My new science fiction novel Chrysopteron deals with religion. It deals with religion along with issues of self-determination, human nature, sex, the future of our planet. All good stuff, to be sure! But that first one always seems to cause the most trouble.
For many religious people, any discussion of religion, even in fiction, puts them on their guard. Unless they know they are reading religious fiction, I get the notion from reviews I’ve read on Amazon that anything critical of their belief system is unacceptable. I’ve even seen them justify their low ratings on the grounds that the author seemed anti-religion.
For the non-religious, they seem to want religion treated antagonistically. They want a knowing wink from the writer, telling them that he or she is on their side.
I’m generalizing, of course, but these are the attitudes I’ve encountered. So how does a writer handle the issue without alienating a good percentage of potential readers? I don’t know. I’ve still yet to see how my treatment of religion will be received, but I can tell you what I tried to do to address the issue fairly.
First, I used an invented religion. In the novel, the Chrysopteron is a generation ship sent to colonize a distant star. Near the beginning of the book, an event occurs which some of the ship’s inhabitants identify as a miracle and, as a result, a new religion is born. When the ship ultimately reaches its destination, this religion will shape the society that they build and, ultimately, decide how they respond to visitors from Earth hundreds of years later who have come to see why contact was broken off.
Second, I attempted to address the issue from two sides. In Chrysopteron, there are characters who are religious and those who are non-religious. Neither group has a monopoly on “good” or “bad” behavior. How cliché would it have been for me to say “all those people are bad and all these people are good?” Aside from being bad fiction, it does little to reflect the truth of the matter. Religion does not make people good or bad. It can, of course, but a list of good things done in the name of religion and a list of the bad things would not be very different from one another in length. So I have a religious character named Kayti who is a very sweet and sympathetic person. It broke my heart to have to do to her some of the things I did. Then, I also have a priest figure who you will not like at all. The non-religious characters are likewise more complex than being cast as simply “heroes” or “villains.”
Finally, I have attempted to let the reader decide for him or herself whether or not the members of this far-flung human society have, ultimately, made their lives better or worse than they would have been had they lived on Earth. Earth in the future depicted by Chrysopteron is not a particularly pleasant place. Over-population and climate change have led to a planet on which wars are commonplace and misery and suffering is plentiful. The way of life on the planet settled by the Chrysopteron’s crew, however, is a seemingly idyllic, generally peaceful existence—as long as one doesn’t go against the established religious order. I don’t ask the question directly, but would giving up one’s freedom of religion be worth living in such a peaceful society? And do the visitors from Earth have the duty—or the right—to upend this way of life in the interests of the truth?
I won’t give away the answers, of course. I have my own perspective—I’m sure readers of the novel will be able to detect it—and I want them to have theirs. I am not trying to make anyone agree or disagree with me. I simply want to explore religion from the unique perspective afforded by science fiction. If these issues interest you as much as they do me, I hope you’ll have a look at Chrysopteron, and if the novel sparks questions or comments, I am always available to chat with my readers. Whatever your perspective, though, I think it is important to remember that there is no reason we cannot all treat each other with kindness. No matter our differences, no matter our religion, ethnicity, culture or—in the case of my novel—our planet of birth, we are all human beings, and we are all trying to make it in this universe, we are all searching for joy for ourselves and our loved ones. If there is any message I hope readers take away from Chrysopteron, it is this simple yet easily forgotten fact.
Captain John Hayden, haunted by memories of war and still grieving the death of his wife, is about to embark on the most important mission of his career: to discover the fate of the Chrysopteron, one of five generation ships which left the Earth centuries earlier. The descendants of the Chrysopteron’s original crew had successfully colonized their planet, but less than a hundred years later, all contact was lost. Hayden knows that a mysterious new religion which was formed aboard the ship may have played a role in determining the fate of the colonists, but there is no way to know what he and his crew will find when they finally arrive.
In a story that touches on issues of faith and self-determination, Chrysopteron explores the fundamental elements that define our species. Even though we may leave the Earth, we cannot leave behind that which makes us human.
About the Author:
Michael K. Rose is primarily an author of science fiction who also dabbles in horror, fantasy and paranormal fiction.
His novel Sullivan’s War has been called "...a sci-fi thriller that definitely delivers!" and his collection Short Stories has been praised as "...the purest form of literature, as rich as a bottle of Montrachet 1978 and as tasty as a generous cut of Wagyu beef."
His newest novel, Chrysopteron, is already being hailed as a "...gem of a novel..." and "a masterpiece."
Sullivan’s Wrath, the sequel to Sullivan’s War, will be released in early 2013.
Michael K. Rose’s new novel CHRYSOPTERON is now available on #Amazon! US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00APQI9MA UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00APQI9MA @MichaelKRose
Michael K. Rose’s new novel CHRYSOPTERON is being called “A masterpiece.” Get it for #Kindle or #Nook: http://www.michaelkrose.com/chrysopteron @MichaelKRose
For more information, please visit http://www.michaelkrose.com