atheism of SF, and those SF partisans looking on and saying “yeah, so, your point is?”

The first common stereotype we find is the obvious one of the religionists as the repressive bad guys standing against knowledge and science. A lot of nasty stuff has been done in the name of God, and a large number of fundamentalist sects are anti-science because of the historical attempt of most faiths to explain the physical world— scientific explanations are seen as a threat.

The second common stereotype is that we have this one particular faith (maybe alien, maybe invented, rarely but sometimes an actual existing faith) happens to be definitively and explicitly right, and the author’s speculative engines grind on dealing with the implications of that idea.

The first lays out the SF/Religion dichotomy in the conflict of the story, the second co-opts the religion and makes it part of the scientific knowledge of the universe. But rarely does either deal with the primary function of religion in a human society.

Since ancient times, religion has existed to provide a common identity to a particular group by giving that group a common moral framework, a way to define right and wrong. And, it is the nature of morality that it is always based on some sort of basic revealed truth, because right and wrong can’t be quantified based on any objective external measures. Even something as simple as the golden rule, “do unto others. . .” is based on a series of arbitrary assumptions, not the least of which is the egocentric method of measuring the moral good based on how you personally wish to be treated.

The need for a common moral construct to hold society together will not go away any time soon, even in a post-singularity space opera. And even when the moral basis is secular in nature, the product ends up becoming— in some important sense— religious. Both Marxism and Objectivism reject God, but both create a construct defining good and evil, and both require a faith in a set of core “truths” that are not subject to any external verification.

What I’ve tried to do with the Apotheosis Trilogy is take the idea of religion— without casting it as the antagonist, or giving a particular faith privileged status— and let it loose during a crisis that can easily be interpreted as the Apocalypse. I have many characters of many faiths, both existing and invented, facing a moral Rubicon, with their faiths informing their actions.

Steven Swiniarski (aka S Andrew Swann)


If you would like to check out descriptions of any of Steven's other books or series use the links for full blurbs and cover information or visit his official website.

S. A. Swann
  • S. A. Swiniarski
  • S. Andrew Swann
  • Steven Krane

    1. Thanks for highlighting this new-to-me author Doug. I'm unfamiliar with Mr. Swiniarski's work, but I'm going to try to read those wolf stories. That looks right up my alley.

    2. Great stuff :) Prophets and Heretics are a couple of books I plan on getting - I love me some sci-fi!

    3. Rebecca I too am anxious to read the new werewolf fantasies. It's great to see that Steven writes in multiple genres.

      Hi Mark as a space opera buff I am sure you will enjoy them.


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