Religion, and it doesn’t much matter which one, is quite satisfactory, as long as belief holds out. The problem of death is solved by not dying, not really, just moving on to the next step in an ongoing life. I really miss the comforts of that belief. The question “why are we here?” is not really solved, but it gets kicked upstairs to the fellah at the higher pay grade, so we can stop worrying about it. Good enough; now we can get on with life.
Cyan, which is out now, is one of those novels that never gets into religion. There are thousands of them out there. However I grew up as a fundamentalist Christian, then changed my mind. That means religion plays a big role in my thinking and, therefore, in most of my writing.
My first science fiction book, Jandrax, concerns a group of fundamentalists stranded on an unexplored world. The hero is an ex-fundamentalist. Sound familiar?
My next SF novel, A Fond Farewell to Dying, concerned an ex-fundamentalist who had invented a mechanical form of immortality. Wish fulfillment, maybe? FFTD was designed to present a completely mechanistic world view, but about half way through the writing, unexplained things started happening in the manuscript. Events occurred that the hero’s version of immortality could not explain. Don’t blame me; they weren’t my (conscious) ideas, but clearly something in the back of my head was yelling “this isn’t enough.”
I left all the oddities in place. It is unwise to ignore the gods, or fates, or subconscious, but all my characters ended the book more or less happy with the result of their eternal lives.
My latest novel, Like Clockwork, takes place in a world where everybody lives forever, and nobody is satisfied. These are a group of people who were self-chosen for their disbelief, and given an alternative to death. They accepted, but have ended up with a massive case of buyer’s remorse.
I can’t tell you more, without giving away the plot, but their version of immortality is pretty screwy. I’m consciously bringing things full circle, with a work that is a deliberate flip side to A Fond Farewell to Dying.
There are two — or more — sides to every story. Fortunately, as writers we don’t have to know the philosophical truth of the universe. We just have to tell a plausible tale that resembles reality enough to please our readers. And if we get to exorcise a few personal demons at the same time, it’s a nice bonus.