Published by Prospect Hill Press on 7-31-2014
Genres: Science Fiction
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Above a horrified New York City, genetics and ethics collide as the fallen emperor and a banished exile of the same herculean race ignite into battle over the city’s rooftops. In the streets below, a brilliant young scientist has discovered a technology that can defeat them both, yet might be more terrible than either.
Set both in modern New York City and in the technologically sophisticated yet politically savage world of Anthem, Anthem’s Fall unfurls into a plot where larger than life characters born with the prowess of gods are pitted against the shrewd brilliance of a familiar and unlikely heroine.
Interview with S.L. Dunn
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
Anthem’s Fall is a collision of two stories. One side of the novel introduces Kristen Jordan, a young graduate student working on a cutting edge technology in New York City. Kristen is one of the scientists behind the Vatruvian cell, a mysterious new technology that replicates living cells. Kristen is incredibly brilliant and savvy, but she remains uneasy about the capabilities of their Vatruvian cell.
The other side of the novel brings to light the futuristic and brutal world of Anthem, a world where the most elite members of society are born with the power of gods and who control their civilization with absolute authority.
Yet this world of gods is only introduced at the moment of its fall. For a new technology is created on Anthem, and with it is born unspeakable machines forged using the very power behind their strongest sons and daughters. The machines come to topple the cities of Anthem to the sounds of a holocaust, and bring a race of warrior-gods to its knee. All the while, the technology behind the unstoppable machines rings familiar to a particular Vatruvian cell being studied in New York City by Kristen Jordan.
Two worlds collide in Anthem’s Fall, and the fate of each becomes intertwined in the plot that ensues.
What makes your book unique?
Anthem’s Fall is a “superhero” story that doesn’t revolve around good and evil. I can’t tell you how much it drives me nuts when a character is simply the “bad guy” who wants to cover the world in darkness. Frankly, the “good guy” can be just as infuriating. It’s all well and good when a superhero stops a bank robbery or saves the girl, but when you push that reality a little further, bigger questions are left unanswered: what are this hero’s thoughts on civil wars, or human rights violations, or national sovereignty? My goal in Anthem’s Fall was to create a cast of characters that act in full three-dimension at all times and only rise to the call of “superhero” or “supervillian” begrudgingly.
All of the three main characters are exceptional in their own way, but each of them resents that exceptionality. On some level, each of them only wishes to be left on the sidelines of the calamitous plot instead of being at the front and center. And who will ultimately get defined as “good guy” or “bad guy” is in large part up to each individual reader. This level of dimensionality provides the book with a unique perspective.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I was hung over and driving on a highway in Vermont when the idea for Anthem’s Fall slapped me upside the head. The three characters, although nebulous at that early stage, all introduced themselves to me at the same moment.
Is there any message you want readers to get from reading the book?
Definitely, but I wouldn’t be very good at what I do if I had to come out and say it :). I will say that the entire book is a discussion on the nature of power and ‘might vs right’. On Anthem, that discussion is intentionally self-evident. It’s a futuristic Asgard, Krypton or Vegeta type world heavily steeped in themes similar to T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.
But in New York City the nature of power is more abstract, despite being every bit as real. The subtleties of modern “power” are intentionally illustrated in a nearly humorous juxtaposition to this futuristic world of warrior-gods. In the end, are Sejero genetics and modern geo-political/mainstream academic hegemony really so different? And, in its own way, is Kristen Jordan’s brilliance simply a different form of Sejero genetics, to be treated with as grand a sense of responsibility?
How long did it take to write the book?
Oh boy, a long time. Early on, I learned to write as I wrote. I owed it to the novel it could one day become to hone my craft as much as possible. In total, it took me about four years.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
I like each of the characters in their own way, but Kristen Jordan was the most enjoyable to write. She is a character who has never existed in a story like Anthem’s Fall. She’s brilliant, cynical and nobody’s fool. And in time, two worlds will depend upon her genius.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
When I first started writing Anthem’s Fall in 2009, I wrote out a long bulleted outline that hashed out most of the plot points as I saw them logically unfolding. Starting a novel is such a truly gargantuan undertaking that I think it would be difficult to keep everything up to speed and not mess up details in your head. There’s simply too much going on, especially in the case of a novel with several main characters. In the end, almost every aspect of how I pictured the climax coming to life changed by the time I actually got to writing it.
What I found as I pushed beyond page one, beyond page ten, and past page one hundred, (and realized my little Microsoft Word document was undeniably becoming a novel) was that my characters developed personalities of their own. After I got to know them, it became clear to me that certain things would have to change, because the given character wouldn’t act so cruelly or stupidly, etc. I knew I was really cooking something when my scenes and plot points stopped telling the story and my characters “took the wheel” to define their own climax.
The novel that I set out to write, and the one I ended up writing were very different thanks to the characters that were forged along the way.
How did you come up with the cover?
I needed a strong image that made a promise of what lay within the novel. The book blurb discusses genetic engineering and killer androids, so I needed the cover that grounded the book package in humanity. I actually wrote a string of blog posts about the process, and the different iterations the cover went through at http://www.sldunn.com/blog
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A few days after I started writing Anthem’s Fall.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
It was an assignment for English class in high school. I added an epilogue chapter to Beowulf. The guy who was Beowulf’s second in command throughout the novel, (Wiglaf? I think…) was sailing back home with all of Beowulf’s men when a giant octopus attacks their ship. Thought provoking stuff.
What are you working on next?
The sequel to Anthem’s Fall. It’s currently titled Herculaneum, and I’m hoping for a winter release. I also have some unrelated short stories that I’ll be publishing over the next few months.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I’ll defer to an author with slightly more clout: “Good writing is rewriting.” –Truman Capote