I am very pleased to announce that book 2 in the Birth Pangs series, Spero, will be released in hard cover on October 20th, 2008.  The soft cover will be released around Thanksgiving, 2008.

I am very pleased to make available an extended excerpt of Spero.  You may download it below.  Feel free to pass it along and share it!

Here is the extended excerpt of Spero:

bravenewworldWND.pdf (94.8 KiB, 2,659 hits)


Is politics an important part of your world?  Should I be searching for hints about the way you feel about capitalism or democracy, or should I be looking past these things as the ‘superficial’ layer of relationships, looking for a deeper reflection on civilization in general?

Political systems really represent individual beliefs, in particular how one’s beliefs impact how one should behave in the wider world and how you believe others ought to behave.  Ultimately, one cannot separate one’s politics from their worldview.  Since the Birth Pangs series is an exploration of worldviews, it follows that political musings will come, too.  A person who derives no political implications from their world view probably doesn’t even understand their world view or doesn’t really believe their world view.

Part of the problem in today’s culture is that many people have a worldview but then political beliefs that are inconsistent with planks in their worldview.  The latent idea is that one’s beliefs are private matters whereas how one feels about the government or governance is in a separate category.  Of course, one’s feelings about politics is in fact a belief, so even the attempt to compartmentalize fails in the end.  Somewhere, somehow, people’s politics relate back to a belief or two that they have.  Much of the heated discourse today arises because people from different political bents cannot trace their political ideas back to their core beliefs and then they present their political assertions as matters of self-evidently true, which of course they are not if you come from a different starting point. Read the rest of this entry »

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Continuing on with the interview:

Why pick a post-nuclear war setting to explore these themes:  first, the theme of human virtue and fortitude, and, second, the theme of ultimate truth?

Interestingly, what I wanted to do in the book decided this setting.  I didn’t start out wanting to have a Mad Max landscape.  A Mad Max landscape was the natural outgrowth of some of the purposes of the book.  What I wanted to get at is a point where everything is stripped away leaving only individual people striving on their own, free from the structures of government, church, and civilization.  There aren’t many plausible scenarios that can give you that and one of the things I wanted to remain is plausible.  I know that there are fantastic elements to the book… but under my argument (slowly revealed over all the books), is that everything in the books can actually be true in our own world.  So, how do we get from the world we are in now to a world in which every man has to fend for themselves, rebuilding what they believe and how they think free from peer influence?  A post-apocalyptic setting is required, unless I want to have a completely fantastic Perelandra world.

Now, I wanted that setting to help lay out virtue and fortitude and even ultimate truth because I believe we take the crutches of society for granted.  I am not saying that society’s influence is bad or improper, only that we shouldn’t take it for granted.  We like to think of ourselves as good and righteous and brave people, but really, what would we be like if there was no policeman to think about or no armies to concern ourselves with?  I think we need those curbs, but my point is that we shouldn’t fool ourselves about ourselves.  We may only be civil because it is imposed on us.  But what if those curbs weren’t in place?

If the curbs weren’t in place, we’d really find out the robustness of our virtues.  We’d find out if we’d behave if there was no policeman to tell us to do so.  We’d find out if we were brave when confronted with an injustice or a dastardly deed we had no policeman to call, but had to do something ourselves.

This ties in now with the question of ultimate truth.  You don’t have anyone telling you what is right or true anymore, yet each and every one of us has an innate sense that there are right or true things, though we grasp at them and nearly always fail to meet our own standards, let alone the standards of others (think CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, the first chapter).  What are you going to do?  You can’t rely on authorities- authorities are gone.

In the Birth Pangs world, this is the real situation and the people struggle endlessly with them. But I do not think that our situation is much different.  We still have to answer the same questions, only now we might say there are too many authorities, too many voices telling us what is true and real.  Our problem is sorting them out and that basically requires the same process and methodology as starting over from ‘scratch.’

I should say that I had wished to make a clean slate in the Birth Pangs world, with literally everything stripped away, but found that I couldn’t.  The same principles I explore are the ones that demand that certain realities persist.  There are still lingering tensions from past hates, for example.  The UN has come in and taken away all of the guns, and a gunless world truly gives us an opportunity to be courageous and test our mettle, but I couldn’t realistically get rid of them all.  That meant an on-going discussion about ‘gun rights’ which couldn’t be avoided.  There are various political movements that surface that have their origins in our own times, and I couldn’t realistically suggest that they were completely gone, either.  What to do about them forms a backdrop to the series.

Still, the main objective I think was reached:  people found out what they were made of without the boundaries and crutches of ‘civilized’ society and likewise flail about for ideas on determining the source and nature of real truth.

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Four months later than I had intended, but there it is.  Now it is time for editing and all that jazz.  You can look for Book 2 to be released around Christmas of 2008.  As for the title… it will be released in due time, but if you have a guess, and are the first one to get it right, you’ll get a free copy of the paper back.  Although as of this writing, some are hot on the trail.

The book came in at about 154,000 words.


Book 2 hit 96,000 words last night and I expect to be at about 105,000 by the end of this week. After that I expect just another 40,000 or so. I think it is clear that I won’t be able to have the next book out until Christmas 2008. :(

Q4. Another major theme that creeps in the background is the role of truth, and how you have an average guy like Fides who could care less abut the ultimate truths and meta-narratives of history constantly having his conscience nagged by these demons, these demons of truth and history. This begins with his being given a Bible and develops with his relationship with Fermion, a mysterious traveler who seems to know a thing or two about truth. Can you speak a little to this overarching theme?

Gladly. From a big picture point of view I think we all tend to begin our investigation into truth against a backdrop of already assuming certain things are true. For example, we think that it is true that we even exist. We take it for granted. We take for granted that our senses don’t deceive us and that our brain accurately interprets the sense data and that our mind processes objective reality. Based on these assumptions we turn our attention to areas of inquiry such as religion, politics, philosophy, ethics, science, etc.

There is a serious flaw in this approach if we’re really trying to get to the whole bottom of things and that flaw is that our explanations for reality also have to explain the things I listed above. You can’t pick and choose what you want to explain. We find that we instinctively take much of what we think we know based on the authority of others. That is not necessarily an insult. Let’s face it, we only have our own narrow experience of reality and to fill out the broader picture we’ll need to hear about other people’s experience of reality- providing those people really exist too, of course. But taking assertions of fact about reality on authority exposes us to other people’s presumptions and things they take for granted, and of course they only have a narrow experience of reality, too.

So what is the average person to do? Provided he cares, that is, and Fides initially doesn’t care. But going against the grain of reality can start to hurt after a time, so eventually Fides has to address the issues. What can he do? The most important thing is not to prejudge things.

If we take an issue like the existence of God, it is easy to find atheists running around talking as though we were obliged to take a naturalistic view of things by default, and any assertion about the existence of God has to be backed up by extraordinary evidence, while any naturalistic explanation is preferable, even with no evidence in sight at all. Now, there is no way anyone can know such a thing without first knowing that there isn’t a God or that if there is one, he’s indifferent to us. You can’t prove this assumption, you can’t verify it, it is axiomatic. But if you’re starting over from scratch- that is, you’re beginning your investigation into reality with fresh eyes, then you know you can’t start with such axioms. Certainly if you have such an axiom it is hardly worth saying that you don’t believe in God and think the evidence for God to be weak. Of course you’d say that. Your axiom forces you to.

Now, the existence of God is certainly something that Fides is exploring but that is not the only thing he is exploring. For example, he is witness to realities such as honor, bravery, courage, beauty, love, and other intangibles. His account of reality has got to respect these things as realities requiring as much explanation as an apple falling to the ground. We explain an apple falling by invoking gravity. How do we explain gravity? See where that is going?

In this context, then, the importance of history in uncovering truth rather than relying on something like the scientific method alone, which is largely constrained to this present moment, is laid bare. For if you must rely on authorities to some extent and other people’s experiences of reality to inform your own experience of reality, then it is not enough merely to consult your contemporaries but also those who have come before you, as well. A contemporary might say something like “Miracles aren’t possible” but if credible voices in the past attest to seeing a miracle, you’re in a bind. You can’t know that miracles aren’t possible. But even if they’re possible it doesn’t mean they happened. And if they don’t happen to you, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to others.

Now, Fides finds out that these musings are important in other ways. For example, he experiences righteous indignation when witnessing the slaughter of largely defenseless travelers. If some other people want to kill some other people, what is that to him? Why is it all the more bitter when he sees that they are defenseless? Why should he care? But he does care.

This requires an explanation. Preferably a good one. Fidelis is largely a story of Fides constructing the best explanation for everything we experience, not just mechanical observations about the empirical universe, but also of loyalty in the face of imminent death and his own passions and longings.

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