SF author S. Andrew Swann told Tor.com that his latest novel, Prophets, came directly from questions left over from his last space opera, the Hostile Takeover Trilogy, which he wrote over a decade ago.
“While the story itself was wrapped up in the concluding volume of that trilogy, the question of what would happen to the universe I had built was left wide open,” Swann said in an interview. “The question became particularly nagging because the universe, as I had written it, had been predicated on a social aversion to three Singularity-inducing technologies: macro-scale genetic engineering of intelligent life, artificial intelligences, and self-replicating nanotech. With the end of that trilogy, I had in large part completely destabilized the social structure that kept those prohibitions in place. So Apotheosis came in the wake of wondering what happens when these Heretical technologies begin to make themselves felt. It became sort of a serious reflection of the oft-quoted ‘Singularity as the Rapture for nerds,’ though my implementation becomes more like ‘the Singularity as the Apocalypse,’ at least for those holding to the existing social order.”
In the book, which is the first of the Apotheosis Trilogy, the powers in the post-Confederacy universe become aware of a number of colonies founded 80 light years beyond what was the accepted boundaries of human space. “The colonies are the focus of an interstellar power struggle between the Vatican and the Eridani Caliphate, and are of interest to Tjaele Mosasa, a shadowy mastermind on the lawless planet Bakunin,” Swann said. “For his own reasons, Mosasa assembles an expedition to these colonies near Xi Virginis, leaving Bakunin with a crew of scientists and mercenaries including the two main characters, an undercover Jesuit priest, Father James Mallory, and the exiled prince Nickolai Rajasthan, who is the descendant of genetically engineered warriors who were banished from Earth centuries ago. Both end up as part of Mosasa’s mercenary crew, and both secretly serve their own agendas as, at the same time, the Caliphate masses the most technically advanced fleet of ships in human history to claim the colonies for their own. Waiting for all of them is something far beyond the rivalries of any human government.”
The universe of the book is so complex, in large part, because Swann doesn’t see the political landscape simplifying all that much in five hundred years. “And in that society, five hundred years hence, I think we will see as much of our current social landscape reflected there as we see of the 1500s reflected in our own,” he said. “So I have long-standing political alliances and fault lines that are still recognizable alongside ones that are completely novel. So we see a largely secular rivalry between the Vatican and an interstellar Islamic state, as well as a non-human civilization created by the remnants of wholesale genetic engineering who have invented a kind of Puritan Gnosticism that sees their creator, man, as a devil figure. Religion, in fact, provides the dominant theme in the Apotheosis Trilogy, much as economics was in the Hostile Takeover trilogy.”
In addition to the Apotheosis Trilogy for DAW, Swann is also working on a series for Bantam Spectra, the first volume of which, Wolfbreed, comes out in trade paperback by September, under the byline S. A. Swann. “Wolfbreed is a medieval dark fantasy set in 13th Century Prussia, which has resulted in the occasional bout of severe cognitive whiplash when switching between the two series,” Swann said.