Earlier today I received an email from a visitor to this site, explaining he couldn’t review my Generation Mars series of books because he found the first one, Blood Red Dust, too distressing. His comments prompted a response from me to explain why I’d written the books in the way I did. It occurred to me that some readers (actual and potential) may have had the same reaction, so I thought I’d explain my motivation here.
We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly difficult in many ways. The obvious problems are the current sociopath in charge of the USA, the self-created problems surrounding the UK’s Brexit issue, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics and leaders throughout the world and, most urgently, the late acceptance of climate change as a reality.
Science fiction has always been a medium of warning against sometimes apocalyptic futures, and the current state of the world begs for such warnings. We now stand on a precipice as a species, apparently determined to do all in our power to damage and ultimately destroy the only world we inhabit. Many early civilisations collapsed as a result of the overuse of resources; that’s evident from history. In those times, civilisations were generally smaller than todays, so there was usually some other grouping ready and able to take their place and keep the species moving and growing. Today, however, the world is interlinked in so many ways. Business, the internet, communications, resource usage, travel and so many other factors forge strong bonds between sovereign nations so that there’s an inevitable effect on the world as a whole when disaster or catastrophe strikes any one nation.
As resources become scarcer, population grows, technology furnishes irresponsible leaders with more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, religions strengthen inborn tribalism, and leaders strive to outdo one another in dictatorial combats, we’re moving toward a global self-destruct scenario so far avoided. Climate change, now recognised as the threat first proposed way back in the 1980s, when I joined Greenpeace as a supporter of environmental protection, is finally seen as a reality. It is happening as you read this. No longer is this a future threat. It is already delivering consequences. Atmospheric science is such a complex issue that even the world’s most powerful computers are incapable of modelling futures accurately; things are changing too quickly now. We cannot know when the ‘tipping point’ will be reached. We may already have passed it. We’re certainly unlikely to curb the irresponsibility of Big Business and world leaders in their exploitation of resources before that tipping point occurs in reality.
So, I envisaged a world moving toward environmental catastrophe in the first book of the Generation Mars series, as I see this as almost inevitable due to the self-interest, blindness and greed of those in positions of power. Blood Red Dust catalogues the wars, disputes, shortages and political consequences of inaction and uses it as a spur for positive action.
Another aspect that troubled my reader was my apparent negative attitude to religion. Please note, this is religion as a phenomenon, not a blame game regarding any specific sect. All religion is based on myth and legend. Most people recognise that such historical examples as the Greek Myths, Norse Gods, African, Asian, Occidental and other local religions were humanity’s attempt to understand a complex and confusing world at a time of ignorance and poor education. Religion has always been a tool of control used by various leaders to direct their people along specific lines of behaviour. It’s rarely had much to do with any Creator. And the major religions developed largely through the connection of education with doctrine and dogma encouraged by political leaders with vested interests in imposing control.
So, yes, I disparage religion in the series. It has a responsibility in dividing people, causing conflict, creating gangs of varying brutality depending on the many possible interpretations of the so-called sacred texts that define most religions. Texts that stand up to no rational analysis at all.
I ask this question: Why would any god, capable of creating the known universe, restrict his (or her) commandments for living to a tiny minority of these creations, and do so in terms so vague as to be subject to different interpretations? And why at the specific time that each religion came into being? Any rational analysis exposes fundamental failures in such strategies. And, if a god can make a mistake in such a basic matter, is that being a god at all?
One other aspect of the books this reader didn’t raise, but which has been mentioned by some others, is the part played by sex in the novels. Sex is as fundamental to humanity as water and food. We, as a species, cannot exist without it. Nature has provided us with the superabundance achieved through an ability to mate and reproduce at any time of the year; we’re not restricted by the seasons. We have multiplied at a staggering rate (see the live figures for planetary population growth via this link) and, in the process, either diminished or destroyed countless other species that share the planet with us.
Nature gifted us sex as a device to share and continue our DNA and rewarded our attempts to spawn with delight and a set of chemicals designed to encourage further attempts regardless of success. We are walking reproductive units bent on maintaining and spreading our DNA. And that sexual attraction and activity has caused us to overrun the planet with our greedy, selfish, short-sighted and nest-fouling species.
So, of course sex plays an important part in the novels. The protagonists are superb specimens of humanity, lacking the false inhibitions that religion for so long imposed on such activity. They are free of the risks of STIs, can control the moment of conception, and lack the burden of sexual jealousy that conflicts with so many people. They indulge in sensual pleasure at will: wouldn’t you, given the physical and spiritual freedom and facility to do so?
So, there you are: the reasons I wrote the series in the way I did. This isn’t an apology; simply an explanation I felt necessary due to questions from some readers. I don’t write formulaic popular fiction but stories that spread ideas, ask questions, get people to think. My books aren’t easy. They make intellectual and emotional demands. If you’re looking for fiction that tells you nothing and reassures you in your narrow view of the world, you won’t find it in my work. But if you seek challenge, thought provocation, and the possibility of new ideas, laced with truth, stimulation and humour, you’ll find these in my stories.
It seems to me now that one reason my correspondent may have had difficulty with Blood Red Dust could be because the book was published in October 2016 and some of the predictions made there have already come true: that’s a frightening thought!