Religion in Sci-Fi: The Sparrow

Most of my previous posts on religion dealt with sci-fi novels that mentioned the topic, had subplots of a spiritual nature, or provided a quote that piqued my interest.  One such quote from this book is, “To make creation, God had to remove himself from some part of the universe, so something besides Himself could exist.”  That is something relevant to my own series, and I won’t delve into it in a blog post.  The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, however, was an exciting discovery for me.  It is an exploration of first contact between humans and aliens from a religious point of view.  Jesuit explorers travel to a civilization a few light years distant, whose culture has recognizable elements of good and evil.  The main character thinks of these aliens as “God’s other children”, at least at first.  However, no alien Jesus Christ is mentioned.  The aliens seem to be heathens requiring salvation, which may occur in a sequel.  But that omission seems to me equivalent to the Church refusing to believe that the earth did not orbit the sun.  Despite that omission, the internal religious struggle of the main character is riveting and full of complex concepts.  This book is definitely worthy of its inclusion in any list of sci-fi classics.

Religion in Sci-fi: Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a dystopian novel, at least so far, whose hero, Wade, has a rough life.  Early on we learn of his disillusionment with the world he has been born into: “That story you heard? About how we were all created by a super-powerful dude named God who lives up in the sky? Total bullshit. … We made it all up.  Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”  On the other hand, Wade is a ‘gunter’, an egg hunter in a virtual reality world called OASIS.
Now, I’d like to suggest that there is a logical imbalance in the treatment of reality in this setup.  Virtual reality is the presentation of stimulation to the gamer, to his senses, that mimics what he could be experiencing in the ‘real world’.  It is based on algorithms, that run on computers, and which are no more than complicated streams of bits, zeroes and ones.  These are electric signals racing along circuits and through chips.
But, isn’t that eerily similar to what the believer receives from ‘the other world’, the ‘spiritual universe’?  Beliefs, ideas, and thoughts are said, by the materialists, to be no more than electro-chemical impulses racing through the brain, along neural pathways.  Scientists claim to be able to see where they are located inside the brain, but as yet, the algorithms they are part of have not been explained.
Why is ‘virtual reality’ given such a glamorous role in these stories, while ‘spiritual reality’ or thought itself, is less highly valued.  My series, which begins with Perturbations Of The Reality Field, posits a reality that blends the physical universe and the spiritual universe at the quantum level by intertwining strings.  I hope you will take a look at it.

Religion in Sci-fi: Rabbit Heaven

I read Watership Down as a break from heavy philosophical research I’m doing for the next book in my Cluster series.  Little did I know that one of the rabbits, Fiver, had a touch of Phillip K. Dick in his blood.  In my metaphysics, the quantum strings of the physical universe are looped through similar strings in the spiritual universe.  In Perturbations Of The Reality Field my characters use the borderland “between” the two in order to travel faster than the speed of light (FTL).  Now I am about to send them deeper into that spiritual universe, a wild place and very unsafe, as Fiver says.  Forgive the long quote from Watership Down, by Robert Adams, but it contains several very interesting ideas I intend to explore.
“You’re sure we are here then?” asked Fiver. … “Well, there’s another place – another country, isn’t there? We go there when we sleep; at other times, too; and when we die.  El-ahrairah comes and goes between the two as he wants, I suppose, but I could never quite make that out, from the tales. Some rabbits will tell you it’s all easy there, compared with the waking dangers that they understand.  But I think that only shows they don’t know much about it.  It’s a wild place, and very unsafe.  And where are we really – there or here?”

My Writing – second editions

After almost ten years of writing, one book at a time, it became obvious to me that my first five books were actually a series.  And they deserved another few rounds of editing and revised covers.  That is now completed.  BUT, republishing with my original publisher, AuthorHouse, was financially unfeasible.  SO, I am reprinting the series by Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle.  The price of the paperbacks will be significantly reduced, the e-books will remain the $3.99 bargains they have always been.

The change over process may be a little messy, but the new editions will have grey covers with black text, with the original images reduced in size.  See the website for the latest images.

Religion in Sci-Fi: Cat’s Cradle

As I began to read Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle I was interested in his invented religion, Bokononism.  It is a religion founded on lies.  Quite in keeping with Vonnegut’s humorous sarcasm.  Humanity is organized into teams that do God’s will without ever discovering what they are doing.  The orbits of the members of the team about their common “wampeter” are spiritual orbits.  This is an interesting variation on what I have written in my latest novel, Perturbations Of The Reality Field.  However, my works are much less pessimistic.  Vonnegut leads you laughing down the icy road, straight to Hell.

Religion in Sci-Fi: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

When you die and go to heaven, or the other place, your body is left behind to rot.  That frees you up for an eternity of new experiences; unless you believe in reincarnation, once you’re gone you’re gone.  In Dick’s The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, reality as usual, becomes much more complicated.  The two competing hallucinatory drugs, Can-D and Chew-Z, both send the user into alternate realities.  Use Can-D and you ‘become’ a character back on Earth, whose experiences depend on how much of the associated accessories you have purchased.  Your body stays put, and you return to it with the usual drug after effects.  Chew-Z is much more like getting lost in a hall of mirrors, sending you into ever deeper layers from which you may or may not return, one level at a time.  But that’s the religious issue!  If you don’t return, do you exist in Chew-Z land for eternity?  As Dick says, “you got what St. Paul promises … you’re no longer clothed in a perishable, fleshly body – you’ve put on an ethereal body in its place.”  That is but one of many interesting religious themes in The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch.  Read it over and over again, and get lost in its many layers!

The Fifth Prophet giveaway

Thank you to all those who participated in the giveaway of e-book copies of my metaphysical sci-fi novel, The Fifth Prophet.  If you were not one of the winners, please consider reading a copy anyway.  If you did win, I would be very happy to hear your comments and thoughts.  An honest review would also help a struggling indie author a great deal.

A confession and admission of marketing confusion might amuse you.  I first tried the Amazon giveaway and posted a link on my website, thefifthprophet.com.  The giveaway was to the first five participants, BUT that meant that Amazon would not publicize it.  So … after a year of no takers (obviously nobody was wandering over to my website), and constantly renewing the giveaway I pushed another radio button.   This time I chose “random” and for some silly reason chose the odds at 1 out of 200!  It actually worked!  Except that I was trying to giveaway the books and it timed out after 455 participants and only 2 books given out.  So, finally I renewed with odds of 1 in 50 and 3 books zoomed out into the world in two days.

I’ve learned my lessons.  The next giveaway, and there will be one, will be more efficient.  🙂  BTW, are any of you “following” me?  I’d love to hear from you.

Mathematics in Sci-Fi

Now here is a super-hero in the making.  “But I knew that I had some special talents others lacked.  For example, if you drew a line, I could always draw another line that would divide it into the golden ratio: 1.618.”  One wonders if “math-man” could slice his enemies into the same parts with his light saber.  He can also “tell at a glance” whether a numerical sequence was divergent or had a summation formula.  That would have been helpful to me in Calc class, but out there in the multiverse?  It makes me want to diverge from my current project and investigate whether infinite series are actually apparent in nature.  Any ideas?  Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem is packed full of little cool discrete ideas in addition to the overwhelmingly amazing imaginary worlds he has created.

Religion in Sci-fi: Or Fantasy, as in American Gods

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is fantasy not sci-fi, but if you follow physics far enough you’ll stumble into metaphysics and that’s where the gods live.  So maybe Gaiman’s book was not just a distraction, it was a detour taking me on a journey the long way around to the place my own writings have sent me.  Gaiman’s gods are down and out wanderers discarded by the more enlightened American descendants of the gods’ ancient believers.  I got lost in the ectometaverse in my first series when I contemplated how a time traveler could meet himself; there had to be a place where those two consciousnesses were connected.  In my new series, which begins with Perturbations of the Reality Field, the gods have punished any species that dares to think about traveling faster than the speed of light.  Thou shalt not go supraluminal!  I try to use physics and mathematics as the ladder to an expanded reality, Gaiman just walks right in.

Mathematics in Sci-Fi … lots of it!

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, is the perfect find for my interest in mathematics in sci-fi.  Most of my previous blog comments have remarked on the passing mention of mathematics within the plot of a sci-fi novel.  This book is founded on a monastic society of philosopher-scholars whose knowledge of the theoretical far surpasses the technical world that surrounds them.  Many of the texts on my bookshelves deal with directed acyclic graphs, DAGs, but they are not fiction.  Reading the term as it is used to describe the structure of the metaverse, or polycosmi, was geekishly thrilling.  And who among you has read the phrase “symmetry group of the eighth roots of unity” in fiction?  Stephenson describes a piece of the architecture of his Mynster in those terms.  The public opinion of his “avout” over time, called Iconographies, are studied, revealing “certain patterns that recur again and again, like, like – attractors in a chaotic system.”  When the hero makes that remark, his superior says, “Spare me the poetry”!  That is exactly what I see in the use of these terms within literature, poetry.  My own attempts to do this lead me to a style I call techno-poetic.  Anathem contains enough references to real mathematics that you could create a good college course from extracting them and studying the concepts.  Or, you could read more quickly and let the mathematics become part of the setting, like the stones of the “Math.”